IPOB threats: The gathering storm in Igbo nation

South-East Bureau Chief, JUDE OSSAI, writes on the war declared by the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu, on high-profile Igbo sons and daughters and the fallout of the threat.

TO many Ndigbo, the unfolding scenario within a major ethnic nationality has never happened before: a group of Ndigbo declaring their kinsmen as endangered species. Unarguably, Ndigbo are known for being deeply religious and culturally rooted with respect for their ancestors and elders. But curiously, unfolding events seem to have contradicted the age-long notion, as the modern Igbo man prides himself to be a “Mr know-it-all”. He readily asks anybody who tries to lead or direct him, if he feeds him, playing up republicanism in him. Perhaps, it is against the aforementioned background that the attack on the former deputy president of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu, at Nuremberg, Germany, did not come to many people as a surprise. Investigations revealed that there had been bottled up anger in the South-East zone since the end of the Nigeria/Biafra civil war in 1970, as the people of the zone have continued to cry of marginalisation against them by other ethnic nationalities, a development that their political leaders have not been able to redress.

To many people in the South-East zone, successive political leaders have not lived up to expectations, citing the juicy positions held by Igbo men and women during the former President Goodluck Jonathan-led tenure, which they argued did not uplift the life of ordinary man in the street. Ask any Igbo man in the street of Enugu of the decaying social infrastructure in the South-East; he will tell you that two Igbo political leaders held the portfolio of Works Committee chairmen at the lower and upper chambers of the National Assembly respectively during Jonathan›s administration, yet, the Enugu/Onitsha road and Enugu/Port-Harcourt road, among others, were in a terrible state.

Even at the state and local levels of government, the performances of some of the political officeholders are not positively felt by the people, hence, the growing bickering, restiveness and mistrust in the land.

The general insecurity, unemployment and flamboyant lifestyle being exhibited by many of the politicians and their acolytes have further fuelled the rift between the led and the leaders in Igboland.

Already, mixed reactions have continued to trail the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) members’ attack on Senator Ekweremadu in Germany, with each side of the divide trying to justify their standpoints.

For the Director-General of the Voice of Nigeria (VON), Osita Okechukwu, the assault on Ekweremadu by IPOB in Germany seems more or less like the paradox of a “conman.”

“A careful perusal of the comments from the viral video gazetted angry young men, many of who could have remained in Nigeria, if Senator Ekweremadu had prudently executed his constituency projects. For instance, where are the youth vocational centres he presided over?” he asked.

Okechukwu further noted that “some of the attackers may be aware of the humongous properties Senator Ekweremadu is alleged to own, both at home and abroad; properties which case is still subsisting with anti-graft agencies. This is enough to incite any discernible group. The world is now a global village. Methinks they’re not happy of their forced exit from Nigeria.”

To stem the restiveness, he suggested that “our youths should join the agrarian revolution initiated by President Muhammadu Buhari via the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), instead of leaving Nigeria. Back to land is the answer, especially now that the National Economic Council (NEC) has proposed the National Livestock Transformation Plan (NLTP) to curb the herdsmen menace on farmlands.”

A cross section of people interviewed in Enugu during the week agreed with critic of President Buhari, former Minister of Aviation, Femi Fani-Kayode, that what happened to Senator Ekweremadu in Nuremberg, Germany “at the hands of IPOB is an eye-opener and a clear signal to every political leader in southern Nigeria. The people of the South are getting angry, and you either stand up and defend them or stand aside.”

According to the programme coordinator of the Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO), South-East Zone, Comrade Kindness Jonah, Igbo political leaders should be taken on two fronts, namely; outside Igboland and intra-Igbo land.

“Extraneously, Igbo are endangered in Nigeria, having purportedly lost the civil war. There is curiosity to avert any perceived uprising originating from Igboland since 1970, because all other ethnic groups in the country reserve their comments when Igbo is involved.”

Protracting from this, one can easily see why the political gladiators of Igbo stock are endangered species. There is always a cumulative mistrust when an Igbo champions a national cause, no matter how genuinely. Going down memory lane, Comrade Jonah, who is also the convener of the Voice from East, a civil society group, recalled that “the restiveness manifested in Second Republic, portrayed by Dr Alex Ekwueme’s vice presidency in the early 80’s; then, he went head over-heels in pleasing the Sokoto oligarchy; yet, they implanted Alhaji Umaru Diko and his likes to checkmate him. This resurfaced in touted Presidency of Commodore Ebitu Ukiwe when the man played to the rule of the game; yet, he was misunderstood and perversely feared. He was given a Hobson choice of resigning in favour of a non-Igbo,” he added.

