A section of Nigerians have expressed their anger over President Muhammadu Buhari’s recent comments concerning the South East region.
Many believe that for a second time in less than a month, Buhari had threatened fire and brimstone against the people of the region.
As bold and succinct these threats are, many wonder why the presidency has neither made clarifications nor done a damage control to at least, calm nerves in the region.
The President’s comments, as TRIBUNEPOINT WEEKLY observed, has increased fear, tension and uncertainty in the South East region.
These threats are being dished out despite reports of alleged killings of Igbo youths already going on in Imo and other parts of the region by the Nigerian security agencies with many wondering what the government’s motives are.
The President heightened fear in the region on June 5, 2021, when the National Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Professor Mahmood Yakubu led other top officials of the Commission to brief the President of their progresses and shortcomings ahead of the 2023 general election.
Some of the issues in the front burner during the meeting at the State House, Abuja, were those of attacks on government assets, which include INEC facilities in the South East.
And responding to the briefing, President Buhari made some vows and also reminded the Igbo of the ugly stories of the 1967-1970 civil war. Buhari had said, “Whoever wants the destruction of the system will soon have the shock of their lives. We’ve given them enough time.
“I received a briefing today from the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, on the series of attacks on their facilities nationwide. These attacks are totally unacceptable, and we will not allow those behind them to achieve their evil objectives.
“In the area of security, we have changed the Service Chiefs and the Inspector-General, and we are demanding that they rise fully to the challenges confronting us. There must be zero tolerance for all those bent on destroying our country by promoting crime and insurrection!
“Many of those misbehaving today are too young to be aware of the destruction and loss of lives that occurred during the Nigerian Civil War. Those of us in the fields for 30 months, who went through the war, will treat them in the language they understand,” he said.
The President’s speech was shared on different social media platforms, including Twitter and Facebook. Many Nigerians felt that the last paragraph of that particular speech was a threat to engage the Igbo on another civil war and so reported the tweet to the management of Twitter, which in response deleted, resulting to the controversial Twitter ban.
However, the President returned with a bigger threat on the Igbo nation on Thursday when he appeared on Arise TV as critics and analysts have observed. Buhari said, “IPOB is just like a dot in a circle. Even if they want to exit, they will have no access to anywhere.
“And the way they are spread all over the country, having businesses and property, I don’t think IPOB knows what they are talking about.
“In any case, we say we’ll talk to them in the language that they understand. We’ll organise the police and the military to pursue them.”
Again, President Buhari angered many Nigerians when he used IPOB to represent the whole of Igbo ethnic group of over 80 million people scattered worldwide.
Using IPOB to equate all Igbos, Buhari also vowed to send the army and the police to take care of them.
According to analyst, Funsho Adodeyin, “Putting all Igbos and their territory together, the Nigerian President brought them so low to describe them as Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, a prominent secessionist organization in the region.
“Put differently, Buhari referred to the entire South East as IPOB. And he didn’t stop there, the President promised to deal with them. Buhari can’t be talking about a secessionist group using a sentence like, ‘And the way they are spread all over the country, having businesses and property. I don’t think IPOB knows what they are talking about,’ it is clear he was talking about an entire race.
Also embittered by the President comments, Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko of a foremost human rights group, HURIWA slammed the President for showing a poor appreciation of the problems of insecurity in the Southeast during his interview by comparing IPOB, to the whole of Igbo ethnic group.
The HURIWA boss said it is totally unacceptable that a “country like Nigeria with millions of intellectuals of global reputation to be governed by a President like Muhammadu Buhari who clearly does not know that Igbo Ethnic bloc is different from the self-determination group known as the Indigenous People of Biafra.”
He said that Buhari’s ignorance or wilful forgetfulness on the fundamental conceptual chasm and distinction between a group of youthful agitators and the entire IGBO RACE is unpardonable and dangerous.
In the same vein, a leading socio-political organisation in the South West, Afenifere, also kicked against Buhari’s outburst against Igbos, wondering how a President could display such magnitude of hatred for a particular region.
As Afenifere’s Secretary General, Chief Sola Ebiseni, clearly pointed out to Buhari, “the Igbo and their territory is just a dot in a circle of the map of Nigeria, which even if they secede could exit to nowhere since the elders and youths of the South-South had assured him of not being part of the secessionist agenda.
“He couldn’t have been reacting to the IPOB but the Igbos whom he said had businesses everywhere.
“His utterances were very unpresidential and in the mode of common expressions with some unidentifiable northern organisations.”
TRIBUNEPOINT WEEKLY also spoke with some Nigerians on the streets of Abuja and Lagos who found it difficult to digest Buhari’s comments.
“The situation of things is gradually getting out of control in the South East and it has been made worse by the fact that the President sees every Igbo as IPOB. It’s funny, isn’t it? But the truth is that with such a belief, no one is safe in the region. They really need to calm things down and adopt a different approach to handle the security issues. You can’t send Army and Police to start chasing and killing everyone on the streets all in the name of fishing out IPOB and ESN,” Funmi Alade, a trader in Apapa, Lagos, told TRIBUNEPOINT WEEKLY.
Abubakar Yusuf, an Abuja-based right activist, said, “What is this all about? Is it about ESN? Then one may ask, are the people in the region complaining about the activities of ESN? The state governors have failed to provide the needed security network to counter the activities of Fulani herdsmen who are invading villages killing, raping and destroying what people have worked for many years and on the other hand, the Federal Government hasn’t done enough to punish these criminals. Ebube Agu Security Network is not real. It’s a scam. And Igbo youths decided to form ESN to help themselves. The next thing Buhari govt wants is to burn down the region. Let them tell us, is there a secret agenda? I mean, it’s frustrating. And the President by his comment on Arise TV the other day now addresses the Igbo in general as IPOB. I’m a northerner, but I must speak the truth, people managing the president have failed, ” he said.
“The President may not mean it that way, but how do we know? It is for the Presidency to issue a clarification. This they have refused to do; meaning that the President was right about what he said. It was a conscious statement. Take for instance when the President said something the other day many thought he directed it at Tinubu, but his aide came up with a statement to make clarifications. See, the truth is, this presidency is not friendly with the South East. And when they issue threats, they mean it. Buhari said he is sending Army and Police to clean the dot in the Nigerian Map. People should start asking questions before it’s too late. There are banditry and Boko Haram attacks almost on a daily basis in different parts of the North but the situation in the South East seems to be receiving more attention from the government,” Irene Uzodike, a civil servant, opined.