Last week, residents of the South-East zone complied with a sit-at-home call to honour millions of Igbo souls lost in the 30 months gruesome Biafran war.
Though there were tensions ahead of the day, particularly because two pro-Biafra groups, the Movement for Actualisation of Sovereign State of Biafra, MASSOB, and Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, were behind the call to observe the day with a sit-at-home.
The tension arose due largely to the cat and dog relationship between the groups, particularly IPOB, who had in the past been forcing residents of the South- East to join in the celebration by remaining at home on May 30, a situation that had pitched them against the government and security agencies.
With this in mind, tension mounted in the zone ahead of the day, coupled with the already charged security situation in the zone, which has already been militarized, resulting unfortunately, to the loss of several lives of both security personnel and people of the states.
Again, the position of some South-East governors did not help matters as some of them adopted a confrontational position, perhaps for fear of the escalation of the already bad security situation in their states, also because of their soured relationship with the two pro-Biafra groups who were pushing the sit-at-home call. With the series of altercations between the governors and the pro-Biafra groups, especially IPOB, fears mounted as to what would happen that day.
And to avoid running into trouble of any sort in the cross fire, and with many realising the significance of the day, Igbo people fully complied with the call and honoured their people consumed by the 30 months war. However, the argument remains if this day should not be officially declared a public holiday at least in the five states of the zone.
But hope seems to have risen that May 30 would in future be officially recognised in the zone as public holiday to honour the millions of Igbo killed in the war. This hope is hinged on the fact that the Chairman of the South-East Governors Forum, David Umahi who is the governor of Ebonyi State, has hinted that the states would set out May 30 to honour Igbos who lost their lives during the war.
Hopefully, going forward, May 30 will no longer be dragged to a state of tension in the South-East as the significance of the day cannot be overemphasized, that it is not an issue that can be dismissed with a wave of the hands.
It is pertinent to note that one governor, Willy Obiano has even in the past recognised May 30 as a special day by laying wreath at the Cenotaph in Awka and he did the same this year. Also of note is that Governor Dave Umahi’s change of hard stance on the sit-at-home helped to douse tension and made the day go through without any clashes.
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Umahi had initially threatened to take over shops whose owners refused to open on that day but had to soft pedal after realising that the charged atmosphere could not allow residents, even if they would not like to obey the sit-at-home call, come out to their shops. Indeed, a wise decision from the governor.
An ex-Biafran soldier, Bede Nwafor, who was also in the Nigerian Army before the civil war broke out, said one way of reducing the tension associated with May 30 is for the government to set aside that day for prayers for all those who lost their lives during the civil war.
He argued that the agitation by IPOB and MASSOB, for the actualisation of Biafra Republic, was because of the apparent neglect of those who sacrificed their lives during the unfortunate war on both Nigeria and Biafra sides.
He said: “During the last sit-at-home order, I remembered those who died during the war and that made me to cry again. That day made me to remember that we lost three people in my family and if they were to be alive, would be approaching 80 years of age.
“I also believe that Igbo people would not be agitating for a separate country if the Nigerian authorities can swallow their pride and set aside every May 30 as a day of prayer for the country in remembrance of those who died during the Nigeria-Biafra war.
“Imagine what the country lost on May 31 when all economic activities stood still, But if we declare May 30 a prayer day in which churches would be expected to conduct services and people still go about their businesses, the agitation for Biafra will fizzle out naturally.
“Little things make Igbo people happy; but our government does not want to see people happy and the consequence was what we experienced on May 31. In the past few months, there had been killings across Igbo-speaking states and those who stayed at home on May 31 did so not necessarily to obey IPOB, but out of fear.”
A cleric, the pastor of High Way to Grace Assembly based in Nsukka, Enugu State, Rev. Chikamadu Eze, said May 30th should always be observed as sit-at-home day in honour of over the 3, 000,000 Biafran lives who paid the supreme price during the 30 months civil war in Nigeria.
The cleric said that restoration of Biafra is the only hope for the people of South-East Nigeria. He commended Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu for taking the bold step towards liberating the Igbo from their state of servitude in Nigeria.
