How Monday sit-at-home is affecting South-East economy

Every Igbo man is a Biafran in spirit; he believes strongly in the Igbo spirit of independent hard work and struggle to achieve success. I-can-do-it spirit flows in the vein of the Igbo. Biafra does not necessarily mean secession. No. Igbo is highly marginalized and IPOB is right to agitate. But while agitating, caution should be applied not to inflict more hardship on the same people who are already having their hands full of hardship.

IPOB is no doubt loved and supported by many Igbo because of the amount of global awareness they have brought to ugly plights of Igbo. There is no doubt Igbo wants Nnamdi Kanu, the IPOB leader released.

This can be seen from the number of Igbo groups who are agitating for his release or fair trial if the trial must go on. Again, some prominent Igbo leaders are openly throwing support for Kanu. We witnessed elder statesman, Chukwuemeka Ezeife in the Court leading others; that was a great mark of solidarity.

However, Igbo shutting down the South East region as directed by IPOB may inflict more problems to the people already burdened with lots of hardship and are urging IPOB to adopt another method that will not be very injurious on the Igbo as the struggles continue.

The former national chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo, has urged the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, to rescind the call to lockdown South East every Monday.

He said the impact is not the best for Igbo. Nwodo who recalled the harsh economic hardships Nigerians passed through due to COVID-19 lockdown despite government palliative measures, said that it would be unfair to the people of South East, to lock down the zone every Monday, even as he said that Igbo are working hard and will be happy to see Nnamdi Kanu released.

According to him, people who fend for themselves through their daily handwork would be adversely affected by the decision of IPOB; it would further deteriorate the economy of the zone.

Nwodo, who was also a former Governor of Enugu State advised IPOB to find other measures of showing their solidarity for their leader such as turning out en masse any day he would appear in court. He also enjoined them to embark on massive and aggressive social media campaigns to demand for his freedom instead of locking down the zone.

Prominent Abia monarch, the traditional ruler of Abiriba Ancient Kingdom, Eze Kalu Kalu Ogbu, Enachioken Abiriba cautioned that the action would compound the economic woes of Ndigbo.

Enachioken, who strongly condemned the high-handedness of the Federal Government in handling the agitations for self-determination in the country, however, said that locking down the entire South East every Monday would not be in the economic interest of the region already suffering protracted exclusion.

His words: “I don’t believe that the sit-at-home order is the right thing for now. The Igbo nation has been under siege for some time now. Our people have suffered untold hardship and many live and survive on daily income.

“To force our people inside to drive home the point of IPOB will amount to double punishment on the people. The people have suffered enough already. It is a prescription for chaos in Igbo land. They should rethink this position”.

The monarch, however, said that the position of IPOB was a signal that “all is not well” in Nigeria but regretted that the Federal Government seems to be nonchalant about the danger signals.

Urging the government to engage IPOB and other agitators in the country for immediate dialogue, the monarch said “the current position is a sign that all is still not well. There is urgent need for dialogue.

“The Presidency should stop acting tough and use all the resources and goodwill at its disposal to unite this country. It is better that we know the grievances of these young men. We should therefore, take up the challenge to address their grievances through dialogue. What the young men are asking for are not too difficult for us to address if we are truthful and just”.

The monarch also decried the militarization of the South East, and called for de-escalation. “The militarization of the South East Nigeria is not the solution either.

Please, the military should show restraint. They should leave our streets and return to their barracks. There is no war in Igbo land. If the people feel that they want to sit-at-home instead of fending for themselves and their families, so be it.

“When they are tired, nobody will tell them to jettison the idea. The government should not take the bet. Leave them for now and let us monitor the issue more closely. If IPOB is not violent, please the authorities should avoid confrontation that could throw the region into chaos. Let there be peace”.

In his contribution, Archbishop of Enugu Ecclesiastical Province Church of Nigeria, Anglican Communion, Dr. Emmanuel Chukwuma, who denied an allegation that he was part of the conspiracy that led to the abduction and repatriation of the leader of IPOB, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu from Kenya to Nigeria, said shutting down the South East region this time would destroy their economy and impoverish the Igbo.

