Monday, 25th September 2023

Why Enugu is supporting Mbah’s formula to end Monday sit-at-home

By Lawrence Njoku, Southeast Bureau Chief
09 June 2023   |   3:43 am
Self-Induced fear, lack of confidence in the security officials and promises by the government that it was prepared to protect lives and property may have sustained the Monday weekly sit-at-home in Enugu state..

Dr. Peter Mbah

Self-Induced fear, lack of confidence in the security officials and promises by the government that it was prepared to protect lives and property may have sustained the Monday weekly sit-at-home in Enugu state, several months after the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), which pronounced the order abolished it.

Although the previous administration had leveraged the abolition of the order to encourage the people to overcome their fears and continue with their legitimate obligations on Mondays, only skeletal services were rendered at the dawn of such day, as a notable part of the day was spent indoors.

Therefore, for 21 months and a few days beginning from August 9, 2021, when the order was pronounced by the IPOB in solidarity with its detained leader, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, Enugu had been literally locked up every Monday.

It was perhaps this fear that new governor of the state, Peter Mbah attempted to conquer when on Thursday, June 1, 2023, he declared a ban on Monday sit-at-home in the state from June 5.

Although the administration had taken several other key decisions last week, the order banning sit-at-home on Mondays in the state generated mixed feelings. While some residents hailed the attempt, others saw it as “hasty” and apparently being mulled by the governor to attract attention.

They had insisted that he should earn the trust of the people with his work before confronting the issue of sit-at-home.  Mbah, who apparently had seen the need to put a permanent stop to it in view of the negative implication it is creating in the state, summoned the state Security Council meeting where the decision was reached.

Few days earlier, Mbah signed three executive orders to move the state forward, which includes order 001 of 2023 for the development of Citizens’ Charter; executive order 002 of 2023 for the removal of unauthorised street barriers across the state within 100 days and executive order 003 for the promotion of economic growth through transparency and efficiency.

Governor Mbah explained that by Order 001 for Citizens’ Charter, the government undertook to provide the citizens with a “peaceful and tranquil living environment devoid of insecurity and all threats to life.”

In this regard, he stated there would be a justice system that efficiently adjudicates on all civil or criminal matters; critical social amenities that includes good and motorable roads, qualitative world class education; potable water in every household; affordable and qualitative medical services; refuse disposal, provision of open spaces for recreation and sports as well as other social services that will assure a good living environment for citizens among others.

Also, the governor said that by Order 002, which is pursuant to the authority vested in his office by the 1999 Constitution (as amended), and the Laws of Enugu State, seeks to eliminate every barrier to free movement of persons and goods in the state. He, however, noted that the Order was limited to state and local government roads only.

While acknowledging the reason adduced for the erection of the barriers, Mbah assured the people of the state that the government would step up its efforts to ensure the security of lives and property.

Last Friday, the government had moved its officials from the Ministry of Capital Territory Development Authority to begin the dismantling of the barriers, preparatory to the strategy it intends to implement in the state on security.

Giving details of Order 003, the governor said that to facilitate government services, “every MDA of the Enugu State Government shall publish a complete list of all requirements or conditions for obtaining products and services within the MDA’s scope of responsibility, including permits, licenses, waivers, tax related processes, filings, and approvals.”

Of the orders and actions by the new government, the one that generated some dust and unsettled the state was the pronouncement stopping the Monday sit-at-home.

But Mbah had personally outlined reasons the ban was necessary and why residents of the state should return to normal activities on Mondays.He said: “There is no time to waste. The clock has started ticking on the mandate you gave me and deliverables I promised. A time comes in the lives of a people when they must decide whether they genuinely want to move forward or remain stuck with the conditions of their underdevelopment.

“The creativity and sense of industry of Ndi Igbo are remarkable. Our DNA is wired with commercial and entrepreneurial prowess.

“If this is what we are known for, then it becomes inconsistent with reality that the spirit of entrepreneurship, commerce and creativity are killed every Monday in our land. Our restless spirit of industry abhors laxity and indolence.”

Mbah continued: “The idea behind sitting at home on Monday, the first working and business day of the week, is abominable and antithetical to greatness and the spirit of industry we profess to have inherited from our forebears. This cannot be us! Tufiakwa! (God forbid!). It does colossal damage to us.

“For us to transit from a public service economy to a private sector-driven one, we must free our markets from the shackles of restriction to commerce. If indeed, we aspire and anticipate an influx of private sector practitioners and investors in Enugu State, we must know that this will not happen where the perception of us is that of unproductive people.

“Therefore, those that strike on Mondays, putting restrictions in the way of our Igbo spirit of creativity, cannot be our true representatives. In fact, they kill our spirit.

“We know that our land is a fertile ground for commerce. However, businesses, entrepreneurship and commerce require a vibrant workforce and big markets where they can flourish and make money.

“To this end, therefore, from Monday June 5, 2023, there will be no observance of any sit-at-home in all nooks and crannies of Enugu State.
“Government will enforce this with all the powers at its disposal. My charge to all of you – market men and women, the corporate world, industries, schools, civil servants, and all strata of workers in Enugu State is for us to take back our sense of industry, pride of place and re-enact our glorious past. By heeding this call, you would have set us on the path of actualising our mandate.”

