I am sure even the deaf heard the noise of the brouhaha that ruled Wednesday and shook the social cohesion of South East of Nigeria.
In fact, the waves of that rumour went beyond the South East borders to the South South. There were thousands of phone calls flying around and colliding from so many callers at the same time. They were not calls of compliments like in a new year, but those of panic and chaos.
Someone possibly out for mischief had sowed the seed of discord and gave it wings of the ICT age to fly. Fly it really did across the ends of the zones and the country. Those of us in the South West had our ears filled with calls that soldiers invaded schools in the South east to forcefully inject kids with poison that causes death and at best the new ailment rave called Monkey Pox.
Earlier in the week, the Minister for Information had issued a statement renouncing allegations that the federal government had fouled the air in the South South, especially Bayelsa and Rivers states, injected people with viruses that resulted in the outbreak of the pox.
But that didn’t seem enough as the larger dimension of the festering unfriendliness between the Nigerian Army and the South East of Nigeria took a larger dimension few days later.
You may ask if there is anger and misgiving between the Army and the South East. Please don’t pretend not to know and if you meet anyone that tells you there is none, don’t believe the person.
Funny enough, the Army seems to live with a dangling false notion that all is well with them and the people over there. It’s delusion.
From that day the Nigerian Army invaded Umuahia and Aba and allegedly maimed the masses they branded IPOB members and at last raided the home of the leader of IPOB, Nnamdi Kanu, all hasn’t been well.
The anger is not about Kanu’s home as it is about the intimidation and brigandage meted to the common citizens that don’t even belong to the IPOB. Some of us argued and still argue that, although the federal government justifies that act of highhandedness and trampling on the masses of Igbo as conquered people, that was a very wrong approach. It was an open hate approach. It was a disdainful approach. It was an approach that made a mess of the rights of those people over there. The anger festers. The people are not quiet. They are just sulking because they were successfully intimated by this government using guns and tanks and soldiers on a defined mission.
The Army has tried its best to deploy all manner of antics to deny the allegations of killing unarmed people in the streets, but the denials were not at the right time when everyone is a reporter with video cameras and the swift ability to send a message across the world in a second.
While not ruling out exaggerations, but the reality of most of those videos of torture and maiming could be difficult prove wrong.
So, the Army aggravated that impunity by mistaking the rest of the people for dim wits that forget the past minute immediately it’s past.
Just few days after they pulled out from the Aba and Umuahia incidents, they commenced what they called free medical services to the same people.
It was launched at the Nkwegu military base in Abakaliki. After the Ebonyi State deputy governor, Dr. Kelechi Igwe flagged it off, ask the soldiers if anybody visited the spot to be attended to.
We read ample media reports of how the people snubbed the soldiers and their claimed services. Those interviewed told media men that they don’t need the army’s free medicare because of two reasons – they are not friends after ‘killing’ their brothers in Abia State and intimidating them and secondly there is no trust that what these same people involved in allegations of killings and human rights trampling of the same Igbo can do them any good. Some even said the move could be one to give them poison and kill them by other means than the guns and tanks.
They could be wrong in that conclusion, but they can’t be rightly faulted for taking such stance because the army had eroded the trust and wore to shreds the strings of confidence that should drive such project.
It’s like someone that is openly your enemy stretching her fist towards you. She actually has a gift in the fist, means well, but even if you see the gift, it would surely look like a deadly weapon. You just can’t take it from her because the trust is lacking. The wrecked trust between the South East and Nigerian Army would take time to cure. It is a setting where most of the soldiers in that operation were Nigerians that speak strange languages. And all the military formations in the South East – Obinze, Abakaliki, Ohafia, Onitsha and Enugu are headed by northerners or at best, non-Igbo, who are ordinarily fellow citizens but have been handled in a manner by this government that they are looked at with suspicion.
I say this from my conscience that while I don’t live with stereotypes, I recall finding it difficult going near officials of this government I have met outside this country in the past because I have this coldness in me that they might not see me as real Nigerian or might see me as one, but a slave sort of. And I don’t want to be treated like a slave, so I stay off them.
September last year, in Beijing, I had a call from the Nigerian Embassy from a person that identified himself as Abdullahi to get some information about me and clear me to travel to Hangzhou and report the G20 Summit according to the requirement of the China Foreign Ministry. After the call, I really lost enthusiasm because I had this feeling that having told him I am Igbo, he might possibly call the ministry and tell them my identity is questionable.
Let’s get this fact right, this is not the first government in Nigeria headed by a Northerner, but Igbo never felt this way before. Yar’Adua was there, and all was well and many others who treated all like they were all Nigerians or didn’t showcase their aversion for Igbo like this administration. So, there is something real about these feelings about this government.
Therefore, the smouldering fire needed some spark to fan it into flames, and that was made on Wednesday when the army took their medicare to Ozubulu in Anambra State.
Well, Col. Sagir Musa, the 82 Division PRO said in his statement that all was well and they were received warmly and the people were happy. But the videos flying about and voice recording show the people distanced the project because the lost trust hadn’t been rebuilt.
Maybe out of mischief, some people exploited the fast communication of the age, spread the rumour and it flew round the nation that soldiers had invaded schools in the south east and Delta and compelling school kids to take vaccinations.
Hell was let loose and stampede took over as the kids spewed to the streets, with their parents on tow, joining the frenzy to take their wards from school for safety.
There might have been some misinformation, but it sends one signal – that the army misread the signs and embarked on their project the wrong time. It is a lesson to them that something went wrong and a link was severed and needs to be rebuilt before bringing any welfare, otherwise, such welfare, no matter how beautifully packaged must be rebuffed until the proper thing is done – mending fences.