|Figure 2: United States Donated MRAPs Been Handed Over To Nigeria|
Saturday, 14 October 2017
Postmortem Analysis: Blitzkrieg, ‘Python Dance’, Censor Will Not Curb Biafra, IPOB
Synopsis: This essay is a comprehensive analysis of issues surrounding the disputed proscription, categorization of IPOB as a terrorist organization and the military blitzkrieg codenamed - Operation Python Dance II (Egwu Eke) which was launched in southeast Nigeria on September 15, 2017 by the Nigerian military. As the military operation comes to an end today October 14, 2017, this essay argues that proscribing, censoring IPOB and using the military to rein in Biafra agitators, is tantamount to treating the symptom of an ‘ailment’ hence will not extinguish the recurring, fervent and resilient Biafra Spirit.
Preamble: On September 12, 2017, soldiers/security agents reportedly deployed MRAPs (Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected) vehicles at the tailgate of the Afaraukwu country home of the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu. The military claimed it was doing a ‘’show of force’’. Why the show of force with MRAP vehicles at Afaraukwu, a sleepy, serene, dead-end neighbourhood? Sensing this as an attempt to attack their leader, stick-wielding civilians, presumably IPOB members were seen hurling sticks, pebbles on the armoured vehicle. Unverified media reports claim that, ‘’many – plausibly 15 persons were allegedly killed as a result of the military siege on Nnamdi Kanu’s Afaraukwu country home’’. One of those reportedly killed during the mêlée, is Nnamdi Kanu’s cousin, Adaku Odoemenam. The rampaging soldiers were said to have ransacked and vandalized Nnamdi Kanu’s father’s palace, leaving many houses within the vicinity riddled with bullet holes, shrapnels. Two weeks after the military onslaught at Afaraukwu, Umuahia, nobody knows the whereabouts of Nnamdi Kanu and his parents. There are insinuations that Nnamdi Kanu and his parents were abducted by the soldiers. Some claim they may have been eliminated. A widely distributed video clip emerged portraying soldiers torturing civilians in Abia State. Some of the civilians, victims of extrajudicial killing were seen lying lifeless on the ground. The Army initially denied the claims but says it will investigate after videos of the incident went viral.
Figure 1: Biafra_IPOB Members allegedly tortured_killed by Nigerian soldiers-Source_Daily Post Newspaper_14_9_2017
The MRAPs deployed by the Nigerian military at Umuahia, Abia state are credibly amongst the two dozen which Colonel Patrick Doyle, US Defence Attaché to Nigeria handed over to the Nigerian military a while ago to help the military in its counter-insurgency operations. The US government donated, some say, dumped (MRAPs have logistical difficulties –high fuel consumption, expensive to operate and transport) the 24 MRAPs to Nigeria as part of the US government’s ‘’Excess Defence Articles Programme’’, aimed to transfer surplus US military gear to partner nations. Events in southeast Nigeria is far from an insurgency or uprising. Notwithstanding the Biafra agitation, southeast Nigeria was adjudged to be the safest part of Nigeria. Some schools of thought liken the indiscriminate military onslaught against innocent, unarmed civilians and IPOB members as having the hallmark of genocide, state-sponsored terrorism. The so-called Operation Python Dance II which the military claim is aimed at reining in criminals, kidnappers in the southeast started on September 15, 2017 while the siege at Afaraukwu, Nnamdi Kanu’s home happened on September 12, 2017. Means the onslaught at Afaraukwu was premeditated? Connect the dots. Not to be outdone, the Nigerian Air Force declared it has deployed Alpha Jets in support of Operation Python Dance II. Alpha Jets to deal with ‘’criminals’’? Sounds more like an overkill, a declaration of war.
Recall that Justice Binta Nyako granted Nnamdi Kanu bail in April and subsequently adjourned trial of the IPOB leader to October 17, 2017. Kanu boasted that he will attend his court hearing in October. Why did the Nigerian government resort to self-help, deploy soldiers and MRAPs to hunt down Nnamdi Kanu?