“I personally call on all pro-Biafra groups to have a rethink on the continued lockdown, since it will further impoverish the people, who are mostly traders and create more hunger in the land”, Chukwuma said.

According to him, Igbo in the South-East “just struggle each day to make a living and have something to put bread on their tables. The move will be unfair to us, Ndigbo, who are engaged in various businesses. If carried out, it is wrong. Since when you are locking up your zone or region, other zones will be engaging in their businesses and daily human activities meant for their growth and progress.

“It is a way of destroying the economy of our brothers. We must be very careful in the way we are going about it. I also do not totally support it as many of our traders are in trouble already due to the COVID-19 lockdown and what they lost”, the fiery cleric said, and urged the pro-Biafra elements to review locking down the region every Monday.

“They should do a proper introspect and rethink about it. We should find a better way of improving the economy and checking lack and hunger in the land. Our people should be considerate to all, especially the downtrodden that must go out of their homes before they feed for the day”, Chukwuma urged.

In its position, Abia State Government frowned at any attempt to force anyone to sit-at-home, saying whoever wants to remain at home is free to do that willingly.

In a statement by the Information Commissioner, John Okiyi, the government said that it is “actively monitoring the situation with Mazi Nnamdi Kanu who is an indigene of the state and is currently under trial at a Federal High Court in Abuja, with a view to ensuring that his fundamental human rights, as enshrined in the Constitution of the Federal Republic, are respected.

“We remain in touch with his family members, other relevant persons and institutions, and receive regular updates through them on the situation. The Abia State Government is confident that the judiciary will ensure a free and manifestly fair trial for him and others as they remain innocent until proven guilty by a court of competent jurisdiction.

“We therefore wish to call on all citizens and visitors to continue to be law-abiding and avoid any act that might lead to a breakdown of law and order.

“While government will not compel anyone wishing to sit at home for any reason whatsoever not to do so, as citizens have freedom of movement under the extant Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, we wish to strongly advise that nobody should also compel or enforce any sit at home order from any non state actor as doing so does not serve any known interests of the people of the state”.

But the Bishop, Methodist Church Nigeria, Onitsha, Anambra State, Rt. Rev. Biereonwu Livinus Onuagha has full support to the weekly sit-at-home protest called but suspended by IPOB.

Speaking with South East Voice, Bishop Onuagha, said: “Igbos need freedom in Nigeria, from every shackle of enslavement in the project called Nigeria. So for me, Nnamdi Kanu still represents everything Igbo are looking for and if anybody is fighting him, the person is fighting Ndigbo, and those who are playing down on those fighting him or giving impression that those fighting him are right, are playing down on it because they want to save their lives. Secondly, they want to save their properties and possibly their jobs.

“It is a very insignificant set of Igbo who are doing that because of what they have gained from those fighting him or what they are gaining. They are also looking for and trying to protect their investments. However, they are not thinking about the welfare of the common man.

“With the cost of living now, they will not fight for the common man.They will think about themselves as usual, the way things are now in the country, Nigeria now is indeed a very big fraud.Really, Nigeria today is a fraud, do you know why? They said that when this government comes to power, a Naira will be equal to a Dollar, and when they were saying this, a Naira was N187 to a Dollar, but today as I’m talking with you, a Dollar is N500.

“The minimum wage has become a very big joke, it is no longer useful. Now, let us do a little Mathematics. If you get N30, 000 as your minimum wage and you have a family of five, and you need to buy a bag of rice and you buy a bag of rice for N25, 000, you are left with only N5, 000; will N5, 000 pay the school fees of your children, pay for your transport and others things? We are encouraging corruption in Nigeria and until everybody goes his own way, we can never recover.

“So for me, IPOB declaring every Monday sit-at-home is a signal that we are tired, you know the song says. He that is down needs fear no fall. So, we are down already, why will we be afraid of falling again. They just want to remove life from the average Igbo man that has fallen. That is what is remaining for them.

