When criminal Fulani herdsmen were terrorizing the country, kidnapping for ransom, killing and destroying farmlands, the South West region of the country responded by setting up a regional security outfit which the region named Amotekun, the Federal Government objected to the security outfit but all the governors of the six states in the region, with the total backing of all the stakeholders including the traditional rulers, the elders and the youths insisted until it became a reality with the State Houses of Assembly passing the bill to give it a legal backing.
ipob,esn,ebubeagu,obaIn the South Eastern part of the country, some youths, backed by IPOB, attempted to replicate Amotekun by establishing the Eastern Security Network, ESN. But last week, the five governors announced their regional security outfit which they called Ebube Agu. This, however did not enjoy the overwhelming support of the people of the South East as it happened in the South West.
There were discordant tunes everywhere and the opposition to the formation of Ebubeagu was so fierce that IPOB threatened that whoever joined it could be on the way to join their ancestors.
Following this seeming disunity, not unusual among Ndigbo, there are talks that it would be an uphill task for the South East to achieve a consensus that will enable them produce the president for the country in 2023.
Some Igbo leaders and stakeholders have however shared their views on what non Igbo consider as lack of unity among Ndigbo declaring that discordant tunes over Ebube Agu should not suggest that Igbo would not be united on 2023 presidency.
Former Chairman of the Nigeria Economic Summit Group Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa, in his opinion argued that the discordant tunes over the Ebubeagu regional security outfit announced by South East governors did not in any way suggest that Ndigbo were not united on the Nigeria President of Igbo extraction project in 2023.
Ohuabunwa said that “Ndigbo do not need to be 100% united before producing the President of the country in 2023.”
The former President, Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria rather submitted that what was needed was for other regions of the country to first agree to allow the Igbo to produce President in 2023. He further argued that when ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo was running for President in 1999 the whole Yoruba nation was not united behind him but that did not stop the race from producing the President as the major political parties ceded their presidential tickets to the region.
According to him, Ndigbo are republican in nature and can never be on the same page on every matter unlike some tribes where the opinion of one person is upheld by others. He said that the discordant tunes that greeted the formation of Ebubeagu regional security outfit did not suggest that the Nigeria President of Igbo extraction project could not be achieved. Mazi Ohuabunwa challenged Nigerians to first agree that Ndigbo would produce President Muhamnadu Buhari’s successor and see whether or not the tribe would be united in producing a competent presidential material..
“It doesn’t require any special unity. Ndigbo can always agree at critical times. Let Nigeria first accept that Igbo will produce President in 2023. Were Yoruba united in 1999 when Obasanjo became President? Some Yoruba openly opposed him. Equity and justice require that the next President should come from South East”, he said.
Ohuabunwa noted that everybody had his own concept of Ebubeagu or regional security outfit for the South East, and that the differences among the people did not mean lack of unity.
In his own submission, the Chancellor of Gregory University, Professor Greg Ibe said that the governors should be given more time to come out fully on the modus operandi of the security outfit.
Professor Ibe said that “since the governors are the political leaders of Ndigbo for now, they should be given some time to decide on the modus operandi of the regional security outfit.”
Professor Ibe said he believed that the governors must be doing some consultations on how best the outfit could be run to produce the desired result. He said that the discordant tunes over the security outfit did not in any way suggest that Ndigbo were not united on the quest for the 2023 President of Igbo extraction adding that as time draws nearer the coast will be getting clearer. He however, harped on the need for Ndigbo to stay united on the project to avoid losing the bid to other regions saying, “when you fail to get yourself organised somebody somewhere will do it for you and foist it on you, coming together now is the way to go”.
Secretary of Igbo Leaders of Thought, ILT, Prof. Elochukwu Amucheazi, said that the republican nature of Ndigbo was responsible for their flexible leadership which he said was nothing to worry about but a thing of pride to the ethnic group. He further said that there was no ethic group anywhere in the world or in Nigeria that would always have consensus on topical issues, such as security or leadership and expressed his support for both Ebube Agu and ESN.
