By Emmanuel Iheaka
The fear of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) could be said to be the beginning of wisdom in South East.
At least, events of past months have proven that. For the past six weeks, there have been much tension and apprehension especially on Mondays and few other days owing to the ‘sit-at-home’ ordered by the IPOB in protest against the continued detention of its leader, Nnamdi Kanu.
Despite the counter orders and efforts by the governors and security agencies, urging the people to go about their normal businesses, residents across the South East Zone have continued to obey IPOB. Some of those who dared to defy the sit-at-home had sad tales.
Though the leadership of IPOB had announced the suspension of the weekly sit-at-home it had declared earlier, some gun wielding men have continued to kill and destroy businesses in the name of enforcing the sit-at-home, suggesting confusion in IPOB.
The sit-at-home enforcers had on Monday, September 13, stormed Comprehensive Secondary School, Nkume in Njaba Local Government Area of the state to chase away students who were sitting for the English Language paper in the ongoing West African Examination Council exams. Not just did they stop the students from sitting for the exam, they went ahead to destroy motorcycles belonging to teachers. There were also reports of the enforcers setting ablaze a trailer load of vehicle spare parts and van conveying bread in Enugu last week. Other states of the zone were not spared of the violence. All of these came after IPOB has maintained that it has called off the sit-at-home and even vowed to deal with the enforcers. Seeing all of the violence, residents now decide to sit at home on Mondays, apparently out of fear, while banks, markets, offices and shops remain shut. This, no doubt, has been a great source of worry to the governors of the zone.
Initial appeal to IPOB to shelve the sit-at-home
Upon announcing the decision to enforce the sit-at-home, stakeholders across the zone had appealed to IPOB to shelve the decision in order to spare the economy of the zone. But IPOB had maintained that the sit-at-home remained sacrosanct. However, after the first outing on August 9, and its consequent violence, IPOB made a volte face and suspended the sit-at-home. But how to stop the violence and convince the people to resume Monday businesses has remained a puzzle.
Governors battle to retrieve economy
After a futile appeal to get the people back to business on Mondays, the governors resorted to some threats, all in a bid to retrieve the economy of the zone.
A fortnight ago, Imo State government through its agency, Owerri Capital Development Authority (OCDA) had sealed almost all the banks in Owerri for refusing to open on Mondays. Though OCDA had claimed that the banks were sealed for not having building approval, insider sources maintained that government was miffed that the banks had remained shut on Mondays and had threatened them to either resume Monday operation or remained permanently sealed.
Anambra and Ebonyi governors, Willie Obianoa and Dave Umahi, respectively, had threatened not to pay civil servants who would stay away from work on Mondays. Obiano went as far as mounting a mega phone and moving round the state to encourage residents to resume Monday activities. But that did not help any bit as the people still sat at home last Monday. Their Abia counterpart, Okezie Ikpeazu had gone beyond threatening civil and public servants, to vowing to lock markets that would refuse to open last Monday. But that didn’t make the people to buckle. In all these, there were no policemen or other security men on the streets to protect those who probably wanted to come out for business. The governors did not back their words with provision of security and fear reigned.
Threat to shut business
Speaking with Saturday Vanguard , a former Chairman, Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), Owerri Branch, Barr. Lawrence Nwaketi, dismissed the entire leadership of the South East as a disgrace for failing to live up to responsibility. He submitted that the leaders of the zone had given room for the present situation.
“The entire political leadership of the South East is a disgrace.
“The question is, what led to the agitation? These are youths who are disenchanted with the situation of things in the country; you graduate, no work. You suffer discrimination; your counterparts from the other regions whom you are better than, are gainfully employed.
“Sometime in 1990, Sanusi, the then Emir of Kanu had told Northern elders that the injustice against the Igbo was getting out of hand, that a time would come when youths who were not Biafrans but born as Nigerians will decide to fight their own battle for freedom. He made this statement about 20 years ago, but today it has come to reality. The hatred for the Igbo man is systematic. These people are saying we will not take it, even though our fathers took it”.
Nwaketi held that the panacea to the situation is to engage the agitators in dialogue and for the country to do away with injustice and marginalization. He insisted that force sometimes, does not get the best result.
“What is expected of a responsible leadership is to sit down and dialogue with them. Even in South Africa during apartheid, when force became counter productive, they applied dialogue and brought Nelson Mandela out from the prison.
“Is there any part of the country where you see the kind of military and police check points you see in the South East, as if this place is a conquered territory? The provocation, intimidation and dehumanization are telling. And the governors say nothing about it and you want the people to swallow it hook, line and sinker?
“How can people with sophisticated weapons who could shoot down aircraft, who invaded the Nigerian Defence Academy and killed soldiers, you call them bandits, and yet the flag-bearing ones, you call them terrorists. Any country with sharp policy of injustice cannot thrive”, he stated.
From all indications, how to retrieve the economy of the South East from what now seems an endless sit-at-home has become a Herculean task, both to political leaders of the zone and the leadership of IPOB that initiated the sit-at-home. Whether the zone will regain its Monday economically or not, is in the hands of time.
But it must be noted that the Igbo are the ones bearing the brunt of IPOB style of agitation. Their businesses are suffering, so is the education of their children. Ironically, those who were meant to protect them are the ones unleashing pain to their people.
Vanguard News Nigeria