“However, if they are the God of the Igbo, let them do it, but if they are not, we will survive, that is my take. So, I support the weekly sit-at-home called by IPOB. I totally support it. I will not go out that day; I will sit in my house. I will not go anywhere and my children will not go anywhere. All of us will be at home. If we don’t have anything to do that day, we would pray for the release of Nnamdi Kanu. Nnamdi Kanu represents everything Igbo”, Bishop Onuagha said.

Continuing, the cleric said: “Whoever is talking about losses that we are going to incur is a myopic individual. Supposing every Igbo man in Nigeria complies with that directive or instruction, Nigeria will just be on her knees. If Igbo men and women in Abuja, Lagos, Kano, Enugu, Port Harcourt, Kaduna, and all the states of the federation close their shops in compliance to that directive, Nigerians will feel more what will happen.

“I know that those outside Igbo land may not comply, but if they try to comply, you and I will see that Nigeria will just pack up that day. Nigerians will be on their knees and if they do it for one week, that will be the end of the country, and they will then know that Igbo are important in Nigeria, contrary to this administration’s belief that they can do away with Igbo in Nigeria.

“The people who are against the sit-at-home should tell us what they have done on the killings in Enugu and Ebonyi States communities. They are only concerned about their offices, investments, and their positions. It is really regrettable and terrible. You are where you are today, suppressed, maltreated, abused, humiliated and you are looking out on how you will be the President of Nigeria. Is that not daydreaming?

“They are daydreaming if they are keeping quiet or defending the evil perpetrated by killer herdsmen in the South East, because they want to be President of the country and to protect their selfish interests. It is a pity that our people are not reading in between lines. They are killing your people every day and you are there talking about becoming President in 2023.

“Look at what the Yoruba are doing. They are totally proactive in everything they are doing. See how they are defending and supporting Sunday Igboho and his people and how they have been granted bail. How much is that money for their bail? Even if all of them run away, one person can pay the money. The Yorubas are proactive. That is why I said I love the politics of the Yoruba more than the politics of the Igbo. We do not know politics at all”.

Chairman of Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, Abia State chapter, Apostle Emmanuel Agomuo, also said the lockdown would only be to the economic and general disadvantage of Ndigbo.

The Federal Government, he pointed out, would not be affected by any lockdown in the South East and would not even bother as “it is still Ndigbo that will bear the brunt. I don’t support sit-at-home every Monday because; it will not affect the federal government. It is our people that will still suffer it. If it is once or twice a month, it will be better. But every week is not good at all. Abuja won’t even care or bother because they won’t be affected”.

The CAN chairman urged the South East governors, National Assembly members from the region and other political elites as well as Ohanaeze Ndigbo to engage the Federal Government in dialogue over the ordeals of Kanu and the agitation for Biafra as well as Igbo marginalization.

In Owerri, the Director General, Bureau for Peace and Conflict Resolution, Peter Ohagwa, advised the leadership of the IPOB to avoid taking actions that would cause more hardships on the people they are fighting for.

Ohagwa noted that the challenges people in the Southeast passed through during Covid-19, EndSARs, unknown gunmen killings were enough for IPOB to cancel such decision, saying that insisting on a-day-a-week sit-at-home would make matters worse.

“This is not the way. You will achieve nothing by killing somebody you will bury. There is no need for this as the sufferings of people have continued to increase.

“Recently, we came out of the Covid-19 challenges. We saw the #EndSARs, from there the issue of unknown gunmen started killing people here and there and burning of Police stations. They killed police officers and killed innocent people, what do we want to achieve and where are we going from here?

“This time around, you want the people to sit-at-home every Monday of the week and do what? It is difficult and we should find another way and not this one. I advise that whatever we want to do as a group, the law is there. Let us follow it and get it done and avoid anything that will add to the pains, hardships of our people. Let us think twice”, Ohagwa cautioned.

