By Emmanuel Ugwu
Last Friday, the Defence Headquarters drew itself to its full ethical height and declared the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) “a militant terrorist organization.” It managed to achieve this fantastic feat in pot-calling-kettle-black by avoiding the mirror.
If the Nigerian Pentagon had looked in the mirror, it would have seen the likeness of a thoroughgoing terrorist concern in the Nigerian Army. The Nigerian Army reflects the best practices of globally renowned terrorist groups far better than the amorphous personality cult that has formed around Nnamdi Kanu.
The spokesman of the Defence Headquarters, Major-General John Enenche, said the following supposed treasonable offenses earned IPOB the designation of a “militant terrorist” designation:
· The formation of a Biafra Secret Service.
· Claimed formation of Biafra National Guard.
· Unauthorized blocking of public access roads.
· Extortion of money from innocent civilians at illegal roadblocks.
· Militant possession and use of weapons (stones, Molotov cocktails, machetes and broken bottles among others) on a military patrol on 10 September 2017.
· Physical confrontation of troops by Nnamdi Kanu and other IPOB actors at a checkpoint on 11 September 2017 and also attempts to snatch their rifles.
· Attack by IPOB members, on a military checkpoint on 12 September 2017, at Isialangwa, where one IPOB actor attempted to snatch a female soldier’s rifle.
Obviously, the above mentioned articles of indictment, both individually and collectively, does not suggest that IPOB boasts a credible capacity to cause destruction on a scale that could be reasonably termed terrorist. The list is a pathetic but unimaginative attempt to hype IPOB as an armed rebel group actively working to dismember the Nigerian state through violence. It is a tissue of thin, transparent propaganda, literally calling attention to the ludicrousness of its own claim.
In citing “a Biafra Secret Service” which exists solely in the realm of rumors; the “claimed formation of Biafra National Guard” which is a matter of hearsay; “the blocking of public access roads” which, at worst, amounts to obstruction of traffic; “militant” ownership of stones, machetes and broken bottles; Nnamdi Kanu’s “altercation” with troops at a checkpoint; and an IPOB member’s attempt to snatch a rifle from a soldier as reasons for labeling IPOB a terror organization, the Defence Headquarters showed that it was ignorant of the textbook definition of terror. The IPOB it purported to branded a terror organization does not meet the irreducible minimum criteria to be so qualified. And the military’s cynical exaggeration of IPOB’s conduct is insufficient, in itself, to make it the insurgent group that it is not.
If anything, the awkward designation “militant terrorist organization” is more befitting of the Nigerian Army than IPOB. As a matter of fact, IPOB has been the long suffering victim of the army’s terrorist campaign for a while. The alleged “confrontation” of Nigerian troops by IPOB and attempts by its members to disarm the Python Dance soldiers in Abia State were informed by the Nigerian Army’s proud record of killing pro-Biafra activists at any given opportunity.
On February 9, 2016, a group of IPOB members assembled at Aba National High School for a peaceful protest. No sooner had they begun deliberation than the Nigerian troops surrounded them and began firing live ammunition at them, without prior warning.
When they stopped shooting, they collected the dead bodies and disappeared. Thirteen of them were later found, dumped, like unwanted trophies, in a roadside pit.
Later in May, during the 2016 Biafra Remembrance Day celebration, the Nigerian Army led Nigerian security forces to open fire on unarmed pro-Biafra activists on the streets of Onitsha. The protesters did not hurt a fly or cause a breach of the peace. It was enough that they publicly identified themselves as Biafra sympathizers.
Before the smoke cleared, blood had begun to dye the ground red. Thirty-five civilians were dead.
The Nigerian Army had actually prefaced that daylight massacre with pre-dawn foreplay. They invaded the premises of a Catholic church at Nkpor Agu where the pro-Biafra activists were camped for the night and opened fire on the sleepers. They left 5 dead and 10 injured.
When the world stirred in outrage, the Nigerian Army contrived an excuse for the unprovoked attack on the activists. It said the troops went killing “due to the widespread panic, tension and apprehension generated from the activities of the MASSOB and IPOB members.”
Between the sleeping activists and the soldiers who murdered their sleep, who acted in a manner capable of engendering chaos?
Last Sunday, September 10, 2017, the Nigerian Army drove combat-ready troops to Kanu’s Umuahia home. They shot 3 people dead and wounded 20. Though the pictures and videos instantly spread on the internet, the Assistant Director of Army Public Relations, Major Oyegoke Gbadamosi, mustered the brazenness to lie that the troops merely “fired warning shots into the air.” And that “No life was lost.”
To be fair, though, 3 is too low a fatality figure by the Nigerian Army’s standards. In Zaria, they massacred 348 Shiites, in a binge-killing orgy that lasted 3 days and 3 nights. They explained that the butchery was a fair and right punishment for followers of Sheikh El-Zakzaky. They dared to block the convoy of the chief of army staff, Tukur Yusuf Buratai.
President Buhari endorsed the slaughter on live TV. He said the Shiites asked for it. He judged them guilty of trying to “create a state within a state” and for “virtually hitting the chest of generals.”
Apparently, those whom Buhari wants to kill, he first labels rebels…and sends troops after.
He has proved to be an unreconstructed dictator; as bigoted, clannish, and sadistic as his critics had warned he would be. He can’t abide dissent. The tyrant in him condemns the contrarian: and the ethnic chauvinist covers the multitude of sins of his own tribe.
Buhari saw Fulani herdsmen wax into a globally dreaded terrorist group. He saw them kill over 808 people in Southern Kaduna, 400 in Agatu, 40 in Nimbo, 30 in Kodomun, 12 in Tarfi, 11 in Godo and in many parts of Nigeria. He pretended they were not terrorists. As the patron of the nomadic herdsmen, he protected them from the law and flinched from calling them by the right name. When he was shamed out of his silence as the attacks escalated, he grudgingly framed their acts of terror as “farmers-herdsmen clashes.”
Up till now, his government has yet to prosecute one Fulani herdsman for the wanton murders they perpetrate across the country. He has yet to speak an unkind word about them or order a military operation targeted at them. He rather thinks they need to be appeased with Brazilian grasses, a grazing bill and grazing reserves.
But he has no compunction mandating the army to “crush” pro-Biafra activists because they are not his tribesmen. He has no qualms sanctioning the massacre of Shiites because they follow a different version of his religion.
Buhari has turned the Nigerian Army into a death squad that happily runs off with his hit-list. He has sent them after Biafra activists, Shiites. And he won’t mind sending them after any other demographic that he ha a reason to hate.
The Nigerian Army has failed to tackle the real terrorist organization in Nigeria. They have yet to defeat Boko Haram or capture Shekau. The day they stumbled on his flag and Koran, they celebrated the discovery as if they had won the war. It’s a shame that they relish flexing muscles against civilians.
The Nigerian Army is a terrorist organization. Rationalizing their massacre of civilians is partaking in their crimes against humanity.