Ohanaeze, Igbo town unions fret over deteriorating safety in region

From Magnus Eze, Enugu

Ohanaeze Ndigbo and town unions in Igbo land are disturbed by the increasing security challenges in their homeland. Hardly a day passes without tale of attack in Igbo land. Such attacks are easily attributed to “unknown gunmen,” even as many believe that adversaries of Igbo people may be behind the dastardly act.

South East was adjudged the most peaceful and serene geopolitical zone until April 5, 2021. That was the day hoodlums or “unknown” gunmen attacked and overwhelmed the Correctional Centre, Owerri, Imo State. They released no fewer than 1,844 inmates.

Ohanaeze had interrogated the strategic capacity of the local non-state actors to overwhelm a highly fortified correctional centre and discharged 1,844 inmates without any arrest.

Painfully, since that episode, the Igbo are confronted with various forms of insecurity. Added to the menace of herdsmen-farmers’ clashes, Ohanaeze said: “There are now many Fulani kidnappers and community invaders in many parts of Igbo land. 

“Hundreds of lives have been lost to these recent developments. This is very appalling and unbecoming. There must be a drastic step to counter the narrative.” To this end, the apex Igbo body, in late 2022, had urged every community, led by the traditional ruler and the President-General of Town Unions to address the issue of its security in their last December community meetings.

Ohanaeze also said the rampant sit-at-home calls in the South East has done incalculable damage to the Igbo economy. According to the group, evidence showed that the Igbo adversaries were happy: “We have chosen to face the barrel of the gun inwards. 

“It is inconceivable that a group of people will decide to cripple its economy. This is an unfortunate exercise and must be addressed at the town’s meeting.” 

In the same manner, National President, Association of Igbo Town Unions (ASITU), Chief Emeka Diwe, charged presidents general of the over 2,000 autonomous communities in the region to make issues of homeland security and the forthcoming elections top priorities in their general meetings during the Yuletide.

He urged the people to be vigilant, and fortify their security: “There would not have been cause for concern if the Ebubeagu Security Network set up by some governors in the region has the required local content.”

He decried the exclusion of the grassroots structure in every Igbo village or community: “The situation made the operation of the Ebubeagu ineffective; including the allegation that they have turned against the people.

“Igbo are an endangered species in Nigeria. Those who have not activated their indigenous security system should do so to checkmate security threats in their domains. Any security structure worth its name must be indigenous security system. 

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“ASITU is the only group that has established indigenous administrative structures (town unions). The association operates at various levels, from the village up to the regional and national level.  So, an indigenous security that has multi-level operational independence, free from the control of the governor is what is required.”

He condemned the way Ebubeagu has seemingly turned to private militia of governors: “Government can finance the operation while the management should be outside their control. 

“For instance, South East is controlled by the three major political parties, APC, PDP and APGA. Most governors may want a security system that they will use to rig election. That is why they should be independent.

“Unlike the Amotekun in the South West, the Ebubeagu is not properly coordinated. That is why they are randomly abused by the powers that be. Again, they are not truly indigenous hence, they may shoot at innocent citizens without knowing that they are not criminals.”

He indicated that the decisions of the various communities would direct the position of the region in the National Igbo Summit.  He noted that Igbo were at a critical moment in history especially with the existential threat lurking around them even in their homeland:

“The youths and indeed every individual in Igbo land must be tasked on the slipping and sinking security situation in the South East. 

Our youths and all at home must be alert and those in the Diaspora must show deep concern in securing our environment and preserving our timeless heritage in line with our old belief in ‘Onye ekwela uzo ga ooo’ and being ‘our brother’s keeper.’

“The security of life and property of the Igbo and in Igbo land and everywhere must be our individual and collective business. Poverty, ignorance, youthful exuberance and adult delinquencies seem to be dictating the tunes and driving the lives of many of us. 

“It is time to rethink and apply caution. While we call on all to remain vigilant and proactive, we also request that we focus on doing first things first and right things right. 

“Igbo land has become hopeless, helpless and lifeless because of constant threats to life and property, and heightened state of insecurity. Some of these incidents are alleged to be self-inflicted. 

“Notwithstanding, Igbo can survive the worst of situations within the shortest possible time, including their current predicament, if they remain united in decision and action. We must maintain our tested and reliable ‘Igwe bu Ike’ philosophy in our approach to all matters, including national projects. 

“There is no doubt that the Igbo are known for hard work, resilience, honesty and the spirit of ‘Onye aghala nwanneya’ (brotherliness). These are the characteristics and true identity of the Igbo which must be exhibited at all times.”