By Vincent Ujumadu      

THE agitation by pro Biafra groups for the actualization of the dream republic recently got to an anti climax when the arrowhead in the agitation, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, was brought back from Kenya and detained by the Department of State Security, DSS, in Abuja.

Kanu, it would be recalled, was facing trial in an Abuja High Court before he left the country under controversial circumstances following attack on his Afaraukwu, Umuahia country home in Abia State by some military men,

His first appearance at the court for the renewed trial witnessed a large assemblage of Biafran supporters and security operatives had a hectic time controlling the crowd. The case was later adjourned and Kanu was remanded in DSS custody. On the adjourned date, the court premises was filled to capacity by members of IPOB and lawyers who wanted to catch a glimpse of Kanu, but this was not to be as he was not brought to court. The matter was again adjourned.

The non appearance of Kanu in court infuriated members of IPOB who, through the media and publicity secretary of the group, Comrade Emma Powerful, declared that every Monday would henceforth be declared sit –at –home until Kanu is released from detention.

Generally, Igbo people being business inclined do not joke with Mondays because as the first business day of the week, it is assumed that what happens on the first day of business of the week would go a long way to determine the shape of things for that week. Usually, Igbo businessmen, therefore, look forward to doing good business on Mondays as such cities like Onitsha, Aba, Enugu, Owerri, Umuahia, Awka witness influx of traders from other parts of the country to transact businesses.

So, when IPOB declared the first Monday sit at home on August 9th, 2021, the entire Igbo nation was jolted. Before that date, the IPOB propaganda machinery was at its best with threats that anyone who dared leave his house that day would have himself or herself to blame. In fact, death threats were issued to the people and even security operatives in that regard. The IPOB directive insisted that the weekly sit-at-home would be in force until Nnamdi Kanu was released unconditionally by the federal government.

 The sit at home turned the entire South East into a ghost zone as it was totally obeyed and nobody, not even government officials, dared leave their houses. Commercial activities were totally paralyzed and at the end of that day, losses incurred as a result of the sit at home was put at billions of naira. Even the NECO examination scheduled for the day was missed by most students because they could not go to school to write the exam in the South East.

IPOB members who enforced the sit –at- home dismissed the argument that the failure of students from the South East to write the Mathematics exam that day would affect negatively in their educational progression in view of the importance of mathematics, recalling that Igbo children did not take any examination for three years during the 1967 -1970 civil war and still succeeded in life

“What is NECO? Is it not Nigerian examination body? We can even listen to the complaint if it is West African Examinations Council, WAEC, which is an international examination body”, one of them said.

Some people who depend on their daily work to feed their families were the hardest hit during the sit –at -home as their families could not put food on their table that day. Those who risked it by trying to do something to be able to feed their families had unpalatable stories to tell as suspected IPOB members threw their articles of trade into the drainages for daring the disobey the order. To the IPOB members, one day hunger would not kill anybody and vowed that as long as Mazi Nnamdi Kanu remained in custody, no activity would take place in Biafra land.

 At the two campuses of the state –owned Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu University at Uli and Igbariam, the second semester examinations scheduled for the day could not hold because the campuses were virtually deserted. Similarly, Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka was devoid of the usual heavy movement of people, although some offices were open for business.

Along some roads in the South East, youths mounted blocks and were extorting money from drivers. A university lecturer who was going to conduct examination at Uli campus of the institution narrated how she was forced to pay the youths at Amichi and Awka Etiti to be able to pass. She wondered whether that was the way the new Biafra would be run if it is eventually got.

In some states, such as Imo, Anambra, Enugu and Ebonyi, lives were lost and some vehicles seen on the road were set ablaze. Attempt by some state governors in the South East to counter the order were unsuccessful as the threat to workers that they stood the risk of losing their salaries if they failed to go to work that Monday, was not obeyed. One civil servant in Anambra State said he decided to remain at home as directed by IPOB because it is somebody who is alive that would receive salary. “If I die by insisting to be in my office, will another person not take my position”, he asked.

Following the success of the first Monday sit at home order, IPOB supporters started mocking the South East governors that while the people could not obey them in their various states to come out, the entire Igbo nation obeyed Mazi Nnamdi Kanu’s order even while in detention. “We are happy our people are beginning to understand where we are heading to”, a member of IPOB in Anambra said. However, following the intervention of notable Igbo people, including leaders of Ohaneze Ndigbo, that IPOB should reconsider its stand on the weekly sit at home, the pro Biafra group reviewed its earlier stand and suspended the weekly sit at home.

