South East: Why solution to Monday sit-at-home remains elusive
• Region’s Governors Not Matching Words With Action — Bishop Chukwuma
• Criminals Using Sit-at-home To Enrich Themselves — Uwazurike
• Simon Ekpa Being Used To Deplete Peter Obi’s Political Fortunes — Ezike
With the economy of the South East suffering never-seen-before large-scale losses totalling between N655 billion and N3.8 trillion over the last 24 months, concerned stakeholders are worried that should the haemorrhaging not abate, the collapse of the regional economy could cave in any moment from now.
A recent report, made public by DevEast Foundation, an issue-based policy, and business advocacy outfit, noted that some of those worst hit by the unfortunate scenario that is playing out in the region are transporters and traders/artisans.
The routine loss of working days per week; the attendant job losses arising from cutbacks by business owners (in response to the reduced working hours) and sundry lost opportunities have all contributed to making the South East a massive unstable business environment.
Interestingly, even though the Monday sit-at-home declared by the leadership of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) in August, last year, following the arrest and ongoing prosecution of its leader, Nnamdi Kanu, had long cancelled, the heinous action is still being enforced by non-state actors to the detriment of the wellbeing of the region and the larger society.
Last week, the Archbishop of the Enugu Eccelssitical Diocese, Most Rev Prof. Emmanuel Chukwuma, in a chat with newsmen, expressed disgust over the failure of the region’s socio-political leadership to take a decisive step to end the crass display of madness.
Chukwuma, who was particularly disturbed that governors of the region had, at a meeting, called on the people to return to their businesses every Monday, lamented the absence of water-tight security arrangements for those willing to brave the odds and opening up their businesses on the said days.
“If they had matched that meeting and decision with action, we would not get to where we are at the moment. Rather, after taking their decision, they appealed to innocent people to go out while they stayed indoors in their government houses on Mondays,” he said.
He further lamented that while IPOB, which initiated the illegal sit-at-home modified and limited it to only days that Kanu would appear in court, a breakaway faction of the group has continued to inflict injuries on anyone that dared to defy it.
Investigations by The Guardian showed that presently, rather than engage in business activities, residents of the region now use Mondays for church meetings, compound and streets meetings, and environmental sanitation exercises among others.
While community grounds come alive, streets and found spaces are equally turned into emergency venues for sports and sundry engagements. Some have now adopted Mondays as their rest days etc.
For the Emeritus President General of Aka Ikenga, Chief Goddy Uwazuruike, the yawning leadership gap that exists in the region has been exploited by criminal elements to enrich themselves, adding that they are prepared to sustain the bedlam.
“The Monday sit-at-home has festered because a manipulator got hold of Radio Biafra and pretended to love the Biafra cause deeply. Mazi Nnamdi Kanu was in the custody of the Federal Government and the vacuum created by this incarceration was quickly filled by the man with a then hidden agenda. The Monday restriction of movement and course, the one observed on the day of the court appearance were supposed to show solidarity with Mazi Nnamdi Kanu.
“But today, both the IPOB members and Ndigbo are very bitter with Simon Ekpa. Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, Emma Powerful, and Barrister Ifeanyi Ejiofor have serially condemned the sit-at-home.
“The reason for the ruthless enforcement of the sit-at-home is that all kinds of criminals are using it to enrich themselves. And to these crooks, Simon Ekpa is God-sent,” he said.
Uwazuruike further alleged Ekpa group’s “mission is to stop Ndigbo in the South East from voting. That is the real agenda and that is why it is using Mondays to create fear in the people.”
A social crusader, Justice Onyekwere, told The Guardian that, “too many people are speaking for the South East at the same time, and in the process creating confusion and conflicts.”
He blamed the development on the dearth of productive ventures that could engage the time and thinking of the teeming youths, many of whom graduated from schools, but have been without jobs for a long time.
“This class of youths ends up taking advice and listening to anyone that can provide them with daily meals. When they realise that they could form groups and make money from the political class, they resort to the same and become leaders.
