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Can the Army stop agitation?

By Ike Abonyi
We will not learn how to live together in peace by killing each other’s children. – Jimmy Carter
When the unity of a country is at the centre of every political discourse, that country should watch it.
If the intention of political agitators is either to distract or attract President Muhammadu Buhari’s attention to their gripe they sure have succeeded to a large extent even if they have not gotten their desired response.
In the last one year President Buhari has spoken about threat to Nigerian unity more than any single topic.
The reason is understandable; the nation is virtually at war with herself. Boko Haram in the North East, Militancy in the South South region, Biafra threat in the South East, Herdsmen threat in all the regions and the unique Zamfara bandits, not to talk of the low level criminal violence like robbery, kidnapping and rape.
When a country that is supposed to be at peace finds herself almost vanquished by threatening challenges, political leaders should retrace their steps and try to re-engineer their strategy.
That exactly is what is expected of President Buhari and his ruling All Progressives Congress APC in the new year. Unfortunately, feelers from the seat of power don’t seem that the government of the day appreciates the enormity of the issues on ground.
They appear to have the same mechanical approach used in the past that led to the problems in the first place.
When you continue to hear such military jargons as “to keep Nigeria one is a task that must be done”, an argot popularized over four decades ago during the military sojourn in the country’s polity.
When you find such message still being used now in a democratic setting, then you can begin to get apprehensive that answers to the problems may not be in sight because the man with the solution box is heading to the wrong direction.
At the emblematic reception of the Boko haram flag from the Nigerian troops at Aso Villa last week an elated Commander in Chief, President Buhari told the soldiers that having crushed the Boko Haram sect they should look towards other troubled spots in the country like Niger Delta and the East with a view to recording the same success.
While receiving the official flag of Boko Haram leader, Abu Shekau, the President asked the Army to help stop agitations in the East and Niger Delta.
“All these political madness in the North East, the Niger Delta or in the East should not be allowed to cause division or any form of tension in the country.
“There are 250 ethnic groups, so keeping Nigeria one is a task that must be done, even for your personal reason you must make sure this country remains united and stronger,” the President charged the Army.
Undoubtedly, the patriotism of the President to keep this country one is not in question but what remains to be seen is whether he is really riding the path that leads to a lasting solution.
Is military option really the best route to keeping the country one? Like former US President Jimmy Carter said at the opening quote above, can we learn to live together by killing our children?
It’s true that military involvement in the politics of this country in the past made them continue to create the impression that they are the main source of unity in the country but is this affirmation true?
While that assertion remains disputed, what political observers insist on is that they are not the solution because they lack what is required to provide amicable harmony amongst the populace.
This brings the interrogation to the issue of military crushing agitators. Who is an agitator, common definition says he is one who stirs up others in order to upset the status quo and further a political or social cause.
The question is, can military really crush agitation? Political watchers feel very strongly that military option is not capable of ending agitation.
If military option can quench political agitation there would not have been Biafra struggle after the military claimed they crushed it 47 years ago.
If the military can end agitation, Niger Delta impasse would not have remained a recurring decimal since the years of Comrade Isaac Adaka Boro and the subsequent Kaiama declaration since 1998. Army no doubt can win a war or battle but they cannot stop agitation.
They can clear agitators off the streets using force as was the case with the IPOB members but cannot end their agitation.
If leaders of this country closely monitor events and gauge the mood of its citizens, they would have known that virtually everyone is an agitator of some sort.
Listening and watching radio and television talk shows, reading opinion articles in newspapers or attending public fora in this country leaves one with no other impression than that we are all agitators.
This government tends to limit its view of agitators to only the street boys and that explains why response to issues is not comprehensive and is dreary.
Certainly, it cannot be these illiterate, tattered, hungry looking boko haram boys that provided the brain box with which they held this country down for over half dozen years, nor are the raving engines of Avengers in the Niger Delta or IPOB in the East sustainable thus far if there has not been an oiling from some place. What can end agitation in a plural society like ours is righteousness, Justice, equity and fairness in the handling of issues pertaining to the common cake of the people.
This administration cannot continue to carry on as if it’s not aware of the cause of agitation in some parts of the country.
The obvious relegation of some regions in the current dispensation is bound to attract some grumbling and that is exactly what is happening.
If you are in possession of seats in a meeting hall and chose to give some and leave the other, you cannot stop the protest of those you deny the seat which can come in form of either leaving the hall or yelling for seats that could disrupt the meeting.
To expect otherwise would be like one who came home with a firewood containing ants and lament at the evasion of lizards. If the respected Harvard trained former Governor of Anambra state Okwadike Chukwuemeka Ezeife can publicly accuse President Buhari of trying to push the Igbo out of Nigeria, it must be a fit of temper informed by aggravated pain. According to Ezeife in a recent interview “At the beginning, not everybody saw it.
I saw it early enough and thinking it was a mistake and not a deliberate action, I started shouting.
We have not been taken here, we have not been taken there, you have appointed 10 persons nobody from South-East; you have appointed 20 people nobody is from South-East, you have appointed 25, 30, 40 going further we have nobody, no soul from the South-East.
“So, if you push the Igbo out of Nigeria like Buhari is doing, pushing Ndigbo hard to leave Nigeria and then he turns back to say that the unity of Nigeria is not negotiable, what kind of nonsense is that? You are pushing some parts of Nigeria out of Nigeria and you are turning around to extol the unity of Nigeria.”
The truth which must be embraced is that leaders of the country should eschew ill feeling against their people and use the spirit of the New Year to lead with justice and fairness. God help us. Happy New Year.
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