The Military’s Ultra Vires Declaration, Doublespeak
In a statement in Abuja on Friday, September 14, 2017, Maj.-Gen. John Enenche, the Director, Defence Information (DDI), declared that the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, is a “militant terrorist organisation’’. Enenche’s overreaching statement instantly drew overwhelming backlash from individuals, human rights activists, organizations and the international community. Taking a cue from the army, on September 15, 2017, the five South-East Governors issued a communiqué proscribing the IPOB. Again, the action of the southeast governors didn’t follow due process hence ultra vires. On Monday September 18, 2017, two days after Major General Enenche’s declaration, the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. General Tukur Buratai did a volte-face; he blatantly recanted the statement of the Director of Defence Information. General Buratai opined that ‘’the Defence Headquarters did not declare the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, a terrorist organization in the country. What the Defence Headquarters did was to make pronouncement. It wasn’t a declaration per se…’’.
Realizing the blunder by the military, on Wednesday, September 20, 2017, five days after the military declared IPOB a terrorist group, the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Abuja, Justice Abdu Kafarati, formally granted the ex-parte motion by the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN), seeking the proscription of the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB and to declare the IPOB a terrorist organisation. The lawyer to the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, Nnamdi Kanu, Mr. Ifeanyi Ejiofor subsequently filed a motion challenging the proscription of IPOB.
Condemnations Trail Attack on IPOB Members, Proscription
In a statement, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Mr. Mike Ozekhome condemned the proscription of the IPOB by the military. He said: “I do not believe the instances cited by the Defence Headquarters to justify declaring IPOB a terrorist organization." Mr. Ozekhome also submitted, “The herdsmen who go on rampage daily, maiming, raping, killing; those responsible for the Agatu massacre; Shiites massacre, Southern Kaduna pogrom, indiscriminate killings, brazen quit notices’ givers, across Nigeria, etc., have never been arrested, prosecuted, let alone been proscribed and stigmatized as terrorist organizations’’.
A Lagos-based lawyer and human rights lawyer, Mr. Ebun-olu Adegboruwa asserts that the Attorney General of the Federation, AGF, cannot seek legal action against the IPOB group because it is non-existent, adding that the court cannot also issue orders against the group as it is “unenforceable.” Mr. Adegboruwa went further to say that, “The Attorney-General of the Federation cannot competently sue IPOB as a defendant, in any court of law, the same being an entity unknown to law’’. “The Supreme Court has stated it times without number that the court cannot proceed against a non-juristic person’’.
President of the EU Commission, Mr. Jean-Claude Junker, reportedly warned the Nigerian security personnel against what he described as ‘’their ill-hearted and unprofessional handling of democratic issues and the rights of the people’’. According to Junker, “It is the people’s right to agitate and make a request from their government; self-determination is a right enshrined in the United Nation Charter. The people of Biafra have every right to request for a referendum, they have been in this struggle for a while now they have never killed or shot a bullet instead they are the victims of attacks and murder’’. “The entire EU hereby condemns the brutal attack on IPOB members and leadership under the pretentious disguise of a military exercise (Operation Python Dance). The Nigerian military is warned to adopt democratic tenets in handling citizens’’.
A renowned UK-based counterterrorism expert, Mr. David Otto submits that proscribing the IPOB ‘’is a wrong tactic at a wrong time’’. He says, ‘’If the purpose is to maintain unity, then it will have the opposite effect. If the purpose is to destabilize IPOB and take away the legitimate steam it is generating from the massive support of the people, then it is even more complex now. Irrespective of the precarious situation in different parts of the country, declaring IPOB a terrorist organisation is a bad idea’’.
