Ekweremadu assault, Soyinka, Falana confab raise fear of revolt
• ‘We only prevented breakdown of law, order’
• ‘We defeated Babangida, Abacha, we won’t allow another dictator’
The attack on the immediate past Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, in Nuremberg, Germany during the annual New Yam festival has continued to elicit reactions from Nigerians, both at home and in the diaspora. The spontaneity of the attack and the near-unanimity of the attackers underscored the fact of deep animosities against the ex-lawmaker and, by extension, political leaders of the country.
The senator decided to run for his dear life at the approach of the angry mob, especially against the background that he was dressed in a traditional jumper bearing the Nigerian coat of arms, which the attackers saw as a reminder of a dungeon back home. When the former presidential candidate of the Allied Congress Party of Nigeria (ACPN), Dr Oby Ezekwesili, challenged Nigerians to perform the office of the citizen by holding their leaders to account, nobody believed that a seed was being sown.
Following the disgraceful exchange in Nuremberg, most commentators have expressed the fear that at last Nigeria’s version of the Arab spring in the form of masses revolt could be just around the corner. Ekweremadu had alleged that members of the outlawed Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB) swooped on the venue of the cultural festival to unleash an unwarranted attack on his person.
Piqued by what he called “overwhelming public demand and the need to address head-on matters arising from the Nuremberg incident,” the IPOB leader, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, scheduled an emergency international broadcast on the Radio Biafra. In a statement issued on the broadcast, the IPOB Director of Media and Publicity, Emma Powerful, said: “With Enugu and Ebonyi states on the verge of capitulation to Fulani criminality, violence and Miyetti Allah domination, conspiratorially complemented by yet another round of military invasion of the East, our leader shall ventilate these issues and offer guidance on what shall become the fate of corrupt politicians, collaborators and their families whenever they set foot on foreign soil.
“Our own revolution has commenced and things will never be the same again. It is up to other ethnic nationalities to deal with corrupt politicians and merchants of misery within themselves. We have started ours and Nuremberg is only the tip of the iceberg. Let the #Revolution start now.”
The wordings of the public announcement, apart from corroborating Ekweremadu’s claims that IPOB was responsible for the assault, raised public interest in the planned international broadcast by Mazi Nnamdi Kanu. Without toning down on the rhetoric of the public announcement, the IPOB leader declared: “What happened in Nuremberg is nothing, wait until we catch (Tukur) Buratai or Jubril outside the Zoo, you will see what anger means.
“We shall attack any politician seen outside Nigeria, even if they are in the hospital, we shall go in there and carry them out with their oxygen. Let me warn, if anyone goes down as a result of Operation Python Dance 3, we shall hunt down your family abroad, no matter the state government.”
To show the seriousness of his threat, Kanu announced N1million bounty on information regarding the itinerary of some governors and public office holders visiting overseas.“We have nominated five persons in every country of the world, who are ready to be arrested and be jailed for this purpose. Many of us have been killed so what is there is going to jail” he said.
Checks by The Guardian revealed that IPOB had a number of grievances against Ekweremadu, especially what they called his penchant for running with the hare and running with the hunt in his relationship with President Muhammadu Buhari and ‘Biafrans’.
In his broadcast, Kanu accused the South East political leaders of proscribing IPOB in a vain effort to douse rising tension in the zone, while leaving out the main issue stoking the tension, which was the military raid of his father’s compound in Afaraukwu, Umuahia, Abia State.
Responding to The Guardian inquiry on why IPOB justified the attack on Ekweremadu, given that he played some roles to free him from detention over alleged trumped-up charges of terrorism and treasonable felony, Kanu said he swore not to lie to or betray the Biafran people.
His words: “We are angry with the so-called political leaders because they have failed our people. They deceive the people and care only about their families. The Fulani herdsmen are killing, maiming, kidnapping and raping the women without the leaders saying anything.
“We knew it would come to this and planned to defend our people against the killers by setting up the Biafra Secret Service (BSS). But the selfish and criminals you call leaders connived among themselves to proscribe IPOB. We hold them responsible for the abductions and killings.”
A rights group, International Society for Civil Liberties and Rule of Law, (Intersociety), in a statement by Emeka Umeagbalasi and Joy Igboeli, said the response to the assault on Ekweremadu was condemnable for its approach but justifiable. Intersociety said it was wrong for IPOB to say that Igbo governors and other key Igbo political players proscribed the group, arguing that they “lack such national codified powers and laws to do so.”
