A seeming nervous outburst by Biafra Independence Movement (MASSOB-BIM) led by Ralph Uwazurike to stall the sit-at-home order by the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) on October 1, in Eastern Nigeria, the hotbed of the Biafra agitation, did not hold any water in Aba, the commercial hub of Abia State.
The Uwazurike group asked Ndigbo in the East to ignore the sit-at-home order by IPOB. A member of the MASSOB-BIM Elders Council, Benjamin Ekwenugo, made the call on behalf of Uwazurike, during the commemoration of the 19th anniversary of the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB), organised by the Enugu West zone of the group.
IPOB had asked the people of the Eastern Nigeria to stay indoors on Nigeria’s 60th Independence Anniversary, to mark the alleged invasion of the home of its leader, Nnamdi Kanu. IPOB Spokesman, Emma Powerful, promised that all activities in the region will be paralysed on Thursday, October 1, 2020.
‘’We call on all Biafrans to pass a vote of no confidence in these corrupt South-East governors, Ohaneze Ndigbo and PANDEF by sitting at home as ordered by the IPOB high command. Operation Python Dance III has started with deadly shootings in Anambra, illegal arrests and abductions in Enugu and Aba. To stay safe and alive, people must remain indoors because the Fulani caliphate, the Nigerian Army and police will kill anybody they see outside’’, IPOB said
While describing the directive as misplaced, Ekwenugo said, “IPOB is on its own. What will it achieve with all these sit-at-home orders? We are coming out. We have an activity in commemoration of the Biafra struggle. There is nothing like people not coming out’’, he also called on Igbo people to ignore the group and go about their businesses.
An executive of the tricycle union in Enugu, Pius Ezeudo, said their members will go about their businesses. Another union executive, Obi Onyenwa, at Enugu’s New Market re-echoed similar view, saying the traders in the market and others in the town will not stop transactions. Both men gave the indication while responding to a plea by the Commissioner of Police, Enugu State Command, Mohammed Danmallam, urging residents to ignore IPOB’s dictates.
Security operatives held a show of force on Wednesday, aimed at striking fear into the hearts of IPOB members and assuring residents of their safety. A human rights activist and lawyer, Ebun-olu Adegboruwa, SAN, urged President Muhammadu Buhari to call security agencies to order, in line with his promise to the international community to respect the rights and freedoms of all citizens. He made this call following the military’s decision to launch Operation Python Dance III in response to the stay-at-home order. The lawyer, however, stressed the need for IPOB to honour judicial processes.
The group said the decision followed credible intelligence alleging terrorist groups plan to slaughter people of the region who intend to celebrate the Independence Day. Powerful in a statement said IPOB will join its Yoruba brethren agitating for Oduduwa Republic, in public protests to mark the day.
IPOB stressed complete and total lockdown of Biafraland and other terror ravaged areas of the Middle Belt on October 1 was sacrosanct, irreversible and non-negotiable. It enjoined Biafrans and every conscious Nigerian to boycott every government-organised ceremony designed to eulogise Nigeria.
‘’We the global movement of IPOB ably led by our great Leader, Nnamdi Kanu, wish to announce to all Biafrans, friends of Biafra and lovers of freedom all over the world that Biafrans across the globe shall observe a sit-at-home in Biafraland and where permissible in the Diaspora, join our Yoruba brethren agitating for Oduduwa Republic, in public protests to mark October 1, 2020.
‘’We, therefore, enjoin all Biafrans and every conscious Nigerian, especially those ethnic nationalities reeling from the triple-double blow of state-sponsored terrorism, bad governance and economic annihilation, to boycott every government organised ceremony designed to eulogise the failure that Nigeria has become.
‘’This is the time to let the world know how disastrously intolerable human existence is in Nigeria today. If you want to see an end to terrorism and organised mediocrity, now is the time to register your anger by ensuring that you and your household sit at home on October 1, 2020. Do not risk the life and well-being of your children by allowing them to gather in groups in the open where terrorists may find it easier to blow them up or kidnap them.
‘’There is credible intelligence that terrorist groups are planning to slaughter our children should they venture out to celebrate or March on October 1st. This order is to highlight our position and resolve as Biafrans that we are no longer interested in propping up a crumbling terrorist state.
‘’The leadership of this great movement in conjunction with supporters of Biafra freedom across the globe have concluded every arrangement to let the whole world know and understand that we are no longer part of this shambolic monument to terrorism and failure.
