This certainly may not be the best of times for Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State as he meddles yet again into another controversy. The alleged massive killing unreported going on under ground in the Oyigbo area of the state have once again put Wike in the eyes of the storm.
The alleged killings have attracted public outrage, nationally and globally with many describing it as genocide. The Rivers governor is not new to controversy neither is he a stranger in the management of violence. But what is the new issue about Wike one may ask.
The Endsars protest which engulfed the nation was allegedly hijacked by hoodlums who took advantage of it to inflict injuries on public institutions and property of which Rivers State is not an exception. Reports indicate that three police stations, an Area Command and a court were burnt, and three policemen killed in Oyigbo Local Government Area.
On the eve of the 2020 Nigeria Independence Anniversary, there was the alleged killing of a Special Anti-Robbery Squad, SARS, operative and burning of a patrol vehicle before the nationwide #ENDSARS protests began. The boys of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) were strongly fingered in the two incidents. IPOB is a secessionist group led by Mazi Nnamdi Kanu gunning for a Biafra nation.
The above events inflamed the Rivers governor who as the chief security officer of his state rose to the challenge by taking what he deemed the appropriate step. He had to further outlaw the group in Rivers State using his executive order. He further charged the Council chairmen to fish out the boys wherever they may be hiding in every corner of the state.
In his words, “This is clearly a group where existence, creed, mission and activities are strongly denounced even by governments and people of south-eastern states. “I therefore sign this Executive Order to reinforce total ban on IPOB and its activities in Rivers or any part thereof and nothing will stop us from enforcing this ban in its entirety”.
According to a published report Mukan, the Commissioner of Police declared four hoodlums killed and 21 suspects arrested in that situation report. In gruesome manner, Inspector Sunday Dubon, an Armoured Personnel Carrier Driver attached to state Anti-Kidnapping Unit, and Sgt. Swawale Ornan, on Special Duty at Oyigbo, were both killed and burnt to ashes.
Third police casualty, Umunna Uchechukwu, serving in Afam Police Station, first “had his legs and hands cut off before being burnt to ashes”, according to the CP. Strangely, in spite of Wike’s repeated reference to soldiers equally killed and burnt in the Oyigbo incident, authorities at the 6 Division of the Nigeria Army have kept sealed lips, declining confirmation or dismissal of the toll on its personnel damages
Various accounts indicate that the soldiers have been on a vengeful occupation of the area, moving from house to house in search of the IPOB boys, allegedly its shooting and killing according to community information. Just as the army has refused confirmation or the toll the alleged IPOB killing took on its personnel, they have equally refused official comment on the alleged vengeful army occupation of Obigbo.
The victims of the government’s decision who took refuge in their various houses have cried out over their plight because of the menace of hunger which they can no longer cope with. They have run out of food since the one week of the crackdown and are appealing to well meaning members of the public and Igbo leaders to come to their aid.
There are also reports that the soldiers are allegedly killing innocent indigenes and citizens of Oyibo for over a week now using local vigilantes who move from house to house in search of IPOB boys
A distress call by a trapped citizen in the Oyigbo saga to Dr Sam Amadi read thus, “Good morning Dr. Sam. Please people should do something about Obigbo.
People are dying in their houses from hunger and health issues. The soldiers are not even allowing people to go out to fetch water, talk less of buying food. Systematic genocide is being perpetrated here.”
Bishop Edwin lamenting stated, “12 days of 24 hours curfew in Obigbo and counting, yet Nyesom Wike still sleeps at night. Same starvation as a war tool that killed six million Igbos.. Pregnant women are bleeding to death. Youths are hacked down.
Doors burst open to burst skulls..please always remember, it is not Fulani herdsmen this time, It is one of us. Sorry an ex-one of us!!!”
Wike’s action has received widespread reaction with many taking a swipe at him. By this singular action he has attracted to himself more enemies than friends. To some his move is perceived as flogging a dead horse which has no consequences. The IPOB the canvassers of this view argue is already an outlawed group which the federal government slammed with the tag of a terrorist organization.
In the words of Dr. Ugombuchi Friday Osuala, a United States based medical practitioner, “Gov Wike proscribed IPOB by executive order. I thought he is a lawyer by training. How can you proscribe an entity that has already been proscribed by Federal government years back? I think he is idle and has nothing tangible to do. He has an Attorney General who claims to be a professor of law too. Meanwhile Gov Wike has been churning out one illegality after another.
