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Wike’s handshake with the Sultan: Matters arising

As an expression of goodwill to the Sultan of Sokoto, Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar III, Nyesom Wike, governor of the Rives State paid a visit to…

As an expression of goodwill to the Sultan of Sokoto, Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar III, Nyesom Wike, governor of the Rives State paid a visit to the monarch in Sokoto last week.  The visit which coincided with the Sallah period when Muslim faithful and other people of goodwill pay homage to the revered monarch, rightfully attracted attention from political circles across the country and beyond. If the foregoing was part of, or main intention of the visit, it turned out to be a master stroke in the light of its implications for politics in Rivers State and the wider terrain of the entire country. That much was accentuated by the timing of the visit and the message Wike delivered to the entire country and in particular the architects of the wave of irredentism that is currently sweeping the South-East of the country, under the aegis of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB). In a most emphatic manner Nyesom Wike declared it before the Sultan that Rivers State is not part of the proposed Biafra enclave. Putting it with the same graphic flair the Biafra jingoists have deployed, this is to state that the Indigenous People of Rivers State (IPORS) are not Biafrans.

His declaration of such a message at the Sultan’s palace and at a most auspicious time which was   during the period of Sallah visitation is most significant. For even if it may not be clear to many Nigerians, especially some unwary indigenous IPORS elements, the primary target of the Biafra jingoists, is Port Harcourt, the capital of the state. A traditional honey-pot for the largely landlocked South Eastern part of the country due primarily to its seaport and juicy business environment, the city had from time immemorial remained irresistible to the average Igbo whose livelihood derives from the zone, even as Igbo land had remained the hot-bed of secession tendencies in the country. Wike’s handshake with the Sultan, therefore qualified him as prescient and proactive, just as the English adage says that ‘a stitch in time saves nine’. The move casts him deservingly as a leader that is sensitive to the lessons of history, as well as the rhythm of contemporary political imperatives.  

 For observers of the present political realities in the country, they are permitted to contend that Wike’s sojourn to the Sultan, was informed by the build-up into a crescendo, of the pro- Biafra agitation and attendant call or the break-up of the Nigerian federation. The most dramatic aspect of the build-up was the May 27th ‘stay-at-home’ order by Nnamdi Kanu, the self styled Supreme Leader of the Igbo, and which order was enforced across Igbo land as well as some non-Igbo states like Rivers State, in which there was a sizeable population of Igbos. A more instructive aspect of the pro Biafra ‘sit-at-home order, was the inclusion into the designated ‘Biafraland’ where the ‘sit-at-home’ order would be enforced, several patently non Igbo areas of the country such as the Rivers State, Bayelsa State, Akwa Ibom State, Cross River State, Delta State and Benue State. This instance of this brazen, day-light identity theft, has not gone down well with the ‘conscripted’ states and deepened the suspicion of the Igbo by the latter.  

In response to the disruption of normal business and livelihood of non Igbo Nigerians from the ‘stay-at-home’ order, a group that styled itself the Coalition of Arewa Youth Organisations, in a press conference in Kaduna, issued an ultimatum to all Igbo presently located in the northern part of the country, to leave the zone on or before October 1st 2017, or face dire consequences. Among their demands remains a questionable possibility of forcible confiscation of the property of the affected Igbo across the vast expanse of Northern Nigeria, which runs into billions of naira.

The political fire that was stoked by these two developments (to say the least), put the country on edge as has not been in recent times, and also engaged the government which is at its wits end to douse tensions and restore the country back to its earlier state of admissibly uneasy peace. And as is easy to see, if any conflagration ensues, Rivers State will return to the unenviable status of a war theatre on which will rage a battle for its conquest, between the Federal government and the pro-Biafra jingoists;. This was just as it was during the better forgotten days of the defunct Biafra under the late Odumegwu Ojukwu. This is why Wike’s venture enjoys the status of commendable political brinkmanship, for taking a pre-emptive step to liberate Rivers State from Biafra-jingoists, ahead of any shooting war. 

This is also why his handshake with the Sultan should also be of interest to the intelligentsia and leadership community of Ndigbo, who unfortunately are only rising to a rather late rally to find a common voice on the Biafra issue. Even at that they are yet to make a discernible position even with the prevailing and deepening uneasiness across the land, over the potent threat which IPOB poses to their homeland. It should concern them that except they launch viable counter-measures, come 2019 general elections, Nnamdi Kanu may by default emerge as the de facto king maker and thereby the potent arbiter of the politics of the South Eastern geo-political zone. Given the active involvement of the young, rich and mobile Igbo youth who have dug in deep to the hilt, in support of  Kanu’s IPOB, it will be wishful thinking that they will not call the shots in a future election in the zone. 

 Nigerians should not be surprised to see in the near future Kanu sit in the cosy comfort of his house to dictate who emerges Governor, or Senator or Member, House of Representatives or any other political position as the case may be. Hence the message from Wike to the Igbo elite is that just in case they elect to remain complacent, or at best sit on the fence in the face of the daily enlarging IPOB challenge, such a dispensation remains strictly their own kettle of fish. But as for him and his Indigenous People of the Rivers State (IPORS), it is time to call the Biafra bluff with all the vehemence it deserves.

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