Why the Presidency’s allegations against IPOB is a continuation of the anti-Igbo policy of this government
By Uche Chris
It is becoming increasingly undeniable that the Buhari Presidency has decidedly made the Igbo, represented by IPOB, the bogeyman of their myriad of failures. Since 2015 when this government took over, it has made no bones about punishing the Igbo for its declared and undeclared sins. The declared one is that they gave him only five per cent in the election; the undeclared sin is that they dared to aspire and challenge the suzerainty and hegemony of the Fulani empire, whose foundation was laid by Othman Dan Fodio and the roof provided by the conniving British, with the declaration of the Republic of Biafra.
Complaints by Igbo against targeted ethnic marginalization by this government have been often dismissed by some people, whose complicity in the election of Buhari continues to defy logic; but his actions toward the Igbo provide ample evidence of ‘special treatment.’ Since 1973, this government has been the most anti-Igbo, and worse still makes no pretence of its hatred and vendetta. Certain of our brothers and sisters from other ethnic groups have tended to justified the lopsided appointments by the government based on merit to the disadvantage of the Igbo, which runs contrary to history and available records.
It does not take any critical reasoning to prove that this government is rabidly and obsessively anti- Igbo; it has demonstrated it so very often and unabashedly that the shame is on those who play the ostrich and provide defence for it. Beyond being ignored in appointments by this government, the latest being the board and management of the NNPC, of which it was compelled to reverse the following outcry, there is no major federal presence in the region. All the federal roads in the zone are in deplorable conditions; those wearing face-lift were done by the state’s governors such as Umahi of Ebony state, although to be reimbursed.
No Igbo is holding any critical or strategic post in this government; indeed, none occupying a non-statutory position. That is how bad the situation is and still, the government and its supporters want the world to believe the contrary. The NASS has just approved a $22 billion loan for the government, while the nation slept, without Igboland hosting any of the designated projects. IPOB, the Independent People of Biafra, a passive, nonviolent group was proscribed as a terrorist group in 2018 for engaging in constitutionally guaranteed means of self-expression, a treatment Nigerians have been calling for herdsmen, who have been wreaking havoc and making lives brutish and short for Nigerians, to no avail.
At present Nigeria is not just in crisis; it is crisis personified: Everywhere you turn there is a mountain of the problem facing the country. Consensus global expert opinion believes that the COVID-19 pandemic is just breaking in Nigeria and the worst has not yet come – which is not conspiratorial pessimism as some would argue, as current rising NCDC figures bear it out unless we dispute it – and for which schools all over the country remain shut.
The economy, according to the minister of Finance, Mrs Zainab Ahmed, is likely to tank or drop by as much as eight per cent this year. Insecurity is escalating in the country particularly in the northeast and northwest with daily reports of killings, despite the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Burutai’s two-month sojourn in the theatre of operations. As this piece is being written, there was a report that eight Nigerian soldiers were killed in a surprising attack by insurgents on a military base, as well as news 35 and 83 people killed by insurgents in Katsina, President Buhari’s state, and Borno respectively. Much of last week experienced demonstrations by women activists denouncing the rising spate of rape cases in the country.
Amid this existential conundrum, the Presidency was preoccupied with the alleged war being waged by IPOB against the Nigerian state last week. It is such an annoyingly laughable and provocative piece of diversionary strategy accustomed to this government. How could IPOB be waging war against the Nigerian state by mere writing letters, opinions and lobbying politicians for the audience, when the herdsmen that are killing people do not merit the attention of government? It is taking falsehood to its ridiculous incredulity.
The statement came shortly after the recent widely vexatious, seditious and treasonable claim by Miyetti Allah of Fulani ownership of Nigeria and their preparedness to unleash 100,000 militias on the country which did not merit rebuke from the government. Most Nigerians were shocked by this claim and expected government to condemn it; rather it was the IPOB in faraway Europe and America that posed a more potent threat to the presidency than their kinsmen who are killing people; but unfortunately, most people did not see the connection.
The statement issued by Mallam Garuba Shehu, who has earned notoriety for a deliberate spin, titled, ‘IPOB, self-declared Jews, using Christianity to wage war against the Nigerian state’, accused the group of sundry crimes which cannot stand cursory scrutiny. It said: “The Presidency wishes to draw the attention of all citizens and the international community to the most misleading campaign spearheaded by the so-called IPOB using false allegations of persecution of Christians against the Nigerian state.
“A very deep and wide investigation by an agency of government working with other international partners has made us aware that two interconnected campaigns are being run concurrently by the IPOB in this regard. Both are using the cover of Christianity – and calling for a U.S Special envoy to be appointed to stop the ‘genocide’ of Christians in Nigeria. But the ‘real purpose’ is to drive a wedge between the Nigerian government and its U.S, UK/EU allies.” Shehu also claimed that the group is spending the sum of $85,000 monthly on PR, lobby and meetings.
This is nonsense; the foreign countries do not need anybody to know what is happening in the country. They all have embassies and high commissions, and spies all over the place; moreover, the world has become a global village with information available at the press of buttons. Why should the government be bothered in adopting a peaceful resolution to issues in the country? Appointment of a special envoy is not a declaration of war; a special envoy is the office of peace, fact-finding, and negotiations. It is simply a recognition of the existence of a problem and how to approach its resolution.
Why should that be a problem deserving Presidential attention, if it is not true? It is undeniable that Nigeria is fighting a religious war and Christians are being targeted; there is now irrefutable evidence to substantiate that fact. Christian leaders are being kidnapped and killed even after ransoms were paid; Christian towns and villages in the north-west are under siege and being destroyed by so-called bandits; Christian institutions like seminaries and churches are being invaded and members kidnapped and killed; herdsmen are driving away non-Muslim communities in the north-central and southern states to make way for their flocks.
These are the realities in today’s Nigeria known all over the world, and it does not need IPOB to amplify or draw the attention of the international community. A recent report by a Brussels, Belgium group puts a lie to the allegation against IPOB by the Presidency. The report, titled, ‘Fulani militias’ Terror compilation of News (2017-2019), published by Global Sentinel on Sunday by Jose Luis Bazan, independent research and analyst, said ‘Nigerians are suffering widespread and systematic terrorist attacks by mainly Boko Haram, Fulani herdsmen, ISWA, etc.
According to him, the Global Terror Index 2019, published by the Institute for Economics and Peace indicates that the primary driver of the increase in terrorism in Nigeria was attributed to Fulani extremists. It said that the herdsmen have killed 2,599 people in 657 attacks between 2017 and May 2, 2020, based on Newspaper reports. IPOB has nothing to do with his report; it was compiled from daily news publications by local media. It would be interesting to see Mr Shehu challenge these facts and figures.
By its actions the Presidency is perpetuating the stereotype which has enveloped its image; like the controversy over the confirmation of the President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Monica Mensem. The government is telling Nigerians that the most important issue in the country in the past week was IPOB alleged war against the Nigeria state when schools are still closed, and insurgents are killing soldiers, and women protesting against rape.
The government would have been commended if it deployed the deep and wide investigation of IPOB activities in uncovering the killings and rape pervading the country. Such is the misplaced priority and play to the gallery by this government.