“This is why there are several guns now on parade in the region. It is also the reason that killing is the simplest thing anybody can do in the South East and go untouched. That is why anybody can sit anywhere and issue an order and it will be obeyed…” he said.
On his part, the Executive Director of the Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO), Comrade Ibuchukwu Ezike, said that attacks experienced in the state of late were the kind of things that fester the sit-at-home in the region. He, however, cautioned that the continuation of the sit-at-home order is consequent upon the divided leadership, as well as, “loyalty after the arrest of Nnamdi Kanu in Nairobi, Kenya, and his consequent illegal detention in Abuja by the Nigerian State.
“As you know, the emergence of Simon Ekpa as the splinter group leader of IPOB made some IPOB members defect to his group and started working against Kanu, and those loyal to him. Ekpa’s order to continue the protest is preferred by those loyal to him, and that has made the calling off of the order by Kanu irrelevant and ineffective.
“The second reason is the continued marginalisation of Ndigbo and the unlawful detention of Nnamdi Kanu by the Nigerian authorities, even after a court of competent jurisdiction had freed, discharged, and acquitted him. The continued illegal detention of Kanu is responsible for the sustenance of IPOB’s sit-at-home order,” he said.
Ezike continued: “You would recall that the presidential primaries of the two major political parties – the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which denied Ndigbo access to the Presidency in 2023 if not that Peter Obi eventually went ahead to emerge the Labour Party’s flag bearer. This development irked Ndigbo, especially the youths who majorly populate the pro-Biafra movements. This criminal denial of Ndigbo access to presidential tickets in any of these two parties was a big slap on Igbo all over the world, and this renewed the pro-Biafran agitations now exhibited in the sit-at-home protest.
“The third is political and linked to rumours going around that Ekpa has been approached by one of the presidential candidates in the 2023 election, to use his position in the pro-Biafra movement to influence violent agitations in the South East thereby destabilising the zone in 2023. Remember that this is the region that Peter Obi hails from. Sources said that the reason is to abysmally reduce Obi’s votes in his home base to rob him of the victory,” he said .
A former National Chairman of the defunct United Progressive Party (UPP), Chief Chekwas Okorie, however, said that at its inception, the Monday sit-at-home order came with a threat of dire consequences to anybody that failed to comply.
Okorie said: “Many who thought that such an order could not possibly be issued by a group that had earned a good measure of popularity as agitators for the freedom and liberty of a marginalised and alienated race and ventured out to execute their legitimate businesses did not live to tell their story. Subsequent Mondays recorded even more harrowing scenes of gruesome deaths, brutalisation, and massive destruction of property.
“Matters were worsened by the fact that the people of the South East were inflicted with this tragedy when the marauding herdsmen were already rampaging, maiming, and destroying everything in sight in South East farmlands, and rural communities. The social, cultural, and economic dislocation caused by the sit-at-home order injected serious fear in every citizen that is resident in the South East.
When the leadership of IPOB adhered to the passionate appeal of well-meaning leaders, elders, and organisations, and decided to review the order, the damage had been done to the extent that hoodlums and criminals had hijacked the process. Although the authentic IPOB has called off the sit-at-home order, the group doesn’t seem to have the capacity to deal decisively with those who have continued to perpetrate evil against their people pretending to be freedom fighters.
“The tragedy of the situation is that our people have resigned to fate and are unfortunately adjusting to a life that is alien to a people that are known for their hard work and industry.”
The end to the dilemma of the people of the South East is nowhere in sight, especially since governors of the five South East states have been unable to summon the political will and courage to work in synergy for an effective and sustainable solution to what is an existential security problem.”
Okorie who seemed certain that the sit-at-home will outlive the present crop of governors, quickly added that it was more worrisome that those coming after them lack what it takes to end the ugly development.
“Those seeking to be elected into governorship positions in the South East in the build-up to the 2023 election do not seem to have any clue and therefore cannot offer any solution to the problem in their campaign promises. The situation will remain hopeless until our governments both at the national and sub-national levels rise to their constitutional responsibilities and obligations to the citizens,” he added.