Sunday, November 8, 2020 was a significant date in the annals of the political affiliation between the Ndi-Igbo and the people of Rivers state in particular and by extension, the south-south geo-political zone. Throttling through the dark blanket of the night, the Governors of the Igbo speaking region and the leadership of the socio-political organization of the Igbo people, Ohaneze Ndi-Igbo paid a scheduled but critical visit to the Rivers state Governor, Nyesom Wike in Government House, Port Harcourt.
The visit was prompted by the loud-mouthed report of the dastardly killings and massive destruction of property that took place in the Oyigbo local government area of the state. The unfortunate event was a fall out of the #Endsars protest which, like other states in the country, was hijacked by some hoodlums who then ceased that opportunity to loot, kill and destroy shops, houses, police stations, churches among others in that part of Rivers state.
Government statistics has it that about six soldiers and four police officers besides ordinary citizens lost their lives in the cause of the crisis. Some unconfirmed reports said for days, Oyigbo which is a boundary local government area between Rivers and Abia states, was, in no ambiguous terms, a theatre of avoidable war.
Criminal elements, mostly, according to government source, members of the proscribed indigenous people of Biafra, IPOB, saw the crisis as a veritable window to establish their presence in that part of the state. They were said to have embarked on a killing spree and indulged on massive looting. Within that same period, the proscribed group was reported to have hoisted its flag somewhere in Benue state. And they wanted to replicate that same treasonable act in Rivers but was rebuffed. A nation within an independent nation!
Their action prompted the incursion of the military to wade in and stop the raging carnage for the restoration of normalcy. Many were of the opinion that soldiers who were sent to restore sanity in that crisis ridden local government area failed in their constitutional duties and rather redirected their trigger to the armless citizens and then killed them in cold blood. But truth being sacrosanct, it was later discovered that those who shouted blue murder the loudest, were the same IPOB members who first turned Oyigbo to a battle ground hiding behind the #Endsars protest banner.
Not wanting the situation to aggravate beyond what it was, the state Governor, Nyesom Wike quickly intervened by imposing two-weeks curfew until a seeming normalcy returned to Oyigbo. This action of the Governor, to some people at a distance and with little or no rooted knowledge of how government operates, claimed that Wike was embarking on a mission of ethnic cleansing. False alarm!
Indeed, the IPOB members were undoubtedly incited by the leader of the proscribed “criminal group”, Nnmadi Kanu who allegedly from his comfort zone in faraway London ditched out orders to his fringe foot soldiers to kill and burn anybody or anything standing on their way. Like a head-spinning opium, the IPOB members went berserk and wrecked Oyigbo in their vexation before soldiers stepped in to restore peace.
It was shocking, though, that Governor Wike was vilified for imposing the curfew which normally should be the last resort in times of uprising in a democratic society. It was the right step to take. Beyond that, several versions were cooked up as the main reason for the rein of blood that ensnared that part of the state. While some people bandied that it was a confrontation between Igbos and the Hausa traders, others alleged that it was IPOB members against their “ache enemy”: the Nigerian state.
Whichever side of the coin one may look at, lives were lost in that heinous brutality and property in hundreds of millions of naira unreasonably destroyed. It is now difficult, if not impossible to account for how many people were killed in the process and quantify the number of property lost. Even if that calculation is practicable, who will bell the cat? Who pays the compensation for the loss? No answers so soon.
However, the visit of the south-east Governors to Government House, Port Harcourt on Sunday night was of immense political value to both sides (Ndi-Igbo and Rivers state). Led by the chairman of the South East Governors Forum, SEGF, and the Governor of Ebonyi state, Dave Umahi, that parley reignited that ancient nexus that existed between the two regions when they fused together decades ago to form the then Eastern region of Nigeria.
Moreover, because great things happen in the night season, that visit played down on the high definition rumor of Dave Umahi’s alleged plan to dump the Peoples’ Democratic Party, PDP, and pitch tent with the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC. At the same time, the visit which also soothe the nerves of some apostle of ethnic bickering, equally raised the ante of Governor Umahi’s political profile as a man who is already being touted to have a vaulting ambition to succeed President Mohammadu Buhari in 2023. Hence, the justification of his alleged plan to defect to APC “any time soon”, according to armed chair peddlers.
It is no more news that some highly profile political juggernauts in the country including the Governor of Kaduna state, Nasir El-Rufai are already advocating for the President of the south-east region to compensate them for the long absence of recognition in the number one plum job in the country since after the Nigeria/Biafra civil war.
Perhaps, the peace move by the Governors of the East and their leaders equally had some linings of presenting to the south-south, a man that has his eyes transfixed on the Villa job. He may not likely blink. Otherwise, why were the likes of Senator Ike Ekweremadu, Peter Obi, Hope Uzodinma, Imo state Governor, and other such prominent Igbo sons and daughters not part of that historic trip to the Garden City?
An influential Niger Delta activist, Ann Kio Briggs, spokesperson of the Ijaw Republican Assembly, IRA, had since declared her support for an Igbo Presidency in 2023. “Even if my father or blood relation from my village comes out to contest in 2023, I will not vote for him. My vote goes to an Igbo candidate”. Assurance.
Briggs was about the first core Niger Delta indigene that openly declared that the former President Goodluck Jonathan should not play the proverbial fly that follows the corpse to the grave in view of the clamor by some section of frustrated Nigerians to indicate interest for 2023 presidential election. “I will advise Jonathan not to pay any attention to such calls. It is the turn of Igbos”, she added.
The President-General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief John Nnia Nwodo, encapsulated it all when he said that the Port Harcourt meeting had reinforced the existing affinity between Igbos and the people of the Niger Delta. He described Governor Wike as a champion of restructuring and a man who loves justice, adding that “I have heard you said an Igbo man should be the next President”.
To Chief Nwodo, Wike is “fearless, bold and confident”. These natural elements seem to be the pivotal qualities the Igbos would need from whoever will want to give them his support to realize the ambitious dream of Igbo presidency in 2023. No doubt about it, Wike has shown over and again that he has the magic charm to turn things around politically. The recent Edo state September 20, 2020 governorship election is still very much fresh in every mind.
Governor Godwin Obaseki confirmed this position when he confessed in Government House, Port Harcourt during a thank you visit that the Edo state governorship election was “won here” (in Port Harcourt). The game-plan for that election was nurtured and hatched in Port Harcourt ably led by a man who knows his political onions.
The Ohaneze Ndi-Igbo leader explained that the leadership of Igbos cannot remain aloof while some misguided few (Nnamdi Kanu presumably) who did not experience the brutal reality of the last civil war continued to fan the embers of disunity. He was however elated to hear from Igbo leaders that under the leadership of Governor Wike, Igbo businesses have continued to thrive.
Speaking at the meeting, the Chairman of the South East Governors Forum and Governor of Ebonyi State, Dave Umahi, warned Igbos to be wary of the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB) because the outlawed group is trying to instigate another civil war.
Explaining their mission to the oil bearing Rivers State, Governor Umahi said they were in the state to ascertain the veracity of the news circulating in the social media over alleged killing of Igbo people living in the State and their findings proved otherwise thereby making the whole gamut a hoax of some sort.
The Governor said he found it nauseating that IPOB could go to Benue and Rivers States to foist its flag and claim the territories belong to the Igbo people. According to him, Igbo leadership are opposed to this stance by IPOB.
Umahi, who revealed that he has huge investment in Rivers State, urged Igbos living in Rivers to respect the Government and people of Rivers State in order for them to continue to live and do business there peacefully. According to him, Ndi-Igbos cannot support any form of criminality.