PRO- BIAFRA PROTESTS, NORTHERN TRADITIONAL RULERS & PEACE MAKING

  In late October this year, I wrote an article titled " The implications of the resurgence of the Biafra Movement". In that article I advised the Federal Government to learn a few lessons from our recent poor handling of dissents and conflicts in our Nation and to try to engage the agitators for Biafra and to find out their grouse. I had opined that the unity of our Country is work in progress and as a Nation, we have advertently or inadvertently injured certain individuals or groups to the extent that they feel so unhappy with the Nation and would wish to opt out or failing may wish to pull down the roof on all of us. I also indicated that from all I had seen and heard, the pro-Biafran agitation did not start after May this year when President Muhammadu Buhari came to power. Those who read news or watch Television would have read about or seen one Chief Ralph Uwazurike and his movement for the Actualization of the sovereign State of Biafra( MASSOB) in the last couple of years. I further said that given the increasing tempo of the agitation and the entry of other groups like the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra( IPOB) and the Radio Biafra, London of which the now popular Nnamdi Kanu is the director, care must be taken in handling this development. My point was that this kind of mass movement  could not easily be stopped by acts of repression or by just by a wave of the hand. Since these agitators were largely unarmed, our best option I suggested would be to engage them and find ways to resolve their issues and perhaps win them over. Fortunately, several other commentators agreed with me and even went further to advise the government to release Nnamdi Kanu from custody, more so that the court had granted him bail. 
   Last week we read that some of the protesters were killed by Security forces in Onitsha after several days of protests . Following the killings, the protest turned violent with the destruction of property and bodily injuries. With the refusal, reluctance or delay of the government to dialogue with the protesters or even to grant Nnamdi bail, it is apparent that our government believes it can resolve this matter by use of force.  Again given our experience with recent militant uprisings in Nigeria, we ought to be wary in allowing a non violent, non militant agitation turn violent or militant. I pray that The Lord will grant wisdom to our Political leaders to resolve this issue without violence. Right now, it must be realized that what brought the young men to the streets across the south East and some south south states, was not necessarily an agitation for Biafra, but a protest asking for the release of Nnamdi Kanu, who has been granted bail by the courts. And if we begin to shed blood, then the agitation and protests may take different turn. Many people from the South East Nigeria  may not like the idea of a radio Biafra, and many may not even support the style of agitation but the moment, blood begins to flow, many may be drawn in by sympathy.
 And that is where I doff my hat for the Northern Traditional Rulers. I was enthused when I read the statement credited to the Sultan of Sokoto where he spoke of the Igbo as peace loving people who live among other Nigerians in several parts of the Nigeria, making meaningful contributions to the economic development of their host communities and the Nigerian Nation as a whole. He wondered what could be making the youth angry and wanting out of Nigeria. He reasoned that something had gone really bad and indicated that he would arrange to get in touch with the traditional rulers in Igboland and see how the anger of the youth could be diffused , so that normalcy could be restored. I was really pleased to hear this from the exulted traditional Ruler. Previously and lately, I have also heard comments by the Emir of Kano who in several literature has shown an unusual understanding of the challenge of Ndigbo in Nigeria. These two leaders have expressed so much wisdom on this matter unlike what I hear from some other Nigerians,including Ndigbo who dismiss the agitation with a wave of hand, or those who have maintained inexplicable silence over this critical National matter.
  This past weekend, a delegation of Northern Traditional rulers visited Alaigbo and met with some key traditional and political leaders to discuss the problem and to find a way out. Even before this visit, when it was rumoured  that some religious houses were being destroyed in Onitsha, I was pleased to hear some of our Northern leaders, speaking of the effort and measures they had taken to prevent possible reprisals in the North. This is praise worthy and also worthy of emulation.  This is a good model for Nigeria. If our leaders will take such bold and empathetic measures to deal  with National issues, it may help to avert small problems snowballing into major conflicts . I just hope that the governments at all levels will take a cue from our Northern Traditional rulers and show empathy to group or regional complaints and work out a mechanism for dealing with the issues as they arise and above all take deliberate measures to unite the Nation by Word and deed. If indeed we want a united Country, then we must try to understand the pains of each other and then take a concerted effort to either ease the pain, or share the pain or at the least empathize with the pain. I strongly believe that we must all do our bit to unite this country and create a peaceful environment for the revival of our ailing economy.
 Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa OFR 

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