A sincere appeal to president Tinubu, By Elliot Uko
Elliot Uko

Dear Sir

Writers, individuals and some sections of the media have tried to paint the picture that the agitation in the South East is mischievous, insincere and built on greed for power. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

Commentators usually begin the story from the middle, thereby erasing the truth.

The agitators are actually frustrated citizens who are scared of handing to their own children the unacceptable condition they found themselves in post civil war Nigeria.

They believe that since they were not responsible for the war, that I should not be eternally punished for a war that ended 53 years ago.

They desire to be treated as equal citizens. Their region treated fairly as other regions.

They desire true federalism, fair treatment to all, level playing field for all.

That has not been the case.

Their reaction and desire to secced, is anchored on their belief that they will never get justice. It all began 24 years ago as a little flicker of flame.

It grew into a huge inferno because the root cause of their grievances have never been addressed.

Justice, fairplay and equality

The world has helplessly watched the agitation in the South East grow steadily from a storm in a tea cup, into a hurricane.

How less than a hundred random young men Ralph Uwazurike gathered at his Ajidedidun Street, Agulejika, Lagos residence in September 1999, grew into several hundreds, then thousands and now several millions under Nnamdi Kanu.

How pundits and “friends” of every Government, Obasanjo, Yardua, Jonathan and Buhari, had assured every administration how the agitation would be certainly crushed within weeks, or at most, within a few months.

How these “advisers” have managed to remain without blame, but rather smartly and successfully passed on the blame to other people, completely exonerating themselves, remain a great mystery.

Regime after regime, completely trusted these discrete advisers, who presented themselves as experts on how to cripple, paralyze and permanently silence the agitation.

Meanwhile the ranks, audacity and tenacity of the agitators only doubled and quadrupled steadily.

From disrupting census headcount, to pulling down the Onitsha prison gates, to opening a liason office in Washington DC, and establishing a radio station in London, the agitators over the years, grew and grew in size, number and sophistication.

When internal crisis amongst them led to the emergence of a new leadership and a new faction with a new name a decade later, the authorities resolutely refused to review the strategy of containment.

As the new leader effectively used the airwaves to aggressively spread their gospel of secession, gathering huge converts, discrediting the first and earlier leader, regional leaders and the federal authorities continued with the same old format and strategy of calling the agitators, miscreants, deviants, criminals and fraudsters, while rolling out tanks and security to deal with the trouble makers.

Meanwhile, the agitators grew exponentially into a formidable critical mass, built on the solid ideology of hunger for fair treatment, justice and equity.

The elite of the region chose to remain ambivalent. While the political class of the region preferred only exploiting them to achieve certain political ends.

When the new face of the agitation was arrested in a Lagos hotel eight years ago and detained, all hell was let loose.

Frightening huge and monstrous crowds of protesters flooded the streets of major cities and towns in the region shocking every body.

Hundreds of thousands marched on the streets waiving separatist flags. Not even Catatonia nor Scottish referendum marches attracted such frightening crowds.

Everybody, as in really everybody, distanced themselves from the reality on ground.

In whispers, they said the new President of the country will almost certainly mismanage the agitation.

They believed he will allow his emotions to guide his actions and that his response will most definitely convulate, rather than resolve the crisis.

They chose “siddon look” attitude in order to avoid any kind of problem with the authorities.

The same strategy of containment applied over a decade earlier, 24 years ago at Aba when Ralph Uwazurike hoisted the first flag at Aba, hopping on a bike and zooming off, remained the standard of containment.

As Ralph zoomed of atop the bike, two unlucky individuals were felled, several wounded.

The scenario of bloodied streets, broken cars, damaged stores, weeping women, destroyed shops, missing shoes and clothes strewn allover the roads, remained for 24 years, the regular tell-tale signs of confrontation between the agitators and the authorities.

Several Military Operations, codenamed Python Dance one, two and three and other special operations, remain the usual response since 1999.

Meanwhile, the motley crowd of artisans, petty traders, students and even unemployed youths Ralph gathered to form MASSOB in September 1999, have transmuted into a global movement of aggrieved folks scattered all over the world breathing fear in their soul.

Able to paralyze the entire region, alter the people’s lifestyle and affect the economy.

Yet nobody is interested in addressing the fears that drive the agitation.

Fear, powered by apprehension over the future, as they and their region have been mistreated since 1970.

Fear that they don’t have a future in their country their forebears fought so hard to achieve independence.

Fear that the current subsisting unitary structure will never allow their region to ever develop.

Fear that the absence of critical infrastructure such as railways, Seaport, International Airport with Cargo wing, Dry Port, etc are deliberately designed to impoverish and underdevelop their region.

Fear that the refusal to sincerely engage them to extract and hopefully address their grievances in 24 years, may be a confirmation that there are no plans whatsoever to address their pain and frustration.

Fear that their children will inherit same pitiful condition of second class status, if they don’t do anything to positively improve their lot.

Fear that the political class will always play politics with their situation, sandwiching their own agendas in the mileu, as always.

Fears nobody has addressed in 24 years.

Yes, the agitators made many mistakes, yes the agitation regrettably took a dangerous twist less than three years ago, when violence was introduced.

The formation of any security network must be condemned.

Arguments for self defence by non state actors remain unacceptable. The agitators have some blame too.

The truth is: non kinetic strategy would have resolved the agitation long time ago. Inviting, listening to, and collating the grievances that created the resentment, fears and frustration that inspired the agitation would have been more useful and helpful in the search for resolution and closure.

Our appeal to President Tinubu therefore, is rather simple.

Kindly begin devolution of powers to the federating units sir.

True federalism will remove loss of faith in the system and rekindle trust and patriotism to the hearts of people who have given up on the country sir.

The agitators are no angels, but if they were not genuinely pained and aggrieved in their soul, they could not have sustained the agitation for 24 years, inspite of the fatalities they have suffered over the years.

Sincerely engaging them will make a difference. Seek, identify and collate the root cause or causes of the bitterness that gave birth to the agitation in the first place, and kindly begin addressing them sir.

Begin through a deliberate policy of affirmative action, to implement policies and projects that would give the people of the region a sense of belonging.

Denied critical infrastructure should be built in the region. We earnestly plead with President Tinubu to kindly review the strategy of containment in order to achieve a different and positive result.

Peace and quiet in the region will greatly calm the country, restore economic growth and heal the land.

We plead for a change. We plead that the root cause of the agitation be identified and addressed.

That’s our appeal sir.

Evangelist Elliot Ugochukwu-Uko
Founder: Igbo Youth Movement IYM
Secretary: Eastern Consultative Assembly ECA
Deputy Secretary: Igbo Leaders of Thought ILT

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