Today, like every Monday since three weeks ago when the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) first ordered a sit-at-home protest in solidarity with its leader Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, streets are gradually returning to normalcy. Before the order was called off last week after a bloody Monday, many expressed concern over the violent nature of the action and the need for an end.
His followers had ordered a sit-at-home following the long adjournment of his case to October, perhaps to keep it in public attention, and also compel a speedy trial. There were attempts to scuttle the action by using his brother to announce a cancellation, it apparently back fired, causing a blood bath with as many as eight people were reported killed.
Previous sit-at-home orders had been to mark events such as the beginning or the end of the Biafra civil war, but increasingly it became whimsical. Ahead of Kanu’s court appearance on Monday, July 26, the group ordered that shops be closed in his honour, but eventually the trial could not hold because of Department of State Services failed to produce him.
Yet, on July 30, the group, in a statement by its spokesman, Emma Powerful, ordered another sit-at-home, tagged ‘Ghost Monday,’ starting from today, which according to it, will hold every Monday until Kanu is released. The order had state governments issue stern warnings, even as it has caused disagreement within the group’s ranks.
The IPOB leader’s younger brother, Kanunta Kanu, had issued a statement that the group has suspended the ‘Every Monday’ sit-at-home protest to allow the students in the geopolitical zone to participate in the National Examination Council (NECO).
“Allowing the sit-at-home to go ahead as earlier announced, in the face of the NECO Exam would amount to assisting enemies of Biafra to inflict more injuries on her children.”
However, the IPOB in another statement on Sunday, countered Kanunta, insisting that sit-at-home order is still in place.
IPOB’s Media and Publicity Secretary, Emma Powerful, in a statement asked residents to disregard the information, adding that anybody who listens to that ‘deceptive’ statement and dares to go out tomorrow (Monday) will regret their life.
“The attention of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), ably led by our great leader Mazi Nnamdi Kanu has been drawn to the purported suspension of Monday sit-at-home order issued by the leadership of IPOB has been suspended by some section of media (sic). We wish to remind every Biafran that the sit-at-home order remains sacrosanct on Monday, tomorrow,” he had said.
“Anybody issuing press statement concerning IPOB sit-at-home order is fake and any statement without sit-at-home order or any activity of IPOB remain Comrade Emma Powerful the media and publicity secretary for IPOB (sic).
“Therefore, every Biafran should disregard regard every statement that is not from Emma Powerful or DOS and Radio Biafra.
On the said Monday, despite assurances by governors of the Southeast, particularly those of Imo, Hope Uzodinma; Abia, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu and Anambra, Chief Willie Obiano, who asked residents to shun the directive and go about their normal businesses, residents stayed indoor. Streets of Owerri, Abakaliki, Enugu, Akwa, Onitsha, Aba, among others were deserted. And the few who attempted to defy the order met attacks.
Confrontations between security forces who reportedly shot and killed two members of IPOB enforcing the sit-at-home order and suspected ESN members in Nnewi, later escalated to an to exchange of gunfire between the gunmen and police, a development that caused panic in the industrial city.
Elsewhere in Mbaise, Imo State, five vehicles; three Hummer buses belonging to Libra and Okeyson Transport companies, a Sienna, and a Highlander SUV were set ablaze along the Owerri-Umuahia Road, while occupants, who were travelling to Lagos and others returning to Imo State from Lagos, escaped with some carrying bullet injuries.
The episode generated series of backlash, especially given that the order inconvenienced students sitting for NECO exams, forcing the IPOB leadership to cancel the Monday sit-at-home order ahead of last week Monday.
However speaking on Radio Biafra, IPOB’s executive, Chika Edoziem, had announced the suspension of the action. Edoziem said the sit-at-home would be declared whenever Kanu would be making appearance in court and not every Monday as earlier directed.
Subsequently, Mr. Powerful issued a statement explain that the suspension was a directive from Kanu.
He said the group had taken into cognizance the concerns expressed by Biafrans all over the world for the suspension of the sit-at-home directive, while stating that should there be another directive from the group’s highest command requiring a reactivation of the suspended weekly sit-at-home, there would be no hesitation to lift the suspension.
“The suspension of the sit-at-home by the IPOB Head of Directorate was as a result of a direct order from the leader of this great movement, Nnamdi Kanu,” he said.
“There is no gainsaying the fact that one of the major fundamental guiding principles of IPOB is command and control. This simply means that all commands from the supreme leader of IPOB will be obeyed and implemented to the latter by the Directorate of State of the Indigenous People of Biafra.
