By Emmanuel Otairu
There is bad, there is disaster and there is HURIWA, Human Rights Writers Association. HURIWA is alleging extralegal killings in the implementation of Operation Python Dance II in the southeast geopolitical zone and thinks that this is a justification for decentralizing the nation’s military assets.
Before attempting an understanding of the outlandish claims and even more outrageous suggestion, an appreciation of what or who HURIWA is perhaps necessary, for as Khalil Gibran wrote “And you who would understand justice, how shall you unless you look upon all deeds in the fullness of light?” When looked at in the fullness of light, HURIWA is an embodiment of the character driving it, one Emmanuel Onwubiko, who has run the so-called NGO as a sole proprietorship, tool for extortion, paid activism, ethnic propaganda mouthpiece and most recently as a terror organization’s NGO arm.
Onwubiko of course applied the veneer of respectability to HURIWA by latching on the words “Human Rights” which should tickle the fancy at a time that the world is making the culture of political correctness into a cult following. The appellation would have suggested neutrality, objectivity and universal application of standards across board. Save for some coerced staffers with Islamic names used as decoys, HURIWA is capitally Igbo is in all it does. Igbo to an extent that the only thing that makes it bother about non-Igbo issues is when there is money to be made from the subject matter and at such times morality has no role to play.
It is therefore not surprising that the only noticeable time Onwubiko/HURIWA had pursued any non-Igbo issue with conviction was when he got the contract to make the outlawed Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN) appear saintly. Then, like now, he could not help but stand logic on its head and must have thought this time around that since he has the experience of defending a quasi-terror group, albeit with a high degree of failure, he can help defend the latest terror group on the planet, IPOB, the Indigenous People of Biafra.
Having established the pedigree of HURIWA and its owner as bigoted pieces of work, the perspective becomes clearer as to why Onwubiko never thought to call his brother, Nnamdi Kanu, IPOB leader to order for the series of misdeeds that were the foundation for the tension that he (Onwubiko) has suddenly found irksome today. If HURIWA were genuinely in the business of writing about ‘human rights’ then it would have known that use of offensive terms and derogatory association infringe on their recipients’ right to dignity. HURIWA and Onwubiko were around when Kanu and the IPOB rabble gleefully referred to Nigerians as ‘animals’ living in the ‘zoo’.
The sole proprietorship was there when IPOB lock down the economy of some Nigerian states thereby denying some families the means of their (daily) livelihood for the duration of the so called ‘sit-at-home’ that people were not given the option of observing but were coerced by IPOB’s militants. Perhaps, Onwubiko was passed out in a beer parlour when Kanu declared in Ohafia that he was coming to Abuja to bring back the head of President Muhammadu Buhari – he should not have ever bragged about bringing back anyone’s head since the teenage girl recently caught in Imo with two human heads is enough proof that when certain people speak of cutting off human heads it is not to be taken slightly.
Where was HURIWA’s censure when IPOB delivered the endless barrage of hate speech even as other groups continually raised the alarm for them to stop? The sick behaviour was defended as freedom of speech and some even went on to say that Igbos are given to metaphorical speech. Several IPOB members, within and outside the south-east geo-political zone, have openly admitted to stockpilling weapons in preparation to dealing with other Nigerians. The group also bragged about having a nuclear weapon that can destroy ten states in the north and Onwubiko did not think that the entire population of the north would have been left jittery, fearing for their life.
What took the cake was HURIWA’s indifference to Kanu’s launch of Biafra Secret Service, BSS, a militia group in violation of Section 227 of the Constitution that categorically stated that “No association shall retain, organise, train or equip any person or group of persons for the purpose of enabling them to be employed for the use or display of physical force or coercion in promoting any political objective or interest or in such manner as to arouse reasonable apprehension that they are organised and trained or equipped for that purpose.”
Phone records would show that Onwubiko was in touch with Kanu, or at least through proxies, before and after he inaugurated IPOB’s army so he shares the blame for not advising his client not to dare the state. Transaction records could also link him to Kanu or other IPOB sponsors, which would be most unfortunate since monetary gains should take secondary place where the stability of a country is concerned. Only that the agenda of HURIWA and IPOB are the same so the integrity of Nigeria is not of concern to Onwubiko here.
It is therefore inconceivable that HURIWA/Onwubiko expected that the Army would conduct its operations differently when it knows it was dealing with an entity that has declared itself as a parallel army. This is more so that IPOB members pelted troops with various objects to trigger what was to later follow.
Sadly, Onwubiko’s conclusions appeared to have been reliant on fake news and managed images and videos. For someone that is masquerading as being involved in human rights work, photo and video verification skill has become a prerequisite to ensure that reports are not based on lies and manipulated reality. He should have had the presence of mind to ask questions as to why the videos circulated by his clients have been cut to exclude portions that document their provocations. He should have also queried why gory pictures from other unfortunate incidents are being passed off as images from the military operation in south-east. Except of course he is ignorant of these manipulations, he is being mischievous or both in varying mixes.
HURIWA’s other failings may be excusable but its call for military assets to be decentralized has set a new record in being irresponsible in making contribution to a public discourse. First, with the history of attempted secession five decades ago and the military coups that plagued the country afterwards, it is only logical that temptations are kept away from would be treasonable fellows. Secondly, if the military assets were kept within IPOB’s reach would the situation not have been worse than what we are currently dealing with since the terrorists would have simply overrun the facility and use the equipment against the Nigerian state?
Those who truly understand what is at stake are warning against treating the IPOB issues with the same levity and ethnic sentiments that made Boko Haram into the one that got away. HURIWA was silent when the head of another insurrection group, Ombatse was killed during a security operation in Alakyo, Nasarawa state ion November 16, 2014; its voice was only heard when it was paid to harass Labaran Maku, the then information minister. Had Ombatse not been contained then through a timely deployment the situation would probably been a horror show by now.
Someone must therefore help Onwubiko end his hallucination of trying to drag the international community into what remains, for now, Nigeria’s internal affairs. IPOB has been designated a terror group, anyone that belongs to it would be tracked down and brought to justice irrespective of ethnicity. Kanu has made his choice, he must have been fully conscious of what he was doing when he broke every law imaginable because he was confident of the backing of failed entities like HURIWA and characters like Onwubiko. HURIWA must similarly make its choice, a decision to either be a proper human rights NGO or to be the NGO arm of IPOB. Prevaricating between both possibilities would not serve its client, Kanu well.
Otairu esq writes from the Centre for International and Strategy Studies, Abuja.