Last week’s President Muhammadu Buhari’s media blitz against doubters over who is actually in charge left many analysts in discordant tunes. The president not only laid to rest the false and crippling allegation that our nation is being ruled by a certain man from Sudan; he also opened a new treatise when he referred to the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) led by Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, and by extension the Igbo ethnic group, as “a dot in a circle”.
It is now obvious that the six years of the present administration have not brought us nearer to what the former military leader promised the electorate. The road ahead may be far and could turn out tortuous for citizens that are now victims of economic hardship and criminal groups. Some Nigerians would gladly plead with the present administration to return us to where it met us in 2015, rather than trust on Buhari’s promise for a better tomorrow.
However, the option of insisting that the government take us back to 2015 is done without a slight consideration for the many waters that have passed under the bridge. While those who are anxious of the future are forever stuck to remembering the past, the dynamics that have shaped our world have continued unhindered. In the present dilemma that ravages citizens, many think our country was better off in the past than now. Wishing for a return of yesterday is not only out of place and impossible for now; the world moves on unhampered.
The uproar over Buhari’s tweet and Twitter’s reaction can best be assessed from its contextual basis amidst rising spates of insecurity tearing the South-east zone apart. While the president has achieved the objective of reassuring the Nigerian public that he is still in charge of the presidency, he failed to seize the opportunity in affirming his resolution in the enthronement of equality for all. In a federation like ours, the need for constant assurances to all groups, backed by actions of the government in carrying all groups along, is vital. More than 51 years after crushing the Biafran rebellion, the Igbos still feel marginalised in the nation’s topmost position of political power.
The sense of cynicism among the Igbos recently assumed a worrying dimension when Buhari referred to them as only constituting “a dot in a circle”. While the anti-Buhari elements were quick to link the “dot in a circle” as metaphor for the Igbo race, Buhari’s apologists found it increasingly difficult to raise an effective defence as the president’s use of the phrase as referring to only IPOB got perforated when the president referred to IPOB members possessing property in various parts of the country.
No matter how hard one tries to delink “a dot in a circle” as referring to the Igbo ethnic group as used by Buhari, it is clear that IPOB members and the Igbo people are both sides of the coin. Not a few people have denounced the South-east elite for keeping silent in the face of spiraling insecurity and violence ripping across the Igbo states. It is becoming clearer that the culture of fear is sweeping across the South-east as militant forces are unleashing fear on the people.
Last week, a video clip went viral where a young man in one of the South-eastern states was shown carrying the corpse of his father whom he killed for daring to oppose Biafra. The incident is reminiscent of how Boko Haram started in the North-east zone when those who were supposed to speak out against the sect chose to remain silent. As long as their immediate members were far from harm, they never thought it prudent to condemn their excesses. Now, members of the militant group are now killing their parents and relatives for opposing the ideology of the deadly sect. Those who had turned their head the other way as the militants slaughtered hundreds of people are now sleepless as the battle has come to their doorsteps.
Distressingly, the South-east is slowly turning into a depiction of yet another dreaded version of insecurity through the activities of IPOB’s military wing, the Eastern Network Security (ESN). The teeming youths of the zone are depressed by the horrifying status of a nation dancing on the precipice. In confronting the present hardship in a bid to prevent a hopeless future; these youths are prepared to oppose a system that has held them down for too long.
In the frightening spectre that is now engulfing the South-east, there is a clear disconnect between the youthful generation and those of the past. With property owned by older Igbos scattered all over the country, the youth are finding it difficult to survive the times. The absence of jobs and bright future for citizens is stirring the survival instincts of despairing youths that are no longer willing to be subservient to a system that subjugates them. These youths are now committed to change and when peaceful change is opposed is made impossible, violence becomes an unavoidable option. What is happening in the South-east is emblematic of the myriad of forces militating against Nigeria. Deployment of military force can momentarily subdue the flood of opposition, but in the end, the idea whose time has come cannot be stopped. Those in opposition of an idea whose time has come are only engaged in stopping a moving train.
Buhari’s reference to the Igbo race as “a dot in a circle’ can best be appreciated when we consider ethnic groups as little dots in a circle called Nigeria. Our nation, being a circle of many dots is a metaphor for the various ethnic groups that make up Nigeria. Empowering these dots and treating them impartially remains the only panacea for peace in a country that is increasingly becoming a stranger to peace.
The 16th President of Lebanon, Emile Lahoud, once said that “Democracy, good governance and modernity cannot be imported or imposed from outside a country.” In essence, according to the Lebanese leader who held power from 1998 to 2007, for progress and good governance to take place, broad-minded forces within a nation must work together to ensure transparent governance for development across ethnic, socio-economic and religious divides.
Solving our national problems is hinged on our capacity in understanding the dynamics that brought our nation into existence. The little dots are the undercurrents that engender the development of our nation. It is only when these dots, comprising these ethnic nationalities, are justifiably treated as equal partners that the future can be assured for all.
The enviable place of the Igbo race in the making of our country can never be in doubt. What should be of utmost importance now is for President Buhari to rally the little dots in a circle to create a nation where citizens are proud to be called Nigerians. The rebellion fervour of IPOB is not in sync with the popular view of the South-east. The late Chief Odumegwu Ojukwu once told me that there is no tribe that demonstrates the Nigerian spirit more than the presence of Igbos in every nook and cranny of our country. Chief Emmanuel Nwuanyawu recently declared that the dream of IPOB is not a true reflection of what the South-east wants. The same view was reiterated this week by Senator Rochas Okorocha.
President Buhari can heed the good advice of an American writer and poet, Suzy Kassem, who says: “A good leader lays seeds to grow trees of peace. A bad leader lays down bricks to build walls of ignorance. Always choose the peacemaker, not the divider. The one who unites and strengthens a country, not divides and cripples it. A leader that will build bridges, not walls.”
The calls for the balkanisation of Nigeria should not be interpreted as calling for the break-up of the country. It is a wake-up call on the national leadership to act fast and salvage a legacy that has seen so much blood and experienced so little peace in its over three decades of sovereignty.