Pro-Biafra activists continue protests in Aba
WORRIED by spate of protests by pro-Biafra groups, seeking self determination for the people of South East and their neighbours, Imo State Governor and Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC) Governors’ Forum, Rochas Okorocha yesterday said he had taken steps to arrange a meeting of governors and chieftains of the Ohaneze Ndigbo “to discuss the matter.”
The move came on the heels of continued protest by pro-Biafra activists under the aegis of the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) and the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) in Aba. The groups had staged a miniature rally on Saturday to protest the continued detention of the Director of Radio Biafra, Nnamdi Kanu, by the Federal Government.
Highlight of yesterday’s pro-Biafra protest in Aba was a football match by the group wearing T-shirts marked Biafra along major streets of the commercial town. Markets and street shops were closed to encourage traders to partake in the activism.
An estimated one million people participated in the peaceful protest, which compelled commuters to walk long distances to their destinations even as they were apprehensive of possible chaos, which the security agencies were on hand to prevent.
Residents of the commercial nerve centre were also seen in some areas, scampering to safety as they were apprehensive of what might be the fallout of the protest while men of the Nigeria Police were seen moving from one point to another to ensure that the protest did not turn violent. Though the protest was peaceful, it brought some inconvenience to many travelers, especially those crossing into neighboring states like Akwa Ibom, Cross River and Rivers.
According to the State Police Public Relations Officer, Mr. Ezekiel Onyeke Udeviotu, the protest was very peaceful; hence, there was no arrest or report of violence as at 4. 25 pm.
So far, nobody or group has decried the protest. A middle-aged man, who preferred to remain anonymous but claimed to be one of the leaders of IPOB, said that the protest would continue and extend to all the local councils, communities in the state, the entire Igbo land and parts of the country “where we have sympathy for their cause.
“Though we shall continue to stage peaceful protests, we call on those holding Biafra Radio Director, Mr. Kanu, to please release him unconditionally.”
Governors of Abia, Ebonyi, Anambra and Enugu states, according to Okorocha’s Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Sam Onwuemeodo, are expected at the ‘peace meeting’ the date of which would be announced later.
Onwuemeodo, in a statement, stressed that the governor had earlier made his position known to the world when he distanced himself and the S’East governors from the group’s decision. He added that the outcome of the proposed meeting would be made known to the world.
It was unclear, as at press time yesterday, whether, or not, all the South East governors have been properly briefed of the proposed meeting. But Governor Victor Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia State, who gave the assurance on Sunday that his state would be free of pro-Biafra protests, said he has not been contacted. Mr. Godwin Adindu, the chief press secretary to the governor, said he was “not yet aware of the proposed meeting.”
According to the governor, he has met with some security chiefs in Imo to ensure that the impact would not be felt in the state. This is not withstanding the fact that the group a Kanu, the IPOB leader and director of Radio Biafra.
Already the governor has begun to make all the necessary contacts to ensure that all those expected to be at the meeting, would be in attendance.
Governor Okorocha had earlier, while taking exception to the pro-Biafra violent protests in some of the South-East states and few other neighbouring states disassociated the governors and leaders in the south-east states from the MASSOB protests describing the whole exercise as embarrassing, disturbing, counter-productive and to a large extent, distracting.
According to Okorocha, the pro-Biafra protests could not be in the interest of the Southeast people but were only sending wrong signals to the rest of Nigerians. And said that it has become increasingly necessary for the governors in the zone, Ohaneze leaders and other stakeholders in the area to meet, to call a spade, a spade.
It is also expected that at the end of the Owerri meeting, the governors and other leaders will take a common position and will also invite the leaders of the pro-Biafra groups for a meeting, to let them know the socio-economic and political implications of their activities including their demand for sovereignty in a united Nigeria.
Governor Okorocha said the governors and leaders in the zone could no longer sit and watch the whole situation degenerating and also noted that the Igbos as a people cannot afford to have its own kind of Boko Haram.
He also wondered why the pro-Biafra apologists kept quiet all these years only to resume their violent protests and activities this time and few months after the new administration in the country came on board.
According to him, the governors are going to take the bull by the horn in the overall interest of Ndigbo in particular and Nigerians in general.”