Okey Sampson, Umuahia
Despite assurances given by elders of Afaraukwu community that the leader of IPOB, Nnamdi Kanu parents’ burial will be peaceful, commercial banks in the Abia State capital did not open for business yesterday.
Equally, shops and schools around Afaraukwu did not open just like the banks in Umuahia ostensibly out of the fear of the unknown. The overwhelming crowd at the burial locked down Afaraukwu. Also, the much-publicised homecoming of the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu for the burial of his parents, Eze Israel Okwu Kanu and Ugoeze Sally Kanu, failed to materialize, after all.
The IPOB leader expectedly did not come home, but his immediate younger brother, Kanunta Kingsley Kanu, represented him at the burial that was well attended by thousands of mourners believed to be IPOB members.
Speaking during the homily at St. Andrew’s Anglican Church, Isiama Afaraukwu, the Anglican Bishop of Umuahia, Rt. Rev. Geoffrey Ibeabuchi, said the living, particularly the children of the deceased should not allow their hearts to be troubled since they believe in God. He said man brought nothing into this world and certainly will take nothing away, stressing that the Lord gave and has taken away. He prayed God to grant the relations of the deceased who he said have cast their grief on Him, consolation.
He prayed to God: “In your boundless compassion, console us who mourn; give us faith to see in death the gate of eternal life, so that in quiet confidence, we may continue our course on earth.”
Spokesman of the Kanu family, Kanunta said, his parents were honest, kind and not purchasable, which he said everyone who came in contact with them could attest to. He said they were godly, adding that they never ceased to preach the word of God to them.
The church service, which started at about 2:15 pm ended by 4:00 pm and thereafter their bodies were taken to their final resting place. Meanwhile, all the five Southeast governors stayed away from the burial. Neither did any of them send officials to represent the state government nor send condolence messages to the family, at the event which witnessed a mammoth crowd.
However, Abia State governor, Okezie Ikpeazu was said to have visited Isiama Afaraukwu on Thursday, to inspect the ongoing rehabilitation of the road leading to the Kanu family house. It was not confirmed whether the family formally informed the governors about the burial plans of the late monarch and his wife or not.
However, some noted Igbo leaders, including Senate Minority Leader, Enyinnaya Abaribe; former Anambra governor, Peter Obi; Senators Chris Adighije and Victor Umeh, graced the occasion. Many mourners from the Southeast and South-South zones of the country majority of whom were suspected to be IPOB members attended the burial but without any Biafra flag or IPOB insignia.
Reacting on the absence of the Southeast governors, the Leader of Movement for the Actualization Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB), Uchenna Madu, said it doesn’t speak well for an event that was supposed to be an Igbo affair. He also criticized the fact that no notable serving politician from Umuahia attended the burial. The MASSOB leader, however, commended Obi, Abaribe and Umeh, who he described as the true Igbo leaders.
In order to ensure there was no breakdown of law and order, the Abia police command deployed several detachments of its operatives in strategic locations in Umuahia, the Abia capital, to provide security.
There was heavy security presence at the major entrances to Afaraukwu Ibeku, the community of the deceased couple, Eze Israel Kanu, who was the traditional ruler of the community, and his wife, Sally. The police operatives were stationed specifically on Factory Road, Ojukwu Bunker/Afaraukwu Road and St. Andrews Anglican Church, Afaraukwu, all close to the country home of the late monarch. Some detachments were also seen patrolling Umuahia metropolis in different patrol vans as part of the efforts to maintain the peace in the city during the burial.
A motley crowd of sympathisers from different parts of Igbo land trooped to Afaraukwu to pay their last respect to the deceased. The sympathisers, who were dressed in various Igbo traditional attires and burial uniforms, sat calmly in canopies mounted within the precincts of the Kanu’s country home. Many milled around in groups, dancing to chants of Igbo songs praising the legacies of the deceased.
Markets, shops and business premises in the area were shut down on the orders of the community leadership, as a mark of honour to the late monarch and his wife. Also, private and public schools located in the area did not open due to the tension generated by speculations that there might be police/IPOB clash during the burial. The state Police Public Relations Officer, Geoffrey Ogbonna (Superintendent of Police), said that the area had been calm and peaceful, adding that, “things are going on orderly.”
But in a related development, IPOB, claimed in a statement issued in Umuahia, to have deployed 16 drones to capture activities at the event. According to the group’s spokesman, Emma Powerful, IPOB flew the drones to prove that they are conscious of the security of their people “and we mean serious business.”
A part of it read: “On Thursday, security agents removed CCTV cameras mounted in and around Umuahia especially those ones in our leader’s compound. IPOB started displaying our drones since Tuesday, February 11, to show the world how wicked and murderous Nigerian government is and to show those in support of Nigeria security operatives around the world that we can do whatever we put our mind to do if we want.
“IPOB has 16 of it in our custody. We greet and congratulate Biafrans all over the world particularly IPOB family members across the globe for their support and encouragement towards this burial.”
It alleged that the Nigeria Army, yesterday, hijacked three buses conveying mourners to Kanu’s home members. In the press statement made available to Saturday Sun, Powerful disclosed that the bus was hijacked at Ubakala junction, on Enugu -Igweocha road by soldiers. The group called for the release of their members in the interest of peace.
He said: “There are confirmed reports that three Toyota Coaster buses conveying mourners to Afaraukwu were hijacked by Nigerian soldiers at Ubakala Junction. We hope the world can see what these uniformed oppressors are doing and duly taking note for future reference.”
Reacting, the Nigeria Army dismissed the allegation, stating that it was not true. Speaking with our reporter, one of the commanders who asked that his name be not mentioned in print said: “we didn’t arrest anybody. If there was an arrest, it could be the police, which were solely responsible for security in Umuahia today.”
Contacted, the Abia State Commissioner of Police, Ene Okon, told Saturday Sun that the command arrested four persons with guns, in tricycle, and there was nothing to show that they were IPOB members.