South East: The Real Security Challenge

From Nwakpa O. Nwakpa

The Igbo nation is unarguably a heterogeneous nation which is synonymous with individualism making any form of governing system a herculean task for the Igbo people. An average Igbo man will proudly or arrogantly assert that the Igbo has no king (Igbo e nwe eze) when it is obvious or he feels that his interest or those he represents is no longer protected. The Igbo people has, as a result of this loose system of government, suffered deprivation from the colonial era up till the present dispensation and it does not seem as if this deprivation is going to end not with the mind set of those at the corridors of power in the Nigeria’s government.

Unfortunately, the Igbo nation finds herself amalgamated with other nations with developed and standardized traditional governance system that have placed them at an advantage position in the power equation of Nigeria.  Generally accepted decision making process is very difficult if not impossible where there is no traditional, religious or political leader that everyone looks up to for guidance and decision making like the Obas in the West, the Emirs in the North and even the Etsu who are revered by their people as their traditional and religious leaders who also determine, to a very large extent, the political wind in their regions. The Emir of Sokoto represents everything the North stands for; the Oba represent the entire Yorubaland so is the Etsu to the Nupes.

This is not the case in Igbo land. The Obis, Igwes and Ezes rule over a small portion of Igbo communities with none of them occupying a position of supreme traditional or religious authority to speak for the Igbo people or command respect from other paramount rulers. In some communities, the town’s Union’s presidents are more powerful than the traditional rulers even when they are young enough to be the traditional ruler’s son. Every state has a council of traditional rulers with a chairman more often than not appointed by the governor thus rendering the position impotent since only a loyalist can be so appointed and can be removed anytime by the governor. This loose traditional system has arguably made Igbo social and political bonding difficult if not impossible. The Igbo apex socio-cultural organization, the Ohaneze Ndigbo, is not seen as taking decisions binding on Igbo nation or having the authority to call any political office holder to order compare to the Arewa in the North or the Oduduwa in the West.

Here lies the greatest security challenge of the South Eastern Nigeria! There is no argument that the Igbo nation is still being treated as prisoners of war or at the best as a conquered territory 50 years after civil war; the Igbo nation is politically, economically and developmentally marginalized as if it is an official policy of the federal government, yet there is no strong forum and political will power to seek redress and correct the systemic injustice. The Igbo man is not trusted to hold key positions of authority since after the civil war. The Igbos are barely surviving amidst being treated as second class citizens. No wonder the Igbo shops are looted and burnt if a Fulani had a misunderstanding with the Hausa. Yet the Igbos have not realized that there is need to speak with one voice and to take their destiny in their own hands seeing that they have been marked for perpetual subjugation.

A very big South Eastern security challenge that is seldom talked about is the number of Igbo people living in other parts of the country with huge capital investments. Any part of the country that is regarded as a developed city today is made possible by the Igbos. Maybe 1966 will ring a bell for those who witnessed it or for those who read about it or heard it from their parents. Yes, 1966!

The Movement of the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) agitated for freedom but received little or no acceptance and support from Igbo traditional, political and religious leaders including economic big weights from the east even when the group said it was averse to violence. MASSOB cried like a widow whose only child is being taking away without help and went into comatose.

The Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) gathered more membership, both at home and in Diaspora, became more confrontational, branded terrorist group by the federal government and then radicalized by the federal force sent to crush them. Now IPOB seems willing to defend herself and her territory from any “external” and internal encroachment but the elders  are willing to die in Egypt rather than die in the desert. The IPOB is classified a terrorist group while the real terrorists are ravaging the country from the North East to the uttermost part of the country yet there is no concerted efforts to stop them instead they receive pardon and are reintegrated into the society. The South Western group agitating for the Oduduwa nation is yet to be branded terrorist. Even, the South Western security outfit has been evicting, arresting, repatriating the Fulani herdsmen yet the Federal government did not go after them in the manner they are going after IPOB/ESN. This means that IPOB was not branded terrorists because of their agitation but because they are Igbos who should just keep quiet and take whatever is dished out to them or be wiped out.

The Fulani killer herdsmen are not the real security challenge in the south east. Neither are kidnappers, bandits nor Boko Haram. No, they are not!  The real security challenge is the seeming inability of the Igbo leadership (traditional, religious, political and economic) to act fast to defend their territory; yes, of course because of Igbo e nwe eze. When the south western political and traditional leadership decided to form their regional security outfit after several calls for community policing failed and they could no longer fold their hands and watch the Yoruba people killed, raped and their farmlands destroyed by known enemies, not even the federal government could stop them amidst threats of military and judicial actions.

The South Eastern leaders, though facing the same farmlands destruction, killing and raping, kidnapping and banditry, were only comfortable with political rhetorics. Probably because they were not focused or because they were busy pursuing their individual political ambitions in a country where they are not even wanted. The IPOB saw the lacuna and launched the Eastern Security Network (ESN) but the governments (including south eastern governments) out rightly disowned, fought and killed many of them and then launched the Ebube Agu as an afterthought to counter the ESN and here lies the real security challenge. A house divided against itself cannot but collapse.

Though Ebube Agu seems dead on arrival for obvious reasons. Meanwhile, will the Ebube Agu be collectively funded by the five governors when some of them are not paying workers’ salaries? Will there not be issues of appropriation and misappropriation? Can they sustain the outfit without playing politics with it? Will the governors not turn around and start accusing themselves of betrayal? Will there not be disagreement on the state to produce the commandant and other commanding officers, if not now in the nearest future?  Will the state commands submit and take orders from the headquarters in Enugu or local divisions taking order from the state headquarters? Who will discipline them? Will the next set of governors embrace the outfit? Most importantly, will the people accept and cooperate with Ebube   Agu seeing that almost everyone (at least those at home) has pledged or seems to have pledged allegiance to IPOB nay the ESN. It is obviously impossible for the two security outfits to cooperate. If and when they clash who will protect who? Will the police and military protect Ebube Agu since it is a government outfit? If the military give Ebube Agu cover against ESN will it still not be Igbo children who will be hunted and killed by either themselves or the military? Will the herdsmen, bandits, kidnappers not have freedom to destroy more farmlands, kill more people and rape more women because the owners of the land are pursuing rats while their homes are on fire?

It is high time the Igbo elite had a rethink, bond together, restrategise as a people to protect the Igbo God-given territory and resources. There is no gainsaying the fact that the federal government is not in a haste to restore security even in the North let alone in the South East. There have been calls from some elder statesmen that Nigerians should resort to self help, why not the South East?

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