From Judex Okoro, Calabar
Governor David Umahi of Ebonyi State’s recent cry against rising insecurity in the South East reminds one of the classic songs written in 1963 by Bob Dylan titled “Blowing in the Wind”. Dylan in the lyrics had raised some pertinent issues concerning oppression and liberation of humanity. It is a protest song that simply berates those in authority who don’t listen to the people’s cries and clamour until the ruled begin to revolt against the system that has made life short and brutish.
Dylan wondered how many ears those in authority should have before they can hear people’s cry and how many deaths will it take before they know that too many people have died. According to Dyalan, “the answer is blowing’ in the wind”, suggesting insensibility on the part of leaders.
This old song aptly resonates in Umahi’s cry to the federal authorities that Ndi Igbo have become an endangered species in the present day heterogeneous Nigerian federation. To Umahi, the chairman of the South East Governors’ Forum, the Igbo nation is living in the most turbulent and dehumanising times after the 1967-1970 holocausts as the security situation in the South East has become intractable. Today, Ndi Igbo are in a quandary and residents can no longer sleep with two eyes closed. It appears nobody listens to their pitiful anger and clamour. All these endanger peaceful co-existence and militate against business and economic growth of the region.
Recently, the South East region has been engulfed in the crises of insecurity. It started with some Ebonyi communities where herdsmen killed over 20 and property worth millions of Naira lost in the process. Ditto for Enugu and Anambra. Imo is worst hit with the recent destruction of the police headquarters, the bombardment of the Nigeria Correctional centre and subsequent release of inmates there. The latest is the torching of the country home of Governor Hope Uzodimma in Omuma.
Following the development, Umahi believes the situation in the South East must be nipped in the bud. Thus, the recent alarm raised by him alleging plots to incite war in the South East. Speaking during one of the breakfast shows on a national television, he said: “Of late, we have bandits that are now doing a lot of evil and saying they are ESN members.
“They commit a lot of crimes and say they are IPOB members and most times, IPOB will come and say ‘we have no hands in this. But we have the command of the law to protect lives of our people and we would not allow illegality to thrive in our land. Conflict will not resolve conflict.
“The problem of this country is that people will leave their problems and make your problem their problem. But what some of these people are doing is to incite the South East into war and step aside, and we are not going to buy into that; we are not going to be deceived again,” he said.
According to him, the governors of the zone would no longer allow criminals have their way and assured the people that the establishment of Ebube Agu would tackle insecurity in the region.
Reactions to Umahi’s alarm
No doubt, Umahi’s statement is a wakeup call taking into consideration the mayhem in Imo, Enugu and Ebonyi in the last couple of weeks. It is a clarion call for unity of purpose among Ndi Igbo and to confront the rising wave of insecurity ahead of 2023.
To some political observers, Umahi’s disclosure is a paradigm shift and a new realisation on the part of the governors, who hitherto used to be docile and reticent when issues of national importance crop up for discourse.
They argue that, before now, SE governors hardly assert their authorities so as not to draw sword against their political god-fathers from other regions. To them, for Umahi to be so emboldened as to accuse outside forces of trying to destabilise the region goes beyond personal political interest but a readiness to protect Igbo land from further outside attacks. Again, they see it is an indication of the South East governors’ preparedness to take up the gauntlet against those fanning the ember of insecurity or discreetly sponsoring insurgency in the zone.
Analysts agree that the cry of Igbo marginalisation has rent the air; that Igbo nation has been faced with economic strangulation as seen in the present administration’s anti-Igbo policies, just as they have been politically asphyxiated. Therefore, many feel that now is the auspicious time for Igbo leaders to go a step further to find a common ground on how to tackle the myriad of issues confronting Ndi Igbo in the present ethno-religious Nigeria.
In the estimation of critical observers, Ndigbo should prove to their critics that they have become more united than ever and have the courage and political will to liberate their people from the stranglehold of its current oppressors as well as tackle the rising wave of insecurity headlong.