Growing Igbo Distrust For The Buhari Administration And The Military
The unmistakable marginalization of Ndigbo and the military onslaught - Operation Python Dance in the southeast has deepened distrust for the Buhari administration and the Nigerian army. Fifty four percent of 4,937 respondents to an online/social media poll conducted by Guardian Newspaper agreed that Operation Python dance II will be counterproductive. Similar to how the Iraqis resented the United States military occupation of Iraq, the distrust, resentment between Ndigbo and the Nigerian military is unprecedented. There was palpable fear and pandemonium on Wednesday October 11, 2017 across Southeast Nigeria following the start of a medical outreach by the Nigerian Army as part of its Operation Python Dance II. Insinuation was rife that military personnel were forcefully immunizing, injecting students with a ‘virus’. Parents and guardians in Anambra, Imo, Abia, Ebonyi and Enugu states besieged schools to withdraw their wards. Prior to the aforesaid incident, THISDAY Newspaper of September 21, 2017 reports how low turn-out marred military medical outreach in Ebonyi State, southeast Nigeria following the clampdown and alleged killing of members of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) in Abia State. The economic impact of Operation Python Dance in southeast Nigeria is huge. As at September 24, 2017, barely 10 days into the military operation, a BusinessDay Newspaper report asserted that Operation Python Dance II cost Aba businesses about 10 billion Naira. Essentially bulk selling and export of Made-In -Aba products have been hampered drastically as a result of the anxiety, tension in the southeast sequel to Operation Python Dance II. Many Igbo folks hitherto sitting on the fence are beginning to sympathize with the Biafran agitators. The Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra, MASSOB, says ‘’Buhari’s government wants to kill Kanu in other to complete the 1967 genocide’’ against Biafrans. MASSOB argues that, ‘’Operation Python Dance, also known as ‘Egwu Eke,’ is a ploy by the Federal Government of Nigeria, led by President Muhammadu Buhari, a Fulani man, to wipe out the Igbo from the face of the earth. It is simply a means for him to express his hatred for the Igbo. All the while, we have been complaining that Buhari hates Ndigbo. Now, the hatred is clear for everyone to see’’.
Militarization, Deploying Troops To Quench Scuffles Is An Aberration
The Nigerian government should realize that deploying soldiers to rein in brawls is sign of a dysfunctional, weak, failing/failed state. Unwarranted militarization of an environment leads to apprehension, hostilities, and mistrust. You seldom see combat-ready troops and armoured tanks (MRAPs) in operation on the streets of stable climes like the United States, Germany, and the United Kingdom, amongst others. Ndigbo have a saying that goes thus – ‘’Aru gbaa afo oburu omenala’’, a rough translation says ‘’when a crime is widespread and entrenched, it inadvertently becomes a tradition’’. It is now a norm for the Nigerian government to use maximum force, deploy overzealous soldiers, armoured vehicles and helicopter gunboats to rein in unarmed civilians, to quell civil disputes. Flooding the nook and cranny of Nigeria with soldiers for ‘’law enforcement’’ is an aberration because more often than not, the principle of use of minimum force and rules of engagement are jettisoned in favour of maximum force. Soldiers, especially the Nigerian variety, are trained to kill and not to enforce law. In essence, the Nigerian military usurps the role of law enforcement agencies - the police et al. On August 7, 2016, the Guardian Newspaper quoted SBM Intelligence, a strategic Intelligence analysis firm report which affirms that soldiers were deployed to 30 out of the 36 States of the Federation and the Federal Capital Territory. Since President Muhammadu Buhari was sworn in as President on May 29, 2015, the Nigerian military has carried out nearly a dozen military operations in its bid to ‘’protect Nigeria’s territorial integrity’’ and to fight criminality. They include:
