The Nation (Nigeria)
PMB and secessionist agitators
SIR: We live in a country where the perception of ethnic conspiracy has a cult-like acceptance among the politically conscious and the politically oblivious.
Secessionist agitation by groups in response to feelings of injustice has come to register with the political parlance of my country in recent times. In the eastern flank, the agitation is deeply rooted in the underlying feelings of marginalisation by the Nigerian state. The agitation, led by an ethnic bigot, has a distinct disrespect for state institutions and carries hate speech to unprecedented levels by making incendiary statements about people from other ethnic groups. Recently, the wanton arson of public property and killings of security operatives have become the hallmarks of this movement.
For its western neighbours, the secessionist agitation is rooted in an entirely different case. It is a case of killer herders and kidnappers; a case of farmland invaders; a case of defenseless citizens giving up their means of livelihood and a case of government not living up to its responsibilities. With the government aloof and silent on the cries and plight of their people, the secessionist agitators emerged to fill in the vacuum created, unleashing their secessionist campaign.
But what country tolerates the conduct of non-state actors? Your guess is as good as mine. The federal government launched a major manhunt for the agitators. The gusto and ruthlessness with which the crackdown is being carried out is just unprecedented, given the precarious security situation in the country.
What baffles me is not the manhunt or crackdown; no sane government will allow the conduct of non-state actors. What baffles me is the selective approach by the government in dealing with the agitators in the south and the bandits and killer herders in the north; how it is ruthless on agitators and pampers bandits and killer herders; how it appears powerless in the fight against banditry but sturdy in the crackdown on southern agitators. These are criminals who have killed over a thousand people, abducted over a thousand students in months, and have unleashed far worse terror on the Nigerian people than the agitators in the south. But they move around with impunity, boasting about their exploits, and their afflictions keep rising in their proportions.
Ethnic conspiracies have sprung up insinuating that the government of the day’s selective approach in dealing with the agitators and bandits, has underlying ethnic motives. Unfortunately, the utterances and actions of the father of the nation and his cronies do not only breed this perception, they are fuelling it.