He assured all round protection for the residents and those ready to comply with the directive, stressing that there was a taskforce in place to monitor compliance to the directive.

But no sooner had the governor and those who attended the meeting fully digested its outcomes than proponents of the Biafra republic fought back. They did not only accuse the governor of joining forces with those against the realisation of Biafra, but dared him to enforce the order.

Simon Ekpa, who leads a splinter group of members of the IPOB had in his response to the directive of the governor on the sit at home on Saturday warned him (governor) about the futility of the mission he was about to embark upon.

He said: “Let it be on record that Mbah has declared war against Biafrans in Enugu State starting from June 5, 2023. He said he would enforce the ban on sit-at-home with all powers available to him. This is definitely a call for an open war with Biafrans and I hope he will be there on Monday to drag them out of their homes as an act of enforcement.

“However, the Biafra Liberation army will be ready to defend Biafrans against the enforcement coming from a stooge of the caliphate… Nigeria breeds criminals and he is one of the products of it… we will wait for his Forces on Monday, and if any Biafran is killed from his threat, we will open a new front in Enugu,” Ekpa threatened.

Several other videos were dished out from the opposition groups on the social media on why Mbah should be ignored; stressing that he did not have powers to abolish an action he did not start.

But the Igbo Youths, through Ohanaeze Ndigbo Youth Council (OYC), apparently feeling the same way as the state government, decided to throw its weight behind the decision of the governor.

In a statement which its National President, Okwu Nnabuike made available to The Guardian, the group appealed to the Biafra agitators to be honest about its stance that the weekly sit-at-home had been suspended.

The OYC stressed that it was sad that months after IPOB cancelled the sit-at-home after discovering its devastating effects on the southeast economy; some enemies of Ndigbo had carried on with it. Nnabuike, therefore, urged residents to cooperate with the government.

OYC statement was further boosted by the Movement for the Actualisation of Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB), who through its Spokesperson, Eddison Samuel stated that the move to abolish the sit-at-home was an idea whose time had come in Igbo land.

The group, which commended the bold initiative of the governor to solve the problem, so as to pave the way for free flow implementation of his manifesto stressed the need for residents to cooperate with him to ensure it was addressed permanently.

It was similar sentiments that the Archbishop of Enugu Province (Anglican Communion), Most Rev Emmanuel Chukwuma and his Catholic counterpart, Most Rev. Callistus Onaga shared when they described the Monday sit-at-home as “bondage on the state.”

The IPOB also responded with a statement that it had long suspended sit-at- home in the southeast region, stressing however, that hoodlums have decided to insist on its enforcement and urged the governments of the region to find ways out of it.

IPOB in its statement by the Media and Publicity Secretary, Emma Powerful, urged residents to go about their lawful duties and report anyone who tried to molest them to the appropriate security authorities.

Although some residents stayed indoors with banks, schools, offices under lock and key on June 5 when the ban began, Mbah who may have been emboldened by the support he received over the move had monitored compliance to his directive on Monday.

Expressing joy, however, that the civil servants obeyed the order and reported for work, which had not been the case for sometime in the state, he assured that his government will not relent in bringing other sectors back to work.

He said:  “The primary objective of my visitations is largely to observe the level of compliance of the directive that we gave last week, declaring that we do not have sit-at-home in Enugu henceforth. The directive was meant to ensure that our people come out on the first working and productive day of the week.

“We do have a compliance level of about 60 to 70 per cent, and the order took effect from today. I am aware the circular to this effect was sent out on Friday. It may well be that not all the workers got the information that we no longer have sit-at-home on Mondays.

“The truth is that everything we have promised our people in Enugu is anchored on getting the flow of private sector investments into our state; and the private sector cannot come into a state where the people are not productive. The private sector thrives on big markets and a vibrant workforce.

“So, our people are known by their hard work, by their industry and commerce. So, we cannot have people who kill these spirits in our people and dictate to us the day we should go to work and the day we should sit at home.

“We have to revive that spirit of hard work and culture of commerce and industry that our people are known for. We want to reinstate that; and that is exactly what we are doing.”

“Let it not ever be heard that we are going to be listening to people, who have no stake in our economy and social welfare, but dictate to us when we must come out to work. It should not be heard of.

“Think about it, we are here today because we got the mandate of the people. So, could you then have somebody make you inferior without your consent? Someone you have not given your mandate to lead you tells you to sit down and, somehow, you begin to sit at home. And he tells you to go, and you begin to go. That should not be acceptable. It actually undermines our dignity as a people and we shouldn’t endorse that”, Mbah declared.”

A resident, Ifeanyi Mbanugo, told The Guardian that though he was not in support of the Monday sit-at-home and did not come out on Monday, he expected the governor to be “more diplomatic in addressing it,” stressing that “he could have dialogued with the agitators to avoid a backlash.”

He, however, praised what he described as “leadership by example” exhibited by Mbah in moving round Ministries and markets to monitor compliance and encourage residents to return to business.

“I am already thinking that the sit at home has ended. I will fully resume my business on Monday and I want to encourage our people to do the same. I understand that many people have adapted to the no work situation on Monday but as it is, we need to salvage our state and move the economy of our region forward.”