By Chukwudi Nweje
Chief Goddy Uwazuruike, former President of Aka Ikenga, an Igbo intelligentsia group says the South East security outfit Ebubeagu was established in response to the advice of Minister of Defence that people should defend themselves. He says some forces within and outside the zone were creating misinformation that the South East is in crises; he also discusses other national issues.
There is general insecurity in the country; Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom says government officials are behind the widespread kidnappings, his Ebonyi State counterpart, Dave Umahi, says external forces were planning to incite war in the South East zone and there is tension everywhere. What is your take on these accusations?
To be blunt, many things are wrong with the country; Nigeria is on a rudderless movement; nobody is manning the affairs, so the ship of the country just floating and going anywhere the waves push it. In all parts of Nigeria today, there is tension; virtually every part of the country is under threat of the Fulani. Unfortunately, whenever policemen are brought in, they will leave the herdsmen or bandits or whatever they call themselves and go after and crack down the defenceless victims. Take for example what happened in Benue State, when the military came in, they did not go after the herders that killed hundreds of people, they went after the victims that tried to defend themselves with their rusty den guns. The killer herdsmen come and go with ease; none of them has ever been arrested. In this country, no herdsman has ever been put on trial, going to the police station to report a case of killer herdsmen is complete waste of time. As it is today, Nigeria is drifting dangerously on the precipice and only time will tell whether we can navigate our way back.
The South East Governors Forum has floated a security outfit, Ebubeagu to tackle insecurity in the region, however, it is a sharp departure from their previous posture; the South East governors looked up to the Nigerian Police when the South West floated Amotekun and that vacuum led to the emergence of Eastern Security Network (ESN) by the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), why the sudden turn around?
If you recall, some time ago when the Minister of Defence was speaking on the insecurity, he was quoted as saying that people should defend themselves. I believe that the formation of Ebubeagu by the South East governors is in response to that advice. Our governors have come around and agreed to do something about the insecurity; we are following the advice of the Minister of Defence to defend ourselves; Ebubeagu has come to stay and nobody can stop it except ourselves the people of the South East. I think we should support it, if at the end of the day it does not work, then we can complain, we cannot complain now that it is just starting; you can’t expect something like this to start without opposition.
IPOB’s ESN has been in place for sometime now and appears to have won acceptance and support among the people, now that there are exchange of brickbats between the two groups, don’t you think the tussle for acceptance will exacerbate the insecurity in the region?
There is nothing like exchange of brickbats or tussle between the ESN and Ebubeagu. What is going on in the South East is that there are some people who want to stimulate a crises, by using propaganda and misinformation to give the impression that the South East is in disarray and has a security problem. From time to time, these people paint this picture of insecurity in the South East, yet when you get to the South East, you won’t see these insecurity. For instance, early in the year in Orlu, Imo State, the internet was awash with pictures of fierce fighting, but when I called my friends and colleagues there, they said that what we are seeing on the internet is the same thing they are watching but does not represent the reality on ground. But these merchants of fake news and misinformation were busy creating that false impression that there were mass killings and bombings. They said several Hausa/Fulani were killed in Owerri but that is not true. Where are the pictures of those that were killed? The adviser to Gov Hope Uzodimma of Imo State on Ethnic Affairs is a Northerner and he debunked that allegation; those who live around the area the supposed killings took place also say they don’t know what we are talking about. People are trying to create an atmosphere of insecurity in the South East because we are talking about a Nigerian president of Igbo extraction in 2023. So, they want to stimulate crisis and change the topic and say how can we make somebody from the South East the president when the area is burning. When you understand the psychology of what is going on, you will know the truth and see it for what it is, a big propaganda and act of misinformation.
Who are those behind this propaganda and misinformation, South Easterners or outsiders?
There are two different groups, those who are not of Igbo origin and some Igbo from South East and South South. Those who are not Igbo want to give the impression that the South East is volatile and thereby stop the Igbo from ever producing the president of Nigeria. Those of Igbo origin from the South East and South South in this category want to create the impression of how powerful IPOB and ESN are. Unfortunately, all these groups have done is that they are already falling into the trap of the merchants of misinformation and propaganda who are creating the impression that the South East is in crises and as far as these two groups of people are around, these kinds of misinformation will keep circulating around. I wonder whether the media houses that report these kinds of misinformation have correspondents there; when you hear such reports what you do is to send your people to the place and not go on-line and copy the misinformation.
Gov Uzodimma blamed some disgruntled politicians for the recent burning of the Police Headquarters in Owerri and the prison break there, what is your take?
I will ask how such a ferocious attack can happen at the police headquarters and the prisons and we didn’t see the pictures of those wounded or killed during the incident; it is not possible. Did they evacuate people from those places before they started shooting? This is a clinical action carried out by professionally trained people; it is part of the misinformation and what they are trying to do is to give the impression that there is problem in the South East. Secondly, if you check the cases of those recent killing of policemen, those behind it are also clinical in their approach. You will notice that in all those reported cases of policemen killed, there is no recorded case of any of those police officers fighting back, even a dying policeman should be able to at least release one shot, but we don’t hear any case of expended ammunition from the policemen; all we hear is that police officers were killed. This is something that has been going on all over the country but suddenly it is made to look like a South East affair, which is still part of the misinformation going on.
What measures are in place to ensure that Ebubeagu is not hijacked to serve personal purposes? Has the House of Assembly of the South East states taken any legislative action to give the outfit legal backing?
Ebubeagu cannot be used to serve the interest of private persons; its purpose is to serve the interests of the South East and the Igbo in general; it is not a private security but a public affair. The government in the South East states will make laws to guarantee their mode of operation. The truth is that people have given up on the Nigerian Police. The police themselves caused this along with the soldiers; the moment we started talking about the president of Igbo extraction, almost every kilometre of road you will see a military checkpoint and now that the soldiers and police are believed to be on the receiving end, everything disappeared, what happened? When they learn that fairness and equity must be guaranteed in this country, things will work. As at today the Igbo are suffering and Ebubeagu will restore confidence. In the weeks to come, the Houses of Assembly will commence legislation on the activities of Ebubeagu, just watch and see.
Virtually every zone of the country is prompting certain individuals from their part of the country for 2023 presidency but in the South East, it is a case of agitation without promoting individuals for the position, why is that so?
For every good thing to come, there must be opposition; those against the South East producing the president are there and we must know that nobody will give you power; you have to take it. Anybody from the South East who wants power must work for it; first, the person must belong to a political party and secondly, he must belong to the decision making cycle and thirdly he must be financially prepared.
What is your assessment of President Muhammadu Buhari’s handling of the security situation?
The president’s response is nothing to write home about; he is an absentee president and we should just leave him out of the equation.