Stephen Ukandu, Umuahia
Apex Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide, has warned that constant persecution of the Igbo race by the Nigerian State which it described as ‘Igbophobia,’ might plunge the country into a needless ethnic crisis if unchecked.
Ohanaeze which was responding to last week’s killing of unarmed members of the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, in Aba, protesting the continued detention of their Leader, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, called on President Muhammadu Buhari to call the security agencies to order.
No fewer than five IPOB members were killed when security operatives opened fire at them during the peaceful protest.
Ohanaeze in the statement signed by its Publicity Secretary, Dr Alex Ogbonnia, strongly condemned the action and urged President Muhammadu Buhari to call heads of security agencies to order.
The apex Igbo body recalled that former President Olusegun Obasanjo, in a recent function in Awka, warned against the “dangers of the conspiracy against the Igbo of the South-East.
“Obasanjo described the phenomenon as Igbophobia,” Ohanaeze said.
“Igbophobia will not mean well for the unity and development of the country,” Ohanaeze quoted Obasanjo as saying.
The statement said that both Ohanaeze and IPOB, have similar conviction that Ndigbo are being marginalised in Nigeria, and need freedom, but only differ on the method of achieving the freedom.
Ohanaeze faulted the recent remark by the Chief of Army Staff, where he warned that IPOB, ESN or any group threatening the unity of Nigeria would be severely dealt with.
Ohanaeze said that the threat by the COAS and the killing of IPOB members in Aba few days later conveyed deep meaning of ethnic profiling.
The statement read in part: “While we are still in one week mourning and in sackcloth for the five boys or the “minimal casualty” by Mustapha Mohammed Bala boys at Aba during a peaceful protest for the release of Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, another Yakub Yahaya is using his office to issue a profiling threat to the IPOB.
“Ohanaeze Ndigbo has repeatedly called for a political solution in resolving the IPOB matter and that the adoption of extra judicial minimal casualties on a daily basis against the IPOB by the Nigerian security operatives is heinous, savage, unethical, antithetical to democratic norms and, of course, far from the solution.
“Even when the previous calls on the Presidency appear to have fallen on deaf ears, we still remind President Muhammadu Buhari, and the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces to rein in the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. General Yakub Yahaya from his selective threat to the IPOB.
“Such a selective profiling is enough considering the hundreds of lives that have been neutralised through the Bala concept of minimal casualties.”
Ohanaeze condemned the use of brute force against IPOB members who are only calling for a redress of the obvious oppression against the Igbo.
The statement entitled: ‘Enough is Enough’’ read: “The attention of the Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide has been drawn to the remarks made by the Chief of Army Staff of the Nigerian Army, Lt. Gen. Faruk Yahaya, with the heading: “Don’t threaten Nigeria’s integrity – COAS warns IPOB, ESN.
“Yahaya issued the warning at an Army event in Abuja, on Monday, April 3, 2023.
On Friday, March 31, 2023, five members of the IPOB were shot dead in Osusu, Aba, Abia State, while they were on a procession across Aba.
“Confirming the incident, the Abia State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Mustapha Mohammed Bala, a Katsina-born, well-educated police officer claimed that “On 31/03/2023 at about 11.45hours, policemen on confidence building patrol/show of force within Aba metropolis came under attack by the proscribed IPOB/ESN members.
“According to him “they were armed with petrol bombs, machetes, battle axes and other dangerous weapons. Bala added that “the attack was repelled by the Police operatives with minimal casualties while majority of the hoodlums scampered for safety.”
“Ohanaeze findings revealed that “some residents, armed with video evidence, informed that the group was protesting peacefully against the continued detention of Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, without disturbance before they were shot at.”
“It is most appalling that Bala should refer to the IPOB men as “hoodlums” and most unconscionable to view the death of five IPOB members as “minimal casualties.”
According to Ohanaeze, the root of Nigeria’s upheavals is traceable to Igbophobia.
“Every knowledgeable Nigerian knows that the current political travails in Nigeria is rooted in Igbophobia. The backwardness and poverty that have become the character of Nigeria is the manifestation of Igbophobia or the orchestrated marginalisation and alienation of the Igbo from the centres of power.
“For the avoidance of doubts, the IPOB philosophy is in line with the position of Chief E K Clark, the Leader of the Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) and the Leader of the Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum (SMBLF), “that the former military Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon, should have allowed the Igbo to secede at the outset of the civil war in 1966. And that ‘instead of continued mistreatment of the Igbo in Nigeria, they should be allowed to go.
“The Elder statesman made the remarks on May 3, 2022 during an interview on Arise TV, as part of his advocacy for the President of Nigeria to be zoned to the South-East.
“Clark stressed the “need for the region to be treated with a sense of belonging and called for political parties, especially the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to zone their presidential tickets to candidates from the South-East.”
“IPOB insists that instead of the continued indignities to the Igbo, they should be allowed to go.
In other words, while the Ohanaeze Ndigbo on one hand and the IPOB on the other converge on the dissatisfaction with the Igbo mistreatment in Nigeria, the divergence is on the approach or methodology for a change.
“The Ohanaeze Ndigbo have been looking forward to a day like today when in collaboration and coalition with other ethnic nationalities, eminent Nigerians of goodwill, the youth and indeed all the progressive minds, will through a social change dynamic and democratic process entrench good governance in Nigeria.
“Ohanaeze believes that with good leadership, Nigeria has sufficient human and natural resources that will stimulate upscale prosperity and sustainable economic development for the good of everybody in the country. The only thing in short supply, according to Chinua Achebe, is Leadership.
“Remarkably, Peter Obi is simply a response, an effect or the manifestation of the peoples’ yearnings for good governance in Nigeria.
“Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, (Ahaejiagamba), the Chairman, Council of Elders, Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide has often reiterated that a search for peace, progress and development in Nigeria will remain elusive or unachievable without justice and equity.
“In other words, Nigeria at the moment is at a critical juncture with two major options: truth and progress on one hand or falsity and backwardness, poverty and political travails on the other.”