1. Operation Lafiya Dole (replaced Operation Zaman Lafiya” (Let’s live in peace).
2. Operation Sharan Daji
3. Operation Awatse
4. Operation Shirin Harbi
5. Harbin Kunama I and Harbin Kunama II
6. Crocodile Smile I and Crocodile Smile II
7. Python Dance I and Python Dance II (Egwu Eke)
8. Operation Dokaji:
Guardian newspaper says, ‘’for instance, not less than 1,000 men of the Nigerian Army and the Police, allegedly invaded Gbishe, a renowned farming settlement, in Katsina-Ala Local Government Area of Benue State, in the early in the morning, reducing over 1,000 homes to rubbles’’. Characteristic of the current administration’s heightening poor human rights record, in a report titled, ‘’Nigeria: Unearthing The Truth: Unlawful Killings And Mass Cover-Up In Zaria’’, Amnesty International evidenced how on the afternoon of 12 December 2015, soldiers opened fire on protesters blocking a road in the Nigerian city of Zaria. The report says, ‘’Over the following two days, more than 350 protesters and supporters of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria, IMN, were killed at two sites in Zaria’’. Nearly two years after the alleged massacre of the Shiite Muslims and despite a court order for his release, Ibrahim El-Zakzaky, the leader of the Shiite group, is still being detained by the government. Another investigation by Amnesty International published November 24, 2016, chronicled how ‘’Nigerian security forces, led by the military, embarked on a chilling campaign of extrajudicial executions and violence resulting in the death of AT LEAST 150 peaceful pro-Biafra protesters in southeast Nigeria’’.
In his piece: ‘’Is The Nigerian Army Teachable?’’ Professor Pius Adesanmi of Carleton University, Canada, submits that ‘’You cannot use soldiers and their tanks for routine law enforcement’’. Adesanmi believes it is utterly a reprehensible idea for the Nigerian military to deploy their tanks in civilian spaces. He affirms that, ‘’Even in Iraq and Afghanistan, there is still law enforcement by police’’. Pius Adesanmi (@pius_adesanmi) later tweeted that, ‘’the Nigerian Army will soon intervene in domestic disputes between couples to popular acclamation. We need a massive drive for civic enlightenment’’. Soldiers, especially the Nigerian breed openly boast that they are trained to kill. Since the Nigerian Army usurps the roles of the Police and other law enforcement agencies, perhaps the Nigerian government will do well to scrap these ‘ineffective’ security agencies and save Nigeria money expended on them.
Where The Nigerian Military Should Prove Its Mettle
A swathe of oil-rich Nigerian territory (Bakassi peninsula) was ceded to Cameroon and the Nigerian military didn't fight to defend the territorial integrity of Nigeria. On July 7, 2017, the Guardian Newspaper reports that 97 Nigerians were feared killed in Bakassi by Cameroon Gendarmes in violation of the 2005 Green Tree Agreement (GTA) by the Nigeria-Cameroon Mixed Commission. There was no report of the military fighting to protect Nigerians in the Bakassi peninsular. The Nigerian military is having a tough time reining in a so-called ragtag Boko Haram Sect after nearly 10 years of insurgency. On August 26, 2014, the internet, social media was awash with news of how about 480 Nigerian soldiers fled into Cameroon after heavy fighting with Boko Haram insurgents in the border town of Gamboru. To save face, the Nigerian army referred to the unscheduled escape of the Nigerian troops into Cameroonian soil as a “tactical maneuver”. The soldiers were later repatriated by Cameroon.
Not long ago, Boko Haram leader Shekau released video showing policewomen abduction during Boko Haram attack on a joint police/military convoy near Maiduguri on June 20, 2017. The factional leader of Boko Haram, Albarnawi also released a video of three of the four missing staff of the University of Maiduguri who were abducted after Boko Haram ambushed their oil exploration team at the Lake Chad basin and killed five of their colleagues on July 25, 2017. Several months down the line, these Nigerians are still in the custody of Boko Haram insurgents. Where was the Nigerian military when a supposed ragtag Boko Haram sect forced to the Nigerian government to negotiating table which led to the release of some 82 abducted Chibok schoolgirls lately? A report by BBC Correspondents – Alastair Leithead and Stephanie Hegarty dated May 19, 2017, titled, ‘’The Fate of The Chibok Girls’’, unveiled how, apart from handing over five Boko Haram bomb-makers to Boko Haram in exchange for the release of 82 Chibok girls, €2m in cash was handed over to the terrorist group in exchange for the release of the girls. Having gotten enough intelligence from the freed Chibok girls, what is stopping the Nigerian military from rescuing the rest of the Chibok girls still in Boko Haram captivity? Is the military waiting for another prisoner swap? The Nigerian military should prove its mettle, expertise in such situations rather than use innocent, unarmed civilians for target practice. The United States, Israeli military will not sit back and watch their government pay humongous ransom to terrorists operating inside their countries.
