By Afam Echi
Two weekends ago, the coal city of Enugu was thrown into mourning moods with the spilling of the bloods of some Igbo youths who were mauled down by some trigger-happy security operatives. The operatives it was reported swooped on the boys who reportedly were holding their meeting in a building at Emene, a suburb of the capital city. Some accounts stated that about 21 victims fell to the firepower of the overzealous policemen.
The incident deservingly has attracted public outrage locally and internationally. Many had wondered what could have attracted the killings when the boys were not at the point involved in any breach of peace. Questions have since arisen as to the intentions of the security men who it is believed could have used minimum force to stop the meeting rather than suddenly dispatching the boys to their untimely end.
It is saddening to note that the boys who claim to be fighting for the freedom of its own people appear not to be recognized by the same people they are laying their lives for. While the incident has continued to attract serious condemnation from the South East governors, legislators of South East extraction, natural rulers and some high ranking politicians especially the patrons of Aso Rock appear comfortable with the experience.
This is manifest in the manner they have remained silent on the issue especially the South East governors who even in previous attacks have remained mute as if they are not concerned in any way. They refuse to align themselves with the Igbo philosophy of “Onye aghala nwanne ya”(be your brother’s keeper).
It would be recalled that the federal forces once in search of the IPOB leader Nnamdi Kanu attacked his Afara Ukwu country home in Umuahia and in the process dispatched many youths to their untimely death. This the government followed up with the declaration of the group as a terrorist organization. Nnamdi Kanu himself was also incarcerated for about two years.
The constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria clearly states the sanctity of human lives and the right of people to live. There is also the freedom of association among other rights. Human life is sacred and must be respected but in our times at present it appears there is no value accorded to human life any more.
It is no longer news that the freedom fighters as they call themselves and the police have in the past had series of clashes culminating in the innocent killing of people and incarceration of others, what is news is the unholy silence of the South East governors on whose enclave most of the clashes have taken place.
We note with concern that virtually every region in this country is suffering from bloodletting as at present. The most painful aspect is that we have all become so immune to the effects of these killings that it has numbed our feelings as we no longer bathe an eyelid. Precious lives as in the Enugu killings are witnessed almost on daily basis.
The agitation for the Biafran country did not start in this era. It was this agitation that led to the civil war. The war ended fifty years ago and the greater majority of the youths championing this Biafra stuff were not born then. They must have been influenced or sensitized to the struggle by what they are experiencing or what they may have read or heard the evidences of which are clearly visible everywhere you go (apologies to MTN). The youths must have been victims or have victims in the various senseless killings and destruction of Igbo’s properties in the North or may have experienced marginalization in one form or another—shot out of employment or academic opportunities. When you juxtapose the contributions of the Igbos and their sacrifice to the growth of Nigeria you will observe theirs is a case of an unfair deal.
What is clearly missing in the whole struggle and difficult to understand is the silence of the so called leaders and elders of the Igbo people. While the youths have picked the gauntlet to fight injustice in order to right the wrongs. their supposed leaders remain mute. Some go to the length of disassociating themselves from the struggle. They don’t want to be counted, “I no follow o!” they seem to be saying.
How does one understand their silence or denial? Is it to say that the problems the youths are drawing attention to does not exist? Could it be that they are afraid of what would happen to them or their business and political interest in the event they show up? Assuming they are not in agreement with the manner of prosecuting the challenge what other alternative remedies or solutions have they expressed?
In truth no sane person would vote for violence if there are better ways to resolve an issue. The separatist tendencies is not supported either. The protagonists of the Biafra struggle if the truth must be told would prefer to stay in one united peaceful Nigeria if there is justice. The unity in diversity which we mouth can be made manifest if we do the right things.
The Constitution guarantees us the right to freely associate. In like manner and impliedly we also have a right to disassociate if we feel the relationship is not healthy any more. So far the Biafra struggle and protests have been one of no arms, peaceful unlike what we are experiencing in the North. Imagine what Nigeria would be if there are arms to the agitation given what is happening in the North.
Given that the Baiafra protests predates majority of its agitators including its leader, it indicates that the reason for such agitation is still prevalent. It is simply saying that we are poor students of history. Do we need another blood bath as in the three years pogrom before the agitation can end? That other ethnic groups are up in the fight is a clear testimony that there is something fundamentally wrong in the constitution of Nigeria as a sovereign state.
It is time these issues are addressed. We cannot continue to live in denial, live a lie and expect peace to prevail. The time to save further bloodletting is now. We have the knife, we have the yam.