By Fred Onyia
The people of Nigeria’s Southeast are typically resilient and known for their can-do-spirit and high need for achievement. Unfortunately, unfolding political developments in the country is gradually turning the region into yet another war theater, after about 50 years of the Biafran war. I watched with dismay this afternoon, a video of an air Force bombing residential neighborhoods somewhere in Imo State with children running for their lives a scene reminiscent of the civil war of 1967-1970. How did Nigeria get to this point again?
First, the inability by Southeast political leaders to render good governance and suppressing every form of dissent. The lacuna in good governance threw up non-state actors who in trying to address misgovernance became a rallying point for a disillusioned citizenry. Initially dismissed by state actors as rabble rousers, they have now taken the center stage and have now become the defacto government, so much so that their directives are now obeyed even by government officials. Nincompoops, charlatans and dare devil criminals, have come into the mix and taken advantage of the situation to unleash mayhem on the same people they are ostensibly fighting for.
The nonstate actors have gone a step further to redefine the buzzword in Nigeria’s pollical lexicon- “restructuring.” In the Southeast, non-state actors have “restructured” the weekly working calendar. Monday is now a “work free” day while Saturday is a working day. Students in primary and secondary schools now go to school on Saturdays with their teachers in attendance, while they don’t go on Mondays. Anambra State has legitimized it through a government circular. It’s same in Enugu state with or without circular. Very soon, other civil servants will join. A case of state actors obeying non state actors. Perhaps that is another way of approaching “inclusive governance”.
Sadly, the two groups of people that should speak out hitherto failed to do so. The first group are elders who are afraid of being attacked. The second are politicians, playing the ostrich because they want to be politically correct and are making 2023 calculations. If the people of the Southeast continue to keep mute, they will all be consumed by the inferno. Feigning ignorance of a problem, will not make the problem to fizzle out. If we put our house in order and restore order (not peace), we can then demand a cessation of the military onslaught in the Southeast and the federal government will oblige.
I deliberately talked about restoring order, rather than peace, because we can only have peace when there is justice, but at least we can have order. Peace, according to the late American Civil Rights leader, Martin Luther King Jnr is not the absence of war, but the presence of justice. It is therefore timely for a Southeast Regional Conference, where all the key stakeholders gather and talk, eye ball to eye ball. Those in diaspora who are stoking fire, deluding themselves that they are in safe place should also come home and join, and not through zoom. This is not a time for politicians to grandstand and say, they will not talk to small boys. The small boys seem to be in charge now, though without direction. They need to be engaged in a frank talk. To jaw-jaw is better than to war-war.