Drivers of Instability, Agitations in Nigeria
Newton’s third law of motion says ‘’for every action, there’s an equal and opposite reaction’’. A groundbreaking study by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) titled, ‘’Journey to Extremism in Africa: Drivers, Incentives and the Tipping Point for Recruitment’’, published September 2017 reveals that ‘’Marginalization, perceived abuse of power is pushing Africa’s youth to violent extremism’’. Due to space and time constraint, I may not be able to fully expatiate how Buhari’s parochialism, ‘’northernization policy’’, inability to manage diversity and patent marginalization of Biafrans catalyzes, escalates the Biafra agitation. Cast your mind back to President Buhari’s 97% and 5% gambit and also reconcile it with his lopsided appointments, including the recent NNPC appointments. I will write on marginalization of Ndigbo in my subsequent treatise. Similar to the patent nepotism, marginalization, injustice as some of the drivers of recurring agitations in Nigeria, is also that of unprecedented youth unemployment currently bedeviling the country, especially parts of the southeast.
Repression Fuels Separatist, Independence Agitations
Cognizant of the far-reaching consequences of relapsing to using the military to quell disputes, the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) recently slammed the penchant for military option in resolving internal conflicts in Nigeria. A recent analysis on the United States think-tank – Council on Foreign Relation’s website buttresses the above submission. Reuters correspondent, Edward McAllister, writes that ‘’State crackdown fuels independence push in Anglophone Cameroon’’. The report quoted Tapang Ivo Tanku, an Anglophone activist based in the United States as saying, “Last year, separatists couldn’t rally people on the streets. But people have seen family members arrested and killed, and they have switched over’’. Nigeria should learn a lesson from events in Spain. The more repressive the Spanish government was in trying to stop the Catalan referendum and independence campaign, the more sentiment and support the Catalan independence movement enjoyed. Though not as brutal and bloodletting as the Nigerian response but the Spanish government’s effort to block the Catalonia referendum apparently pushed Catalans hitherto sitting on the fence to support independence. It appears Catalans and Biafrans share something in common – unflinching quest for independence and resilience! Catalan republic or State has been proclaimed four times in the past – in the year 1641 by Pau Claris, in 1873 by Baldomer Lostau, in 1931 by Francesc Macia, in 1934 by Lius Companys. The current Catalan leader, Carles Puigdemont is bent on declaring Catalonian republic in 2017 sequel to the positive outcome of the Catalonia referendum. Lesson: repression is counter-productive.
Barefaced Double Standard, Marginalization in Nigeria Festering Agitation
Nigeria is a very interesting country. Bands of Arewa youths issued a "Quit Notice" to Ndigbo living in the north. The Buhari administration and the security agencies were aloof. The Nation Newspaper reports that, Security agencies advised the government against arrest northern Youths who threatened and issued a ‘’quit notice’’ to Ndigbo residing in northern Nigeria. One Dr. Junaid Mohammed says there will be crises if police arrests Arewa youths. THISDAY Newspaper, August 30, 2017, reports that following accusations of bias, the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN), a fellow northerner and a Muslim says, ‘’the government resisted pressure to go after leaders of the Arewa Youth Consultative Forum after it gave due consideration to the security implications of arresting them’’. This same Malami prayed the court to withdraw the bail conditions granted to the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu and also secured an ex parte motion declaring the IPOB, a terrorist organization. As far as Malami, the Nigerian government and establishment are concerned, there’s no ‘’security implications in laying siege on Nnamdi Kanu’s home or attempting to arrest him devoid of a court order.
