•How protests shut Aba, Umuahia
By Francis Igata & Anayo Okoli
ENUGU—THE undying resolve of the Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra,MASSOB, and the Indigenous People of Biafra,IPOB,who ab initio, were protesting the continued detention of Director,Radio Biafra,Nnamdi Kanu by the Department of State Services, DSS, have shifted attention to the gross neglect, marginalization, and the abandonment the people of South-East geopolitical zone have suffered under the present and past administrations.
It would be recalled that Nnamdi Kanu was arrested and arraigned secretly at the Magistrate Court, Wuse 11,Abuja by the DSS, but was later granted bail on October 19. His lawyer, Vincent Obetta had told South-East Voice that”the stringent conditions for Nnamdi’s bail had been fulfilled since October 21, yet the DSS had refused to released him.
“I have secured four court orders and served the DSS, instructing them to release my client, who was granted bail since October 19. “DSS has not given any reason for his continued detention. We have fulfilled his bail conditions. To worsen the matter, he is being detained in DSS facility instead of prison custody, without access to his lawyer and personal physician. Nnamdi is being detained by an executive order. It is a clash between judiciary and executive.
“I have not seen or heard any place where a court grants bail and the person is not released. Under UN and Africa charter, it is enshrined that once bail is granted, you release the person upon meeting the bail conditions. We are sliding to days of decree 2 and 4 of 1984. This is pure dictatorship.”
However, MASSOB in a statement had said that if former President Goodluck Jonathan who was the closest neighbour, in-law and friend of Ndigbo, whose administration for six years could not right the wrongs the previous administrations meted to Ndigbo with regard to federal roads, which had become death-traps in Igboland and also having failed to build critical development infrastructure, then Buhari’s administration cannot be expected to be fair to Ndigbo.
National Director of Information, MASSOB, Mr. Uchenna Madu directed Ndigbo residing outside Igboland to start returning to their home land, re-establish their businesses and make investments back in their homeland. “We have decided and promised to provide adequate security of lives and properties in Igboland. MASSOB shall defend Igboland with our blood, valour and enthusiasm. It is our unflinching service to our father land.
“MASSOB had vowed to root away kidnapping, robbery and other criminal tendencies in Igboland because there is no place in Nigeria like Igboland.”
S/East govs corroboration
Governors of the South-East geopolitical zone had while addressing newsmen in Enugu, last week, corroborated the stance of MASSOB, IPOB and other affiliate groups when, they in their communique, agreed that they, ”are concerned about the poor state of the Federal Government roads in the zone namely the Enugu – Onitsha, Aba- Ikot Ekpene, Owerri – Port Harcourt, Enugu – Port Harcourt, among others, which need urgent intervention by the Federal Government.
“The South East Governors met November 17, and deliberated on a number of issues and resolved as follows: “To appoint a high level Economic Advisory Committee to harness the economic potentials of the people of the South East working together.
“On security, the issue of MASSOB/IPOB, was discussed and they resolved to consult widely with Ohanaeze Ndigbo, traditional rulers, development unions, clergy, and other stakeholders on how to ensure lasting peace in the zone. In furtherance to this, the South East Governors scheduled an emergency meeting of stakeholders on Sunday, November 22, at Enugu.
“Expected to attend the emergency meeting were all National Assembly members, all ministers and other invited stakeholders from the zone. “They meanwhile, advised MASSOB/IPOB to continue to toe the line of peace as this is the only way to ensure economic development of the zone.”
Count us out of agitation —S-South
Meantime, MASSOB had claimed that the map of Biafra stretched to the South-South geopolitical zone as was evidenced in protests that took place in Port-Harcourt,Rivers State and pockets of other cities in the region. But rising from a meeting of the ethnic nationalities of the South-South geo-political zone, in Uyo, it denounced demands for Biafra by the Igbo in the South-East zone and called for an immediate cessation of pro-Biafra protests on their soil.
In a 10-point communique issued at Uyo at the end of a meeting held under the auspices of the Conference of Ethnic Nationalities of the South-South at Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, chaired by HRM, Obong EU Ekidem, Ntisong Ibibio III, the Ntisong of Ibibio land, they dissociated the South-South zone from the “so-called Biafra.”
