By Emmanuel Aziken, Clifford Ndujihe, Anayo Okoli, Peter Okutu, Dennis Agbo, Ugochukwu Alaribe, Chinonso Alozie & Chinedu Adonu
AN avalanche of reaction, yesterday, trailed soldiers clash with members of the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, at the Umuahia country home of its leader, Nnamdi Kanu, which left many people injured as well the Army’s deployment of troops to the South-East for Operation Python Dance 11 (Egwu-Eke).
Soldiers attached to the Forward Operation Base, FOB, Umuahia, had clashed with the IPOB at Afara Ukwu community, Umuahia.
The reactions ranged from outright condemnation to expression of concern and call on the government to ensure that the crisis did not degenerate.
South-East governors said the clash at Kanu’s home and Operation Python Dance do not speak well of the unity of the Nigeria.
Igbo socio-cultural association, Ohanaeze Ndigbo said what is happening in the South-East is ‘’a show of military brigandage and sheer prostitution of power without authority.’’
Also, elder statesman and Chairman of The Patriots, Professor Ben Nwabueze, SAN, said the issues are matters of grave concern and urged the government to take actions that will stop the crisis from escalating.
Other people and groups, who spoke on the issues, yesterday, include traditional rulers of Umuahia North Local Council, where Kanu hails from; former National Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Chief Olisa Metuh; Movement for the Sovereign State of Biafra, MASSOB; Eastern Consultative Assembly, ECA and Igbo Leaders of Thought, ILT.
Others are Igbo Youths Movement, IYM; Igbo Students Union, ISU; South-East Christian Assembly, SECN; Igbo Women Assembly, IWA and Igbo National Council, INC.
No cause for alarm – Abia police
Meanwhile, the Police in Abia State have said that there is no cause for alarm over Sunday’s clash between soldiers and IPOB members in Umuahia.
In a statement signed by the Police Public Relations Officer, Abia State Police Command, DSP Geoffrey Ogbonna, the Police said the situation was instantly brought under control without loss of life.
Ogbonna said a policeman sustained a machete cut on his head and back, while one of the soldiers was injured on his left wrist, including one Mrs. Grace Nwokeukwu of Umuobasi lsiama Afara, Umuahia who also had a machete cut on her head.
He said the victims were taken to Police Clinic, Umuahia for treatment and urged residents of the city to go about their normal businesses without fear.
It’s a worrisome devt – South-East govs
However, South East Governors expressed worries over the incident, stating their determination to ensure peace, political stability and economic prosperity in the zone.
Speaking on phone with Vanguard, the Director of Information, South East Governor’s Forum Secretariat, Mr. Mike Udah said the invasion of Nnamdi Kanu’s home by security operatives doesn’t speak well of the unity of the nation.
He pointed out that efforts were being made by the South East Governors to meet over the development and find ways to nip it in the board.
His words: “The South East Governors had held meetings to ensure the agitations by Pro-Biafra groups do not escalate. The recent invasion of the home of Nnamdi Kanu does not speak well of the unity of the nation. It is indeed worrisome. The governors are trying to nip such development in the bud.”
In like manner, Ohanaeze, in a statement issued in Abakaliki, by its National Publicity Secretary, Prince Uche Achi-Okpaga, decried the invasion of Kanu’s home.
Achi-Okpaga said: “The invasion of Nnamdi Kanu’s home is brazen show of military brigandage and sheer prostitution of power without authority. It baffles me that soldiers are unleashed on a person that is peaceful and devoid of violence, while the gun-trotting herdsmen are still on rampage in virtually every nook and cranny of Nigeria. It is a pity that the tenets of democracy are being battered with reckless impunity in Nigeria.
“The Operation Python Dance is a deliberate ploy to gag the South-East like a conquered territory. There is no doubt any longer about the disposition of the APC-led Federal Government on the Igbo. The recent NNPC appointments strongly attest to our assertions and these consequential events dramatise them beyond doubt.
“Today, Boko Haram is still killing and herdsmen pulverising villages but it is in the South-East that is even peaceful that soldiers are deployed at close points. Expectedly, the soldiers now unleash economic mayhem on motorists and deal brutally with those who refuses to bring the “white.” I think what we have is choreographic democracy.”
Govt must stop crisis from escalating – Ben Nwabueze
Professor Ben Nwabueze, in a statement said: ‘’The report of the attack on Nnamdi Kanu’s Umuahia home by soldiers, during which some people were reportedly killed or injured is a matter of grave concern, because it occurred at a time the country is facing destabilising crisis and threat to its peaceful co-existence and at a time the South East governors are making valiant efforts to contain the danger of the repercussions of the crisis by interventions with Mazi Nnamdi Kanu and the IPOB.
”The situation in the country calls for great restraint on the part of all, and for the Federal Government to stop actions capable of escalating all crisis, such as the reported attack on the Nnamdi Kanu’s home.’’
S-East groups speak
In its reaction, the Eastern Consultative Assembly, ECA, said it was worrisome that only a section of the country was being allowed to to go on “with the historic culture of enslaving others, to totally control the military, defence, intelligence and security architecture of a multi-ethnic and heterogeneous country.”