“But it is likely more correct to accuse them of conspiracy in the vindictive proscription. That is to say that the reactions trailing the assault on Ekweremadu are welcome, yet, we are deeply worried over the silence or absence of such widespread reactions such as in the wake of well-coordinated atrocities against the Igbo nation and her people.”
Meanwhile, policemen allegedly sealed off the venue of a symposium yesterday where Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka and human rights lawyer, Femi Falana (SAN), were scheduled to speak on the insecurity in the country. The development came two weeks after security agents fired teargas in Lagos to quell the #RevolutionNow protest called by the detained activist and presidential candidate of the African Action Congress (AAC), Omoyele Sowore.
A team of policemen from the Lagos State command was seen at No. 46, Ibijoke Street, Oluyole bus-stop, Oregun, Lagos, venue of the event in the early hours of yesterday. Police vans were also parked at strategic locations surrounding the venue. The symposium, tagged, ‘Democracy, State Repression and the State of Insecurity in Nigeria,’ was organised by Coalition For Revolution (CORE), led by Sowore.
The event was scheduled to draw urgent attention to Nigeria’s growing social and security crises and CORE had invited public figures, including Soyinka and Falana, to add their voices to the worsening insecurity and a general crackdown on critics of the Federal Government.
But shortly before the event billed to commence at 11:00 a.m. started, the security agents who had positioned themselves around the venue, stormed the building and attacked the participants and journalists already gathered for the programme. A BBC reporter was reportedly taken into custody and made to delete footage in his camera and other multimedia equipment.
Falana, however, defied the security clampdown and stormed the venue at 11:40 a.m., leading to chants of solidarity songs by the people who had converged despite the sealing off of the premises by the police. A co-convener of the event, Mr Olaseni Ajai, speaking on the development, said: “The owner of the event centre was denied access to his property and his resident staff’s whereabouts remain unknown. Innocent bystanders were harassed and arrested in a Gestapo manner. This is the response of a so-called civilian government to a symposium. No wonder the country is sinking deeper into crises.
“We remain focused and determined not to let anyone take away our rights. We have paid for the venue and the programme is scheduled to start. The whole world needs to see the true face of this government and see the reason we demand that there must be change. We stand on our grounds.”
Later, the venue was opened by the police following the intervention of Falana. Addressing newsmen, Falana said the call for revolution was not new in Nigeria, as many political leaders had called for the action at one point or the other. He said Nigerians called for revolution during the colonial rule, but unlike now, none of the agitators was charged with treason for it.
“Let the authorities in Abuja know that a call for revolution is not new. Political leaders in this country have been calling for revolution and nobody charged them. When Nigeria was at this stage in the 1940s, a group of young Nigerians, the Zikists, gathered at Glover Hall (Lagos). Their leader, Osita Agbonna, delivered a lecture titled ‘A Call For Revolution’ and those who shared the same thoughts with them were arrested and charged with sedition, that they were trying to embarrass the colonial regime. They were not charged with treason or treasonable felony.
“When we were outside and were told the symposium would not hold, my mind went back to 30 years ago during the Babangida and then the Abacha junta when we could not meet. We defeated both dictators and I can assure you that any other dictator will not be allowed to rear his ugly head.”
To him, the condoning off of the venue by the security agents is a reminder of the era of military dictatorship.A 60-year-old ‘Fufu’ seller, Sariyu Akanmu, based in Osogbo, Osun State, called on the government to immediately release Sowore, who has been held by the Department of State Services since August 3.
The woman was allegedly brutalised by the police while participating in the RevolutionNow protest in Oshogbo on August 5. Akanmu, who spoke in Lagos yesterday at the botched symposium, said Sowore was fighting for the poor by calling for protest against the government and so should be released from detention.
The Lagos State Police Command denied an online report that security agents sealed off the venue. The Deputy Commissioner of Police in charge of operations, Mohammed Ali, said it was the handiwork of mischief-makers. According to him, the conference actually went on as planned by the organizers, policemen were only posted to the venue to prevent a breakdown of law and order and nobody was arrested or molested throughout the programme.
“Wole Soyinka is a statesman, a respected personality. Femi Falana is a respected lawyer. How could we have denied them access to the venue of the conference or arrest their guests? Security agents were there to prevent hoodlums from hijacking the conference. We were there to maintain law and order and to monitor the situation. We did not arrest anyone as the conference went on smoothly,” Ali maintained.
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