By Dr Ugoji Egujo
In Somalia, clan-based guerrillas once sought freedom and dreamt of Eldorado. They chased away a dictator, Siad Barre, and left Somalia in ruins. Change is good. But after Saddam Hussein was dismantled rashly, Iraq has not known peace.
Igbo land is in peril. Unknown Gunmen. What haven’t they done? They have casually slaughtered innocent policemen. They have ransacked police stations in rural and urban areas. They have hijacked a black maria. The unknown gunmen haven’t just poked their fingers into the eyes of the state; they have done more. The vultures have now plunged the beak into the scrotum of the state.
In front of the Imo police headquarters, they danced before choosing to rummage and burn it. They didn’t mind that the governor and the DSS lived next door. When the police dusted themselves and found their voice, they humoured themselves. They said their guns were not carted away because of their gallantry. We must empathize with the police. The police once castigated and vilified for their rotten eggs, now castrated by wild birds.
After shoving sand into the mouth of the police, the vultures swooped on the prison. The warders must have squirrelled into holes. Who would blame them? How would an Ofeke contend with that which has floored a Dike? The vultures broke the walls and set almost 2000 prisoners scampering into freedom.
The police headquarters is just meters away, the width of a colonial road, from the government house. The government house is about 200 meters, two football fields away from the prisons. Thank God for the DSS. How would the story have been told? The almighty DSS, whose offices sit beside the government house, must have been asleep. They must do a thanksgiving. What about the Army? The Army brigade at Obinze is a 10-minute dash at midnight from the government house. The Unknown Gunmen spent two noisy hours and left unscathed. Perhaps the cries of the police couldn’t rouse the army from their own slumber. Honestly, the army must be tired.
Before ripping apart the Owerri prisons and leaving the carcass of governmental authority in the open for public ridicule, the vultures had accosted Prof. Soludo and his political campaign team at Isuofia, Anambra state. On that sad day, they snatched the lives of three police officers and took away a state commissioner. The vultures, it seems, are also intent on driving intelligent Igbo sons away from the Igbo political field, which thick heads and shady characters have dominated.
While all these were happening, Igbo land, the erstwhile land of the brave, was silent. Nobody beat the drums and the gongs to summon the gods and men against rampaging evil. The governors mumbled and babbled. Nobody wanted to irritate the vultures. The traditional rulers tiptoed and mewed. Even the celebrities who had found their voice during the End-Sars protests seemed dumb. Fear is potent. None of the Bishops, not even those gifted with swift tongues, found any courage to utter a curse against the vultures. A few may have been pleased the wild birds were rattling a pompous, aloof Buhari.
The Imo governor hinted the Owerri prisons and police attacks were a collaboration between local politicians and hired militants. He wasn’t eager to implicate the IPOB. But the police choose neither that prevarication nor the doublespeak of opposition politicians in the state. They jabbed accusing fingers at the IPOB. Nobody would know where this evil shoe pinches more than the police who have lost men and are drunk with grief and humiliation. But we have been asked to wait for a commission of inquiry. A Commission of Inquiry against wild vultures who are setting prisoners free, murdering police officers wantonly, sharing sovereignty with the government?
The decimation of the police is a flight into anarchy. It doesn’t matter whether people are dreaming of Biafra. It doesn’t matter whether some politicians are getting back at their rivals. It doesn’t matter whether brave men are playing it down because of cowardice or ignorance. Some deluded youths who will bear the brunt of an Afghanistanisation of Igbo land might be excited, but the potential consequences of the path being taken are foreseeably Somalian.
The reaction of the Federal Government has been tepid. The Federal Government casts the image of a beleaguered polygamous man with many cantankerous wives in whom no strength is left for the containment of troubles. Police station after police station, burnt. The Federal Government rehashed old press releases. Perhaps the bandits of the northwest and trouble makers in the southwest have made the Federal Government accustomed to the loss of lives and pride. A state police headquarters had been razed. A state prison had been broken. But all we heard were the customary cautions and platitudes about national unity
While the vice president was assessing the rubble at the Owerri prisons, the vultures devoured two more police stations. The sight of burning vehicles at Mbano Divisional Police Headquarters raised no eyebrows. The next day, Mbaitoli police station ransacked. Perhaps nobody can blame the Ezes for not speaking up. When something larger than a cricket meets a cricket in the hole, the cricket stops chirping. A day after the vice president told ndi Imo that the government was on top of the situation, the vultures swooped on an Eze and his cabinet of six chiefs and took them away into the evil forest of captivity.
The prisons that housed armed robbers, kidnappers, murders, and rapists are now empty. We have collected a wasp with our head, we must endure the sting.
Everybody has denied involvement. Even those who used to be bold and loquacious. But someone has praised the destruction of the prisons and the police headquarters. As blithely as ever, he said no one deserved to be in jail in Owerri since Boko Haram repentants have been resettled. The road to Biafra must be filled with confused philosophers. He asked the unknown gunmen to avenge the innocent. It seems a few people are scared of claiming responsibility but desirous of milking glory.
Igbo land is sliding towards a mob rule. A reign of terror is afoot. Once violence is allowed to sit, it cannot be ordered to leave. It’s sad that those who have appointed themselves to fetch freedom for the people have become typical Azuanukas.
Igbos have about the best literacy levels in Africa. The Igbo have about the best per capita income of all ethnic groups in Nigeria. Igbo is the most entrenched ethnic group and perhaps the most prosperous if democratized wealth is wealth indeed. Yes, it’s down to hard work, industry, but Lagos has been welcoming. Nigeria might be sick but the Igbo have flourished in it more than most of the other ethnic groups.
Igbos have been marginalized, but the Igbo is perhaps the only ethnic group that has more wealth outside than within its homeland. It’s not difficult to grasp that the overall interest of a widely distributed Igbo nation lies in a more equitable and prosperous Nigeria. And that risking a violent conflict to seek Biafra when the circumstances of 1966 no longer exist is sheer foolhardiness. A clear-eyed sober reflection must find that if Nigeria must break up, it should not be championed by the Igbo for self-interested economic reasons.
There is this lofty argument that Biafra would become a first-world country quickly. Assuming that’s a valid argument, would the championship of a violent break up not risk a descent into Somalia? A one-legged weaver in hand could be worth more than two lush pigeons in the bush.
Igbos used to be shrewd.
The government must find arrows to stop the vultures. But after that, the eagle must perch, and the kite must perch. True federalism with regions as federating units like the polygamous units of an African king. Resource control. Regional police and judiciary.
God will spare Igbo land.