South East Governors and the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) have been engaged in some exchanges over the declaration by IPOB that it has floated what it calls Eastern Security Network (ESN). IPOB said its action was informed by the inability of South East governors to protect the people of their zone. The organisation is particularly worried by the murderous activities of Fulani herdsmen which the governors have been treating with kid gloves for fear of offending their Fulani masters.
As the chairman of South East Governors Forum, Governor David Umahi of Ebonyi State has, as usual, taken it upon himself to speak. But what is not clear to many is whether the governor speaks for himself or on behalf of the forum. However, the language of his responses which is anything but elevated always gives him away as someone who is expressing a personal opinion.
In the matter under reference, Umahi has described the move by IPOB as laughable. He means that the organisation should not be taken seriously. According to him, the idea of the security network was unnecessary since the governors of the region are doing their best to protect life and property. The governor went ahead to claim that the south east is the most peaceful region of the country. As always, no other south east governor has spoken on the matter and none is likely to do so. And this still leaves many wondering whether Umahi spoke for himself or on behalf of others. What is however clear is that the governors never met to take a position on this matter and are not likely going to do so. The unfortunate thing is that in the absence of that group position, the Ebonyi governor will usually jump into the fray, canvass his personal opinion and pass it off as that of the forum. It is really regrettable that his counterparts do not seem to care a hoot about issues as sensitive as the one under consideration.
But our concern here is not really about Umahi’s one-man show at the South East Governors Forum. It is about the substance of what Nnamdi Kanu’s IPOB calls Eastern Security Network. Let me state from the outset that I do not think that ESN will ever come to be in existence. This is because IPOB itself does not exist in real terms. It is a virtual body which specializes in issuing statements without the wherewithal to translate its declarations into action. As a non-violent body, the separatist organisation does not engage in guerrilla warfare. It therefore lacks the gravitas to operate a security network that anybody should worry about. Since IPOB operates largely in the air, one wonders how it can give effect to an action that requires practicality. For this reason, I take it that its declaration on ESN was not done for the sake of actuality. Instead, it is a verbal protest against the failure of South East governors to actualise the idea of the regional security they once toyed with.
We have not forgotten that when South West Governors Forum formed the Western Nigeria Security Network (WNSN), their South East counterparts rushed out to say that they would also form a similar body. They met from time to time on this issue. At some point, they told us that plans about the formation of the security outfit have been concluded. They even said they would soon come up with a name for it. Then the people began to wait. But suddenly there was an eclipse. Nothing was heard anymore about the proposed security body. As leaders who are in office through the mandate of the people, the least that was expected of the governors was to take the people into confidence. It was expected that the governors would address south easterners on the matter if they had a change in plan just as they were briefing them when the idea of a regional security body was being worked on. Unfortunately, there was no explanation. The people were just left to grope in the dark. Watchers of the actions of the governors were disappointed at the turn of events. IPOB must have felt disappointed too. That explains its decision to float, at least on paper, a security network for the east since the governors have failed in this regard.
But why regional security? This is one question that Nigerians should jointly address. For me, however, it is a matter for regret that regional security has become the way to go in Nigeria. In the absence of an alert centre, the regions have decided to take their destiny in their own hands. We are all living witnesses to how the federal government whose primary responsibility it is to secure the life and property of its citizens has failed abysmally in this regard. Apart from its inability to deal with terrorist bodies that have been ravaging the north east of the country, it has allowed Fulani herdsmen to carry arms against the laws of the land. With the arms at their disposal and with the full backing of security agencies, the herdsmen have infiltrated all parts of the country, particularly southern Nigeria, seizing forests and farmlands and using them as bases to carry out murderous activities. Victims of the invasion of Fulani herdsmen have shouted their voices hoarse. But no help has come from the appropriate quarters.
It was in response to the daredevilry of Fulani invaders that the Benue State Government under Governor Samuel Ortom enacted a law banning open grazing in the state. South West states responded in their own way by setting up WNSN. The Amotekun operatives who operate under the WNSN umbrella are empowered by law to protect the region against terrorists in whatever shape or manner they come. It was this initiative that south east governors wanted to borrow. But they did not have the courage of their convictions. So, they aborted the plan. But what rankles about their action is not so much their sudden abandonment of the plan but the fact that they treated it as if the people do not deserve the right to know what went wrong. That is why IPOB had to step in. But as I said earlier, IPOB’s intervention is just for the symbolism of it. It has no force of arms with which to actualise its plans.
That brings us back to the governors who were elected by the people to serve them. In his response to IPOB, Umahi said the south east is safe, secure and peaceful. But we know it is not. A number of forests and farmlands in the region have been taken over by Fulani herdsmen. The natives dare not go near such places for fear of being attacked by the gun-toting herdsmen. What is safe and secure about this situation? The fact of the matter is that natives in different parts of the East are living in fear. There is no peace in the region in the proper sense of the word. The peace you have here is that of the graveyard. In a situation where the activities of terrorist herdsmen are backed by a full-fledged militia group called Miyetti Allah, those who are unfortunate victims of the invasion have the right to protect themselves. That is what WNSN is doing in the West.
But the East remains at the mercy of the invaders. That is the rationale for ESN. But since IPOB is constrained by the mode of its operation to engage in this, the lot still falls on the governors of the region. Unfortunately, their attitude is that of everybody to himself, let the devil take the last man.
Become a Student Volunteer Journalist…