Abeni Aso-Oke

A Message To the Federal Government and the State Governments in Eastern Nigeria. By Chidi Ekeh

A Message To the Federal Government and the State Governments in Eastern Nigeria. By Chidi Ekeh

Part 1
YOUR LEADERSHIP IS UNDER SIEGE.

Abeni Aso-Oke
Abeni Aso-Oke

The escalating terror in the eastern region reveals a stark failure in governance, and it is time to confront this crisis head-on.

The current state of affairs is not just a matter of concern; it is a crisis that requires immediate, decisive action and a complete rethinking of strategies.

Abeni Aso-Oke

A REGION IN TURMOIL

The Eastern region of Nigeria is in turmoil. The recent brutal killing of soldiers in Aba by unknown gunmen is just the latest in a series of violent incidents that have plagued the region.

The attackers, allegedly affiliated with the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and its armed wing, the Eastern Security Network (ESN), struck with a ferocity that underscores their resolve and the failure of the government’s security measures.

This attack, which left five soldiers dead, is a grim reminder of the price we pay for the persistent and misguided approach to security in the East.

These soldiers, deployed to enforce peace and protect citizens, became victims of a conflict that has been mishandled for too long.

The Ineffectiveness of Brute Force
Why does the federal government persist with a purely kinetic approach against Easterners?

The use of brute force has not yielded peace; instead, it has bred more violence and resentment.

This approach is particularly perplexing when compared to the government’s carrot-and-stick strategy with groups like Boko Haram. Why is there a double standard?
The situation in the East is not just a security issue; it is a political and social crisis.
The government’s relentless militarization of the region has only exacerbated tensions. It is clear that a military solution alone will not bring peace. The recent events in Aba, where soldiers were ambushed and killed, should be a wake-up call. This was not an isolated incident; it is part of a broader pattern of violence and unrest that has gripped the region.

The Unfulfilled Promise of the 3 “R”s
The roots of this crisis run deep.
After the Nigerian Civil War, the federal government promised the 3 “R”s: Reconstruction, Rehabilitation, and Reconciliation. Decades later, these promises remain unfulfilled.
The Eastern region, which bore the brunt of the civil war, has been left marginalized and disenfranchised. This neglect has sown seeds of discontent and fostered a sense of injustice that has now blossomed into the current crisis.
The failure to deliver on these promises is not just a historical oversight; it is a betrayal. The people of the East have legitimate grievances that have been ignored for too long. The rise of groups like IPOB and the violent actions of unknown gunmen are not spontaneous; they are the direct result of this historical neglect and oppressive responses to legitimate demands for justice and equality.
Regional Governors: A Failure in Leadership
The regional governors have also failed their people. While students were barred from writing their exams and blood stained the streets, many of you chose to sit on your hands. This inaction is unacceptable.

The state governors are the closest to the people; you should be their first line of defense, their advocates, their champions. Instead, many of you have chosen the path of least resistance, allowing the situation to deteriorate further.

However, it’s only fair to acknowledge the few who have tried to make a difference. Governor Alex Otti’s efforts to ensure WAEC exams proceeded peacefully, despite IPOB’s sit-at-home order, show that progress is possible with the right approach. But isolated efforts are not enough.
The people of the East need consistent, committed leadership that prioritizes their safety, their education, and their future.
Disregard for Judicial Decisions
The federal government’s disregard for judicial decisions is another glaring issue. Nnamdi Kanu, the IPOB leader, was granted bail by the courts, yet he remains detained.

This blatant disrespect for the rule of law only deepens mistrust and resentment among the populace, further fueling unrest.

The government’s actions send a clear message: that it is willing to ignore the law when it suits its purposes.

This is not just a legal issue; it is a moral one. It undermines the very foundations of justice and democracy in Nigeria.
Personal Stories: The Human Cost of Violence
Behind the headlines and statistics, there are real people whose lives have been shattered by this violence. Consider Chiamaka, a young student in Owerri who was preparing for her WAEC exams. She studied day and night, dreaming of becoming a doctor. But on the day of her exams, the streets were empty, and the exam halls were closed. She sat at home, her dreams deferred by the violence that has engulfed her community.
Or think of Obi, a trader in Aba who lost his son to a stray bullet during a clash between security forces and unknown gunmen. Obi’s son was not a fighter; he was a student, full of life and promise. Now, his family is left to pick up the pieces, mourning a future that will never be realized.

