If not IPOB, who’s enforcing ghost Monday?

FOLLOWING the Nigerian government’s unexpected extradition of Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, arrowhead of Biafra Zionist group, the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), and the subsequent recommencement of his stalled trial, the group immediately issued a weekly Monday sit-at-home order across the whole of the South-East geopolitical zone to protest the incarceration of their leader,and demanding his immediate, unconditional release. IPOB’s Ghost Monday directive initially received blanket support and compliance across the South-East, but its subsequent negative multiplier toll on the economy and general wellbeing of the people soon became apparent, eliciting raucous public opprobrium against it, following which the secessionist group reviewed its initial stand by proceeding to issue a fresh directive that the sit-at-home should be observed only on the days Mazi Kanu is scheduled to appear in court.

Curiously, despite IPOB’s official review of its initial directive, observation of the sit-at-home has continued unabated across the region, with reports of attacks by unknown enforcers on residents in some states accused of defying the directive, some of the most recent being the outrageous attack on school children writing their WAEC exams, the killing of an Anglican priest, attack on security formations,and destruction of trucks laden with goods, alongside the continued lockdown of major business hubs. IPOB has denied culpability for these acts of violence, blaming them on saboteurs and criminal elements camouflaging as its members.  So, the question begging for answers is, if not IPOB, who are those spreading mayhem in the South-East under the guise of enforcing a supposedly reviewed sit-at-home order? What could be the motive behind the actions of these forces of discord? The growing complexity of the mayhem in the South-East, which has the federal and eastern state governments on one hand, and IPOB and other non-state actors as major stakeholders, necessitates the need to be holistic in any attempt at identifying the masterminds of the latest disturbances.

From a strategic standpoint, the ongoing melee in the South-East could be attributed to the mischievous machinations of forces seeking some measure of control over the affairs of the region. They range from unscrupulous politicians, greedy businessmen, rival pro-Biafra groups, IPOB factions, criminal elements, and possibly IPOB itself. Let’s do some scenario building.

Naturally, the first suspect would be IPOB itself, considering its adversarial relationship with government at the federal and state levels. There is a possibility that the widespread allegations that IPOB and its security arm, the Eastern Security Network (ESN), are responsible for the disturbances in the South-East, could actually be correct, despite the group’s persistent denials. IPOB could actually be double speaking/dealing, publicly claiming to have reviewed its earlier directive on the sit-at-home order, while covertly enforcing it with the aim of bringing the political authorities of the South-East, which it regards ashenpecks of the federal government to their knees and ultimately coerce them into supporting its campaign for Mr. Kanu’s release as well as its de-proscription. The no-love-lost relationship between the secessionist group and both the federal and eastern state governments is common knowledge.

Another possibility is that the disturbances are being perpetrated by rival factions of IPOB. Prelude to the Rendition of Mr. Kanu from Kenya, there had been viral reports that IPOB had been factionalised consequent to visceral wrangling within its leadership structure over money issues, resulting in the emergence of new arrowheads with separate ideas and approaches to the struggle. The ongoing melee could actually be the handiwork of the disgruntled members of these other factions of the group who no longer feel obliged to kowtow to Kanu’s whims and caprices or adhere to his philosophy. These fifth columnists could have decided to upturn the apple cart via subterfuge and other acts of sabotage.

What about IPOB’s rivals (names withheld) who could actually have latched on to the lacuna created by Kanu’s incarceration and the seeming lull in its activities to jumpstart the promotion of their own agendas,covertly working to weaken its solid support base across the South-East and the rest of what was formerly known as the Bight of Biafra? These rivals could actually be issuing orders countering IPOB’s review of its sit-at-home as well as enforcing them with the aim of smearing its image. The truth is that IPOB’s rising profile, since its emergence, which has dwarfed those of other pro-Biafra groups, has elicited the envy of these rivals, and is a likely motive for sabotage. Agents of the Federal Government: The Nigerian government has never hidden its disdain for IPOB, which explains its determination to keep the group in check, using any means possible. Its forceful clampdowns on the activities of the sectarian group, which it has since labeled a “terrorist” organization, and the manner it extra judicially extradited Mr. Kanu back to the country to continue his trial on multiple criminal charges, are snippets of its extreme resolve to maintain the status quo by all means.

The python dances in the South-East, alongside the massive military deployment to the region are pointers to its commitment to quelling IPOB’s secessionist mien. The possibility that government fifth columnists have infiltrated the IPOB,and are now weakening it from within, cannot be ruled out. Sabotage, propaganda, subterfuge are age-long, highly potent stratagems of warfare.  As is traditionally the case in most conflict theatres, there are individuals and organizations that benefit from the spoils of war. The ongoing melee in the South-East, which has created room for opportunists to promote their private agendas, could actually be the handiwork of conflict entrepreneurs stoking the fires of violence to make profit. Some of these conflict merchants could be power-seeking politicians, unscrupulous businessmen,or outright rogues exploiting the confusing scenarios in the region to spread mayhem and make undue profits.

With 2023 in the corner and the state of insecurity in the region, political profiteers and criminal elements could be cashing in on the whole brouhaha to further their larcenous interests.

Now, regardless of which of the foregoing scenarios turns out to be correct, the outcome for the South-East will be unpalatable. There is no way the ongoing madness can be beneficial to the region and its people; it just can’t be rationalized or justified using any parameter. So, anybody or group, internal or external, that is responsible for the subsisting anomie in Igbo land should consider the negative multiplier consequences of their actions and do a detour.

This writer calls on all genuine stakeholders – not criminal minds – in the South-East to forge a common front in putting an abrupt end to the raging anarchy in theregion. From the politicians, traditional rulers, religious leaders, self-determination agitators, prominent sons and daughters, and all indigenes of the region, alongside other concerned parties, all hands must be placed on deck to hash out feasible panaceas to check the ongoing madness that threatens the peace and quiet of a region that was once renowned as the most peaceful in the country, post-civil war.

For the federal government, political authorizes of the South-East geopolitical zone and IPOB, the chief protagonists of the conflict, the time has come to sheath their swords and give positive peace a chance. Nothing positive can be achieved by violence, regardless of its seductiveness. While the political authorities should give room for the consideration of the issues driving IPOB’s call for secession, as has been consistently canvassed by several authorities, IPOB on its part should also water down its forceful rhetoric and style of agitation; both parties must shift ground.A zero-sum approach will only escalate the situation.

Dialogue seems to be the safest trajectory out of the foggy cul-de-sac of violence in the South-East. Any other resort is an invitation to an all-out war that might culminate in the destruction of the region, with its spillover effects possibly leading to the complete balkanization of the country. This later scenario is better not imagined.

Let’s do the needful to avoid stories that touch. I am just musing!

  • Obuse, a public affairs analyst and peace practitioner, writes in from Benin City.

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