Every Monday across the South East region of Nigeria has become overly precarious owing to armed activities of Unidentified Armed Groups (UAGs) and Armed Secessionist Militias identified as the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB). A major cause for the Monday threat is attributed to Several Sit-at-home (SAH) orders, imposed by IPOB through its Directorate of State, demanding the release of its Leader/Founder, Nnamdi Kanu who was rearrested on Sunday 27 June 2021.

For a group that claims and aims to secure the release of its leader who faces an 11 count charge bordering around terrorism, treasonable felony, management of an unlawful group, publishing of libelous material, illegal possession of guns, and other offences; which makes without a doubt has made Kanu’s situation gone from bad to worse.

Though online media reports that out of eleven charges placed on Kanu in 2015, six were struck out in 2017 owing to legal deliberation on the matter. However, some allegations suggest that the Government may have forced Kanu to sign a plea bargain during his first appearance in court after his rearrest on 26 July 2021 without his lawyer may have prompted the resurgence of the 11 count he now faces again.

The aforementioned comment also matches a popular belief that the continued tension in the South East is the consequence of a false flag operation by the government to better convince and persuade any law court with considerable anarchy and violent behaviour of IPOB headed by Kanu even while in jail via proxies.

WHAT IS IPOB SAH ORDER?

Firstly, the reader needs to understand the definition of an ideology. According to Dr Ekaterina Stepanova from her Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) Research1 Report No. 23 on TERRORISM IN ASYMMETRICAL CONFLICT IDEOLOGICAL AND STRUCTURAL ASPECTS, she defines an ideology “…as a set of ideas, doctrines and beliefs that characterizes the thinking of an individual or group and may transform into political and social plans, actions or systems.

The sit-at-home order draws its inspiration from the sit-in styled protest actions used as an “act of civil disobedience where the demonstrator sits in an area to protest a particular action.” This form of protest actions has overly been practised in America by renowned black civil rights movements in opposing racial segregation between 1954–1968. In Africa, South Africa also observed such sit-ins during the Apartheid.

On a balanced argument, the sit-at-home order was designed to portray a united Biafran front against a branded “Fulani -controlled Nigerian Government” following the arrest of IPOBs’ leadership; which ultimately aligns with the academic definition of what a Sit-in entails.

While these SAH orders are expected to be a form of resistance by IPOB against the Federal and State Governments, the use of armed attacks in conjunction with SAH orders has resulted in significant civilian and Government Security Forces (Police and Military) casualties, as well as property destruction and economic sabotage, and even alleged plans to disrupt a democratically recognised election2 (Anambra State Election-November 6). This has given birth to terrorism as an accepted technique in advocating for their movement, as well as legitimacy to the group’s prescription as a terrorist organisation by the Nigerian government in September 2017.

The use of forceful, authoritarian, or draconian tactics to compel regional participation in an ideological belief removes every atom of civility from what was supposed to be a civil action and raises a red flag indicating Ideological repression, a tactic commonly used by Salafist terrorist organisations.

Furthermore, the use of Arabic by Salafist terrorist organisations serves as a form of indoctrination to communities to better position themselves to win community support, through outreaches such as sermons at mosques and public awareness campaigns through speaking with community leaders or distribution of pamphlets.

Sounds familiar?

When we examine SAH orders critically, we eventually find a group intentionally taking purposeful steps to seem stable while rejecting resistance from its local communities, resulting in my prior definition of authoritarian/draconian methods of convincing regional involvement.

The timeline of SAH orders from May to October 2021 reveals an incoherent chronology of these orders, showing an internal dispute in the group’s leadership legitimacy and structure, as seen by the periodic back and forths connected with SAHs. 

The seeming insecurity within its ranks, created largely by the concentration of fundamental leadership duties in the hands of Nnamdi Kanu, with no clear framework in place for a transition following his untimely incarceration. As a result, the group’s decision-making is significantly influenced by the current pursuit of balance. The group’s handling of the delicate situation on ground has been regarded as crude, highly influenced by emotional tantrums, and most of all lack any form of diplomatic finesse.

The SAH orders, for example, had no regard for how they affected the domestic followers, who are mostly made up of local conformist members (petty traders, artisans, and middle-class people), many of whom agreed with the group’s agendas and were mostly motivated by cultural affinities with a shared political grievance. The category of its members appears to be the most impacted in society by economic recessions, which led to increased unemployment, lower earnings and incomes, and lost chances more broadly, resulting in a major backlash when IPOB’s objectives harmed the most vulnerable of them.

Like earlier SAH directives, the new directive, slated for 21 October, continues to be unambiguously detrimental to all economic sectors and is linked to deadly assaults against defaulters by its Eastern Security Network militia (ESN) and other UAGs in the region. In the run-up to the aforementioned event, the region’s continued voluntary compliance with SAH directives on Mondays, despite its current suspension, demonstrates the region’s volatile nature, and individuals and businesses adherence to the SAH order serves as a precautionary measure to avoid irregular or targeted attacks not because they support such ideas.