These are not isolated incidents; they are part of a broader pattern of suffering and loss that affects countless families across the East.

The government must recognize the human cost of its policies and take immediate action to end this cycle of violence.

A CALL FOR COMPREHENSIVE STRATEGY

The current strategy is not working.

The government must adopt a more comprehensive approach that includes dialogue and addresses the root causes of unrest.

This means engaging with all stakeholders, including pro-Biafra groups, to find a peaceful solution. It also means addressing the economic and social inequalities that fuel discontent.
The people of the East need jobs, education, and opportunities.

They need to feel that they are a valued part of Nigeria, not an afterthought.
HONORING THE FALLEN SOLDIERS
We must also honor the soldiers who have died needlessly due to poor decisions by those in authority. Their sacrifice should not be in vain.
Their deaths are a stark reminder of the human cost of failed policies and the urgent need for a new direction.
These soldiers were fathers, sons, and brothers. They served their country with honor, and they deserve better.

The government owes it to them to find a better way forward.

EMBRACING PEACE AND RESPECT

It is time for all factions to lay down arms and embrace peace. The federal government needs to adopt a comprehensive strategy that includes dialogue and addressing the root causes of unrest. Regional governors must protect their citizens and uphold justice proactively. This means not just reacting to crises, but preventing them. It means building trust, fostering dialogue, and addressing grievances before they erupt into violence.
Respect for the Rule of Law

RESPECT FOR THE RULE OF LAW IS NON-NEGOTIABLE.

The federal government must respect the courts and release Nnamdi Kanu, as ordered.
This is not just about one man; it is about the principle of justice.
The government must show that it is committed to the rule of law and to the rights of all citizens, regardless of their political beliefs.

ADDRESSING HISTORICAL INJUSTICES

The government must also address historical injustices. This means taking concrete steps to implement the promises of Reconstruction, Rehabilitation, and Reconciliation. It means investing in the East, creating jobs, improving infrastructure, and ensuring that the people of the region have a voice in the national dialogue.

A VISION FOR THE FUTURE

The future of Eastern Nigeria depends on it.
The region has immense potential. It is home to some of the most industrious and innovative people in Nigeria. But this potential will never be realized if the current cycle of violence and neglect continues.
The government must create an environment where the people of the East can thrive, where their talents and energies can be harnessed for the good of the entire country.

A CALL TO ACTION

To the federal and state governments: the time for action is now.
The people of the East are watching. The world is watching. Your leadership is being tested, and the stakes could not be higher. You must rise to the occasion and show that you are capable of leading with wisdom, compassion, and justice.

FINAL THOUGHTS
In conclusion, the federal and state governments must take immediate and decisive action to address the ongoing crisis in the East. The cycle of violence and militarization must end. There must be a genuine commitment to peace, respect for the rule of law, and an unwavering dedication to the promises made after the civil war. Only then can we hope for lasting peace and growth in the region. The future of Eastern Nigeria depends on it.

The people of the East deserve better. They deserve a government that listens to them, that respects them, and that works tirelessly to ensure their safety and prosperity. They deserve a future free from violence and fear. It is within your power to make this future a reality. Do not squander this opportunity. The time for action is now.

Part 2.
HISTORICAL CONTEXT

The Nigerian Civil War, which raged from 1967 to 1970, left deep scars on the nation, particularly in the Eastern region.
The war ended with a promise from the federal government: Reconstruction, Rehabilitation, and Reconciliation. These were meant to heal the wounds of the conflict and rebuild the devastated region.
Yet, more than five decades later, these promises remain largely unfulfilled.
The Eastern region, home to the industrious Igbo people, was left to rebuild on its own.
The lack of federal support fostered a sense of abandonment and marginalization. This neglect is evident in the region’s infrastructure, or rather, the lack thereof. Roads are in disrepair, healthcare facilities are inadequate, and educational institutions struggle to meet the needs of the population.
The Rise of IPOB and ESN
In this context of neglect and marginalization, the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) emerged. Led by Nnamdi Kanu, IPOB advocates for the independence of Biafra from Nigeria.
The group has garnered significant support in the East, where many people feel disenfranchised and ignored by the federal government.
The Eastern Security Network (ESN), IPOB’s armed wing, was formed to protect the region from what it perceives as external aggression and internal threats.
However, the ESN’s activities have often led to violent confrontations with the Nigerian military and police, escalating the cycle of violence.

