The attacks on security operatives in the Southeast and the burning of police stations and then the jailbreak from outside in Owerri have been described as perpetrated by unknown gunmen. A visit to Nnamdi Kanu’s Twitter handle after each reported attack would show you a man who wouldn’t admit it was carried out by men of Eastern Security Network, ESN, but who would defend the act.
When Owerri Prison was broken into and prisoners freed, Nnamdi Kanu said, “If Miyetti Allah terror herdsmen and other murderous groups including Boko Haram can be arrested, freed, and rehabilitated then no single soul deserves to be in prison in Nigeria.” He ended this tweet with the telling “If you know you know”.
Eastern Security Network is very loud in daring and threatening military operatives for harms against people in Igboland and against IPOB as a group. They don’t need to take responsibility for you to suspect that they have a hand in the attacks on security operatives.
This is the classic witch cries in the night and the baby dies in the morning situation.
I don’t need to come out and outright hold ESN responsible for every security breach in the Southeast. The Imo State Governor thinks ESN is responsible for every attack on the military and the Police seemed to have made crushing IPOB and the ESN top priority. The authorities believe it is ESN; ESN and their parents, IPOB, have not done enough to disassociate themselves from these claims.
I won’t dwell on the debates between this duo. There is a more worrying issue – the silence of the people and, in some cases, tacit approval of the people. Under the government of Buhari, Igbos have faced wide-eyed marginalization in times of appointments and in the situation of projects. The assertion that Igbos are second-class citizens in Nigeria has been affirmed by Buhari.
So it is a welcome development that there are elements in the Southeast that are sticking it up to the government of Maj. Gen. Buhari (Rtrd), showing him that if pressed to the wall, the Igbos would push back. There are some people who see the security operatives as the enablers of Fulani herdsmen, thus, killing and razing their stations would compensate for lives lost to the Fulani mayhem.
When in school, we have a saying, mostly attributed to Franz Fanon, that violence can be conquered by greater violence. The violence from ESN or whoever is behind the “unknown gunmen” can be the greater violence that would conquer the violence of Fulani herdsmen and police brutality that the people of Southeast face.
There is a problem with this belief.
One, Eastern Security Network is not the greater violence. For all his bold talking and statements that claim that billions of abroad money are going into ESN, ESN is no match to the full force of the forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
The Nigerian government might be willfully inefficient in fighting Boko Haram, but in dealing with the “threat” from BIAFRA BOYS, they would be efficient. It was Achebe who said that “Nigerians of all other ethnic groups will probably achieve consensus in no other matter than their common resentment of the Igbo.”
The Nigerian military facing ESN would be ruthless and make every kobo budgeted for ammunition count.
Two, what becomes of the people in the show of force between IPOB and the Federal Government? The fight so far is on police stations and in the forests. But it won’t remain so forever. We saw it in Orlu where fighter jets were deployed in the sky and soldiers mounted roadblocks and brutalised and killed innocents.
There was the Python Dance of 2017. Innocents died.
At what point would this battle of guns split into the streets, the roads, and the markets? Yes, you want the show of dissent from IPOB. Yes, ESN should show that no part of the country has a monopoly on violence. But when the violence blows into full madness, where would the people go?
There is no battlefield where ESN and FG forces can meet and slug it to the death. The whole of the Southeast would be the battlefield and there would be a lot of casualties, “Thousands,” in the words of the great poet JP Clark, “are burning that have no say in the matter.”
JP Clark was talking about the “casualties” of the Civil War but he was talking about the future if we allow our land to be the battlefield.
A week ago, I wrote about the questions you need to ask and answer before you condemn IPOB. The questions should be asked. The Southeast has been pushed too much and taken for granted and treated as third-class citizens in a country that was kept united by the blood of their people.
There is no one in the Southeast who is happy with the treatment of the Igbo by the APC government. Because of this, it is easy to urge ESN on for fighting a just cause. But the problem with fighting for a just cause with violence alone is that violence has no shape. When you throw it into a situation it scatters like a keg of palm oil and soils the whole place.
Violence is a dark web and a lot of criminals would hide behind ESN to carry out sinister attacks on the Southeast. We saw it when Soludo’s gathering was attacked. Deja Adeyanju, the political activist, pointed this earlier today. “Many criminal gangs,” he warned, “will use IPOB’s name to operate and terrorize the people.”
He went on: “When Boko Haram started causing trouble in Borno, some people were celebrating that it was good to fight the injustice they had suffered. Today, the story is different. I hope those celebrating the destruction in the SE today, don’t regret it tomorrow.”
If there is anything I have learned about violence in my minute knowledge of history, of Nigeria, and elsewhere, is that violence is easily corrupted and weaponized. The Niger Delta militancy is usually pointed to as one that ended when for the region.
I disagree. Hundreds of people got settled but the millions in the region are not better off than their counterparts because they fought. Even the presidency of Jonathan which is seen as an indirect result of the agitations didn’t bring any earth-shaking development to the Niger Delta.
In any case, our case in Igboland is different. Where the Niger Delta militants danced and got dollars, our brothers would likely get pythons.
In any case, Eastern Security Network has made its point. They have shown that no one has a monopoly on violence. But this is where the problem grows a horn. It is like a wrestling match, to show this, you have to keep showing this, pinning your opponent in the ground, otherwise, those you want to show will forget, stand up, and return to taking you for granted. But the harder you want to show them, the more likely you would risk making your homestead the battleground.
It is a catch-22.
How about the Southeast governors ensure security and lives in the region? This can be countered with the excuse that they are not in control of any security agency as the Nigerian feudal system invests so much power in Abuja.
How about creating a security agency just like their counterparts in the Southwest did with Amotekum? Well, this group would have to contend with ESN who would see them as rivals and it would now be a three-way battle.
The more you talk about how peace would be restored in the Southeast, the more you look back at what should have been and there are a lot of blames to go round among our elites, our governors, security agencies, and Maj. Gen. Buhari (Rtrd).
I will rather look at the future and it seems the only way out is to temper the violence in the Southeast. When two people fight, you usually hold the person you are related or friendly with and say “Hapuya”. I am holding ESN. I really feel like abusing the leaders but let me hold ESN because when the violence really becomes anarchy, the leaders would be fine, would we?
Editor’s note: Kingsley Okechukwu writes about politics and security of the Southeast, every week.
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