By Jude Ede-Attah
The South Eastern region is bleeding and bleeding profusely. Peace and security are eluding the land and as William Butler Yeats wrote in his 1919 classic poem, The Second Coming, “The falcon cannot hear the falconer…mere anarchy is loosed upon the land”. All the demons in hell have been let loose in the once touted ‘safest region of the country.
And the demons are indeed in an overdrive, wreaking havoc of immense proportion across the land of the rising sun. From Onitsha to Owerri, up in Nsukka and down at Izombe, the sordid story of brigandage and savagery reverberates, sending chills down the spine of a traumatized people held hostage by circumstances that cannot be said to be beyond their own control.
Who imagined that time will come when Igbos will behead each other in broad daylight, spike the severed heads and play football with it? Whoever thought that it is possible that Ndigbo who are acclaimed for their respect for personal hard work and toil would willfully set ablaze the hard-earned goods and property of any of their own for no discernible reason and beat their chest about it? Who would have imagined that felons will rule the streets of Igboland who will open fire on innocent people and folks will scratch their heads and move on? Who thought that Alaigbo will be another theatre of the macabre dance of horror and bloodbath just 50 years after the civil war that claimed over three million lives?
The truth of the matter is that these tales of anguish and unimaginable calamities that rent the air of late are the ignoble reminders of consequences of the unbridled indiscretion of a few rascals. It is also the result of unmitigated complacency and poor leadership quality on the part of political actors in the region. What we are witnessing in the southeast is the unfortunate situation where a few rascals with messianic pretensions took advantage of the ineptitude and fraudulence of political leaders. Nature abhors a vacuum and I’m persuaded that if the leaders - political, traditional, and even religious - are living up to their bidding and providing quality leadership, it would not have been possible for any group to spring up and suffuse the entire atmosphere with unbridled violent rhetoric and hate speeches, and anybody would listen to them. That is a topic for another day but it is very important that we begin to lay bare the root of all these crises.
In any case, what is even more important now is how to get the beleaguered region out of the dire situation it finds itself in at the moment. You would want to ask, how on earth are Igbo youths known for their fortitude and industry not in the forefront of finding solutions to the crisis rocking the region today? How can all these horrible things be going down in the South East and the youths are strutting around, tail in between the legs, as if nothing, not even their future, is at stake?
Are Igbo youths not done listening to any group steeped in violent rhetoric? For how long will such groups that brought nothing other than blood, death, and sorrow continue to hold sway in Igbo land and to what end? Shouldn’t the youths insist that they are no longer interested in the violent disposition of any group or persons and demand that such groups go back to their original non-violent agitations?
I am not laying the entire blame of the widespread violence in the South East on any group or persons but the following Igbo folktale can help us situate the whole issue: Mbe the Tortoise in a fit of anger, threatened openly and to the hearing of everyone that he will trample his pregnant neighbor to death if there was any stampede. Alas, there was a stampede and it was discovered that the pregnant woman had been trampled to death. Well, everyone heard Mbe when he was threatening the neighbor and they wasted no time in holding him responsible. It is possible that Mbe was not culpable and it is also possible that someone who heard him threatening the pregnant neighbor, used that as an alibi to commit the crime but he was held responsible on account of his open threats.
We know those who have been threatening fire and brimstone in the southeast and it is easy to hold them directly or vicariously liable for the bloodbath in the region. The only way they can convince the world of their innocence is by actively collaborating with security forces to flush out the so-called Unknown Gunmen who have turned our homeland into the theatre of violence and bloodbath. We also know what our politicians are capable of. It is well within their bags of mischief to cash in on the tense atmosphere created by the arrest and deportation of Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, the IPOB leader, to unleash mayhem against their perceived political opponents. Noting is ruled out.
What is of utmost importance now is for Igbo youths to begin to insist on getting back to their region and securing their future. They must synergize with the security forces, especially the Nigerian military, to bring the horrible security situation under control. Now is the time to restore the glory of the South East by bringing back law and order, peace, and security to the region, and the youths must play an active role in this. Without mincing words, the military stands in better stead to deal with the situation considering that the challenge as it is now, is well beyond the capacity of the Nigerian Police to handle.
The good thing is, as we write, the Nigerian Army has commenced what they call 'Exercise Golden Dawn' in the South East. While flagging off the Exercise along with two others that will take care of South-South and Southwest regions, the Chief of Army Staff, Lt Gen Faruk Yahaya, stated that it would seek to confront the multifaceted and contemporary security challenges prevalent in the region. He noted that the Exercises were aimed to restore law and order in the affected regions as well as create enabling environment for socio-economic activities to thrive.
Isn’t this what we needed most in the southeast at this time? A situation where the ubiquitous Unknown Gunmen go around to kill anyone they adjudged disobeying their sit-at-home order across the region is totally unacceptable and very provocative. The citizenry, especially the youths must provide the soldiers needed support to be able to stop the anarchists on their track.
More importantly, the Army Chief charged officers and soldiers who are participating in the Exercise to remain professional, steadfast, and diligent in the discharge of their responsibilities in consonance with the objectives of the Exercises. He further urged troops to ensure respect and protection of the Fundamental Human Rights of the populace in conformity with the provisions of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as they discharge their responsibilities. This is critical and I’m happy it is coming from the Army Chief himself. On no account must the troops engage in any untoward activities while carrying out this Exercise. They must bring their best foot forward by ensuring that no innocent citizens receive the short end of their stick. Professionalism must be their watchword.
The COAS also enjoined the citizenry to be law-abiding and corporate with security agencies in order to restore law and order in the region. This is a clarion call to traumatized folks in the South East to appreciate the efforts of the troops by supporting them and cooperating with them. Providing the military with accurate and timely information will help them to quickly bring the odious activities of the so-called Unknown Gunmen to end in Alaigbo.
It is my candid opinion that we should give the military the benefit of the doubt this time around in order to bring back the much-needed peace and security in our region.
...Ede-Attah wrote from Abuja. NNL.