September 30, 2021

South-East sit-at-home: Which way to go?

South-East sit-at-home: Which way to go?

By Chiedu Uche Okoye

IS the chief consequence of the extradition of Nnamdi Kanu to Nigeria for trial not the weekly shutdown of the entire South-East on Mondays? A great majority of people stay at home on Mondays for fear of being attacked by enforcers of the sit-at- home order; they are not necessarily demonstrating their encouragement and support for the detained IPOB leader and secessionist, Nnamdi Kanu.

The shutdown of the entire South-East is one of the strategies adopted by the leaders of IPOB to force the hand of our political leaders at the centre to back down on the Nnamdi Kanu-Federal Government of Nigeria face-off. But can the weekly shutdown of the South-East become the masterstroke by IPOB, which will compel the Federal Government to yield to IPOB’s  secessionist demand? 

But, then, the perceptive people of the South-East of Nigeria are sceptical about the workability and effectiveness of the sit-at-home policy as a strategy that will compel the Federal Government of Nigeria to release Nnamdi Kanu unconditionally and accede to his secessionist demand.

President Muhammadu Buhari, who is insensitive to the plight of the Igbo people, will not take decisive action on the Nnamdi Kanu matter provided that the weekly shutdown of the South-East does not hurt the interests of Nigerians who are not Igbo people. His antagonistic disposition to Igbo people is not in dispute.

However, the prevailing situation of the shutdown of the South-East every Monday has continued to inflict collateral damage on the economy of the South-East states. The hoi polloi, who eke out their daily livelihoods by hawking sachet beverages, vegetables, fruits and others- bear the brunt of the weekly shutdown of the South-East.

Since the commencement of the observation of the sit-at-home order on Mondays, a majority of Igbo people, whose survival depends on their daily earnings, had gone to bed on empty stomachs on countless nights because they had no money with which to buy food.

Again, enforcers of the sit-at-home order have inadvertently been dealing a fatal blow to education in the area. Not a few examination candidates had missed taking their examinations because the enforcers of the sit-at-home order thwarted their efforts to reach the venues of their examinations on time on days we observed the sit-at-home order.

In Imo State, there was a news report about the invasion and violent dispersal of examination candidates by gun men on the days their examinations coincided with the shutdown of the South-East. 

But we all know that education is the light that dispels the darkness of ignorance and backwardness. It is the tool which millions of people in our today’s world use to navigate their ways to success in diverse areas. An educated populace is a plus to Nigeria because our political leaders can mobilise those knowledgeable and skillful citizens for the development of Nigeria. 

So, it is expected that the enforcers of the sit-at-home order in the South-East, who are believed to be IPOB members, should know that education is pivotal and critical to national development. They should, therefore, resist being goaded into the perpetration of deeds, such as preventing children from receiving Western education and engaging in other unwholesome deeds; otherwise, IPOB and the Boko Haram group will be tarred with the same brush.

If IPOB is branded a terrorist group, it will tarnish its image and cause it to lose the support and goodwill of millions of Nigerians. That will throw a spoke in its wheel as regards its efforts to decouple the South-East from Nigeria and secure the unconditional release of Nnamdi Kanu from detention.

However, at this critical political juncture in Nigeria, IPOB’s agitation for statehood can be a bargaining chip for the Igbo people in our country’s power calculus and the contest for political power at the topmost level in Nigeria.

Politicians of Igbo extraction can use IPOB’s agitation for statehood in their jostling for the presidential seat in 2023, because the marginalisation of the Igbo people in the country’s scheme of things is one of the reasons that informed IPOB’s clamour for the creation of the sovereign state of Biafra. The king makers and other interests in Nigeria may cede the presidential seat to the Igbo people in 2023. 

IPOB should not taint its struggle with bloodletting and other unwholesome activities. Equally, leaders of the group should maintain vigilance in order that moles, who are agents of destabilisation, do not infiltrate the ranks of the group.

In addition to being on the lookout for agents of destabilisation, leaders of the group should find out if the execution of the sit-at-out order every Monday is a workable and effective tool which can be used to achieve the group’s goals.

But leaders of the IPOB should study history books and learn the methods deployed in the revolutionary and liberation struggles waged by Nelson Mandela, Fidel Castro, Che Guevara, Agostinho Neto, Jawaharlal Nehru and others to oust imperialists and despotic leaders in their respective countries. 

However, South-East governors’ indifference to the matters of Nnamdi Kanu’s detention and the shutdown of the Sout-East every Monday portrays them as selfish people who prioritise their personal interests above the collective good.

Why they have not convened a meeting of the South-East governors to discuss the continued detention of Nnamdi Kanu vis-a-vis the granting of amnesty to the so-called repentant bandits and Boko Haram insurgents and broach their resolutions to President Buhari baffles me.

Moreso, the abridgement of the South-East people’s right to freedom of movement every Monday when we are not in a state of emergency portrays the South-East governors as weak and incompetent.

The agitation for the creation of the state of Biafra can be vigorously pursued by any secessionist group without their infringing on the people’s fundamental human rights, among which is the right to freedom of movement.

 I urge South-East political leaders to rise above their personal interests and political partisanship and proffer solutions to the vexed issues of Nnamdi Kanu’s detention, the weekly shutdown of the South-East, and the marginalisation of the South-East in Nigeria’s scheme of things.

Okoye, a poet, wrote from Uruowulu-Obosi, Anambra State.