Self-determination: Buhari Under Fire for His Administration’s Approach to Agitation

President Muhammadu Buhari has been seriously attacked for his administration’s response to the agitation of ethnic groups or regional power blocs for self-determination in Nigeria, Buhari is being accused of always calling out the armed security forces that are not trained on handling issues of mass protest and agitation.

‘’Over the years, the aftermath of the country’s security approach to issues that could be talked over and even horse-traded, has been escalating the orgy of violence in the country’’, so says The Southern Examiner on its front page editorial on Monday.

The online news portal says it is deeply worried with the security situation in Eastern Nigeria, the hub of the renewed agitation for the nation of Biaframore than half a century after the unfortunate Nigerian Civil War. Much as we agree that the Nigerian government has the responsibility of safeguarding the territorial integrity of the country, citizens also have a right for lawful protests and agitations.

Is it not yet time Nigeria rethinks its not-working security approach to crime and political agitations and socio-economic demands of citizen groups?. For instance, the public execution of Ishiola Oyenusi and his gang members at the Bar Beach, Lagos, in the early 1970s was intended as a deterrent for armed robbery. Since that firing squad episode, the menace has become worse both in scope and sophistication.

Similarly, the Buhari military dictatorship in the 1980s publicly executed three Nigerian youths for trafficking in narcotic drugs. Rather than curb the vice, it opened a floodgate of a hitherto unknown avenue for quick money for those profiting in hard drugs.

Currently, hardly had the noise of “Python Dance” died down than the Nigerian military planned another operation in the East which they now code-named “Golden Dawn” and launched in all the five hitherto peaceful and tranquil south eastern states.

Unarguably, disturbances are being recorded in the region during which several police stations were burnt down, prisons broken into and a couple of policemen killed. There is no denying that tension is high in the region.

However, if one is to make a dispassionate comparison of the situations in the North and in the South, one will agree that the region needing these military operations most is the volatile north that has been turned into human abattoir and disheartening cemetery.

The ravages of Boko Haram, killer herdsmen and kidnapper bandits have their roots all in the northern region, and the semblance of violence in the south could be seen as a spill over of those northern disturbances. It is a spill over because the likes of Sunday Igboho, the Amotekun, and IPOB’s Eastern Security Network (ESN) which are being accused of instigating violence in the south all arose to counter the wind of insurgency blowing fast down south.

Amazingly, the military has the unenviable reputation of fighting only the defenceless civilian population that they were actually meant to protect. They are not known to have fired a single shot against external aggression to the country, not ever, since the inception of the nation as a republic, not even when neighbouring Cameroon claimed the Bakassi Peninsula as its territory and dared the Nigerian nation.

The nation, in that case, decided to tread the path of dialogue, peace and negotiation. If the country could condescend to dialogue with Cameroon, why can’t it have a tete-a-tete with its aggrieved citizens over issues that can be politically resolved?

Ironically, the Nigerian government, 50 years after fighting a civil war believed to be fratricidal, had continued to kill and maim the people it considers as its citizens. In all this, the Military authorities, who, we feel, were well schooled in war tactics and ethics, should beware of the image they carve for their institution already known worldwide as worst offenders in human rights violations.

They know that no matter how much they preach to their men to be professional or civil with the civilian population upon sending them to such operations, tales of tears and sorrow, of despicable acts of rape, murder, looting, arson and plunderings have always been rife soon after the operations.

The recent clash of the soldiers with youths of Izombe, in Imo State, and the unwarranted molestation of well-known Nollywood actor, Chiwetalu Agu, for wearing colours similar to the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB)  insignia, are instances that point to soldiers’ recklessness with the civilians.

Eventually, it is the trust of the population in their country’s Army that is traded in, such that anything in the characteristic green or khaki uniform is loathed across the nation. Instead of their presence being seen as signs of security and protection of lives and property, the Nigerian soldiers are today symbols of death and destruction of the land.

Rather than yield a dividend of the much priced and keenly sought peace, these operations multiply our troubles through the increased violence and acrimony that follow. The south easterners, in particular, see their presence in their midst as a design of the Fulani hegemony to annihilate the people of the region who have largely been neglected and marginalised since the end of the civil war. Indeed, many perceive it as genocide because of the high casualty figures from the civilian population in the region where innocent people are hounded.

IPOB activism has been carried to the level of arms struggle, history teaches that Guerrilla warfare can hardly be worn with military operations. Only dialogue and the removal of the political reasons for the warfare, through some political transformation, are potent weapons for winning such wars.

It is on that note that we recommend immediate withdrawal of the soldiers from the streets while the Nigerian government should thereafter tread the path of dialogue with the offending groups. This is the action that promises some respite to the traumatized Nigerian citizens.


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