“Yes, even if he is using his concurrent power, this entity has been proscribed by the Federal Government , all he has to do is to help enforce the already established proscription order, so why bother issuing another proscription order. Is it not medicine after death? It is because he likes attention and likes flexing his power as an Emperor and Lord of the Manor”, he concluded.
In another reaction Dr. Sam Amadi, a human rights activist, lawyer and former chairman, National Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) warned that, “this notion of making a community or a people a collateral damage for the alleged crimes of a few is primitive and barbaric. Any governor or person who supports it is primitive and barbaric and has no respect for human life and freedom.
“We need to progress quickly to where no matter the provocation or crime we can smartly deal with those involved without putting everyone else in sight in harm’s way. That is rudimentary civilization. This mass violence must stop.”
The foregoing comment from the former governorship aspirant of the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) is a sure reflection of the approach adopted by the leaders when incidents of same nature occur in places.
Recently, at an Imo community called Ubomiri in Mbaitoli local government area, killing of two soldiers by an unidentified people allegedly attracted reprisal killings over ten people by soldiers. It left everybody scampering for safety. An official of the LGA died in the process.
Lending credence to Amadi’s statement a community account stated thus “Unfortunately, those who may have committed whatever havoc against the security operatives are predominantly strangers who hardly stay in the community.
Now, innocent landlords and tenants who hardly have anywhere else to go are bearing the brunt. Soldiers are chasing people, police are chasing. I and my children have had to relocate to Port Harcourt, leaving only my husband at home.”
But what could have possibly led Wike to take this action that has dispatched people to their untimely graves. One of his major responsibilities is the protection of lives and properties. To what extent has he been able to discharge this duty in the instant case? The responses are as varied as the persons making the comments.
Martins Ori, Managing Editor of a regional tabloid circulating in the South East was a kind of speculative in his reaction. Feeling sympathy for Wike he submitted that Wike may be acting on a wrong security report leading him to unleash the military on the people. The report he went on to suspect may have been influenced by higher forces to get at the IPOB using Wike as a tool.
A Port Harcourt based journalist speaking under condition of anonymity said, “When Wike came in newly into office, he was indirectly supporting IPOB and allowed them to carry on their procession in Port Harcourt without any molestation. However, two things made him change his mind towards IPOB members.
“One is that he has Vice Presidential ambition in 2023 and secondly the federal government has not relented in threatening to declare state of emergency in Rivers State at every slight provocation. At the heat of Covid-19 Wike declared lockdown in Port Harcourt and Obio Akpor and the FG was not happy because it was affecting the activities of the oil companies.
“Arrangements had been concluded to declare emergency rule, but he got the “intel’ and unlocked Port Harcourt metropolis. Wike that I know does not want to be caught on the wrong side of the law in order not to truncate his ambition”
In what appears a corroboration of the above, a group operating as Igbo National Council (INC) averred that “Intelligence available to the Igbo National Council (INC) shows that the satanic alliance of Nyesom Wike with the Jihadists Nigerian soldiers was triggered by his inordinate desperate ambition to vie for Vice President in 2023 presidential race.
The script is that Nyesom Wike must show to the Jihadists that he has the capacity and willingness to attack and try to exterminate the Igbo race in Rivers State as condition to get the support of the Caliphate. They urged him to recall the blood thirsty soldiers.
Another Diaspora Nigerian called Andy Chukwuma in response stated that “Wike is positioning himself with the governor of Sokoto State, Tambuwal. Don’t mind him; he is only using IPOB to play politics. Just two months ago he stated that if anyone makes him angry, he will declare Rivers State a state of Biafra. And today, he is singing a different verse of the same hymn”
Some political watchers have dismissed Wike’s action as the desperation of an ambitious politician who is content at sacrificing his Igbo brothers to please his northern political power brokers whom he expects to reap from the benefits of a vice presidential seat come 2023. It is certain gambles they argue while, yet a few see it as power intoxication gone too far.
Some social media commentators and political analysts have stated that many people are of the opinion that those causing the security breaches are hoodlums Rivers State politicians armed during elections but could not retrieve the arms thereafter. The mind is left guessing whom these politicians were that never got the attention of the governor at the time.
