Between Biafra agitators, Ndigbo and May 30
The last time the South East and Ndi-Igbo in parts of the world witnessed a Biafra-ordered sit-at–home was on May 30, 2017.
The action was part of strategies by the agitators to attract the attention of the Federal Government, as well as, world leaders to the undying demand for independence by the people of the defunct Republic of Biafra.
Over time, every May 30 has become an annual ritual as far as the struggle for the actualisation of the Biafra is concerned, especially since the end of the civil war.
Last year’s year’s sit-at-home, was a resounding success as it marked a turning point in the annals of the struggle. And smarting in the euphoria of the success achieved in the exercise, the Nnamdi Kanu-led Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), which championed the order, the Uchenna Madu-led Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB), and other agitating groups respectively informed the world that their total compliance indicated how much the people loved and needed the much-sort after freedom from Nigeria.
They also added that it sent out a signal that there was no going back in the quest for independence for the people of Biafra.
It would not be in contemplation to outline that the outcome of that last year’s sit-at–home order regarded as the most successful in the history of the Biafran struggle further emboldened the groups into creating other activities afterwards with a view to driving home the point that they need freedom.
At the IPOB, it was followed by increased tempo in the holding of rallies with talks on self determination as its fulcrum; Kanu’s rise to fame as he became the rallying point for the struggle; his Afaraukwu Ibeku, Umuahia, Abia becoming a Mecca of sort with the level of visits being made at the place and the setting up of Biafra security outfit at Afaraukwu, where guard of honour was mounted daily with Kanu taking the salute.
Inside most cities in the southeast and elsewhere, sell of Biafra adornments took rather an upward swing. Newspaper stands were daily being crowded in search of headlines on Biafra, especially stories emanating from Kanu among several others. Promotion of Biafra activities gained prominence.
While the groups demanded date for referendum on Biafra as the only thing that was welcomed in the zone, different threats were issued out on why elections were no longer possible in the zone, even as promoters of the struggle, said the boycott would begin with the November 18, governorship election in Anambra state.
While the heat was on with increasing tension and southeast almost enveloped by protests; came the federal government’s military onslaught, “Operation Python Dance 11” with headquarters at Umuahia, Abia state. Although the Military high command had claimed it was not targeted at any group but aimed at fighting crimes and criminalities in the zone and to further unite the country, its operations later proved that it was targeted at crushing the agitators and reduce the agitations.
In the ten days in which the exercise lasted, many killings and injuries were recorded. Property and homes were wrecked in a manner never witnessed before in the zone since the end of the war. Kanu’s whereabouts has remained unknown since late last year in which his home was invaded by the soldiers in the exercise.
The federal government did not stop at that, it went further to procure the order of court proscribing the IPOB and reinforced the case in court against sureties of Kanu. That was few days after the governors in the southeast zone had banned the activities of the group in the zone and ordered its members to channel every grievance about governance in the country to it.
With the development, the agitators lost potency; the promoters began to disappear from the streets; the various Biafra adornments and insignia that were mounted at public places soon fizzled out; indicating that the nucleus of the struggle had been badly damaged and tension began to ease in the zone.
However, as another May 30, beckons, the pro-Biafra agitators appear to have regained their voice and spoiling for another show down with the federal government with an “order” for sit- at –home on that date on people of the region.
They have insisted that the spirit of Biafra must be kept aglow with the civil disobedience, which according to them coincides with the date the former Biafra leader, late Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, announced Biafra independence.
Major road junctions now wear posters of the trio of Ojukwu, Nnamdi Kanu and late Col. Joe Achuzia with a bold inscription “Igbos should sit at home on May 30 to honour them”. There are others forms of sensitization going on the zone by the groups.
But beneath the call for sit-at –home being championed by IPOB, MASSOB and others is another call on Biafrans being championed by the Biafra Zionists Federation (BZF) on the people to come out on that day. While IPOB is asking people for total compliance, BZF is asking Biafra indigenes to throng Enugu government house for the announcement of Biafra Independence. The Ralph Uwazuruike Biafra Independent Movement (BIM) says otherwise – Biafra day has held on May 22, this year. The discordant tones are given credence that there is a crack among the agitators. Announcing however, the sit-at-home for May 30, which it said coincided with the Biafra declaration several years ago, its promoters said it would be used to honour Biafrans killed during the Nigeria civil war.
