Opinion

Sit-At-Home: Time for collective action, By Uche Anagwa

From Owerri to Abakaliki, Umuahia to Awka to Enugu, the five state capitals of the South East, economic life has practically been snuffed out. Those who can afford it has moved their businesses out of the zone. Social life is near zero. Owerri that prided itself as the Las Vegas of Nigeria is now a ghost town. Hoteliers now celebrate when they record 20 per cent occupancy rate. All, courtesy of the weekly Sit-at-home in the South East geopolitical zone.

Today, Igbos in the diaspora have resorted to giving out their daughter in marriage outside their ancestral homes because of insecurity in the zone. In the same vein, burials and other social activities have been grounded or held in very low key manner to avoid collateral damages all because of the insecurity that has accompanied the Sit-at-home order.

By next month, it would have been two years that the economic activities in the South Eastern part of Nigeria began a gradual but steady shut down following the declaration of Sit-at-home as declared by the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB). IPOB, a self-actualization group is agitating for separation from Nigeria as presently constituted

IPOB while declaring the Sit-at-home in August, 2021, said it was in protest to the continued incarceration of its leader, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, whom both the Federal High Court and the Court of Appeal had earlier discharged and acquitted of charges leveled against him by the Federal Government of Nigeria including terrorism charges.

Ever since the declaration of the Sit-at-Home order, life has not been the same again in the five south eastern states of Imo, Abia, Anambra, Enugu and Ebonyi. Attempts to export the Sit-at-home order to the two neighbouring States of Delta, Rivers that has significant indigenous Igbo speaking population has met a brick wall.

So, in essence, it has been the five core Igbo States that make up the South East geo-political zone that has been borne and continued to bear the brunt of the order that has crippled economic and social activities in the zone.

Ironically, the five South East States of Imo, Abia, Anambra, Enugu and Ebonyi are known for the comparative advantage in commerce and industry as the economy of these five states revolve around them with a generous sprinkle manufacturing and hospitality sector.

Few months into the declaration, following public outcry on the damage the order is negatively impacting on the economic activities of the once vibrant zone , IPOB came out to announce that the order has been suspended, a declaration that made the people of the region to heave a sigh of relief.

However, the Simon Ekpa led faction of IPOB have continued to insist that the Sit-at-home order continues until its leader is released from custody. Apart from the usual Monday sit-at-home, most of the times, the people are ordered to sit at home on other days of the week.

Only recently, panic was created in the South-East week when gunmen, suspected to be enforcing a one-week sit-at-home order declared by the Simon Ekpa-led faction of the IPOB threw residents of the region into panic and confusion. In the process, lives were lost and goods worth millions of Naira were lost.

Moves by the governors of Anambra and of recent that of Enugu, Professor Chukwuma Soludo and Peter Mbah respectively to declare the Sit-at-home order as over, has only met with more death and destruction. At the last count, the sit-at-home has cost the South East over N5 trillion in the last two years.

It is now time for the leaders of the South East which cut across political, business, religious and traditional lines to come together and put heads together to find a lasting solution to the menace. The time to play the ostrich is over as everyone is now directly or indirectly involved and affected by the negative effects of Sit-at-home order.

First, the leaders of the zone should as a matter of urgency constitute a high-powered delegation to visit President Bola Tinubu and press for the immediate release of Mazi Nnamdi Kanu. The release of Kanu will not only douse the tension in the region but also put a finger at those who hide under the continued detention of the IPOB leader to engage in criminal and violent activities.

This visit should be followed up with intense security approach. It is unheard of anywhere in history that non-state actors are stronger than the State itself. Adequate intelligence should be deployed to fish out the criminal elements who hide under the IPOB agitators to visit violence on the people. Or how can one justify the killing of people and destructions of peoples means of survival in the guise that you are fighting for their “liberation”?

Thirdly, the political leaders should rise from their comfort zones in Abuja, Lagos and elsewhere to identify with the people. For now, there seem to be no practical moves by elected representatives of the people to put an end to the debacle. Rising one day and speaking out against the continued Sit-at-home in their region and frowning at the seemingly indifference attitude by the leadership across the three tiers of government will send the right signals.

It is on record that government has not reached out to the government of Finland to register their displeasure at the activities of Simon Ekpa, who as a Finish citizen is causing so much economic and social havoc in the south eastern part of Nigeria while sitting pretty cool in Finland.

Ala Igbo is bleeding. The pain and terror endured by the common man in the region is heart rendering. The time has come for all irrespective of political and religious and even business interests to come together and lift the masses out of the misery has come. And the time is now.

 

*Uche Anagwa is a social commentator. He writes from Abakaliki

 

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