Amid protests, citizens draw roadmap for unity
• Biafra, Yoruba Nation Agitators Protest In London, Insist On Referendum
• IPOB Shuts Down S’East, Hoodlums Kill Bus Driver, Burn Truck In Imo
• #BuhariMustGo Campaigners Re-emerge In Abuja, Lagos
• Deal With Root Cause Of Agitations, Yoruba Ronu, George, Cleric Charge Buhari
Amid protests by some aggrieved Nigerians yesterday as the country marked its 61st independence anniversary, many others seized the opportunity to draw the road map that would guarantee a united and prosperous nation that would be adored by its citizens.
In London, over 100 members of the Nigerian community in the United Kingdom marked the Nigerian Independence Day celebration by clamouring for a Yoruba Nation, while some asked for Biafra. But those agitating for Yoruba Nation took their campaign to the seat of government, urging the Prime Minister and the Queen to support their cause.
Though agitators for Biafra were also noticeable in the vicinity of Whitehall and Downing Street at a little after 1:00pm, when both groups pitched their tents together, the Biafra group later went solo in a different direction, while those for Yoruba Nation gathered momentum by proceeding to the entrance gate of Downing Street to ensure their voice was heard in the corridors of power.
While five members of the movement went inside to deliver a letter to Boris Johnson’s office at No 10, others stayed outside, chanting Yoruba Nation solidarity songs and also calling on Her Majesty’s government to support the agitation for a referendum.
Led by the duo of Comrade Ayo Ogundimu and social media campaigner, Yomi Koiki, in chanting “Yoruba Nation,” and “What do we want?” to which the crowd chorused: “Yoruba Nation,” they asked for the UK’s support to hold a referendum within a year.
“We want to be out of Nigeria in the next one year,” Koiki said, amidst thunderous support from the crowd. Continuing, he said: “Her Majesty the Queen, you must let my people go.” Nigeria, both argued, “is negotiable.”
Ogundimu, in his own address, said: “We have a right to self-determination and nobody should deny us that.” Nigeria, according to him, “is an arrangement between the UK and the Fulanis.”
After over half an hour, including observing a minute’s silence in memory of victims of terror and kidnappings and other vices in the country, the campaigners left Downing Street for the nearby Foreign and Commonwealth Office on King Charles Street.
Both Koiki and Ogundimu and other cheerleaders addressed the crowd again, urging the Commonwealth of Nations to support their cause. While there, they sang and danced to more solidarity songs, including “Asia, Yoruba Nation, fe re ni o ma fe,” – the flag of the Yoruba Nation will surely fly.
The demonstration was organised and coordinated by Koiki, Ogundimu, Erelu Abike Ade, Aja Queen and Paul Odedeyi, publisher of Gbedu magazine.
In Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), some protesters that wielded large banners made bonfires on the highway, and called for the resignation of President Muhammadu Buhari from office.
Heavily armed policemen, who fired tear gas canisters at them, later dispersed the protesters.
In Lagos State, some aggrieved residents also held the #RevolutionNow and #BuhariMustGo protest in Ojota area, chanting and displaying banners and placards that read, ‘Buhari Must Go’.
Despite the presence of some police officers at the venue to disperse the protesters, they remained adamant and chanted, “Who go tire? I no go tire”, “The suffering is enough”, “That’s how they killed Olajide Sowore, enough is enough.”
Speaking with journalists, one of the leaders of the protesters said: “Greatest Nigerian people, we claim we are celebrating the independence of Nigeria. Are we truly independent? What happened in 1960 was a change in the colour of our colonial masters.
“Formerly, our colonial masters were white people, but now, we are being colonised by our people. An independent country will find a lasting solution to unemployment; an independent country will find a solution to insecurity. We are saying enough is enough; we have been cheated for too long, that’s why we have come out.
“We will not be intimidated by the shenanigans of the political leaders. We cannot get freedom unless we get a government that works for us. Nigeria has stayed too long in the bondage of lack of infrastructure, bad governance.”
Also yesterday, the Southeast region of the country was shut down, as residents remained indoors following the sit-at-home ordered by the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) to protest against celebrating Nigeria’s independence in the area.
