– NOVEMBER 6 AND THE EPIDEMIC OF BLOODLETTINGTHISDAYLIVE – THISDAY Newspapers
Tunde Olusunle writes that the violence in the Southeast is unnecessary
Two developments which took place simultaneously in Enugu, capital of Enugu State and political headquarters of the South East, Tuesday October 4, 2021, underscored a novel resolve to stem the raging insanity and heedless bloodletting which have become recurring decimals in Igboland, over the last few weeks and months. First, the Nigerian Army launched a new military operation in the South East, codenamed “Exercise New Dawn.” The operation, according to the Chief of Army Staff Lt. General Faruk Yahaya, will curb rising cases of insecurity in the zone. It hopes to tackle insurgency, kidnapping and rising banditry in the South East, and check wanton killings and incineration of public facilities in the zone.
The second event was a meeting convened by governors of the South East states, to explore political and operational solutions to the skyrocketing wave of insecurity and uncertainty in the region. Attended by four of the five governors in the zone with the abstention of Willie Obiano of Anambra State, the meeting also featured major political stakeholders including national assembly members; senior clergymen, the leaderships of various sociocultural organisations in the zone including Ohanaeze and traditional rulers. The meeting agreed to rejuvenate Ebubeagu, a security initiative reminiscent of the Amotekun creation in the South West, among others. The security outfit will draw its membership from all the states in the South East, to complement the efforts of regular intelligence and security services, operating in the zone.
The meeting equally resolved to put an end to the frequent “sit at home” orders regularly imposed on the South East, by the self-styled Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), led by Nnamdi Kanu, who is being held by Nigeria’s security. The sitting decried the humongous socioeconomic losses incurred by workers and business owners in the South East, on each day the obnoxious sit-at-home order is enforced. The meeting equally reaffirmed the commitment of Ndi’gbo to the Saturday November 6, 2021 governorship election in Anambra and pledged to support the conduct of an incident-free poll.
Not even the most unfeeling of persons will not be jolted by recent developments in the South East of the country, with specific reference to Anambra State. A few weeks back, a piece which I authored, titled “Gun Smoke from the South East,” I attempted a broad inquest into the somewhat simulated reign of violence and bloodletting across the south east of the country. I cited examples from a number of states in the subregion, including Anambra, Imo and Enugu States, where people were being hunted like game on the streets of popular state capitals. While crime and criminality remain “galloping” phenomena, to appropriate the expression popularised by erstwhile Inspector General of Police (IGP), Tafa Balogun, the trend has gained frightening, virtual epidemic traction in Anambra, in recent weeks.
Invested with the unpleasant responsibility of doing a regularly updated headcount of casualties from faceless murderers and assassins, a sullen Obiano disclosed last week, that in a space of 72 hours, 10 innocent souls were lost to haemoglobin-gobbling, mean-spirited hoodlums, branded “unknown gunmen,” across the state, in separate incidents. This must rank as a record, even on the notice board of mortal haemorrhaging, across the South East zone, within a specific time frame. In a sombre broadcast to the people of the state on Wednesday September 29, 2021, Obiano noted that: “Between Sunday September 26 and yesterday September 28, 2021, attacks on citizens at Oko, Agulu, Obosi, Nkpor, Nnobi, Nnewi and other places, have left about 10 people dead. They include an illustrious son of this state, Dr Chike Akunyili, husband of the late Professor Dora Akunyili, who was reportedly gunned down yesterday around Nkpor. These are our own people dying every day and for what reason?”
The incidents the Anambra State governor alluded to, include the killing of Somadina Oforma, a member of the All Progressives Congress (APC), who was shot dead Tuesday September 28, 2021, while attending a meeting of the party at Uruagu, Nnewi North local government area (LGA), of the state. APC flagbearer for the forthcoming November 6, 2021 governorship election in the state, Andy Uba described it as “an obviously politically-motivated murder, one too many to count.” He drew attention to the murder on July 31, 2021, of Cosmas Eze, a local government executive committee member of the APC in Idemili South LGA. Uba equally recounted the extermination of Igwe Alex Edozieuno, the traditional ruler of Ekpunando, Anambra East LGA, September 10, 2021, by unknown gunmen, on the suspicion of being a politician.