The expectation is that Umahi and his colleagues would be willing to play the politics this time; go the whole hog and empower Ebube Agu to operate in the mould of Amoketun. Doing so at this auspicious time would go a long way to prove to the whole world that the SE Governors’ Forum led by Umahi has come out in full force to counter the alleged external forces trying to destabilise Ndi Igbo.
It would also prove critics who felt that his statement was just to pacify some interests or hurriedly made to defend the forum for lack of action in the wake of killings in Ebonyi and wanton destruction in Imo, totally wrong. The calculation is that their actions or inactions today, would determine the place of Ndi Igbo in the political calculation ahead of 2023 as sitting on the fence in times of need is not a hallmark of good leaders.
Corroborating Umahi’s views, the President of Ohanaeze, Cross River State Chapter, Ugoji Nwabeze, said the current security situation in South East is sponsored to disorganise the current determination of Ndi Igbo to take over power in 2023, adding that the South East Security Network, ESN, cannot be responsible because the determination of Ndi Igbo to produce the presidency of the country is collective aspiration which must be pursued by all.
Nwabueze said: “The South East Governors must quickly rise to the challenge of securing the zone to ensure the protection of life’s and properties. Igbo Governors have been trailing behind when it should rise up like other regions to the formation of a regional body just like other regions.
“The high level of insecurity in the country calls for sober reflections, it calls for the Presidency to once more assure Nigerians of the unity and oneness of this country. Governor Umahi is right in his position by giving the needed information on security to his colleagues. What is expected of them right away is to get down to works because the ultimate task ahead of them is 2023.”
But taking a swipe at Umahi’s outburst, the Ebonyi State publicity secretary of PDP, Silas Joseph Onu, said he was somewhat amazed at the governor’s latest volte face after he had accused ESN of being sponsored by outsiders to destabilise Igbo nation.
Explaining that one of Governor Umahi’s problem is that he sees politics in everything and an opportunity to launch verbal attacks on perceived opponents, Onu averred that the kite of outside sponsors attempting to destabilise the SE had already been flown by two of his commissioners -Information and Internal Security, respectively.
According to him, it would be counter productive for governors to pay lip-service to security and rather use insecurity to advance their political brinkmanship.
He kicked against the alleged outsiders’ sponsorship to destabilise Igbo states, insisting that Governor Umahi needs to be clear and name those said to be behind such acts.
He said: “Umahi’s statement is, at best, self-serving. He doesn’t have the interest of the collective at heart. The statement is driven by ambition. Such an incredible ambition that blurs his reasoning to the extent that nothing is too much or too great for him to do in pursuit of such a dream. Umahi’s pretentious concern is not a clarion call for anything.
“So, whoever takes Umahi’s words seriously does so at his peril. Umahi does not know when not to embark on propaganda. I can tell you he cannot name outside sponsors as alleged. He has no names to give, except those of opposition members he wants to eliminate by setup.”
Onu again disagreed that Umahi’s statement had any political undertone ahead of 2023 as Ndi Igbo are already facing an existential threat as a people, adding that it is high time insecurity was addressed and then we can all begin to play politics.
In the same vein, the Izu Umunna Cultural Association of Nigeria (IUCA), an Umbrella body of Igbo residents in the 19 Northern states, in a press statement signed by the President, Dr. Ugo Ihekuna, and Secretary, Chief Tony Egwuonwu, called for investigation into insecurity in SE, adding that it is not enough for Umahi to rush to the media and claim that the attacks on SE are sponsored by external forces.
However, a few political observers have also argued that the SE Governors Forum, which Umahi leads, is not politically sophisticated and united as their colleagues from other zones.
To these people, the present crop of Igbo governors have left much to be desired as they have been at daggers drawn with one another when it concerns taking a common stand for her people. They are rather enmeshed in fighting for their political interests ahead of 2023.
For instance, when the issue of RUGA came up, other zones, especially North central and South West, took a stand but our governors became reticent and spoke in discordant tones.
Again, in 2020 when Ohanaeze and governors agreed to set up a regional security outfit similar to that of Amotekun, the governors backed out when the Presidency drafted the former IG to Igbo land to dissuade them from going ahead with it.
So, what is the guarantee that the same scenario would not play out when the chips are down?