Prof Amucheazi, an emeritus Professor of Political Science in the University of Nigeria Nsukka, was the National Coordinator of Mass Mobilization for Self Reliance, Social Justice and Economic Recovery, MAMSER under the General Ibrahim Babaginda administration in 1987.
He said that for the fact that the Igbo appear divided on the security machinery such as EbubeAgu or Eastern Security Network, ESN, should not be a thing to worry about, maintaining that when the time for Igbo presidency comes in 2023, a president of Igbo extraction will emerge without much qualms.
Amucheazi said: “I welcome the establishment of Ebube Agu, the ESN can continue their own independently. I expect the governors to rally round and equip Ebubeagu, fund them and give them incentives. There is no group that is not divided over one thing or the other, whether it is Ndigbo, Yoruba, Hausa or Fulani or the middle belt. Every time people talk about north speaking with one voice but the north is made up of over 200 ethnic groups. They claim that they are supervising others but they are not, it’s a handful of them, the cabal, which take decisions and even amongst them there are people who differ. You don’t expect unanimity in any issue at a particular time. The important thing is for the governors to live up to their responsibility.”
He said that the seeming division among Ndigbo will not jeopardize the Igbo Presidency project.
“We are winning the presidency; Ndigbo will have the presidency in 2023, if the election will take place. All these things they are saying are merely to divert our attention, to see if they can outsmart us but it’s all nonsense I can tell you. Why should we have consensus when both the APC and the PDP will have separate candidates? These are diversionary talks that people are saying. I don’t think there is any problem in all these things, no matter their diversionary method. No group is united in Nigeria, sometimes people say there is no leadership in Igboland, but it is our flexible leadership which is what we have to be proud of. The leadership is there and at the appropriate time it will emerge,” Amucheazi said.
In his own argument, an Igbo leader of thought, Chief Abia Onyike stated that the emergence of a President of Igbo extraction in 2023 would be possible, if the kingmakers agreed to make it a reality.
According to him: “On the issue of Igbo disunity and Igbo presidency in 2023, if the kingmakers want to make an Igbo man president in 2023, I don’t see how it will not work. When Obasanjo was picked from prison in 1999, the Nigerian system was mobilised to instal him, not because of Yoruba unity.
“After all the Yoruba never voted for Obasanjo. The Awoists never liked him. The MKO Abiola family despised him, yet he still became president. Those talking of Igbo disunity should shut up. The Igbo appear divided on the formation of Ebubeagu because of the treacherous tendencies of the leadership of the South-East Governors. From their statements, it would appear that Ebubeagu was formed not to fight the invasion of the South-East by Fulani herdsmen, but to fight the IPOB and ESN. That is a false understanding of the security situation in the South East. And that is why the governors have not taken any steps to pass the Bill banning open grazing in the zone.”
The national vice chairman of Ohaneze Ndigbo, Chief Damian Okeke-Ogene however urged those responsible for the implementation of the security outfit not to expose the strategies to Nigerians before its take off. He argued that revealing the modalities when no concrete plan for it had been made by the governors of the South East on its location, funding, training and staffing, would amount to putting the cart before the horse.
To him, Ebubeagu is merely an introduction of a new nomenclature because, as he observed, every state in the zone already has a security outfit operating in their various states.
According to him, at this stage, what the planners of Ebubeagu should do is to harmonize the various security outfits operating in the five states into a zonal command structure with headquarters in Enugu.
He said: “Actually security outfits are not new in the zone, but the only difference this time around is that the five South East governors are involved in it for the purpose of achieving a common purpose.
“With the stakeholders like Ohaneze, the activities of Ebubeagu would be harmonized and make it more forceful and expand its area of coverage. We recall that before now, state vigilante outfits could not cross their state borders to operate, but with the proposed Ebubeagu, there might be need for cross fertilization of ideas and passage of security information beyond state borders and among the various states.
“Since this is a purely security matter, we do not expect the public to know everything concerning Ebubeagu because it is not everything that people should know. We expect the governors and the major stakeholders to work out the modalities and implement it the way they want it and it is the result that will determine if they got it right. Even Ohaneze Ndigbo is not expected to know all the details since the apex Igbo organization is not part of government. What we can do is only to advise when it is necessary, but we should not force our opinion on matters of security.
