It has become impossible to keep quiet in the face of the quite unhelpful continuing sad preference by the authorities to consistently ignore the root cause of the problem whilst addressing only the consequent symptoms of a much deeper disease.
Symptoms of malaria parasite in the blood stream, includes headache, weakness of the body, high temperature, painful joints, dizziness and loss of appetite.
It would be proper to run tests, identify the degree of the malaria parasite in the blood stream, apply anti malaria drugs, clean up the blocked drainage, flush and wash away the stagnant dirty water that serves as breeding habitat for the mosquito and then sleep under treated mosquito net.
Within days the anti malaria drugs applied will demolish the malaria, the cleared gutters ensures mosquito are gone from our environment, while the net protects us as we sleep, and we’ll be fit as a fiddle.
Our malaria gone for good.
But refusing to address the problem from the root, and addressing only the symptoms, by importing cartons of menthol balms from overseas to rub on the joint pains or buying trailer-load of analgesic just for the headache, or even soaking hundreds of wet towels in order to bring down the fever etc, will not take away our malaria.
We’ll only be addressing the symptoms while dutifully ignoring the root cause of the problem. And the malaria will only get worse.
We have been doing just that with the agitation ravaging the South East for 24 years. The hype in the land today is only addressing the symptoms. Not a word is mentioned on how to address the root cause of the agitation.
Ralph Uwazurike activated MASSOB in September 1999 with less than a hundred young men ostensibly to protest the oppresion of Ndigbo in Nigeria.
Weeks later their ranks grew to over a thousand. In less than a year, they’ve ballooned to several thousands.
They believed the self-evident injusticies he presented to them , they listened to his rhetoric, and agreed with him that:
1. The suffocating unitary structure of the country is retrogresive, anti growth and retards positive development, while encouraging sleaze. They decried the unfortunate fact that certain compatriots consistently refused to agree to a consensual restructuring of the country in order to enthrone level playing field for all.
That without a new constitution anchored on true federalism and power devolution, the country is doomed. Frustrating fairplay and equity and making seccession an appealing option if you do not want to hand over the second class status imposed on you since 1970 for loosing the war, to your progeny.
2. That the deliberate decision of denying their region, the South East, since the end of the war in 1970, needed and critical infrastructure such as a functional International Airport with Cargo wing, a functioning Sea Port, railway services, including development of the much needed East/West rail link ( PH through Aba, Onitsha, Benin, Lagos to Cotonou, Accra etc), Dry Port at Aba, Export processing centre at the Ninth mile corner Enugu, Electricity generation that would bolster industrialisation and good road network, creates a lasting and painful feeling of alienation, that makes it difficult for youths of the region to have a sense of belonging in the country.
3. The refusal to invite and engage the aggrieved youths to a dialogue where they’ll present their grievances, while same Government sends top Government officials to the creeks to engage Niger Delta agitators. Failure to organise a coordinated activation of youth-friendly programmes, especially skills acquisition, career guidance, talent management and development, and counselling and mentoring in order to build patriotism and love for one’s country, suggests to them that they’ve been abandoned.
The youths agreed with him, began paying monthly dues and their ranks grew. If they didn’t see truth in his rhetoric, they would not have followed him. What did the authorities do? They called them miscreants and criminals. Reserving only lethal force for them.
Suggesting a response of “we will not engage you guys, you can do your worst”, which only grew the agitation from a storm in a tea cup, to a hurricane.
Yet our leaders remained sworn to totally ignore the root cause and insist only in tackling the symptoms.
When Ralph Uwazurike appointed Nnamdi Kanu a decade later to broadcast and handle their new radio in London in 2009, the authorities resolutely refused to address the root cause of the problem.
As Nnamdi amplified through his broadcasts the bitterness and anger in the soul of the aggrieved younger generation, his rhetorics resonated with them and their ranks grew exponentially into millions.
Nobody thought it properly to engage them. From 2009 up until 2015 when he was arrested in a Lagos hotel, our regional leaders didn’t see any reason to present the truth to the federal Government:
That the suffocating unitary structure, absence of critical infrastructure in the region and delay or refusal to engage the agitators were actually fuelling the agitation. Nnamdi’s arrest in 2015 and the style of governance at the centre at the time greatly blew up the agitation.
Nnamdi soon became the new face of the agitation, displacing Ralph. Again, those who should seriously address the root cause of the agitation chose rather to look away and erroneously called them “corruption fighting back”.
