The Political Implications Of IPOB Agitations For Referendum And Nigeria Government Responsiveness
The Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) is a separatist group that agitates for self-determination of their people. Studies have shown that agitations of different groups in countries of the world do have effects on the political stability of the countries involved (Shehu, Othman & Osman 2017; Ugo, Ukpere & Ashiwhobel, 2012).
The effects on countries may be positive or negative. The way the country is affected will largely depend on the strategies the groups have adopted in their agitations and the nature of government’s responses towards the agitating groups. Every group has its reasons for agitating for self-determination. Ojukwu (1989) argues that self-determination becomes the norm when the right possessed by a group of people to make a choice that works for them concerning the way and by the person they desired to lead them is taken away from them.
The Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) are pro-Biafran group that agitates for self-determination from the Nigerian government. The group agitates for self-determination from the Nigerian State for the independence of the Biafra Republic. It is worthy of note that the Republic of Biafra was a secessionist state which existed during the period of Civil War in South-Eastern Nigeria between the period of 30 May 1967 and 15 January 1970 which undoubtedly affected economic activities (Nafziger, 1972). Amnesty International (2016) has submitted that IPOB has utilized its London-based Radio Biafra Station in reaching out to a lot of their dissatisfied youths and that Nnamdi Kanu, being the IPOB leader and the Radio Biafra Director, has made use of the station in reaching out to supporters both within and outside the country.
The agitations of IPOB the group and all the strategies used cannot be separated from the political stability of Nigeria. As observed by Obasi (2017), the use of force by President Muhammadu Buhari in responding to the IPOB’s agitations has not been productive as it inflames passion and increases people’s sentiments on separation that may eventually lead to political instability. The Nigerian army’s invasion of Nnamdi Kanu’s home happened 24 hours after it announced the commencement of its operation Python Dance (Part Two) in the South-Eastern states (Ogbonnaya-Ikokwu, 2017).
The IPOB leader’s home invasion has not brought any peace between the agitators and the Nigerian government. As made known by Adonu (2018), some Biafrans were taken away and killed in cold blood without any cause at the time of September 2017 operation’s Python Dance and they have not been buried until now. Similarly, the rally organized in honor of Donald Trump’s victory resulted into violence leading to 11 deaths and injuries of many (BBC news, 2017).
The Nigerian federal government has gone ahead to proscribe IPOB and designate them a terrorist group through a court judgment. According to a report by Scannews (2018), on the 20th of September 2017, Justice Kafarati with an order proscribed IPOB and designated it a terrorist group upon an ex parte application by the attorney general of the federation and minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami. Declaring the group a terrorist group implies that the group from now will be handled as terrorists by the security forces if they should be found gathering or engaging in any of their activities (Gabriel, Agbakwuru, Yakubu & Agbo, 2017)
One other implication is that anyone found guilty of belonging to IPOB, could be made to serve 20 years in prison when convicted and as provided by section 2 (3) (i) of the terrorism (prevention) acts 2011: a person who belongs to a proscribed organization commits an offence under this Act and shall on conviction be liable to imprisonment for a maximum term of 20 years (Obiejesi, 2018, p.1).
The question that bothers the mind presently is, whether there is a relationship between IPOB’s agitations for self-determination and the responses of the federal government of Nigeria? And then, what are the implications for political stability with respect to the relationship between IPOB’s agitations for self-determination and the responses of the federal government of Nigeria? The present study unravels different ways the Nigerian government has responded to the group (IPOB) on their agitations for self-determination. The study also avails more information on how the agitation of IPOB has affected political stability in Nigeria. The research reveals the different ways the Nigerian government has responded to the group (IPOB) on their agitations for self-determination. Additionally, through this inquiry, contributions are made on how the Nigerian government can be aided in the formulation of policies on how to handle agitating groups and how to ensure that there is a minimal number of agitating groups in the country thereby maintaining political stability in the country. The paper is structured into five sections; introduction, literature review, theoretical framework, methodology, conclusion and recommendations.