Rev. Fr. John Odey, the Publicity Secretary of the ECA in a statement lamented that “isolating a whole region as five percent losers, deliberating excluding same region from the entire security organs of the country, and now provoking them with a military invasion is the height of insensitivity and insult.
“Driving towards the gate of the most popular leader in the zone (a man who controls electrifying adoration of over 99% of the masses of the zone) to blare sirens, shoot into the air and display armoured tanks, is clearly a deliberate and fully rehearsed plot to provoke mayhem.”
He added that “the Army and the government continuously make it difficult for the people to respect the government.
Leader of the IWA, Chief Mrs. Maria Okwor, said: “The idea of invading Mazi Nnamdi Kanu’s residence on Sunday evening to “Show force” is appalling and very provocative.
“The army cannot show force in Sambisa, in Plateau State where hundreds of villagers were slaughtered by herdsmen, in Ikorodu, Lagos where badoo cult has forced residents to relocate.
“The show of force five metres from Kanu’s house shows that the Federal Government wants to provoke warfare in the East.’’
On his part, Evang. Elliot Ugochukwu-Uko of the ILT and IYM maintained that “the story by the army that some kids threw stones at the military convoy is hollow and uninspiring. Why would the army choose Kanu’s residence to perform their ‘show of force’ on Sunday evening only to claim that unknown children pelted them with stones, in order to justify their use of live bullets on a residential compound.
“The Army is only confirming the suspicion that it is a sectional army determined to wage war against the people of Eastern Nigeria, in a bid to sustain Nigeria’s unjust unitary structure, and to resist the restructuring of Nigeria. Injustice will not prevail over justice. They are only making Kanu more loved and deified.”
Reacting to the Army’s Operation Python Dance II in South-East states, former NADECO member, Chief Ralph Obioha said he was worried about helicopters that hovered in the region.
Obioha said he was not well briefed about the operation and demanded that the army should endeavour to sensitise the citizenry well before embarking on any military operation.
Umuahia North monarchs urge govt to embrace dialogue
Monarchs in Umuahia North Council of Abia State have cautioned the Federal Government against the use of force to stop the agitation for Biafra but rather should engage the agitators in dialogue and listen to their demands.
Chairman of Umuahia North Traditional Rulers’ Council, Eze Philip Ajomuiwe, who was reacting to the invasion of Kanu’s home insisted that dialogue is alway the best option towards resolving problems.
He said the soldiers’ action was an affront on the traditional institution in Abia as well as an attack on Ndigbo.
“Arresting Kanu won’t solve the Nigeria problem. Even if you kill Kanu today, IPOB is still there and greater Kanus will come up. We should think before acting and not act before thinking”, he cautioned.
Buhari bent on committing another genocide on Ndigbo— MASSOB
MASSOB, in condemning the attack alleged that President Muhammadu Buhari was bent on committing a second genocide on Ndigbo and urged the international community to come to the rescue of unarmed Biafrans.
MASSOB Director of Information, Samuel Edeson in a statement in Enugu, yesterday, said it was regrettable that instead of the soldiers going to quench war in areas where there are crises, it has chosen to work against the letters of the Nigeria constitution.
It said: “The president has no constitutional right to deploy military to any part of the country without the approval of the National Assembly.
”President Buhari and the Chief of the Army staff, Lt-Gen Tukur Buratai should, as a matter of urgency, withdraw the soldiers from the entire Biafran land or they should be ready to face legal action for genocide against Biafrans. What has Ndigbo done to deserve this ethnic cleansing?’’
Metuh flays attack on IPOB
On his part, Chief Olisa Metuh said: “The Sunday’s reported bloody clash between soldiers and civilians in Umuahia, Abia State capital is indeed traumatic and completely unacceptable.
“I have read, severally, the press statement from the Nigeria Army and that of the Nigeria police in their attempts to rationalise the violence. Assuming, but not conceding that all they have said is true, there are still evidential wrongs against the people by the security team.
“First, there is no such thing as ‘show of force’ in a peaceful part of our country. It is a provocative taunt and insult thrown at the face of the elected, appointed and anointed leaders, as well as the people themselves.
“When you taunt and mock a people because you control instruments of brute force, yes, you can arrest, humiliate, handcuff, maim, imprison or even shoot and kill them at will, but then, you cannot kill the spirit of their struggle and resistance. Provocative and brute show of force does not hold the answers.’’
INC wants Army Chief sacked
The INC called for the sack of the Chief of Army staff, Lieutenant General Turkur Yusuf Buratai over the Umuahia clash.
The National President of INC, in a statement urged the National Assembly to set up a panel of enquiry to ascertain the level of damage done so far.
“The INC condemns in strong terms the invasion of the country home of Nnamdi Kanu and the reckless killing civilians during the invasion. INC hereby call on the National Assembly to immediately set up a panel of inquiry or convene a public hearing to ascertain the level of damage, punish the perpetrators and pay reparation accordingly. The INC therefore call for the immediate sack and prosecution of the Chiefs of Army and Defense Staff on charges of genocide against armless civilians in Umuahia.”