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Oyigbo saga: Setting the records straight

By Ekine James and Johnbull Jenson
09 November 2020   |   3:51 am
Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike has once again spoken boldly, succinctly and brilliantly like a great statesman and leader, clearing the air on recent volatile activities that prompted the imposition of a curfew in Oyigbo Local Government Area.

Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike

Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike has once again spoken boldly, succinctly and brilliantly like a great statesman and leader, clearing the air on recent volatile activities that prompted the imposition of a curfew in Oyigbo Local Government Area.

He has also set the records straight on the decision of the Rivers State Executive Council to reinforce the proscription of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) the outlawed separatist terrorist group and its activities in Rivers State.

Addressing the issue during a live Television interview programme on one of Nigeria’s most credible global Television Network stations, on Monday, November 2, 2020, Governor Wike’s answer to wild and misleading allegations about Oyigbo was simple, deep, profound and emphatic.

He said: “I never ordered the military to kill Igbos in Oyigbo. I have no relationship with the Army or the Police. I do not command them. They change Commissioners of Police every time. How will I begin to direct the Army that I do not give instruction to? It’s not true that I ordered the military to kill Igbos in Oyigbo. When did I become a friend to the military? So what about the Igbos living elsewhere in the State are they also being killed?”

Speaking on the decision by the State Executive Council to reinforce the proscription of IPOB and impose a curfew on Oyigbo, Governor Wike’s answer was clear and faultless. He said: “I imposed curfew to restore calm, after members of the proscribed Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB) killed 6 soldiers, 4 policemen and destroyed all police stations and court buildings there.

“I also proscribed IPOB activities anywhere in the state. Don’t forget that the Federal Government had declared them a terrorist group. I know that this is not the first time IPOB has used Oyigbo as a launching ground. The security agencies are aware.

“IPOB added a new dimension this time. They killed 6 Army Officers and burnt one. They killed four Police Officers. They destroyed all the Police Stations and Court Buildings. What did the Courts do to them? What offense did we commit as a State?

“I will not fold my arms and watch criminals destroy my State, if those few criminals are Igbos then they should know that I will not allow them. They made an attempt to rename a local government in my State. That alone is a signal. I will not agree to that. I know who is doing all these; who has told them to rise, protest against Wike,” he said.

The truth is that only those sponsored trouble makers and extremists, who started twisting the narrative that Igbos were being killed by the military, to shift attention from the despicable activities of IPOB in Oyigbo, will hear what the governor said will refuse to see reason why the timely decision to impose the curfew was taken to save many innocent lives and prevent further deliberate damage and destruction by well organized IPOB hoodlums and criminals, masquerading as protesters, in Oyigbo and some specific parts of the state.

Infact Governor Wike was to re-emphasize these points when he addressed a well-attended meeting of leaders of Igbo, Hausa, Yoruba and other ethnic nationalities living in the State, at Government House, Port Harcourt on the same Monday, November 2nd, 2020.

Speaking to the Igbo leaders directly, the governor said that it will be absurd for IPOB to assume the role of speaking for the Igbos when there are credible and outstanding people who can speak for them. To this end, he warned against allowing IPOB to continue misrepresenting the Igbo ethnic nationality.

“Let IPOB not give Igbo a bad name. Any people that allow a criminal to speak for them, that tribe is finished. No tribe gave us the kind of support that the Igbos gave to me but that does not mean we should allow IPOB destroy our State,” he cautioned.

Indeed, the wickedness of what IPOB hoodlums and criminals did in Oyigbo, under the guise of #EndSARS protest, is captured most painfully and poignantly in the sad story of Late Sgt Umunna Uchechukwu from Bende in Abia State, a young, decent Igbo police officer, a good husband still enjoying his fresh marriage and the proud, loving moments of his fatherhood. His life was cut short in its prime when he was burnt to death by IPOB hoodlums and he left behind, his young inconsolable widow and her six-month-old child.

And we ask IPOB, what will be the fate of this baby in life? Did the poor child deserve to be fatherless at just 6 months old? What kind of man’s inhumanity to man is this, even by his own kinsmen who have no value for human life because of their hate and bitterness against their fellow man?

