The outcome of the sit-at-home order by the proscribed Indigenous Peoples of Biafra IPOB in honor of souls lost during the Nigerian civil war is already in the public domain.
Opinions are however, divided on factors responsible for the total shut-down of economic and social activities in zone that fateful Monday. Those who offered opinions on the high level of compliance with the order fingered the fear of being caught in a cross fire arising from possible confrontation between the IPOB group and security agencies. For this group, compliance was vicariously procured through the fear of the unknown.
There is the second school that sees the success of the order as evidence of the popularity of the cause which the IPOB group is currently propagating. This group views obedience to the order as the identification of the peoples of the southeast and other areas where it had some measure of compliance with the Biafra cause.
This would imply that the south east people and such other areas share in the grievances that gave rise to the agitations either physically or spiritually. In this wise, we can talk of Biafra of the mind denoted by resentment to injustice, inequity and non inclusiveness in the running of the affairs of this country. There is also the physical Biafra manifest in extant agitations by the IPOB that led to its proscription and association with alleged attacks on security agencies and governmental facilities in the south east.
There is an additional dimension that seeks to account for the high level of compliance on a combination of the above two factors. And with this group, are many. They contend that compliance was in part, out of the fear of the unknown in a likely confrontation between security agencies and the IPOB and also a measure of the popularity of the agitation. It admits the reality that there exists a wide gamut of sympathy and support in the zone for the grievances that gave rise to self-determination agitations. Whether this sympathy translates to a total endorsement of the strategy of the IPOB promoters in redressing the perceived wrongs, is another kettle of fish.
The order and counter order by some governors in the zone persuading people to go about their normal activities with assurances for security protection also had their vicarious contribution. They heightened the fear of violence in the event the IPOB decides to enforce compliance. So, palpable fear reigned large and prevented those who would have ventured out to keep indoors.
Aggravated fear also arose from mounting allegations by the federal government and security agencies associating the IPOB with sundry killing and attacks on government facilities in the zone. IPOB is alleged to be the mastermind of the killing of security agents and burning of public facilities in the zone. Though the group has severally denied the accusation, the level of casualties in those attacks and the relative ease with which they were carried out without resistance from security agencies combined to create fear in the populace on the capacity of the security agencies to protect them in the event of an attack by the so-called unknown gunmen.
Sadly, those allegations portrayed the IPOB as a group with the capacity to enforce the order. Even those who would have obeyed government assurances of protection did not trust such promises. Not with what they were made to believe about the capacity of the IPOB for evil. Not with the clinical execution of some of the attacks attributed to them on security formation without serious resistance.
These brought with them complications that had all the trappings of a game situation. It involved choices, options and payoffs. Two options were at play-stay at home or venture out. Game theorists are interested in the rational choice open to the people in the circumstance. Which of the two options minimizes their losses in the event of the worst outcome?
The rational option is for the people to stay at home. By staying at home, they minimize the losses they could incur by venturing out in a fluid situation that could even consume lives. That is rational calculation. It may not necessarily translate to absolute obedience to the sit-at-home order. It may not translate to taking instructions from Nnamdi Kanu. That could also explain why state and federal government officials in those areas (except security agents) kept off the streets.
Even when one of the governors threatened to confiscate shops and business places of those that comply with the order, he was quick to rescind that decision because of obvious contradictions. If he had not moved quickly to rescind that order for whatever it was worth, he would have embarrassed himself given the interplay of the variables under consideration.
In effect, the actions and utterances of the federal government, security agencies and some state governors were largely contributory to the high level of compliance to the sit-at-home order. That is without prejudice to the rights of the people to decide to honor their loved ones who died during that civil war. It is also by no means whittling down the deep-seated grievances that are behind the cause being championed by the IPOB. Is it not puzzling that one Nnamdi Kanu could sit in the comfort of his house outside the shores of the country to issue orders that are obeyed either by acts of omission or commission? That was not the first time such order secured high level compliance even beyond the south east.
I have gone this far to highlight the wider dynamics of the sit-at-home order in view of the obvious misinterpretation of its outcome. Statements from the leadership of this country since after that fateful Monday, gives the miserable impression that the government equates the outcome to a declaration of war from that part of the country.
That was the message when President Buhari said a day after the incident that: “Many of those misbehaving today are too young to be aware of the destruction and loss of lives that occurred during the civil war. Those of us in the fields for 30 months, who went through the war, will treat them in the language they understand”
This has been interpreted as ethnic profiling and veiled declaration of war against the south east zone. It made no exceptions. It views any and every person from that zone as partakers in the attacks by unidentified hoodlums and the violence that has enveloped a zone once reputed for its tranquility and peace. Not unexpectedly, the indecent haste to remind the people of the zone of their travails during that war has again raised suspicions on the nature and character of the security infractions that of recent enveloped the zone.
Suspicions have before now, been raised regarding those behind the orgy of violence in the zone. Though the government had been quick to point accusing fingers on the IPOB, the nature of these attacks, their clinical execution in the face of the inability of the security agencies to put up some resistance had created doubts as to whether fifth columnists were not at work.
Before now also, there have been allegations that some of those infractions were being simulated to provide the basis for the federal government to attack the people of the zone. Sadly, events are beginning to bear out these suspicions especially given the ease with which some northern stalwarts are now routing for military action in the south east.
Even before the military action, the security situation in the zone has been quite tense. Reports of harassment, Killings, intimidation, abduction and profiling of youths for selective arrests and incarceration by security agents have been quite rife. Imo state has been worst for it. We are faced with ethnic profiling in a matter that can be handled by security agents through intelligence. Identify the masterminds of the attacks and bring the full weight of the law against them instead of the posturing that all peoples in the zone are partakers in lawlessness.
The mindset that only the military option or a declaration of war is the solution to agitations in the south east is wrong. Engagement by way of addressing the grievances propelling the agitations may turn out a quick therapy. But is this option of any appeal to the leadership?