The Guardian also observed that in compliance with IPOB’S order, some private and government institutions that had Nigeria’s national flag had begun to remove them.
IPOB had in a statement last week ordered the removal of Nigerian flags anywhere in “Biafra land”, threatening that its members would not hesitate to deal with institutions still habouring the flags after yesterday.
Apparently out of fear and to avoid being “dealt with” by the organisation, owners of institutions and churches ensured that the country’s flags in their premises were removed before close of work last Thursday.
At Bethel School, New layout, Enugu, its owner, Mrs. Kate Ugwu told The Guardian that she decided to remove the flag “because, you never can say what the motive of those who placed the order will be. They may decide to start attacking schools that did not comply with their order and what have you. I am not prepared for such ugly experience at the moment.”
A public affairs analyst, Chukwuemeka Nze, who complied with the sit-at-home order, said he decided to obey it “because there was nobody on the road when I tried to move out.”
In Imo State, residents also complied with the order as traders locked their shops and stayed at home. The ever-busy Douglas, Wethdral, Okigwe, Orlu, MCC, Mbaise and Egbu Roads were also deserted.
Also at Ahiara junction, the hoodlums equally burnt a truck, which was heading to Owerri. The truck driver was said to have abandoned the truck and ran for his life on sighting them.
Suspected hoodlums also burned a yet-to-be identified driver alive inside his bus at Oboma Nguru in Aboh Mbaise local council of the state.
The Guardian gathered that the bus loaded with passengers was heading to Umuahia from Owerri before it was attacked. The hoodlums who shot the driver in a close range, according to an eye witnesses, ordered all the passengers down from the vehicle before setting it ablaze.
These happened barely 24 hours after suspected hoodlums set ablaze the palace of HRH, Eze Obi Ralph Ekezie, the traditional ruler of Obor Autonomous Community in Orlu local council of the state. The Obor community is a neighboring community to Omuma, the hometown of Governor Hope Uzodinma.
When contacted on telephone, the monarch, who confirmed the incident, expressed shock over the attack. He said the incident was a clear intent of an attack on his person, stressing that the story could have been worse if he was at home when the arsonists struck.
In Anambra State, residents also stayed indoors and were nowhere near Ekwueme Square, Awka, venue of the anniversary celebration in the state, which was lavishly decorated. Neither Governor Willie Obiano nor his representatives was present at the venue despite the heavy presence of security operatives.
When the governor’s protocol team started to dismantle the public address system and other equipment at the venue at 12:00 noon, it was obvious that the agitators had won the bet.
Businesses activities were also crippled in Ebonyi State despite Governor David Umahi’s earlier claim that the people of the state would not obey IPOB’s order.
However, in Delta State, the sit-at-home order by IPOB was not observed, as normal activities went on unhindered and without any attempt by the agitators to enforce the order.
In Asaba, the state capital, residents went about their normal daily endeavours, with commercial activities in full swing as early as 7:00am in some places.
The Guardian observed that markets were opened to customers for business transactions, while other residents were seen moving freely along the streets, an indication that the order was ignored.
The Police were also seen at strategic positions, monitoring human and vehicular movements. As early as 8:00am, there were massive police patrols in major roads in major streets of Asaba, especially in areas with Igbo business concerns, in a show of force.
In other parts of the state, including major towns, such as Warri and Agbor, the day passed without any reported incident associated with Biafra agitation.
A resident, Uche Tony, said: “Nobody from Delta State will obey such order from IPOB. So, nothing like sit-at-home here in Asaba. Delta is not part of Biafra, though some of us may understand their language. The agitators are self-seeking, killing their fellow brothers and sisters almost on a daily basis for nothing.”
Another resident, Sunday Azuka, said IPOB was not relevant nor its order, adding: “As you can see, everybody is busy doing one thing and the other to sustain his or her life. Asaba people and residents have nothing to do with the agitations.”
Earlier on Thursday, ostensibly to prevent any infiltration into the state by Biafra adherents, the state Police Command warned troublemakers to stay off the state.
