In the past one month or so, the sit-at-home protest ordered by the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) in the South East region has assumed a dangerous dimension. Not only has it disrupted the plans and movements of many citizens, it has almost crippled the economy of the region. Something urgent must be done to put a check on the anomaly.
Usually, IPOB’s sit-at-home order is observed May 30 of every year. It is to honour the fallen heroes of Biafra, especially those who paid the supreme price during the Nigerian civil war of 1967 to 1970. The first IPOB’s sit-at-home order was observed on May 30, 2014. Many Igbo supported this action because of its significance.
Nevertheless, the arrest of IPOB leader, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, in Kenya late June 2021 through the collaborative efforts of the Nigerian intelligence and security services changed the narrative. Kanu was brought back to Nigeria on June 27, 2021 and detained at the Department of State Services (DSS) facility in Abuja. He is currently facing trial after disappearing while on bail. Among others, he had been charged with terrorism, treasonable felony and illegal possession of firearms. To show solidarity with him, IPOB, on July 30, 2021, ordered another sit-at-home to be observed every Monday in the South East until Kanu regains his freedom. The action took effect from August 9, 2021.
On August 13, IPOB changed its mind and cancelled the sit-at-home order after listening to some voices of reason. It instructed that the protest be observed only on the day Kanu will appear in court. Unfortunately, it appears some hoodlums have hijacked the process, unleashing mayhem on innocent citizens.
The other day, they burnt a truck loaded with motor and motorcycle spare parts in Enugu State. At Nanka in Orumba North Local Government Area of Anambra State, they set a bus ablaze as people took to their heels.
On Monday, September 13, 2021, there were reports that these hoodlums masquerading as IPOB members stormed a Secondary School in Imo State and dispersed innocent students writing their West African School Certificate (WASC) examinations. They also set some motorcycles belonging to their invigilators on fire. IPOB leadership has promised to replace those motorbikes and rebuild the burnt school.
The following day being Tuesday, there were further reports of violence in the name of sit-at-home protest. The leadership of IPOB had declared that Tuesday, September 14, as another sit-at-home to remember 28 people killed by soldiers at Kanu’s father’s palace at Afaraukwu in Umuahia, Abia State. To enforce that order, some hoodlums reportedly set ablaze a bus loaded with bread and some tricycles at Orie Emene in Enugu. The victims were accused of violating the order.
The same Tuesday, another set of hoodlums reportedly shot dead an Anglican priest, Emeka Merenu, in his parsonage at Ihiteukwa in Orsu Local Government Area of Imo State. They also set his car ablaze. The priest incurred the wrath of his attackers for allegedly inviting soldiers to secure the mission school where he served as the principal. This has drawn outrage across the region and elsewhere.
Embarrassed by this turn of events, the hierarchy of IPOB issued a statement denying culpability in the latest actions. In a statement, IPOB Media and Publicity Secretary, Emma Powerful, urged residents of the South East to ignore the weekly sit-at-home orders. He said the group had long suspended the action because of its economic implications and warned that anybody caught trying to enforce the non-existent order would be treated as a traitor.
“IPOB is a responsible organisation with reasoning and empathy. We cannot be part of the problem we are trying to solve. We cannot join the enemies to compound the woes of our people we are fighting to liberate,” Powerful said.
It is pertinent to note that what has been on display in the South East is crass ignorance. The sit-at-home protests do not affect the perceived oppressors. It is the ordinary people of the region that bear the brunt of the action.
Besides, the action has seriously affected the economy of the South East. According to the Governor of Ebonyi State, Dave Umahi, not less than N10 billion is lost in the region every day the order is enforced.The harm to the economy may be higher than estimated. Investment in the region has been affected too.
More worrisome is denying students the opportunity to take WASC exams. This does not make sense as it amounts to toying with the future of these children and that of our society. It is unacceptable.
IPOB should think of other non-violent strategies to carry out its agitations. Using sit-at-home tactics and enforcing it with killings and destruction of property cannot resolve any issue. The organisation should fish out the criminals who have used its name to enforce unauthorised orders. It should also stop giving conflicting orders and avoid violence and intimidation in their agitation. It does not make sense to drive fear into the same people you claim to be fighting for. Above all, the South East governors must sit up and ensure real governance in the region. Let them ensure security for all citizens.