Eze said in a statement: “It was a most excruciating agony to lose three million people within three years in a terrible genocidal war. With all the pictorial memories, we will continue to weep and cry for our heroes past and our dearly beloved ones who lost their lives in the war.
“Many keep blaming Ojukwu that he led his people into such a war on the spur-of-the-moment; that he took a precipitous action but then, Ojukwu did the right thing. With great alacrity and equanimity of man, he made a giant move to save and extricate his people from the worst political servitude and slavery, and massive subjugation of Igbo people. He couldn’t afford to bear the pain anymore that was why he decided to do the needful.
“He is a man we will always celebrate forever. He took a requisite action to save a tribe that was totally despaired at that time. We love him and we will keep celebrating his posthumous birthday forever in remembrance of what he did for Ndigbo and to accord him perpetual respect even though he is no more.
“As we observe this day as a respect for those who lost and sacrificed their lives in the genocidal war, let us pray that their death will not be in vain. Let us make concerted efforts towards achieving a majestic goal, Biafra. It is our only hope and by the grace of God, we must restore Biafra, the land of the rising sun.
“History will never forget the inhuman treatment, pogrom and genocide against people of their own race like Biafra, the torture and deliberate killings of innocent Biafrans, the ethnic discrimination and marginalisation of a particular people who did no wrong but agitating for their right to exist as a people. We will not forget and heaven will not forget, the world will not forget either. We are champions that will never die, Igbos will live forever; we will continue to live as a people. We survived the pogrom, we survived the war, we survived all the inhuman treatments and we will continue to move on until Biafra is achieved.”
The Igbo National Council, INC, said that the impact of the just-concluded sit-at-home order would hasten the need for the Federal Government to begin the process of restructuring the country. According to the INC President, Chilos Godsent, the total compliance to the call for sit-at-home has shown unification, solidarity and that the Igbo people could speak with one voice.
“The impact of the 2021 Sit-at-Home by the Igbo Nation is too numerous. Among them are solidification of Igbo unification and solidarity. The 2021 Sit-at-Home was a strong message to the Fulani that Igbo race in Nigeria is not as divided as they may think.
“The impact also include a political pressure on the Nigerian Federal Government to begin to see the need to adhere to the popular call by Nigerians to properly restructure the country into a true fiscal federation where each component unit of the Nigeria Federation can develop at their pace without hindrance to other component units,” INC said.
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An activist, Comrade Kindness Jonah, in his contribution commended the South-Easterners for their total compliance during the sit-at-home order. He said that the sit-at-home was a colossal achievement for Igbo generally, stressing that the whole world has seen the spirit of oneness in Ndigbo to actualise Biafra Nation.
“It was observed with all gusto and finesse. It took the Federal Government aback, as they never expected it to reach that magnitude of compliance. To the outside world, it has shown how coordinated the Igbo are in the quest for Biafra, contrary to what some may not have believed in other climes.
“It puts paid to the obnoxious claim that Igbo hate themselves and would kill themselves if they get Biafra. It also buttresses the fact that the demand for Biafra by Igbo in all walks of life is holistic.
“Before now, South-East Governors had been dancing to the tune of the Federal Government and had not given listening ears to the sit-at-home call by IPOB and MASSOB. But the total compliance with this year’s own, had spurred them on to set out May 30 for the remembrance of Igbo that lost their lives in the internecine war of Igbo extermination called Biafran War. Today, May 30 has been officially recognised as a public holiday for the fallen Biafran heroes.
“It is kudos to IPOB, hip-hip for MASSOB, and avalanche of cheers for the rank and file of Igbo. The marking of this day as public holiday is a step in the right direction for Igbo in their quest for the actualisation of Biafra.” he said.
He regretted the economic loss, stressing that there would be no great achievement without sacrifice.
“On the economic loss that day, I would say that the loss is worth it as it is now acceptable sacrifice for Igbo annually. And without sacrifice, nothing great on earth and in heaven, can be achieved,” he noted.
Going forward, Jonah suggested that “South-East governors must lay annual wreath for the fallen Biafran heroes; name major streets in Igbo towns after them, construct a central auditorium/ stadium and name it after Biafran heroes, set up a scholarship scheme for fallen Biafran heroes’ relatives.