Armed Niger Delta militants held the Buhari government by the jugular and nearly brought Nigeria’s oil production and export to comatose. The military’s ‘’Operation Crocodile Smile’’ in the Niger Delta didn’t halt blistering attacks on oil installations. Humbled, the Buhari administration used backdoor channels to negotiate an end to hostility in the Niger Delta. Masterminds – individuals and the cornucopia of militant groups in the Niger Delta were not branded terrorists or ‘’Terrorist organizations’’. Till date, the Buhari administration continues to pay monthly largesse to so-called reformed militants. The case is different for peaceful Biafra agitators; they don’t deserve an olive branch, President Buhari would rather have them crushed. Nigerian security agents summarily executed the erstwhile founder of Boko Haram, Mohammed Yusuf but Abubakar Shekau stepped in and upped the ante. Killing Nnamdi Kanu will only make him a martyr and this will further the Biafran Cause.
President Buhari Advocating Independence For Palestine, Western Sahara
President Buhari’s speech at the 72nd session of the United Nations General Assembly, at the United Nations Headquarters in New York on September 18, 2017, where he morphed into a proponent of dialogue, human rights activist and independence advocate, smacks of rhetoric, to say the least. He says, ‘’we are now confronted by the desperate human rights and humanitarian situations in Yemen and most tragically in the Rakhine State of Myanmar’’. Continuing he opined, “The international community cannot remain silent and not condemn the horrendous suffering” of Rohingya Muslims. While advocating dialogue, a trait alien to his way, with North Korea, he also reminded the world ‘’the suffering of the Palestinian people and the blockade of Gaza’’. Isn’t it amazing seeing President Buhari seizing every vantage opportunity to rally support, stridently advocate independence for the Palestinian territory and Western Sahara (The People of Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, SADR) self-determination campaign from Morocco while clamping down on the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), other Biafran agitators in Nigeria? Brazen hypocrisy is when an authoritarian leader with abysmal human rights record champions independence for his Muslim kith and kin, preaches human rights and dialogue to the international community but clamps down on dissent at home. The lives of Palestinians, Rohingya and Western Sahara Muslims matter more than that of ‘’Biafrans’’ of southeast Nigeria?
IPOB Is Championing Self-Determination, Not A Terrorist Group
IPOB is a self-determination or separatist group advocating an independent State of Biafra from the Nigerian contraption. The Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, that the Nigerian government tagged a terrorist group had the audacity to protest on the 47th Street, Manhattan, New York, United States, on Tuesday, September 19, 2017 during President Buhari’s speech at the 72nd United Nations General Assembly. Daily Post Newspaper of September 24, 2017 quoted the United States government as saying it does not categorize the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, as a terrorist organization. The spokesman of the American Embassy in Abuja, Nigeria, Mr. Russell Brooks stated that, “The Indigenous People of Biafra is not a terrorist organisation under US law”. Granted Nnamdi Kanu and the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) have seemingly pushed the envelope in advocating for Biafra independence but the IPOB is not a terrorist organization. Terrorism means different things to different people hence the saying that ‘one man’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter’. The United States and the UK governments once considered Nelson Mandela a terrorist. Nelson Mandela’s name remained on the U.S. terrorism watch list till 2008. Mandela’s party – the African National Congress, ANC, was equally listed among 52 of the "world's more notorious terrorist groups." In August 1988, the State Department listed the ANC among "organizations that engage in terrorism.” It said the group ''disavows a strategy that deliberately targets civilians,” but noted that civilians had “been victims of incidents claimed by or attributed to the ANC.” In January 1989, the Defense Department included the ANC in an official publication, "Terrorist Group Profiles’’. Boko Haram was rightly and globally declared a terrorist group but the tag has proved to be a mere academic exercise.