In his contribution, Prof. Obasi Igwe urged the IPOB to start thinking strategically to increase chances of winning the battle. He appealed that the sit-at-home call be rescinded saying “there are families that cannot eat any day they do not go to the market” and IPOB should not turn them into “saboteurs” for attempting to feed their children.

He however called on conscientious Easterners and Nigerians to insist on the immediate and unconditional release of Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, Sunday Igboho, and other political prisoners, saying they have committed no crimes but seeking a referendum for self-determination.

“The Ghost Mondays’ policy is ill-timed and could be suicidal, but IPOB should be forgiven given the generally youthful age of its members. First, the deliberately impoverished people have barely recovered from the unknown gunmen evil cruelly imposed on the Igbo and East, and crafted to make it appear that it is Igbo boys or IPOB/ESN destroying Igbo land.

“IPOB must henceforth start thinking strategically instead of tactics all the time. Therefore from now on, most strategic issues IPOB undertake should be in cooperation with the Igboho-led or affiliated Yoruba, the Middle Belt and Niger Deltas. Next, frequently declaring shutdowns in the East having compliance restricted to the five South East central states inadvertently narrows down the Biafran issue to the so-called, which translates to the “dot” some people can’t wait to hear about, as if that is only where the East or Igbo starts and ends.

“Despite that some of us believe, hopefully not belatedly, that proper restructuring can address a lot of Nigeria’s problems; Maazi Nnamdi Kanu will forever remain a great, nay illustrious Igbo leader. He mobilized domestic and international opinion on the caliphates atrocities going on in Nigeria; he imbibed upon other Nigerian nationalities the consciousness of freedom and possibilities of its realization through positive action; he appreciated the value of a non-violent approach to salvation at the stage of global development; and he triggered a momentum for restructuring that now seems unstoppable”.

“All conscientious Igbo and other Easterners and Nigerians should continue to insist upon the immediate and unconditional release of Nnamdi Kanu, Sunday Igboho and other political prisoners, because they have committed no crimes except whatever concoctions that might surely be manufactured against them for seeking a referendum for self-determination”.

A pro-Biafra group, the Biafra Liberation Council, BLC, has tasked IPOB to review its strategy on the agitation and consult sympathetic Igbo leaders to negotiate with the Nigerian Government to grant Nnamdi Kanu soft landing.

It warned that Kanu’s freedom will only be achieved through pragmatic diplomacy by eminent Biafrans; not through threats and propaganda peddled by IPOB.

The group said that shutting the economy of Biafran people every Monday until Kanu is released from detention, amounts to wickedness against the interest and survival of the people.

Administrative Secretary of BLC, Austin-Mary Ndukwu, told South East Voice that people have been made to believe that sit-at-home is the only solution to get the Nigerian Government to release Kanu and warned that sit-at-home; including threats and propaganda will not achieve any result.

“It is time to ask IPOB what they are up to in Biafra land. Our people had been hoodwinked into believing that sit-at-home is the only solution that will ensure the release of their leader. It is absolutely far from the truth. IPOB should swallow its pride and consult sympathetic Igbo leaders to negotiate with the Nigerian Government to grant Nnamdi Kanu soft landing. Anything short of this will be aggravating Nnamdi Kanu’s situation in the present litigation.

“IPOB should respect the views of those who are not in agreement with their style. Nnamdi Kanu’s freedom will only be a reality through pragmatic diplomacy by those that matters in Biafra and not all these threats, and cheap propaganda and being peddled by the IPOB”, BLC said and described the sit-at-home order as a declaration of war and hunger and urged IPOB to find more acceptable way of carrying its agitation for Biafra than inflicting pain on people.

Movement for the actualization of sovereign state of Biafra, MASSOB, a strategic ally of IPOB, also disagreed with them on the weekly Monday’s sit-at-home, saying it would only amount to destruction of Igbo businesses.

MASSOB’s spokesman, Samuel Edeson said the group condemns any activity that will jeopardize the security and economy of Ndigbo in Nigeria. He said that the Igbo is harshly subjected to economic and political slavery in Nigeria and cannot continue to inflict more economic pains on themselves.