The fact remains that, whether they like it or not, IPOB has already been designated a terrorist organisation by the Federal Government and Rivers State should have no regrets on its stance to reinforce the proscription of the outlawed group. Even the South-East Governors have never supported IPOB so why should a Governor from the Niger Delta tolerate the group?

Oyigbo is a boundary area between Rivers and Abia states demarcated by the natural boundary of Imo River as declared by the Supreme Court and the National Boundary Commission.

As at today, Oyigbo, despite the massive influx of Nigerians from neighbouring states, especially Abia, is a legally certified, bonafide local government in Rivers State and under the protective authority and administration of Governor Wike.

Oyigbo was registered as one of the 23 LGAs in Rivers State by INEC and all the leading Rivers State Governorship candidates and political parties in the last elections, campaigned in Oyigbo, while none of the candidates from other states came to campaign there for votes.

Oyigbo indigenes who are full fledged Rivers people, as well as the other residents and settlers from other tribes including the Igbos, voted massively for Governor Nyesom Wike, inspite of the failed attempts by some forces to manipulate and declare fictitious results from the LGA in the last election.

The Local Government has a member representing the area, Hon. Chibuzo Promise Nwankwo, in the Rivers State House of Assembly and not in another state. The Rivers State PDP Chairman, Ambassador Desmond Akawor is a proud son of Oyigbo and Rivers State.

The audacity of IPOB in Rivers State was even revealed, when security agencies during their search of some residents in Oyigbo, saw shrines with IPOB flags and the photographs of their fugitive leader Nnamdi Kanu’s picture and it soon became clear that if IPOB is allowed to operate from Oyigbo, it will soon overrun the State.

The disturbing situation was made even more appalling and diabolical when intelligence reports revealed that the Ikokwu area was host to a lot of IPOB illegal cells in the State capital, which prompted the decision to impose a curfew on that axis.

Against this backdrop of incontrovertible facts therefore, a properly elected Governor and a responsible government in Rivers State, will never allow IPOB the insult and effrontery to rename a local government in the State and even hoist its flag in a public school like it did in Komkom Town. This was exactly what Boko Haram did in some parts of Northern Nigeria before they were flushed out comprehensively in the weeks leading to the 2015 presidential elections.

There is no election in Rivers State this year but as Governor Wike alluded during the television interview, there are interests already trying to destabilize the State and his administration as part of their calculations for the 2023 presidential elections and as the popular saying goes: “A stitch in time saves Nine.”

Governor Wike also confirmed that the government has commenced moves to replace all the property destroyed by IPOB during the protest and regretted that the damage have left huge financial burden on the State. He equally affirmed the decision of the State Government, which he pledged to the families of the fallen soldiers and policemen, to compensate each family with N20 million to cater for the welfare of the bereaved widows and their children.

Rivers State is indeed blessed and lucky to have a firm, proactive, courageous and fearless Governor and leader, who is ready to take the tough and hard decisions which will ultimately protect and secure lives and property in the long run and still come out in the public space to talk to his people, justify and defend those decisions and reassure the people that they will always be protected against any force or aggression in the State.

According to Governor Wike, during the meeting with the leaders of non-indigenes:  “Any decision we take is for the good of everybody. It is not against any tribe. We have lived peacefully with people from other tribes. So stop fighting yourselves and creating the impression that there is war here. Don’t also make disagreements between business partners appear as tribal war. Allow them to settle the matter as businessmen.

“There is need for all of us to live in peace. From today, I don’t want to hear Igbo fighting Hausa. If there is any trouble, there is no need to take laws into your hands. Report the matter to us and we will address it, “ he assured them.

Governor Wike has once again exhibited strong, timely, proactive, legally correct and legitimately decisive leadership in dealing with the IPOB situation. He has also confirmed that the Rivers State Security Council will soon meet and review the situation in Oyigbo Local Government Area after the carnage visited on the area by members of the proscribed IPOB.

Most importantly is the fact that he has equally warned against allowing IPOB to continue misrepresenting the Igbos ethnic nationality with their confrontational, destructive and hate filled comments and activities and while reinstating the commitment of his administration to continue to protect life and property of everybody in the State.

He charged Rivers residents, appalled by the nefarious activities of IPOB, to resist the group and whatever it stands for in its entirety. We wholeheartedly support our Governor on this and we stand by him.
Ekine James, President, Johnbull Jenson, Secretary, Rivers Patriotic Front