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  • Ekweremadu's Assault and the Dynamics of Revolution - By Omoshola Deji

  • The assault of Nigeria’s former Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu in Germany is unsurprising, but
    shocking. Unsurprising because it’s certain Nigerians would revolt against their leaders misrule someday. It is
    shocking because many never envisaged such could happen now, and in this manner. The popular support, but
    low turnout at Omoyele Sowore’s Revolution Now protest, and the fading outcry for his release is a pointer that
    Nigerians want a revolution, but are reluctant to revolt.
    Aside shocking the reluctant populace, Ekweremadu’s assault also stunned the revolution vanguards. Most
    never imagined any tribe could, at this moment in time, revolt against the same leaders they have been
    programed to exalt and defend irrationally. Is revolution taking a new, unexpected dimension? Departing the
    long occupied arena of inter-ethnic confrontations for home?
    Ekweremadu is the leading political figure of the Igbo ethnic group. He was Nigeria’s Deputy Senate President
    for three consecutive terms (2007-2019). Ekweremadu comes next to the late Alex Ekwueme, Nigeria’s first
    elected Vice-President (1979-1983). Ekwueme and ex-President Shehu Shagari’s government was deposed in
    1983 by retired Major General Muhammadu Buhari, Nigeria’s incumbent President.
    At the invitation of the Igbo community in Germany, Ekweremadu was in Nurnberg to deliver a keynote
    address at the Ndi Igbo Second Annual Cultural (new yam) Festival. He was denied entry to the event by irate
    members of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), the Igbo secessionist group led by Nnamdi Kanu, a
    fugitive wanted for jumping bail to hide abroad after the military unjustly invaded his home. Kanu is
    undergoing trial for treason at the Federal High Court in Abuja. The Nigerian government proscribed IPOB,
    declaring it a terrorist organization in 2017.
    On the instruction of Kanu, IPOB on 17 August, 2019 attacked and tore Ekweremadu’s cloth for allegedly not
    advancing the course of Igbo independence and not condemning the killing of his people by Fulani herdsmen.
    In all fairness, Ekweremadu couldn’t have done much, being an opposition figure. He spoke against the
    Military’s Operation Python Dance in Igbo land, but apparently not as vehement as IPOB wanted. Ekweremadu
    was being cautious. Defending IPOB fervently would have set him against the northern senators who are largely
    in support of the military invasion and IPOB’s proscription. Not playing along could have resulted in his
    removal as Deputy Senate President.