The announcement which came in a statement signed by Emma Powerful, the group’s Publicity Secretary, said there would be “no vehicular, human and animal movement in the five states of the zone”.
It further advised churches, mosques, synagogues and other places of worship to open at the midnight of May 29 for special midnight prayer in memory of those killed in the struggle, adding that a special vigil would hold at some designated homes of Biafra heroes.
The group went further to call on the people of Southern Kaduna, Middle belt zone, especially Benue, Adamawa, Kogi as well as others affected by herdsmen terrorism in the southwest to observe a day of prayer and join in the sit- at –home.
Credence was lent to the call for sit-at –home when a coalition of pro-Biafra groups which rose from a meeting allegedly held in Enugu last week, urged Ndigbo to observe a candle-night procession on the eve of the exercise.
“The people of Biafra all over the world are enjoined to observe the candle night prayers in their respective homes if they cannot participate in the holy procession. It will be a mark of respect and honour to our fatherland. It is also a reminder to the visions and commitments of our great ancestors that we are not Nigerians but Biafrans. We enjoin our people to get ready for the celebration of this great anniversary which we will hold to remind ourselves to continue the self determination movement for Biafra actualization and restoration”, the coalition said in their statement.
Those involved in the meeting according to them include the Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB), Eastern Peoples’ Congress (EPC), Igbo Youth Cultural and Restoration Initiative (IYCRI), Bilie Human Rights Initiative (BHRI), Movement of Biafrans in Nigeria and Salvation People of Biafra (SP).
Others are World Union of Biafran Scientists (WUBS), Shadow Government of Biafra (SGB), Biafran National Liberation Council (BNLC), Biafra Revolutionary Organization (BRO), Biafran Liberation Crusade (BLC), Joint Revolutionary Organization (BRO), Biafra Revolutionary Force (BRF), Customary Government of Biafra (CGB), Biafran Intellectual Clergy Forum (BICF), Biafran Movement for Sovereignty (BIAMOS), Biafran Central Council (BCC) and Biafran United Liberation Council (BULCO).
But the Biafra Zionists Federation (BZF), led by Mazi Benjamin Onwuka who addressed a press conference in Enugu, last Wednesday, asked all indigenes of the defunct Biafra to ignore the call for sit-at –home and throng the Enugu government house where he would declare Biafra Independence and hoist Biafra flags.
He stated that sit- at-home protest had been observed in the last 15 years without any significant impact on Biafra, stressing that “Biafra will not be secured on a platter of gold”. Onwuka, who was flanked by members of his group, said that the group was relying on the support of the United States of America and Isreal to achieve the declaration, stressing that “Biafra failed in the past due to lack of international support.”
While faulting the strategy being adopted by the IPOB and MASSOB Onwuka said, “You can’t get Biafra by sitting at home; there is a saying in the Bible that ‘faith without work is dead’; you must act so that the United States of America can hear you.
“I’m saying it loud and clear; don’t listen to IPOB; we have been doing it since 2003, what have we achieved with the sit-at-home? Has it worked? They should also stop all these protests in London, New York, China and the rest of the world. They have freedom of expression in those countries, and that is the highest you can get from them. Has any leader in those countries said anything about Biafra? So, these protests by IPOB are a waste of time.
“Making protest in Rome and London is noise making. We have to concentrate on America’s support. IPOB has not won Biafrans any friendship across the world from their sit-at-home and protests.”
He repeated his call that Biafrans, “wherever you are in the world, wherever you are in Nigeria or Africa, come back home on or before May 30th. We are telling Biafrans not to sit at home thinking that Manna will fall from heaven for them; it is not possible.
“There will be public holiday on May 30; I’m appealing to all market traders, are you in Enugu, are you in Onitsha, are you in Lagos, are you in Alaba, are you in Ariara Market Aba, Ogbete Enugu, wherever you are, bear it in mind business without security is nothing.
