Against the backdrop of the prolonged restiveness in the Southeast geo-political zone of the country that has claimed several lives and led to the destruction of properties worth billions of naira, stakeholders from the region have urged President Bola Ahmed Tinubu to embrace the call for dialogue by the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) as a step towards genuine reconciliation…..CONTINUE.FULL.READING>>>
The stakeholders noted that the crisis in the South East could only be addressed through a political solution, adding that a genuine dialogue between the Tinubu-led Federal Government and the IPOB will amount to victory for both parties.
Recall that last Saturday, the IPOB initiated a bold move aimed at ending several years of agitation in the region, when it declared its readiness to resume talks with the Federal Government on referendum date for Biafra.
It had hinted that it was open for peaceful negotiations and dialogue for a peaceful exit of Biafra from Nigeria through a United Nations supervised referendum.
It was not the first time the group that was formed in 2012 to restore the defunct Republic of Biafra was asking for a referendum. It had made similar requests during the administrations of former presidents, Olusegun Obasanjo and Goodluck Jonathan, but to no avail.
A statement signed by the group’s Media and Publicity Secretary, Emma Powerful, had stated the earlier Federal Government scheduled a date for a referendum for Biafrans to decide whether they are willing to continue to stay in Nigeria, the better for everyone.
Powerful had observed the peaceful approach of the IPOB to the self-determination struggle since its formation, but regretted that over 5000 lives had been lost with property worth $1 billion destroyed in an attempt by the country’s security forces to quench the struggle.
Aside from the figures quoted by the IPOB as losses encountered in property and human lives to the struggle for Biafra, a recent investigation conducted by The Guardian on the Monday sit-at-home in the region ordered and enforced by a faction of the group indicated that the Southeast had lost over N7.6 trillion in investment and productivity.
The report published in the July 24, 2023 edition of the newspaper, which covered the two-year period the Monday sit-at-home had lasted, further noted that several job losses resulting from low productivity and insecurity has led to migration of businesses out of the region to other parts of the country with more stable environment and disruptions in academic activities, whereby some children had been denied opportunities to write examinations, among others.
The Monday sit-at-home, which governors of the five states that make up the region are currently seeking to stop, was imposed on the people to force the Federal Government to release the IPOB leader, Nnamdi Kanu, who has been held in the custody of the Department for State Services (DSS) for over two years.
Kanu has been detained since June 2021 after he was arrested in Kenya and forced back to Nigeria. Several intervention efforts made to effect his release have not yielded positive results.
Apex Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, had consistently asked the Federal Government to apply political solutions in resolving the matter, insisting that it was chiefly responsible for the restiveness in the South East.
While IPOB’s call for dialogue came ahead of the December 15, 2023, date the Supreme Court has fixed to deliver judgment on the case regarding the continued detention of Kanu, Powerful stated that IPOB was focused and stands for dialogue, stressing, “the cardinal rule under which the IPOB was formed is to lead the way to a peaceful separation of Biafra from Nigeria.”
He added that IPOB’s call for dialogue on a referendum had nothing to do with getting Kanu out of custody, but was part of the peaceful means to achieve Biafra.
His words: “The events from 1948 to 2023 have shown that it is practically impossible for Biafra and Nigeria to coexist as one nation. IPOB has been calling on the Nigeria State for discussions on a peaceful referendum date, but the Nigeria state always returns the peaceful call with violent suppression.
“We have always maintained that self-determination is our inalienable right according to the United Nations laws. We remain committed to pursuing our self-determination peacefully according to international laws and regulations.” He added that every effort to bend the organisation would continue to fail.
Reacting to the call by the group, the President, International Solidarity for Peace and Human Rights Initiative (INSPHRI), Comrade Osmond Ugwu, stated: “The offer by the IPOB is one thing and another thing is whether the Federal Government is interested in that.
“We have to understand that IPOB is a proscribed group by the Nigerian government, and as such, regarded as a terrorist organisation. So, before entering into dialogue with the Federal Government, it has to be first of all de-proscribed.
