This is why the pro-Biafra protests have to be addressed now
“Today’s occasion reminds us of the need to appreciate the noble contributions of our fallen heroes who paid the supreme sacrifice to maintain national and international peace and security. Our nation has recently celebrated 55 years of political independence and continues to remain as one indivisible entity despite several grievous challenges.”
President Buhari reportedly made this statement during the launch of the 2016 Armed Forces Remembrance Day emblem and appeal fund at the Presidential Villa in Abuja on the 16th of November. During the address he expressed his appreciation to those whose who had devoted their lives to the service of the country. The President stated that since Nigeria’s independence from its colonial masters, it has witnessed a number of internal disputes and survived a civil war however, the country has managed to remain a cohesive entity.
However, in the past few weeks, several protests have been staged by the supporters of the Movement for the Actualisation of Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) and it appears that the Nigerian President is either oblivious to them or he has blatantly chosen to ignore an impending crisis.
In efforts to push their cause, MASSOB may have taken the fight for their cause further by involving an international body. The movement has claimed that the United Nations will conduct a poll for Biafrans to decide on the acceptance of Biafra as a nation.
In a statement by MASSOB’s National Director of Information, Comrade Uchenna Madu, to the Guardian newspaper, he noted that “Buhari should not bother himself about ethnic nationalities who have decided to leave Nigeria, even his people, the Arewas are earnestly willing to opt out because Nigeria favors no ethnicity”. With MASSOB’s doggedness, its 16-year struggle may result in a full-scale ethnic conflict if not properly addressed by the government.
Some Igbos, a tribe of people from the south-eastern part of Nigeria, have been accusing the Nigerian government of marginalization, which came to a head when Buhari’s ministerial list was released and the people from the south-east geopolitical zone were poorly represented. According to the Vanguard, on July 22nd 2015, Chief Ralph Uwazurike, the leader of MASSOB said, “events have continued to show that Ndigbo are not wanted in Nigeria. Igbo should desist from being selfish and sycophants, we should think of the way forward for Ndigbo before personal interests”.
However, the President is yet to make a concrete statement regarding the marginalization claims or the pro-Biafra protests. Instead, Nigerian security personnel are allegedly harassing the protesters.
To prevent the protests from becoming bloody, Hannatu Musawa, a lawyer and political activist, suggests that the Nigerian government can start by curbing the over zealousness of security agents. In other words, peaceful protesters should not be harmed or assaulted. Also, she shed some light on some of the causes of the tension between South-Eastern region and the government stating, “the current 36-state structure is not working; it should be replaced by a six-region federal structure. Every section in Nigeria feels marginalized in Nigeria, apparently because the country is not practicing true federalism. The state of the nation’s economy is also a contributor: Many have fallen on hard times and become frustrated.”
President Buhari and other stakeholders in the economy of Nigeria cannot continually ignore the brewing tensions in the Southeast, it is important for them to learn from Boko Haram and nip this in the bud before it gets out of hand. It is imperative that the President address the civil war as a national tragedy in order to give all Nigerians much needed closure.
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