“As this long expired man made contraption marks her abused independence on October 1st this year, we IPOB will appropriately declare our intention towards the full and irreversible restoration of Biafra sovereignty and independence for all oppressed ethnic groups in Nigeria.
“Complete and total lockdown of Biafraland and other terror ravaged areas of the Middle Belt come 1st of October 2020 is sacrosanct, irreversible and non-negotiable!
“Wholesale slaughter of innocent Judeo-Christians and state-sponsored ethnic cleansing cannot be going on in our land at the same time as fake jamborees are being organised by the same sponsors terror attacks,⁹ in order to deflect our attention away from the imminent danger we are all in.
“We, therefore, urge that all markets, schools and businesses in Biafraland and beyond be shut down as a mark of respect to all those who have died as a result of terrorism against innocent civilians especially Christians, ethnic cleansing in Southern Kaduna and elsewhere across the Middle Belt.
“Everywhere in Biafraland must be under lock for Nigeria and the world to know that we are all united in our march toward total freedom. There should be no public events or ceremonies in Biafraland to avoid any needless loss of lives”, IPOB said.
There was total compliance of the IPOB order in Aba. Traders in this commercial nerve-centre of Abia State who obeyed the sit-at-home order described their action as victory over many years of political deceits and manipulations.
Abia State Government had through a statement by its Secretary, Chris Ezem, said that it will share palliatives to traders in all the major markets in Aba, as part of the activities marking the Independence Day Celebration.
“As part of activities marking the Independence Day Celebration and in appreciation of the cooperation of the Market Community with the Abia State Government in the fight against COVID-19, the Governor of Abia State, Dr. Okezie Victor Ikpeazu, has approved the distribution of Covid-19 Stimulus Package for traders in selected markets”, the statement says.
While the government said stimulus package distribution in Aba will be distributed in following markets: Ariaria International Market, Ekeoha Shopping Centre and Ahia-Ohuru, it went ahead to give the list of so many big government appointees as supervisors for the distribution.
“For Ariaria: Chief of Staff to the Governor, Dr. ACB Agbazuere, to be accompanied by Hon. Commissioner for Industries, Chief Mrs. Uwaoma Olewengwa and Transition Committee Chairman Osisioma and Ag. Transition Chairman for Aba North Local Government Area.
“For Eke-Oha Shopping Centre: the SSG, Barr. Chris Ezem is to be accompanied by Hon. Commissioner for Special Duties, Chief Chimaobi Ebisike and Ag. Transition Chairman Aba South.
“For Ahia Ohuru: Hon. Commissioner for Trade & Investment, Dr. Cosmos Ndukwe is to be accompanied by Hon Commissioner for Agriculture, Prof. Ikechi Mgboji and Hon. Commissioner for Local Government & Chieftaincy Affairs, Sir Gab Onyendilefu.”
The state government further directed the Market Committees /Unions of the affected markets to designate an appropriate assembly point for the distribution which will commence by 9.00a.m. on Thursday, October 1, 2020, before the arrival of the government functionaries who will address them and distribute the stimulus package.
The functionaries were, however, nowhere to be found in Aba, as traders deserted the whole markets in obedience to the order given by Nnamdi Kanu, IPOB leader.
“They announced about the palliatives in the market, but after their announcement, everybody saw the political angle of their intentions. Why didn’t they share these palliatives since people have been crying of hunger?
“During the lockdown, they gave us nothing, but in a move to play the usual Nigerian politics, Gov. Okezie Ikpeazu decided to entice traders with ordinary rice and noodles. We are not hungry. What we want is Biafra”, Ejike Ikeazor, a trader said.
Uwalaka Chizoba, a provision seller at Cemetery Market said she cannot trust the government for any reason, therefore she decided to reject their palliatives which according to her has bad intentions.
“Ever since the coronavirus pandemic started, has the Government given us anything? All they do is to send touts to extort us on a daily basis, but because they know all of us must obey the sit-at-home order by IPOB, they decided to send messages across.
“Igbo politicians are very wicked. I thank God shame didn’t allow them to come to the empty market today. I learnt that they called many national television stations to cover them giving palliatives to traders in Aba. Well, they can go to Umuahia and do that rubbish because it seems there are too many hungry people there because they’re Government workers that are yet to be paid too many months salary arrears.
“I personally commend our people for showing victory over several decades of political deceits and manipulations. This government is shameless. They are busy fighting a group that’s only fighting for the better of all of us.’’