THE ROLE OF REGIONAL GOVERNORS

The role of regional governors in this crisis cannot be overstated.
As the chief security officers of their states, they have a duty to protect their citizens. Yet, many have been criticized for their inaction or ineffective responses to the violence. The situation in the East requires proactive, innovative leadership that prioritizes the welfare of the people.
Governor Alex Otti’s efforts to ensure WAEC exams proceeded peacefully, despite IPOB’s sit-at-home order, provide a glimmer of hope. His actions demonstrate that with the right approach, it is possible to navigate the complex security landscape and prioritize the needs of the people. But more is needed. Consistent, committed leadership is essential to addressing the root causes of unrest and restoring peace to the region.

THE IMPORTANCE OF DIALOGUE

Dialogue is key to resolving the crisis in the East. The federal government must engage with all stakeholders, including IPOB, to find a peaceful solution.
This requires a willingness to listen, to understand the grievances of the people, and to address them in a meaningful way. It also requires a commitment to justice and the rule of law.
The continued detention of Nnamdi Kanu, despite court orders granting him bail, is a major obstacle to peace. It undermines the credibility of the government and fuels mistrust among the people. Respecting the rule of law and releasing Kanu is not just a legal necessity; it is a step towards building trust and opening the door to meaningful dialogue.

ADDRESSING ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL INEQUALITIES

The economic and social inequalities that plague the Eastern region must be addressed. The people need jobs, education, and opportunities. Investment in infrastructure, healthcare, and education is essential to fostering economic growth and improving the quality of life for the people.
The federal government must make a concerted effort to integrate the Eastern region into the national economy. This means creating an environment where businesses can thrive, where entrepreneurs have access to the resources they need, and where the talents and energies of the people can be harnessed for the good of the entire country.

THE WAY FORWARD

The way forward is clear: it requires a comprehensive approach that addresses the root causes of unrest and prioritizes the welfare of the people.
This means:
Ending the cycle of violence and militarization: The federal government must adopt a strategy that includes dialogue, respect for the rule of law, and addressing the grievances of the people.

INVESTING IN THE EAST:

The government must fulfill its promises of Reconstruction, Rehabilitation, and Reconciliation. This means investing in infrastructure, healthcare, education, and economic development.
Proactive leadership from regional governors: State governors must take a proactive approach to security and development. They must engage with their communities, address their grievances, and work tirelessly to improve their welfare.
Honoring the rule of law: The government must respect judicial decisions and release Nnamdi Kanu as ordered by the courts. This is essential to building trust and creating an environment conducive to dialogue and peace.

ADDRESSING HISTORICAL INJUSTICES:

The government must acknowledge and address the historical injustices that have contributed to the current crisis. This means recognizing the legitimate grievances of the people and taking concrete steps to address them.

CONCLUSION
The future of Eastern Nigeria depends on the actions taken today. The region has immense potential, and its people deserve a government that listens to them, respects them, and works tirelessly to ensure their safety and prosperity. The current crisis is a test of leadership, and the federal and state governments must rise to the occasion.

The people of the East deserve better. They deserve a future free from violence and fear. It is within your power to make this future a reality. Do not squander this opportunity. The time for action is now.

PART 3.
EPILOGUE:
A Vision for Peace and Prosperity
Imagine an Eastern Nigeria where children can go to school without fear, where businesses thrive, and where the people feel a sense of belonging and pride. Imagine a region where the government listens to the people, respects their rights, and works tirelessly to improve their lives. This is not just a dream; it is a vision that can be realized with the right leadership and commitment.
The journey will not be easy. It will require courage, determination, and a willingness to confront difficult truths. But it is a journey worth taking. The future of Eastern Nigeria, and indeed the future of Nigeria as a whole, depends on it.
The time for action is now. Let us rise to the occasion and work together to build a future of peace and prosperity for the people of Eastern Nigeria. The world is watching. The people are watching. Your leadership is being tested. Do not let them down.
,
Chidi Ekeh a public affairs analyst writes from Gwarinpa Estate Abuja

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