2023, South-East and security issues; By Ike Abonyi

A president cannot defend a nation if he is not held accountable to its laws.” – DaShanne Stokes

Whenever you hear experts talk from both sides of the mouth on security issues, politics is tele-guiding the conversation. And politics and lying are not total strangers. There is a curious coincidence in what is going on in Nigeria’s South-East and the dimensions of its security issues.

Only those who think outside the box can accurately decipher what is emerging in the South-East regarding security challenges. What is clearly unfolding is that the region may be heading towards contrived anarchy in order to disconcert and disqualify it from aspiring for the highest political seat which it roundly deserves if justice and fairness have any meaning in this clime. Discerning minds should understand by reading between the lines, the new Inspector General of Police, Usman Alkali Baba, when he tells the nation in his first outing that from the angle of security clairvoyance that the two most threatening regions today are the South- East and South-South.

He went further to infer that the North (comprising North East that has been a battleground since 2009) and the South-West are the least threatening. It may not have mattered to the IG that most of the security challenges in the South-East and South-South are fallouts of the herds men’s menace that was brewed in the North.

It is also of no consequence to the IG that in the same North today, the elite do not freely enter and exit their home towns because of insecurity. But the Igbo, on the contrary, throng their villages in droves for Easter and Christmas year in, year out. The only way to agree with the acting IG’s analysis of the security rating in the country is to switch off your number six and let your ‘mumu’ direct your thinking. The North sees security as a problem only if it inhibits their politics. Banditry, terrorism, and kidnapping rampant in the North and spreading to other regions, to them, are not serious enough.

Why? What is going on in the South-East is capable of undermining the 2023 game plan for the North. In 2019, there was no election in Borno and Yobe states; yet ballots were allocated. So long as this can be done there is no problem.

The curious Easter Monday attack at the Imo Command headquarters of the Police and the Correctional Services Centre in Owerri, the capital, has left everybody thinking about developing matters ahead of 2023. By all standards, what happened in Imo classifies as a terror attack. Security experts say that pre-incident intelligence reports had been shared to both the police and the Imo Governor, Hope Uzodinma, more than once but were ignored. This has not been denied neither by Governor Uzodinma nor the Imo State Police Command.

Both the Command headquarters and the Correctional Centre have Imo Government House as neighbours. The attack lasted hours and the police could not defend their own head office even when they were forewarned. A war foretold, they say, hardly traps the lame, but in the Imo case, cars and buildings were burnt. Curiously, not a soul was arrested. Is it not also curious that this mayhem could happen unresisted from the police headquarters Governor Uzodinma’s bizarre entry into the Imo Government House laid the foundation for disharmony in the state.

Naturally, he has finger pointing to do. When Justice Centus Nweze of the Supreme Court warned his colleagues in his landmark minority ruling on the Imo gubernatorial matter that their position would haunt the system for long, he was merely being prophetic. Every negative thing happening to Imo State since the apex court ruling is traceable to the jumbled arithmetic of number four becoming number one. As in the case of the biblical Pontius Pilate, the Supreme Court cannot extricate itself from the blood of injustice flowing in Imo since that court ruling.

The governor blaming the incident on political rivalry is only fueling disunity among his people. With this, attention is being diverted from searching for other possible clues. Ditto in Anambra State where gunmen killed three policemen attached to the former governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Prof Chukwuma Solodo, who is seeking the gubernatorial ticket of the ruling All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), on November 6, 2021. Rather than look at the brutal incident critically, another finger pointing has begun.

Though police confirmed the arrest of the attackers, scanty security information has emerged since then, ostensibly because politicking has taken the centre stage as usual. We believe the sponsors of the dastardly act could be traced and made public but all we hear is the politics of it and it may be swept under the carpet like most crimes of political coloration. From the foregoing, It should not surprise anybody that the first official outing of a new Inspector-General is to rate the South-East as the unsafest zone.

That wilful badmouthing can give an insight into where he is coming from and where he is going. Also revealed is his focus, not on the terrorists who have destroyed the North East, not on the bandits who have narrowed the educational opportunities in the North through repeated abduction of students and teachers or the herdsmen that have made peace impossible in all parts of the country. Not at all. The target is the Eastern Security Network (ESN), the Nnamd Kanu response to the marauding herdsmen in the South-East.

The IG script reads much like the riot act on the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB), which was marked down and eventually outlawed while its Fulani counterpart Miyetti Allah is scot free and intact. If the South-East governors had established the Ebubeagu security outfit, maybe ESN would not have come. It is true that Ebubeagu na-eche agu but are we in the South-East lions in the Nigerian space today to merit the name? Certainly not. The true picture of the security threat in the South-East can never be properly captured until a pragmatic approach is adopted. At a recent meeting of security chiefs to discuss the South-East security situation, no single Igbo person was there either as a Police Commissioner or Director of the DSS in the five South-East states.

Eighty per cent of the attendees are from the Muslim North. Besides, the Army and Air Force commanding officers in the South-East are Muslim northerners. All of them take orders from their northern superiors, not from the SE governors. At the national level since President Muhammadu Buhari began his rule in 2015, no South-Easterner has been found worthy to head any of the more than a dozen military and paramilitary bodies operating. Maybe a sample will help us digest the situation better, Defence chief – Delta, Army Chief – Kaduna, Air Force Chief – Osun, Navy Chief – Kano, Police Chief – Yobe, DSS DG – Kano, NIA DG – Katsina, EFCC Chairman – Kebbi, NDLEA Chairman – Adamawa, Immigration Comptroller-General – Jigawa, Customs Comptroller-General – Bauchi, Civil Defence Commandant-General – Nasarawa, Road Safety Corps Marshal – Kwara, Federal Fire Service Comptroller-General – Niger, and ICPC Chair – Ondo. Yet a Bishop could be in trouble for alleging nepotism. Against this backdrop, the South-East political leaders should look at their region’s political and security issues owlishly and refuse to allow their ambitions or affiliations to drive their reasoning. The clamour for restructuring should be total and all-embracing devoid of party inclinations.

The so-called one Nigeria without the Igbos is not only a fluke but dead on arrival. A country that does not care about inequality, about injustice and about fairness and unemployment, yet dreams for peace is like one looking for green grass in the desert and such people are only pipe dreaming. A glaring source of insecurity comes from people, especially the youths, who are without hope and sense of belonging in their country. No one has the right to deny the injured the liberty of reaction to their injury. When I look at things like this I prefer to think like this anti-race American author, Zora Neale Hurston: “Sometimes, I feel discriminated against, but it does not make me angry. It merely astonishes me. How can anybody deny themselves the pleasure of my company? It’s beyond me.”

It is astounding, though, how this government can effectively and happily deny Nigerians the pleasure, talent, and wisdom of the South-East in all of the 15 military and paramilitary agencies of government for six years. And when an open-minded Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah urges inclusiveness in the sharing of the commonwealth, it is seen in some quarters as an attack. God, help us.

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