“Again, South-East governors should galvanize effort to pay moratorium to the neglected families of Biafran fallen heroes and finally, if the Nigerian government does not want to play along, South- East governors should mobilise and seek international community’s voice like the International Court of Justice to bring to the court all the injustice and killings against Igbo by the military.
“If the Nigerian government fails to stop the killings and marginalisation, they will now itemize the killings and injustice and submit to the international community through the International Court of Justice and then sue Nigerian government for continued denial of emancipation of Igbos after the war.”
An Igbo leader, Chief Jerry Obasi has urged the five governors of the South- East zone to declare May 30 a public holiday in Igbo land to honour the Igbo people who died during the civil war from 1967 to 1970, saying that the events of 1967 to 1970 would not be forgotten by the Igbo in a hurry. He advocated that the day should be used by the Igbo to reflect on their journey and relationship with other sections of the country since the end of the civil war in 1970.
“The governors of the South-East zone should declare May 30 a public holiday in Igbo land. Nd i Igbo lost over a three million people. May 30 was the day Biafra was declared by General Odumegwu Emeka Ojukwu after he was directed by the Eastern Consultative Assembly. It is a day Ndigbo took their destiny in their hands and saved the Igbo race from total extinction by our enemies.
“I believe May 30 should also serve as a day for sober reflection for Ndigbo, especially on how Ndigbo have fared and their relationship with other sections of the country since the end of the civil war in 1970,” Obasi said.
He urged the governors of the South-East to be more proactive and fearless on matters affecting Igbo interest rather than the ‘present situation where they are too afraid to protect and defend’ the Igbo.
For the President-General of Egwuedo community in Atta, Njaba LGA, Imo State, Chief Eric Uwaoma, the May 30 sit-at-home is a welcome development.
Uwaoma, who is also the President-General of Onitsha South Shop Owners Traders Association of Nigeria, OSSOTAN, said he was not surprised at the total compliance by South-Easterners with the sit-at-home order.
He said the full compliance was an indication that the people of the South-East, irrespective of their egalitarian nature, can come together to achieve an agreed goal, contrary to the belief in other parts of the country that they cannot agree on a definite goal.
Chief Uwaoma said that those who think the Igbo are divided and cannot come together because of pursuit of business interests and money, are living in fool’s paradise and should change their mindsets and respect the Igbo because no other part of the country can come and work together as the Igbo at home and in the Diaspora.
“What I saw on May 31, 2021 was unbelievable, although for me, I knew it was going to happen. The level of compliance I saw on Zik’s Avenue (Onitsha) and adjoining roads and streets that day was unbelievable. No single soul was seen on the roads and streets; people were only seen in their corridors sitting and discussing happily as families and friends.
“I called my people in my community and they told me it was the same situation at home and I was happy that we, Igbo, have come to tell the world that we should be taken serious whenever we talk, wherever we are seen and in whatever we are doing.
“I was not expecting any tension because the leader of IPOB, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu made it clear weeks earlier before the day that there would be no street procession, that it would be a sit-at-home, and people should observe the day in their homes. So if there is no movement on the streets, there would not be anybody on the streets to confront the security agents and cause tension.
“One impact the sit-at-home has made in the South-East is that injustice is not fair and no matter how many years an injustice was done to a people, to forget it is not easy and it will serve as a lesson to leaders that they will be either remembered by the good or bad they did while in office.
“Another impact is that Nigerians should start taking the Igbo serious, that they can deliver in anything they choose to do and should be given the chance to serve the country for peace to reign.
“Another significance of May 30, 2021 is that it was a day the leader of IPOB, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, showed that actually, he does not hate the South-East governors; that he only disagrees with them on issues and in principle. You can recall that he commended the governors for not disrupting the sit-at-home and withdrawing some of the threats against the people that would comply with the sit-at-home directive. That commendation from him was a show of maturity which I know South-East governor must be proud of.
“It shows that disagreement is normal in human setting and where two or more people live, they must disagree to agree. It is not only applicable to Igbo but to the world and I hope that one day, they will all come together with one goal to move South-East forward.