Speaker, House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, stirred the hornet’s nest when he said recently that the refusal of “miscreants and criminals masquerading as separationist activists” in the South-east and South-west to come forward for debate and accommodate dissenting views simply gives them away as Boko Haram and ISWAP elements.
Although the speaker, who made the statement last week in his address of welcome to members of the House back from their nine-week recess since July 15, had to make clarifications when the media interpreted his statement to have referred to the outlawed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Sunday Adeyemo secession agenda, it is evident that these groups are bereft of nationalistic credentials.
While some sections of the media quoted Gbajabiamila as likening the two groups to insurgents, the speaker said there was nowhere he made such reference. In a statement titled ‘Gbajabiamila didn’t compare IPOB, Yoruba Nation Agitators with Boko Haram, ISWAP, the speaker said: “We must now add to these concerns an emerging threat that presents the same clear and present danger. In the South of Nigeria, East and West, MISCREANTS AND CRIMINALS MASQUERADING AS SEPARATIONIST ACTIVISTS have emerged to wreak havoc, take lives and commit economic sabotage against fellow Nigerians and the state.
“These people, in their inclination for devastating violence against fellow citizens, their appetite for the destruction of private property, their disruption of academic activities, commerce, and industry, their propensity for defiling institutions of the state, society and community, their refusal to engage in debate, or to consider the possibility of dissenting opinions and alternative viewpoints, are no different from Boko Haram and ISWAP. Given space and time, they will take our nation down the same path of destruction.”
The statement therefore said: “From the above, there was nowhere that the Speaker mentioned the name of any group. What was conspicuous in the Speaker’s speech was the focus of the activities of MISCREANTS AND CRIMINALS, and its effect on the country.
Nevertheless, there is no denying the fact that IPOB has been in the forefront of secession plan in the South-east zone while, in the South-west, Sunday Adeyemo, popularly called Sunday Igboho, is in the lead for the creation of a Yoruba nation. IPOB leader, Nnamdi Kanu, is among others, currently facing treason charges, while there is sustained effort to extradite Igboho, who is presently facing trial in Cotonou, Benin Republic, to Nigeria to face similar charges.
About a month ago, IPOB issued a weekly sit-at-home order tagged “Ghost Monday. The order was, however, reported to have been withdrawn, even as hoodlums already hijacked the situation and are unleashing violence on the people.
It is instructive that Gbajabimila is not alone on the concern about an apparent emergence of a band of miscreants and criminals as different patriotic Nigerians have expressed similar concerns and even condemned the act of maiming, killing, destruction of property and other criminalities perpetrated by the masqueraders.
Governor of Ebonyi state and chairman, South-east Governors’ Forum David Umahi warned that the sit-at-home order by IPOB in the five South-east states does not affect the governors. He said the sit-at-home order by the pro-Biafra group “amounts to war brought by the people upon themselves.
“Governors of the South-east have done their best to check the situation and when people sit at home, it is not biting the governors. When you sit at home, there is food for the governors in their homes and some of their children are outside the country”, he said.
Also, the presidency has advised a group of Yoruba Nation secessionists to be wary of their relationship with the ‘outlawed IPOB.’ Senior Special Assistant (SSA) to the President on Media and Publicity Garba Shehu gave the warning while reacting to the protest that both groups staged at the United Nations headquarters in New York, recently.
He said the outlawed IPOB group had already announced a “50,000 strong paramilitary organisation. For Nigerian Diaspora groups to use the world’s largest platform – the United Nations General Assembly – to garner attention to their causes is not unexpected. It was, however shocking, to see “Yoruba Nation” advocates yesterday unequivocally throw their lot in with Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB).
“No one can take seriously this organisation if it continues its IPOB association. When their allies systematically trample human rights, it raises sober questions about their claims to uphold the values of the UN. The cooperation is a worrying development, once parsed with Yoruba Nation’s increasingly violent rallies in Nigeria. Actions and associations speak louder than words. Yoruba Nation’s talk of human rights promotion must therefore be ignored.
Consequently, we share the view that instead of criticising the speaker’s comment, which is quite patriotic and statesmanly, the separatist agitators, namely, Kanu and Igboho, and their sympathisers should shun all forms of violence and criminality by laying down their arms and embrace dialogue. Dialogue has proven over the decades to be the most veritable means of conflict resolution while on the hand, war or violence against the state and her denizens are costly, destructive and counter-productive.