For Powerful, the sit-at-home order issued by the Pro-Biafra group was very successful against all actions of detractors, adding, ‘’the compliance of this order is to showcase our readiness for the speedy coming of Biafra freedom and independence. There are empty markets, roads, no vehicles on the road of Biafra and Biafrans all over the world are on the streets of their respective countries where they find themselves with our brethren from Oduduwa nation.
“We thank our people in South Africa, USA, Canada, Britain, France, Japan, Germany, Indonesia, Australia and other countries of the world for their resoluteness and declared to the world that we are no longer interested in Nigeria. The whole world must understand that IPOB cannot go back to Nigeria.
“This is our joint outing with the Oduduwa nation across the globe therefore everybody must understand and be sure that the disintegration of this British bondage called Nigeria will dissolve in peace. Fulani terrorists in Nigeria army and police uniforms are roaming round the streets and roads of Biafra looking for innocent and unarmed Biafrans to kill.”
IPOB also said that the sit-at-home is also in solidarity with agitators for Oduduwa Republic in Western Nigeria.
Prior to the sit-at-home order, a joint statement by Chika Edoziem, Head, Directorate of State of IPOB and Dr. Sina Okanlomo, International General Secretary of Yoruba One Voice (YOV) urged everyone who is not happy with the situation in Nigeria to stay away from Nigeria’s 60th Independence Day celebration.
“Stay away from participation and involvement in any sham or nebulous October 1, 2020; 60th independence anniversary activities as may be mounted by the Unitary Government of Nigeria.
In specific terms, we hereby call on the peoples of our territories, and indeed all peoples of Nigeria yearning to be free from internal colonization to be prepared to Stay-At-Home on October 1, 2020.
“No one among us should play along with any celebration of 60 years of an imbalanced unequal country. Staying-At-Home means keeping safe and away from the inhuman and inhumane character of the present regime of Major General Buhari.
“Our peoples in the diaspora are hereby enjoined to organize flag flying carnivals and peaceful rallies on October 1, 2020, in all cities across the world.
“A joint Biafra/Oduduwa event marking the beginning of our journey to freedom is to be celebrated in the following weeks. The whole world ought to witness a rekindling of self-awareness and our pride of place among the community of civilized peoples of the world.
“All our peoples are to be on standby in readiness for further calls for peaceful and legal demonstrations of our resolve to be free from the failed Nigerian state.
“These calls will continue to be made for as long as it would be needful, up until our goals for self-determination are achieved. We salute all of you our compatriots here at home and across the world”, they said.
It was the first Independence Day celebration in Aba in recent times where markets, malls, shops and even street trading closed shops. Major markets in the ever-busy commercial city of Aba like: Ekeoha Shopping Centre, Ariaria International Market, Ahia-Ohuru and the Cemetery Market were all deserted as no buyer or seller was seen around the markets, as business activities were completely crippled.
At Ekeoha Shopping Centre located in the heart of Aba, major entrances into the market were left open by the market leadership, but no one was seen around to buy or sell anything. The situation at the Shopping Centre was the same at the Ariaria International Market, the Cemetery Market(Eziukwu Market) and also replicated itself at Ahia-Ohuru(Ngwa Road Market).
That happened in spite of the fact that the Ikpeazu administration forced market chairmen to open gates leading to markets in the area. A trader at Ekeoha Shopping Centre, Eke Steven, said “Chairmen of the whole markets were appointed by the government. We heard that they were warned on Tuesday by authorities from the Government House, Umuahia to open all markets. But, even the market executives that opened the market are nowhere to be found.
“The state government is only trying to show the Federal Government that they’re in charge, but IPOB owns the town. I knew the situation would be like this, but I only came out to see things myself. Nobody is happy about the situation in Nigeria. We want our freedom like today, not even tomorrow.”
Other minor markets like Ehere Market, Jubilee Road spare parts market, Saint Michael’s Road Phone and Computer Accessories market, Ama-Ogbonna Foodstuffs Market, Ahia-Udele, Alaoji Spare Parts Market, and they were all shut down. At the Railway Halt Foodstuffs and Grocery Market, Old Court Chicken and Chemical Market, Nsulu Goat Market, Akwette Clothing and Cotton Market, Umuihelegbu Industrial Market, Bakassi Market and Aba North Shoe Plaza and the story is the same.
Major Motor Parks had no business to do, as passengers and travellers were nowhere to be found. The ever busy Aba to Port Harcourt route was completely free with zero vehicular movement between both cities. There was also no military or police presence in the gates of major markets and streets of Aba unlike the previous calls by IPOB where the military and police usually do show of force.