Sequel to the spate of violent attacks and weekly Monday sit-at-home in Anambra, Governor Charles Soludo, Sunday, said his administration has offered “amnesty” to agitators in the state.
But Ohanaeze in a swift reaction yesterday took exception to the use of the word amnesty, saying it connotes that the youths have been committing an offence when in reality, they are only fighting against marginalization.
Ohanaeze however lauded Governor Soludo’s efforts to rehabilitate aggrieved Igbo youths who are causing trouble in the state and South East in general while protesting the ill-treatment being meted to the people of the South East.
Soludo had in an interview with Channels Television lamented the situation in the southeast which over the past year has witnessed spates of violent attacks with security operatives bearing the major brunt of the onslaught.
Recall that on Sunday, gunmen had attacked a patrol team of the Federal Road Safety Corps, FRSC, in Anambra, which led to the death of two operatives.
Amid the violent attacks, hoodlums are still enforcing the sit-at-home order which has been suspended by the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB.
Just yesterday, workers flayed efforts to bring to an end, the unpopular sit-at-home in the region which took the worst dimension, as residents deserted the roads and streets in Anambra, Imo and some cities in the southeast.
Speaking on Channels TV, Soludo had said his administration is ready to rehabilitate and offer skill acquisition training to those willing to surrender.
“Within the agitation movement, we have to agree that there are now factions. There are various factions. There is one led by one guy in Finland called Simeon Ekpa.
“IPOB has come out to accuse that group of being the one behind much of the criminality taking place in the southeast. It is a very huge positive development.
“A lot of them in the bush out there are having camps here and there. They come out to kidnap and kill. Once we isolate all the groups that are not involved in this, then we can focus on the criminals.
“We have also offered them some kind of amnesty. Come out, give us your guns, we are prepared to give you training in whatever skills, even if we have to raise resources to empower you to become useful partners in the development of the society.”
On the agitation for secession in the south-east, Soludo said an ideology cannot be killed through the use of guns, adding that it is pertinent to understand the root cause of the problem.
“A time comes when you realise that you cannot shoot an ideology with a gun. When you see it exclusively as a law enforcement matter, then you miss the point. You’ve got to engage them,” he said.
The governor said his administration will set up a truth and reconciliation commission.
“This is something we need to engage very seriously. We are taking it very seriously with an open manner to engage everyone and believing that everyone has some contribution to make. To the criminals, we are offering them an olive branch to repent.”
To this end, the governor declared prayer sessions that took place yesterday across Churches in the state to formally end the sit-at-home.
Lay down your arms
Speaking at St Joseph’s Catholic Cathedral, Ekwulobia in Aguata local government area where he participated in the prayer session, Governor Soludo appealed to those still carrying arms and forced people to stay at home on Mondays in Igbo land to lay down their arms and embrace the path of peace in the interest of the people.
He recalled that the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) had issued a statement putting an end to the Monday sit-at-home and wondered why it should continue.
He observed that the people and the state were the major losers anytime the sit-at-home order was enforced, adding that children were deprived of going to school every Monday just as economic activities were also grounded.
He said that the state cannot continue in that manner, stressing that this is the time to take back Anambra State and build it as a home of peace and the light of the nation.
Governor Soludo also informed the congregation that the state government had put in place measures to rehabilitate and train the youths to be gainfully employed, as well as the setting up of a Peace and Reconciliation Commission to reconcile all aggrieved parties.
According to him, with the prayers offered in the churches across the state, the Monday weekly sit-at-home is officially over and urged the people to come out every Monday to conduct their businesses while schools and other essential institutions/agencies are required to open for business every Monday as well
The Bishop of Ekwulobia Diocese, Most Rev Ebele Okpalaeke, who led the prayer session charged the people to embrace peace.
He observed that nothing could be achieved without peace and harmony in the land and appealed to those who were bent on creating fear and tension in the land to desist forthwith and embrace the olive branch offered by the state government for peace to return to the state.
Soludo has started well — Bishop Ezeokafor
At the St. Patrick’s Catholic Cathedral, Awka, the Bishop of Awka Diocese, Most Rev Paulinus Ezeokafor, who led the congregation in the prayer session observed that Igbo people were faced with a very serious situation.
