April 20, 2022

How to stop killings in South-East — Igbo leaders

2023 presidency

File photo for illustration.

•It’s the result of injustice, FG should listen, dialogue with aggrieved groups —Victor Umeh

By Anayo Okoli, Vincent Ujumadu, Chidi Nkwopara, Chinonso Alozie, Chimaobi Nwaiwu, Ikechukwu Odu, Steve Oko  & Emmanuel Iheaka, ENUGU

THE wanton killings that have been going on in the South-East zone have become a thing of great concern to the people of the zone and some Igbo leaders have suggested ways to contain the ugly trend.

Former National Chairman of the All Progressive Grand Alliance, APGA, Senator Victor Umeh,  attributed the killings to years of injustice meted out to the people of the zone by the Federal Government, saying that injustice hurts, and the situation has gotten worse since the advent of President Muhammadu Buhari-led Administration. He called on the Federal Government to listen to and dialogue with the aggrieved groups to reduce the killings.

“Justice does not hurt anybody. But injustice hurts everybody and that is what Nigeria is experiencing. Dialogue is the solution. If someone is complaining about the injustice done to his people, you meet him and discuss it with him.

“People who are in authority have refused to use the appropriate mechanism to resolve conflicts in Nigeria. That mechanism is dialogue. When I was at the Senate, I was very loud on it. The only way Nigeria can be peaceful is for us to have a policy of inclusiveness. If the Federal Government carries all parts of Nigeria along, without discrimination, with equity and justice, everybody will be happy.

“When you continue to discriminate against certain people, they will continue to agitate for their rights. They can  manage it without the use of force. If you engage people and listen to them, make adjustments, and change your attitude towards them, they will cooperate with you.

“The idea of sending soldiers after people will not solve any problem. This country will be good for all of us when all of us are given equal citizenship rights.

“If people are complaining and you neglect them, one day, you will not have the means of resolving the problems again. It will become so unmanageable. We still have little time left to listen to grievances of various parts of Nigeria,” Umeh said.

Speaking specifically on the attacks in Anambra State, Senator Umeh urged those involved to have a rethink.

“There are alternative ways to go about these things. We need to have a peaceful Anambra State so that the new administration led by Prof. Chukwuma Soludo will be able to work.

“We have only one Anambra State and one Igbo land. We have to be peaceful and work together as brothers and sisters to confront our common challenges. In an atmosphere of insecurity, we will be destroying our homeland.

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“I share in the plight of those who are not happy, and I have always been joining in expressing these grievances. I have been canvassing the issues that affect the South-East people and I will continue to do so,” he said.

It requires a multidimensional approach —Security expert

For a former security chief at the Exxon Mobil, Sam Otoboeze, addressing security challenges in the South-East requires a multidimensional approach. According to him, youths empowerment, the election of people of integrity into leadership positions, quality representation, and development of key infrastructure in the zone would address insecurity in the zone.

“Stopping insecurity in South-East will require different approaches; it is not a one-dimensional approach or an approach which only brutal force can solve. It is an approach that would require the engagement of the youths in more productive ventures. The cause of insecurity is unemployment. There are a whole lot of young persons with different expertise and experiences in different areas but whose expertise and experiences are not being harnessed; and because an idle mind is a devil’s workshop, they would find a way to let off some fumes, and that is a cause of insecurity.

“It is the constructive engagement of the youths that would lead to a paradigm shift. Now that we are starting political programmes across the nation, it would require getting the kind of leaders that youths would have confidence in. If you look at what is happening, the youths have lost confidence in the leadership. The result of that is an increase in crimes and criminal activities.

“One of the ways to stop it is by ensuring that credible people are given leadership positions to change things for the better. This is not the time to give leadership positions to incompetent people based on blood, religious or ethnic considerations. If you elect credible people into political positions, youths would listen to them and things would change for good. It is not something that would happen overnight, it requires a consistent gradual process.

“Another thing is looking inward to see where this insecurity is generated. If you say there is insecurity here and there, there just has to be a root where it is generated. The political leaders representing those areas have to come down to the level of the people to engage them.

This would give hope to the hopeless. Insecurity is a reflection of a state of hopelessness in society. Because it is becoming a hopeless situation, everybody is trying to fend for a living one way or the other. I can tell you that three-quarters of people engaged in criminal activities were not born to be criminals but circumstantially, they are carrying arms to defend and demonstrate that they are not happy with the system. Change of the system and leadership would go a long way,” Otoboeze explained.

He equally identified change of value system as a way of addressing insecurity in the South-East and urged religious leaders to reduce their gospel of prosperity and miracle and concentrate on the gospel of integrity.

He also identified the development of key infrastructure in the region as a way of solving the security problems, insisting that when people realise that they can fend for themselves with the infrastructure on the ground, they would stop carrying weapons to terrorize the region.

Engage monarchs —Imo monarch

The Traditional ruler of Ihim Autonomous Community in Isiala Mbano Local Government Area of Imo State, Eze Oliver Ohanwe, suggested that governments at all levels should engage the traditional rulers in resolving the protracted insecurity crisis in the South-East.

