Is IPOB, AgovC Alliance a Terrorism Ploy? By Zubaida Baba Ibrahim
The assassination of a prominent northern politician and former presidential aide to Goodluck Jonathan, Ahmed Gulak in Imo state was allegedly carried out by suspected Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) militant as confirmed by the police.
Alarming as it may be, the paradox of it all is almost poetic that on the day of Gulak’s assassination, pro-Biafra fans trended #Ozoemena meaning ‘May it never happen again’ for Biafra remembrance day, flaying the alleged ills of the Nigerian government against them.
Concurrently, it is the fervent attacks by unknown gunmen and pro-Biafra groups that has become more rampant in the southeast, and let’s not forget that IPOB is already establishing alliances with other foreign interest.
On Friday the 9th of April 2021, the leader of proscribed IPOB, Nnamdi Kanu, alongside the leader of the Ambazonia Governing Council (AgovC) also known as Cameroon Separatist, in a joint press conference announced their coming together as allies.
Though Kanu maintains that the alliance is for both groups to exchange weaponry and personnel to defend themselves and pursue their common separatist goal, it does not take twenty-twenty vision to see that both parties could pose serious threats to either Nation’s security.
To understand their reprehensible motives, it is appropriate to go into a bit of a backstory.
In Nigeria, after two failed military coups, the Igbos came together to form the secessionist state of Biafra which sparked off a two-year civil war from 1967 to 1970 during which the Nigerian Military imposed a siege of the eastern region. This caused over 2 million civilians to perish of starvation.
These casualties led the state of Biafra to eventually surrender to the Federal Government, lodging a lump in the throats of pro-Biafran activists which continues to harden.
Likewise, in Cameroon, abhorrence dating back to 1961 based on claims of marginalization by francophone citizens that make up to 80% of the country, armed separatist groups are fighting tooth and nail to carve out the nation’s English speaking regions to form a free-standing state named Ambazonia.
The IPOB and the Anglophones in Cameroon have a common history of secessionist tendencies and are coincidentally geographically situated at both sides of the Nigeria/Cameroon border. Adding to that, their longing for autonomy has made both groups separately grow in violence.
While analyzing both groups I couldn’t help but notice a pattern in their attacks especially since 2021 begun. The assailing of law enforcement agencies is one that has been noted.
Citing examples with recent events, in early April 2021 armed men of the pro-Biafra group attacked a prison in Imo state which is in the southeastern region and abetted the escape of about 1800 inmates who allegedly attacked police stations and security personnel.
Correspondingly, in Cameroon, Anglophone separatists intensified attacks against the Nation’s security forces using improvised bombs to target military convoys in at least 30 different attacks in the past four months.
The two secessionist groups claim they are nothing like their ‘subjugators’ when they are in fact on the way of becoming worse. The widespread havoc these separatists could beget is alluding to other similar alliances.
Let’s take Boko Haram’s emulation of the foreign terrorist group, Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in excessive violence. This resulted in Abubakar Shekau, the leader of Boko Haram, to eventually state its allegiance to ISIS in 2015.
This two groups’ inception renovated Boko Haram’s ability to carry out daytime and nighttime attacks with promising success. Apart from that, there are also several comparable terrorists and criminal alliances from all over the West African region that can be referred to.
The escalation of insecurity in Nigeria that stems up from economic marginalization; ethnic/religious intolerance; corrupt practices; bad governance; unemployment and poverty has resulted in insurgency in the Northeast, militancy in the Niger delta area, and agitation in the Southeast, youth restiveness in the Southwest.
That is not to say that taking new counter-terrorism measures is hopeless.
The general concept of counter-terrorism in Nigeria is surrendered to the hands of the Nigerian Military who are presumed to have the best training as counter-terrorist. Meanwhile, they only apply physical reproof and lack other logical strategic approaches to reap positive solutions to insurgency.
It is sad to say that the Nigerian Military does not really conform to modern warfare and has been denounced as human rights violators by several organizations.
Nonetheless, there are a number of recommended policies that can be used in Nigeria for counter-terrorism.
The welfare of operatives is number one. Proper welfare package that includes fighting tools, vehicles, combat gadgets to lower casualty levels should be arranged for the workers to keep them dedicated.
Secondly, counter-terrorism factions can also be created where not only the military but other law enforcement agencies and selected occupants of terrorism-prone areas can synergize. This way vital information can be shared and basic approach can be exercised in dealing with terror attacks.
In addition, upgrading operatives’ knowledge in terrorism and modern counter-terrorism tactics. This would give them a better understanding that fruitful strategies can be more advantageous than combat and deadly force though it is also welcomed when protecting lives and properties.
When these are put in place, the government must put a stop to these asinine negotiations with terrorists and bandits that eventually lead to transfer of funds to them and their agents. This method of mediation only strengthens their criminal operations.
Presently in Nigeria, insecurity is slowly becoming the country’s insignia. Not a day goes by without reported cases of villages being ransacked and burnt, innocuous citizens being killed, students being abducted from schools and kidnappings of all sorts.
It is only appropriate for the government to earnestly tackle this alliance before it adds to the security nightmare in the country.
Zubaida Baba Ibrahim
Wuye District, Abuja