I also don’t subscribe to the insinuation that the IPOB is spoiling for a civil war. I think their request is pretty simple – a referendum. Angling for a referendum is not tantamount to spoiling for war. If the Nigerian government is confident that a majority of southeasterners will opt to remain in #OneNigeria, why not organize a referendum and silence IPOB, MASSOB once and for all? There was a referendum in Scotland a few years ago, even before Brexit. After five centuries of coexistence with Spain, 90% of the 2.26 million Catalans who voted during the October 1, 2017, referendum, voted in favour of independence. Yes, there was a scuffle with Spanish security agencies but no life was lost. Security agents were seen dispensing first aid to people. Similarly, in the Kurdistan referendum which held on Monday, September 25, 2017, reports say about 93% of Iraqi Kurds voted for independence from Iraq. Again, no armoured tanks were deployed to rein in the process. Why the highhandedness and wanton killing of unarmed Biafra activists in Nigeria?
The principle of self-determination is a cardinal principle enshrined in Article I of the Charter of the United Nations. The UN charter says, ‘’All peoples have the right to self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development’’. The right to self-determination of peoples is recognized in many other international and regional instruments, including the Declaration of Principles of International Law Concerning Friendly Relations and Co-operation Among States adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1970, 2, the Helsinki Final Act adopted by the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe (CSCE) in 1975, 3, the African Charter of Human and Peoples' Rights of 1981, 4, the CSCE Charter of Paris for a New Europe adopted in 1990, 5, and the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action of 1993.
Will IPOB, Biafra Agitators Embrace Militancy, Insurgency?
There are speculations as to the next line of action for IPOB, Biafra agitators sequel to the latest military clampdown and arguable designation of IPOB as a terrorist organization. The Nigerian government and opponents of Nnamdi Kanu routinely cite a video footage of him reportedly soliciting for arms during the World Igbo Congress which held in the United States of America few years ago as evidence of him been a threat. Notwithstanding Nnamdi Kanu’s outbursts and bravado, there’s no smoking gun that proves him or the IPOB have stockpiles of arms anywhere or that the group intends to morph into a militant or insurgent group. The relentless extrajudicial killing of unarmed Biafra agitators by Nigerian security operatives appears to incite discontentment, divergence of opinion. There seem to be a notion that the prevailing ‘’non-violence’’ modus operandi to actualize Biafra is tantamount to reciting poetry to someone who doesn’t appreciate poetry. Niccolo Machiavelli is quoted to have said, ‘’Hence it comes about that all armed Prophets have been victorious, and all unarmed Prophets have been destroyed’’. The line of reasoning is that balance of terror engenders a likeness of peacefulness; that the Nigerian government ‘settles’, patches up with Niger Delta militants and Boko Haram insurgents because the duo ‘negotiate’ from a position of strength unlike Biafra agitators. Perhaps this is why a hypothetical statement credited to Nnamdi Kanu suggests the IPOB may ‘’re-consider its non-violent separatist struggle’’. The above news report continued, “There is urgent need to begin the process of defending ourselves in the face of relentless murderous attacks from the Nigerian state”. Unless it was diversionary gambit, some militant groups sympathized with the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, during the most recent relapse to militancy in the Niger Delta. Then one of the conditions for dialogue and ceasefire tabled by the Niger Delta Avengers, NDA, was the’’ immediate release of all pro-Biafrans activists held in various police/military custody within 72 hours’’. Another Niger Delta militant group, the Red Egbesu Water Lions, also gave the Nigerian government inter-alia, ‘’seven-day ultimatum to release IPOB leader Nnamdi Kanu, defreeze the bank accounts of ex-militant leader, Government Ekpemupolo, alias Tompolo’’, amongst other demands. However, Nnamdi Kanu subsequently denied any relationship with rampaging Niger Delta Avengers, NDA, nor with the MEND. So far there are no tidings of synergy between Niger Delta militants and the IPOB or other Biafra groups.