“MASSOB advises IPOB to reach out and build more synergy with strategic Igbo leaders for the release of Mazi Nnamdi Kanu. Declaration of weekly sit-at-home order and closing of major markets in Igbo land amounts to self economic destruction of Igbo nation. MASSOB will continue to engage Ndigbo for the release of Mazi Nnamdi Kanu”, Edeson said.

The group equally called on Igbo political, traditional and religious leaders to rise in defense of the leader of IPOB, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu and reiterated its demand for the release of Kanu who they said was abducted and detained by the Nigeria Federal Government.

Enugu State Government does also buy the idea of sit-at-home by IPOB as the best way to release their leader. Enugu state Government through the Capital Territory Development Authority said that the IPOB order has no constituted power backing it.

The agency however noted that there was no constituted authority that declared any Monday as a resting or work-free day and assured residents in the state capital that there will be no molestation of anybody conducting genuine business in the state except such a person was a miscreant.

Chairman of ECTDA, Dr. Josef Onoh, therefore, charged all business operators within the Capital territory to ignore the propaganda of a sit-at-home order as the state government had put machinery in place to ensure that lives and properties were secured.

“This is familiar propaganda that had enthroned hardship on the citizenry and which by now wisdom is supposed to be prevailing upon rather than emotion. We, therefore, urge everyone to go about their legitimate businesses as all the security agencies in the state are on top of the situation.

“People sitting at the comfort of their luxuries outside and within Nigeria should not mislead other people eking out their own living in their own ways. We in the ECTDA assure residents of peace and sanity in Enugu and this administration will not have mercy for anybody that wants to foment trouble in the city”.

From Onitsha, the leadership of Drivers Welfare Association, DWA, Anambra state, rejected weekly sit-at-home call by IPOB. According to the patron of the association, Pastor Obinna Anisiobi, “in as much as we the drivers are in support of any move to stop marginalization of Southeast zone and Ndigbo in particular, this fragrant abuse of and indiscriminate sit-at-home order does not augur well for the economic emancipation of the down trodden and as such not necessary since Kanu’s case is not coming up in court this Monday for hearing”.

“We want to align ourselves with Ohanaeze Ndigbo and Governor Willie Obiano who had previously called on Ndigbo to disregard the sit-at-home exercise and go about their normal businesses as law abiding citizens”.

Also, Titus Akpudo, President of Anambra State Association of Town Unions, ASATU, said the decision by IPOB is simply a call for Ndigbo to die of hunger.

What else does the IPOB want from Ndgbo in general when the Ohanaeze Ndigbo itself had nominated former Governor of Anambra state, Dr. Chukwuemeka Ezeife to represent Ndigbo in court throughout the trial of IPOB leader, Nnamdi Kanu?

What else do they want from Anambra people when Barrister Ifeanyi Ejiofor, the IPOB lawyer is from Anambra state and Ezeife is also from Anambra state? Do they want all of us to sit-at-home and die of hunger before they will know that we are in support of their agitation?

“If anyone decides on his own to sit at home in solidarity for Nnamdi Kanu, he or she has the right to do so but if anyone does not want to sit at home, it should not be by force”.

For Hon. Emmanuel Nwobosi, the son of Col. Emma Nwobosi, “I have not heard of the sit-at-home order but I must emphasize that Nnamdi Kanu is our brother and a human who deserve to be treated with dignity and human right.

According to Nwobosi who is also a Senior Special Assistant to Governor Willie Obiano on Internally Generated Revenue, IGR, it is high time the Federal Government begins to take certain things serious by listening to the yawning of the people.

“An idea cannot be killed by gun or knife. An idea can only be killed or replaced by another better idea. Therefore, I am begging our father, President Muhammadu Buhari to listen to the voice of reason, swallow pride and do the needful to safeguard this entity called Nigeria.

