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The Asymmetric War Of Attrition In Southeast And Southwest Nigeria By Soldiers Of Fortune

By Abuchi Obiora

Permit me, dear readers, to relieve personal early life experiences in order to underscore the seriousness of the subject-matter of today’s discourse.

I was born in Onitsha and I grew up there, starting out my career, first as a trader, like many Igbo sons after their West African School Certificate Examination, in the Onitsha Main Market. Specifically, I was born sixty three years ago in the then Nupe Settlement, now called Fegge, Onitsha where I went to Primary School at the Fegge County  School with many Northern Nigerians mostly of the Nupe and Hausa extraction. By the way, Fegge is a Nupe language word. We saw everybody as both friends and brothers. We knew neither tribe nor religion.

The earliest settlers in Fegge met by the British were the Nupe people. They were fishermen who obviously must have got to that destination through the tributaries of River Niger. My father who was a trader dealing on fishing nets and other fishing accessories had so many Nupe friends. One of his best friends, a Nupe man who slept on the same bed with him each time he visited us, Alhaji Inusa was no stranger to our house in Fegge. He knew us down to our ancestral home. Aside Nupe language, my father spoke four other Nigerian languages notably Hausa, Yoruba, Ijaw and Urhobo. He learnt these languages from his customers who became his friends for a period spanning more than 50years. Till date I am still in contact with some children of my father’s friends.

Let me quickly add that we saw Fulanis daily with their cows. As children, we will sing for them and touch their cows. They will smile at us, and sometimes we will offer them drinking water, either for themselves, or their cows. The Fulanis were not living in the city with us. They preferred to locate themselves peacefully at the outskirt of the city, where they lived in thatched houses while taking care of their cows.

Many of my childhood friends were Northern Nigerians – Hausas. As children, our different mothers served us food each time we moved together to any of our homes. I learnt to count from one to one thousand in Hausa language at a very early age without ever visiting Northern Nigeria. I could also understand whatever simple statement anybody may make in Hausa language.

Alhaji Ilyasu Yushua, the present Sarkin Hausawa in Onitsha, was also born in Onitsha seventy two years ago. He is an alumni of the famous CKC, (Christ the King College), the foremost Roman Catholic Secondary School in the old Onitsha Province where their Excellences Governors Willie Obiano and Peter Obi of Anambra State attended. Like many Igbo businessmen in Onitsha, Alhaji Ilyasu Yushua has his own business investments, landed assets and commercial rented houses amongst the many four and five story buildings which any visitor to Onitsha could easily see. He is no different from any of us. I cannot be sure, but it is possible that some of his children must have married Igbos, as did people like me who, knowing no tribe or religion, married people from other tribes some thirty five years ago.

CKC was, and is still a neighboring school of DMGS (Denis Memorial Grammar School owned by the Church Missionary Society (CMS). The two old Schools are located along Oguta Road, Onitsha. I attended the DMGS. My school and the CKC yearly slugged it out to decide the winner in the ACADA cup football tournament. That was when Chief A.A.O. Ezenwa (Alias, OPUGA), the Agbalanze of Abagana, who later became the Igwe of Abagana town in Anambra state, was our Principal.

The Senior Prefect of DMGS in our final year in the school (1976), Umaru Momodu, was a Muslim. When Nigeria and Nigerians knew no tribe or religion, Umaru Momodu was a Muslim and a Senior Prefect in a Secondary School founded by a Christian Missionary, Right Reverend T.J. Denis in 1925. Remember that one of the functions of a Senior Prefect in all Secondary/Grammar Schools is to organize Students for the School assembly every morning. This means that Umaru Momodu, a Muslim was given the privilege of organizing Christian Students for Christian assembly, that is, for Christian devotion/worship every morning in a Christian missionary school.

I have gone this length to give this brief personal history to underscore how bad Nigeria has deteriorated in ethno-religious and cultural relationships. This deterioration, by the way, has become the forerunner to general insecurity in the Country. Without mincing words,  I will be able to zero down and address the major cause of general insecurity in Nigeria because I saw everything and therefore, know what exactly has gone wrong in Nigeria generally, and the Southeast and Southwest, specifically.