Obiano has pledged a reward of the sum of N20 million to anyone who is able to come up with foolproof information about the assailants of Akunyili. This is even as Chris Azubogu, member representing Nnewi North/Nnewi South/Ekwusigo federal constituency in the House of Representatives, was attacked Thursday September 30, 2021, an assault which claimed one of his drivers. On the same day, unknown gunmen reportedly shot the driver of a vehicle in transit along the Nnobi-Nnewi road and abducted the other occupants of the automobile. It was in this same Anambra, that Phillip Udala, a young billionaire and financier of “Udala Football Club” was barbecued along with his drivers and police escorts, in the full view of the public one humid afternoon, July 14, 2021, in Abatete, Idemili North LGA. We can go on and on with myriad examples.
The motives for these killings are as complex and convoluted as they come. This is just as five policemen were killed within the premises of the divisional police station in Ajali, Orumba North LGA, on the same September 30, the same day Azubogu was attacked. A police pickup truck was set ablaze during the assault on the police station in the community. Three days later, on Sunday October 3, 2021, Nnewi was once again the target of the blood-sucking deviants. This time, they torched the premises of the Department of State Services (DSS) and the offices of the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC), in the popular hub of entrepreneurship and industry in Anambra State.
Not done with decimating public infrastructures, the criminals incinerated the country home of the revered economist and elder statesman, Dr Sonny Chu Okongwu. Okongwu, 87, served, first as Minister of National Planning, and subsequently as Minister of Finance under the administration of General Ibrahim Babangida, between 1985 and 1990. The Nnewi home of Lagos-based APC stalwart and Chairman of the Lagos State Government Wharf Landing Fee Collecting Authority, Joe Igbokwe, was also set ablaze, almost simultaneously, by unknown gunmen.
There is a veneer of facelessness and anonymity about the perpetrators of this regime of blood-curdling heist on Anambra State. The notoriety of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) over the years, and more recently the involvement of the nebulous Eastern Security Network (ESN), has had fingers of accusation being pointed in their direction, after each attack.
This is in spite of the routine denials of both groups, of complicity, after each criminal incident. Radicalised and brainwashed by its leader, Nnamdi Kanu and his adherents, IPOB has, in recent weeks and months, functioned as an alternate, albeit self-styled leadership for the South East states. The group issues decrees and directives to the people of the zone and enforces same with cutting-edge brutality. IPOB has serially proclaimed “sit at home” orders on its “constituents” in Igboland and proceeded to rein in disobedience and dissenting voices, with untold viciousness.
In the run-up to the recent commemoration of Nigeria’s 61st independence day anniversary, IPOB legislated against the hoisting of the national flag on public buildings, in the entire south east. Banks, educational institutions, security facilities and so on, were placed under the order. For added effect, a sit-at-home was also proclaimed for then October 1, 2021 event. The directive was largely obeyed, because major Igbo cites like Enugu, Owerri, Aba, Onitsha, Abakaliki, were virtual ghost towns on the day. A journalist who drove around incognito in Anambra, said he was amazed to travel the Awka to Onitsha road on Friday October 1, in 25 minutes, a journey of two hours on normal days.
There are also suggestions to the effect that cultists and terror groups might have been procured by specific political interests, to precipitate a state of unmanageable insecurity and pseudo-instability in the state, to necessitate the postponement of the November 6, 2021. This school of thought, opines that high profile killings in the state, and the coordinated attacks on salient security formations, are intended to sway the federal government and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), to reschedule the election. This school of thought predicates its submission on the fact that with barely a month to the election, it is too late in the day to rebuild and reconstruct physical structures belonging to government agencies, before the polls.
A video clip featuring Goddy Uwazurike, a seasoned attorney and long-serving leader of Aka Ikenga, a foremost Igbo sociocultural group, has been trending on the social media in the past few days. Uwazurike suggests in the video, that Chike Akunyili was most probably mistaken for a politician and shot in error by his killers. Uwazurike expressed revulsion at the morbid insensitivity and pathological irreverence with which otherwise sacred human lives are viewed in Igboland today. The South East, Uwazurike notes, has degenerated into a region where it is now sport for manic youths to kick the decapitated blood-caked heads of their victims, around, the way youngsters pass football around on the play ground.
While this is an unimaginable attestation to the bestiality with which political tradesmen intend to prosecute the following weeks and months preceding the November 6 election, there is absolutely no justification for them to convert Anambra State into a killing field. Akunyili who lived his life as a humanist by vocation and a philanthropist by disposition, did not deserve the manner of execution-style annihilation he was served. Not at all. And the same goes for every innocent life that has been cut down by the recent orgy of violence in Anambra State.
