The attack on Ekweremadu

PENULTIMATE week, some irate members of the proscribed Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB) assaulted the immediate past Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, in Nuremberg, Germany, causing consternation in the country and abroad. A 64-second video of the assault which has since gone viral indicated clearly that the senator indeed had cause to fear for his life. Accused of conspiracy with the Federal Government to proscribe the organisation in the South-East and complicity in the killing of several of its followers, the senator was viciously beaten and had his attire torn, and only escaped lynching by a whisker.

Speaking on the incident which he said he had immediately reported to the Nigerian Ambassador to Germany, Mr. Yusuf Tuggar, Ekweremadu said: “I attended the Second Annual Cultural Festival and Convention organised by Ndigbo Germany in Nuremberg where I was billed to give a keynote address along with the President-General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief Nnia Nwodo who, however, could not make it eventually. I was given a resounding welcome by Ndigbo in Germany and everything went smoothly until some men, who identified themselves as IPOB members, stormed the venue and began to complain about the killings in the South-East, stressing that there would be no Igbo event at the venue. I tried to engage them, but when they became unruly, I had to leave the venue.”

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While expressing regrets over the attack, Ekweremadu added that as one of those who had consistently spoken out on justice for the Igbo, deploring the the Operation Python Dance mounted by the Nigerian Army in the South-East, the judicial killings in Igboland and elsewhere both on the floor of the Senate and in written and personal engagements with the Presidency and the media, as well as rallying the South-East Senate caucus to secure the release of the IPOB leader, Nnamdi Kanu, on bail, he had forgiven his attackers. Quite rightly, the attack was widely condemned across political and ethnic barriers in the country, with many calling for the prosecution of the perpetrators. Indeed, the groundswell of opposition to the unsavoury incident showed clearly that the political class in the country could indeed shelve partisanship in addressing issues in the polity. And regardless of the fact that some cynics claimed that the condemnation derived from enlightened self-interest, it is actually salutary that the incident did not provide another opportunity for crass politicking at the expense of the country.

To all intents and purposes, the treatment meted out to the former Deputy Senate President portrayed IPOB as a lawless organisation. Assuming but not conceding that he had in fact failed to speak out on state-sponsored atrocities against the South-East, how would beating him and tearing his clothes convert him to an outspoken critic of governmental lawlessness? And contrary to IPOB’s claim that Ekweremadu was in Germany to “eat the new yam”  while his people were being mindlessly slaughtered by the Federal Government, available evidence indicates that he was actually invited by the organisers to partake in an annual sociocultural festival in which issues affecting the South-East would be discussed and solutions proffered. In any case, IPOB’s claim that Ekweremadu, being the longest serving senator in the South-East geopolitical zone, had not promoted any legislative advocacy for the good of the area, was not supported by empirical evidence. And, what is more, if the condemnations across the South-East states and around the world are anything to go by, it seems sufficiently clear that IPOB risked losing some of its support base with the conduct of its members in Germany.  Struggle, we make bold to say, needs to be purveyed in a decent manner. Happily, though, the Nigerian embassy in Germany is said to be liaising with the German authorities to bring the attackers to justice following the alleged initial reluctance of the police to investigate the assault. And four of the attackers have been reportedly identified by the Bavaria police.

However, deplorable as the Nuremberg incident was, it still should offer some valuable lessons for the political class. The attack shows that people are disenchanted with the political class and may orchestrate violence in the polity if the extant issues of social inequality and marginalisation are not quickly and decisively addressed. To say the least, anyone attempting to use the incident to contrast the assumed civility of the political class with the unruliness of the vastly underprivileged populace is playing the ostrich. Truth be told, the political class has failed the people and if the lessons of history are anything to go by, it is not the duty of oppressors to dictate how the oppressed should react. In other words, public officials must wake up and smell the coffee: the people are becoming fed up with them and their reaction may not always be rational. After all, there is no rationality in the appalling conditions in which they have confined the vastly misgoverned and oppressed populace. Indeed, IPOB itself sought to convey this point when it said: “Those who are blaming IPOB Germany for manhandling Ekweremadu are poor students of history. You do not persuade an angry people with patriotic rhetoric. Leaders who cannot gauge the anger and fury in their land must be truly blind and not qualified to represent them.”