By Anayo Okoli
UMUAHIA —CALM has returned to Abia State after the weeklong security crisis which rocked Aba and Umuahia, following clashes between soldiers and members of Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, which the Military reportedly declared a militant terrorist group, while the South East Governors banned it.
Social and economic activities which were paralyzed by the crisis resumed as business activities and other social activities have since returned to normal. However, Abia State Government has further shifted the resumption of schools in the State by one week to ensure that children were not trapped in any emergency that could erupt.
The fate of the leader of IPOB, Nnamdi Kalu whose home was attacked and searched by soldiers is un- known as he is believed to have gone into hiding. But sources close to the family said that his lawyers were putting heads together to challenge the tag of militant terrorists given his group by the military.
In Afara-Ukwu community opinions are divided over the crisis. While some sympathized with him and family over the crisis and the damage in the family, some who had not supported the group operating from the place blamed his father, the monarch of the community for allowing his Palace to be used for IPOB activities.
Generally, however, the community is happy that the months of tension and rowdiness around them have for now come to an end. But the big losers in the community are the petty traders who make brisk business while activities of the group lasted when hundreds of members and supporters thronged the community virtually on a daily basis.
Meanwhile, the former governor of Abia State, Chief Orji Uzor Kalu, has thrown his weight behind the position of both the Military and South East Governors on the IPOB but said that the Governors’ action was belated.
Kalu said he had advised the governors over one year ago to stop activities of the members of IPOB because their activities were detrimental to the good of the Igbos. “I advised them at the onset to get rid of the group but they would not listen because some of them thought the boys would help them to win the election,” he said.
The former governor who spoke at his Igbere country home where he hosted the 2017 Annual Youth Summit of with the theme, “role of active youth in the society” condemned some of the activities of the banned group, saying that their fight for Biafra was not sincere.
He said that some leaders were not condemning activities of the group then because they hoped to use them to prosecute elections. “The way forward is for people agitating for Biafra to stop it and work for one Nigeria where equity is ensured”, Kalu said and urging Igbos to stop boxing themselves into a corner.
According to him, the only forward for Nigeria is restructuring and giving the South East zone additional state to be at par with other sections in the spirit of equity and fairness.
He said the decision to outlaw the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) would guarantee stability which he said the country needs now and believed that the crisis in the State was exaggerated.
“I think a lot of hate speech had engulfed the country. The matter escalated because the IPOB leader refused to abide by the terms of his bail conditions, if he did there would have been peace. When two people are fighting and court says don’t fight you obey the court.
The Binta Nyako court decision was not a personal decision but the decision of the court of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. If you have security personnel and uniform what does that mean in a country. If you go somewhere and someone says he has security then he is against the sovereignty of the nation.
“Some of you know what Ojukwu said here when he was alive, one day it will be made public. If we say we are marginalized, everyone is marginalized. We are marginalized because our people refuse to work. As soon as one becomes a Governor or minister he buys houses in Ikoyi and abroad and the people will celebrate him. Remember when I was governor, army and police used to do joint patrol. We should not box ourselves into a corner because my conscience will not allow me to do what is evil,” Kalu said.
Insisting that Igbos need Nigeria because of the nature of life, he said that “the demography of this country shows that if you go to Kontagora, after the aborigines the next is the Igbo. The same with Jos, Kano, the West, name it, so we need the peace and unity of the country more than anyone else. I believe that leaders should look forward.
“What I say in Nigeria is what I say anywhere in the world. We need peace everywhere, we condemn hate speeches.”
However, while some other people have faulted the action of the military in declaring the group a terrorist organization, some also clarified the position of the South East Governors on IPOB, saying that it was only their activities which they felt were embarrassing and causing tension that were banned and not IPOB itself.
“The Governors only proscribed the activities of IPOB and asked them to articulate their views and pass through them and other relevant Igbo leaders. This is good and I think Nnamdi Kanu got it wrong by not working with them ab initio.
“See how the Yorubas are using OPC to achieve useful things in the West and the North using Arewa. IPOB can serve as a pressure group that is mature, not crude and can articulate issues that can be pursued by Igbo leaders. But the leaders must be sincere”, a senior lawyer in Umuahia said.