Ebonyi State Governor and Chairman of the South-East Governors’ Forum, Dave Umahi, says counter-secessionist groups may rise in the South-East geopolitical zone if the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra does not call its members to order and stop the threats and killings.
Umahi, who also described the agitation for Biafra as “madness”, said South-East elite do not want secession but want the zone to be treated fairly and equitably as other zones in the country.
The Governor also vowed that the South-East zone won’t be turned to a killing field and grounded by secessionist agitators.
Umahi, who spoke on Wednesday as a guest on Channels Television’s ‘Sunrise Daily’ breakfast programme, said youths in the region, who shunned dialogue to make their grievances heard and resolved but chose the path of agitation to cause criminality, would be “isolated as criminals”.
‘MASSOB not violent, IPOB dishes out messages of killings’
On Tuesday, the Senate Minority Leader, who represents Abia South in the red chamber, Enyinnaya Abaribe, had said that aside from IPOB and the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra, there are more than 30 separatist organisations in the South-East.
But reacting on Wednesday on the television programme, Umahi said the two separatist groups he knows of are IPOB and MASSOB, adding that Abaribe spoke “from the point of his information”.
The governor stated that while MASSOB has never been violent, IPOB dishes out messages of fear and killings in the zone.
Umahi said, “The separatist groups, we know of IPOB, we know of MASSOB. MASSOB has never been violent and they are approachable and they tend to reason with us but this other people, IPOB, their command is never in the country and every one of them stays out and dishes out messages of bitterness and messages of threats and fear and killings and are not here with us to feel the pains.
“So, these are just the two groups that I can talk about but I fear that if IPOB does not call their people to order and stop these threats and killings and all that, other groups will rise up to counter it but there is no way South-East would be grounded, there is no way South-East will be sitting at home while other parts of the country will be doing businesses whereas we are the people that should be moving because we earn our living by moving.”
‘IPOB sit-at-home won’t be obeyed if there’s one policeman to everyone’
Furthermore, Umahi said the sit-at-home declared by IPOB to protest the detention of its leader, Nnamdi Kanu, who has been in the custody of the Department of State Services since June 2021, won’t be obeyed by Southeasterners if there is enough security presence in the zone.
The All Progressives Congress chieftain also said it was not true that criminals from outside Imo, Ebonyi, Anambra, Abia and Enugu are the ones perpetrating the unprecedented orgies and bloodletting in the South-East including the burning of scores of police stations, offices of the Independent National Electoral Commission, amongst others of late.
“We are chief security officers in our various states and we understand what is happening; we know that it is our people that are killing our people and they started killing security men, they started burning houses, they started stopping people from moving freely and we started shouting,” the governor said.
On the sit-at-home order by IPOB on Mondays which has significantly paralysed economic activities in the zone, Umahi said, “People are not sitting at home out of obedience or compliance; people are sitting at home out of fear for their lives.
“If you have a policeman to everybody, nobody is going to obey any sit-at-home, nobody is going to obey that. We are going to do what we have been doing to safeguard the lives of our people because we’ve got the confidence of our people and that you cannot have Biafra by the way they are going about it.”
‘Agitation for Biafra madness, South-East elite don’t want secession’
The governor also described the agitation for secession by IPOB and MASSOB as “madness”.
“Meanwhile, every elite in South-East is not desirous of Biafra, we don’t want Biafra; we want to be treated equally like other regions in Nigeria.
“So, this idea of Biafra, Biafra is madness and we have said, ‘No’, we don’t want Biafra,” Umahi stated.
The governor lamented that IPOB and other separatists in the South-East are being given a push by “pretentious agitations” in the South-West and other parts of the country.
“If we go our separate ways, South-East people will lose a lot because, we’ve invested a lot in every part of this nation. It is not to our advantage to leave our investment and walk away,” he stated.
Biafra agitation: Back story
Dissatisfaction over the Nigerian State and the quest for sovereignty had led the late Biafran leader, Col. Chukwuemeka Ojukwu (retd.), to declare the exit of the Republic of Biafra from Nigeria in May 1967. The Biafran territory essentially comprised the South-East region of Nigeria.
The declaration led to a civil war that lasted two and half years as the Nigerian State under the then Head of State, Yakubu Gowon, battled to unify the soul of the country using state powers and military might.
The war ended in January 1970 with the South-East region back in Nigeria but the civil war left a ghoulish imprint on the Nigerian history with squalid tales of deaths, blood, hunger, horror, sorrow and more deaths.
However, decades later, secessionist agitations resurfaced in the South-East. The agitations, this time, are being championed by MASSOB leader, Ralph Uwazuruike; as well as his IPOB counterpart, Nnamdi Kanu, amongst other known figures.
The regime of the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), had in September 2017 outlawed IPOB and declared that the activities of the group constituted an act of terrorism and illegality.
Before then, Kanu was arrested and jailed but was released from the Kuje Prison in Abuja after meeting bail conditions also in 2017. The IPOB leader later left the country and operated from overseas until he was re-arrested in June 2021.
The detained IPOB leader is facing terrorism charges before Justice Binta Nyako of the Federal High Court, Abuja and his trial has been adjourned to October 21, 2021, for continuation of hearing.
This story was originally published in The Punch, https://punchng.com/counter-secessionist-groups-will-rise-in-south-east-if-ipob-doesnt-stop-killings-umahi/