IPOB Media and Publicity Secretary, Emma Powerful, who took charge of affairs in terms of dishing out information to the public following the detention of Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, said the sit –at home would henceforth take place only on the days Kanu would appear in court. His statement to that effect read:

“The suspension of the sit-at-home by the IPOB Head of Directorate was as a result of an order from the leader of this great movement, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu. In accordance with the directive from our leader, our sit-at-home will, in the meantime, be observed on the date of our leader’s court appearances.”

“The leadership of the Indigenous People of Biafra understands the concern being expressed by the global IPOB family on the suspension of the weekly sit-at-home earlier announced by the IPOB Head of Directorate of State.

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 ”We know that our people embraced this civil action wholeheartedly and without any compulsion. The leadership sincerely appreciates the innate desire of Biafrans to sacrifice their time, resources and energy in ensuring that our leader Mazi Nnamdi Kanu is released unconditionally from the illegal custody of the Nigerian State who criminally brought him from Kenya to Nigeria.

“There is no gainsaying the fact that one of the major fundamental guiding principles of IPOB is command and control. This simply means that all commands from the supreme leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra will be obeyed and implemented to the latter by the Directorate of State of the Indigenous People of Biafra.

“Bearing in mind therefore that this principle has enabled this movement to surpass even the expectations of both Biafrans and Non-Biafrans alike, the leadership wish to encourage Biafrans to focus on the most pressing issue confronting this great family presently, which is ensuring the safety of our leader while still in the illegal custody of the DSS and to secure his unconditional release from detention.

“The IPOB leadership urges Biafrans worldwide to take note of the next court appearance of our leader which is the 21st of October 2021. If however we have any reason or directive from the IPOB highest command that require us to reactivate the suspended weekly sit-at-home, the leadership will not hesitate to lift the suspension and continue with our civil action.

“The leadership once more appreciates all Biafrans and our friends and sympathizers who faithfully observed the Monday, August 9 sit-at-home which was a huge success throughout Biafra land. May God continue to bless and uphold all those committed to our struggle.

“We consider Biafra restoration as a sacrosanct call to duty above all else. Any other information regarding sit-at-home in Biafra land not emanating from IPOB through our main channels of information dissemination should be disregarded.

“The Nigerian government should heed now to the voice of reason coming from within Nigeria and from outside the shores of Nigeria to unconditionally free our leader Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, and announce a date for Biafra referendum or plebiscite where our people will choose where they wish to belong before it is too late.”

No sooner did Powerful issue the statement than dissenting voices took over the social media space, with a section of IPOB saying Powerful was on his own. Although the suspension was said to be a “direct order” from Nnamdi Kanu, a group within IPOB revolted, insisting that the weekly sit- at- home should remain in force, with some of them even accusing Emma Powerful of betrayal. A member of IPOB, Mr. Clement Okorie said the issue of Biafra restoration has gone beyond the family of Kanu and therefore should not be seen as a family affair.

“We cannot allow the Kanu family to slow down the tempo of the restoration of Biafra, which is at sight. In this struggle, many people have fallen by the wayside, but the agitation has continued to gather momentum. Even if it was our leader, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu that suspended the weekly sit at home, I am sorry we have to disobey him because Biafra is not for one family”, Okorie said.

While people were contemplating whether the second Monday sit at home will take place or not, many Biafra agitators started moving into places where large crowds were gathered to inform them that the order must continue to be obeyed. What this meant was that some people are now trying to undermine the orders of Nnamdi Kanu and this could open a new chapter in the Biafra agitation.

So, despite the official cancellation of the sit- at- home, commercial activities were grounded in the entire South East for the second Monday, the 16th of August. Without any serious threat, people just remained in their houses. Banks, markets, as well as shops on the streets were not open, even when there was nobody ordering people to remain at home.

Although there was no molestation of any sort on motorists who chose to travel to any part of the country through the South East, most people remained indoors, apparently out of fear that IPOB members might attack them if they came out. Later in the day when many people drove out of their houses to the streets, information filtered in that some IPOB members were smashing windscreen of vehicles at the Awka end of the Onitsha –Enugu expressway for daring to disobey the last order. In the ensuing confusion, many people began to drive against the run of traffic to be able to escape from the seeming attackers.

The question on the lips of many Igbo people moving forward is, what will happen on Monaday23rd August and subsequent Mondays since Kanu will not be appearing in court until October 21st? Have Igbo people taken it for granted that every Monday has become a day for sit-at –home until Kanu’s court case is over? Many prominent Igbo were aversive when these questions were put to them, which was an indication that the people have succumbed to the dictates of IPOB.

As one Igbo elite told Saturday Vanguard, people have to be careful with what they say these days, especially at this period of unknown gun men. But it is clear those bearing the brunt of the style of agitation are Ndigbo.

Vanguard News Nigeria

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