On Friday, November 23, in Nnewi, Anambra State, some young men operating under the aegis of Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, joined their members in other parts of the Southeast in protesting against the conduct of the 2019 general elections in the country.
According to them, there must not be any elections unless the Federal Government granted them their demand for a referendum. Indeed, the summation of their protest was, ”No referendum, no elections”. They thereafter hit the streets of the state’s industrial city in their numbers to drive home their point. But it turned out to be a day to forget as matters soon ran out of hand, resulting in the killing of a police officer, with two other officers injured. The gun carried by the dead policeman was said to have been taken by his assailants, prompting the Inspector-General of Police to order for its recovery. The police, for their part, responded by arresting thirty-three suspected members of IPOB.
The Nnewi incident was the first time a law enforcement agent would be killed in the state by Biafra agitators. Before now, these agitators, whether under the aegis of the Movement for the Actualization of a Sovereign State of Biafra, MASSOB; or under IPOB, or indeed any other such group, had claimed that their agitations were non-violent. This posture made people to condemn the Federal Government any time they treated the Biafra agitators harshly. The people’s beef with the FG’s treatment of Biafra agitators is informed also by what they perceive as the soft way the FG has been treating more dangerous groups like Boko Haram and Fulani herdsmen.
But over time, the Biafra agitators appeared to have become more emboldened but rather than direct their arsenal against those they have claimed to be responsible for their woes, they have been curiously fighting their own people, a development that has seen them invade churches and disrupt public functions recently. It was obvious that very soon, something would give and that was the case on that fateful Friday in Nnewi.
It is regrettable that despite the wise counsel by eminent Igbo leaders, the Biafra agitators have continued to gravitate towards violence, with increasing clashes with both the police and the army. It is even more regrettable that those who send the youths to toe this dangerous path remain in the comfort of their homes, while the youths either get killed, or arrested.
We are yet to see any of the known IPOB spokespersons lead physically in any protest. They will always heat up the polity and disappear while the uninformed youths who do their bidding get into danger.
We do not begrudge the agitators their demand for a referendum. It is their right to do so. But forcing others to toe same line by use of force is unacceptable. What we have always frowned at is their methodology which has often not just been confrontational, but directed against their own people.
Now that a policeman has been killed and his gun taken, some innocent citizens who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time are in the police net.
We once more urge the Biafra agitators to take it easy and employ more civilized means of doing their agitation before they ignite a fire that could consume everybody.