The lingering leadership tussle within the Ihiala Progress Union (IPU), which pits the central body at Ihiala, Anambra State, against the Lagos State chapter, is far from over.
Following recent developments, the IPU Lagos chapter has sent a save-our-soul message to Anambra State governor, Chief Willie Obiano, Inspector-General of Police Mohammed Adamu, the National Security Adviser, Babagana Monguno, Chief of Army Staff ( CoAS) Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai, as well as the traditional ruler of Ihiala, Oluoha, Igwe Thomas Obidiegu. The petition is over the alleged use of security officers to constantly harass, intimidate and prevent the people from holding their town hall events.
The IPU executives and members made the plea following what they termed the continued invasion of their town hall by both policemen and soldiers. In one of the recent raids, which Daily Sun gathered occurred recently, about four heavily armed men dressed in military uniforms stormed the IPU town hall, known as Ihiala House, situated in Ijesha. Some of the members, plus eyewitnesses said that the men zoomed into the vicinity in a Hilux truck, released two gunshots in the air to create panic, then proceeded to drive the people out of the compound. After that, they allegedly locked the gates to bar members from entering the venue to hold their community meetings.
Some of the IPU members, who claimed they saw the lockdown of their hall, told Daily Sun that the gun-wielding soldiers covered their service numbers on their uniforms probably to avoid being traced, and then refused to state where they came from, or who sent them to lock their hall.
“We were getting set to hold our final meeting for the year when the armed soldiers pounced in, chased us outside, and then locked us out of our town hall,” narrated one of the members that simply gave his name as Mr. Clement.
Another member of IPU, and the zonal secretary of Uzoakwa Improvement League (UIL), Mr. Chukwuleta, who also witnessed the shameful lockdown, said, prior to that day, security men were seen hovering around their Ihiala House premises, but no one knew what they came for.
“We were minding our business that Saturday when I noticed three mobile police officers walk into our compound, then later four soldiers came in and joined them. All of them hid their service numbers and didn’t say anything to us. So we went about our activities. It was on Sunday when I came around 3:45 pm that we saw that the soldiers had locked our gate. IPU delegates were supposed to hold their final general meeting on that day, so I suspect some selfish and unscrupulous people are using the police and army to prevent us from holding our meetings.”
Some of the members who vented their anger while speaking with Daily Sun expressed concern, lamenting that the invasion and oppression had become steady occurrences whenever the people converge for their community gatherings.
“Last Sunday’s incident is the third time we have experienced this harassment after they disrupted our cultural day on October 26. And when they came, they just told us that they are on a special assignment and then lock us out of our town hall. We have suffered such harassment from policemen and soldiers. We are being pushed to the wall, and we’re getting tired of these constant intimidations. We know the national is involved in this harassment, and they are using the police and soldiers,” they noted.
Speaking on the raid, the president of IPU Lagos chapter, Mr. Jerry Obika decried the incident. He called on the authorities to investigate and stop the continued oppression they have been receiving from security officials.
“We are calling on our state governor, Willie Obiano, the Inspector-General of Police Mohammed Adamu, the National Security Adviser, Babagana Monguno, Chief of Army Staff (CoAS), Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai, as well as the traditional ruler of Ihiala, Oluoha, Igwe Thomas Obidiegwu, to come to our aid because we have endured too much. These harassments and insults are not just to us but also to the entire Ihiala community. And it must stop because we don’t want to resort to violence. We’re being pushed to the wall and we don’t want to take the law into our hands. That is why we are calling on them and other well-meaning personalities to come to our aid,” he said.
Obika, while suing for peace with the national body of IPU, insisted that the members would never be intimidated by the national body.
“Our issues with the national body is already in court. Many of us here are peace-loving people and we are open to any peace initiative, so long as it is not based on intimidation. All this while, we have not seen any move towards peace. Rather, all we see is constant intimidation from their stooges who use the security men against us. And it cannot work, because we refuse to be cajoled and bullied around by anyone. That is why we are appealing to our leaders to come to investigate and stop this onslaught on IPU members in Lagos.”
Daily Sun learned that these series of the onslaught on the IPU Lagos Chapter was not only connected to the lingering impasse between the IPU’s national body and the state chapters but also because of the central body’s move to replace the current leadership in the Lagos IPU. It was gathered that part of the plan was to remove Obika and have him replaced with one Mr. Boniface Ikediaso as caretaker chairman.
According to the Lagos State IPU members, Mr. Ikediaso, since he was named caretaker chairman, became a thorn in the flesh of the other IPU members in the state. It was further alleged that Mr. Ikediaso is the brain behind the last raid because the soldiers mentioned his name when they were talking on the phone.
When the reporter called Mr. Ikediaso to respond to the allegations, he vehemently denied all the claims, describing them as all lies cooked up against him since he got the appointment as Lagos state chapter caretaker chairman by the central body. “All those things they told you about me are lies, nonsense, and fake news. I don’t know anything about using security officers to harass anybody. The problem is that some people in IPU Lagos have refused to acknowledge my appointment as the caretaker chairman of the state by the Central Executive Council (CEC). So they are the ones harassing me and not the other way round, ” he said.