Over the last few years in Nigeria, ethnic and tribal jingoists have roamed free threatening the peace and unity of the country, by inciting hatred and using irresponsible statements capable of pitching different ethnic groups against one another, and we dare say, setting the nation on fire. The dramatis personae cut across the three major ethnic groups in the country, and the state has either ignored them, or subtly given backing to them, when it suits government.
Nnamdi Kanu, leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) on several occasions has called for killings of a particular group of people, and even government officials, through regular broadcasts via an illegal channel, Radio Biafra. He has even called for the killing and beheading of people and their families. Regularly, via these broadcast he speaks using vile words, spewing out invectives capable of provoking his kinsmen to act in anger against other ethnic groups in the country.
Kanu preaches bloodshed and encourages people to harbour ill will against one another. His outlawed IPOB, invariably spurred by their misdirected leader, has gone from a peaceful group to a band of blood-seeking marauders tainting the Biafra struggle.
While running from the law, Kanu has relocated with his family to the United Kingdom and continues to whip up sentiments with a view to inciting violence.
In one of such recent broadcasts, he called for the head of a sitting governor and placed a bounty on him to be taken dead or alive. While calling for the killing of security agents, he also called for assets of politicians viewed as being corrupt to be targeted in protests, an act which many believed incited misguided youths to loot and burn properties and investments of some politicians during the #EndSARS crisis.
On the opposite side, one Grandson Adeyinka, another UK-based Nigerian, in a recent video circulated online and on social media issued a 48-hour ultimatum to Igbos living in the South-West to leave the region, while calling on Yorubas to mete out jungle justice to any Igbo person found in their domain after the expiration of the deadline.
It is noteworthy that in August 2019, Adeyinka was arrested in London for reportedly stirring racial discrimination against the Igbo and Fulani ethnic groups and also “encouraging terrorism”. Yet he continues to preach hatred, seemingly ignored by government which hopes he’ll go away if he is paid no heed.
From the northern axis, many Nigerians will not forget in a hurry how a group, the Northern Youth Coalition handed down the now infamous three-month quit notice to Igbos living in the northern region. Chairman of the coalition, Nastura Shariff, in company of the National President of Arewa Consultative Youth Forum, Shettima Yerima, told journalists in Kaduna that the quit notice was just an aspect of many other demands they had made, and would not guarantee the safety of any person of Igbo descent found in the north after the quit notice expired.
Sadly, the call by the northern group was a counter move aimed at ‘balancing’ a call to violence by Kanu, and Shariff later claimed they had “presented recorded video evidence where Nnamdi Kanu called for genocide like what happened in Rwanda”.
Even when a human rights activist, Femi Falana cautioned on the danger of their speeches and actions, Yerima claimed he was protecting the interests of his people and that he had the support from his northern elders. Interestingly, the claim may have been true as neither the northern elders, nor governments from the north spoke out openly against the submissions of the coalition.
Asides moves by government to prosecute Kanu after he was arrested and arraigned, much effort has not been spent to rein in these characters seeking to create animosity among Nigerians, and set the stage for full blown violent ethnic confrontations.
Reports had emerged sometime ago of the Nigerian government setting works in motion to petition the United Kingdom (UK) over the inciting audio recordings of the IPOB leader. The move, however, seems to have been slowed by the usual government bureaucracies, as there has been no word in this direction again.
We support moves aimed at getting host countries of individuals calling for violence and tribal clashes in Nigeria to be apprehended and prosecuted. And, while calling on government to speed up the process, concerned authorities equally need to fine tune strategies aimed at ending the shenanigans of other ethnic rascals within and outside the country, who keep spreading hate speech and encouraging violence in Nigeria.
It is gladdening to know that a number of prominent Nigerians from different sides of the divide continue to condemn the acts and words of these unpatriotic individuals and groups whose seeming sole intention is to set Nigerians against themselves and create an atmosphere of fear and violence.
We encourage Nigerians to ignore these rascals always using abusive words to describe fellow patriots, or playing on their sentiments to make them hate Nigerians from any other part of the country. Nigeria is what it is because of the diversity of the people and the different tribes. This is its strength, not weakness to be used to set it on fire.
We also call on the Nigerian government and relevant agencies to continuously enlighten the citizenry to the dangers of listening to people and groups whose stock-in-trade is spreading fear, and using hate speeches to paint other people in bad light. Government also needs to do more to encourage unity among Nigerians by formulating policies and programmes that continuously give Nigerians from different ethnic groups more reason to want to live together in peace.
Promoting tribalism and divisive ethnic sentiments will do Nigeria no good.
Finally, we challenge the country’s burgeoning social media influencers to rise and push for unity and peace. We reckon how disappointed they are with government but this is about rebuilding Nigeria for greatness, and it is a collective task. Government also needs to court these set of mostly young Nigerians, instead of seeing them as enemies in the Nigerian project.
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