By - Tobi Idowu
It is almost two weeks that the media space was suddenly thrown into frenzy after a video of senator Ike Ekweremadu being dragged, shoved and harassed by some set of people, who would later identify as members of the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB). The video has led to a flurry of discussions and commentaries, often broadly divided between those who condemn the act and those who see as some kind of poetic justice on Ekweremadu. Well, the act was and is still condemnable, distasteful.
The Yoruba people have a saying about distasteful act, which could be literally given: what is bad is bad, there is no way to explain it away. What the IPOB did to Ekweremadu, a former senate deputy president and one of the ‘respected sons’ of Igboland, was a reprehensible act worthy of censure. There is no sin presumably committed by Ekweremadu that could justify the disgraceful assault meted out to him in Germany. Apart from the fact that resorting to assault/violence would have conveyed to many people how uncivil the IPOB movement is, it has also raised legitimate questions about the genuineness of the cause IPOB is presumably leading.
What was Ekweremadu’s sin? He was alleged to have been in conspiracy with the Federal Government to proscribe the IPOB in the South East and killing several of its followers.
First of all, many Nigerians were in agreement in condemning the Federal Government of attempting to make mess of the constitutionally guaranteed right to freedom of association and expression when it rather wantonly declared IPOB a terrorist organization. This was even in the context of some suspiciously overreaching tendencies of IPOB, especially its leader, Nnamdi Kanu, who seemed to be exploitatively catching on masses’ rightful restiveness to government’s ineptitude and failure.
Still, we are supposed to be in a democracy where one is guaranteed redress in the court of law if one feels cheated and the like. Has IPOB been challenging its proscription in court? It appears that like its mercurial leader the group does not recognise the legitimacy of the Nigerian state, nor does it consider Nigerian court worthy of hearing its grouse against the country. One then asks, how does IPOB hope to achieve its objectives, chief among which is to get a Biafra country?
It will not be off the mark to aver that Nnamdi Kanu and his IPOB cohort believe Ekweremadu and many other politically influential South Easterners ought to be openly identifying with their organization, blatantly declaring for their ideals, and assiduously working to achieve their objectives. Ironically, there are rife accusation of aiding and abetting of IPOB by politicians like the beleaguered Ekweremadu, whom some have said had exploited ethnic politics, propped by such groups as IPOB, to maintain his political relevance. But does IPOB attempt at coercing public identification from politicians like Ekweremadu not reveal the obvious naivety of the group and the warped thought process of its leader?
I tend to agree with those who think Kanu knows what he is doing: that IPOB, with its apparent confused methodology, represents a cash cow (or as we say it Nigeria, paying hustle) for Kanu, who takes it as a must to be seen as enigmatic in order to prosper from it. Hear his deliberately? confused understanding of the use of protest by concerned citizens:
“We shall continue to hunt and hound them [Nigerian politicians] whenever they leave the shores of Nigeria. Our decision to go after the South-East governors and frankly, every corrupt, wicked and opportunistic politician is rooted in the principle of accountability of public office holders.
All over the world, enlightened and brave citizens hold their public officials to account through many democratic avenues. No wonder protest aversed black Africa is rooted in hopelessness, poverty and disease. The right to protest against injustice is part of the dividends of democracy as entrenched in the constitution. In the unfortunate case of Nigeria, public servants, media practitioners, citizens do not know and are ignorant of the provisions of the very constitution they vow to protect.”
As he preached to and mocked Nigerians for being ignorant of their right to protest, one would think he thought about the mock irony in the content of his lecture. Has he not seen protest carried out in the so-called civilised countries he ran to after he became a fugitive from Nigeria? Do protesters assault their leaders in those countries? Would he be welcoming to the use of assault as the form of protest if he got his Biafra? Nnamdi Kanu apparently is not genuine and should be seen for what he is: a failing conman.
Seeing Kanu in that light is necessarily important in order to address the difference between citizens’ legitimate complaints and grouse with government and then the appropriate methods of channeling those complaints. While it is arguable that Ekweremadu, like almost all Nigerian politicians since 1999, has failed his people, who have right to denounce and protest against him and what he stands for, the proper way to denounce and protest against him is not through assault. That is uncivil, improper and unlike Africans. Employing such primitive method of redressing perceived slight points to no other thing than the dangerous crudity and belligerence of those lined in the IPOB group. The group must not be allowed to impose themselves as the voices of the Easterners.
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