Saturday, October 31, 2015

How Buhari Should Address the Biafran Activists Issue, by Chekwas Okorie
October 25, 2015
By Yinka Ajayi
Nigerian Vanguard

Chief Checkwas Okorie, founder of embattled All Progressive Grand Alliance, APGA, in this interview, calls on President Buhari administration to be creative in addressing Biafra agitation issue.

The agitation for Biafra has continued several decades after civil war. What is the problem?

The issue for the agitation for Biafra has to do with agitation for self-determination by people wish to be treated with fairness, equity and justice.

Most of the young men on the street agitating for Biafra were born after the war and so looks like they do not know what led to the war. They cannot understand why their own people since they were born are invariably different from their peers in other parts of the country.

The South-east has suffered the most neglect from the Federal Government of Nigeria in terms of road construction. Even under  former President Jonathan’s administration, it was not any better.

The Buhari’s administration has just begun, so we cannot blame him that much. The matter was not picked up because Buhari became President; the Biafran agitation had been there practically since early 90s. But if  Buhari manages to address the agitation, the issue will die down. After all the Niger-Delta militancy preceeded the late President Yar’Adua. But his political moves doused the tension in that region with the initiative of amnesty.

It was the mismanagement of the Boko-Haram issue by the extra judicial killings of their leader that generated trouble in that region andt has turned to war  in Nigeria.

Arresting of agitators of the emancipation of Biafran state in my view, we have not learning from the Boko-Haram experience.

The promoter of Biafra Radio, Nnamdi Kanu, has been arrested by the DSS sparking protests in some major Igbo towns. What is the way out?

The government should release him unconditionally. If government feels her right has been infringed upon,she can go to court to press charges against him. You are aware that he has good lawyers to defend him. If care is not taken, it will become a celebrated case that would be tried under Nigeria laws. Because we have heard about radio Kudirat, it was not a properly registered radio. One of the ministerial nominees, Kayode Fayemi, said he had headed an illegal radio station before. Even the pro-APC radio that operated during the campaign period was not properly registered. I have not listened to Radio Biafra to know its position but I was informed that it is aggressive. It is people’s choice to decide to tune to it or not to.

I understand there have been attempts to use technology to jam the frequency of the radio but the attempts appear to have failed. The arrest of Boko-Haram leader Muhammed Yusuf was given as reason for the violence and spread of Boko-haram that has developed into a full-blown war in the North-east.

The fact that so many people came out to protest the arrest of Nnamdi Kanu shows he has a very large followership! And the followership may result into violent force, if mismanaged and I don’t think Nigeria can afford another violent crisis at this point in time we are battling Boko-Haram. We were able to manage Niger-Delta militancy very well, we should device a creative way to address the issue of agitation.

But does these not show that the Igbo question has not been addressed adequately?

Precisely, that is what I imply. The Igbo expectation have not been met and government policies are not adequately implemented. The entire South-east  area is ravaged by erosion, unusable roads, the Second Niger-Brigde has become what politicians use as campaign. We are not even talking about representation at the centre. I believe strongly that government is yet to perform up to expectations.

But don’t you think some set of Igbo are over reacting on the issue?

The Igbo are very constrained, there are so many things that happened to Igbo leaders that will never happen to northern leaders and Nigeria will remain the same. There are so many intolerable utterances Igbo are swallowing.

Was that what led to your agitating in the last National Conference for peaceful means of break-up ingrained in our Constitution?

I saw it as a lasting solution to the whole problem. Don’t forget that every region including South, East and West has always agitated for true federalism. This true federalism has been frustrated by those benefiting at the structure Nigeria is presently running.

The exit clause that I   advocated for was nothing out of proportion. There is an exit clause in ethopian constitution. We also have an exit clause in the constitution of Canada; that is why every 10years, there is always a referendum to review their being together.

The one that took place in scotland sometime ago is an example of where there was a referendum to opt-out of United Kingdom! How did Britain handle it, they made more concession to the Scottish people and most Scottish felt with the concession there was no need opting out of a bigger union and they voted in favour of the union.

How do you think President Buhari should address the Ndigbo question?

President Buhari just assumed office. He is taking his time to organise his cabinet. Although few changes are there that benefit everybody because is not only Igbo people that are enjoying electricity or benefit from his anti-corruption efforts, but the specific need of the South-East people is citizenship right because they are the ones who are more dispersed and more settled in other parts of Nigeria than any other ethnic group. So the citizens right is very crucial to the igbo interest.

We expect that he addresses issues as they are brought to him. And if he is unable to address them, its will become subject of the next election in constitutional change of power.