A large segment of Igbo people have opined that “o break this cycle, Igbo political play on many fronts is like a man running with his buttock, a supervening impossibility that foot-drags any Igbo-centred development within the fabrics of unity in limbo. Igbo man’s worldview is always ace-phallus which makes ‘goal-getters’ choosing rather to reward achievements more than oligarchy which is prismatic in kingship.”

“It is this supposedly grandstanding that posits Igbo as having no king which dove tails to misconstrued ideologue ‘Igbo enweghi eze” which means ‘Igbo have no king.’ It should not be taken literary, because there are ezes, obis, igwes (kings) in Igboland. Proverbially, it confirms Igbo world of rewarding ingenuity and not disrespect for elders and political leaders. What we should learn from this standpoint is that a traditional ruler has one vote in elders’ meeting.

“Indeed, IPOB, as an organisation, has garnered momentum beyond puerile and docile clattering against the organisation by some self-enriching bigots who are agents of state working against the realisation of Biafra or working for their self- aggrandisement to make the leader of that organisation a twaddle,” Odumegwu Onwumere, a public affairs analyst, said.

“The leader of IPOB and the organisation might have humanly erred in few ways, but suffice it to say that if the states that should make up Biafra allow this organisation to go down the drain, those fighting and planning to extirpate Biafrans in the present state occupation won’t have much to respect or something that scares them not to hatch their dastardly act against Biafrans,” he added.

According to him, “what is expected of South-East leaders and beyond is to reach out to the leader of IPOB and fine-tune some misunderstandings where necessary. Even when he may be unruly, the buttons should not be stopped without pressing them. The crass and myopic criticisms against IPOB and its leader, by a few, stand as a political venture orchestrated to malign the organisation and the leader. The same people fighting IPOB today thought that they would gain much by fighting Dim Odimegwu-Ojukwu in the cause of same Biafra. Ojukwu is gone in the flesh, but his fears concerning Biafrans selling one another for lucre has not been mowed.”

The leader of IPOB, Kanu, has since listed his grievances, saying the attack on Senator Ekweremadu was the beginning of more troubles for other targeted Igbo politicians. Mazi Kanu, who placed a N1 million reward for anybody who gives him information on itinerary of Igbo political leaders abroad, disclosed that some on the IPOB’s target list included the South-East governors and President-General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief John Nwodo, alleging that they instigated, financed and defended a full-scale bloody military invasion of Biafraland.

His words: “They backed Operation Python Dance that led to the torture and untimely death of over 600 Biafrans, 28 of which fell in my compound. These men sanctioned the desecration of the home of an Igbo tradition ruler by Fulani soldiers and did not care if my father, HRM Eze Israel Okwu Kanu; and my mother, who were home with me during the unprovoked invasion, were killed. All these desperate Igbo politicians ever wanted is my death; the death of IPOB; the death of our dream of freedom for all.

“In view of the Nuremberg encounter, it has become necessary for us to refresh our memories, lest it succumbs to confusion and deliberate misinformation, because most people, unlike we IPOB, are in the habit of excusing intolerable evil and wickedness. Every perpetrator of evil, every purveyor of iniquity, every merchant of misery and every defender of injustice must and will be held to account. We will not relent until justice is served.”

But kinsmen of Senator Ekweremadu think differently on IPOB’s unruly behaviour in Germany, urging the Federal Government to thoroughly investigate the attack on their son, describing it as an assault on the Igbo nation.

National Secretary of the Enugu West People’s Parliament (EWPP), Honourable Cletus Akalusi, told reporters in Enugu last week that the perpetrators of the attack should be arrested and prosecuted, urging the Federal Ministry of Justice, the Nigerian Embassy in Germany and the Nigerian Diaspora Commission to rise to the occasion, so as to ensure that the culprits were brought to book.

Akalusi, who was accompanied by other national officials of the EWPP, including the National Organizing Secretary, Ozo Okey Ozoani; and the National Publicity Secretary and former Commissioner for Information, Dr Godwin Udeuhele, stated that the attack on the senator was “brazen hooliganism, dastardly cowardly and sacrilegious.”

The pro-Ekweremadu group also called on Igbo leaders currently occupying various political and cultural offices not to be distracted by the threats of IPOB in their efforts to serve the Igbo nation.

“We like to state that agitations all over the world are more successful through peaceful and democratic means. We, therefore, urge our current leaders to continue in their democratic and peaceful means to actualise our aspirations,” the group added. They recalled that Senator Ekweremadu was instrumental, alongside other Igbo senators, in ensuring the bail of Kanu.