    It would have also put him at loggerheads with the federal government. The President’s intolerance to criticisms
    would make him unleash his attack dogs against Ekweremadu. He would have been terribly harassed, arraigned
    on trumped-up charges and incarcerated. Nigerians won’t be surprised if Buhari arraign him for sponsoring
    treason and a proscribed organization. The circumstance surrounding the condition at the time puts
    Ekweremadu at a crossroads: to either pick ‘self’ or ‘us’. He settled for ‘self’ as most of the IPOB members that
    assaulted him would have done.
    Kanu also picked ‘self’ over ‘us’ by abandoning the secession struggle at the most crucial time. Many of the
    hundreds of families who lost lives and properties are still grieving to date. They surely aren’t happy that Kanu
    brainwashed their loved ones to fight a battle he has no capacity to win. If those affected are Lustitia, their
    sword won’t spare Kanu for taking cover abroad after destabilizing the polity. He may neither be contacting the
    bereaved nor providing them support. If that’s the case, then it is unreasonable for IPOB to assault Ekweremadu
    for a wrong Kanu is also guilty of.
    The southeast governors are more deserving of IPOB’s intimidation than Ekweremadu. They were
    conspiratorially silent when the python was dancing and IPOB was being proscribed. They failed to speak
    despite being immune from the incarceration and prosecution Buhari is using to silence critics. Be that as it
    may, the governors’ silence may not be unconnected with Kanu’s personalization of the secession struggle and
    uncouth utterances. He singlehandedly issued sit-at-home orders and called for the boycott of elections. This
    didn’t sit well with the politicians and Ohaneze Ndigbo, the leading Igbo socio-cultural group. Ekweremadu is
    just a lone voice among these persons. He cannot order them to do his bidding.
    But then, one cannot exonerate Ekweremadu of blame. Ekweremadu is elected to represent his constituency and
    region, not himself. If the wish of the Igbo majority, as it seems then, is to secede, it is Ekweremadu’s
    responsibility to interface with the federal government and find a middle ground. This should have been done
    with IPOB and other relevant stakeholders in the know, but Ekweremadu acted differently. His action was
    largely self-serving. Escaping prosecution from alleged corrupt practices was his priority. He chose to favor
    ‘self’ when he is elected to represent ‘us’. He deserves to be punished, but through the ballot, not assault.
    Ekweremadu was punished for the wrongs of his fellow elites ruining Nigeria. He was made to feel the anger of
    the people. Nigerians across boards believe the assault is a viable way of making leaders accountable. Assault is
    immoral, but many are willing to get involved, if it would bring good governance. If corrupt politicians are
    being shamed, there’ll be less misrule as they and their families can’t stay away from schooling, receiving
    treatment and holidaying abroad. Nigeria would transform when the politicians have no other choice than
    Celebrating new yam festival in faraway Germany is a misplacement of priority, at a time when incessant
    killings is occurring in Igbo land. Who among the organizers of the festival owns a farm or ever planted a yam?
    The real farmers who should be celebrating their outputs are being killed and losing their loved ones and farms
    to bandits. Partying under this situation is a mockery of the farmer’s misfortune. Leadership is service. The
    huge cost of organizing the events and the travel expenses incurred by dignitaries such as Ekweremadu could
    have been used to assist those who lost persons and properties during the secession struggle and bandits attack.
    Wealthy Igbos and the foreign branches of Ohaneze Ndigbo needs to be more philanthropic.
    IPOB’s assault on Ekweremadu is somewhat unjust and misdirected. Buhari and his appointees who outlawed
    the organization and apparently failed to address the challenges in the southeast have been left unthreatened.
    Those at the helm of affairs are ignored for the governors who can neither control the security agencies nor
    restore Biafra. The unintended consequence of IPOB’s action is that her real ‘oppressors’ chance to win
    elections is being heightened by her actions. Defaming the People Democratic Party’s government in the
    southeast would only help the All Progressives Congress have an easy win in 2023. But for one thing,
    Ekweremadu’s assault is a message to the President’s top aides that it may be their turn next.

    Aside the president and vice, Nigerian leaders can’t get the extraordinary protection they enjoy in Nigeria
    abroad. Unlike in Nigeria, where protesters are being hounded, the western nations allow people to enjoy their
    right to peaceful protest. Nigerians in the diaspora would be allowed to air their grievances, but assaults won’t
    be tolerated. That of Ekweremadu sailed through because it was unexpected. The foreign security agencies
    would be more present in Nigerian high profile gatherings to forestall future occurrence. IPOB has vowed to
    give Igbo leaders the Ekweremadu treatment wherever they are sighted abroad. This could create a bandwagon
    effect. Aggrieved persons and groups from other regions of the country may adopt the same strategy.
    Ekweremadu’s assault and Sowore’s Revolution Now are well-coordinated moves against government and
    high-profile politicians. Could this be the manifestation of the decisions reached when Kanu and Sowore met
    abroad? Or the hounding of unharmed local protesters attracted sympathy abroad? Is the Buhari government’s
    intolerance making peaceful protesters adopt a violent approach? Has the government’s high handedness
    created another menace? Do the aggrieved protesters have a more violent approach of driving home their point
    in the bag? The time is pregnant.
    *Omoshola Deji is a political and public affairs analyst. He wrote in via

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