“Again, the operators of Ebubeagu should be properly trained to act mainly through intelligence gathering, rather than the usual manner of using force by Nigerian security operators.”
A post graduate student of criminology, Mr. Justin Animalu argued that with the governors divided along political lines, the tendency is for them to follow the directives of their parties, thereby undermining the interest of those they govern.
“I don’t see much coming out of this Ebubeagu. The governors merely did a photo show and you might be surprised that nothing much would come out of that gathering. When it comes to working out the modalities, funding, staffing and all that, you will see that Ebubeagu will die a natural death,” Animalu said. According to Animalu, the success of Ebubeagu would go a long way to determining how the Igbo nation would unite in their quest to produce the next president of Nigeria in 2023.
Also contributing, a former Imo State Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Chief Vitalis Orikeze Ajumbe, opined that “the ugly situation not only shows the level of disunity in Igboland, but also, amply typifies the fabled crab mentality story. Late Alhaji Balarabe Musa told me in his Kaduna house last year, that Igbos are not united and will never be united. When the Senate President was zoned to South East, they fought themselves until the five States in the South East tasted that office within four years. Conversely, it was the same position that David Mark held for eight years! Is that how they will produce the President of Nigeria come 2023? It is yet to be seen that they have changed!”
Reacting also, the leadership of Igbo National Congress, INC, described the insinuating allegation or belief, as “a misconception and misunderstanding from non-members of the Igbo race”.
President of INC, Comrade Chilos Godsent, explained that the process of formation and pronouncement of the Ebube Agu Vigilante Security Outfit by the Governors of the South East was too alien to Igbo democratic culture and values.
He said: “Meetings and consultations by key South East Stakeholders, with the leadership of the leading self-determination groups in the Igbo nation have commenced, so as to harmonize operational differences by the various South East Regional Security Outfits. With this, they can serve the interest of Ndigbo and effectively protect Igbo territories. On the agitation for the President of South East extraction in 2023, we do not think that there is any disunity in the pursuit of this popular cause. We are religiously committed to the 2023 South East Presidency project and INC does not see any act capable of causing friction in that project.”
Holding a different view, the national president of Nigerian Political Science Association, NPSA, Prof. Aloysius-Michaels Okolie, argued that “the Ebubeagu security outfit being proposed by the governors of South East region will fail just like the ambition of the Igbos to produce Nigerian president in 2023”.
Prof. Okolie who is also the Dean, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, UNN, explained that the governors failed to carry the intelligentsia, opinion leaders, legal luminaries and major stakeholders along in setting up the proposed security outfit.
While saying that the 2023 ambition of the Igbos to produce Nigerian president would not be realizeable just like the Ebubeagu security outfit, he alleged that the governors of the South East were sabotaging themselves for political gains and cannot work out any meaningful project together.
He said, “before the South West came up with Amotekun, they were able to harvest the contributions of the intelligentsia, opinion leaders, legal luminaries and major stakeholders which the South East governors didn’t do before proposing Ebubeagu. The South West came together and established their views. The framework was established and legalized. That is why it was very difficult for the Federal Government to fault the legal standing of Amotekun.
“The South East Governors are singing in discordant tones, they are not working in unison. Each of them is faced with the factor of political survival, that is they want to perpetuate themselves on political seats. The second factor is that all of them are afraid of the hydra-headed monster called EFCC. Based on these basic factors, none of them is ready to lay down his head for the survival of the Igbo race.
“Each person is talking about either being the president, Vice President, being in Senate and what have you. That is why they can’t have common front. They are sabotaging themselves. From the setting we are seeing, South East region cannot produce the president of Nigeria in 2023. This does not mean that I am sabotaging the Igbo people, but this is just the reality based on discordant tones that characterise Igbo relationship with one another. It is obvious that what they call Ebubeagu is not for the protection of the Igbo man but an outfit directed from the Presidency to fight ESN.”