A former presidential candidate, Kingsley Moghalu, has urged the Federal Government to dialogue with secessionists and believes addressing the root causes of their agitations will help in dousing tensions in the West African nation.
Moghalu made the call on Wednesday when he featured on Channels Television’s breakfast show, Sunrise Daily, and believes secessionist agitators feel marginalised and are seeking justice.
“I think that the government should be able to invite, whether it is IPOB or Sunday Igboho, all the secessionists; invite them to the table,” the former Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) governor noted.
The Nigerian government had in 2017 proscribed the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB), the group spearheading agitations for the creation of an independent Biafra nation but Moghalu has faulted the move, insisting instead, that the reasons for their actions should be looked into.
While he admitted that IPOB and other agitators may be addressing their challenges in a wrong way, he argued that tagging them as terrorists is not the way to tackle the issue.
“They are essentially political agitators. You can call them terrorists. That is your own prerogative but we know what terrorism means in reality. Boko Haram are terrorists. We know that,” the economist and lawyer added.
“When people begin political agitations and we very easily throw terrorism at them just because they are mouthing off and speaking in a language that nobody likes or insulting their fellow citizens. That is their way of handling this type of thing.
“Can we address the agitations? Don’t be afraid to address the core reasons behind the agitation because they are crying out for justice. They feel marginalised. What is wrong with addressing those issues?”
Secessionist Agitations Gaining Ground
Calls for secession have become widespread in Africa’s most populous nation especially in the southeast and southwest regions.
In the southwest, Sunday ‘Igboho’ Adeyemo who rose to prominence earlier in the year after he issued a quit notice to herders in Oyo State accused of crimes, is leading calls for the creation of a Yoruba nation, threatening to disrupt the 2023 polls.
IPOB had equally renewed campaigns for the independence of the southeast region following the election of President Muhammadu Buhari in 2015, accusing the government of marginalising the area.
The leader of the group, Nnamdi Kanu, had fled the country one year after he faced trial for treason but the pro-Biafra organisation ordered a sit-at-home in the region on Monday to mark the end of the Nigerian Civil War.
Clashes between the secessionist groups and Nigeria’s security forces have also made headlines. Over the weekend, the Nigerian Army said it stormed a “terrorist enclave” run by members of the Eastern Security Network (ESN) – the security arm of IPOB – in Rivers State and killed at least seven persons.
“In the firefight that ensued during the Clearance/Raid Operation, 7 IPOB/ESN members were neutralized while 5 suspects arrested,” the army said in a statement signed by army spokesman, Brigadier-General Mohammed Yerima.
“Various items belonging to the criminals including arms and ammunition were also recovered by the security forces. The camp was promptly destroyed while suspects and corpses were handed over to the Police for further actions.”
The security agency has, however, vowed not to relent in its move to crush the group and other criminal elements in the country.
“Nigeria is facing numerous security challenges occasioned by the activities of Boko Haram terrorist group, armed bandits kidnappers, IPOB and other criminal elements,” the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Major General Farouk Yahaya said during the passing out parade of the 80 regular recruits intake at the Nigerian Army Depot, Zaria in Kaduna State on Saturday. “We would not rest on our oars until this country is safe for all of us.”