IS South East still a part of Nigeria? The Constitution says so. Like almost everything in the Constitution that is observed in gross breach, insecurity in the South East is treated as the region’s headache.
Nigeria is a tripod standing on two legs? Those familiar with a tripod know it stands on three legs. Pre-civil war Nigeria stood on three legs. The war damaged one of the legs.
Nigeria paid a lot of attention at damaging that leg. In the past eight years, particularly, the Muhammadu Buhari administration made it clear in words, deeds, and indeed, that it would act without concerns for the damaged keg.
Rogue elements are on the increase in the South East. They spawn because those who are doing nothing to restore sanity in the area are mostly beneficiaries of the confusion. The Federal Government, vested with exclusive constitutional and legal provisions and resources to manage insecurity is unconcerned.
When a leg of a tripod is damaged, the cook treats the damaged stand with extra care, knowing that without such care, as he stirs, the pot and its contents are at a high risk of being upturned. And there are consequences.
Mischief makers see the serial unrest as a chance to de-brand the South East such that it is not an investment destination, unfit for human sustainable living. The media optics highlight these opinion. A May 2023 report on Nigeria’s security by Abuja-based security outfit, Beacon Intel said of 675 people killed, 5.2 per cent or 35 were in the South-East, making it the safest region in the country. The got minimal mention in the media. What is unique about the South East is the sit-at-home orders.
Only on 7 July 2023, Mr. Victor Onyenkpa, Chief Operating Officer, KPMG Africa, raised a point about the unease of doing business in the South East at a symposium in Aba to mark the 70th birthday of C. Darl Uzu, a known investor in infrastructure, estates, and lead private sector promoter of the Enyimba Economic City Development. He graphically showed billions of Naira were lost to the sit-at-home orders, and how South East’s GDP was shrinking. The facts cannot be disputed.
The media, difficult to define in the digital era, are in a race to list the commotion in the South East right to how many markets were in disarray in a day. A colleague who arrived from Lagos on Thursday was shocked to see people on the streets of Aba. There was another sit-at-home that was to last a week. The impressions are that people imprison themselves to avoid the gunmen who have taken over the streets.
Intensity of the madness varies from State to State, city to city. Our spaces have been conceded to mere criminals with whatever names and causes they choose to glorify their assault on Nigeria.
Our Governors should be comprehensively ashamed of themselves. Why are they in office? To have convoys? To disperse resources as they please? To ensure that their people are decimated while they firm up alliances that create more turbulences in the South East?
Are they so afraid to lose their empty empires that they cannot ask questions, the right questions? What fill their days? Debauchery? Meetings? Photo opportunities? The competition to amass more resources?
Our Governors – just five people – cannot hold a meeting to restore dignity to their cherished offices. They are only visible in agitated competitions to damage the South East more through their utterances or loud silences.
One of my teachers describes what is going thus: “In effect, we have two parallel governments in each of the five States. And neither is of any benefit to the governed. Perhaps, we should say three governments – the federal manipulating the other two, benefitting from the chaos. The Governors should be ashamed of themselves”.
The other two governments are the gunmen who order sit-at-homes and enforce them and State governments that do nothing except budget billions of Naira as security votes to extend their comfort. What happens to the people does not matter.
Some insight from the Owerri Prison break of 2021. According to Dennis Amachree, a former Assistant Director of DSS, “There was enough intelligence, enough actionable intelligence. Actionable in the sense that it allows for space for people to execute it, one week ahead of the event and of course, 72 hours before the event and then 48 hours before the event.
“So, three times, the Nigeria Police Force was informed by the DSS that this is going to happen.
“Apparently, nothing was done (to stop the attacks). You can see that the Governor was referring to that particular report that it’s not IPOB (Indigenous People of Biafra).”
If Governor Hope Uzodinma blamed outsiders for the attack, did he know who they were? What was done about them.
The prison is near the highest concentration of security in Imo State. A look at the places close to Owerri Prison – Government House, headquarters of the police and the Department of State Services, DSS, the army brigade on Obinze is not too far away. The invaders released more than 1,800 prisoners. Was anyone sacked for the breach?
There have been more attacks in Imo and other South East States since then.
Our homeland is turning into a wasteland. Deserted, distressed, denied, decimated. Traditional weddings, festivals and funerals used to be our local tourism and funnelled resources into the local economy. They are all gone. Insecurity constantly erodes our culture. Fear has become our living.
Anything done, or not done about insecurity in the South East affects Nigeria, shrinks the country. There is a poor understanding of the insecurity in the South East when it is treated as insecurity of the South East. It is a Nigerian situation situated in the South East.
Is Nnamdi Kanu the issue? Not any longer. The Federal Government and those rogues on the streets manipulate his name into the crises. The Court of Appeal freed him. Why would the government still hold him?
What stops the Federal Government from making a formal complaint to the Finnish government about Simon Ekpa who makes the sit-at-home broadcasts?Has the Federal Government told Finland about the dedicated menace Ekpa is?
Government’s complicity is too obvious that few seem to expect any solution from government. Is there any part of Nigeria that has more check points than the South East? Outside extorting the people and taking advantage of the young ladies in their locations, what else do they do?
The promise by the new Chief of Defence Staff to deploy more troops to the South East simply means more militarisation of our spaces. There are enough reasons to know that better uses of troops in place is required.
We lost the civil war. We did not lose our senses. The challenge is for us to find solutions that we can take to willing partners to secure our spaces. Only our actions would prove that we have had productive meetings.
The South East must act fast. The contest – global, local – for space keeps intensifying. The same contest encompasses the environment, economics, power, politics, and more importantly, the politics of power.
Power is never enough. Its dynamics ensure that those who think they are masters of the power of politics still feel inadequate.
Meetings where more time is spent praising the nuances of breaking the kolanuts than dealing with the killing of our people, our homeland, are no solutions. We must act more purposely. Details of what can be done and how to do them are not matters for public consumption. As Okokon Ndem would say during the civil war, when surrounded by enemies, we must be eternally vigilant; we cannot afford to sleep.
Next week: More on this matter.
Isiguzo is a major commentator on minor issues.