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On Friday December 1, 2000, scores of heavily armed troops stormedOkigwe town, Imo State (Nigeria) in what observers believe might be ameasure by the Federal Government to "flush out" the leader of theMovement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra(MASSOB), Ralph Uwazurike and his supporters. The soldiers arrivedOkigwe town at about 1.30 p.m. in four military trucks and about 30mobile policemen came in two trucks and one armoured personnelcarrier (APC). The town was immediately surrounded by the troops whofired sporadically into the air, driving residents into the bush.Uwazurike's house located at No.153 Owerri Road, Okigwe was ransackedand his aged father reportedly manhandled. His bus parked at thepremises had its four ties shot at by the soldiers.
The popular Penco Hotels, Okigwe (Imo State) was also ransacked bythe soldiers apparently thinking that the MASSOB leader was hidingthere. The entire workers of the hotel were later arrested anddetained when they could not produce Uwazurike. About six cars parkedat the hotel premises were shot at by the soldiers who have so fararrested about 20 persons believed to be MASSOB members.
However, Uwazurike himself has evaded arrest as he was said tohave left the town shortly before the soldiers arrived. Friday, thetown appeared deserted as residents had either run into the bush orto neighbouring, Uturu, Abia State, while business and othercommercial activities have been paralysed.
When THISDAY visited Okigwe at about 3p.m Friday, abandonedcorpses littered the town while indigenes were running helterskelter. The menacing soldiers were all over town firing into the airand into the tyres of moving vehicles. Although the official reasonfor the troop action could not be established as at press time,observers believe it might not be unconnected with the clash Tuesdaybetween residents of the town and policemen who had wanted to arrestUwazurike.
The angry residents had attacked the policemen as well as smashedtheir vehicles when they rounded up some occupants of Uwazurike'shouse because they could not locate the MASSOB leader. Reacting tothe deployment of troops, President of the congress for theLiberation of Ikwerre Ethnic Nationality, attorney Uche Okwukwudescribed it as "sheer provocation of MASSOB as there was no warsituation. "MASSOB is not an armed struggle, there is no warsituation, why deploy troops to kill defenceless civilians", Okwukwuqueried.
Meanwhile, pan Igbo socio-cultural group, "Nchikota Umunna" hasflayed the Federal Government over the recent appointment of chairmanand members into federal boards, parastatals and commission whichthey described as lopsided against the Igbos.
The co-ordinator of the group, Chief Iworisha Oputa, told newsmenFriday in Owerri, that "out of 137 chairmanship positions, 19 ofwhich as of right should have been allocated to Ndigbo, only fivewere given to Imo in inconsequential parastatals that have norelevance to the development of Igbos". According to him, qualitativeand quantitative balance for which the federal character commissionwas set up, was absolutely neglected by the government.
The group reminded the Federal Government that the nation was byconsensus, based on a tripod of East, West and North which they saidhad dominated the structure of the country's politics, and that noattempt should be made to change the balance to the disadvantage ofthe East. "This tripod was based on equity, justice, fairplay andopportunities for all Nigerians irrespective of tribe, language,religion affiliation and others", he said.
He lamented that more than 30 years after the civil war, Ndigbowere still being subjected to deprivations as evidence in the totalneglect in infrastructural facilities and lack of representationamong others.
Condemning Ndigbo ministers, advisers and others who have heldpublic positions since the Babangida regime to date for not living upto expectations, the group requested the Federal Government to giveurgent attention to the reconstruction of federal roads in the eastand to build infrastructural facilities in Igboland.
Iwunze is a reporter for the Lagos-based This Daynewspaper/December 3, 2000
It's a shameful act of banditry byObasanjo's government
By Francis Nnamdi Elekwachi-Mpuomigbo
This banditry by the Nigerian government led by former militarydictator Olusegun Obasanjo (which is really more a disguised militaryjunta) must be condemned by all Igbos and all Nigerians who cherishtheir freedom and fundamental rights. This continued use of brutalmilitary force (as Obasanjo did in the town of Odi and now in thepeaceful town of Okigwe) by a supposedly civilian government, toattempt to stifle peaceful free speech and democratic expression andassociation can only force otherwise peaceful people andorganizations into active self-defense.
Ndi-Igbo must now pass their verdict on the local collaborators,who continue to sustain the Obasanjo-Arewa invasion of Igboland, byvoting them out of power come 2003. Ndigbo must now ensure that onlyIgbos who are committed to Igbo unity, self-determination, autonomyand self-government are henceforth voted into power in Igboland.
This dastardly act in Okigwe and killing of innocent civilians byObasanjo's regime must be condemned and all the individual soldiers,police, officers and those who issued the orders must be traced,tracked down and made to pay the price of their debauchery. Ndi-Igboand all Nigerians must not let these vandals go unpunished.
POINT TO PONDER
The time is now and if we as Igbos--at home andabroad--remain speechless and practically inactive to Gen. Obasanjo'sincreasing decimation of the Igbo Nation, then we must admit we'vebeen conquered.
By Ambrose Ehirim, Los Angeles-based writer.
Abacha's henchman al-Mustapha sings briefly about "Abubakar-Diya Coup" plot, the killing of Abiola, NADECO and other issues