Lai Mohammed’s Hysteria Over IPOB Misplaced
Last week, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the Minister of Information and Culture, criticised several Western nations for endorsing the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), which he said has been categorised as a terrorist group. He issued the warning in Washington, D.C. during official meetings with a number of foreign media outlets and policy organisations.
According to NAN, the minister said IPOB remains a terrorist group as declared by the Nigerian government and should be treated as such by Western countries.
He claimed that the group had been using funds raised in foreign countries to “destabilise” Nigeria.
Mohammed argued that it is hypocritical for the West to assert that it is battling terrorism while secretly aiding a terrorist group.
“IPOB is a terrorist organisation declared by the Nigerian government, yet some Western countries harbour them and have been dealing with the illegal body.
“They allow them to raise funds; some allow them to lobby their congressmen and lawmakers and whatever fund they realise, they use it to destabilise the country,” Mohammed said.
True, Nigeria has been terrorised for so long, especially under the regime which Mohammed serves. Every part of this country has one form of terror challenge or the other. It is also true that all forms of infractions against the nation state should be quashed with all the might and armoury available to the nation.
But wait, did Mohammed travel to Washington D. C. to discuss IPOB as the only threat to the nation or did he also mention all the armed gangs who have been ravaging the nation? Did Mohammed also tell the world that bandits and other insurrectionists that the government he serves had been treating with kid-gloves have killed more and terrorised the nation more than IPOB?
Make no mistake about it, the reason this nation has been so terrorised is because the Federal Government under President Buhari has been pathetically selective in its fight against insurgency and all manner of heist against the state.
Justice Taiwo Taiwo of the Federal High Court in Abuja on November 25, 2021, had granted an ex-parte application by the Federal Government for Yan Bindiga (Hausa word for gunmen) and Yan Ta’adda (Hausa word for terrorists) to be declared as terrorists but the administration of President Buhari grudgingly did so after over two months of public outcry.
While the government dilly-dallied with the issue of the bandits who had ravaged the North-West geopolitical zone including Zamfara, Katsina, Sokoto and Kaduna and also spread into the North Central and other zones in the country, killer-herders were also spreading their murderous activities across the nation unchecked. Bandits have killed hundreds of innocent persons, kidnapped several others including schoolchildren, with some still in their custody.
Same Mohammed had in a bid to justify why bandits and killer-herders were being treated with kid-gloves and the initial hesitation to classify bandits as terrorists had reasoned that armed bandits are common criminals. He had argued that bandits are just common criminals who believe in Nigeria’s unity and sovereignty, unlike Boko Haram and IPOB.
“I think we have been dancing around nomenclature, a criminal is a criminal whether it is a bandit or terrorist and the same measure is being meted out to them.
“That is why we find it ridiculous, the accusation that the Federal Government is softer on bandits than the separatists and other criminals.”
So clearly, the problem Mohammed has with IPOB is that they fly their flag. But except for those who have chosen to deceive themselves, what practical chance does IPOB have in successfully waging a war against the country? Bandits have been killing thousands of innocent Nigerians, yet the minister reduced that to mere criminality.
Can the minister sincerely tell the world how many bandits or killer herders are being prosecuted as the government is prosecuting Nnamdi Kanu and Sunday Igboho? Or have Igboho and Kanu killed more people?
How do you provide room for dialogue with bandits and killer-herders and granting them pardon and rehabilitation while yet insisting on prosecuting Igboho and Kanu and defying court orders for their release. It is convenient for the FG to pretend as though they do not know the leaders of these killer-herders and bandits.
Just last week, over 50 persons Including the community’s chairman’s son, brother-In-law, nephew, were murdered by suspected herdsmen, with many others still missing in Umogidi community in Otukpo Local Government Area (LGA) in Benue.
Confirming the incident, the Chairman, Otukpo LGA, Bako Ejeh who said his son, in-law and nephew were among those that lost their lives to the unfortunate incident also pointed out that scores were still missing.
It was learnt that the herdsmen had killed three of their victims and while the villagers were burying the three that were earlier killed on Tuesday, the gunmen invaded the village again on Wednesday and started shooting sporadically into the crowd of mourners.
Meanwhile, Secretary, Benue State chapter of Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders’ Association (MACBAN), Ibrahim Galma, had stated that members of his association were not responsible for the attacks, adding that MACBAN does not have control over herders in the area.
Galma who was reacting to the incident said, “Truly, the herders who are there are not cooperating with us. We don’t even know where they come from and everybody claims they don’t know those herders.”
Same week, Professor Onje Gye-Wado, who served as Deputy Governor of Nasarawa State between 1999 and 2003 was kidnapped by gunmen.
Family sources who confirmed the incident said the kidnappers gained entrance through the fence, broke into the house through his wife’s window and whisked him away to an unknown destination.
In the estimation of the Federal Government, these are mere criminals as long as they do not fly their flags. They hold communities spellbound. Some communities pay levies to them in order to access their farms. They also receive compensation from some state governments just to enable their people to get some reprieve. Federal Government-recognised mediators visit them in their hideouts. Because they do not fly flags they aren’t terrorists.
Meanwhile, Nnamdi Kanu is in detention because he leads a terrorist’s group. Now, can the Minister of Information tell the world any leader of these bandits, which his government grudgingly designated as terrorists who is undergoing similar trials as Kanu? The minister should tell the world what effort his government has made to extend similar gestures offered these bandits to members of IPOB or do they not deserve rehabilitation? The solution to the end of the seemingly intractable cases of insecurity facing the nation is embedded in the sincerity of the FG in answering the questions above.