While Ekweremadu’s kinsmen said he wrote to President Buhari to condemn Operation Python Dance and draw the attention of the president to possibilities of the operation escalating to civil war, the pro-Biafra group faulted their claims. Expectedly, the South-East Governors’ Forum (SGF), the umbrella of the five serving Igbo governors, had risen in defense of the senator, condemning the attack on the former deputy president of the Senate.

The Igbo governors, in a statement signed by their chairman and governor of Ebonyi State, David Umahi, said should Kanu make his threat real, they would, by all means, repatriate him back to Nigeria to face the wrath of the people.

They, however, assured the people of the region that they would continue to protect them against killer herdsmen and other insecurity; and won’t be distracted by cheap talks.

“South-East governors are saddened with the ugly display and dance of shame by IPOB in Germany in attacking one of the finest leaders of Ndigbo, Senator Ike Ekweremmadu. We totally condemn it as we weep for them; they never knew the implication of their naked dance in public,” the forum stated.

It added that; “we have also noted the empty threats by Mr. Nnamdi Kanu (a former ordinary member of Movement for the Actualisation of Sovereign State of Biafra [MASSOB]) to attack governors of South-East, Ohanaeze leadership and other Igbo politicians for not supporting the self-acclaimed supreme leader in his self-fight for the raw power and wealth, while pretending to be fighting for Ndigbo. We wish to warn that should any South-East person be attacked anywhere in the world, we shall, by all means, bring back Kanu to Nigeria to face the wrath of our people.

“It is madness for anyone who wants raw power with no experience to think that we governors would support the killing of our people, giving out our scarce land to herdsmen.

“If Kanu is serious, let him direct IPOB to fight those foreign killer herdsmen in their countries of origin, since he claims the IPOB is in over 100 countries in the world. If Kanu, who was previously in MASSOB, but needed power and money, wants Biafra and he is the self-acclaimed supreme leader, let him come back home with his army and guns to lead us to battle for the empire he desire to lead, other than cheap talks. Soonest, Ndigbo will know him better.

“We assure our people that we are doing so much to protect them against killer herdsmen and other insecurity problems. We have also been eradicating kidnapping and cultism in the South-East to near zero level. We are highly committed to the security and well-being of our people and will never be distracted by cheap talks.”

Be that as it may, there is a glaring unison that Igbo leaders should be very careful, as more stones await them.


Who are the friends of IPOB?

Investigations revealed that IPOB draws its strength from the youth who conservatively constitute about 70 per cent of the population in the zone. With the clampdown on the pro-Biafra group by the Nigerian security operatives, the Igbo youths and their sympathisers have been carrying out their activities in a subterranean way, while the elders who share their views speak in low tones for fear of losing their grip on power or political patronage from the authorities.

Since IPOB declared war on high profile political leaders, the only notable voice in tacit support of the attack on Ekweremadu is the chieftain of the APC and Director-General of VON, Okechukwu, who said, though he joined thousands of patriots in condemning the assault, it seemed more or less like the paradox of a ‘conman,’ for the senator allegedly had fallen short in his Enugu-West senatorial zonal representation at the National Assembly.

Further checks showed that Nigerian youths who included many uninformed keke (tricycle) riders, the unemployed and artisans are friends of IPOB and there are visible anger, frustration and revolt in their faces. From the South to the North, there seems to be agreement, among youths, that it is time for elders to take the back seat and allow them to be in the saddle.

The youths are speaking up for an environment that will recognise, use and reward their potentials and talents. They seem to be saying they are done with being used as political thugs and are now demanding to be at the centre of the debate on their future. At least for now, that seems to be the charge. Little wonder the youths perceived IPOB as the most popular and credible self-determination organization, not only in Nigeria, but also in Africa.

“It is popular among the youths of Ndigbo; and even outside Ndigbo. And if we consider that the youth constitute at least 60 per cent of our population, then, you know the import. We should not be carried away by our emotion. Our political leaders should begin to be responsible and responsive to the yearnings of their people. How many states and local government areas do we have in the South-East zone? Yet, our political leaders are keeping quiet,” a taxi driver, who gave his name as Obinna Nwakama, told Sunday Tribune.

But then, the attack on Ekweremadu in faraway Germany has again brought to the fore, the deep pain, anger and collective rage in the hearts of the youth in Igboland. They are tired of seeing their political leaders playing as second fiddle in the country’s national life and it appears that there are no more alternatives for them than seeking avenues to vent their grievances.