Kindly reconsider the 7pm-6am lockdown in Rivers
... An open letter to Rivers State Governor, Ezenwo Nyesom Wike
Your Excellency, writing you is a difficult task considering that at the micro levelI am Ikwerre; but at the macro level I am Igbo. You are also Ikwerre and the theater of this violence is Ikwerreland. Isiokpo, Omagwa, Choba and Elimgbu are all in Ikwerreland. I am from Elele in the Ikwerre Local Government Area, LGA; the very first LGA where our brave law enforcement agents were killed. Their murders are completely unacceptable, condemnable and barbaric.
I commiserate with the bereaved families while praying for the peaceful repose of the souls of the departed. My solidarity is with the government and people of Rivers in their struggle against terror. The perpetrators must be arrested and made to face justice. The Civil Defence, police, Department of State Service, DSS, and other law agencies must be empowered to carry out detailed investigations with the view of arresting and prosecuting the culprits.
For record purposes, it is unacceptable that our amiable Governor Wike, the first governor to receive in 2017 the newly elected National Executive Committee, NEC, of Ohanaeze, asserted in his 10th May 2021 broadcast that the criminals responsible for the killings were from Obigbo. Your Excellency had said, “We have reviewed the way and manner the recent attacks were executed and discovered that the perpetrators, who disguised themselves as security officers, moved in unhindered from Oyigbo to launch the attack.”
Geo-strategically speaking, I am not questioning the wisdom of the governor as he is the Chief Security Officer, CSO, of the state with access to intelligence reports. What I question is the rationale, the reason, behind his assertion.
From Obigbo to Isiokpo is about an hour’s drive. From Obigbo to Abua is about two hours’ drive. How could assailants in the dead of the night drive from Obigbo to Isiokpo, given all the security checkpoints in between, and kill security officers before escaping undetected? How could assailants drive from Obigbo to Abua, kill soldiers and escape without being apprehended? How many checkpoints exist between the two points? That is what I question. Let it not be that Your Excellency has resorted to profiling and labelling.
I am not saying it is not possible that the killers came from Obigbo. In the circumstances, however, it is difficult to convince the ordinary man in the street. Profiling and labelling were the order of the day during the EndSARS protest when Obigbo was completely locked down; a lockdown that claimed the lives of children, women and the elderly from sheer hunger, dislocation and frustration. So this profiling, labelling and pre-judicial condemnation must be rejected by all well-meaning Igbos, Nigerians and men of good conscience because they have a background. The background is that Your Excellency has been provoked by some elements in Obigbo in the past.
As an Igbo leader, I do not agree with Your Excellency’s profiling and labelling. A more detailed investigation into these killings should be carried out before anyone can safely point a finger at where the killers emanated. The security agencies must be allowed to do their job in unravelling the mysteries behind these attacks. Assuming, without conceding, that the hoodlums were from Obigbo, were they still responsible for the havocs in Akwa Ibom, Ebonyi, Anambra and Imo? The answer is no. So there is more than meets the eyes.
I am curious that these killings occurred in the wake of the establishment of the Eastern Security Network, ESN, by the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, and Ebubeagu by the five governors of the South East. It is my contention that the Igbo society is kindred and community based. You cannot establish a security outfit without involving the town unions, chiefs, youth leaders, community and women leaderships.
The only security arrangement that can work is the one that is bottom to top and not top to bottom. The British reaped frustration when they tried putting up political structures from top to bottom. That led to the Aba Women’s Riots of 1929. The British never understood the Igbo society. Our political structure is kinship structure where people gather to take decisions affecting their community.
So the ESN is a fundamental mistake bearing in mind that IPOB never consulted the socio-anthropological structures before establishing it. The south East governors, who should have known better with all their special advisers and commissioners versed in Igbo history and culture, also made the same mistake. That explains why both the ESN and Ebubeagu are not working.
What we are seeing in Igboland is an implosion. It is this implosion that made the IPOB leadership believe that the extra-judicial murder of one of its commanders was authorized by the South East governors. This led to retaliations. Instead of security, the establishment of ESN and Ebubeagu has led to greater insecurity. Who is the enemy now that we fight ourselves?
Igboland is commerce-trade-dominated in what I call “Akpata erie,” or survival-on-daily-basis. In Rivers we have a 7pm-6am curfew. That is unacceptable because a lot of people depend on the “Mama-put” they sell in the evening between 6pm-10pm. Also, those who lost their jobs use their private cars to do “Kabu-kabu” in the evening. Right now this support economy does not exist because of the curfew; and with it hardship.
Mr Governor, I fear violence because its first victim is the oppressed. Revolution is a double-edged sword. The revolutionary and those he leads into rebellion may perish if their struggle is not properly managed. The alleged oppressor will escape the inferno only to reappear after the conflagration to create a new order from the ruins of the old. So we must be careful.
The alleged Fulani herdsmen responsible for all the killings are today being excused. We are now fighting ourselves. The governors are under threats. Policemen are under threats. Politicians are under threats. Students are being kidnapped. Is that how we are going to win the presidency in 2023? That is my genuine fear.
Governor Wike, I have three prayers worth your esteemed attention: One, Ndigbo in Port Harcourt are not fighting you. From Eleme, Onne, Choba, etc, Igbos rush home at dusk in obedience to your curfew. If they are confrontational the majority of them would openly defy you. But they are obeying you not minding the hardship your curfew inflicts on them. My message to both Igbos and non-Igbos, therefore, is for them to continue to support their own governor in these trying moments. None must undermine the mandate Rivers people gave him to modernize their state. Anyone with useful information on these attacks should talk to the Rivers Police Command.
Two, I appeal to His Excellency, Governor Wike, to kindly reconsider the lockdown. Any curfew from 7pm-6am is no longer curfew but a lockdown of eleven hours. This is bad for socio-economic activities of a people who for the better part of 2020 were under global lockdown.
And three, Your Excellency should stop making inflammatory statements capable of dividing us and tensing Rivers the more. It is unacceptable for His Excellency to say, for example, that those who carried out an attack are from the Ikwerre LGA even before a formal investigation is done. Allow the security agencies to investigate and arrest possible suspects. Their findings will then be handed over to you as the CSO. The Ministry of Justice to charge and prosecute those indicted is under you. But Your Excellency cannot be the investigator and prosecutor in your own case.
In conclusion, sir, I put it on record that Governor Wike is one of few governors to appoint a non-indigene as full commissioner. That is the whole truth. Your Excellency appointed Emeka Onowu, a non-indigene, as commissioner. This lofty record of yours must never be tarnished in this eleventh hour. For instance, if one does good for three years only to start doing bad in the last four months of his office, people may forget the good things he did and judge him by the bad ones. Your Excellency should maximize what you are doing very well while minimizing any apparent mistake like this 7pm-6am curfew.
None on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, can dispute that Governor Wike is a possible presidential, or Vice Presidential, candidate. If so, Your Excellency will need the block votes of the South East and South South to get an edge over your opponents in the PDP primary. Your predecessor, His Excellency Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, is another strong presidential candidate on the platform of the All Progressives Congress, APC.
We wish both of you luck. We also wish other contenders luck. But if we do not get it right, we will only end up reducing ourselves to a laughing stock. You cannot antagonize a people and still expect them to give you their votes in an election. Thank you, sir.
Okwukwu is a chieftain of the Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide