A rash of indignation and resentment is building among Nigerians in Southeast Nigeria against the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), the separatist group seeking to carve up a new nation out of Nigeria.
This follows the series of conducts culminating in killings and destruction of businesses in the region by suspected members of the group.
Most recently, on Monday, Sept. 13, suspected IPOB outlaws killed Reverend Emeka Merenu, an Anglican priest of the St. Andrews Anglican Church, Ihitte-Ukwa in Orsu Local Government Area of Imo State. The assailants allegedly stormed the parsonage where the priest lived, killed him and torched his car.
The attackers, suspected to be enforcing the controversial “IPOB sit-at-home” order were believed to have targeted the priest because he had earlier in the day invited soldiers to secure the mission school where he served as principal while the students sat for their external Senior Secondary West African Examination Council, (WAEC) examinations.
A viral amateur video clip of gun welding men threatening and disrupting an examination session in Nkwume, another local community in the state while burning motorcycles and parts of the school has caused deep outrage and perplexity across communities. Emma Powerful, the spokesperson for IPOB, released a statement distancing his group from the act.
Evidently embarrassed by the growing show of extremism by elements within the IPOB fold, Powerful promised that his group would replace the burnt motorcycles and rebuild part of the school that was torched by the attackers. He said henceforth, the separatist group would treat anyone threatening people and their livelihoods under the guise of enforcing “sit-at-home” as traitors.
“Anybody trying to enforce any sit-at-home order using the name of IPOB is a saboteur, and does so at his peril. If we catch anybody disturbing the peace of Biafrans or residents in Biafra land under the guise of enforcing non-existent sit-at-home order, such a person will regret his actions because he will receive the reward of traitors,” warned the statement signed by the group’s Media and Publicity Secretary.
Since Kanu’s recent arrest with no established voice of authority to reign in his stead, commanders and foot soldiers drawn from the ESN, IPOB’s militant wing, have been giving the Biafra agitation their own ideological interpretations.
Each Monday, they move as enforcers of their order across cities and communities in the southeastern region.
With its centralised structure and sole authority under a ‘supreme’ leader, IPOB was not prepared for the sudden arrest of Kanu. Down the ranks, his word was law and no other person within the hierarchy of the group could get away with a position that challenged what had been decreed by the ‘supreme’ leader.
The power structure within the IPOB hierarchy was dramatically dismantled at the twilight of 2020 following a major ideological rift between Kanu and his erstwhile second-in-command, Uche Mefor, after which Kanu abolished the position of ‘second-in-command’.
Before now, when the “supreme leader” was incarcerated between 2016 and 2017, IPOB did not find it challenging to issue instructions across the board, unchallenged.
But with the current situation, people are consumed by fear because the extremist faction of the separatist group does not make public statements and conducts itself as if they are not under any authority.
Some residents of Enugu that HumAngle spoke with said it was weird that the activities of IPOB were having striking similarity with those of the terrorist group, Boko Haram, operating in Northeast Nigeria.
“They behead people at random, they now stop school children from carrying out their academic obligations. What is the difference?” a resident asked rhetorically.
Voices of condemnation of the unfolding extremist activities of IPOB are growing among political leaders in the Southeast.
On Sept. 20, matters came to a head between the resentment of the people and the extremism of IPOB outlaw elements. At Umuagbavo Oru Ahiara community in Ahiazu Mbaise Local Government Area, Imo State, a gang of suspected extremists from IPOB’s ESN that came to disrupt a market session was confronted by residents.
Not expecting to be challenged so viciously, the members of the gang fled. But one of the members, Obinwanne Iwu, 34, was not so fast. He was caught by the mob and allegedly lynched.
A statement by Mike Abattam, the Police spokesperson in the state, confirmed the incident.
According to the Police statement, “efforts made by the Police patrol team to arrest the perpetrators proved abortive as they all fled the scene on sighting the patrol team.”
Peter Obi, former Governor of Anambra State, condemned the disruption of school examinations by IPOB elements describing it as mindless. This was swiftly followed by the Southeast Caucus in the National Assembly that convened to review security developments in the zone.
In a communique from the meeting, the caucus declared: “we reviewed the sit-at-home orders by the IPOB and the mayhem some nefarious elements have seized the opportunity to visit on the lives, properties, and psyche of our people.”
“We resolved to condemn in strongest terms the disruption of the on-going Senior Secondary School Certificate Examination in some parts of the Southeast, particularly the incident at Comprehensive Secondary School, Nkume, Njaba Local Government Area of Imo State.”
The legislators further condemned the “incessant” killings in the Southeast and called on security agencies to “unravel the culprits” behind these acts and speedily bring them to book.
Recently, David Umahi, Governor of Ebonyi expressed fear that the declaration of the south-east as a “red zone” due growing insecurity concerns will deprive the area of federal projects.
The Governor said with the federal government’s ministries recently declaring the south-east as a red zone due to high wave of insecurity in the region, occasioned by agitation for self-determination, amounts to “self-inflicted injury” by the people.
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