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Let the Igbo Be or Let the Igbo Go

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David Chukwueze

On May 30, the world witnessed another tragic episode in the ongoing agitation for Biafra as militants from the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) reportedly killed Nigerian soldiers in a brutal clash.

This incident is not an isolated one; it’s a grim reminder of the deep-seated tensions and unresolved issues that continue to plague Nigeria. The call for Biafra’s independence, primarily driven by the Igbo people, is a manifestation of a larger national crisis. It’s time for Nigeria to make a crucial decision: let the Igbo be, or let them go, for the sake of lasting peace.

The agitation for Biafra is rooted in a history of marginalization and disenfranchisement. The Igbo, one of Nigeria’s major ethnic groups, has long felt sidelined in the socio-political landscape of the country.

This sense of alienation dates back to the 1960s, culminating in the Biafran War (1967-1970), which resulted in the loss of over a million lives. Despite the war’s end and Nigeria’s assertion of unity, the underlying grievances have persisted.

Fast forward to the present day, and the echoes of those grievances remain loud. IPOB, led by Nnamdi Kanu, has reinvigorated the call for Biafra’s independence, drawing support from a significant segment of the Igbo population. Their methods, often involving protests and civil disobedience, have unfortunately escalated into violent confrontations, as witnessed on May 30.

The killing of Nigerian soldiers by IPOB militants underscores the severe breakdown in dialogue and the failure of successive governments to address the root causes of the agitation. It also highlights the extreme measures some are willing to take to achieve their goals, driven by decades of perceived injustice and marginalization.

The Nigerian government’s response has predominantly been one of military crackdowns, arrests, and bans on IPOB activities have been the standard reaction. However, this approach has only served to deepen the animosity and resistance among the Igbo.

The government’s heavy-handed tactics have not only failed to quell the agitation but have also provided IPOB with more justification for their cause.

Nigeria stands at a crossroads. The persistence of the Biafran agitation and the resultant violence necessitate a reevaluation of the nation’s approach to unity and diversity.

The options are stark but clear: either genuinely address the grievances of the Igbo people or facilitate a peaceful and democratic process for determining their desire for self-determination.

Addressing grievances would involve a comprehensive and sincere engagement with the Igbo leaders and the broader community. It means addressing issues of economic neglect, political marginalization, and social injustice.

A genuine effort to integrate the Igbo into the national fabric as equal partners could help alleviate the tensions. This path requires political will, honesty, and a departure from the punitive measures that have characterized the past.

Alternatively, Nigeria could consider a structured and peaceful process for the Igbo to determine their future. This could involve a referendum conducted under international supervision to ensure fairness and transparency.

While the notion of secession is fraught with challenges, it is a legitimate response to a people’s persistent cry for self-governance and autonomy.

The events of May 30, with the killing of Nigerian soldiers by IPOB militants, are a stark reminder that the status quo is untenable. The cycle of violence, repression, and resistance benefits no one and endangers the future of Nigeria.

It is imperative for the Nigerian government and the international community to recognize that the Igbo people’s aspirations cannot be silenced through force.

Whether through genuine reconciliation and integration or through the facilitation of a peaceful path to self-determination, Nigeria must act decisively.

Let the Igbo be, or let the Igbo go, for the sake of peace, stability, and the future of the entire nation.

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