The major cause of the present insecurity in the Southeast and Southwest regions of Nigeria is the calculated subtle, well-planned and systematic asymmetric war of attrition by soldiers of fortune sponsored by a group of Northern Nigerian hegemons and oligarchs in their attempt to keep the two regions dangling in unrest, never experiencing any social stability, so that these hegemons and oligarchs will continue to ride roughshod on Nigerians by holding on to political power, ad infinitum.

This is a new tactics in political conquest different from what the founding fathers of the present generation of Nigerian hegemons and oligarchs established to perpetually retain power in Nigeria since independence.

Why are there Northern Nigerian hegemons and oligarchs interested in decimating the internal politics of the Southeast and the Southwest regions of Nigeria? Before we look at that, let us first narrate a few incidences in this conquest strategy and analyze them within the context of the value systems of the two predominant ethnic nationalities of the Igbos and the Yorubas, who in that respective other, have their natural habitats in the southeast and southwest regions of Nigeria.

Igbos and the Yorubas respect the sanctity of human life. You can say anything about the Igbos and the Yorubas who are far more civilized than the other ethnic groups in Nigeria, but you cannot take it away from them that their traditional justice administration system generally promotes freedom, equity, fair play and above all sanctity of life. This is as may be compared with the feudal system of justice administration system that long took roots in the northernmost part of the country. In this analysis, I am excluding the ethnic groups of the Northern and Southern minorities whose justice administration systems derive from their multiple ancestral origins of the Southern Nigeria, Southern Cameroon, e.t.c.

It is from the perspective of this long history of ethno-religious and cultural integration in Onitsha and the rest of Anambra State (a unique Nigerian State known for hospitality, for which reason it is referred to as “Home for All”) that I saw as foul play, and viewed with suspicion, the brutal murder of Mrs. Harira Jibril, a pregnant woman from Adamawa State, with her four children.

My question, as my late father, Alachedo Obiora would ask is ‘How come?. I quickly remembered that the murder of Mrs. Jibril was one in a series of gruesome murders alien to the value system of Igbos, the predominant inhabitants of the “Home for All” State. Few days before the murder of Mrs. Jibril and her four children, a sitting law maker in Anambra state, young Dr. Okechukwu Okoye was beheaded with his aide, Cyril Chiegboka and the heads kept inside cartons in entirely different locations from their bodies with note that claimed that the assassins worked for the interest of the Igbos. I was furious because I knew it was a lie. It was not long and my position was justified. The director of Publicity for the IPOB, Mr. Emma Powerful quickly dissociated the group from the murder.

I had suggested in a previous work in The Kaleidoscope that Fifth Columnist jobbers who may have been pushed to criminality in Nigeria as a result of the economic downturn and joblessness among Nigerian youths were possibly on the prowl in the Igbo nation to give the Nigerian government authorities enough reasons to clamp down on Igbo youths in disguise for checkmating the activities of the IPOB and the ESN.

These soldiers of fortune, as numerous accounts have shown, may be Igbos who kill for money, but most importantly as have been proven from the accounts of many released kidnapped victims, they are non-Igbos, being predominantly children of Fulani herdsmen who grew up in Igbo land with us, speak the Igbo language and know the nooks and crannies of Igbo land.

Why have these Fulani brothers, this people who grew up with us, being much beloved by us, suddenly become our enemies, kidnapping Igbos for money and killing them where they fail to provide the ransom money?  Though I have earlier given an indication of the reason, I shall explore it deeper before the end of this discourse.

There are many other cases of gruesome murders and beheadings in southeast in the forms alien to the Igbos of Nigeria. Another of these numerous cases is the murder of an intending couple, soldiers, namely Master Warrant Officer (Rtd) Audu Linus and Private Gloria Mathew. They were murdered and beheaded on April 30th, 2022 few days to their traditional wedding in Imo state. That was another lie because Igbos revere their sons-in-laws. It is an abomination in Igbo land to do evil to a son-inlaw.

