EDITORIAL: The endless insecurity in South East region

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No fewer than eight security agents comprising soldiers, policemen and Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps were killed by gunmen in Imo State, last week.

The incident which happened on Tuesday morning in Umualumaku community, Ehime Mbano Local Government Area of the state threw the area into panic.

The joint security taskforce team who were in two security trucks were ambushed and set ablaze by their attackers.

None of them survived as they were burnt inside their operational vehicles.

Security has deteriorated in the Igbo-speaking part of the South East with frequent attacks by armed persons.

The attacks often target security agencies, government officials and facilities.

Hundreds of people have been killed or injured in such attacks.

The Nigerian government has accused the outlawed Indigenous People of Biafra of being responsible for the deadly attacks in the region. But the group has repeatedly denied any involvement in the attacks.

The current security situation in the region did not start today.

Since 2015, secessionist tendencies had created a mobilising force in the person of Nnamdi Kanu. Following his incarceration, Kanu had become a rallying point for all manner of expressions so much so that one Simon Ekpa, the vociferous teleguide, directing the nefarious activities from Finland, would declare a sit-at-home in the entire south eastern region and people would comply.

That this orchestration of violence should not be taken lightly is demonstrated by the rapid response of the Nigerian Army which swung into action sniffing out these dare-devil agitators visiting mayhem on hapless Nigerians in the South East. This is the way to go. However, despite this commendable response, the intended containment by the military should not be given any ethnic or religious colouration.

Before now, this quick response has not always been the case. Undoubtedly, the lack of political will had characterised the selective attention given to crises of this nature.

While in certain instances there is prompt and even proactive response to crisis, as was the case when kidnapping was contained when the army-led security forces were determined to do their job. In some other cases, security forces tend to go to sleep when these trouble makers are on the prowl.

Until recently the Federal Government had failed woefully in eliminating the notorious ‘Unknown Gunmen’ wreaking havoc in the South East just as it remained apparently insensitive to the genocidal attacks and indiscriminate bloodletting in the Middle Belt.

The political class and business communities cannot be exonerated from the ragging insecurity in the South East region.

Political leaders from this region, like their counterparts elsewhere, seem to be disconnected from the grassroots. There seems to be a political class consciousness that undermines public enlightenment and engagement with young people. This is counterproductive.

Politicians and political office holders in the South East should recognise that there is the perception of a vacuum of leadership and obvious presence of misdirection in the socio-political space of that region. And the phenomenon of Nnamdi Kanu is taking advantage of that perception.

The President-General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, suggested this much when he attributed the mayhem going on there to the continued detention of Nnamdi Kanu.

Iwuanyanwu’s position seems to represent the sentiments of many political office holders: Release Nnamdi Kanu and the agitations and security threats will cease.

Do these people sincerely believe that Kanu’s release will put an end to the violence? Do they realise that IPOB, just as the Biafra Zionist Movement, led by Benjamin Onwuka, and the United Eastern Congress led by Sam Ike, all of which work at cross purposes, arose as a splinter of the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra?

Political leaders from this region, like their counterparts elsewhere, seem to be disconnected from the grassroots. There seems to be a political class consciousness that undermines public enlightenment and engagement with young people

Besides, as culturally homogenous as the South East is, it is polarised along many factional interests, especially along the lines of partisan politics.

With four political parties juggling for dominance and influence in the region, it is very unlikely whether constructive engagement and public interest initiatives leading to development would be realised holistically.

While Ndigbo may feel disenfranchised with the ruling elite, attributing the state of unrest in the South East to marginalisation is a very weak defence for poor political leadership strategy. Many regions are equally as marginalised.

Thus, notwithstanding their political differences, South East leaders should have the development of their region as paramount in their mind, for in development it is easier to cooperate, but in politics it is very difficult.

Eminent personalities from the South East should deploy tactful but convincing means of securing Kanu’s release. Perhaps, it is a cue taken from others that prompted South East leaders to meet with President Bola Tinubu to discuss the possibility of Kanu’s release. But would his release solve the problems? Does the South eastern political leadership enjoy the respect of Kanu for him to do their bidding? Can they be trusted to make peace reign even after Kanu’s release?

This is also the time for celebrities and social media influencers of Igbo extraction to sensitise their followers on the irrationality of the situation in the south east. The same energy deployed in supporting their candidates during the last election should be re-channelled towards educating their followers.

In doing so, social media users should temper their language towards national unity. Those in the streets, whose only political education comes from misguided verbiage of clannish role models, should be cautious not to become cannon fodders for mischief-making. Whilst it is part of democracy that people should air their views, however misplaced, they should not translate grievances into violence and bloodshed.