“Having said this, I want to add that the statement may not be a ploy to secure the release of Nnamdi Kalu. I think it is a statement backed up with every sense of sincerity of purpose. If the government can accept that, then it is a victory for both parties. If the Federal Government can accept dialogue on the issue of referendum it then means that they have accepted referendum and the next issue is the modalities for the referendum.
“My advice to the Federal Government is that they should forget the issue of pride and take the option that is noble in this circumstance and follow it. And that noble course is the option of dialogue. That is the best way to resolve the impasse between the Federal Government and Biafra agitators.”
Emeritus President General of Aka Ikenga, Chief Goddy Uwazuruike, stated that the organisation had always demanded a referendum, adding, however, the late president Umaru Yar’Adua and Dr. Goodluck Jonathan handled the demand with maturity, while the Muhammadu Buhari administration approached it with ‘fiendish disposition’.
“Today, the Tinubu administration has not openly declared its disposition. In the world of diplomacy, adjustments and shifts are normal. IPOB has shown its willingness to adjust but the Federal Government has not responded. The Federal Government has to respond with its disposition so that the process of genuine reconciliation can proceed.
“I believe that IPOB is honestly seeking an end to the current political problems we are facing. IPOB has only one leader, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu. Negotiations are empty if his release is not upfront. Today, we have all kinds of groups claiming to be Biafran. These fake ‘Biafran’ groups are criminal gangs seeking to benefit from a bad situation,” Uwazuruike noted.
Executive Director of the Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO), Comrade Ibuchukwu Ezike, noted that knowing the details the referendum offers would enable one to take a firm position on the matter since everybody in the Southeast does not belong to IPOB.
“I won’t say that the offer for discussion by IPOB with the Federal Government is genuine or fake or a deception, because I am not a member of IPOB nor do I participate in their activities for me to know how genuine or not their offer is. Again, the nature of this dialogue Ezike doesn’t know! Does it mean that the group wants to back down on its struggle for an own Republic totally or to suspend it? Except one understands the details or dynamics of the proposed dialogue, it will be very difficult for one to discuss it. One needs to know the details of IPOB’s proposal to the Federal Government before attempting to do a correct analysis of the offer,” he said.
He, however, urged the Federal Government to accept the offer “so, they can commence the discussion. During the discussions, the genuineness of the proposal or sincerity of IPOB or otherwise will be established.”
A public affairs analyst, Dr. Onyeukwu Nworie, also noted dialogues and discussions are essential ingredients of democracy, stressing the Federal Government should not be tired of engaging any group to chart acceptable ways of impacting society.
He added that with level of insecurity and destruction in Southeast, government should be willing to engage in meaningful discussions that could bring a permanent solution to it.
“If the government can engage with leaders of terrorist organisations, then engaging with IPOB is the least of the cases, because IPOB is not as dangerous as these terrorists. The other thing is that the Southeast has had its fair share of destruction and disturbances arising from the issues of Biafra agitation. There is no way the Federal Government will relax with ease when one segment of the country is not at peace. So, I think the government should accept the offer to talk.
“Talking would not mean yielding to their demand. Here in the Southeast, a lot of people are not happy with the way things have degenerated and would not want to associate with Biafra; there are people if you ask them to vote in favour of Biafra may not go with you. There are those who also are hell bent in achieving Biafra and will give anything to it. That is the way it is. But I think what is uppermost is the understanding and the realisation of peace,” he said.
Nworie, further allayed fears that the IPOB may begin another round of attacks should the call be disregarded, stressing: “From what I have seen about the group, they are not the violent type. It is the criminal elements that infiltrated the society that are creating unrest in the zone.
“The same IPOB has told us that they have stopped sit-at-home and have even gone further to ask governors to arrest anyone enforcing it among several others. So, I think they are interested in peace and know that the people of the region are sophisticated enough that they cannot be pushed around anyhow. So, let us give them the opportunity and see what can come out of it. I believe they are genuine and not using the call to ask for Kanu’s release,” he added...CONTINUE.FULL.READING>>>