This study focused on instituting a systematic mediation process in addressing the stand-off between the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and the Nigerian government. The rationale of the study was to create a deliberate awareness that will help the country navigate a systematic approach to resolve conflicts that could arise in the future. The study undertakes an analytical inquiry, through desk review into the possible options that could be considered. Drawing from the findings made, the need to engage a comprehensive framework to process conflict cases and journey through them is proffered.
On 8, August 2019, the former Deputy Senate President of Nigeria, Ike Ekweremadu, was attacked by the members of IPOB on his way for the second Igbo Cultural Festival in Iri Ji Nuremberg, Germany. The group claimed that he was instrumental in instigating the government to send in the military operations to attack the members of IPOB. This response only followed the number of serial confrontations the government had with the group. The rise of IPOB has been linked to the first conflict that broke out in 1967, between the Nigerian state and Biafra that lasted three years (1967-1970). The declaration of the Republic of Biafra was premised on the promise that the Nigerian state could not guarantee the security of the Igbos and other easterners, especially in the north (Duruji 2012, 535-536).
IPOB AND STATE RESPONSE
The remnants of Biafra gave birth to the baby popularly called IPOB – Indigenous People of Biafra. Its re-emergence for self-determination cannot be disconnected from the developments in post-war Nigeria. The post-war leaders of Nigeria needed to fulfill their commitment to end corruption, anti-democratic governance style, political and socio-economic marginalisation, ethnic intolerance, widespread poverty, mass unemployment, insecurities, national treasury looting, money laundering, electoral manipulation, weak institutions, and corrupt justice systems (Taiwo 2017, 54).
IPOB was remade around the 2000s but made national news headlines as Biafra proponents secessionist group in 2015, led by Nnamdi Kanu. It found its motivation through the resurgence of ethnic rivalry, tussles and killings across the country by Fulani herdsmen, known to have had their origins from the northern part of the country (Taiwo 2017, 55). The herdsmen within the few years have encroached into territories beyond the north, unjustly killing many people without any action by the present government who has refused to caution them to renounce their onslaught.
Consequently, IPOBs agitation would seem legal following the UN charter that guarantees indigenous people the right of self-determination, non-violently. since then, IPOB has been accused by the Nigerian government for steering conflict and conducting itself violently. The Nigerian government proscribed it as a terrorist group against popular opinion while refusing to declare Fulani herdsmen as a terrorist group despite its unrelenting killings across the country as different schools of thought have expressed.
A number of the instruments at the international level, like the International Center for Ethno-Religious Mediation (ICERM), United Nations Political and Peacebuilding Affairs (UNPPA), the African Union Mediation Unit (AUMU), are not symbolic structures, but practical instruments that could help to attend to issues before they breakdown. While we do not justify the violence exhibited by members of IPOB, mediation does not happen by imagination, governments must employ sufficient assistance, with the help of experts to douse the tensions and position-based arguments or agitations to interest-based approaches. The clamping down on media, the indiscriminate arrest of IPOB members, and its leaders are not civil approaches that represent the dignity of a holistic approach. The UN approach of inclusivity, consent among others should help governments prepare to understand the root causes of the agitation, which often are not unfounded in the visualisation of the needs of the group that were ignored for a long time. By now, the government should have modeled many of her interventions around the framework of well-established mediating institutions, once they are suppressed, they resurface at a later time with unimaginable proportion.
The practice of reactionary machinery that has characterised many challenges will only leave the country more desolate. The country needs to move away from the resolve of force and military strength as Eliasson reminds us that, in today’s world, strength is economic strength, well-distributed; strength is social cohesion according to my values, equal values of everybody. Nations will be judged by how they deal with the vulnerable and weak.
Duruji, Moses Metumara. “Two Nigerian Ethnonationality Movements: A Comparison of the
OPC and MASSOB,” Studies in Ethnicity and Nationalism, 12(2012): 534-549.
Eliasson, Jan. Peace-making under the United Nations Flag: Reflections on a Quarter Century of Mediation. https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=3499&v=GiQXte28eOA. Assessed October 5, 2019.
Taiwo, Bello. “No Peace Ahead?: Biafra Chanters and the Nation on a Brink,” The
International Journal of Humanities and Social Studies, 5 (2017): 54-62.