My beloved mother, Lamek, always tells me something about war. She would tell me each time I talk about war with her that “it is only the one who did not witness a war that brags about fighting”. Sometimes, I will be pigheaded and brag about how modern warfare is about technology and, may be, biological weapons (Hollywood). She would look at me and say “see him; small boys who did not know what their parents suffered during the war”. Yes, she suffered the effects of a war that she did not cause. Her primary reason for suffering the consequences was that she belongs to, and lives, in a part of the country which was misjudged. For her war time experience, which still has graphic details of till this moment, she went on her knees to pray to Almighty God that my twin brother’s attempt to join the Nigerian Army, fails. And it failed. God heard her prayers.
Somehow, I am tempted to think, and believe, that my mother is not alone. There are many families in the defunct Republic of Biafra, who would not subscribe to another war against Igboland. There are equally many men and women, fathers and mothers who look at the events of 1967 to 1970 and wish it never happened. Those who lived through that period would look at their children and grandchildren who keep beating the drums of war, and shake their heads in disbelief. Yes, the ‘kids’ of today did not experience the war and do not know the impacts of war on both civilians and soldiers. I guess that is why many of our parents and grandparents will do all in their powers to make sure no other war is brought against the Igbo people; not now, not in the future. But there is a wide gulf of understanding between the millennials and pre-war time kids. As it is, every Igbo family bears the scar of war. So, no Igbo family wants another experience.
This is why the ‘anti-war activism’ of the Imo state governor, Hope Uzodimma, and leadership of Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide, led by Amb. George Obiozor strikes a chord which now resonates in Ralph Uwazurike, leader of the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB). For those who know and still remember, Uwazurike, as leader of MASSOB led an agitation that dragged Igboland to a point where many believed that another war was imminent. For this reason, his decision to back the push against creating another war front out of Southeast makes deeper sense.
In his address to the last stakeholders meeting in Owerri, Governor Uzodimma gave hope to the people on the restoration of peace in the Orlu area of the state. He had told them how persons who are better described as mercenaries, had set up camps in some parts of Orlu in the guise of chasing armed herdsmen out of “forests” in the area. What strikes me here is that description of farmlands as forests. Does it bother anyone that when Igbo people argue in favour of creating an addition state out of the southeast to achieve the equality of states, some persons quickly remind them that they lack the landmass? So, how come a people who lack landmass have ‘forests’ that are easily occupied by armed persons? This, to my mind, raises a critical question about who the Eastern Security Network and Nnamdi Kanu are working for. Are there external influencers using Kanu and the Eastern Security Network to drive a narrative that justifies the declaration of war on the southeast? Is the demand by the southeast, for the presidential pendulum to swing to the region in 2023, a threat to any interests? If not, how come that suddenly, Orlu area, became the hotbed of armed agitation?
Recall that in his first media parley, Ohanaeze President, Amb. Obiozor was equivocal in his position that Imo state, nay the southeast, is not at war with Nigeria and does not seek any war either. The Imo governor also restated this. He went further to say that “it is really regrettable that criminal elements among us are working round the clock to compromise our resolve and hard work in achieving a safe Imo state for all residents”. He also said that “there has been a spike in crime and violence in recent times, thus tasking our security architecture and throwing up new challenges”. Obviously, this was justification for his invitation to the military to help address the problem. That invitation unearthed a secret in Orlu ‘forest’. The governor confirmed this when he said: “some hoodlums and mercenaries went and took over Orlu… Before we knew what was happening, innocent citizens and even security operatives were killed. Women, among them grandmothers were raped. Indeed anarchy loomed…” Besides, the governor further confirmed the burning of Police stations and stealing of weapons.
For those who are deeply conscious of their environment, the trajectory that is being drawn on Imo state is exactly the same that has plunged some states in the northeast into war with Boko Haram. When BH started, it came in the guise of protecting Islam. Those who disagreed with it saw a different reality. Gradually, its followers moved from protecting and sanitizing Islam to become a murderous group that spared not Muslims, Christians or animists. They gradually attacked and burnt Police stations after stealing weapons. Governor Uzodimma said the “hoodlums and mercenaries” in Orlu ‘forests’ claimed to be “protecting the people from invading herdsmen.”
This is where every indigene of Imo state, and indeed, the southeast, should worry. Who is behind these “hoodlums and mercenaries” whom Governor Uzodimma confirmed are not Igbo people? Who is beating the drums that Kanu and his ESN are dancing? Who is supplying the weapons they brandish? Are the attacks on Police stations a subterfuge to make people believe that the weapons in the hands of the “hoodlums and mercenaries” were stolen from those torched police stations? BH graduated from attacking Police stations to creating a weapons supply chain that has helped it turn Borno state into a war zone. Is that the narrative the “hoodlums and mercenaries” are drawing up for Igboland? Don’t forget also that we have been told several times that foreigners are a driving force behind Boko Haram.
Are we looking forward to a time when the ‘hoodlums and mercenaries’, who have thus far killed innocent citizens and raped women, will move from the ‘forest’ to homes to forcefully tax the people with levies to sustain themselves in the name of safeguarding Igboland before reasonable action is taken to dislodge them? Whatever the issue, Igboland is not ready for a war similar to what happened in 1969-1970, or what is currently happening in Northeast. Like Uwazurike said, it is time Southeast leaders, across party lines, professionals both in the military and police, civil service and even market associations rise and agree to disarm any group that seeks to push the region into another war. The emerging anarchy has the tendency to make Igboland more desolate. The losers will be Igbo people. The quest for the rapid development of Igboland is a legitimate quest spurred by reasonable anger. But it cannot come through war or armed struggle. Those Igbo sons and daughters who have the capacity to create businesses that would employ our youths will not do so in an uncertain environment. So, those beating the drums of war, or seeking to destabilize southeast to achieve their purpose, will have to think again, and fast too.
A stitch in time saves a major patch!