He said: “There is no doubt that Igbo are not well treated in this country. You cannot just be a visitor in a place that belongs to you. Igbo are a big force to reckon with right from independence and unfortunately, we say we are one country, but some people are not well treated”.
The Catholic Bishop of Awka Diocese commended the actions being taken by the Anambra State Governor, Professor Chukwuma Soludo to return the state to normalcy, particularly the plan to grant amnesty to the agitators.
He said in an interview later that the move would go a long way to assuage the feelings of all the actors involved in the present situation.
He said: “Every action has a reaction and I believe that most of the actions we are seeing today are reactions following that neglect of the Igbo.”But I also believe that it can still be redeemed and remedied. Those who are complaining have reasons to complain and what they are complaining about is real, but their method of approach is faulty.
“What our people are doing is not right because we are fighting ourselves and destroying our economy.
“This issue of sit-at-home every Monday does not help us if we must tell ourselves the truth. Everything an Igbo does to feed himself is through hard work and anybody stopping the economy from working is not helping us.
“If people are realistic, they should listen to the voice of reason. People who should talk are talking. In the present circumstance, all the traditional rulers in Igbo land, the clergy, the PGs of communities, the government and everybody, are saying, let us look for another way of doing things.
“Yes, we are in chains, but this is not the way to approach the issue. For people to be operating from the forests is not the right thing to do, we should operate from the house and not destroy ourselves.]
“I know very well that as Igbo, it is not in our culture to kill. We can use our mouths to quarrel, but using knives and cutting people is alien to us.
“So, I really plead with those who think the solution is fighting and making people not to go to school or attend to their businesses to know they are not on the right track.”
Soludo is doing well, but… .– Ohanaeze
According to Ohanaeze Spokesman, Alex Chidozie Ogbonnia, the issue is that people should look at cause and effect in any given scenario.
But in the case of what is happening in the South East, what people are looking at is the effect, not the cause.
“The cause is that the South East is being alienated; we are being marginalized and unemployed, we are sidelined and marginalized in government. And because of that, our youths are unhappy. They are being rendered poor on daily basis because of where they come from, because of the historical experience of their fathers or grandfathers. Because of that, they are angry and to that extent, there is agitation, either you treat us well or allow us to go. And to that extent, they are causing some of these problems in the name of IPOB and others.
“As a matter of fact, the remarks by the President where he talked about 95 per cent and 5 per cent votes aggravated the situation. The present government has not been fair to the South East, and the people are expressing their dissatisfaction with the system in various forms.
“Soludo is doing the right thing, calling them out, using the word amnesty. Well; the important thing is that the young people who are agitating are right. I want to congratulate Soludo. He is a man who has the audacity to tread a difficult path. He will get enough support. And if Anambra succeeds, it will affect the other South East States”, Ogbonnia said.
Again, sit-at-home shuts down S-East
Meanwhile, the sit-at-home observed in the southeast yesterday shut down most cities in the region.
In Awka, Anambra State, prayers as directed by Governor Charles Soludo and other Igbo leaders to end the weekly Monday sit-at-home in the South East were held in many churches but that did not achieve the end as envisaged.
It was also the same situation in Nnewi and its environs as heavy vehicular and human movements witnessed some weeks ago on the roads and streets of the town and that of Onitsha the commercial city disappeared. The streets were empty.
According to some residents of both Onitsha and Nnewi, the current worsening disappearance of vehicular and human movements on the streets and roads in the two popular Anambra towns is not unconnected with the directive by the state government that there is no more sit-at-home and ordering the civil servants to resume work, an order the civil servants ignored.
A Nnewi- based legal practitioner Mr Okechukwu Anele, alleged that the worsening disappearance of vehicular and human movements in the state is caused by misguided statements from the state government without first studying the situation of the sit-at-home.
In Onitsha, the commercial city of Anambra State, roads and street shops that used to operate last three weeks, were all under locks and key while heavy vehicular movements were witnessed some weeks back, which gladdened the hearts of the residents, that things were beginning to normalize suddenly disappeared,.