“Bearing in mind therefore that this principle has enabled this movement to surpass even the expectations of both Biafrans and non-Biafrans alike, the leadership wishes to encourage Biafran to focus on the most pressing issue confronting this great family presently which is ensuring the safety of our leader while still in the illegal custody of the DSS and to secure his unconditional release from detention.
“In accordance with the directive from our leader, our sit-at-home will in the meantime be observed on the date of our leader’s court appearances.”
But even the cancellation of the order by the IPOB leadership failed to convince residents to go about their normal businesses the following Monday, August 16. Major streets states of Anambra, Imo Enugu State, Aba and so on, were deserted.
“People chose to stay away from the streets because it’s too risky to go out.” a resident of Mbaise, Imo State who preferred anonymity told our correspondent. “People are genuinely afraid. What happened here on Monday last week is very sad. Imagine that buses belonging to a transport company, Libra were burnt.
“The hoodlums stopped the buses which had loaded for Lagos and ordered all the passengers to go down. Three passengers refused, wondering how they can be ordered to stop their journey after they had spent money to buy tickets. I’m telling you, those guys burnt the vehicles while those three people were still inside.”
The development violent approach has turned many off.
“The south-east should not be the centre or the only centre of activity in this regard. You cannot isolate the south-east and lock it down and then you take the hardship to the Igbo people themselves,” Onyike said.
“The pressure should be mounted at the federal level and at the level of international community. They should be going to the international community to make the point that the Igbo people need self determination and that the illegal abduction and arrest of Kanu in Kenya and the circumstances he was brought to Nigeria were against international law.
And that based on that that, the Nigerian government is holding him captive and should release him.”
In the meantime, Kanu’s lawyer, Ifeanyi Ejiofor, has blamed the attacks on residents on those he identified as some “marauder” in IPOB, who are not loyalists of his client, but are sponsored by enemies of Ndigbo to create confusion.
In a Facebook post on Wednesday, the lawyer said, “If by now the hardcore believers in our strength of character, are still unaware of the fact that millions of Naira have been deployed to boost the infiltrators’ exploits in their suicide mission, both online and offline, then you have to be properly guided.
“You may not realize that men are really at work here. The mission is simple, destroy them, create more confusion for them, do it under the pretense that you are part of them, so that the gullible among them can fall for the tricks.
“Please, stop indulging them or clapping them because they are on a special mission. You can easily identify these marauders because by their fruit you shall know them.
“But by virtue of my position as the Lead Counsel to Onyendu Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, I can easily separate the wheat from the chaff. “Maka na Agadi nwanyi adighi aka nka na egwu omalu agba.”
“They did it in 2015/2016, but I surmounted them single-handedly, I am very familiar with the game and style of their dancing steps but their evil plans are already dead on arrival, they can’t go far.
“It is to be noted, therefore, that in this critical moment, peace and discipline should be the ultimate guide. What we crave is your prayers only.
“Be assured that we in the legal team cannot be distracted at all because we don’t share the same evil mission with these infiltrators.
“Our mission is simple, Onyendu Mazi Nnamdi Kanu’s freedom within the shortest possible time. Thankfully, the Almighty Chukwuokike Abiama is speedily working it out, and it shall all end in praises.”
Kanu, 53, a former disciple of the founder of Movement of the Actualization of Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB), Chief Ralph Uwazurike, who emerged as the new face of Biafra agitation about a decade ago, following a split with Uwazurike, winning converts through the use Radio Biafra to propagate his Biafra gospel -and the subsequent formation of IPOB in 2012 – has gradually become a sort of cult hero, with popularity fuelled mostly by the perceived injustice of the government of President Muhammadu Buhari against the Igbo.
“What gave rise to the Kanu phenomenon is the brutal dictatorship or President Muhammadu Buhari,” said Chief Abia Onyike, former commissioner of information in Ebonyi State and spokesperson for Alaigbo Development Foundation (ADF).
“The wickedness with which he has treated Igbo people and other Nigerians is what made Kanu popular, and is also responsible for growing agitations for self determination in the Southwest and other places.”
As at June 2021, Igbo Council of elders said up to 5,000 youths have been killed by the a combined team of police and soldiers in the crackdown that followed, while 10,000 are being detained.
“They are destroying lives; killing civilians. They are not even targeting the unknown gunmen committing crimes, they are just killing civilians. They kill innocent young men and tag them IPOB or ESN,” said constitutional lawyer, Mr. Okey Okoroji.