As these things happened, one of the leading Human and Civil Rights groups in Nigeria, International Society for Civil liberties and Rule of Law, popularly known as Intersociety went underground to undertake intelligence and information gathering  work – beyond the efforts of the security organizations who are founded to do this – to unmask the identity of the Unknown Gun Men, the dreaded acronym for serial murderers in the southeast, who did the cursed and evil work of killing the pregnant Harira Jibril and her four children.

In a comprehensive statement which should be food for thought for the security agencies, Intersociety, showcased its efforts at crime bursting by tracking the murder of Mrs. Jibril and her children to a street gang, a fifth columnist soldier of fortune whose veiled pay-master (not the IPOB or the ESN) have been instrumental to many murders recorded as Unknown Gun Men attack in the southeast.

What is not yet certain is whether there is a link between the Unknown Gun Men and Mr. Simon Ekpa, a disgruntled member of the IPOB who, according to Mr. Emma Powerful, is responsible for the growing insecurity in the Southeast. Mr. Emma Powerful had earlier accused the Finland-based Mr. Simon Ekpa of being a Fifth Columnist who is sponsored by some Northern Nigerians to destabilize the Southeast and present enough reasons for the Federal Government to clampdown on the IPOB and the ESN.

Intersociety found out that the murder of Mrs. Jibril and her children was a reprisal action by the members of the gang in retaliation for the arrest of their gang leader. In the report, Intersociety stated that “Part of the gang’s counterfeiting activities is launching attacks on security personal or Northerners to portray same as ‘handiwork of ESN.’

In concluding its report which went very deep in mentioning the names of the gang leader and his colleagues, tagging specific activities of the notorious gang, and detailing the modus operandi of the group, Intersociety strongly condemned in totality the killing of the Northern Muslim mother and her children.” It further said that it “finds it pertinent to make this detailed clarification on the real group identity of those that masterminded the dastardly act so as not only to set the record straight but also to register its displeasure over the deliberate reportorial misrepresentation of facts occasioned by state censorship on media and stifling of democratic civil space which have robbed many state and independently-owned media organizations of their investigative competence and verification capacity.”

Concluding the report, Intersociety said that “these have also provided field day for alarmist and divisive social groups to rush to the media with unguarded, provocative, inciting, threatening and vengeful statements. This is more so when the same alarmist social groups keep mum and turn blind eyes when members of other ethnic nationalities especially Igbo Christians and non-Igbo Christians and their properties are subjected to wanton destruction by Muslim fanatics thereby making it to look (like) as if Muslim lives are sacred and worth preservation while lives of others especially the Igbo citizens are worth being spilled or destroyed”.

In a separate statement relating to the same matter issued by its National Coordinator, Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko, another organization HURIWA (Human Right Writers Association of Nigeria) articulated some of the recent murders across Nigeria, including the murder in Anambra State in September 2021 of Dr. Chike Akunyili, the widower of the late former Director-General of the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration (NAFDAC), Professor Dora Akunyili. Comrade Onwubiko cautioned ethno-religious war mongers that “Nigeria is facing a pure terrorism war and not an ethno-religious conflict”.

After meeting Alhaji Ilyasu Yushau, the Sarkin Hausawa of Onitsha and the Hausa community in Onitsha and Anambra State to commiserate with them and douse the tension and palpable fear amongst our Hausa brothers as a result of the brutal murder of Mrs. Harira Jibril and her four children, the Governor of Anambra State, Professor Charles Chukwuma Soludo ended his statement with a most sincere remark that also identifies him as one of those lucky and favored generations of Nigerians who experienced the mutual love that existed between Nigerians of different religions and ethnicities.

The Governor concluded, “I am deeply touched by their deep understanding of the challenges we face as a people; they are not ignorant of the ploy by criminal elements to cause disaffection through stoking ethnic and religious tension in order to further their criminal enterprises”.

