It is heart-wrenching to watch this country walk into preventable cataclysm. A nation that has one war in its hand seems to be courting another. I am amazed. A nation that is talking about unity is persisting in promoting disunity.
A nation that wants peace, is shedding innocent blood ceaselessly. I do not know what to make of these incongruences.
Yes, the military can decide to carry out military exercises, but it must be carried out within the ambit of the law. The military is assigned to protect the country against external aggression or called in to maintain internal peace, when there is internal aggression or insurrection and the police is overwhelmed. Yes, there is a spike in crime rate in Nigeria, especially violent crimes of armed robbery and kidnapping and the Nigerian Police is proving incapable.
Many people have recommended how to make policing effective in Nigeria but much of these have fallen on deaf ears. So in cases where the police is overwhelmed by violent crimes, it may be understandable if the military is called in once in a while to help the Police. And I believe this is already happening in the country as we see the military all over the place manning checkpoints and doing sundry police duties.
But when the Nigerian Army announced recently that it was embarking on a military exercise it called Egwu Eke 2( Python Dance 2) in the South East and included in its objectives, curtailment of secessionist agitations, my heart skipped a beat. I smelt a rat. What is the military about to start?
Have the political leaders who authorized the exercise considered the repercussions? Setting out the army to curtail the secessionist agitators at this time for what reason? Who are these? Is there no difference between secession and self- determination?
As much as we know, the agitators for Biafra called by IPOB and led by Nnamdi Kanu are not armed. Since Kanu was released on bail, they have not been holding street marches or demonstrations, except for a few rallies which are acceptable in a free democratic society. They have attacked no one physically. They have insisted on self determination asking for referendum to validate their quest.
The only attack they do is verbal, against anybody who opposes their agitation or their method. Many leading Igbo including the President-General of Ohaneze, Chief Nnia Nwodo and the Chairman of Alaigbo Development Foundation (ADF) Board of Trustees, Dr. Dozie Ikedife have been verbally attacked severally by IPOB. Even some of the South East Governors have been verbally assaulted. The constitution has sufficient safeguards for those who feel verbally abused. Using the military to go and harass and kill verbal abusers is not one of them.
Then the military decides to begin their python dance by going to the home of Nnamdi Kanu and his parents to demonstrate their serpentine dance steps. Nnamdi Kanu and his IPOB were not marching on the street, they were not protesting, they were not blocking the streets or causing any nuisance to other people. How far can the army go to stock the fire? It is a big shame that Nigeria’s military went to Nnamdi’s place to taunt him, to provoke him and to lure him into battle. I do not know how any well meaning Nigerian can justify or defend this brazen,reckless and incendiary behavior of the army in Umuahia last week.
As would be expected, the gambit of the military worked. The IPOB people were incensed and they began to rally to the ‘defence’ of their leader in Umuahia. And then, they ran into the ambush of the military in Oyigbo, Aba town, Aba-Owerri Road, PH-Enugu Expressway, Umuahia and elsewhere and the trouble escalated with so many people allegedly killed, some gruesomely, some injured and some assets burned including worship places.
Shops were shut and innocent people began to run helter skelter, reminiscent of a war situation. Journalists were intimidated and the NUJ office in Abia was vandalized so that the world will not know the mayhem that has been visited on Abia State.
Abia State Governor imposed a curfew in Aba. As we write, the entire south East and parts of Rivers state have been swamped by the military . There is a security check every half a kilometer from PH to Enugu and Pedestrians are asked to raise their hands while crossing the check points. Sometimes, occupants in vehicles are subjected to the same humiliation. As we drove past these stern looking soldiers last week, my driver quipped ‘It looks as if the 2nd Biafran war has started?” I responded that I hoped not but that the signs were ominous.
I do not know who are the beneficiaries of the events of last week in Abia state. May be the military commanders or the civilian political leaders who authorized the invasion. Certainly not the peace and unity of Nigeria. I can confidently announce to those who want the unity and indivisibility of Nigeria that this method will never work.
Repression of the cry for Justice and freedom has never worked anywhere in the World. Unity by force of arms will not endure. Enduring unity is built and nurtured. It is my wish and prayer that Nigeria’s political leadership rethinks this dangerous approach.
Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa OFR