This brings us to the issue of the magnitude of self-immolation which undesirable elements from the South East, with particular reference to Anambra State, have brought to bear on themselves, with the new found neo-psycopathic politicking in play. With the range and intensity of self-destruction they have wrought on their land, who is the ultimate loser in all of this? Irreplaceable lives have been lost, people have been maimed and mutilated irreparably, the psyches of victims and kinsmen of such victims have been brutalized, iconic physical developments have been mindlessly vandalized and obliterated by these marauders. The earthen soil of Anambra State, has been severely caked by the blood of the innocent.
It is both educative and enlightening being chauffeured on a guided tour of Soweto in South Africa and being shown round the homes of Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu, Winnie Mandela, Hector Pieterson and similar frontrunners of the anti-apartheid struggle. After wrecking the retirement home of a Chu Okongwu, shouldn’t the faceless arsonists complete their senseless rounds by bringing down the historical mausoleum erected in honour of Nigeria’s first President Nnamdi Azikiwe in Ogbe-Abo near Onitsha, Anambra State? The project was initiated by the administration of General Sani Abacha, back in 1996 and completed in 2018 as a tribute to the memory of a pan-Nigerianist par excellence.
Shouldn’t they as well desecrate the homes and memorabilia of other revered Anambra personages like Emeka Odimegwu Ojukwu, Alex Ekwueme, Emeka Anyaoku, Cardinal Francis Arinze, Chinua Achebe, Chimamanda Adichie, and so on, in Anambra, a geopolity whose people have contributed individually and variously to national growth and evolution? That would be a befitting denouement to the inexplicable enterprise of the brigands in Anambra State. The incumbent administration at the federal level, is already neck-deep in indebtedness over the course of its near seven years of rulership, a situation which economists and financial experts say has effectively mortgaged the future of young and yet unborn Nigerians.
Will the prioritisation of the replacement of physical structures destroyed by these perverts in Anambra and the South East at large, be on the horizon anytime soon? They need to be reminded that early in the life of the Buhari administration, the President made it expressly clear that patronage and development by his government, will, primarily favour states and parts of the country, which banked 97% of their votes in him, as against areas which gave him 5%. Buhari made the point in one of the earliest interviews he granted to the foreign media back in 2015 upon his assumption of office, to the consternation of Nigerians and the international community.
Security services in the state are doing their utmost best in the disturbing circumstances in Anambra, where security personnel and infrastructure are themselves recurring victims in various criminal incidents, very much like ordinary folks. In a manner reminiscent of the bile and hatred which the famous armed robber, Lawrence Anini and his deputy, Monday Osunbor, who held Edo State captive in the mid-1980s, harboured for law enforcement agencies, the rampaging assassins of Anambra State, detest the very sight and insignia of the security organisations. This constantly endangers both the personnel and their operational equipment, notably vehicles and outposts.
Irrespective of the efforts of the security agencies in stemming the madness in Anambra State, and the South East at large, it is imperative, that Ndi’ Anambra and Ndi’Igbo broadly, continue to engage with themselves at all-inclusive fora or general assemblies as it may be. They must regularly review the security situation both in Anambra and the South East at large. An inquisition into the security irregularities, wanton killings, needless bloodletting, orchestrated arson attacks, desecration of Igbo norms and values, all in the name of political contestations, must promptly be put in place. It is not in anyway edifying for a geopolitical zone which has produced some of Nigeria’s brightest and best over time; a region noted for irrepressible industry and entrepreneurship; a section of the country which evolved out of the holocaust of the 30-month civil war between 1967 and 1970, in a most spectacular manner, to degenerate into another Somalia or Afghanistan, all in the name of politics and its self-serving players, before our very eyes.
And let it be known to the sponsors and perpetrators of recurring violence in Anambra State, that the Saturday November 6, 2021 governorship election in the state may just hold as scheduled. This is in spite of reservations being expressed by INEC on the plausible shift in the date of the election, on account of security concerns in the state. INEC under the current dispensation, conducted the presidential election of February 23, 2019, in Borno and Yobe States in the insurgency-challenged north east, in spite of security reservations in the zone. Indeed, despite coordinated bomb blasts in both states in the morning of the election which largely impacted voter turnout, INEC declared more sumptuous results in favour of the ruling APC, than states where voter participation was much higher and election day calm and quiet.
• Dr Olusunle is a poet, journalist, writer and public relations practitioner