Making Sense of the Threats of Secession -By Zainab Suleiman Okino

Filed under: Political Issues |

Nnamdi Kanu and a number of Nigerian Senators


Except for the build-up to the civil war and the civil disturbances that greeted the annulment of the June 12, 1993 election, Nigeria has never been this close to the precipice as it is today. Its so far been about hate speeches and inciting commentaries, mainly on the pages of newspapers and the social media. However, hate speech is a catalyst for war and it is a crime against humanity, and not in the realm of freedom of speech. In any case, freedom goes with responsibility.

Irresponsibility in freedom has led many communities and nations into turmoil and extinction. We saw this in Rwanda, Sierra Leone, and Liberia and more recently in Kenya, and the masterminds are still facing trial up till today.

The on-going drumbeats of war started by Nnamdi Kanu of IPOB and his Biafra secessionists and recently orchestrated by the Arewa Youth Coalition with their quit notice to Biafrans are bad signals for the good and unity of Nigeria. Our much talked-about unity in diversity appears severely threatened, with the war alarm nearing the period just before the 1967 civil war. All of a sudden, it appears that the things that divide us along the lines of tribes and regions have become more important than those that have kept us united as a people.

In the meantime, contextual analogy is trite in the arguments over the soul of Nigeria. I was at the traditional wedding of an older family friend’s daughter at the weekend. I met this wonderful Igbo family around 2005 when I moved into their neighbourhood. They spoke a smattering of Ebira and I enquired to know the source of their understanding of my language. The modest couple lived and had their children in Okene until they relocated to Abuja in the late 1990s, when the locals were up against each other, and fearing it might spill over and affect their business and personal progress, they had to move further up and Abuja was a convenient choice. At the occasion, you’d think you were in one remote village in Igboland. From the costumes, dance steps, songs and mannerisms during the traditional wedding ceremony, everything was conducted in Igbo language without hindrance. No amount of Biafra rhetoric and intimidation can take this family back to their village in Umudiora-Anam in Anambra State. The same applied to my good neighbour (from Imo state in name only) in Kaduna then, whose family is like mine, and vice versa. This is the life of the average Igbo family scattered all over the country—they inhabit every nook and cranny of this country but with strong attachment to their country-home, village and state in the South-East.

Sadly, while these families were unperturbed about Kanu’s threats, the Arewa youth’s quit notice has the capacity to disrupt their lives. The children of my Kaduna neighbour referred to above are already in a dilemma about where to relocate their aged mother to. Obviously there is a disconnect between these Igbo families in the North and the Nnamdi Kanus and his co-travellers, who still romanticise Biafra.

I’m, therefore, surprised that the well-travelled, highly-exposed Igbo ethnic group did not see anything wrong in Kanu’s tirades and the damage he’s doing to their collective aspiration. While Kanu applied coarse and intimidating expressions against Northerners, Hausa Fulani and Yorubas, their elite never found it expedient to call him to order but are now up in arms condemning and criticising the Arewa youth, bad as their statement is too. Who did not hear Kanu say he did not believe in peaceful negotiations, but threatened to use force and violence to disintegrate Nigeria, or did he not say Somalia would be a child’s play, and that he would bomb and burn down the zoo (Nigeria) if Biafra is not actualised?

Where were the Igbo elite, intelligentsia, and their 44 trillion investors in the North, when a deranged, loose cannon was making those seditious statements? Those who think there is nothing wrong with Kanu’s statement and threats but that everything is wrong with the Arewa youth’s notice are being clever by half. What cause and whose cause is Kanu fighting? Who is shielding him? What for? Again, those who think there was nothing wrong with Kanu’s vituperation are bad students of history. My take is that the Igbos have indulged the bad eggs (Kanu inclusive) among them for too long. While Kanu is calling for Biafra, senators of the Federal Republic of Nigeria were seen openly in solidarity with him, as in the picture illustrating this piece. What did they mean when they gave him a hero’s welcome after his release from prison? If a child misbehaves and he is not scolded or called to order, the child will be emboldened to think he is right. This is the tragedy of the Igbo nation, leaving a genuine call for restructuring and their destiny in the hands of Kanu. Although, Nigerians generally do not have emotional attachment to their country, which they call a mere geographical expression, that of the Igbos who support Kanu is being taken to a ridiculous level. Thus we still don’t have a nation; all we have are ethnic champions and bigots parading themselves as Nigerians only when it is convenient.

Having said this, I expect the leadership of the country to be more sensitive to the cries of marginalisation and calls for restructuring. Seditious threats and treasonable remarks are definitely not the way forward, whether it is from IPOB/MASSOB/or from Arewa groups. Considering the chain of reactions from different ethnic nationalities that followed, it is obvious that nation building is yet to be achieved in Nigeria.

Every day, by our utterances and acts of sabotage, we detract from our unity and nationhood. How then can we hope to reach the level of greatness and development others have attained, without peaceful coexistence and with mutual suspicion?

We must be wary of those beating the drums of war. Experience has shown that the consequences can only leave all of us with bloody noses.

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