Interrogating DSP's peace initiative in South East

Tue, May 14, 2024
By editor
10 MIN READ

Opinion

By Emmanuel Onwubiko 

FROM all perspectives,  politically, in national economy, infrastructures redistribution and national offices redistribution since the emergence of the erstwhile military despot Major General Muhammadu Buhari(rtd) as elected president in 2015 till even the current political dispensation,  the South East Region which is home to the Igbo speaking nationality that constitutes what is generally referred as one of the membership of the TRIPOD OF NIGERIA or the three majority Ethnicities, has had the shortest end of the stick. Whereas the North and South West have produced presidents of Nigeria many times over, the Igbos have never produced any executive president since independence. Even during the military interregnum,  the South West and North of Nigeria took turns to churn out military heads of state. But the South East never did. 

Apart from the so-called second Niger Bridge which crisscrossed Delta, and other South/South States of Akwa Ibom, Cross Rivers and Rivers, the immediate past government of Muhammadu Buhari denied the South East all her rights from all ramifications aforementioned. He, Buhari further inflicted deep wounds in the heart of South East by deploying armed goons to kill off suspected supporters and members of the Indigenous peoples of Biafra (IPOB), a popular group of youngsters advocating self government which is provided for by the INTERNATIONAL COVENANTS  ON CIVIL AND POLITICAL RIGHTS and also under the UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS both of which Nigeria has domesticated under chapter 4 of the constitution of the federal Republic of Nigeria of 1999, as amended. 

The coming to power of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu has escalated the deep marginalisation of the South East and has further pushed the Igbo race towards the precipice of neglect in terms of political positions with only peripheral appointments allocated to the over 60 million strong Igbo race of South East of Nigeria. 

The Igbo race that can boast of over 60 million Nigerians were only considered for the less fancied and non- chief executive parliamentary position of Deputy Speaker. 

These indicators of systemic and systematic marginalisation of Ndigbo were exactly what sparked off youths’ restiveness and agitations with a lot of Igbo youths expressing the opinion that since we are not considered as equal partners in the citizenship status of Nigeria, there is therefore the urgency of the now, to address the proper place of the Igbo people in the contemporary Nigerian political epich. 

Although most people from the South East do not back the outright agitation for separation (even though due to fear of the unknown they are silent about their choice),  the continuous scheming out of Igbo people from enjoying the dividends of democracy including strategic positions in the three arms of government, has become a very big challenge for the nationalistic minded Igbo people to defend their continuous unalloyed loyalty to the federal Republic of Nigeria.  

The pervasive issues confronting the Nigerian state have deeply troubled its citizens. Nigeria is blessed with abundant natural resources for economic development, yet many of its people live below the poverty line, highlighting a stark disparity between its potential and the well-being of its citizens.

Since independence, Nigeria’s politics has been plagued by instability despite numerous proposed solutions, risking its cohesion as a nation. While several government initiatives offer a framework for addressing the root causes of conflict, their effectiveness hinges on meaningful engagement, political will, and sustained commitment from governments, communities, and civil society. The intricate nature of Nigeria’s statehood within a complex and ever-evolving global landscape demands more innovative responses across political, economic, social, and cultural domains.

For example, Nigeria’s South East region has grappled with significant challenges of instability and insecurity, marked by various forms of attacks and killings in recent times. In the face of escalating violence and bloodshed in the South East region of Nigeria, the promises of peace and security seem more distant than ever. This was what may have informed the devision of the Deputy Speaker of Parliament (DSP) Benjamin Kalu to bring up an idea on how to use constructive dialogues and economic empowerment to bring about restoration of stability, security, normality and peace in the once peaceful and prosperous Igbo states of Anambra, Imo, Asia, Enugu, and not in anyway the least, Ebony state which now boasts of one of the most beautiful federal government controlled Airports.

The unveiling of what honorable Benjamin Kalu called the Peace in South East Project (PISE-P) was heralded as a beacon of hope, a non-kinetic approach to address the security challenges plaguing the region. However, as the months have passed since its inauguration in December, and with only a month remaining from the promised six-month timeline, it becomes increasingly evident that the initiative has failed to deliver on its lofty ambitions.

The stark reality of the situation cannot be overlooked. Despite the grand promises and high-profile endorsements, the South East continues to be engulfed in a wave of violence and insecurity. Since the launch of PISE-P, several disturbing incidents have occurred, underscoring the persistent security challenges faced by the region.

On April 28, 2024, suspected herders invaded the Nimbo community in the Uzo-Uwani Local Government Area of Enugu State, claiming the lives of at least four residents and exacerbating tensions in the area. Another tragic incident unfolded in Ebonyi State, where approximately 11 individuals, including a pregnant woman, were massacred, underscoring the severity of the security situation. Additionally, a fatal road accident on the Enugu/Opi/Nsukka Road resulted in the deaths of 17 travelers, highlighting broader safety concerns beyond intentional acts of violence.

