Nzuko Umunna has condemned the planned crackdown of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB).
1. NZUKO UMUNNA is alarmed at the recent directive by the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai to GOCs and field commanders to clamp down immediately on members of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) over unsubstantiated plans to disrupt the forthcoming general elections.
2. The claim by General Buratai that the activities of IPOB and its ‘splinter groups’ are gaining momentum in the South Eastern part of the country is not borne out by facts, as the South East zone has remained perhaps the most peaceful and safest part of Nigeria.
3. We view as totally misplaced and uncalled for, the planned clampdown on IPOB members as well as the attendant militarization of the forthcoming elections and the South East zone generally. We urge President Muhammadu Buhari to prevail on the military hierarchy to immediately call off the so-called “Operations Safe Conduct.”
4. In fact, rather than quell any perceived excesses of IPOB, this ill-advised military operations is bound to foul the peaceful political climate in the South East Zone and provoke restiveness among Igbo youths. This will turn the South East zone into yet another killing field, reminiscent of the September 2017 Operation Python Dance bloodbath which reportedly claimed the lives of about 200 defenceless Igbo youths.
5. It is particularly curious that while the Army chief has ordered immediate military clampdown on the South East zone, he has merely asked the GOCs and commanders to encourage “enhanced liaison” in very volatile zones of the country in order to “de-escalate tension.” If this is not a deliberate plot to achieve some uncharitable ends, it would seem like turning military strategy on its head.
6. We note that IPOB has merely urged its members to sit at home during the forthcoming elections as a ‘referendum’ for its quest towards self-determination, even as a similar call for the boycott of the last Anambra Governorship Election was spectacularly uneventful.
7. We fully align ourselves with the position of Ohanaeze Ndigbo on the subject as set out in the statement by its President General, Dr. John Nnia Nwodo, and urge the military authorities to allow Igbo traditional rulers, community leaders and religious leaders restrain their youths where necessary.
8. We also support the call by the international community including the United States for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and security agencies to ensure that all candidates in the elections enjoy a level-playing ground. This is an irreducible minimum in contemporary democratic practice.
9. It is noteworthy that unlike some terrorist organisations like ISIS that have declared war on the state, IPOB has consistently affirmed that it is a lawful and non-violent socio-ethnic pressure group seeking self-determination as guaranteed under international law.
10. The planned onslaught against its members may be prejudicial to the appeal filed by IPOB at Nigeria’s Court of Appeal to set aside its January 22, 2018 proscription by the Federal High Court, thereby foisting a fait accompli on the appellate court.
11. It is equally curious that while the Free World has embraced IPOB and its leadership, the military authorities continue to demonize the group. IPOB Leader, Mr. Nnamdi Kanu resides in the United Kingdom, a bastion of democracy, with his full rights, even as his followers are hounded by Nigeria’s Armed Forces for unsubstantiated reasons. This must cease.
12. We urge all Nigerians especially Ndigbo not to be deterred by the planned militarization of the electoral process but to come out enmasse and vote for candidates of their choice as well as safeguard their votes.
Mr. Ngozi Odumuko
Mr. Paschal Mbanefo