“I’m bringing everybody to Enugu, let everybody come, we shall win because we have US backing. So, all schools should remain closed that day. We shall restore our educational system as soon as we declare Biafra.
It could be recalled that Onwuka had on March 7, 2014 led a group that attacked the Enugu government house and hoisted the flags of defunct Biafra. However, his return to the state Broadcasting Service (ESBS) on June 5, 2014 to use facilities of the broadcasting house to announce Biafra Independence was met with stiff resistance by security operatives who arrested him alongside ten of his members.
He was charged with treasonable felony by the federal government and for three years was held behind bars only to be discharged last June 5, by the Federal high court, Owerri, for want of evidence in the case filed against him. A day after his discharge however, he had gathered his members in Enugu, where he declared that Biafra republic would “be re-launched to make it more forceful and impactful”.
The Uwazuruike’s BIM has already held a procession last Tuesday, May 22, as a mark of Biafra day celebration. In that exercise which held throughout the zone, several of the members were arrested and clamped into prison.
Meanwhile, the different sound beats from the pro-agitators over May 30 is eliciting some concerns; Are there cracks in the struggle, who should the people follow? Several questions are also being asked on what the date portends for Ndigbo considering what the zone suffers each time; there was sit-at –home and other activities of the agitators. Will the call for sit-at –home be observed by the people or will they troop to Enugu government house to declare Biafra for Ndigbo and hoist the Biafra flag as clamoured by Benjamin Onwuka?
There is the believe however that the way and manner Nnamdi Kanu “fizzled out when ovation was loudest” would continue to hunt the struggle, stressing that, “Anambra state governorship election held after all the threats they issued; so I do not know why anybody should continue to listen to the orders of the promoters of Biafra”
Again was the Igbo Summit of Ohanaeze Ndigbo which held in Awka, last Monday which the IPOB had threatened to disrupt as well as called on Igbos to boycott.
Of course the Igbos refused to listen to them as the event was peaceful and massively attended. Security forces overwhelmed the members of the group that and nothing was heard about them.
Many Igbo feel that it would be unreasonable to lose further lives to a cause that could be dialogued in a way, especially, when apex Igbo socio –cultural organization, Ohanaeze Ndigbo was still asking for justice over the killings of its youths during the last military operation python dance in the zone by soldiers.
But Chief Jude Igwesimba, a pro-Biafra member told the Guardian that
“Biafra is a moving spirit. It lives within the people of the old eastern region and therefore cannot die. We are not forcing anybody to sit at his place, we are not asking anybody not to go to market or work because the last time, we held the exercise, the police on their own started opening the markets and begging people to come and do business. But we have made an appeal and we believe our people will listen to us.
“They will listen to us the more because the country is structured against Biafra people. They will respond to the clarion call because herdsmen are now licensed to kill at any given point with the federal government almost helpless. They will listen to us because Biafra has not been achieved. They will listen to us because there is so much injustice in the land.
“They will listen to us because the success of the sit-at-home will mark our collective quest in the condemnation of the invasion of Nnamdi Kanu’s residence and his disappearance last year as well as our call on the Nigeria army to produce him wherever he is kept. “I want you to watch out in the coming days what will happen. We have no guns to distribute; but the truth is that, you will not ask a man who decided that he will not leave his house to report to his business. So all the opposition being mounted is to discourage an idea whose time has come; but we are not relenting”.
Guardian gathered that already the groups have begun sensitization of residents on the need to observe the sit-at-home exercise. The proponents are moving into markets and other public places to appeal to the people to ensure its strict compliance to the order.
THE POLICE CONNECTION:
It does not seem that the police will fold her arms and watch, while what appears like a challenge on public peace is implemented. In, fact, sources said every facet of security around the zone is being activated to ensure there was no breakdown in law and order as the May 30, date draw closer and a trail on the promoters of the cause.
Enugu State Police Public Relations Officer, Ebere Amaraizu has warned that no act of lawlessness would be allowed in the state, explaining that the force was prepared to protect all surroundings in the southeast zone.
“Security will be provided for people to go about their normal businesses as there are no two governments in one. Let nobody take laws into his hands and engage in activities that will derail public peace because the police are prepared to resist any such attempt”, he warned.
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