Lagos, Abakaliki, Warri and Umuahia — The minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, has raised the alarm over attempts by the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) led by Mr. Nnamdi Kanu to externalise its struggle through propagandist writings to the governments and national parliaments of some western nations.According to the minister, the move is to give the impression that the IPOB members are victims of an ethno-sectarian violence orchestrated by the government, hence they need protection.
Mohammed said the activities of IPOB had become a great threat to the peaceful existence of the country and no government would allow such to continue. At a press briefing in Lagos yesterday, Mohammed urged the western world to discard such sentiments from IPOB. "This is a blatant lie and it was never in the agenda of the President Muhammadu Buhari-led government to suppress its citizens for whatever reasons."
The minister also alleged that IPOB, having been declared a terrorist group by the Nigeria Army and also proscribed by the Southeast governors, has also resolved to engage in a massive harvesting of gory videos from the distant past and from other lands to hoodwink the public, and in particular the international community, into believing that its (IPOB) members are victims of state-sponsored violence.
"Such videos, which have very high emotive quotient, are circulating on the social media. We call on all to subject all such videos to the greatest scrutiny so as not to be misled. In particular, we urge the international community not to jump to any conclusion on the basis of such videos," he said.
Recalling the devastation of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda that left about 800,000 people dead and the role the media played in the incident, the minister appealed to the Nigerian media to show greater restraint at this time.
"The reporting of the IPOB issues, especially since the military deployment in the south-east for its exercise, tagged Operation Python Dance II, has been sensationalised by a section of the media. The divisive and jaundiced opinions of some anarchists have been given a big play by a section of the media. This is wrong.
"As I have always said, the Nigerian media cannot afford to sit on the fence or engage in irresponsible journalism when the issue at stake is the very survival of our nation. This is because no professionals, including journalists, can operate when a nation descends into anarchy."We must not, deliberately or otherwise, strengthen the hands of those who are bent on destroying our nation. Opinion leaders must also moderate their interventions in order not to aggravate the situation on ground."
In another reaction to the IPOB's activities, a former member of the House of Representatives, Mr. Bernard Mikko decried Kanu's approach to achieve his objectives.
"Violence or confrontation with the security agents is never the best approach," he said.Mikko, who is also the spokesman of the defunct Ali Modu Sheriff faction of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), however, said it was also wrong for the military to have on its own labeled IPOB a terrorist group as such a pronouncement should rather have been made by either the Minister of Defence, the National Security Adviser (NSA) or any political appointee on behalf of the president.
According to Mikko in an interview with The Guardian yesterday, while a peaceful protest is within civilised democratic norms, a violent agitation and resort to apparent self-help as witnessed by IPOB is criminal and undemocratic. He urged Kanu to channel his agitation appropriately instead of disturbing the peace of the country and the people.
The South East Governors' Forum faulted the claim that the Operation Python Dance 11 in the zone is targeted at the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), but rather to fight kidnapping, robbery and cultism.
The Chairman of the group and Governor of Ebony State, David Umahi, said the governors had set up a panel to investigative the alleged killings arising from the clash between members of the proscribed IPOB and the military in Abia State.
Umahi, at a press conference before leaving Abakaliki for Abuja where he is expected to accompany President Muhammadu Buhari to the United Nations (UN) conference, disclosed that the governors of the zone, in agreement with other leaders and stakeholders, had proscribed activities of IPOB to stop tension that was rising in the zone.
Umahi, who said the proscription had achieved the desired result, lamented that IPOB had lost its original ideal and was almost drifting into causing unnecessary tension in the south-east. He noted that IPOB activities were gradually going out of the hand of its leader, Kanu.
According to Umahi, the army, while briefing the governors in Enugu, said soldiers were passing on the way when IPOB members threw stones and other objects at them, sparking the clash between the group and the military.He said Ebonyi State had begun the implementation of the ban on IPOB as part of the resolutions reached at the meeting of the south-east governors and leaders in Enugu at the weekend. Umahi urged the security agencies to ensure the protection of lives and property of all residents of the state. He said any group that propagates sectional and tribal hatred should be sanctioned.
According to Governor Ikezie Ikpeazu of Abia State, about 12 million Igbo reside in the northern states and have consistently demonstrated to be true Nigerians there.He made the comment yesterday at the state NUJ Centre in Umuahia when he paid a sympathy visit five days after soldiers of the Operation Python Dance II attacked the centre, beat up journalists and destroyed their working tools.
He lauded President Muhammadu Buhari for reposing confidence in the south-east governors to speak to their people, stressing that "Igbo have demonstrated to be true Nigerians wherever they are."
But the South South Reawakening Group has slammed the south-east governors for allowing Kanu and his IPOB members to threaten the security of the country.
According to the convener of the group, Joseph Ambakederimo, the south-east governors allowed the matter to degenerate to the level that government had to designate IPOB a terrorist organisation before they decided to proscribe the group.
"It is a pity that you governors and many of your fellow south-easterners do not know the constitutional procedure to adopt on matters of this nature. It will not be out of place if all of you governors are held responsible and in contempt and accessory to this crime. All of you hide under IPOB to divert the people's focus from your incompetence, non- performance, avarice and greed. For us in the South South Reawakening Group, President Buhari is magnanimous not to have declared a state of emergency in the south-east. He would have done that and let the heavens fall. The IPOB and their backers cannot continue to pull all of us along the road to Golgotha", Ambakederimo said.
The south-south group said the steps taken by the president so far on the IPOB menace was expedient as it bordered on national security, stressing that when national security is at stake, the liberty of any individual or the right of any group of persons takes the back seat.
He said: "The President Buhari government is proactive and the action taken so far is in line with what any well-meaning and sitting government would have done. The issue of national security should be devoid of politics, the issue of safeguarding lives and property is the primary responsibility of any government. In fact, the designation of the IPOB as a terrorist organisation is long overdue. We have on record (tape) where the self-professed supreme leader of IPOB in a forum in the United States solicited arms and ammunition to fight the Nigerian state. We are sure millions of Nigerians have seen even more damning recordings of the IPOB group, yet nothing was done by his people to denounce or proscribe the group. Nothing is more treasonable than what we have seen and heard as a people from Kanu."