Opinion | What is IPOB strategy? ~ By Tochukwu Ezukanma
So, despite its inability to defeat Israel, it also lost its international credibility; it was ostracized as a “terrorist” organization by the governments of the most important countries of the world
The word “strategy”, has a military origin. For simplicity, it can be defined as a planned or mapped out technique or approach for achieving a given objective or goal. In its struggle against Israeli continued occupation of Palestine, the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) has a strategy. In its resistance against Apartheid South Africa, the African National Council (ANC) had a strategy. The Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB)’s neo-Biafranism is a colorful, melodramatic and media-savvy, but purposeless, movement. Not surprisingly, it has no articulated objectives, and consequently, no strategy.
Earlier, in its fight against Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, in defiance of United Nations Resolution 242, the PLO adopted a strategy of unrestrained guerrilla warfare against Israel, including indiscriminate attacks on civilian targets. The strategy proved ineffective because, although it unsettled Israel, it could not defeat Israel, even if it is sustained and intensified for decades. Essentially, it backfired because it portrayed the PLO as a terrorist organization.
So, despite its inability to defeat Israel, it also lost its international credibility; it was ostracized as a “terrorist” organization by the governments of the most important countries of the world. Consequently, the PLO changed its strategy. It backpedaled on its guerrilla warfare. It embraced diplomacy, and burnished its international image; it became diplomatically relevance. This was the precursor to the botched President Bill Clinton brokered peace agreement between the PLO leader, Yasser Arafat, and the Israeli Prime, Minister Yitzhak Rabin in year, 2000.
In its fight against Apartheid South Africa, the ANC had a strategy. Having learnt from the mistakes of the PLO, it focused on building a global diplomatic and economic alliance against Apartheid South Africa. Although it periodically launched guerrilla attacks within South Africa to impress the restive masses of Black South Africans, its fixation remained on shocking the conscience of the world with the evils of Apartheid. After nearly two decades of painstaking labor, the ANC anti-Apartheid campaign had successfully troubled the conscience of the world with the horrors of Apartheid.
Appalled by the atrociousness of Apartheid, the global community rallied against Apartheid South Africa. Anti-Apartheid movements sprouted across the world amongst students unions, labor unions, corporations, human right organizations, governments, etc. Many countries broke diplomatic ties with South Africa, and corporations, universities, governments, etc. disinvested from South Africa. Finally, the Apartheid government buckled under the weight of this encircling international economic and diplomatic pressure; it consigned Apartheid to the heaps of history.
Unlike the PLO and ANC, the IPOB has no legitimate grievance. Consequently, it cannot genuinely rouse the world conscience against the Nigerian government. Therefore, it found psychological refuge in falsehood and cheap propaganda. Its trumped up allegations against the Nigerian government, like the enslavement of the Igbo and ongoing extermination of the Igbo in Nigeria, are resounding nonsense; they ring hollow in international circles. The global community realizes that, like most Third World countries, Nigeria is muddling its way through the 21st Century; and by Third World standards and within the limits of human frailties; Nigeria works for every Nigerian. There are tribalism and ethnic injustices in Nigeria, and no particular ethnic group is totally innocent of these vices.
As such, the IPOB agitation for an independent Biafra is strictly a Nigerian internal affair; it does not elicit the concern and attention of the international community. Ostensibly, IPOB’s goal is the creation of an independent Biafra through a referendum. It is the prerogative of the Nigerian government to hold such a referendum. Similar referendums were held by the governments of Canada and Britain for separatist regions .
The Nigerian constitution has no provision for such a referendum. Therefore, the first step towards a referendum on Biafran independence is making a constitutional provision for a referendum. Ordinarily, IPOB should have focused on making the federal government amenable to holding a referendum on Biafran independence, and nudging the National Assembly towards a constitutional amendment that will allow for a referendum. Paradoxically, IPOB is working against these two objectives. It incites violence, breaks the laws, and antagonizes the Nigerian government. As such, IPOB has been proscribed as a terrorist organization by the Nigerian government. How then can the referendum hold?
The earlier attempt to create Biafra between 1967 and 1970 was made impossible by a number of factors: the reluctance of the ethnic minorities of Eastern Region to be part of an Igbo dominated country; the commitment of the federal government and the generality of Nigerians to Nigerian unity; the opposition of African countries, as represented by the Organization of Africa (OAU), to secession in general, and Biafra, in particular; and the opposition of the British and American governments to the dismemberment of Nigeria. The political and geo-political dynamics that made the earlier attempt at Biafra impossible have not only remained in place, but have been reinforced over the decades. Therefore, Biafranism remains a senseless and fruitless enterprise that can only bring the Igbo death, pains and sorrow.
Nnamdi Kanu and his senior lieutenants know there cannot be a country, Biafra. However, Biafran activism makes them relevant and makes them very rich. So, the object of Kanu’s continued agitation for Biafra is not to achieve Biafran independence but to retain his mesmeric sway on his followers, which, in turn, builds his financial empire. Not surprisingly, his speeches are not strategic. They are tendentious rubbish – gossips and trivialities – that resonate with his credulous and deluded followers. He gossips about Babangida and his late wife, Miriam, and Jubril from Sudan; and prattles about other trifling issues about Aso Rock. His speeches are a truculent blend of falsehood, incitements and insults. They nauseate discerning minds but enthrall his ignorant and confused followers.
To his followers, he postures as a statesman promoting the Biafra cause among European and American presidents and prime ministers and international bureaucrats at the United Nations and European Union. One salient element of diplomatic protocol is reciprocity. Governments negotiate with governments, presidents meet with presidents, foreign minister, with foreign ministers, etc. There is neither a country, Biafra, nor a government, government of Biafra, anywhere in the world. The UN is an association of sovereign nations. Kanu represents no sovereign nation. He is a fugitive, running away from the law of his country. In addition, his speeches are vulgar, virulent and provocative. Invariably, they outrage the civilized and genteel sensibilities that populate the United Nations, European Union and the corridors of power in Western countries. So, on his “diplomatic” trips, who do you think this Nigerian fugitive meets with?
Although his propagandists attempt to cast him as hobnobbing with the powers that be on his “diplomatic trips”, he cannot meet with any worthy member of any government or international organization. The central question remains how does IPOB’s posturing, lies and propagandistic distortions advance the prospects of a referendum on Biafran independence?
Tochukwu Ezukanma writes from Lagos, Nigeria.