Of Fulani Rapists and Enugu Women Protest

October 31, 2015
By Sheddy Ozoene

Rural women in Enugu state, who now live in fear and torment of Fulani herdsmen, are now asking their husbands and the government they elected into office, to protect them. The women whose main preoccupation is subsistence farming, can no longer venture into distant farms alone for fear of being raped and/or killed by Fulani herdsmen who have virtually taken over their farms.

The horrendous incidents prevail in several communities in Igboland, but in Udi and Ezeagu Local Governments Areas of Enugu state, the impunity of herdsmen has become more pronounced.

Hundreds have suffered humiliation in their hands and the hapless women had borne their burden silently, expecting that their husbands will rise to the occasion of protecting them. Though the state government has on several occasions assured that something was being done to arrest the situation, their efforts are yet to yield any impact.

The Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) has since stepped in to give the victims a voice and be in the forefront of addressing the issue especially in Udi and Ezeagu LGAs. Under the aegis the Church’s Mothers’ Union/ Women’s Guild led by the Bishop’s wife, Mrs. Achogaonye Eze, they had decided enough was enough. Penultimate Tuesday, they had mobilized women in their hundreds from the adjourning Local Governments of Enugu-North, Enugu-East, Udi and Ezeagu Local Governments Areas of Enugu state on a protest march to the state government.fulani-widows

At the state House of Assembly, they displayed placards calling on the state government to quickly halt incessant attacks by Fulani herdsmen who have taken over their farmlands and rendered them unable to feed their children. Some of the placards read: ‘Fulani herdsmen kill our people’, ‘Herdsmen Now Carry AK 47;’ ‘Fulani herdsmen should leave our farmlands’.

The protest which drew attention to the heinous activities of the herdsmen, also warned of an impending anarchy in the event that government at both state and federal levels continue to remain indifferent to the security threat in the area in particular, and Igboland in general. It was indeed a peaceful demonstration but the anger in them was unmistakable.

Their leader, Mrs Eze lamented that the herdsmen have so far defied every entreaty by community leaders and public-spirited individuals to resolve the recurring problem, adding that the women whose lives are now in perpetual danger, cannot continue to keep quiet. “Women are daily being molested, maimed and raped while their farmland and livestock are routinely destroyed” she said.

Just the other day, they were alleged to have killed two men at Eke community, while incidents of robbery have become commonplace on the major roads, especially at Ugwu Onyeama, the major entry into the state capital. According to Mrs Eze, “unless the government at state and federal levels rise to the duty of protecting defenceless citizens, the herdsmen will continue to put women in Igboland in grave danger”.

The women, like their menfolk in Udi and Ezeagu areas, are obviously helpless. Having complained to the law enforcement agencies to no avail, the herdsmen who are usually armed with sophisticated weapons have become even more daring, defying even the community vigilante groups. Women and young men are now afraid to go to the farm unless they are in groups for fear of rape or outright killing.

Apart from the recent incident at Eke community where two men were allegedly killed by the herdsmen, they had also allegedly kidnapped a woman and her pregnant daughter in Nze community on the allegation that the family benefited from a stolen cow. They had stormed the villages claiming that their cows are missing and threatening to kill people if the cows are not found.

In other places like Umuoka, Aguobu Owa, Olo and Ngwo, men have received machete cuts and others killed outrightly for daring to ask why his farmland was destroyed or why their wives were raped in their farms. In Okpatu, Obioma, Nsude and Abor, men hardly go to farms anymore for fear of being killed, resorting only to farming around their homes. There are ongoing cases between the villagers and the Fulanis over rape of women and wanton destruction of crops which were reported to the police to no avail.

Two days ago, Mrs Eze had again gathered women of the area at the Ejindu Centre of the Diocesan headquarters in Ngwo to review the last protest march and plan their next line of action. Not only has she forwarded a formal letter to the state government as requested by the Speaker of the House of Assembly, they also plan to take the demonstration to the state governor, Hon. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi at the state Government House the next time around.

The activities of Fulani herdsmen who came into the various communities subtly and were well received as tenants and fellow Nigerians, have become a thorn in the flesh of the people of Enugu state. While they have terrorized their hosts with their sophisticated weapons and raped their women with abandon, there is the general feeling of helplessness among the hosts whose complaints to the police have met with little attention.

The situation may not be different in other parts of the North Central and Southern Nigeria as the fatal clashes in Benue state and the abduction of Chief Olu Falae in far away Ondo state attest. If the events of the past few years are not enough to drag state governments in Igboland out from their comfort zones, the question must be asked: for how long will this anarchy prevail before they act to address the issue?

Sheddy Ozoene is Director of Communications for the Anglican Diocese of Enugu North

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