From George Onyejiuwa and Stanley Uzoaru, Owerri
April 23, 2021 was a black Saturday for members of the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB), following the killing of the second in command of its Eastern Security Network (ESN), Kayinayo Andy Nwokike, popularly known as Don Ikonso (Holy Cup).
The community of Umuoji Umuokwe of the Awo-Omamma clan in Oru East Local Government Area area of Imo State, where Ikonso hailed from, was also in mourning when our correspondent visited there on Thursday.
Ikonso was killed in a joint operation by the military, police and Department of State Services (DSS).
A visitor to the community would feel the silent grief that has enveloped the community. They claimed the late Ikonso, described by many as honest and fearless, had been a major bulwark fighting against injustice in the community.
Since his death, residents now see every strange face as a suspect or an enemy.
It was believed in some circles that Ikonso’s killing triggered the attack on the Omuma country home of Imo State Governor, Senator Hope Uzodimma by aggrieved members of the ESN/IPOB, even though the group denied executing the attack.
About three security agents were killed in the incident while vehicles and a part of the governor’s home was set ablaze.
The man Ikonso
A source gave December 25, 1985 as the slain IPOB commander’s date of birth, even though other sources said he was in his forties. He was married with three children and had attended St. Basil Primary School Awo-Omamma as well as Technical School Awo-Omamma.
He was into building and construction, ostensibly because of his technical background. Saturday Sun learnt that several indigenes of the area living abroad had given their building projects to him because of his unimpeachable honesty.
A source in the community who did not want to be named told our correspondent that Ikonso was a good and honest man who did not like cheating, adding that most of the people who contracted him to handle their building projects did so because he always delivered on the projects as agreed.
The source said: “Ikonso was a building contractor and majority of our people from Awo and Amiri who live abroad always contracted him to handle their building projects and once he agreed terms with you, he would keep to that agreement and would deliver. He was a very brilliant and honest person who did not like cheating and he was also not a troublemaker.”
He added that many people resident abroad who wanted to buy lands in Owerri or in any of the communities always contacted the deceased for assistance.
Another member of the community stated emphatically that the late IPOB commander was never a violent person but a peacemaker who had helped many of the youths in the community.
“We have lost a man who was not only a true son of the Awo clan but one who was ready to fight against any form of injustice and it didn’t matter whether you were his brother or not. Ikonso would never allow that to happen. Let me tell you, while he was alive, nobody ever complained that he had taken what did not belong to him because he was a hardworking man ho was into construction business for years. He called himself Ikonso and if you know what that means, you would know that he was an honest person. But he was also fearless,” he stated.
Link with Nnamdi Kanu
According to a reliable source, Ikonso spent a great part of his life in Onitsha, Anambra State where he was raised. He later joined the Biafra struggle with the Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB).
He was said to be a very dedicated member of MASSOB before things went awry and Nnamdi Kanu decided to form and lead IPOB. The deceased subsequently joined Kanu in IPOB. He was eventually assigned the role of heading the ESN vigilantes as a reward for his loyalty.
Still on his character, those who knew Anayo closely said the diseased Biafra activist was a committed lover of the Igbo cause and a very gentle personality when not on duty.
His first brush with the authorities would have been when in February last year, Ikonso’s three brothers, Chidere, Ezeugo and Chimaobi Nwokike were taken away by the military to an unknown destination. The soldiers were said to have invaded his village in the same way he was killed and whisked away his siblings. They were alleged to still be in incarceration when the IPOB fighter was killed recently.
An aggrieved community leader in Awo-Omamma condemned the incessant killing and hounding of youths in the community by the security forces.
“They said he was a member IPOB. Now, let me ask you, is every Igbo man not a member of IPOB? As far as you are an Igbo man, are you not a member of IPOB? The Ikonso we all know in this community and in Awo clan as a whole was never a violent person or criminal but a person who would never allow cheating or people being molested. So, you can imagine our shock when we learnt that he and those who were with him had been killed that early Saturday morning by soldiers and policemen. So, what offence did he commit or is it a crime for someone to fight for justice,” he queried.
Despite his deep involvement in the Biafra struggle, Ikonso also made out time for his hobby – football. He loved watching the local league, especially whenever the Heartland Football Club of Owerri was playing.
As a way of immortalising Ikonso, IPOB within the week renamed the Imo Government House after him. They said Imo government functionaries who fail to recognise the development would have themselves to blame.