Published On: Mon, Jun 11th, 2018

May 30: IPOB in limbo but Biafra lives in South east

…Okorie, Njoku, others ask governors to seize initiative

By OBINNA EZUGWU

In what has become an annual ritual, the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB), the Movement for the Actualisation of Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB), the Biafra Zionist Movement (BZM) and other pro-Biafra groups, largely succeeded in seeing through their sit-at-home order in most cities of the South East geo-political zone on Friday, May 30, in remembrance of the defunct Biafra Republic’s fallen heroes.

IPOB Members

While there was partial compliance across Imo State, Awka and Port Harcourt, Rivers State but business went as usual in Ebonyi while Umuahia, Onitsha, Nnewi, Enugu and Aba were ghost towns. Friday’s event did not replicate the “success” of last year’s commemoration in which nearly all of the South East and parts of South South were shut down, but the agitators still succeeded in making a statement.

The IPOB leadership celebrated it as a success. In a press release issued by its Media and Publicity Secretary, Emma Powerful late Friday, the group congratulated those who observed the order, noting that they had defied threats by security agencies.

“We the family members of IPOB worldwide wish to congratulate all Biafrans and lovers of freedom all over Biafraland and various parts of   Southern Nigeria who contributed immensely towards the successful outcome of our heroes remembrance day by sitting at home as directed by the leadership of IPOB,” the statement read.

“We salute the uncommon courage and resoluteness of all Biafrans that defied the military threats, intimidation from Arewa Consultative Forum and S’East governors to sit-at-home across the length and breadth of Biafraland.”

The Igbo Youth Movement (IYM) and Igbo Women Assembly (IWA) in a statement signed by their leaders: Evang Elliot Ugochukwu-Uko and Chief Mrs. Maria Okwor respectively, described it as “another successful quasi referendum,” and a testament to the resoluteness of the people of the Eastern Region.

“Again, our people have spoken with one voice in completely paralyzing our region by staying at home yesterday in demonstration to the world, where we stand. Despite intimidations, harassment and threats from certain quarters, our people resolutely stayed indoors yesterday,” the statement read.

“We commend our people, for standing on the truth. This is particularly interesting, because, in spite of the spirited effort by government apparatchik to pervert the truth through inducement and blackmail. We congratulate the people of Eastern Nigeria. Government owned media reports hundred percent compliance in Aba, Nnewi, Onitsha, etc and over 70% compliance in other areas, the people have spoken.

“One year ago, after another successful sit at home, some people issued quit notice, mounted pressure, which led to unprovoked attack at Afaraukwu, in active connivance with collaborators, to kill innocent souls, whose only crime is, that they have lost faith in Nigeria as currently constituted and therefore seek freedom from relentless oppression by a ruthless oppressor who proudly values   Nigeria. If a referendum were to be conducted today, it is clear that the old Eastern region would vote 95% out of this hellish country.

“Yesterday’s successful sit at home is a quasi referendum on where the people’s soul and spirit lie. The result is too clear for even the blind to see.”

The event may yet serve as a morale booster for IPOB and other agitating groups, but for many the issue of Biafra is beyond the group and the compliance to such sit at home order is attributable to the desire of the people to honour the dead and not to obey IPOB.

“The major reason the thing succeeds is that it is association with May 30 which is significant because it is the day the defunct Republic of Biafra was declared. And they use it to remember those who died during the war and after,” said Chief Chekwas Okorie, former presidential candidate and founder of United Progressive Party (UPP).

“There is hardly any family that has not lost a loved one, either during the pogrom before the war, or during the war, or through these attacks on Igbo people, especially in the North.”

To that extent, he Okorie advised the state governments of the South East to seize the initiative of honouring the dead instead of allowing groups like IPOB to so, and in a wrong way.

“Because of the emotions and sentiments attached to it, you hardly can tell. Now that this is the situation, it may just be well for the governors of the South East to just recognise that day. The day     before May 30 is democracy day. There are too many holidays in Nigeria quite alright, but one more holiday won’t kill us. We can use it to avert these unnecessary clashes that sometimes result in avoidable deaths,” he said.

“Even this one, as non violent as it was, some deaths were recorded. The best thing is to accept it, and when you do, you take it away from any group claiming credit. It would then be owned by the entire Igbo people wherever they may be. And if it is owned by the entire Igbo people wherever they may be, that would even be more, because it means that Igbo people outside Igbo land will observe it.

“That is when the impact will be felt all over the world. But if it’s just an agitating group spearheading this, it may continue to record partial success like this one. Some of the agitating groups didn’t quite support it, they went against it, but because it was generally observed and because of the reasons given for calling it, it will be fine for the governors of the South East, and the entire South East people, including Ohanaeze, to own it and bring to an end this avoidable deaths.”