Grave mistakes on all sides.
The agitators continued to recruit new members and swell their numbers.
Truth is, believers in their gospel of seccesion grew into hundreds of thousands over the years simply because the root cause of their grievances have never been addressed by any administration, instead the unhealthy divisions widened, the dichotomy deepened, the corruption in the land snowballed into a huge monster, electoral process bastardised, sectionalism, sectarianism, religious and ethnic bigotry grew worse, even as the future looked bleak, resulting to a loss of faith in the system.
Nothing was done to restore their faith in the system or reassure them that their fears would be addressed.
Instead of deploying non kinetic strategy in resolving the issues fuelling the agitation, the authorities and their advisers only chose military offensive in containing the agitation.
Emphasis was laid rather on frivolities and banalities, ( symptoms ) while totally ignoring the root causes, even as the little flicker of flame grew steadily into an uncontrollable inferno.
Sadly, twenty four years later, the motley crowd of young men Ralph Uwazurike gathered at his residence at 22 Ajidedidun Street, Agulejika in Lagos in September 1999, as he launched his MASSOB, watered and energised by Nnamdi Kanu’s daily broadcasts, grew into millions, hurt and offended by several Military Operations over the years, until they finally grew big enough to paralyze the entire region, to the point that politicians are now proudly bandying a handwritten letter from Nnamdi to help them put an end to the sit-at-home phenomenon.
A sad but public confirmation as to who is truly in charge of the region.
Yet nobody is talking about addressing the root cause of the agitation.
Every body seems only interested in the verbal tune of a certain young man in Finland.
It is not true that the agitation is about an individual.
Rather, refusal to address the root cause of the agitation in preference to hyping only the symptoms, is responsible for the sad situation in the land.
Truth is Ralph, Nnamdi and the fellow in Finland and infact future leaders of the agitation, are all exploiting and taking advantage of the frustration in the soul of millions of Easterners, especially the younger generation, who feel isolated, mistreated and disrespected since 1970.
The offensive unitary structure, the brazen oppresion of some sections and the winner-takes-all disposition of the central Government, will continue to make Easterners feel like permanent onlookers and eternal spectators in the Nigerian enterprise, which in turn inspires the fears that drive the agitation.
As long as compatriots refuse to devolve powers to the federating units, very few folks will continue to determine the destiny of over 200 million citizens, engendering fears of marginalisation and domination, inspiring agitation.
The centralised structure only encourages and enables bad governance and prebendalism.
Driving away millions into the diaspora, as economic refugees. Both the insecurity and sit-at-home crippling the region are consequences and symptoms of a much deeper malaise.
Yet, we seem only interested in tackling only the symptoms while dutifully ignoring the root cause of the agitation.
The feeling of rejection occasioned by acute deliberate marginalisation and oppression of the region since 1970, gave birth to the agitation.
Addressing this root problem, will better resolve the agitation. Let truth be told. Sit-at-home is consequence and symptom of the anger and frustration in the heart of aggrieved people.
Agitation itself is also a consequence and symptom of bitterness that has remained unaddressed since 1970.
Directing energy only on the wrong modus operandi of the agitators, pointing out their flaws and their sins, while dutifully ignoring the root cause of their anger and bitterness, has not resolved the agitation since 1999.
Several Operation Python Dance manoeuvres and it’s attendant fatalities only inspired the agitators to sadly set up their own militia, convulating the crisis.
I do not endorse the agitation nor do I approve their style.
But the marginalisation is real and the constant humiliation they experience grants them followership.
When will we face the truth, that resolution and closure will remain difficult to attain, until we begin to address the root cause, in search of lasting solution.
When do we realise that addressing only the consequences or symptoms of a malaise whilst dutifully ignoring the foundational cause of the disease, is unhelpful.
Addressing the foundation of the grievances, will better resolve the agitation.The people of the region feel isolated. They are genuinely aggreived over the mistreatment of the region, less number of local Government councils, less number of states, fewer legislators etc, all deliberately designed to deny them justice and fairness.
We have attacked the symptoms for 24 years. When will the country begin to address the root cause of the frustration and bitterness that inspired the agitation.
Evangelist Elliot Ugochukwu-Uko is the founder of Igbo Youth Movement (IYM); Secretary, Eastern Consultative Assembly (ECA), and Deputy Secretary, Igbo Leaders of Thought (ILT)