By Dele Sobowale
Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster” – Friedrich Nietzsche, 1844-1900, in Beyond Good and Evil.
These days, each time the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra, IPOB, is in the news, I weep quietly. The leaders of what started as an honourable struggle for justice have now allowed themselves to become just as demonised as the demons they set out to fight. If messages received from friends, as well as what I read in the papers by Igbo co-columnists reflects the true feelings of majority of the people, the Federal Government might as well release Kanu – the leader of IPOB. He and his followers have shown their hands, now dripping with blood of innocent people. Igbo can see clearly the worst form of dictatorship.
Unfortunately for Igbo, virtually all their governors and other leaders are impotent or playing politics with the disaster which had befallen them. They now rely on the FG, regarded as the oppressors, to save them from armed IPOB militants. IPOB, or some form of the resistance movement, will be around for quite a while; you can count on it. Reading several histories of aggrieved segments in various countries suggest that IPOB has all the elements required to either continue as it is, or transform itself into a long-term guerrilla outfit.
They have already clearly demonstrated the indispensable attribute of all such violent groups. They now inflict serious damage on official security agents – police, soldiers and DSS – and innocent civilians regarded as opposition in order to achieve the sort of terror which the Taliban adopted in Afghanistan. Right now, they don’t really care who they kill; whose building is razed or business paralysed. They don’t give a damn if the economy of the East is wrecked.
A SHORT DIVERSION
In 2017, after writing three articles advising the FG to release Kanu convinced that his rights were being violated, I was delighted when Kanu was sprung loose. I then wrote an article titled KANU AND IPOB LEARNING ABOUT POLITICS AFRESH. I warned him to adopt a new strategy or face defeat. He actually did; but, his new approach was worse than the first. He made the fundamental blunder of assuming that the majority of Igbo people want to secede from Nigeria. Nothing could be further from the truth. I recall part of that article below:
“That Kanu had inadvertently forced Igbo to capitulate is one of the unintended consequences of his strident campaign for the creation of Biafra and for Igbo to go home.
“I felt sad when reading the statement by Chief George Moghalu, the National Treasurer of the All Progressives Congress, APC, and an aspirant for the governorship candidate in Anambra State. According to him, Igbo would lose out should the Biafra project work out. He went further by asking: “Where are we even coming back to? Will those five states contain all of us? We will be the greatest losers.” I expect the “professional” agitators to attack Moghalu for speaking the plain truth. He had been forced to confess openly what even the worst enemies of Igbo in other areas seldom say in public. The majority of Igbo are condemned to live outside Igboland forever.”
Kanu must have realised then that he was not representing the majority of Igbo. He had two options: pack up and go; or force his will on the people; as well as parts of Rivers State. He chose force and got his followers to get ready for battles. Then, he ran away to “safety”. He should have stayed there. It was extremely careless and naïve of him – a ‘General’ – to allow himself to be captured so easily. Now, he is at the mercy of his enemies and his army is engaging in random violence. They have introduced elements of fear as demonstrated on October 1, 2021, when the ‘Stay at Home’ order issued was very successful. The only known violator was gunned down.
In that episode, they pointed to the limitations of federal power. At least, everybody now knows that despite all the assurances given by the FG, it cannot protect all the people all the time. But, the tragedy of that day has also exposed the weaknesses of IPOB. Granted, it has scared all the governors. Some were probably hiding in Abuja; leaving their people to face the IPOB violence. However, it will amount to another monumental error if IPOB assumes it can continuously order Nigeria’s most enterprising people to stay idle indefinitely. It won’t work; it will only inevitably provoke pervasive defiance. IPOB will then be forced to assassinate more innocent people. Meanwhile, murder of people seeking their daily bread will ultimately instigate revenge and more homicides. Kanu and IPOB have exhausted all legal possibilities for getting Igbo to leave Nigeria. To millions of the people he is no longer the hero. He has become a threat to their lives. I have advice for him from another leader in another civil war over two hundred years ago.
A TALE OF TWO BIAFRAS
US President Abraham Lincoln, 1809-1865, reaching a similar crossroads, announced as follows: “I hope to stand firm enough not to go backward; and yet, not go forward fast enough to wreck the country’s cause”. Kanu, despite his demagoguery, is not a latter-day Moses leading his people to the Promised Land. The land is already well-known and it scares those asked to join the journey to voluntary decimation. This, among other reasons, is why they won’t follow him. But, like most misguided dreamers, he had assumed that force will deliver what wisdom suggests is almost impossible.
The Biafra which Ojukwu governed for about three years from 1967 to 1970 was the old Eastern Region before the war. The area included the present SE as well as four states of the South-South zone – Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Cross River and Rivers. Before crude oil became the main revenue earner, that territory could survive as a nation; and it has enough land mass to accommodate the people. Most importantly, it had access to the sea. The end of the war and the creation of Cross Rivers and Rivers states by the Gowon administration reduced Igbo territory to a landlocked area. Its major export prior to the Age of Oil was coal. By the 1970s, major shifts in technology had made coal redundant.
Furthermore, there is no single person in the South-South who wants to join Kanu’s new Biafra. And, if all Igbo people in Nigeria return there, it will result in standing room only for accommodation.
Kanu, who might still have a lot of influence on the fate of Igbo in Nigeria, is moving too fast. He is now wrecking the peoples’ cause. He should call back his troops. They cannot win; they can only get a lot of people killed for nothing.
DYING FOR COUNTRY
“It is sweet and honourable to die for your country” – Horace, 65-8 BC.
Dying for one’s nation when governments were formed by patriotic politicians might have been admirable. Then, no Head of Government had mansions in foreign lands and the Emperor does not leave his people for medical treatment abroad. Today, nations in Europe and America are still tracing and finding Abacha loot; billions of dollars stolen from Nigeria by top officials are in the US. Is that the country for which anybody in his senses wants to die? They should go and ask widows of Nigeria’s civil war still alive; and the young men following Kanu will quickly discard the idea of dying for Biafra – which does not exist yet.
ASIWAJU TINUBU IS ALIVE AND WELL
Last Sunday, several newspapers published an announcement by Tinubu in which he clarified his health status. He is alive and well; only receiving physiotherapy. As someone saved from paralysis last year by physio myself, I can only wish him well. I look forward to the presidential race.