In this edition, PAUL OKAH takes a look at the activities of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) in the South-east and how its sit-at-home order, in protest against the arrest and trial of its leader, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, is affecting businesses, especially the education of the region’s school childre.
On Metro (Sept 25,2021)9, the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) declared that residents of the South-east would observe what it called “sit-at-home” order, to protest against the trial of its re-arrested leader, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, by the federal government over various offences bordering on treason, incitement and others.
According to the group, shutting down of shops, schools, public and private sectors every Monday will force the federal government to drop all charges against the IPBO leader and even consider granting the separatist group’s wish to secede from Nigeria.
However, not many people envisaged the disastrous consequences that would follow the order as lives and property of residents of the South-east had been lost due to the activities of overzealous adherents of the group.
Also, apart from threatening and maiming residents, the education of primary schools, secondary school students and undergraduates is presently affected as they are forced to skip schools on Mondays as a result of officials avoiding to make it to school over fear of being harassed or maimed.
As it is, every Monday, while pupils and students and teachers in different parts of the country attend schools, their counterparts in the South-east avoid going to school in order not to fall victims to the overzealous adherents, thereby drawing back the education of the people from the region.
Interestingly, on August 14, IPOB’s spokesperson Emma Powerful suspended the weekly sit-at-home exercise, saying the action was due to a “direct order” from Kanu to that effect.
Nevertheless, the negative trend has continued unabated with hoodlums cashing in on the lawless state to cause disorder resulting in loss of lives and property.
Group chases students away
On Monday, September 13, gunmen suspected to be members of IPOB stormed the Comprehensive Secondary School, Nkume in Njaba local government area of Imo state and stopped students from taking their examinations.
The students were preparing to sit for English in the on-going Junior Secondary School Examination (Junior WAEC) before the hoodlums forcefully dispersed them, with both teachers and students fleeing in different directions.
Although there was no report of casualties, a video of the incident on social media showed the students and staff shouting and running for their lives, with the gunmen setting ablaze some motorcycles belonging to some of the staff and students.
Mob lynches ESN member
On September 20, matters came to a head as an angry mob lynched an alleged leader of the proscribed Eastern Security Network (ESN) who was trying to enforce the sit-at-home order alongside his gang members.
The Commissioner of Police in Imo state, Mr. Rabiu Hussaini, confirmed the incident in a press statement signed by the police spokesman, CSP Mike Abattam, stating that before police patrol team could arrive at the scene, the ESN member had been lynched, adding that Hussaini had directed that the suspects must be handed over to the police for proper investigation.
In the press statement, Abattam said residents of Umuagbavo Oru Ahiara in Ahiazu Mbaise local government area of the state were going about their lawful businesses before mayhem was unleashed on them.
“Suddenly, one Obinwanne Iwu, 34 years, a native of Ahiara in the same local government area who is an escapee of Imo Correctional Centre, Owerri, went to the market with his gang trying to enforce a sit-at-home order of the proscribed IPOB/ESN terror group. They were shouting at the top of their voices that `today is Monday and everybody must obey the sit at home order’.
“The harassment did not go down well with the people who resisted the gang. The angry mob in their numbers held Iwu, tied his hands behind his back while others fled the scene. In the process, the suspect was mercilessly beaten to death before the police patrol team arrived at the scene. Efforts made by the police patrol team to arrest the perpetrators proved abortive as they all fled the scene on sighting the patrol team,” Abattam said in the statement.
Speaking with this reporter, a medical doctor, Dave Okorafor, said the situation is counterproductive as the order will only yield the desired result outside Igboland and abroad.
He said, “The best places for the Igbo to sit-at-home are in Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt, the UK, the US, and other non-Igbo places. If you own a shop in Ladipo, Alaba or Mandilas, lock it up every Monday, Tuesday and perhaps Thursday so people who come to buy motor spare parts, electronics or whatever it is you sell will be pained that you aren’t there to serve them.
“Those of you working in ministries and private establishments in Abuja and other cities, absent yourselves from work so your employers will ask about you. Those living in the Diaspora should abandon work on these days too so the impact of their absence would be felt. Let your employer feel your plight and join you in crying out.
“I said and I still maintain that shutting down offices and economic activities in the South-east every Monday (and Tuesday/Thursday as rumour now has it) is self-harm and foolhardiness, but the Igbo, who vocally support and defend it, calling it ‘temporary sacrifice to achieve freedom’ are mostly those who live, work and earn outside Igbo land and don’t observe the sit-at-home they, in their magnanimous, zealous, nationalistic dispositions, prescribe to their kinsmen at home.
“If these people can’t verifiably do this for the nation, which they claim to love so much, they should shut up or show up at Also Rock for a real protest. If we want to make sacrifices, let us make them where and in the manner they would be most effective. If we continue in this delusion of impoverishing our zone in the hope of attracting sympathy from the world or waking Nigeria’s up to his deliberate marginalization/exclusion of our ethnic group, we’ll live to regret it.”
Also, a veteran journalist, Azuka Onwuka, said the regular sit-at-home in the region is not a sacrifice for the actualisation of Biafra, but a direct way of killing the businesses in the South-east and advised IPOB members on the path to take.
“Regular sit-at-home in the South-east is not a sacrifice for the actualisation of Biafra. It is a direct way of killing the businesses in the South-east. Soon big and small businesses will consider the Southeast unsafe and migrate to other zones. A sacrifice is something you suffer to achieve something bigger. Sit-at-home will not make Biafra nearer.
“The sit-at-home that is currently taking place in the South-east is not done out of volition. It is done out of fear of being attacked or killed. This is different from the Biafra Day that is complied with willingly. A sit-at-home that happens once in a long while is endorsed by the people rather than having one or two sit-at-home events within a week of 5 or 6 working days. This is a passionate appeal to all those who love Igbo land. Many of us have given so much for Igbo land and don’t want to see it destroyed by self-inflicted pain.”
On September 13, the chairman of South-east Governors Forum and governor of Ebonyi state, David Nweze Umahi, again warned civil servants to disregard the sit-at-home order and resume for work or face sanctions.
In a statement signed by the Secretary to the State Government and Coordinating Commissioner, Ugbala Kenneth Igwe, Umahi said “whosoever fails to report to his or her duty post stands to lose his/her job.”
The statement read in part, “His Excellency, the governor of Ebonyi state, David Nweze Umahi, has directed that all civil and public servants must report to work across the state on Monday and whosoever fails to report to his or her duty post stands to lose his/her job. All the commissioners and other government officials are to take note and monitor strictly the attendance of workers.
“Similarly, any shop or bank that fails to open for business activities on Monday September 13, 2021, in Ebonyi state, stands the risk of losing the right to operate business or banking operation in the state. The general public is by this announcement advised to go about their normal businesses without fear.”