By Philip Brandford Adams
Nonviolent resistance or action is said to be the practice of achieving goals such as social change through symbolic protest, civil disobedience, economic or political noncooperation or other methods, without using violence.
The movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) led by an Indian trained Lawyer Ralph Uwazuruike claimed that the movement is a nonviolent movement contrary to the defunct Biafra state violent struggle which resulted to three years civil war in Nigeria in the past.
The Igbo people of Eastern Nigeria hitherto their violent movement which pitch the country in to a civil war from 1967 to 1970 were known to be the committed patriotic Nigerian citizens, they settle in large numbers outside their home town because everywhere in Nigeria then, there was a feeling of common purpose and common destiny comparable to the anti-colonial movement of the past.
They were known to be very hard working people especially those in Diaspora were always thrusting ahead and setting the pace for the economic development of Nigeria, and those at home were also diligently exploiting the human and material resources of their homeland. They accepted modern ideas and techniques which brought them to the forefront of economic and political activities. Democratic by tradition, they championed democratic ideals and at the same time advocated for one united Nigeria. It was unfortunate that the immediate existing unity between the diverse ethnic groups of Nigeria after some few years of independence has become evanescent, it could not continue due to the glaring promotion of the belligerent and antagonistic atmosphere within the already existing different ideology, culture, religion and ethnicity in the mind of both an average Nigerian, politicians and service men especially in the military where coup and counter coup becomes the order of the day.
There was a clannishly jockeying of power among the Nigerian elites (divide and rule) in which some other parts of the country felt marginalized. This is all because the British due to their leech tendencies have, without any circumspection, forcefully conflate a disparate people together. Popular wisdom holds that most of “the insurgency was direct result of the increasing despondency felt by the poor or a group of people that are socially marginalized in the country.
I believe the violent Biafra agitation in the 1960s and the present MASSOB/IPOB movement which calls the Igbo people to take up the cudgel for their right is only a reaction to the many injustices, exclusion, and second class citizenship, born to rule philosophy, marginalization and other forms of inequality that characterize the present Nigerian state. The question begging for an answer, is the MASSOB movement a nonviolent as claimed by its leadership?
According to the traditional founding fathers and the scholars of the nonviolent civil resistance movement, one core objective of unarmed movement should be to undermine the repression of the loyalties and obedience of a regime’s police, military and other essential pillars of support. Been a group or movement which claims that its philosophy hinged on the principle of nonviolence as propagated by Mahatma Gandhi, they are expected to remain nonviolent in their movement no matter what. I have been observing the activities of the Movement for the actualization of the sovereign state of Biafra (MASSOB)/IPOB via media with keen interest for quite some years now whenever they come out for their mass protest. It is unfortunate to note that the movement lack nonviolent discipline because of the nature of their aggressiveness whenever the security men confronted them.
MASSOB/IPOB clash with the police men in Asaba which led to the death of seven people and many injuries on Monday the 30th of May, 2016 at about 5:24 pm reported by NAN and some other often violent showdown between them and securities, have question the veracity of the movement and rescind its claim of nonviolent position in the eyes of both the people and the nonviolent civil resistance activist across the globe. As a movement that is chaired by somebody who purposely took interest in Mahatma Gandhi’s style of nonviolent civil resistance and went to India in order to learn more from the Gandhi method of nonviolent, the movement is expected to exhibits a practical gamut “Satyagraha”, that is the passive resistance of the doctrine of nonviolent resistance originated by Mahatma Gandhi who used it in opposing the British rule in India. But it was unfortunate that the MASSOB/IPOB could not live up to its claimed of the nonviolent position against the Nigerian government.
I can be partially agree with Ralph Uwazuruike that the movements is nonviolent because they are armless and they also carry flags and posters which is part of the nonviolent resistance method. But I still don’t understand why the movement is full of violent “flanks” if is truly a nonviolent as claimed.
There are ample evidence from historical examples that nonviolent action can be an effective method of social action than violent, and I will like to advice the leadership of MASSOB/IPOB to use the genuine nonviolent method in order to circumvent the security restrictions. Examples of the successful nonviolent civil resistance from recent decades include the toppling of Philippines dictator Ferdinand Marcos in 1986 through “people power,” the collapse of communist regimes in Eastern Europe in 1989, the thwarting of a coup in the Soviet Union in 1991, the ending of apartheid in South Africa in the early 1990s, the resignation of President Suharto due to popular pressure in Indonesia in 1998, and the overthrow of Serbian ruler Milosevic in 2000.
There is need for the absolute commitment to nonviolent discipline by the MASSOB/IPOB movement, because been discipline and remaining unprovoked or been polite was one of the backbone of many activist of nonviolent success. Polite dialogue with the opponent was a key part of Gandhi’s method. He considered the opponent to be partner in his quest for “truth”. Maintaining nonviolent discipline should be one of the priority of the MASOAB/IPOB movement in their everyday rallies whenever they are face with violent provocation from the government security because nonviolent discipline is a key to successful civil resistance.
I will also like to advise the movement to focus on one thing especially on how they can cajole the government to make them also felt a sense of belonging by given them an equal treatment both in political power sharing, resource inclusion and environmental development which is part of their reason for agitation.
Be it nonviolent movement or violent movement agitating for a self-government will not be possible. Most of the movement for national self-government or determination that succeeded in the past, trace their history far back as part of their national stories (Nationalism) of which Nigeria as an entity is one of them, an artificial geographical entity created by imperial powers.
PHILIP BRANDFORD ADAMS
WRITES FROM THE UNITED NATIONS UNIVERSITY FOR PEACE