Chief Anselm E.S Njoku, the Akeweje of Lagos State and leader, Ndigbo All Progressives Congress (APC) Lagos made similar point.

He pointed out that IPOB’s order is not legal but that South East governors can take charge of the commemoration.

“The order by IPOB cannot be said to be legal, but the South Eastern governors and leaders can come together and decide to legalize it. And I didn’t see anything wrong if they decide to legalize it.

“I’m not saying I’m against their declaration, but this situation where any group can just come and declare holiday is not proper,” he said.

“The reason the reason for the sit-at-home order is cogent, it is to remember those who lost their lives in the massacre of the Igbo, there is nothing wrong about it, but I know in governance, IPOB has no legality to issue a sit-at-home order”

Lawyer and rights activists, Mr. Collins Okeke also said it would be a good idea for the governors to take over the remembrance-day but enters the caveat that such may be difficult because of IPOB’s confrontational mode of operation.

“The idea looks good to me, but the approach IPOB is adopting has been very confrontational and that may make it difficult for the governors to buy into it,” he said.

“What IPOB is doing is not completely wrong, even though technically they no longer exist because they have been declared a terrorist organisation and proscribed. So, legally there is no such organisation as IPOB.

“The debate as to whether it was appropriate to declare them a terrorist organisation is still there, but as far as the law is concerned today, IPOB is seen as a terrorist organisation. Therefore, it would be difficult to get the state governors to buy into the idea of declaring a day that has been set aside by IPOB as a remembrance day for fallen Biafran heroes.

“In that context, there is a bit of a problem. But I think it’s important for the South East governors to take a second look at the issue of honouring Biafran fallen heroes because we can’t run away from our history. That for me, would also held in giving perspectives to a lot of Igbo people.

“A lot of Igbo people don’t even have a proper understanding of their history. In that context, I will encourage the governors to step in.”

He pointed out however, that the best way to honour the heroes of Biafra will be to look after those who are still alive but have been neglected.

“One of the things that trouble me about this whole thing is that I know there are a lot of Biafran heroes who are still alive in some camps somewhere in the South East, but nobody is doing anything about them.

“I feel that if IPOB is really committed to remembering the heroes, the starting point should be to take care of those that are still alive. They can be rehabilitated properly into their families, their communities and so on. When that is done, we can now start talking about honouring those that are dead. There is no point focusing on the ones that are dead while those still alive are suffering. So, all these monies that they are raising from all kinds of places, I think that the appropriate thing would have been to channel it into rehabilitation of these people.

“If they had done that from the onset, they probably would have gotten more sympathy from people of the South East and they may have been able to get even the state governors to do something about it. It would actually be a good political move for any South East governor to identify with the Biafra story. But the approach the IPOB had adopted has not encouraged the governors to buy into it.”

However, APGA Chieftain and former governorship aspirant in Lagos State, Mr. Okey Okoroji, argued that it would be strategically wrong for South East governors to identify with such remembrance now that according to him, there is an enemy government at the centre which views the Igbo with a lot of suspicion.

“It’s not strategically right to do so, we have an enemy at the centre in Abuja who may begin to label the Eastern governors as supporting insurgency, because that’s all they want to achieve.

“That can be done in the future, but not now. In politics, timing is everything. It could have been done long before now, but since it was not, it is important that we tarry a little.

“There is actually nothing wrong in having a day of memorial for those killed during the war. In the South West, June 12 is recognised, so it can be done, but this is not the right time to do it.

“We have to wait. Although it’s not as if when they do so, heavens will fall, but again, the question is, will there be unity of purpose? Can they come together and agree? If all the South Eastern governors make that statement, there is nothing anybody can do. In fact, if it’s possible, the people of Niger Delta like Akwa Ibom should be incorporated to make a statement. If the Yoruba have their June 12, a day that something bad happened to them that they want to remember, there is no reason why we should not also have ours.

“It doesn’t have to be called Biafra, it can be called other names, but I don’t think the timing will be right now. Already, we are being treated with a lot of suspicion. Timing is everything.

“There is still ample time; you don’t allow your enemy to probably use some political tactics to bring you down.”

Okoroji alleged that there is a plot to destroy the South East, which according to him, was the idea behind last year’s military crackdown in the zone.

“They wanted to destroy the South East, that’s what Operation Python Dance was all about. They wanted to destroy buildings and kill people there. But the governors acted wisely by banninging IPOB. It was strategically important for them to do so,” he concluded.

 

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