Though there is general insecurity in Nigeria as a result of the combined activities of ISWAP, Boko Haram, Bandits and Fulani Herdsmen, there seem to be some similarities in the manner of kidnapping and killing in the Southeast with those happening in the Southwest region of Nigeria. Sometime ago, the daughter of an Afenifere (central Yoruba ethnic nationality organization) chieftain was brutally murdered as she travelled from one destination to another. There were many other incidences of kidnap for ransom-paying, killings and general mayhem caused by soldiers of fortune in the Southwest Nigeria. We remember the gallantry of Chief Sunday Igboho who mobilized Yoruba youths to safeguard their ancestral homeland against the nefarious activities of Fulani herdsmen and land-grabbers.

Much as the criminal activities of these groups operating in the Southwest are restricted to kidnapping and ransom-collecting, it is important to observe that the level of these alien criminal activities in the Southwest keep increasing as more Yoruba people key-in to the idea of having an Odua Nation. Therein lies a suspicious correlation that should not be hidden to any serious observer and analyst of politics in Nigeria.

These wars of attrition levied on Southeast and Southwest regions of Nigeria are done with the tacit logistics and other support of saboteurs – people both from the Igbo and Yoruba ethnic nationalities, to subjugate and conquer the two ethnic nationalities. In operation to achieve these nefarious aims, as have been found out in the Southeast by Intersociety, are freelance criminals organized in mini-squads by notorious street urchins who graduated to advanced criminality from highway hawkers to highway robbers and finally to hired assassins and mutineers. I had an experience of the activities of these street urchins when they waylaid me opposite St. Charles Borromeo Hospital, Onitsha, near the Nigerian Army Barracks with AK47 rifle and collected my two phones on the 14th May, 2022 during my 14 days Easter vacation in Anambra State. Those urchins are worming to be used by any highest bidder to unleash mayhem to inhabitants of the Southeast. Consistent information available to the media space have shown Nigerians that these criminals are well-funded by their paymasters.

What will anybody achieve by embarking on a subtle war of attrition on another person? My answer is that attrition has become an important arsenal of modern warfare. Tsun Tzu, the ancient Chinese war General had long recorded this in his collections on War tactics, published with the title “The Art of War”. In one of his statements, Tsun Tzu says “the greatest art of war is the ability to conquer an enemy without putting up a fight.”

Attrition is a system of modern conquest by subterfuge that surely employs an indirect, deceptive and covert strategy to cause friction in the camp of an opponent and gradually wear the opponent down via tangible or intangible, yet quietly induced passive forces that may appear common-place or natural so much that the opponent will be caught napping, chasing shadows and effectively diverted and eventually decimated. Niccole Machiavelli and Robert Greene call this war strategy ‘dissimulation’ in their books, ‘The Prince’ and ‘The Art of Seduction’ respectively.

In the deadly politics of ethnic conquest in Nigeria, it has become convenient for the traditional power mongers and the Northern Nigerian hegemons and oligarchs displaying a certain atavistic nature, to sacrifice even some of their own people resident in the Southeast and Southwest, to achieve a total political conquest of the country.

This is why our Fulani and Hausa brothers who have long lived amongst us in the Southeast and Southwest regions of Nigeria have suddenly become our enemies. The power mongers have also taken advantage of the abject poverty of the Mbororo (nomadic) Fulanis across the Sahel region, inviting them into Nigeria from Chad, Niger Republic, Mali, Senegal, etc., to sustain their acts in modern political conquest of Nigeria.

Finally, this discourse must end with a caveat that the ethnic nationalities that make up Nigeria will collectively do better as one united, peaceful, strong and prosperous country the foundation of which must be laid on fair play, equity and a level playing ground for the constituting groups. Rather than go apart, most countries of the world are seeking reasons for which they must unite and present a formidable front against common enemies. Nigeria as a country should not be moving in the opposite direction of a format that has been found to favour international diplomacy when countries have internal or external stress.

Attempts at balkanization of the country as presently being sought by many ethnic nationalities in Nigeria including the Igbos and the Yorubas is as a result of blatant abuse of the rights and privileges of common union by one of the minority members of the Nigerian union who seek political conquest of the country through subterfuge. This, naturally should be unacceptable to other members of the union, especially those of them who know and understand that their efforts and natural resources provide the lubricants that oil the wheel of progress of the country.


For: Global Upfront Newspapers                   


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