What is happening in the South- East Geopolitical Zone is unacceptable. What began as a peaceful movement has suddenly turned violent, with criminal gangs fouling the once serene environment. People are now mandatorily forced to stay-at-home. We salute the resolve of Chief of Army Staff, Maj. Gen. Taoreed Lagbaja to stamp out terrorism beginning with the South- East.
He has come out fully prepared for war and insists that granting amnesty to criminals does not exist in his notebook. Agitations for a new deal in the Nigerian enterprise began with the advent of the Fourth Republic. Ralph Uwazuruike came with his Movement for the Sovereign State of Biafra (MOSSAB); Nnamdi Kanu broke away and founded the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB).
Simon Ekpa leads a faction of IPOB known as ‘Auto Pilot’. While the United Nations charter accommodates the right to self-determination, what operates in the South- East today is more like self-aggrandisement. Kanu is under custody in Abuja and has issued orders against forcing people to stay at home. Ekpa lives in Finland as a politician and claims to be standing in for Kanu.
He has assumed the position of Prime Minister of the Biafran Government in Exile. His Auto Pilots are not taking orders from Abuja. They are ruthless with anyone that flouts the stay home order. It sounds ridiculous that those who see themselves as freedom fighters have denied the same people they are supposed to die for, freedom of movement. There is no record of Auto Pilots scratching the wall of a security post outside the South- East.
Instead, they have wasted lives and destroyed infrastructure in the zone. Auto Pilots and allied outfits like the Eastern Security Network (ESN) and Unknown Gunmen do not mean well for a people that suffered an atrocious Civil War between 1967 and 1970. Prior to 1966, the Eastern Region was one of the fastest growing economies in the World. The South-East was part of it. Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe and his successor as Premier, Dr. Michael Okpara, took their people from late comers in education and industry, to the top.
The University of Nigeria, Nsukka became the first indigenous university, a shade better than the University College, Ibadan which was a campus of the University of London. While Nsukka had a Vice Chancellor, Ibadan did not, which made it impossible for the premier university to attach Ibadan to its degrees. Golden Guinea Breweries, Umuahia, Nkalagu Cement Factory, a ceramic industry and various oil palm plantations littered the area.
Leadership played a huge role in that era of massive industrialization. There was also no security threat. The Civil War came with massive destruction, depopulation and degradation although General Yakubu Gowon was smart enough to coin a policy of ‘Rehabilitation, Reconstruction and Reconciliation’. It was only effective on paper, not in action. From the ashes of war, the people tried to bounce back. With little help from the Federal Government, they relied on themselves.
The Igbo Apprenticeship System has been adjudged as effective as the post-World War Marshall Plan. All these gains have been wiped out by terrorists who wear the garb of kidnappers, armed robbers and ritualists. It is worrisome that so far, about 176 gunmen camps have been identified in the South-East. These have taken the place of industries.
The effect on the economy of the region is enormous. Deputy Speaker, House of Representatives, Ben Kalu disclosed that in the past two years, N4 trillion has been lost to insecurity. Businesses are relocating to safer zones, this also affects manpower. Governors of the South- East must wake up from their slumber and unite against brigandage. This is not the time for politics.
The Governors’ Forum should be better than a tea party. Their land is on fire and failure to act will come with sore consequences. The Federal Government has shown the will to restore peace. President Bola Tinubu should go a little further by engaging the President of Finland, Sauli Niinisto. That a NATO country should harbour a terrorist is difficult to comprehend.
Niinisto and Ekpa belong to the same National Coalition Party, as lawyers, sportsmen and soldiers. These numerous professions know the path to peace. Nigeria should apply diplomacy as much as deterrence to restore peace in the South-East.