Southeast and the Collapse of Leadership

By Jude Atupulazi

If there is any state in the entirety of the Southeast Geo-political Zone of the country that has come under the most attack by Fulani terrorists, that state is Ebonyi. Yet, Ebonyi not only harbours the chairman of the Southeast Governors’ Forum, in the person of Gov Dave Umahi, the state is also the headquarters of Ebubeagu, the security network of the Southeast.

Ebubeagu was fashioned after Amotekun in the South West and Eastern Security Network in the Southeast by Nnamdi Kanu of the Indigenous People of Biafra fame. But while Amotekun has been thriving, Ebubeagu seemed to have died shortly on arrival, with its commander resigning not very long ago as a result of non-funding. The commander happens to be a younger brother to Umahi.

The failure of Ebubeagu best depicts the ineffectual leadership that obtains in the Southeast Zone. It was this failure that has today made Kanu more popular and thrown him up as the people’s general, despite his obvious leadership deficiencies.

In times of crisis the people naturally look for leaders and when those they expect to lead the way don’t show capacity or willingness to lead, they turn to anyone who meets up with that expectation. This was how Kanu was thrown up.

Tragically, even after Kanu emerged, the Southeast leaders still could not get their acts together. There was no unity of purpose and their body language sends a message that points to the fact that the leaders are after their personal political interests, while being blinded by their personal egos.

That is why today Ebonyi has become the hotbed of Fulani terrorist activities without any counter measure from the security outfit of the Southeast governors which headquarters is domiciled there.

On the other hand, one would have expected the Eastern Security Network of Kanu to be deployed to Ebonyi to combat the terrorist Fulani but nothing of such has happened. Rather, IPOB is more interested in shutting down the Southeast every Monday in solidarity with Kanu, despite the action harming the economic interests of the Southeast Zone. Talk about cutting the nose to spite the face!

But despite the inability (or is it refusal?) of ESN to deploy its celebrated troops to Ebonyi, the group still enjoys massive support which seems to grow every day; again largely due to the inability of the leaders of the zone to take responsibility.

Last Monday’s failure by the governors to stop IPOB’s sit-at-home directive may just mark the beginning of a new chapter of opposition to government by non-state actors. After IPOB had given its order, the state government countered it by directing workers to report for duty.

Many did but the sit-at-home still succeeded in large part. In Nnewi and Onitsha, traditional places where it succeeds, there was nothing new as people complied. Granted that some might have done so out of fear of intimidation, there was no doubt that the vast majority in the commercial and industrial cities of Onitsha and Nnewi stayed home out of belief and loyalty.

But the bad side was the killing of three people in Nnewi and the later killing of two naval personnel by the almighty unknown gunmen in Awkuzu. Was it that some people used the cover of no movement to unleash terror on the state? We may never know but that is why many of us have been counseling against these directives which often go with forcing people to comply.

Another bad side was the fact of some of our children missing their NECO Mathematics examination which took place that day. Despite a directive by Kanu’s brother which cancelled the then proposed sit-at-home, in order for our children to take the exam, a counter order had come from the same camp, insisting that the directive must proceed, on the argument that sacrifice was needed.

Now, what manner of sacrifice entails having students miss their exams? Isn’t that stifling the future of those children who represent our tomorrow? Doesn’t it show that those behind the directive are opposed to progress? Are they any different from Boko Haram members who are averse to western education? Really, the insistence on going ahead with the directive when it was known that it would hurt our children was a major minus for IPOB.

And that was apart from the harm the directive to stay home posed to the economy of the Southeast. Such insensitivity may just signal the beginning of the end of some people’s loyalty to their cause, as no parent whose child missed the exam will clap for IPOB tomorrow.

How can we be crying of  being  marginalized when we hurt ourselves, pretending to hurt Buhari who must have been relaxing and picking his teeth in Aso Rock after a good meal, while laughing at our folly?

Indeed, if such reasoning will be the type we will be experiencing in a new Biafra, is  it not better we remain in a renegotiated Nigeria? What happened showed a people who do not value education and who do not reason like normal human beings. Their recourse to brute force is ominous and incongruent with democratic norms.

But sadly, these kind of people seem to be triumphing just because our leaders have not done the needful. Should things continue to be headed in the direction they are going, we will soon have a very anarchic state where there will be many governments in one state.

This is the time, therefore, for our leaders to accept their failure and make amends. Part of it will be to meet with the leaders of IPOB and dialogue; after all, the Federal Government has been meeting with Boko Haram fighters through Fulani intermediaries.

This is no longer the time to either play the ostrich or display foolish pride. Things are deteriorating so fast that soon it will become a full scale war between the poor and the rich. And you know that in such scenario, being rich can be determined by the type of car one drives, the shoes worn or even the size of one’s stomach. That will be a full blown anarchic state.

At that stage, having police protection won’t matter as the angry masses, who are proving to be unafraid of dying, will sack the perceived rich from the state and burn their homes (God forbid).

But with the way our governors have been carrying on, I still think they will not be able to stem the tide until it consumes them and all. God forbid.

VIOs, Bad Roads And Road Worthy Vehicles

Last Tuesday I ran into a team of Vehicle Inspection Officers (VIOs) at a bad patch of the road between INEC and Nodu Community in Awka. They were as usual stopping vehicles and checking their road worthiness. But it got me thinking. What is the rational in stopping vehicles and charging them for not being road worthy when there are hardly good roads anywhere these days? In fact the kind of roads we have now are enough to scatter most vehicles and make them unworthy.

And the irony of what I saw was that these VIOs were stopping and checking vehicles where the roads were bad. So I told myself that it would have made an awful lot of sense if the government had fixed our roads first before looking for people whose vehicles are not road worthy.

With little or no action being taken on most roads at this time, it is pretty certain that after the rains the roads will become more terrible. We are talking about November onwards. And with this government leaving by March next year, it is also certain that it may not be too interested in facing the roads again, especially with the airport project preoccupying its mind.

This was why I had challenged the idea of putting all our money on the airport when such critical areas like roads cry out for attention. I said then that the problem of the state wasn’t an airport because we were surrounded by such in Asaba and Enugu. I said what was needed was the construction or maintenance of roads for us to retain our reputation as the state with the best road network.

I had also argued that the percentage of those who will not use the airport in their lifetime would be more than those who would, a fact that should have necessitated the government paying more attention to roads and make the airport a long term project that would not be rushed. But in rushing it, it has taken up virtually all the resources of government and the roads have been neglected to the chagrin of many.