Former Nigerian ambassador to the United States of America (USA), Israel and Cyprus, Prof. George Obiozor, over the week, asked the Federal Government to tread with caution in dealing with the pro-Biafra agitators, insisting that the resort to use of force or intimidation will only boomerang and exacerbate an already bad situation.
Obiozor, who exclusively spoke to The AUTHORITY on Sunday in Lagos, advised the federal government not to repeat the mistake of 2009 when Mr. Mohammed Yusuf, founder of the militant Islamist group, Boko Haram, was arrested and killed, as that line of action will only pin the nation down. More so, the international community will always condemn the killings of civilians.
The former Director General of the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs (NIIA), said what the government should do in the pro-Biafra protest, and in the name of national unity, is to talk with leaders in the South East, who, he expect, would tell government the truth.
And the truth, he said, is that for 44 years, the South East has been ignored, with almost all governments treating the zone as a defeated people.
“We defeated you, we will ignore you, you won’t even say a word. If you say anything, we jail you, or we deal with you,” are some of the verbal violent remarks often made with impunity by even some notable Nigerians, including Dr. Junaidu Mohammed, Obiozor said.
The former envoy, who declared that “In Nigeria, every crisis is protracted” recalls that even as the federal government is currently talking about ending the Boko Haram insurgency by December, ending it militarily does not amount to ending it socially?
“If you end it militarily, have you ended it socially? Have you ended the rehabilitation? Have you seen the reaction of the people who will be returning to their homes?” He wondered, calling on government to look more at things that unite, and not the things that divide us, including the use of the so called ‘body language’ as well as violent language.
Describing ‘body language’ as part of the problem of Nigeria, Obiozor said ‘body language’ has produced lopsided appointments, where all key positions in Nigeria under President Muhammadu Buhari, tilt towards one section of the country.
And since everything in Nigeria is sensitive, including political office holding, a leader, he said, must know the sensitivity of the country he/she wants to govern in such a way that no section is ignored or made to feel aggrieved.
According to him, the South East has been ignored for so long and has the shortest and the least number of federal highways, with just two Onitsha-Enugu and Enugu-Port Harcourt Roads. And as bad as that is, none of roads has existed in last 20 years, he said.
He therefore wondered why any government would think a people could swallow such insult forever, much as the new trend of ‘body language’ is not making things any better.
“When you ignore certain things, whether you call it marginalization or not, but when it results to what is called relative deprivation, you create grievance on that sector that feels aggrieved. And then what happens is that in every society, in fact, even in the most powerful society in the world, when any section feels aggrieved, you try to redress it, explain it.
“You don’t go and abuse them. Or say through body language that when you were looking for geniuses, it was only in Igbo land that you did not find them. Nobody in the world will agree with you and nobody in Nigeria will agree with you,” Obiozor said.
Obiozor, who reminded that when you threaten a people for too long, they tend to resist, called on those opting for use of force in the pro-Biafra protest, to stop the harassment, including use of violent language, stressing that a president must attend to the grievances of any section of the country at all times, whether they voted for him or not.
“Who are those anonymous boys you want to shoot? They are unarmed people. And what do you do? You provoke the thing and exacerbated it by use of violence and intimidation, including verbal violence. It does not solve the problem,” he said.
He however warned that the new generation of Ndigbo, those who didn’t witness the war, are different and are not as intimidated as the older generation, who have a lot to defend and protect. They are bold, even sometimes reckless, he maintained.
He said not many Igbo sons and daughters know the controversial Nnamdi Kanu, whose arrest sparked off the protest, noting that what government should have done was to go about the issue quietly.
“Many Igbo don’t know him. Honestly, I have never heard of such a person like that until I learnt he was arrested. In fact, many people of our generation are taken by surprise by what is going on. But then, it is a surprise that we should study. What is the cause of this sudden eruption, what is going on here?” Those, he said, should preoccupy the government, instead.
Furthermore, he reminded that the more we contain our conflicts, crisis and also disintegrative tendencies, including violent utterances of our leaders, the better for the country, adding that one does not inflict injury on oneself and expect that it will be healed.
Lamenting that Nigeria is governed by selective morality, double standard and ferocious paradox, he said people only raise their voices when it comes to Ndigbo.
Compared to the nation’s founding fathers, who he describes as leaders with address that knew where they were coming from, Obiozor said what we have now is progression of “flight by night leaders that emerged after the civil war; mediocre that would want to bring everything to their level.
The professor of international relations, who said history is still alive, warned that those who forget their history live to regret it, saying that Nigeria has forgotten her history. According to him, all the things that are causing tragedies today in Nigeria, “whether you are talking of religion, leadership, resource control, political parties etc… our founding fathers handled them very well and tried to create a true federalism, whereby competition replaced conflict.”
Although politics in itself is an endemic sense of conflict because people are looking for their interest, Obiozor said when conflict occurs, you do consultation, you do compromise, and go back to competition. What governs politics, he said, are the three Cs: Conflict, competition and cooperation.
But because leadership is in the hands of aggrieved people, the whole country is suffering from national psychosis, he concluded.