Furthermore, security operatives allegedly raided the Igga community in the Uzo-Uwani Local Government Area of Enugu State, resulting in the death of a resident. The circumstances surrounding the raid remain unclear, raising questions about accountability and the rule of law.

The recent attack in Nsukka and Udenu local government areas of Enugu State, where gunmen killed three police officers and an FRSC official, serves as a grim reminder of the persistent insecurity gripping the region. Eyewitness accounts suggest that the assailants targeted a police division in Umabor Eha-Alumona and also attacked a police officer attached to a traditional ruler in Orba, Udenu Local Area. The wanton destruction of property, including the burning of an FRSC van, further underscores the audacity of the attackers and the precarious security situation in the region.

One cannot help but question the efficacy of the PISE-P initiative in the face of such rampant violence. Despite the grandiose promises of peace and reconciliation, the reality on the ground tells a different story. The initiative, spearheaded by the Deputy Speaker, was touted as a magic wand to end the bloodshed and restore stability to the region. However, as the death toll continues to rise and communities live in fear, it becomes increasingly clear that the initiative has failed to live up to its promises.

The six-month timeline set by the Deputy Speaker has come and gone, yet the region remains mired in insecurity. The gap between rhetoric and reality has never been more glaring. What went wrong? Why has the promise of peace remained elusive despite the acclaimed best efforts of the PISE-P initiative? These are questions that demand answers.

Given the ongoing violence and instability in the South East, it is imperative to critically evaluate the effectiveness of initiatives like PISE-P. Despite assurances from high-ranking officials, including the Vice President, representing the President, the region continues to grapple with security challenges, casting doubt on the efficacy of these interventions.

One cannot help but wonder if the PISE-P initiative was nothing more than a political gimmick, a superficial attempt to appease the masses without addressing the root causes of the conflict. The emphasis on non-kinetic means may have been well-intentioned, but it appears to have fallen short in the face of entrenched violence and deep-seated grievances.

Moreover, the lack of tangible results from the initiative raises serious questions about its elitist nature. While political heavyweights and business magnates gather to praise the initiative, ordinary citizens continue to bear the brunt of the violence. The disconnect between the lofty ambitions of the initiative and the harsh realities faced by ordinary people is stark and troubling.

In this context, while efforts to promote education, economic development, and reconciliation are commendable, they must be complemented by broader structural reforms and a genuine commitment to addressing the underlying drivers of conflict.

One critical aspect of any effective peace-building initiative is the active involvement of local communities and stakeholders. The PISE-P failure is a lack of prioritization of community engagement, dialogue, and participatory decision-making processes to ensure that interventions are contextually relevant and responsive to the needs and aspirations of those affected by conflict.

As we reflect on the state of insecurity in the South East, it is clear that a more holistic approach is needed. The PISE-P initiative, with its focus on non-kinetic means, may have its merits, but it is not a panacea for the region’s woes. Addressing the root causes of the conflict, empowering communities, and fostering genuine dialogue and reconciliation are essential if lasting peace is to be achieved.

Furthermore, the inaction of state governments in the face of escalating violence is deeply concerning. While the Deputy Speaker claims the PISE-P initiative is well-intentioned, it cannot substitute for the responsibility of elected officials to protect the lives and property of their citizens. The lack of consideration or regard for the initiative by state governments only serves to exacerbate the crisis.

There is a disconnect between the approach of state governments and the proposed solutions advocated by the Deputy Speaker’s initiative. While Kalu emphasizes the importance of non-kinetic means and dialogue, state governors resort to punitive measures and retaliatory rhetoric. This discordance highlights a lack of synergy and cooperation among key stakeholders in addressing the root causes of the insecurity in the South East.

Moving forward, there is an urgent need for concerted action to address the root causes of conflict and insecurity in the South East. This necessitates a comprehensive approach that combines security measures with socio-economic development initiatives, community engagement, and dialogue. Moreover, there must be accountability and transparency in addressing allegations of human rights abuses and extrajudicial killings perpetrated by security forces.

The effectiveness of any peace-building initiative hinges on meaningful engagement, political will, and sustained commitment from governments, communities, and civil society. By addressing the underlying drivers of insecurity, promoting trust and cooperation between stakeholders, and harnessing the collective efforts of all actors, we can chart a path towards lasting peace and stability in the region. The time to act is now.

In conclusion, the promises of peace and security in the South East remain unfulfilled, despite the grandiose pledges of the PISE-P initiative. The Deputy Speaker’s six-month timeline is almost gone, yet the region continues to be plagued by violence and insecurity. It is time for a more honest and comprehensive approach to addressing the root causes of the conflict and restoring stability to the region. Only then can the people of the South East truly hope for a brighter and more peaceful future.

***Emmanuel Onwubiko is head of the HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA and was a NATIONAL COMMISSIONER of the NATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION OF NIGERIA.

A.

-May 14, 2024 @ 16:54 GMT|

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