For three days or so, the ancient town of Orlu, Imo state, Southeast Nigeria, came under siege of aerial bombardment. It was an operation carried out by the Nigerian military, using its Air force. The military claimed it was meant to flush out members of the Eastern Security Network (ESN), a regional security outfit set up by Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, leader of the indigenous people of Biafra (Ipob), to help tackle rising insecurity in the Southeast. But for the video footage of the operation, which went viral, said to be captured by installed secret cameras of Ipob, perhaps nothing would have been said or heard about it. Nigerians would not have known that such a thing happened.
It would have been denied or dismissed by the authorities as another “fake news”from IPOB! The Airforce admitted it was involved in the operation. However, no reaction came from any known Igbo leader of note. They, each, jointly and severally, kept mum. It was afterwards that the newly elected President of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, George Obiozor, visited the town and read a terse statement, which was neither here nor there.
The Imo state governor, Hope Uzodinma, admitted he was the one who “invited” the military to carry out the operation. Whether or not he was the one who actually did de facto or de jure, the important thing was that he owned up to the operation. And, by implication, takes responsibility for whatever collateral damages Orlu might have suffered as a result of that needless exercise. The governor has further explained that it was not military invasion but an exercise by already existing military personnel in Orlu in flush out those he called “mercenaries, killing and maiming our people.” One wonders who the “mercenaries” were! Let us call a spade by its real name. The Orlu incident is nothing but an unwarranted aggression against an otherwise peaceful city and peace loving people of the Southeast. It is insensitive, callous, provocative, and a reckless abuse of power.
Given the helpless precarious security situation Nigeria has unfortunately found itself in the choking hands of boko haram terrorists, marauding killer herdsmen, bandits, kidnappers, rapists and ritualists across all regions, what is wrong if the people form themselves into groups of vigilantes for the purposes of self protection and self defence? Other regions have actually don e that. In the Northeast, various vigilantes are helping the military in the fight against the insurgents. Governor Zulum is still looking in the direction of bringing in more “mercenaries” from outside to help in the fight! The governors of the Southwest have unanimously set up Southwest regional security outfit known as “Amotekun.” Why should the case of Southeast be different? Bashir Magashi, the defense minister, has even called on Nigerians not to be cowards but to stand up to confront the insurgents, bandits and all terror gangs killing Nigerians. What has the Eastern Security Network (ESN) done differently to warrant being crushed with full military might which government can muster? What beef does the Imo state governor has against the ESN that he would collaborate with the federal government to call in the military when his mates, colleagues and counterparts in the Northern regions are busy defending the nefarious activities of their kiths and kin in the deplorable security situation in Nigeria?
Should the Southeast fold its hands and just watch the fast encroaching furious tide threatening all states in the country to overtake it? Or should it stand up now and do something to protect itself before it is too late? Perhaps the region is waiting and relying only on the Nigerian police and Army to protect and defend it? You cannot invite the military against your own people! The lessons of #Endsars protests and Lekki shooting incident in Lagos must not lost on us! The allegiance any governor owes should be to his people, not against them, or to some few individuals somewhere. Every governor of a state must, of necessity, choose to stay with his people, speak for them, articulate their pains, defend them against external aggression. He must choose to die for the people, if need be, for the survival of his people! That is what Fulani leaders, Yoruba leaders, governors like Samuel Ortom of Benue state, etc are doing.
The book of 2 Maccabees narrated a story of one overzealous Jewish person named Jason. He obtained the high priesthood that was due to his brother, Onias, by fraud (2 Macc.4:7). When it was rumoured that king Antiochus Epiphanes who imposed him upon the people had died, Jason exploited the situation to carry out an act of aggression against his own people. He felt satisfied with his merciless slaughter! But little did he know that “Success against one’s own people,” as the scripture puts it, “is the worst kind of failure” (2 Macc.5:5-7). Indeed, such a “success” is not a victory over an “enemy.” It is a defeat of one’s own self and his people which, in the end, brings nothing but shame, disgrace and misery in death! Egbuo dike n’ulo, mbosiogu, elota dike!
One is still struggling to make sense of what the stand of the President of OhanaezeNdigbo, Prof. George Obiozor actually said or what his stand was on the Orlu incident. Not only that his response was too little too late, he seemed not to have mustered enough courage and strength to convey his message. NniaNwodo would have done better, even though he works at cross purpose with Nnamdi Kanu and his group. Obiozor may have started his presidency of the apex Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, on a shaky note. He needs to clear his throat!
Speaking also on a radio programme, Raypower’s “Political platform” last week, Senator Ike Ekweremadu said he couldn’t have made any statement on the Orlu incident since he was not informed of what transpired. He was right! He didn’t know what transpired. Nobody briefed him. And he did not bother to know.What happened was of no political value to him. After all, Imo state is miles away from Enugu, his own state! Ike Ekweremmadu remains the most senior ranking senator from the Southeast. But do you blame him? Since his close shave with irate pro Biafran group in Nurnberg Germany in 2019, it is quite understandable why he is sounding a bit indifferent.
What about the man who represents Orlu senatorial zone at the upper legislative chambers of the National Assembly, Senator Rochas Okorocha. What did he say about the Orlu incident?He is just too busy for now fighting to retain all his loots from the state! He was governor of Imo state eight years. And it has become very difficult to separate what belongs to Rochas Okorocha from what belongs to Imo state which he misgoverned! Right now, the former governor and Senator-by-trick is in a “roforofo” fight with bird-of-the-same-feather and incumbent governor over choice properties in the state allegedly(mis)appropriated illegally and covetously.
The Orlu incident is a pointer. It has juxtaposed NdIgbo in the same position the Israelites found themselves under king Ahab who was gearing up to fight an external enemy, while his house was not in order. And prophet Micaiah said, “I can see the army of Israel scattered over the hills like sheep without shepherd. And the LORD said, ‘These men have no leader; let them go home in peace.’” (2 kings 22:17).Igbosare still in dire need of leaders who truly understand the aspirations of its people. Igbo leaders should borrow a leaf from what other leaders in other regions are doing to secure their people.
Uzunaamaghiiteakpu, yalereegbeanyanodu! Enough of these cowardice, treachery and betrayal of the people!Enough of these arrogance, pride, envy and jealousy among the Igbo leaders.All the ingredients in a cooking pot are jostling for position. But they are oblivious of the fire under the pot. When the pot burns, all the ingredients perish! None survives. It is a word. Igbos should borrow sense for once!
Pascal Chimezie is former secretary of OhanaezeNdigbo in Ikeja, and a human rights, democracy and good governance activist based in Lagos.