By Ori Martins
The disturbing rate of insecurity currently rearing its ugly head in Imo State after the much talked about November 11, 2023 governorship election is absolutely worrisome.
For more than six weeks going to the Imo 11/11 election, there was a relative peace in the state, though there were few cases of criminal activities.
The biggest surprise was the confirmed report that the election was largely peaceful and devoid of the expected break down of law and order as earlier threatened by the Simeon Ikpa faction of IPOB or the opposition parties who said it would not tolerate any form of sharp practice.
Meanwhile, with the election won and lost, the losers heading for the tribunal and the winners still in celebration mood, insecurity has most dangerously relapsed. As the insecurity has not totally vanished from Orlu and Okigwe zones, it has on the other hand gone worst in the Owerri Zone.
Early last month, the gunmen attacked policemen at a checkpoint in the Emekuku axis in Owerri North Local Government Area, killing three officers, including an inspector.
Just as the month of November 2023 was fading into history, the wave of insecurity in Imo grew higher and harder as it visited the Mbaise Nation.
In a most gruesome manner, the PDP ward chairman of Akpodim, Ife and Chokoneze, Comrade Anyanwu Smith was murdered by gunmen on the last Wednesday of last November.
In the same Saturday of the week Anyanwu was sent to the gallows, a popular and influential traditional ruler of Otulu, Amumara in Ezinihitte LGA, assassinated and his mangled body dumped in a pit between Chokoneze and Mbutu.
Having successfully attacked a politician, and a royal father, the gunmen, again, decided to test their force of strength with the security operatives at Ahiara Junction, Ahiazu Mbaise LGA. As it was in most of their previous attacks, the hit on the security operatives was ruthless and comprehensive. At the end of the deadly operations, three police officers were confirmed dead. All the three listed attacks took place in Mbaise in Owerri Zone.
Condemning the attacks, the Ezurezu Mbaise, the apex socio cultural organization of the area, said the attacks and killings were not a true reflection of what the people of Mbaise are. It urged the secury agencies to quickly move into action to fish out the perpetrators of such dastard acts, their collaborators as well as sponsors.
The Police Public Relations Officer, Imo State Police Command, ASP Henry Okoye, confirmed those killings and maintained that the command was doing its best to fish out the criminals behind the evil acts.
A community leader in Egbu community, Owerri North, Nze Ike Manu, said “It is unfortunate that insecurity is returning to Imo State after a peaceful governorship election. What is even disturbing is that it is now in Owerri Zone, not Orlu or Okigwe. In fact, in Mbaise. It is really sad and I call on the government in conjunction with the security agencies to get to the roots of the matter and ensure that the culprits are brought to book”.
Since 2020, insecurity has taken a dangerous dimension and worsening economic, social, cultural and political activities in the Heartland enclave shortly after the exit of the notorious covid -19 attack.
It all began in Orlu Zone with 12 Local Government Areas with Orlu, Orsu and Oru East LGAs as worst hit bases and flash points. Things came to a head when the Eastern Security Network, ESN, started demanding for the immediate release of its leader, the IPOB General Commander, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu who various competent courts of jurisdiction had discharged and acquitted.
In the process, the ESN field commander popularly known as Ikonso was murdered by the combined forces of army, police and DSS. Expectedly, hell was let loose and the ESN allegedly sought to retaliate what they described as the brutal assassination of its commander, and so, began allegedly confronting the security forces. In the crossfire that ensued, both sides suffered heavy casualties and the Orlu civilian population became the worst victims.
What could be regarded as the worst form of attack on the security apparatus in the state was in 2021 when gunmen invaded and attacked both the Imo State Police Command as well as the Federal Correctional Centre in Owerri, very close to the police headquarters.
It was a warning signal that Imo was indeed not in safe hands as Governor Hope Uzodimma had always claimed.
After the twin attacks, the police blamed the madness on ESN and IPOB. But the Imo governor, Uzodimma, laid the blame purely on the door steps of “opposition parties and some aggrieved APC members”. Whatever it was, the fact was, insecurity had come to stay in the state.
The effects have been outrageous and devastating as commercial and business activities in Imo have been grounded to a halt, with poverty and joblessness ruling the land. And, in the process, breeding all other forms of other criminalities never ever before witnessed in the state.
Gradually, the insecurity wave shifted from Orlu Zone to Okigwe Zone, particularly Ihube. As it was in Orlu Zone, the Okigwe insecurity has been severe, debilitating and brutal. At the early operations in the Okigwe region, one of its foremost victims would have been former governor of Imo State who hails from Isiala Mbano in the Okigwe Zone, His Excellency, Chief Ikedi Ohakim.
He was roundly attacked and shot heavily at close range. But he was graciously saved by what he later described as “my bullet proof SUV through the mercy of God”. However, his security aides were not so lucky as three of them died while fighting to defend their boss.
Following the ugly activities of gunmen and other criminals like kidnappers, armed robbers and bandits, the fact remains that Imo has been a hotbed of insecurity despite the claims of the state government through the commissioner of information, Hon Mbadiwe Emelumba, the the administration of Uzodimma has tackled insecurity head – on.