Ekweremadu’s Germany experience and toll on Ndigbo
It was not as if they have not been converging on Edinburgh Roundabout in Enugu before now. However, that of last Monday was unusual, as it brought some difficulty in human and vehicular movement around the area, due to the number of sympathisers of the Biafra struggle that gathered on the busy roundabout.
Several tricycle operators had parked by the side of the road, thereby making the busy road even narrower, as other sympathisers strove to join in the discussion on the incident at Nuremburg, Germany, where a former Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, was said to have been beaten by members of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and prevented from participating in a New Yam ceremony to which he was invited.
As they freely played and circulated videos of the incident, expressing support for their members who carried out the attack, they jocularly shared among themselves how they would preside over the affairs of Biafra “in the shortest time possible” and how they would deal with certain Igbo elites for allegedly betraying the cause.
Indeed, the attack, last weekend on Ekweremadu in faraway Germany, may have opened a new vista in the struggle by the Nnamdi Kanu-led IPOB for the realisation of Biafra independence. IPOB had not been known for violence outside the country.
The Senator had disclosed that he went to Germany for the new Yam Festival of Ndigbo, where he was invited as a keynote speaker. He said IPOB members had stormed the venue and began to complain about the killings in the Southeast. He said he tried to engage them, but that when they became unruly, he left the venue.
The agitators that attacked the senator accused him of conspiring to proscribe IPOB, among other issues, and were said to have pelted him with eggs, stones and tore his cloths.
There is nothing wrong about attending an invitation from a brother in Igboland and New Yam festivals by Igbo in Germany had always held, with invitations formally extended to lgbo leaders in the country. So what went wrong with this one?
In a statement, Emma Powerful, Spokesperson for IPOB, admitted the group’s culpability in the attack.
He said: “Today, being 17th day of August 2019, the Nuremburg IPOB family in Germany, in keeping with standing directive from our leader to hound all instigators of Operation Python Dance, is glad to report that Ike Ekweremadu was confronted and duly hounded out of a so-called New Yam festival event in Germany.
“Despite repeated warnings to the organisers of these jamborees that Enugu, Ebonyi and other parts of Biafraland is under siege by Fulani caliphate and their collaborators within, they went ahead to invite a known traitor, co-conspirator and one of those that worked with Igbo governors to proscribe and tag IPOB a terror organisation, while they never raised any voice against murderous Fulani herdsmen.
“This should serve as a warning to Nnia Nwodo, Dave Umahi, Okezie Ikpeazu, Willie Obiano and co that, any day we find them in a public event abroad, they will be humiliated.”
Nnamdi Kanu lent credence to the statement, when he expressed satisfaction over the attack on Ekweremadu, accusing Igbo leaders in the National Assembly of proscribing IPOB.
He exonerated the Federal government from the group’s proscription, saying, “They, and not the Federal Government of Nigeria, proscribed IPOB. They said they proscribed IPOB to douse rising tension in the region. What caused the tension? Because the military raided my house at Umuahia.”
He recalled the meeting of Southeast governors with Ohanaeze
Leaders, attended by Ekweremadu that held in Enugu last year, which arrived at 11 resolutions that included a ban on IPOB activities and an appeal to President Muhammadu Buhari to withdraw soldiers from the region.
Several groups, including Movement for the Actualisation of Sovereign States of Biafra (MASSOB) and apex Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, among others have condemned the attack.
For instance, MASSOB told IPOB that attack on Igbo leaders would not give Biafra independence, while Ohanaeze said the development strengthens the case of those who described the group as “terrorists and weakens our case against the infringement on our fundamental human rights.”
However, there were others that felt the attack was “deserved.” They alleged that the senator used his office to enrich himself at the expense of the people whom he represented.
They pointed at several projects, including youth development centres in his constituency, which were attracted and abandoned, even when funds were allegedly voted for their completion.
The Director General of the Voice of Nigeria (VON), Osita Okechukwu, took the argument further, when he said the attackers of Ekweremadu may have done so to express their displeasure over their forced exit from the country.
Okechukwu, who is from Ekweremadu’s constituency, believes that, while the senator has reportedly acquired “humongous properties,” institutions in the Southeast that should provide employment to the teeming youth exiting the country were left unattended to.
He said: “Whereas I join thousands of patriots in condemning the assault of my brother, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, however, it seems more or less like the paradox of a conman.
“A careful perusal of the comments from the viral video revealed angry young men, many of who could have remained in Nigeria, if Senator Ekweremadu had prudently executed his constituency projects. For instance, where are the youth vocational centres he presided over?
“Some of the attackers may be aware of the humongous properties Senator Ekweremadu is alleged to own, both at home and abroad – properties, which case is still subsisting with anti-graft agencies. This is enough to incite any discernible group. The world is now a global village. Methinks they’re not happy with their forced exit from Nigeria.”
