“Regardless of how long it takes and whatever we do in-between, war or violence is never an option. I hold a doctorate in war studies. Therefore, I feel adequately qualified to speak about the futility of war and violence. There is absolutely nothing heroic about dying foolishly for a cause for which dialogue and negotiation can provide pathways to workable solutions. Whatever is worth fighting for, is worth staying alive for. I can very much hear this refrain flowing from the life experience and legacy of Nnamdi Azikiwe. And if the Great Zik were alive, this is precisely what he would be telling this august gathering. let us harken to his words of wisdom”
•Dr. Kayode Fayemi, Governor of Ekiti.
The above words were tagged ‘admonition’ by Dr. Kayode Fayemi, governor of Ekiti state, who was guest speaker at the combined ninth and tenth edition of the Zik Lecture Series which held on the birthday of the first Nigerian president, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe on November 16, 2021. Fayemi spoke before the Nnamdi Azikiwe University community at an event graced by the Igbo elite comprising the President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Amb. George Obiozor, represented by Secretary General of the group, Amb. Okey Emuchay. There was Sen. Ben Ndi Obi who was convener of the Zik Lecture Series; Dr. Obiora Okonkwo, Obi of Onitsha, Igwe Alfred Achebe, Agbogidi; Eze Nya, Igwe Kris C. Onyekwuluje and a horde of other notable leaders from the southeast all listening as Fayemi took them, and all present, through a very scholarly delivery of his thoughts on nation building and the intricacies of restructuring as an option to autonomy.
But what captured my fancy as I listened was Fayemi’s admonition as above. I had imagined that advocates of war as a most effective option in achieving freedom were present and listening too. Of course, I do not expect any such person to agree with Fayemi’s thesis that dialogue is a most effective approach. This is because dialogue had gone on in Nigeria even before independence in 1960. The Ekiti governor said that much too. “The cynics among us”, he said, “would like to as me that if I am so confident that we can resolve these issues through dialogue or any form of parlement, how come such previous efforts have failed to lead to the desired outcome? My answer would be that the national transformation that we seek can only happen through the transformation of the individual and the individual’s transformation in relation to fellow citizens and in relation to the nation itself. People create systems and not the other way around. It is only by the transformation of the individual that we can hope to do that which is necessary for the transformation of our country.”
In my thoughts, I find in Fayemi’s thesis lies a new deal for the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB). IPOB, like MASSOB (Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra), has led agitation for the restoration of the defunct Biafra Republic. Of late, the agitation had turned violent, a clear departure from its initial approach. This violent bent had threatened the life of the southeast, its economy and people leading to concerns across the country. The concerns arise from the feeling that those behind the violence were pulling the region into a war that it does not need. But with the passage of time, something has been established about IPOB. It has the numbers. IPOB has very large followership across Nigeria and globally. It has very enthusiastic members who fund it. This suggests itself as reason its sit-at-home orders are obeyed though with apprehensions. It also goes to suggest that the group has good funding system and also, well organized such that the arrest and detention of its leader has not strategically affected its structure. It makes sense to suggest that the group could, therefore, take advantage of its structure, and numbers, to fix itself for the 2023 electoral cycle.
Two facts emerged from the Anambra governorship election. Prof. Charles Soludo was declared winner with 112,229 votes. Second fact is that total number of registered voters in the election was a little above 2.5million. There are suggestions that IPOB has much more than 112,229 followers and sympathizers in Anambra state alone. It is also believed that IPOB has much more than 2.5million followers, both the openly vocal and closet followers and supporters. And, given that no person has won a governorship election in the southeast with up to 400,000 votes, one begins to see the possibilities for IPOB. These numbers may work for it in an election. Can IPOB therefore, transform itself into a political movement capable of changing the political narrative of the southeast? I think it can if it is able to properly organize its followers and begin to see the possibilities open before it.
However, I do not expect the group to achieve recognition and registration as a political party, association or group. Given its antecedent, I do not see the Federal Government of Nigeria granting it such recognition. But it can achieve same by rallying its membership to join a political party and gradually work its way up the leadership ladder to take control. Party politics is about numbers and strategic planning. With its numbers, the group can take over the state and possibly, the regional leadership of any of the numerous political parties in Nigeria and use it as a platform to launch its leadership ideology in the states of its region. All it takes is to get organized and convince members to work through the wards to achieve the numbers that would vote at the congresses or conventions of the party. That is the straight and sure way to achieve control. Of course, it will take time. But again, there is no short cut to success. African National Congress (ANC) did not win it on a platter.
That is the story of every group that had sought to change the political reality of its environment. From radical extremism and violent agitation, such groups ended on the political table (dialogue) where they explored the advantages their numbers offered to cause the change they earlier asked for by force or arm. I guess that is what Fayemi meant when he said that “the national transformation that we seek can only happen through the transformation of the individual and the individual’s transformation in relation to fellow citizens and in relation to the nation itself. People create systems and not the other way round. It is only by the transformation of the individual that we can hope to do that which is necessary for the transformation of our country.”
IPOB can become relevant to the political evolution of the southeast, and probably Nigeria, by transforming itself into a group that understands the advantages that its numbers offer in the process of constitutionally and democratically changing the narrative that it had sought to change through civil disobedience or violence against society.