From Stanley Uzoaru, Owerri; Chijioke Agwu, Abakaliki; Okey Sampson, Umuahia; Geoffrey Anyanwu, Enugu; Obinna Odogwu, Awka, and Aloysius Attah, Onitsha
The every Monday sit-at-home called by the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), to press for the unconditional release of its leader, Nnamdi Kanu, by the Federal Government is eliciting mixed reactions across Igbo land, following its debut, last Monday, August 9. Kanu is facing trial for charges bordering on treason after his rendition from Kenya by Nigerian security agencies. But IPOB has vowed to continue to call for a sit-at-home every Monday until he is released.
Reports from our correspondents show that last Monday’s exercise was characterized by loss of lives, destruction of property and disruption of lives, especially the National Examinations Council (NECO) exams in some parts of Igbo land. From Aba to Nnewi, Ohaozara to Enugu-Ezike, Onitsha to Enugu, sad tales continue to roll in as people lick their wounds.
As Igbo mull the experience, opinions are divided as to the possibility of sustaining the every Monday sit-at-home order. Reports from across the region show that many feel that IPOB should discard the order and come up with a more effective strategy. But if they must go on with the order, some think that they should limit it to the days that Kanu’s case would come up in court while others feel that it should be moved to other days except Monday. We present a state-by-state situation of things as people count their losses after last Monday’s exercise.
In various communities in Enugu-Ezike, Igbo-Eze North Local Government Area, Enugu State, masked men wielding assorted weapons invaded schools, markets, and roadside stalls and left in their trail, tears, sorrows and blood.
Riding on motorcycles, they stormed Community Secondary School, Umuida, and snatched bags containing the day’s question paper and answer sheets from the supervisor, as candidates were getting ready to commence the NECO exams. Teachers and pupils scattered and ran for safety in different directions as soon the gunmen entered the exam hall. At Umuagama Secondary School, they robbed teachers and students of their phones and other valuables at gunpoint, tore the question papers and writing materials before setting the materials ablaze in the school premises.
At Imufu Secondary School, they unleashed violence on anyone in sight, beat up the Principal, Mrs Cecelia Idoko, and hit another teacher identified as Mr. Ogbonna with an axe, inflicting serious bodily injuries on him. At the time of this report, the teacher was still struggling for his life in an undisclosed hospital.
Traders at Nkwo market, Aji community, lost their wares as the masked men destroyed goods and various food items. The attacks also continued in other communities in the area like Umuogbo-Agu, Okpo, Ogrute and Isiugwu. Though the exercise could be said to have received full compliance in Enugu State, right now some doubts exist as to its weekly continuation. Residents who spoke to Saturday Sun said it will not be in the interest of the region’s economic and social wellbeing.
Chuka Ozor, a building material dealer believes that “people will not obey this every Monday order thing; it will not work here again.” His reason: “We are traders in this part of the country and every hour matters a lot to us. Look, my brother’s son could not take the NECO exam last Monday in Anambra. Please, they need to think of a better way of making the Federal Government feel our grievances about Kanu than causing ourselves more hardship and pains.”
A dealer in toilet tissues in Enugu, would want Igbo leaders to meet with the authorities in Abuja and negotiate Kanu’s release. A prominent Igbo man in Enugu who pleaded anonymity for fear of being physically attacked, warned: “While I am in support of the struggle for our liberation, I refuse to accept some of their decisions and actions. Just look at that Monday sit-at-home, a day our children were to take a very important paper in the on-going NECO exams, Mathematics. Despite the pleas by our people and the reasonable views of Kanu’s younger brother (Kanunta), they insisted on going ahead with the order and thereby causing their younger brothers and sisters a colossal damage. How do all these affect Aso Rock? Sit-at-home every Monday is a disaster and must not continue. I will suggest that our leaders dialogue with the Presidency to get freedom for Kanu.”
Unconfirmed reports said about eight persons were killed by people suspected to be IPOB enforcers in the Ohaozara-Onicha axis of Ebonyi State during the August 9 sit-at-home. Cars, motorcycles and other property were also destroyed by the attackers. But Saturday Sun investigation shows that while residents of Ebonyi acknowledge the issue of the marginalization of Ndi Igbo, they think that resorting to sitting at home every Monday will amount to self-inflicted economic sabotage.
