By Steve Oko
The apex Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, has knocked President Muhammadu Buhari, over his comments on the alleged killing of eight Nigeriens and security agents in Owerri.
Special Assistant to the President on Media, Mallam Garba Shehu, after condemning the incident, tasked the community to unmask the perpetrators.
Buhari equally told, “community and religious leaders to speak more forcefully against the killings and to stand up and defend the ethos of the nation’s cultural and religious heritage”.
But Ohanaeze in a swift reaction said that while the killing was condemnable, the President should not talk as if such Killings were peculiar to South East.
Ohanaeze in a statement by its Publicity Secretary, Dr Chiedozie Alex Ogbonnia, said that there are more senseless killings and terror attacks in Buhari’s North than in the South East.
The apex Igbo body further argued that Buhari as the Commander in Chief should take blame for insecurity in any part of the country.
The statement read in part:”Ohaneaeze Ndigbo however frowns at the statement by the Presidency which is nuanced against the South East as a haven for terrorists that attack non-indigenes and law enforcement officials; implying that the insecurity persists because the leaders have not forcefully spoken.
“This is very unfair to the Igbo, especially when the president knows the root cause and the nature of the insecurity in the South East.
“It needs to be added that the solution to the insecurity in the South East lies in the enormous powers of the presidency.
“The above remarks by the presidency appear to have ignored the prolonged open war with the Boko Haram in the North East; the Banditry in the North West, especially in Katsina State; the Fulani Herdsmen invasion of several communities in the Middle Belt region; the Church massacre at Owo; the daily kidnappings on our highways; the Kaduna-Abuja train abduction, etc.
“It is very uncharitable, if not mischievous, to poison undiscerning minds by insinuating that non-indigenes and security officials are killed by the terrorists in the South East.
On the other hand, to appropriate national problems to the South East of Nigeria is an ethnic prejudice taken too far. Invariably, banditry in the North Central persists because their leaders have not forcefully spoken or rather they are publicly celebrated and turbaned or still, offered the Sheik Gumi option.
“Both history and current events in the country must have shown that unjust policy against the just shall ultimately vindicate the just.”
Ohanaeze which cited several instances of killings by bandits in different parts of the country wondered why the Presidency would single out the Owerri incident as if the locals were responsible for the act.
“Two months ago, suspected armed herdsman in the early hours of Sunday, June 21, allegedly killed about thirty persons in two communities of Okpokwu Local Government Area of Benue State in what has been described as unprovoked attacks on civilians.
“On Monday, July 22, 2022, gunmen attacked some officials of the 7 Guards Battalion of the Nigerian Army Presidential Guards Brigade. The incident, which took place around the Bwari Area Council of Abuja, left three soldiers wounded and eight personnel killed.
“On Friday, August 5, 2022, Advocacy News reports that “Gunmen have abducted 14 Indian nationals working with a ceramics company in Ajaokuta Local Government Area of Kogi state. According to the report, “two Indians, two police officers and two drivers were killed when the gunmen struck”. It added that “they were on their way home from work (West African Ceramics) when the gunmen attacked their Coaster bus”.
The statement further read: “A Wisconsin-based Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED), one of the world’s most reliable conflict data aggregators, stated that “there were 18 abduction events targeting students across northern Nigeria between January 2018 and April 2021.
“The ACLED data also shows that the bandits killed more than 2,600 civilians in 2021, an increase of over 250% from 2020. This number dwarfs that of civilian deaths credited to Boko Haram and the Islamic State West Africa Province in the same year”.
“It added that in the “period between December 2020 and August 2021, more than 1,000 students and school staff were abducted. Within six months, as many as 343 people were killed, while 830 others were abducted by bandits between July and September 2021 in Kaduna state alone, according to figures from the state government”.
“As at now, all schools in the Federal Capital Territory have been closed down on account of insecurity and no person contemplates a reopening.
“Paradoxically, when the district head of Daura, the hometown of Mr President, was kidnapped and was freed after two months, Mallam Garba Shehu was quoted as saying that the “incident was evidence that Duara was not receiving preferential treatment and that insecurity was a national problem.
“In other words, when insecurity manifests in the North West, it is a national problem; but when on the other hand, it occurs in the South East, it is blamed on the inability of the “community and religious leaders to speak more forcefully against the killings and to stand up and defend the ethos of the nation’s cultural and religious heritage”.
Ohanaeze said that Ndigbo are hospitable and not known for attacking their guests, and asked the President as ‘C in C’ to rise to his responsibilities instead of trading blames.
“We can state without any fear of contradiction that the Igbo possess the greatest wanderlust as well as the most hospitable dispositions amongst the various ethnicities in the world.
“The non-indigenes in the South East enjoy untrammelled friendliness, inter-ethnic assimilation and conducive business environment; what happened to the non-indigenes in the South East is most regrettable as part of the current national calamity.
“One would think that the inevitable consequences of the orchestrated mendacious propaganda, dubiety, subterfuge, sabotage and serial alienation against the South East of Nigeria are already staring us in the face. “