IPOB’s ‘no election’ threat
Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, erstwhile leader of secessionist Biafra, was fully reconciled to the Nigerian state before his demise in 2011. He contested the presidential election of 2003 and could have been President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria had he won that election. Equally significant and symbolic was the fact that Ojukwu collected his pension from the Nigerian military sometime in 2008. He did this as a matter of principle and entitlement, not that he was in financial need. To have enrolled in the military in the first place, after his degree from a prominent university, Odumegwu-Ojukwu was always a patriotic Nigerian. That he had cause to rebel against a nation he so much loved, hardly changed that.
The current agitation for a sovereign state of Biafra, being spearheaded by the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), does not represent the memory of Ojukwu. The majority of the Igbo, hardworking and reasonable people that they are, do not subscribe to the insurrection of Nnamdi Kanu and his associates. Neither does their separatist agitation resonate with the reality of Igbo existence in the Nigerian federation. Seemingly spurred on by disgruntled politicians, Mr. Kanu-Supreme Leader- is on an ego trip which, sadly, has ominous implications for peace-loving individuals.
The circumstances that led to the civil war of 1967-70, propelling the historic leadership of Ojukwu, have a uniqueness of their own. The massacre of Igbo residents in the north, following the coup of January 1966, earned the Igbo the sympathy of the civilised world. In taking a decision to declare a state of Biafra, the entire Igbo were emotionally united behind Ojukwu who had a complement of well-trained soldiers to back up the attainability of his declaration. It is doubtful if Nnamdi Kanu has the arsenal or wherewithal to complement his boasts and posturing.
Even when claiming not to be a violent association, Nnamdi Kanu and IPOB have declared an intention to flex their muscles in a manner that suggests otherwise. They say there will be no elections in any of the southeastern states, starting with the November governorship election in Anambra State, unless the Federal Government granted a referendum on Biafra. Igbo politicians disagree on the no election stance, but it is a matter of wait and see.
The smart money would be on a bet that IPOB would not get that referendum. Such a referendum, if granted, would be a contradiction of the indivisibility of Nigeria as elegantly stated in the constitution. Once granted one group, there will not be an end to demands for referendums in Nigeria. In the assumption that a referendum will not be forthcoming, it should be interesting to see how the pro-Biafra agitators go about their threat of no elections.
Of course, a people could be persuaded not to vote in an election. There is no compulsory voting in Nigeria, so boycotting an election could be a legitimate tool of political protest. Elections had been boycotted in the past, but any boycott would aim at a one hundred per cent success if there were to be no electoral outcome. With ambitious politicians enraged by the no election declaration, a one hundred per cent boycott is hardly possible. The point one is making here is that low turnout in an election may not prevent a winner or winners from emerging.
Alternatively, the agitators may choose to physically obstruct the conduct of an election. The implication in this scenario is that the state may be compelled to respond in equal measures in order to assert its authority. The consequences might be unpalatable-a few dead bodies and a state of emergency could be the ultimate outcome of a situation whereby the conduct of an election had become impossible or frustrated. The military and police already have IPOB as an outfit to be closely monitored, so the triggers can be expected to be pointing somewhere.
All considered, the voice of wisdom could be that of those who have opted for dialogue in resolving contentious issues. However, we do not resolve democratic issues by issuing ultimatums or blackmailing society with threats of disintegration. Every nation is work in progress, Nigeria cannot be an exception. In collecting his pension from the military, Ojukwu enjoined the nation to address the issues that led to the civil war. It is in our collective interest, as well as the interest of generations yet unborn, to do just that and position Nigeria favourably in the comity of great and purposeful nations.
Akinola wrote from Oxford, UK.
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