By Christopher Isiguzo in Enugu, Emmanuel Ugwu in Umuahia and Victor Ogunje in Ado Ekiti
The South-east states governors, Governor Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti State and others yesterday expressed concern overÂ the alleged invasion of the home of the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu, by Nigerian soldiers.
The Director of Media and Public Affairs of the South-east Governorsâ€™ Forum Secretariat, Mr. Mike Udah, who spoke with THISDAY on the phone, described the development as worrisome, expressing the determination of the South-eastÂ States governors towards the sustainability of peace, political stability and economic prosperity in the region.
Udah stated that the governors of the zone had held meetings with the IPOB leader among other Igbo stakeholders to ensure that the agitation for Biafra does not escalate.
â€œWe are worried that there appears to be a strained relationship between the federal government and IPOB. It was to forestall this problem that the governors of the South-east States invited Kanu to their meeting recently in Enugu.
â€œThe governors are working tirelessly to maintain peace not just in the Southeast but also across the country.Â He pointed out that efforts were being made by the South-east states governors to meet over the development and find ways to nip it in the bud.
Also, Fayose condemned the alleged attack by military men onÂ Kanu and his supporters.
He said the All Progressives Congress (APC)-led federal government is becoming authoritarian and intolerable of dissenting voices.
Â A statement from the office of the Chief Press Secretary to the governor, quoted him as saying the federal government ought to wait until itsÂ demand in court that Kanuâ€™s bail be revoked is determined by the courtÂ before taken any action.
â€œThe invasion is condemnable and the present government is becomingÂ authoritarian. It is proving not to be a peaceful one.
The government is also operating double standards. They went to courtÂ to revoke his bail and they canâ€™t be patient enough for the court toÂ decide on the matter.
â€œWe need dialogue. People have to ask the federal government whatÂ the Igbo people have done to deserve all this. Even if they have doneÂ anything wrong, they should be forgiven.
Â â€œTheir attempt at muzzling the opposition will fail. For me, I willÂ continue to be the voice of the opposition,â€ Fayose said.
The governor also urged Nigerians to rise up to the occasion of defending democracy andÂ put the federal government to the task of allowing democracy to thrive and beÂ sustained in the country.
In the same vein, four Igbo socio political groups have reacted to the â€˜unfortunateâ€™ development in Umuahia last Sunday evening.
The groups, including Igbo Leaders of Thought (ILT), Eastern Consultative Assembly (ECA), Igbo Youth Movement (IYM) and Igbo Women Assembly (IWA), in separate statements said driving towards the gate of Kanu, to blare sirens, shoot into the air and display armoured tanks, was clearly a deliberate and fully rehearsed plot to provoke mayhem in not just Umuahia but the South-east zone in general.
In its reaction, ECA said it was worrisome that only a section of the country was being allowed to go on â€œwith the historic culture of enslaving others, to totally control the military, defence, intelligence and security architecture of a multi-ethic, heterogeneous country.â€
Rev. Fr. John Odey, the Publicity Secretary of the ECA, in a statement lamented that â€œisolating a region as five per cent losers, deliberatelyÂ excluding same region from the entire security organs of the country, and now provoking them with a military invasion is the height of insensitivity and brazen insult of a people.
â€œDriving towards the gate of the most popular leader in the zone (A man who controls electrifying adoration of over 99 per cent of the masses of the zone) to blare sirens, shoot into the air and display armoured tanks, is clearly a deliberate and fully rehearsed plot to provoke mayhem,â€ Odey stated.
He added that â€œthe army, the government and friends of the presidency continuously makingÂ it difficult for the people to respect the government.â€
Â Similarly, the Igbo Women Assembly (IWA), the Igbo Leadersâ€™ of Thought, ILT, the Igbo Youth Movement. IYM, the South-east Christian Network and the Igbo Studentsâ€™ Union have also risen in condemnation of the said attack.
Mrs. Maria Okwor of the IWA said: â€œThe idea of invading Kanuâ€™s residence on Sunday evening to â€˜Show forceâ€™ is appalling and very provocative. The army cannot show force in Sambisa, in Plateau State (where hundreds of villagers were slaughtered by Fulani herdsmen) in Ikorodu, Lagos, (where badoo cult have forced residents to relocate).
â€œThe display of show of force five meters from Kanuâ€™s bedroom is a pointer that federal government wants to provoke warfare in the South-east. This government is clearly an enemy government. We call on the federal government to apologise without delay for this infantile act of deliberate provocation.â€
On his part, Eliot Ugochukwu-Uko of the ILT and the IYMÂ maintained that â€œthe story by the army that some kids threw stones at the military convoy is hollow and uninspiring.
â€œWhy would the army choose Kanuâ€™s residence to perform their â€˜show of forceâ€™ on Sunday evening. Why would the army choose Kanuâ€™s residence of allÂ places to show force, only to claim that unknown children pelted them with stones, in order to justify their use of live bullets on a residential compound.
â€œTheÂ Nigerian army is only confirming the suspicious, that it is a sectional army determined to wage war against the people of eastern Nigeria, all in a bid to sustain Nigeriaâ€™s unjust unitary structure, and to resist the restructuring of Nigeria. Injustice will not prevail over justice.
â€œThey are only making Kanu more loved and more deified,â€ Ugochukwu-Uko said.
Also, several civil society organisations and traditional rulers have condemned the ongoing provocative militarisation of South-east zone.
The groups who were reacting to the so-called â€œshow of forceâ€ by the military said that such action was capable of prodding and provoking people to violence in order to give the federal authorities the reason it has been seeking to unleash violence in the South-east.
Traditional rulers in Umuahia North local government yesterday warned the federal government against the use of force to quell the rising agitation for Biafra self- determination.
Chairman of Traditional Rulersâ€™ Council, Umuahia North, Eze Philip Ajomiwe, said the federal authorities instead of displaying naked and brutish force should engage Biafra agitators in dialogue.
He said the invasion of the palace of the traditional ruler of Afaraukwu Ibeku, Eze Israel Kanu, who is the father of the IPOB leader Ajomiwe was an affront on the entire traditional institution in Abia as well as an attack on Ndigbo.
â€œArresting Kanu wonâ€™t solve the Nigeria problem. Even if you kill Kanu today, IPOB is still there and greater Kanus will come up. If they kill the whole Abia, Ndigbo are still outside Nigeria. We should think before acting and not act before thinking,â€ Eze Ajomiwe said.
Similarly the Igbo Traders Association and the Igbo Students Union did not spare the federal government and the army for pushing the country along â€œa dangerous pathâ€ that could lead to unpleasant consequences.
Also, an aspirant for the 2019 Imo State gubernatorial election, Chief Robert Opara, has condemned the invasion.
Opara described the action as â€œan act of provocation and show of obnoxious impunityâ€ while condemning it and calling for the immediate withdrawal of the soldiers. He frowned at the military exercise contending that it â€œwill escalate the tensions between IPOB members, the deployed soldiers and the federal government at a critical time when October 1 is looming large in the psyche of Southeast people with the quit notice handed out by the Arewa Youths purportedly aided on and supported by leaders and some governors of the northern region.â€
The governorship hopeful argued that if President Buhari could sit and negotiate with Boko Haram there is no reason such gesture should not be extended to IPOB and other interest groups in the Southwest and the Niger Delta.