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Thursday, February 29, 2024

2023, IPOB Insurgency and the Danger of Silence

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By Bashir Aliyu

Over the past few weeks, there have been unprecedented attacks on INEC offices in the Southeast as unknown gunmen continue their campaign of terror in order to inflict maximum damage on the electoral body’s attempt to conduct free and fair elections in Nigeria. While there is no sign yet that the attacks would cripple INEC’s capacity to conduct election in the restive region, the ominous message issued by Professor Yakubu that if the attacks go on, the commission may not be able to fully conduct elections in certain areas should be taken seriously.

One of the key reasons Simon Ekpa, widely believed to be in charge of the armed wing of the IPOBs, ESN, is to ignite chaos, make the southeast residents suffer economic consequences and make it look like as if the whole region is solidly behind his campaign of anarchy. Can the southeast survive another round of destruction and massive displacement of millions and economic devastation similar to the 1967 civil war? Can this outlawed group achieve its prime objective of actualizing Biafra through violence and barbaric killings of innocent people whose only hope is to eke out a living to keep their bodies and souls together? Are the elites not learning a lesson from the northeast when terrorists overran our regions, wrecked havocs on our population and incapacitated our regional economy with humanitarian crisis which not only displaced hundreds of thousands but also destroyed our vital means of survival. Without interborder trade and agriculture, Borno became a warzone as the authorities scrambled to fight a worsening insecurity while continuing to provide humanitarian aid to the IDPs. It took us over a decade to dislodge the terrorist groups, but the full recovery will take much longer.

For now, IPOBs do not have geographical advantages to fight a war with the battle-hardened Nigerian army due to absence of supply route, and the dwindling support from the local population and total absence of support from international community that still wants to see a united Nigeria, if the authorities continue to fold their arms as these rudderless armed groups sabotage the economic activities and paralyze our institutions, the danger is the region has a lot to lose both economically and geopolitically. I will go on.

Let’s take a cursory glance at economic devastation this insecurity might do to the region. The southeast is an industrial hub where various manufacturing industries are concentrated. Onitsha Main Market, Anambra State; Ariaria International Market, Aba, Abia State; Ogbete Main Market, Enugu State; New Market, Aba, Abia State; Ǹkwọ Nnewi, Anambra State, and International Market, Ebonyi State are the mainstay of the region’s economy. If attacks persist, the region would suffer reputational damage, leading to mass exodus of people especially people who go there to do business. The continued attack on northerners would lead to ethnic and religious tension, and the reported strike by northern marketers who supply the region with food has already caused untold hardship as people grapple with soaring food prices and uncertainty. Biafra may not be actualized in the foreseeable future, and this issue can only be settled through dialogue, not war.

In terms of geopolitical setback, Peter Obi’s popularity is soaring. It is possible he may fare better than previously expected. But the growing radicalization of some of his Igbo supporters may threaten his chance, potentially scuttling future attempt to endorse any Igbo candidate. Igbo alone cannot make Peter Obi president. He is in dire need of support from other parts of Nigeria. The wanton destruction being caused by the frequent attacks on civilian and military installations may send a discordant message to people living in other parts of Nigeria, and rattle even his voters since the Labour Party candidate has stopped short of publicly denouncing the attacks.

There is little chance Biafra would succeed with its violent campaign because there is no any potential sign of the country’s collapse. There is agitation for independence in most of the countries around the world including in the UK and Spain where Scotland and Catalonia are trying in vain to have their own independent countries. Dialogue remains the best solution to a motley of challenges affecting our country. However, Nnamdi Kano, Simon Ekpa and their foot soldiers should be tackled, and Nigeria should strive to ensure the country becomes a safe place for everyone

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