But whether the attack and anger were properly directed or not, may not be the issue for now. What seems to be unsettling the zone is the threat issued by Kanu to mobilise IPOB to attack any governor or certain Igbo leaders travelling to any country overseas to attend a public event.
Kanu took the threat further, when he offered one-million naira bounty to anyone that could provide information on Southeast governors and other Igbo leaders travelling overseas.
He declared: “So, if you are working in any Government House in Southeast and you know which city in the world the governor is going to be, inform us, so that we will mobilise for him and you will be rewarded with N1m.”
He disclosed in a live broadcast that a member of the group had pledged to pay anyone with useful information on Igbo leaders travelling for events outside the country.
On their part, the governors have fired back, declaring his threats as “empty.” They also threatened to ensure that he (Kanu) was repatriated back to the country to face the wrath of law, should he make real his threats.
Already, IPOB’s threat has started to take its toll on Igbo leaders, as they are now cautious about their travels overseas. A former Abia State governor, Orji Uzor Kalu, reportedly cancelled a planned medical trip to Germany at the last minute.
And though he told the world that the cancellation had nothing to do with Kanu’s threats, the general perception is that undermining it would be to the detriment of anybody doing so.
“This is because we are not in Nigeria where they will always use Police to harass and intimidate the members of our group. Outside the country, it is a different ball game. They will not go there with their retinue of policemen and other security officers. That is where it is bad,” a member of the group said.
The faceoff between the IPOB, Southeast governors and leaders has been on since the group was formed. While Igbo leaders have not been comfortable with the way members of the group, who are mainly Igbo youths, have gone about the struggle, some feel that insincerity of the leader has encumbered the struggle.
The President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief Nnia Nwodo had declared on assumption of office that, though he did not agree with their style of agitation, they still remained his children being Igbo people.
Nwodo had insisted that the style of agitation the group has adopted was exposing its members to danger, adding that there was need for the group to change its mode of operation, if they hope to go far.
Thus, rather than join in the calls for independence for Biafra, as being championed by IPOB and others, Ohanaeze has maintained that the country should be restructured to guarantee equity, fairness and justice.
Ohanaeze insisted it should be counted off any arrangement that could lead to the country’s division. It’s governors and political class also supported this stand.
This is the dividing line between it and IPOB, an organisation that is infiltrated with basically youths that have been turned into street boys by want of what to do after graduation.
A source said the division created opportunity for many Igbo youths to be indoctrinated into the erroneous belief that they are hated by the rest of the country, by the near under development of the zone and lack of institutions that could employ them after graduation.
Their belief is that, if they must survive, they need to look beyond the zone and its so-called leaders or remain in the zone to “worship and serve them.”
The chairman, Nzuko Umunna Australia, Chief Bobbi Agu said the position being taken now by IPOB against Igbo leaders was not in the zone’s interest, as it would not only impede development, but create a gulf that may take a longer time to heal.
Agu stated that efforts must be made to nip the development in the bud, saying, “Anyhow it is viewed, our leaders are the ultimate losers. They are the ones who run abroad for one thing or the other. Because of the way they live among the people, they will always run overseas for safety.”
Explaining that there was serious disconnect and disintegration between Ndigbo leadership and the people, he said such a matter could be leveraged to build a stronger tie among the people.
He said: “Ndigbo have respect for their elders. However, when they degenerate to harassing the supposed elders in the public, then know something is wrong. We cannot stand and plan well with this kind of thing happening.”
A human rights activist, John Okwu, said there was a message the IPOB was trying to pass on, when they pointed at insecurity in the zone that has resulted in the rampant killings in Igboland, as their reason for attacking Ekweremadu.
He said: “If the non-violent group has now decided to speak through violent means, then there is more to it. It means there is a serious disconnect and that those we have looked up to for protection have failed us. I think we need to review efforts and contributions towards Igboland’s growth and development.”
He said though Ohanaeze Ndigbo has continued to speak for Ndigbo, especially on matters affecting it at the national level, it
has failed to look inwards “where the governors have neglected their responsibilities in the guise of serving Abuja interests.
“That is why there is increased insecurity in the zone. We have failed to design a security architecture that could compliment what is on ground. Even in the event, where we have tried to do something, we have not provided enough support that could enable them thrive effectively.”
Okwu insisted that the leadership must strive to dialogue with the youths, as a means of checking rising anger and hatred, adding; “it is more dangerous when they begin to express their anger outside the country.”
But Deputy National Publicity Secretary of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chuks Ibegbu, insisted the leadership was doing enough to foster Igbo unity and ensure its youths achieve their potentials.