By Emmanuel Ugwu in Umuahia
Efforts by the federal authorities to brutally suppress the Biafra agitation appear to be backfiring as 26 civil society organisations have taken steps to endorse the non-violent agitation championed by the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and to call for a referendum to decide the future of Nigeria as one entity.
The decision was taken at the weekend in Enugu at a meeting of the CSOs drawn from the South-east and South-south zones in the wake of the massacre of unarmed agitators during the 49th anniversary celebration of Biafra.
The groups in their communiqué, however said a final decision on whether to openly back IPOB or not would be taken at their next meeting scheduled for June 27 in Umuahia, Abia State, after building “a larger coalition and consulting more widely.”
It was gathered that the meeting was convened by octogenarian, Mrs. Mariah Okwor, who is also leader of Igbo Women Assembly (IWA), with the sole agenda of taking a stand on IPOB agitation.
Some of the organisations represented at the Enugu meeting were the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN), Traditional Rulers, Igbo Traders Congress, Ohanaeze Youth Forum, Igbo in Academia, South-east Professionals, Niger Delta Youth Forum, Old Eastern Region Movement, World Igbo Congress, Igbo Survival Movement, South East Youth Congress, among others.
While the groups thoroughly condemned the May 30 Biafra Day massacre in Onitsha, they also expressed anger at the apparent silence of South-east governors over the cold blooded massacre of 81 easterners on Monday around Onitsha and its environs during the 49th Anniversary of the annual May 30 Biafra Day Ceremony.”
Bishop Michael Ibeneme of the Lords Salvation Gospel Ministry, who chaired the meeting, lamented the deliberate attempt by the army to blackmail the youths by claiming that the agitators turned violent.
“It is fabricated lies; the youths were deliberately murdered by the soldiers simply because someone in Abuja does not want to hear the name Biafra. Everybody knows those boys were not armed,” he said, adding, “This mindless killing is unacceptable.”
It was an effusive outpouring of grief and condemnations at the meeting as speaker after speaker vehemently cried out over “the attempt to silence the truth by taking away more than half of the corpses by the military.”
The convener, Mrs. Okwor said: “This brutal genocide has clearly redefined the Nigerian reality. It is extremely difficult for any sane person to continue to support or even feel safe in any state where cold blooded murder by the state has become an everyday occurrence.
“We are totally shocked at the ruthlessness and wickedness of killing our children in cold blood. Our governors by their silence are only trying to isolate themselves from the people. Soon the people will mass up on one side and Buhari, the soldiers and the governors on another side. They will soon find out that they are Leaders without followers. Everybody is mourning. The killings are unacceptable.”
Meanwhile, the founder of Igbo Youth Movement (IYM) and deputy secretary of Igbo Leaders of Thought, Evangelist Elliot Uko, has appealed to all aggrieved youths of Eastern region to remain non-violent in their agitation for justice and equity, assuring them that the masses are with them.
He made the appeal while addressing student union leaders from 44 tertiary institutions the South-east, saying that “the injustice in Nigeria can never be solved by killing unarmed youths and then turn round to falsely accuse them of attacking military men.”
“We all know IPOB (members) are not armed, and we plead with them not to succumb to pressure and temptation to take up arms. The decision to kill them was a terrible mistake. Now everybody is identifying with their course, even those who didn’t support them in the past now sympathise with them,” he said.