One of the most gory sights I ever saw, one that has stuck with me like a leech, is the picture and video of Dr. Chike Akunyili’s face with eyes ripped away by the bullet that sent him to the great beyond in a gruesome assassination in September 2021 in Onitsha, Anambra State. Those were the early days of the new phenomenon of ‘Unknown Gunmen’ now desecrating the southeastern part of Nigeria. Imo, Anambra, Ebonyi and virtually all parts of that zone have fallen under the fire of guns. That the lawmaker representing Governor Chukwuma Soludo was beheaded the other day is a clear indication that there is criminality masquerading as agitation in that region. The list of such incidents grows by the day. In Imo, the president of the apex Igbo socio-cultural group Ohanaeze, Professor George Obiozor, had his house torched, like those of former finance minister Chu S.P. Okongwu and Joe Igbokwe in Nnewi, Anambra State. A couple in the Nigerian Army were meant to do their traditional wedding in Imo but met their sunset at dawn courtesy of unknown gunmen. The list stretches like a long rope.
The confusion on the matter has tasked security operatives to the limit. Fingers pointed at the Indigenous People of Biafra (IBOP) and its Eastern Security Network (ESN). The group was insistent on defending the people from the zone, especially when it seemed that more value was ascribed to cows than human beings. The group incurred the wrath of the Federal Government, which declared it a terrorist organisation, a matter still pending in court. The arrest of Nnamdi Kanu, leader of IPOB, tended to escalate the activities of the group with the declaration of a sit-at-home every Monday, a move that brought its strength to the fore, given the high compliance. Nothing happens in the zone on Mondays. Schools, banks, marketplaces and sundry activities are shut down, in spite of recent announcements by the group that it has rescinded the order.
That was the point at which discordant voices rent the air. It became evident that the movement may have been infiltrated, such that orders came from diverse places masking as IPOB. Citizens chose to stay away from work on Mondays to avoid the wrath of any of the discordant voices. Now there is blood on the land, and no one knows where the dastardly killers have sprouted from. The killing, in fact, beheading of Okechukwu Okoye, a lawmaker in Anambra State, has heightened insecurity in the zone. Life in the zone has degenerated to the Thomas Hobbes theory of the basic state of nature where life is nasty, brutish and short. Economic activities have declined in the zone such that traders who flocked Onitsha, Nnewi, Aba and other commercial hubs in the zone now look elsewhere for alternatives.
The South East is being crippled. The zone now has a first-hand experience of what has become the norm in the North. One week gives birth to one or more troubles. Anambra is a strategic gateway to the South East from the South West. Foisting such alarming insecurity in the state does incalculable damage to the zone. The question in the midst of this ensuing confusion remains: who wields the killer gun? The IPOB has distanced itself from the dastardly act. The media and publicity director of the organization, Emma Powerful, is categorical in his denial. We have no hand in it, is his song. But the group also was emphatic that it knows the source of violence. It points accusing fingers at the government. In a press statement, Emma Powerful stated thus: ‘These barbarians have been well mobilized financially and otherwise by Department of State Security(DSS), National Intelligence Agency(NIA) and Directorate of Military Intelligence (DMI) to create anarchy in our land in an attempt to derail our march to freedom…those pointing accusing fingers at us are the people sponsoring the disturbing insecurity in our land.”
This is a twist in the tale. Although IPOB is at relative war with the authorities, implying that lies and propaganda can be deployed by both parties, the evident fact is that there is a third force in the mix. Who is the third force? That is the nut to be cracked. I recommend that Governor Chukwuma Soludo convenes an emergency security summit to distil the different strands of this knot. It may not be inconceivable that State Security could deploy their strategy, but it is dastardly if indiscriminate bloodletting is part of it. I feel for Soludo, whose zeal may be dampened by the embarrassing level of insecurity. It does not matter what brilliant ideas he has and his lofty plans for the state, insecurity would make it taste like ashes in the mouth. He made a rather smart move by meeting Nnamdi Kanu in detention, a move that should pacify members of IPOB. He should take it a step ahead with a security summit. The third force may be from within. My personal worry in this matter is the ease with which arms and ammunition travel in our clime. How do criminals and gunmen move their arms? The ant that eats the wood is in the wood. Those who kill their people must not allow the South East become a killing field.
Foot note: it is horrific that the Peter Obi movement is being stalled by people from his state. Political merchants must know that the people are ready to take the power, which is theirs. How would they do it? We wait and see.