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In the past few days, the history and security of Nigeria have been drastically put to test. The justifiable #ENDSARS campaign was launched following a video shot by a young man in Delta State after reports of a victim’s right violations. The video traveled by air and hit Nigerian cities with echoes across the world.
Lagos unexpectedly suffered the most astonishing carnage. Democratic institutions were attacked in the most savage manner. The economic nerves of the city of Lagos were shattered and threatened, including the Nigerian Ports Authority, (NPA), Tin Can Island, Bus Rapid Response, (BRT), factories, and workplaces. The TVC and The Nation, two outstanding media institutions that over the years that have provided sources of information were set ablaze. And to make things worse, the mayhem took an elevated dimension given the fact that most Nigerian cities, Lagos inclusive, have no defensive architecture against her monumental and historical infrastructure. Political leaders are more protected than public institutions. Response to emergencies was compounded by a very poor and chaotic town-planning regime. The governments have no community response mechanism to deal with possible religious, cultural, ethnic conflict and violence in a highly inflammable country.
The original protesters had a noble aspiration they demanded an end to police brutality; they wanted respect for mankind and the preservation of the dignity of man. These are rare privileges in Nigeria, where human lives are akin to a cockroach on the sidewalk. But two events were said to have led to the complete hijack of the protest thus leading to human and material butchery: The violent dispersal of protesters and the hijack of the consequence by a spineless group waiting in the dark to seize the momentum, people like, Adeyinka Grandson, Garba Shehu, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu and his IPOB organisation.
One thing that perhaps made the atmosphere perfect for ignition was the pent up anger and grudges Nigerians held against the Government especially in the Southern region. From the COVID-19 scourge, poor response from political and economic institutions and unskillfulness on the part of the Federal Government of Nigeria in handling the affairs of the country during the Post-COVID-19 period also played a role in this strained atmosphere. In September, when Nigeria began to unlock the country after months of the shutdown, the government committed a grievous error when it brought in electricity bill and petroleum price hike. This aggravated the bottled up disenchantment. And the Lekki massacre was the perfect flame used to ignite this keg of gunpowder.
The days following the Lekki incident saw spontaneous riots and protests across the country. Many states descended into pure anarchy with Lagos leading the brigand of lootings, touching of buildings and killings.
It was in this state that Nnamdi Kanu, the leader of Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB) came on stage with audio that is now a household horror. Kanu was calling on his men to attack strategic assets and political figures in Lagos. Although he categorically denied it, later on, many wondered to what purpose he had hoped to achieve by releasing the very controversial, instigating audio. His statement did not reflect the realities of violence and its dynamics.
Firstly, Nnamdi Kanu was trying to be opportunistic, in his usual callous manner, he was ready to sacrifice the lives of his Igbo brothers to achieve some false sense of bravado and push his hidden vendetta against the Yorubas. He did not speak for the Igbo population. His caustic remarks merely fueled his ego with desperation to give a false impression of a leader with a firm grip on his followers and this completely backfired on him as a number of states and organisations have completely outlawed and banned all activities of his proscribed group, IPOB and its members. His cowardice has also been exposed revealing him to be one of the individuals who only feed on chaos and violence to remotely push their agendas of hate and malice.
Perhaps, he had been fed with an exaggerated insight on the state of affairs in the country at the time by his deluded minions and supporters and in that moment of false bravado, he decided to release audio recordings where he assumed the role of a fake army general detailing his ‘men’ to ‘strategically’ pull an offensive attack on Yorubas, starting with the prominent ones among them. He had also detailed them to attack police stations to weaken security thus giving him members a good leeway to operate and cause mayhem.
He had not banked on the fact that the government would deploy the use of millitary force and he had not also banked on the fact that the protests and attacks would stop as abruptly as they had started thus ruining his plans making them dead on arrival. And to add salt to his injury, Governor Nyesom Wike banned the activities of the group in Rivers State, thus impinging on their freedom of gathering and association in the state.
Secondly, the Igbo and Yoruba have a magic synergy that appears not to exist among any other nationality in Nigeria: in the workplaces, in housing estates, in shanties, in schools, market places, beer parlours, face-me-I-face-you, everywhere. Material and cosmic relations bring them together and even bind them almost in ways inseparable. In the past few years, the number of inter-marriages between Igbo and Yoruba has tripled. The third generation of Igbos in Yoruba territories speaks Yoruba as their first language. Many of them, when they travel to the East and are to return, would say they were ‘going back home.’
In Yoruba villages, Igbo have remarkable dominion. To upturn this amazing cobweb for any reason is tactless, reckless, and irresponsible. On both sides, there are extremists like Nnamdi Kanu. It is the responsibility of leaders on both sides, young and old, men and women, armed and defenseless people alike, to exterminate base instincts and advance values that protect and glorify the lowest and highest common factors of unity and prosperity between the two great peoples.
This should be the stand of any responsible people or individuals, to shun calls by cowards and never-do-wells who do not remit any tangible significance in the average society. This is the position that will advance humanity and protect the heritage of the two great nations.