Representatives of Ibibio, Efik, Anang, Ijaw, Itsekiri, Urhobo, Ikwerre, Oro, Isoko and several other nationalities attended the summit. Among them were the interim chair of the group, HRM Ekidem, convener of the meeting and Secretary of the Itsekiri Leaders of Thought, ILoT, Delta State, Mr. Edward Ekpoko, Albert Akpomudje, SAN (Urhobo) and president general of Ogbakor- Ikwerre in Rivers State, Prof A.M Onyeozu.
Pastor Nelson CocoBassey (Efik ethnic nationality), Ulap Bidiak Uloh (Oro ethnic nationality), Amechi Ogbonnia (Itsekiri), Obong Ukpong Umoh and Obong Aniedi Ndem, were all at the conference, and signed the communique. The South South nationalities said: “We will not allow any inch of the land of the ethnic nationalities mentioned above and other lands of the South-South to be part of the ill-thought-out enterprise.
“We call for a halt to demonstrations for Biafra on our land henceforth as it touches on the collective sensibilities of our people and could provoke ethnic crisis. “We are not only surprised, but shocked that the Igbo, who returned to Nigeria after the fall of Biafra on January 15, 1970, with tales of woes and horrors, can talk about Biafra.”
They added: “It is in the interest of the Igbo that Nigeria is protected as they have more investments outside their homeland.” The conference called on governors, political leaders and traditional rulers of the South-East geopolitical zone to “speak out now as their silence is becoming eloquent.” Furthermore, the South-South ethnic nationalities urged “well-meaning Igbo to call their children/wards to order to prevent an avoidable crisis.
“We call on the law enforcement agencies to be more vigilant. “We believe in one Nigeria and will do all within our power to protect the unity of Nigeria,” they stated.
Buhari on Nigeria’s oneness
Apparently worried by the spate of protests for Biafra in the South-East and South-South geopolitical zones, President Muhammadu Buhari, disclosed that in spite of the challenges, Nigerians were determined to remain together as a united country just as the Nigeria Army had vowed to crush any insurrection and restore law and order, if called upon.
How pro-Biafra protesters almost shut Aba, Umuahia
For three days last week, business activities were paralyzed in Aba, the commercial capital of Abia State when members of the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, and the faction of the Uchenna Madu-led MASSOB, stormed the city to protest the continued detention of Mr. Nnamdi Kanu, the promoter of the London-based Radio Biafra, who was detained by the Department of State Services, DSS, about three weeks ago.
Umuahia, the political capital of the state, and home town of Nnamdi Kanu also witnessed protests by the group. And as the pro-Biafran leader continued to stay in DSS detention, more people, including his parents and traditional rulers from his Ibeku clan, added their voices to the call for his release.
The protests were in fulfilment of the pro-Biafra groups to carry out massive protests in parts of the old Eastern Nigeria to press home their demand for the release of Kanu. Numbering over 5,000, the protesters marched through the major streets of the commercial city, chanting solidarity songs in support of their detained leader, Nnamdi Kanu and demanded for his release.
“We want to use this opportunity to tell the world about the level of marginalization and dehumanization the South East and South-South states have suffered even when they are the geese that lay the eggs that other parts of the country are enjoying today,” the protesters said.
They also said that the proposed one-million-man protest march was to draw the attention of the international community to what they described as “injustice being visited on our leader” in detention.
A member of the group said that they decided to take a non-violent approach to the issue because the “price has already been paid by our fathers and the price we are going to pay for the sake of Biafra in our time is exactly what our director (Nnamdi Kanu) is paying for at the moment.”
Though the protest was peaceful, there was panic in the city, prompting shop owners to close their busineses for fear of attack by the group, who would see them as saboteurs. For the days and hours the protests took place there was serious traffic gridlock on all the major streets they passed through.
In Umuahia, the home town of Nnamdi Kanu, the pro-Biafra protesters also staged their release – Nnamdi-Kanu protest, marching through the major streets of the city, but under the watch of security agencies.
Before the arrival of the protesters, a combined team of security agencies including police, army and civil defence had mounted surveillance at strategic locations in the capital city such as the Government House, which is not far from the Kanu family house just as heavily armed security personnel patrolled the city with armoured personnel carriers.
