MASSOB Leader: Before The Court Date

From the beginning of time, a leader has always been that person who has the wherewithal to exercise a positive influence on the thoughts, actions and behavior of other people.

But what that positive influence means visàvis Chief Uwazurike in the political history of Nigeria, is still a controversial one.

It is no longer hidden that the Indian trained lawyer and Ghandist has adorned a Christ-like image in Nigeria. The attendant messianic appeal of his message has endeared him to the oppressed, the activists and by default, the highest throne one can ever imagine in Igboland.

To the millions of Ndigbo and many Nigerians, he is nothing less than a peaceful revolutionary whose gospel of non-violent change is something that must be hearkened to. Like Benazir Bhutto, Nelson Mandela and Dr. Martin Luther King, Chief Uwazurike is apparently buoyed by his just beliefs, and the fact that he represents an important segment of the society. In this wise, martyrdom to him, was an honorable exit. Something he cannot just wait to happen.

But again, the synopsis of his demands was that which many thinkers believe would not break the hands of the Federal Government of Nigeria if she is that honest in satisfying the needs of Uwazurike’s constituency. Just as the government has shown that there is a limit to what she can take from Uwazurike, so do Uwazurike and his constituency believe that they have exhausted their patience since 1970, waiting for the federal government to treat them like major stake holders in Nigeria.

There is no gain saying the fact that the majority of Ndigbo would prefer a united one Nigeria to a separate Biafra Republic. And to this, however, pundits like me would agree that the resurrection of the name Biafra was a facade to pressurize the authorities to right the wrongs meted to them. Uwazurike’s demands from Nigeria which includes but not limited to the equal representation of the Igbo on issues of federal-character, can only testify to the opening which he has left for negotiations.
The importance of a political stable Nigeria cannot not be over emphasized. The sooner the stalemate is resolved, the better for the wholesome development of an emerging nation such as Nigeria. The government don’t need to be lectured on the perils of
having two pressure groups such as MASSOB and the armed Niger Delta Rebels, all in a common geographical location. Worse still, operating in the seven of her eight crude oil producing states. A situation which is detrimental to her strategic out-look.

Apart from the diminishing capacity of the crude oil production which stems from the current unrest in the delta, the nation will continue to fail in its bid to attract the necessary direct foreign investments commensurate with her potentials. Nigeria has gotten to a stage where the ratio of the foreign interests in our extractive industry would be competing with that of the job-creating manufacturing sector.

But this hasn’t happened. And one of the reasons is that business organizations around the globe who knows their onions do include SWOT analysis in their strategic planning. And when such is carried out in respect of investing in Nigeria, the tendency is that Nigeria will fail the test. Though subjective, the board of many foreign business organizations will avoid Nigeria as a result of threats of political instability. Making the country mostly lucrative for the easy pack-and-go extractive investors.

In this case, neither Chief Uwazurike nor the federal government of Nigeria‘s ego is bruised. Not yet. This is the right time for the parties to listen to one another. I should hope that the last council of state meeting, whose communique indicated the opening of a communication channel with Uwazurike, would be more serious about the issue. The caliber of its members, I suppose, are those that have the power to influence a sitting government policies.

Returning him to the jail house at the expiration of his “temporary bail” will not be a smart move. The goal of incarcerating someone is to punish and deter the person from repeating the acts that prompted the incarceration. But, in this case, the seeds must be separated from the chaffs. This is not the case of a common criminal. It is an agitation backed by International law, and to which the tide of public opinion, has gradually transcended ethnic lines in favor of the man in question. It is interesting to watch respectable Nigerians coming out lately to speak on his behalf.

To send him back to the prison may usher in a new political force with the semblance of Aung San Suu Kyi of Burma or Nelson Mandela of South Africa. And likely is that the whole thing could turn out a distracting, sustained and emotionally charged atmosphere that the government may find difficult to find allies. Happy new year!

Written by
Ossie Ezeaku
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