Commissioner of Police, Mr. Muhammed Ali, ordered massive deployment of personnel across the state to provide adequate security before, during and after yesterday’s independence celebrations to ensure protection of lives and property.
Alli also directed all Area Commanders, Divisional Police Officers (DPOs) and Tactical Commanders to deploy men to all celebrations venues and other resorts centres to ensure the safety of law-abiding citizens and a hitch-free celebration.
Meanwhile, erstwhile Deputy National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Olabode George and a Southwest socio-political group, Yoruba Ronu Leadership Forum, have called on President Muhammadu Buhari to focus on issues that have been threatening the unity of Nigeria
According to them, it was imperative that the President ensures peace, confidence and trust among the diverse ethnic groups between now and 2023, when his tenure would end.
In a statement, George urged President Buhari to use the opportunity of the anniversary to bring Nigerians together irrespective of their ethnic affiliations.
He lamented that one of the issues fueling division was the lack of memory among the younger generations of how Nigerians, irrespective of their diversities, related harmoniously in the past. This, he said, could be restored through the teaching of history in primary and secondary schools.
He also urged Buhari to adopt the military methodology of oneness and esprit de corps to lead the country, saying, “leaders cannot afford to be using different standards and perceptions for Nigerians because of where they are from or the religion they belong to.”
The former military administrator of Ondo State lamented that Nigeria has never witnessed the kind of division, hatred and determination to separate like this in her history, warning that something should be done urgently to stop the tide or the country may slip.
He said: “Let them go back and read what led to the collapse of the First Republic. The military came, we found out eventually that it was not our role to manage politics and we rushed out. The constitution we are running is still not effective. We have an opportunity to revisit it and we have revisited it with the 2014 National Conference.
“This is a time to reflect. By this time next year, we would be talking of 2023. I don’t know who took the decision to scrap the study of history; it is a fundamental error. And that’s why you see us repeating the same mistake as we move from one period to another. Is this the way we would continue?”
President of Yoruba Ronu, Akin Malaolu, said the group was reassured by the new turn of events that might follow if Buhari’s Independence Day broadcast is followed by actions.
He said the forum sincerely appreciates the words in Mr. President’s speech that, ‘Nigeria is for all of us. Its unity is not negotiable. And its ultimate success can only be achieved if we all come together with a common goal of having peace and prosperity for our nation.’
“We are glad that President Buhari may turn a new leaf if he truly desires his hold on government to be one that brings smiles to Nigerians,” he added.
In his goodwill message to Nigerians, the Prelate and Moderator of the Presbyterian Church Of Nigeria (PCN), His Eminence Nzie Nsi Eke, also charged President to show enough will to deal with the issues dividing Nigerians.
In the message tagged ‘a message of hope in perilous times’ he urged Nigerians to see the independence celebration as another opportunity to create a platform for sincere engagement on national unity.
“Our government needs to put ethnic, sectional and religious considerations aside and put our nation first in their policy making and execution.”
“Our President has a rare opportunity of writing his name in the annals of history as a great statesman who led Nigeria away from the path of disintegration and built a stronger and more progressive nation in which truth, unity and justice reign,” he said.
The message signed by the PCN Head of Information and Public Affairs, the Rev. Nnoke Ibe, lamented that Nigeria was in greater danger of disintegration now than ever before as many sections and ethnic groups have taken their grouses beyond complaints to the highest levels of activism.
“Instead of our leaders to confront the root causes of these complaints and resolve them, they prefer, against popular advice, to ignore the call for self-determination and be detaining these activists thereby making them greater heroes among their people,” he said.
Reiterating that some of the agitations were as a result of perceived injustice and oppression that would only take dialogue and changes in application of government policies to address, the cleric added: “If not for any other thing, we must appreciate the grace that has kept us together as one country and the invisible power that has kept us from total collapse.”
The Prelate, however, appreciated the efforts of the country’s leaders in steering the wheel of leadership to the best of their abilities despite the lean resources and rising security challenges, noting that appreciable infrastructural developments were being witnessed all over the country, particularly in the area of railway transportation.