Ndigbo and the bugaboo of Unknown Gunmen

Ndigbo and the bugaboo of Unknown Gunmen

THE PUBLIC SPHERE with Chido Nwakanma

Between Lagos State Police Commissioner Hakeem Odumosu, Mr Joe Igbokwe and The Presidency at the Aso Rock Villa, we now have a clearer idea of the phenomenon of unknown gunmen and unknown robbers.

The “unknown gunmen” must be of immediate concern to everyone as they incite violence across the South East and South-South. It is time to interrogate the matter and for Igbo leaders to rise to the challenge. We must speak louder.

Unknown shooters initially posed a Whodunit to the land. There was palpable confusion. That confusion is clearing now, and we can see through the dust and smoke.
There are two narratives and one conclusion.

The conclusion is that both the Federal Government and IPOB owe the South East better. IPOB should desist forthwith from whatever makes people associate them with unknown gunmen despite their denials. The Federal Government owes the region better security and civic engagement than is at play currently.

The first narrative alleges that the region’s young men, through the Eastern Security Network (ESN) of IPOB, have turned their land into a lawless centre of violence. Those pushing the narrative say the elders and elite of Igboland are complicit as they have allegedly failed to speak up against the unknown perpetrators.

The second version sees it differently and leans on the conspiracy theory of a false flag operation. “A false flag operation is an act committed with the intent of disguising the actual source of responsibility and pinning the blame on another party. The term is popular amongst conspiracy theory promoters in referring to covert operations of various governments and cabals” -Wikipedia.

They point to the Owerri escapade saying it compels a closer look and interrogation. Unknown Gunmen reportedly perpetrated the daredevilry of attacking the epicentre of security operations in Owerri. They targeted the headquarters of the Nigerian Police Force in Imo State and the Federal Correctional Centre. Within that vicinity are also the Nigerian Army, a police barracks, DSS and all.

As the story goes, these security arms helplessly watched as UGM shot into the Police Headquarters and the Correctional Centre for three hours. They did not put up a defence or a counter. Nothing. By some curiosity deeper than Alice in Wonderland saw, there was little casualty from the three-hour operation. How could that happen?

Soon, Governor Hope Uzodinma tipped his hand. He accused IPOB of perpetrating the attack. So did the former Inspector General of Police. They claimed that IPOB walked through the valley of the shadow of death, did not fear the Nigerian Police, Army or defenders of the nearby Office of the Governor and went away after three hours.

IPOB denied it. That organisation said it could not possibly have carried out the attack. Governor Uzodinma backtracked. He withdrew his accusation against IPOB and shifted blame to political enemies of his government.
Enter 6 May 2020. Nigerian Army claimed they repelled an attack by UGM on a divisional police headquarters in Imo State. They named IPOB as the culprit and had 11 bodies to show as evidence. The Director, Army Public Relations, Brig-Gen Mohammed Yerima, in a release, said “vigilant police personnel” resisted and “completely obliterated them” when a reinforcement team of the Nigerian Army and Nigerian Air Force arrived at the scene. The Army stated that the attackers “were said to have come from a forest in Ideato North.

My friend wrote from Owerri. “A couple of IPOB people declared that IPOB is not involved in the shooting. They say IPOB cannot kill Igbo police officers and destroy police presence in the zone, thereby exposing the people to greater insecurity. After the Army killed Ikonso, an ESN military commander, the military laid out his corpse. It displayed the charms, uniforms, and guns they had captured. One IPOB person pointed out that IPOB does not have machine guns that use chain bullets. He said that they do not wear army uniforms and wondered where they got the military uniforms put alongside the man in the photograph. He also wondered how they showed only two magazines for the five AK 47 guns they laid out in the picture.

“A former Governor gave militants affiliated to the late Don Warney of Omoku amnesty after Governor Nyesom Wike had declared them “Wanted dead or alive”. He allegedly gave them 50m Naira, guns, military uniforms, and cars and used them in the last election. Those boys are still around, and they are very loyal to one of the former leader’s hatchet men, who come from Egbema. They are the people Hope Uzodinma suspects of being behind all that is happening. It is also possible that some local hoodlums are masquerading as ESN to achieve their purposes.”
The origin of the mayhem at Akokwa and Ozubulu are unclear. The perpetrators hijacked vehicles and deployed at Akokwa. The Army and the police stopped them.

Then Commissioner of Police Hakeem Odumosu gives police imprimatur to the piffle talk of Lagos State drainage commander Joe Igbokwe claiming IPOB seeks to attack Lagos. Odumosu says IPOB will attack unnamed “soft targets”. Several Yoruba and Igbo groups shot him down. Odumosu’s call came when Nigerian intelligence should be paying attention to American intelligence alleging possible siege on the cities of the South by Islamic terror groups. IPOB denied it as well.

UGM and the new one of unknown robbers at the centre of power in Abuja paint the picture of an incompetent and derelict government. It is frightening in strategic terms because it says Nigeria is ripe for the taking by all forces. Government should not give the notion of lack of capacity and capability when Chad and Cameroon are so brittle.

What is going on? Whatever it is or whoever is at fault, Alaigbo should be watchful and mindful. Groups such as Ohanaeze, Nzuko Umunna, Society of Igbo Professionals must speak up. We must reject these attacks and name the two prime suspects: UGM and the Nigerian Security Forces. We must engage resistance, passive and active. If necessary, examine the counsel of Governor Samuel Ortom.

Our many challenges include the lack of a standard definition of the enemy. However, the threat is clear, and we can all see it. We should not romance either ESN or the Nigerian Security. These incidents endanger Alaigbo.
It is shameful and unacceptable if IPOB is responsible. Ndigbo should call them out. Everyone should chain his dog as our dog has gone astray.

In the government’s eagerness to give a dog a bad name to hang it, IPOB is the only culprit. Yet, things are not always what they seem. More significantly, the Federal and Imo State governments have a strategy of victimising or killing innocent people in the name of chasing ESN. Unfortunately, it will only win more sympathisers for the ESN/IPOB and gain converts. We saw this happen with Boko Haram.

A situation where the Unknown Gunmen strike at a place and go away, and for the next few days, the Army is going around rounding up young men and taking them to God knows where is not acceptable. No one has seen many of the young men since then.

Why do the Police not respond to the UGM? Why? Take the attack on the Uzuakoli Police Station. The authorities reportedly acted on intelligence and evacuated. UGM then attacked the station, not knowing the force had relocated its men. How come the intelligence did not instruct on a counterattack? So, even as the authorities knew the UGM was coming, they stayed away and allowed them to go scot-free. Why? The non-response sends a message of incompetence or complicity. Which is it? What is going on?

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