As a precaution, the Abia State government in a radio announcement aired intermittently, said that it received disturbing reports that some people under the aegis of MASSOB had planned to disrupt the peace of Umuahia, the capital of the state on Monday, alleging that it was being sponsored by an unnamed politician.
In the announcement signed by the new Commissioner for Information, Mr. Bonnie Iwuoha, the government further said, “while appreciating the rights of citizens to air their views in a democracy, government will not condone lawless acts that could impede the progress of the state.
“More so, as it has been discovered that a disgruntled politician in the state is funding the said protest march, government therefore calls on parents to prevail on their children not to join misguided elements in acts that could destabilize the progress of our state,” noting that the police and other security agencies had been directed to take lawful steps to protect the peace of the state and secure lives and properties of law abiding citizens.
Before the protesters berthed at Umuahia, the parents of the detained pro-Biafra leader and the traditional ruler of Isiama Afaraukwu in Umuahia North Council Area, Eze Israel Kanu had appealed for the release of their son. Flanked by his wife, Ugoeze Nnenne Kanu, the monarch told reporters at his ‘Ome Udo Palace’ that they were worried over the ordeal their first son had been passing through.
“I am pleading with the Federal Government to release my son. Let his freedom be restored. I am aware that in Nigeria the constitution guarantees freedom of speech and freedom of expression. “I am surprised that my son is being detained. I have been asking why he is being held without getting an answer,” Eze Kanu lamented.
Speaking further, he lamented: “I was confused because my son was coming to see me when he was arrested, when I asked where he was arrested they said Abuja. I sent someone to confirm his state of health and the report I got is that he is alive, that is why I was able to talk now.”
Born during the Nigeria-Biafra war, Eze Kanu said his detained son never discussed his pro-Biafran idealism and activism with him, even as he was quick to point out that “my son is not a trouble maker.” Eze Kanu, however, noted that what his son was campaigning for reflected the minds of the majority of the people in the South East geopolitical zone, given the protests that had trailed his arrest and detention.
He also, said that he could not guarantee influencing him to drop the agitation, as according to him, “Nnamdi is a full fledged adult. “My son is an adult and fully mature to be able to express his mind on any issue,” just as his wife, Ugoeze wondered why her son should be made to suffer for saying the truth.
“The Bible tells us that truth shall set us free. But in Nigeria we are being made to understand that truth is bitter and can even lead to death.” According to her, she could not understand why a country that practises democracy should not tolerate people’s views and opinions expressed peacefully.
“As a mother, it is painful, I will not deny him, he is my son, but in a democracy I know there is freedom of speech,” she said and appealed to the Federal Government to “leave my son alone.” Also worried by the continued incarceration of Kanu, traditional rulers from Ibeku ancient kingdom, his native clan, appealed to the Federal Government to release him.
Speaking through the Chairman of Ibeku Traditional Rulers Council, Eze Henry Ezekwe, the monarchs expressed worry that they might lose an illustrious son like Nnmadi Kanu if nothing was done urgently, saying that their son had not committed any heinous offence to warrant his long incarceration. They, however, warned that if any harm befell him, they would react appropriately.
According to them, the clan had lost prominent men in the past including Gen. Aguiyi ironsi and warned that they would not want to lose Prince Nnamdi Kanu. Meanwhile, the Abia State government had in a move to pacify the protesters urged them to discontinue their demonstrations, saying that their message had been communicated and their voices heard nationally and internationally.
The government also, advised the protesters to dialogue with the Federal Government rather than engaging in street protests, which it said, could be hijacked by trouble makers and detractors. It then warned that the entire South East could not afford militancy at this period of time and urged the groups to change their strategy.
According to the government, the pro-Biafra groups had made their point on the release of Kanu, and believed that the message had reached the highest seat of power in the land and then appealed to the groups “to give peace a chance and wait for the reaction of government” on their demand.
A statement issued by Governor Okezie Ikpeazu’s spokesman, Godwin Adindu said that “government observed that though the protest [on Monday] has been largely peaceful in Abia State without any incident of violence, it actually disturbed the socio-economic life of the state, hence the need for the pro-Biafra groups to change their strategy from street marches to peaceful negotiations with the Federal Government.
“The government also noted that the entire South East cannot afford militancy and therefore urged the groups to discontinue their street marches before the situation is hijacked by troublemakers and detractors of the government.”