Ndubuisi Anyigor, a commercial bus driver advised the leadership of IPOB to be sensitive to the plight of ordinary people in the region. He noted that there was no wisdom in forcing people to stay at home and be killed by hunger.
Mrs. Eunice Ibeh, a petty trader in Abakaliki lamented the killings of Igbo people by their own brothers trying to enforce the sit-at-home orders. She feared that, going by the way Igbo youths are being killed by suspected IPOB sit-at-home enforcers, the zone may soon be devoid of able-bodied youths.
At Aboh Mbaise, Imo State, two travellers were said to have burnt to death in a transport company’s bus while two others were allegedly shot dead by gunmen along Nkwogu road, during last Monday’s sit-at-home. Saturday Sun gathered that residents of Imo were not disposed to observing the order until reports of attacks in some other states filtered in.
Many residents are civil servants; so, it was difficult to abide by the directives of IPOB the last time because of earlier warning issued to workers by government on the consequences of not showing up at work. Also, the traders regard Mondays as their peculiar day of sales. Some of them who spoke to our correspondent said they wished the directive were fixed for another day instead of Monday. However, ahead of next sit-at-home exercise, indications are that the people might decide to stay indoors or resist the order.
In Anambra, many residents said that they were not happy about the order, stating that it has not added any value to their economy. To them, the frequent lockdowns is like cutting one’s nose to spite one’s face.”
Vice President (South East) of National Youth Council of Nigeria (NYCN), Nnonyelu Onyibor, said: “We can’t be dealing with ourselves believing that we are trying to get at people who don’t like us. “I agree but in a situation where a very small percentage of the people decide to bar people from going out to look for what to feed their children with, is condemnable. We know why we are agitating for Biafa but that is not enough reason to be destroying our own land. The Federal Government may decide not repair what they have destroyed.” He called on the governors of the South East to get the youths actively involved in the discussions of issues affecting them as that, according to him, is the best way to stop their restiveness.
A senior journalist, Achilleus Uchegbu believes that the most ideal thing for IPOB to do is not the destruction of life and property of Igbo people but to secure the services of the best lawyers to work to secure his release.
“IPOB advisers will do very well to help the group to rethink its strategy,” he said. “This is now very urgent. As it is, the fear of IPOB may not last for too long. Someday, those who fear that their businesses may be attacked by IPOB enforcers may develop a thick skin and decide to face their attackers. Market associations and trade groups may form their own vigilantes to stand up against any IPOB group that comes around to enforce orders. If the situation gets to that point, IPOB may be defeated by the people who will now see it as the enemy of their progress and survival.”
A public servant, Boniface Igwe said inasmuch as he was not happy with the incarceration of the IPOB leader, he fears the order might be counter-productive. An industrialist who gave his name as Chief Udechukwu said the weekly sit-at-home may force many wealthy Igbo men and women to leave the zone for other places where their businesses can thrive. He, however, suggested that a sit-at-home could be imposed only on the day Kanu will be appearing in court.
A trader, Ifeanyi Madu, said most traders in Aba would prefer to go to market on Mondays and remain at home for the rest of the week because Mondays, according to him, are when customers from outside Igbo land, including neighbouring Cameroun, come to buy goods.
An importer, Chief Onyebuchi Ikpa, said many of them took loans from banks, noting that the banks would not consider the sit-at-home days when computing days due for repayment.
Some tricycle operators who spoke to Saturday Sun said that they took delivery of them on hire purchase arrangement and would need to recoup their losses. One of them, Eke Igu said they must make remittances for the “Ghost Mondays” whether they worked or not. He advised that the sit-at-home order should be streamlined otherwise “even the enemies of the Igbo would be laughing at us, that we have turned the heat on ourselves.”
Family of the IPOB leader begs for suspension of sit-at-home order
Emmanuel Kanu, the younger brother to IPOB leader called for the suspension of the sit-at-home order, arguing that doing so will help to give the people a sense of belonging in the march for the actualization of the ideals of the struggle. But IPOB’s spokesman, Emmanuel Powerful said no price was too much for the Igbo to pay in securing their freedom and release of IPOB leader, Kanu. He noted that Biafran children lost education throughout the 30 month of the civil war.