Eze Ohanwe believes that most of the young boys committing these atrocities are unemployed and need to be engaged in meaningful ventures.

“There is no smoke without fire. The government must create an enabling environment through the monarchs. This agitation that they have started has gone beyond what we don’t understand. It has gone to attacks on security outfits in the country.

“We have IPOB; they are saying that there is so much injustice, marginalization, inequity in the country even though the Federal Government is trying its best but its best is not enough. You have to listen to them and use the top traditional rulers and empower us to go and ask them what they want,” the monarch said.

“If it is because of the man in the security custody (Nnamdi Kanu), then I suggest they should release him. Let him be released so that we can save lives.  Most of the boys committing these atrocities are unemployed because nobody will abandon his office and go out to do all these things. You can see some of them are doing this because of money just like the bandits who demand money for ransom, using kidnapping as a business. So, what I am saying is that the royal fathers should be engaged properly to help in solving these problems of insecurity,” he added.

Reach out to aggrieved—Archbishop Onuoha

The Anglican Archbishop of Owerri Ecclesiastical Province, Most Rev. David Onuoha, described the killings as “intolerable, unjustifiable, inexcusable and most unacceptable.”

His words: “What we are doing to ourselves in Igbo land is intolerable, unjustifiable, inexcusable and unacceptable. It is a sacrilege for an Igbo man to shed the blood of another Igbo man. It is not in our culture, character, custom, or religion. Our forbears must be turning in their graves because of the unfortunate turn of events in Ala Igbo. May the good Lord deliver us.”

On the way forward, the fiery Anglican cleric recommended that Igbo leaders should rise and be counted.

“The senseless bloodshed should stop. I also think that Igbo leaders should rise to the occasion. Igbo leaders, especially leaders in Imo State, must come out now, put politics behind and join hands to rescue our society.

“The rate at which the blood of innocent people flows in Ala Igbo is both worrisome and disturbing. It is capable of reducing the whole place to a ghost town if nothing is done urgently. It is said that what our enemies could not achieve against us we are achieving for them ourselves. That Ndigbo seems to have forgotten the slogan of ‘Onye ndi iro gbara gburugburu n’eche ndu ya nche mgbe n’ile’ (he who is surrounded by enemies is always alert) speaks of a people who are no longer in touch with their past and who have forgotten who they are.

“The way out is to passionately plead with those who think that killing ourselves is the way to get what we are looking for to have a rethink. Efforts must be made to reach out to them to persuade them to make a U-turn.

“Secondly, our elites should see the whole situation the way it is- an existential threat, and close ranks to fight it to a halt. We must put politics aside and join hands to fight this common enemy. “Thirdly, governments and Igbo industrialists must as a matter of urgency provide employment opportunities for the youths as a way of reducing the number of those who may be attracted to this evil way of life. Salaries and pensions must be paid promptly to reduce the suffocating stress and hardship among our people.

“The way the Federal Government has paid deaf ears to the complaints of marginalisation and exclusion of the South-East must be roundly condemned by all irrespective of political inclination. The refusal to apply a political solution to the case of Nnamdi Kanu has not helped matters. Every right-thinking Igbo person and our friends outside Igbo land must use every opportunity at their disposal to demand fair treatment of Ndi Igbo and the unconditional release of Mazi Nnamdi Kanu.

“Again, all political parties should as a matter of policy and sacrifice for peace and continued mutual coexistence, allow the South-East to produce the next President of Nigeria by zoning their tickets accordingly. The same doctrine of necessity that was applied in favour of the South-West in 1999 should be invoked in favour of the South-East now. This will no doubt reduce tension and bring the assurance that the civil war has truly ended,” Archbishop Onuoha.

Rise to the challenge —Obinna

The Archbishop Emeritus, Owerri Catholic Archdiocese, and Most Rev. Anthony Obinna called on patriots in the zone to rise to the challenge of holding every part of this country together by working very hard to ensure that the next President of Nigeria comes from the South-East.

Obinna also tasked the leadership of IPOB, saying patriotic organizations that have made it loud and clear that they are not involved in the criminality that is now bringing the South-East to its knees, should put the machinery together to rid Igbo land of criminal elements that are misrepresenting IPOB and their good intentions for our people. They should stand up against criminal elements from both outsides and within Igbo land.

The Rector, Alive Theological Seminary of Nigeria, Bishop Uzoma Emmanuel, said only dialogue can rescue the South-East from the raging killings. Bishop Emmanuel said that it would be difficult to quell the situation by trying to suppress the ideology of those behind the violence, insisting that the better approach should be to engage them in dialogue toward finding a solution.

“You don’t solve the problem by killing people’s ideology. When someone has an ideology and is agitating for something, don’t try to kill the ideology. The person could have something reasonable he is asking for. What you do is to call the person and hear him out.

“The only way to handle this crisis escalating in the South-East is dialogue. Dialogue remains the panacea to stop the killings and destruction of lives and property. There is no smoke without fire. Somebody may be feeling injured. Engage them, know why they are fighting and make a compromise.

“Other South-East governors, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, and other stakeholders should follow the step Governor Chukwuma Soludo has taken by constituting a committee for dialogue and reconciliation,” Uzoma said.

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