The Eastern Security Network (ESN) has stuck out very protuberantly. It has become a factor in the country’s scheme of things. Like similar bodies before it, it has a job to do. But it needs a foothold, an anchorage of sorts. But it will have none of that. It will not be allowed to operate. Its paths are strewn with landmines. What is good for the goose cannot be good for the gander. Familiar prejudices are at play here. We are given to setting standards. But as in all situations defined by prejudice, the standards must be selectively applied. Discrimination is the word. It is a fact of life. It is an integral part of our seeing and knowing.
This scenario makes the apprehension in government circles over the establishment of ESN by the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) understandable. IPOB sounds rebellious in the ears of the government of Nigeria. It is always judged with a different kind of standard. It is an exception to every rule. For government, IPOB is an aberration. It is an extraordinary situation. It is a looming danger whose wings must be clipped.
In recent years, the government of Nigeria has lost valuable sleep over the activities of the separatist agitators. It has killed scores of them in the bid to rein them in. But the body has continued to mutate. Just recently, it floated a security outfit called ESN. IPOB said it was constrained to introduce ESN following the inability of the governments in the old Eastern Region to respond appropriately to the menace of Fulani herdsmen who have been terrorizing the region under the guise of cattle rearing.
IPOB said ESN was the East’s version of the Western Nigeria Security Network (WNSN), which operates under the code name, Amotekun.
Whereas the South-South states of the old East never made any claims about setting up a security outfit, the South-East states were quick to jump at the Amotekun model in the South-West. They went to work, or so they made the people to believe, and declared that the zone would come up with its own security body. The governors told the people of the zone that they would, in no time, come up with a name for the security outfit they had set up. But that expectation marked the end of the story. The governors went to sleep. They never raised the issue again. But their studied silence was the lighter part of the problem. The real headache was that their complacency made the zone vulnerable. It emboldened the invaders to step up their murderous activities. While the Fulani marauders were being contained in the South-West and Middle Belt, the South-East was just a mere grazing field. The natives lived in fear. The foreign invaders had overrun their territory. It was in the face of this that IPOB had to step in to fill the gap created by the indolent governments in the South-East zone.
We must note at this point that various segments of Nigeria have one security body or the other that they deploy in matters of security. The Hisbah police in Kano and other parts of the North operate freely. The Middle Belters have their local vigilance groups that are usually deployed for maintenance of security. Amotekun is there in the South-West. They all operate without let or hindrance. But the story of ESN is different. Like its parent body, the authorities do not want it to operate. It is viewed with suspicion. It is regarded as a stormy petrel. For government, it portends trouble.
The problem here is that of perception. It is about mindset. Government is burdened by thoughts of Biafra. It thinks that ESN is fighting the cause of separatism. But we know it is not. The people of the East, whose interest it represents, know that they would have had no need for it if their regional governments had lived up to expectation. In the South-East, the governors left their territories fallow. They threw them open to invasion. And the region was freely invaded. The people gnashed their teeth in anguish over the failure of their governors. And since nature abhors a vacuum, ESN had to step in to seize the day.
For the people of the East, ESN is a necessity. It is a welcome intervention. The intervention here is not for the sake of Biafra. The people are not talking about leaving Nigeria here. They are concerned about security. Everybody in the country agrees that the Federal Government of today has failed to secure the people. The situation has overwhelmed the government. It has failed to come up with a formula that will work. Consequently, various units of Nigeria are adopting their own security model. They have to preserve the lives of their people, since no protection is coming from the centre. That explains the plethora of security outfits that the regions have. Regrettably, the South-East has none. For the people, therefore, the coming of ESN was like a saving grace.That is why the World Igbo Congress (WIC) called on the governments and people of the South-East to embrace it. In fact, WIC has asked South-East governors to establish an enforcement team to implement their verbal ban on open grazing. In the absence of any body or team to enforce the ban, WIC further suggested that the governors should transfer the enforcement contract to ESN at no cost.
The governors were already making sense out of this wise counsel before the Imo State government threw a spanner in the works. The government in Owerri said it was behind the deployment of soldiers to Orlu to contain the activities of ESN. Reports have it that Orlu and its environs are fully militarized. We are told that the military is engaged in show of force there. They have ground troops. They also have air surveillance operatives who have been carrying out air strikes. This situation has put Orlu under siege. The place is in a state of war.
The scenario in Orlu sounds like a story from a book. It sounds like tales from faraway lands. But it is real, and it is taking place before our very eyes. A government admitting that it is actually behind the wanton destruction of life and property in its own state? This is scandalous. It is tear-jerking through and through. Those who listened to the justification for the heinous act put forward by an agent of the government thought they were in a trance. They could not believe that a government whose responsibility it is to protect life and property could step out in the open to justify brigandage and outright murder. Something is seriously wrong here. A governor that has chosen to pander to external interests against the wishes and survival of its own people deserves pity from sane minds.
As if the perfidy going on in Owerri is not enough, the Ohan’eze leadership under Prof. George Obiozor appears to have gone to sleep. Is silence in this matter part of the diplomacy, which Obiozor talked about on assumption of office? Those of us who know Obiozor believe in his capacity. We know that he knows his onions. But we seem to be worried about his closeness with the government in Owerri. Will Obiozor’s Ohan’eze be an affiliate of Douglas House? We pray not.
From all indications, the government of Nigeria has bared its fangs over ESN. It has rolled out the tanks, all targeted at decimating the security network. But the show of might is clearly needless. The East, as we know it today, does not pose any security threat to Nigeria. Our military authorities know where they should practice their show of force. Chasing shadows in the East is escapism of the worst order.