“He should assemble all the agitators, listen to their plights and if there is still need for Nigeria to remain together, everybody will stay in peace and harmony and if there is no need for that, everyone will part ways for goodness sake”.

In his contribution, the Director of Information, DOI, Biafra Independence Movement, BIM, Elder Chris Mocha, described the call as “unnecessary, indecent and calculated to harm our people”.

His words: “I can say that IPOB leaders copied the stay-at-home order from the BIM-MASSOB leader, Chief Ralph Uwazuruike. He first made the order in August 26, 2004, and it was effectively observed, even outside Nigeria.

“For us in BIM-MASSOB, there was no case of forceful enforcement. It was voluntary. Today, IPOB is abusing the sit-at-home order. Theirs must be obeyed by force. This, to us, is evidence of mental illness. It is only the South South and South East that will suffer the consequences of the order. The effect won’t reach Abuja or Lagos.

“The last IPOB order was calamitous. In the process of enforcing the sit-at-home order, they (allegedly) killed somebody in Onitsha and destroyed several properties. People are traumatized already by the gory pictures we see every day in the social media, and we have no need to worsen it”.

An octogenarian and veteran of the Nigeria/Biafra war, Nwafor Kalu Omekannaya, reasoned that “bad occurrences evoke bad reactions”.

Omekannaya said: “We should blame whatever is currently happening, on the Nigerian Government. All the issues that led to the 30-month Nigeria/Biafra war, is still here with us, in greater intensity. Nothing has changed. You can’t beat a child and also deny him his choice of crying.

“The sit-at-home order is coming because of the incarceration of Mazi Nnamdi Kanu. Can we easily forget how and why he was extra-judicially ferried back to Nigeria? Bad occurrences evoke bad responses. Yes, the order will have some harsh effects on our people, but do we have a choice? Must everything concerning Ndigbo be treated differently? Nobody can continue treating us as second class citizens. Do we need any prophet to tell anybody that Ndigbo are continuously being maltreated? I appeal to all, to obey the order”.

Contributing, Mr. Eze Emmanuel, an elder statesman and a retired civil servant, said that agitation or protest is good because in advance nations of the world, it is a medium and channel through which aggrieved parties or group of individuals register their grievances or unjust treatment to the government in power but are void of violence.

He however noted that the approach adopted by the southeastern youths in their agitations or struggles is inappropriate. He emphasized that shutting down the southeastern region on Mondays is not the best decision now, saying that such action would have much adverse effects on the socio-economic welfare of the southeastern people.

Also, Mr. Onah Sunday, a onetime chairman of the Nigerian union of teachers, NUT, Ohaukwu chapter, said that agitation by the southeastern region is an age long quest but said that the best possible approach, for now, should be diplomacy.

Francis Eze, a banker said that it does not make sense to economically destroy the nation they are planning to build.

Eze maintained opined that since over 60% of what people of the region use are either produced or imported from outside their region the economic implication is that the people should gird their loins for self economic independence, as judging from current scenario indicates that they have not shown readiness to exit as an independent state.

He said shutting down through sit-at-home for a day or more will be to the detriment of the southeastern region and not the Federal government.

Also contributing, Joseph Ozibo, an Ozo title holder, said IPOB’s agitation is good, but frowned at the way and manner the youths hijacked the process, giving it a bad name.

He maintained that in the reality of the matter what the southeastern region is saying is that what is good for the northern region is also good for the eastern region as well as other regions.

According to him, the southeastern region has competent leaders and elders that speak on their behalf on any matter of concern and advised the IPOB to liaise with these leaders to speak with one voice and approach the Federal Government for purposeful dialogue. Shutting down or declaring sit-at-home in the southeastern region will not only be counterproductive but also dysfunctional, it is not the best possible option now.

“Let IPOB leaders consider the socio-economic welfare of the people of the region before taking any action or any campaign that will inflict hardship on the Igbo nation.

Let media campaigns, diplomacy, and dialogue be employed as alternatives to violence towards the actualization of Biafra through properly channeled agitation”, Ozibo advised.

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