By Vincent Ujumadu
AWKA- FOR the third year running, the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, a group of agitators campaigning for the actualisation of Biafra Republic out of Nigeria, ordered the people of the South-East and South-South geopolitical zones to sit at home to protest perceived injustices against the people of the South-East. This year’s order coincided with the September 14, 2017 anniversary of the invasion of the country home of its founder, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu at Afaraukwu, Umuahia in Abia State.
Other reasons given by IPOB for the order include the killing and detention of many Biafra agitators in various parts of the country and the arrest and detention of over 100 women protesting in favour of Biafra in Imo State.
Two weeks to September 14, the IPOB propaganda machinery had engaged in what it knows how to do best and that is, psyching the people and security operatives on its plans for the day. Expectedly, security councils in all the states in the South- East and South-South held several meetings to prepare for any eventuality. In Anambra State for instance, a top security meeting involving the Army, Police, Civil Defence, Immigration, Prisons and other para-military organisations, took place at the Anambra State Police Command headquarters.
At the end of the meeting, Anambra Commissioner of Police, Mr. Garba Umar warned IPOB not to attempt to disrupt the peace existing in the state by doing anything to disturb people on September 14. A similar meeting was held in Enugu where the General Officer Commanding 82 Division of the Nigerian Army presided, as well as in Imo, Abia, Ebonyi and Rivers states.
Umar said that as an illegal organisation, IPOB had no authority to issue any directive to anybody, asking people to go about their normal businesses as security operatives were prepared to protect them.
On September 13, IPOB issued a statement warning people not to attempt to come out if they valued their lives. To counter the directive, there was show of force by security operatives in all the affected states same day, with convoys of security vehicles patrolling the major streets. This action made many people to engage in panic buying just in case. Some even took their families to the villages, even though there was work the following day.
On the D-day, the exercise recorded partial success. While the usual IPOB strong-holds of Onitsha, Nkpor, Aba and some parts of Port Harcourt recorded total observance, residents in most other parts went about their normal businesses without molestation. By 12 noon on September 14, however, every part of the South-East became alive again. Some banks and schools were closed, just as inter-state movement was difficult because most commercial vehicles refused to operate.
However, some people affected by the sit-at-home order counted their losses. For instance, a driver with the Star Sunny Motors, Chinedu, who operates the Awka-Onitsha route said the order made him to lose so much as he could not load his vehicle to Onitsha from Awka because there was no movement in Onitsha. Similarly, a trader in Onitsha Main Market, Mr. Oliver Okeke said his customers who came from Cameroun were disappointed because they could not make their purchases that day.
According to him, these distant customers come to Onitsha once in a while with good money and we always look forward to their arrival. Unfortunately, they came on the IPOB sit-at-home day when there was no movement and they turned back.
Worried by these frequent orders by IPOB, the apex Igbo socio-political organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo said the ‘sit-at-home approach’ in the agitation for Biafra was not good for the economy of the South-East.
Faulting the IPOB order, the deputy national publicity secretary of Ohaneze, Mr. Chuks Ibegbu observed that shops and markets in parts of the South-East were usually closed during the sit-at-home order. He argued that forcing people to close shops and markets so frequently was destroying the economy of the people of South-East, adding that though IPOB might have genuine grievances, its approach had the tendency to discourage investors from coming to the zone.
If there is any member of the pro-Biafra groups who was not happy with the sit-at-home order, it was the founder of the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra, MASSOB, Chief Ralph Uwazurike. According to Uwazurike, the concern of the people of the South-East should be the safety of lives and property of Igbo residing in other parts of the contry.
But IPOB leadership said it was happy with the outcome of the sit-at-home order. The group’s media and publicity secretary, Comrade Emma Powerful said: “IPOB and its leadership commend the worldwide family of IPOB, all traders unions, market leaders, artisans, teachers, bankers, road transport workers, clergy, businessmen and women across the length and breadth of Biafraland, for observing a solemn day of remembrance in memory of those that died on 14 September 2017 at Isiama Afaraukwu Umuahia.
“Our collective defiance of the oppressors and their local agents has truly marked IPOB as the authentic mouthpiece of the people. The predictable biased report accompanied by unrelated photos did not conceal the fact that over 70 per cent compliance was recorded.
“IPOB has once again proved to the entire world that we are in charge of the whole Eastern Region. The sit -at- home order issued by IPOB and observed by Biafrans is an indication that Biafra has come to stay.”