Reopening old wounds
Rivers State has never ceased to be a hot bed of cultism and violence which has embarrassed the government to no end, and which was suspected to earn the state a state of emergency by the federal government. It is important to ask why the governor never deemed it fit then to outlaw the warring cult groups while it lasted. A worried Ikwerre man speaking under anonymity queried.
Historically speaking, Wike and his Ikwerre ethnicity are reported to trace their roots from Igbo land no matter how much the fact is distorted or controverted. Before the arrival of Harcourt Whyte whose name replaced the city, which was called Igweocha, the capital city was dominantly an Igbo enclave.
A far greater percentage of development efforts, investment programs and control of commercial activities are concentrated in the hands of the Igbo whose people populate the IPOB.
Despite the seizure of their properties in the abandoned property saga, Igbos still have a commanding stake in Rivers as at present. The Igbo and the minority tribes of the South-South are all in the same boat in the fight against marginalization. This fight is what has brought the youths of the ethnic groups together to compare notes.
When Wike spoke as he issued his order against IPOB, he tried to distance himself as an Igbo and many have reportedly quoted him as claiming to be non-Igbo. Given the dominance of Igbos in Rivers State, for which he cannot deny their impact many suspects that he may be reopening old wound which might pitch the Igbos against him and his people.
Wike has come under fire attracting severe criticisms from the Igbo residents and his kinsmen alike. According to an indigene of Aluu in Ikwerre local government, one community leader who gave his name as Amadi, condemned the alleged killings by the military in Oyigbo because in his words, “no man has a right to take the life of another in such a violent manner, life is sacred, no man can create one and God abhors all manner of shedding blood, no matter the justification.
He also had unkind words against the hoodlums who initiated the killing of policemen and burning of government properties.
Governor Wike has also denied the allegation that he ordered the killing of the Igbos in Oyigbo. He made the denial in a broadcast Monday during which he restated the imposition of curfew in the area to restore peace in the environment.
The former Minister of Education argued, “So it is not true that I ordered the military to kill Igbos in Oyigbo. When did I become a friend to the Military? So, what about the Igbos living elsewhere in the state are they also being killed?
Continuing, he maintained that he has, “no relationship with the Army or the Police, I do not command them. They change Commissioner of Police every time. How will I begin to direct the Army that I do not give instruction?
“I will not fold my arms and watch criminals destroy my state if those few criminals are Igbos, then they should know that I will not allow them. They made an attempt to rename a local government in my state. That alone is a signal. I will not agree to that. I know who is doing all these, who has told them to rise, protest against Wike.” Wike also alleged that the IPOB boys also hoisted its flag in one of the primary schools.
This denial has however attracted a reaction from a social critic and media practitioner, Larien Sagas, ”Wike cannot deny ignorance of what is going on. He is the one who says that IPOB is the group perpetrating mayhem and IPOB is an Igbo group, so he can’t deny that. But if he said that he sent them to control and ensure peace there and now the soldiers begin to overreact, this can be understood but not to deny.
I guess he is now toeing the line of Mr. President who denies what is going on in the country, yet he is the chief security officer of the state.”
Reacting on Wike’s denial, Steve Uzoechi, Imo NUJ Chairman (Interim) and the State Correspondent of Telegraph newspaper had this to say.
“Due process and standard practice is that the President of the country is the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces and that gives Wike what is called plausible deniability so he can extricate himself from anything that the military does and so legally you don’t blame him. Secondly, he is the chief security officer of Rivers State, so he has some responsibility. Even if he cannot control or contain the army, he has some responsibility, he can at least condemn what they have done or is doing.
“This is because instead of one innocent person suffering let all the criminals go free. He should at least condemn it. Impunity is no where found in our laws and the life of one citizen is valued above whatever is the consequences of not catching a thousand criminals may mean.
All other people that are locked up in their houses without food, can’t come out because they are afraid of being felled by bullet, are suffering for what they do not know.
“This is supposed to be a law abiding nation, a nation governed by law but we find it convenient to suspend law and take drastic action that ordinary people the leaders ought to protect are the ones bearing the consequences. This not what any society that intends to survive should do.
The people that wield power in this nation use it with such brute impunity because the course of justice no longer grinds, not slowly, but no longer grinds again”
Some political pundits are also of the view that Wike may have realized that he is denting his political career and the denial became necessary as face saving. Meanwhile calls are in top gear condemning and urging all well-meaning people and especially Igbo groups like Ohanaeze to intervene and stop the carnage.