Nonetheless, my prognosis is that IPOB and other Biafra groups will lose the massive goodwill and global sympathy they currently enjoy if they morph into an armed rebellion. Again, the topography of the southeast is not suitable for the type of armed rebellion perpetrated by the Niger Delta militants and Boko Haram insurgents.
Evidenced, Rampaging Terrorist Group In Nigeria Other Than Boko Haram
Marauding herdsmen pose a bigger threat to national security than the Indigenous People of Biafra yet the Nigerian government is noncommittal. A United States think-tank – the Global Terrorism Index, GTI, declared that ‘’Nigerian Fulani militants (herdsmen) are the fourth deadliest terror group in world’’. The GTI says, ‘’only Boko Haram, ISIS, and Al-Shabab were deemed deadlier than the Fulani militant group operating in Nigeria and parts of the Central African Republic. According to the GTI, ‘’in 2013, the Fulani killed around 80 people in total – but by 2014 the group had killed 1,229’’. September 19, 2017, a Crises Group report submits that, ‘’estimates suggests about 2,500 people were killed countrywide in 2016 due to raging conflict between herdsmen and farmers – a toll higher than that caused by the Boko Haram insurgency over the same period. In a statement, the National Leader (South-south) of Action Democratic Party (ADP), Senator Roland Owie believes that the Buhari administration was not walking the way of justice and equity; otherwise, it should immediately declare Fulani herdsmen, who have continued to kill and maim innocent Nigerians in the north central and southern parts of Nigeria, as a terrorist group.
Conclusion: Biafra Precedes Muhammadu Buhari, Will Outlive Him!
Contrary to conjectures by vested interests and spin doctors, resurgence of Biafra agitation is not primarily aimed to destabilize the Buhari administration. Biafra is a resilient Spirit; 50 year old ideology and narrative. You need wisdom, superior argument to counter the narrative not bullets, armored tanks and fighter jets. The ‘’Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra’, ’MASSOB was formed on September 13, 1999 by Chief Ralph Uwazuruike during President Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration. Humanitarian news and analysis website – IRIN, published a report on December 7, 2005, titled, ‘’at least 12 dead in clashes over separatist protest’’ in southeast Nigeria. IRIN’s September 4, 2006 report ‘’Government cracks down on Biafra separatist resurgence’’ narrates how series of clashes in July, 2006, between activists linked to MASSOB and the police left dozens dead in Onitsha and several towns in the southeast. The report cites one Innocent Dike, a MASSOB official in Onitsha, who claimed that ‘’at least 200 suspected members of the group have been killed since troops were deployed. Several houses believed to belong to MASSOB activists were also razed’’. President Olusegun Obasanjo’s government treated the symptoms of Biafra agitation by deploying troops to repress MASSOB. Similar to a déjà vu, 2005 scenario is playing out ten years later. As if no lessons were learnt, the Buhari administration relapses to brute force. ‘’The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and expecting different results’’. If the crackdown on MASSOB failed at suppressing Biafra agitation, it is pretty certain it CANNOT rein in the now more vitriolic, aggressive, delirious IPOB steered by the Mercurial and exuberant Nnamdi Kanu. Premium Times publication of Friday September 22, 2017, cites the Nigerian Army declaring victory over Biafra agitators in southeast Nigeria. The deputy spokesman, 82 Division Nigerian Army Enugu, Colonel Sagir Musa, is quoted as saying, “despite the initial opposition” by IPOB “members” and “sympathizers”, “the general area of the Southeast especially Aba in Abia State is now fully stabilized”. I dare say it is too early to claim ‘’victory’’. Nigeria as presently constituted and run, is not sustainable. Brute force, subjugation may have deferred but CANNOT quench the avid Biafra Spirit.
© Don Okereke, a security analyst/consultant, writer
Holistic Security Background Checks Limited
October 14, 2017