By Dons Eze, PhD
We have been following with keen interest, but with cautious optimism, the recent decision by the governors of the South East Zone, after their one-day meeting in Owerri, Imo State, to establish a joint security outfit for the region, which is to be known as “Ebubeagu.”
While many people are hailing that decision, and saw the new security outfit as very necessary, and a timely response to the worsening security situation in the South East, others, however, are skeptical, insisting that the setting up of the security outfit was belated, and for that reason, would not serve any useful purpose. They also envisaged a possible conflict arising from the establishment of the security outfit.
Abia State Governor, Okezie Ikpeazu, while explaining that the purpose for setting up the security outfit was necessitated by the serious challenges of insecurity in the South East Zone in recent times, also maintained that “Ebubeagu”, which means, “presence of a lion, connotes protection, territorial authority, strength and power”, would oversea and monitor activities of vigilante groups in the South East.
The governor stated that the operational modalities of the security outfit would be “rural-based” and “intelligence-based”, while the governors of the South East would cooperate to ensure its proper equipment and overall operational success.
According to him: “Ebubeagu would be a security outfit, both in name, purpose and action. They will be properly equipped. I want to assure you that all the states in the South East already have various vigilante outfits.
“We want to call for a harmonized, synergized system of action to be able to compare notes, to be able to set up digital platforms that can respond to digital challenges”, the governor stated, insisting that “we are just trying to respond to peculiar circumstances in the South East. We are not copying from any geopolitical zone”.
These are excellent postulations by Governor Ikpeazu, which ordinarily seems harmless. But when we begin to probe deeper and compare notes, we begin to see something different. We begin to see conflicting issues. We then become very uncomfortable and frightened.
Presently, in the South East, there exists a joint security outfit known as the Eastern Security Network (ESN) set up last December by the Nnamdi Kanu-led Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB). The group claims to be working inside the bush for the protection of the people of the South East Zone from criminal elements hiding in the forests, from where they make life uncomfortable for the people. These criminals kill and maim people, rape women, destroy farmers’ crops, burn down their houses and farmlands.
The ESN are not in the good books of some of the governors of the South East, in particular, Hope Uzodinma of Imo State, and Dave Umahi of Ebonyi State, while the security outfit has been having run battles with Nigerian security agencies. The other day, Hope Uzodinma allegedly called ESN members “hoodlums” and “murderers”, and claimed to be the one who invited Nigerian security forces to deal with the group.
In the same vein, Dave Umahi also described the Eastern Security Network (ESN), as “bandits” and “criminals”.
Speaking in a television programme, Umahi accused the ESN of “doing evil within the South East forests,” stressing that the governors of the zone would not allow such illegality in the South East.
In his words: “We won’t allow people to take the laws into their hands by killing cows and killing people. But I have to tell you that herders/farmers’ conflicts are not the only security challenges we have in South-East, we have the issue of kidnapping.
“And of late, we have bandits that are now doing a lot of evil and saying they are Eastern Security Network. They commit a lot of crime and say they are IPOB, and later IPOB will come out and say we had no hand in this, we had no hand in that.”
From our above readings, we now can see that the South East Governors who are planning to set up Ebubeagu, and Nnamdi Kanu, who already has his Eastern Security Network, have different perspectives about what insecurity consists in the South East, or who is responsible for the insecurity.
The South East governors believe that the IPOB, as an outlawed group, had no right to set up any security outfit, and that the group had been causing a lot of criminality in society. They brand members of ESN “bandits”, “criminals”, “hoodlums”, “murderers”, who must be flushed out from the forests of the South East.
On their part, the IPOB, consider the South East governors to be saboteurs, as agents of Hausa/Fulani people, and people who are not genuinely committed to protecting the lives and properly of the people of South East. Nnamdi Kanu was reported to have said that any Igbo man who joined Ebubeagu, should be prepared to meet his ancestors.
That is the problem we now have at hand, and where we have our fears. Our concern is that when two elephants will be fighting, it is the grass that will tell the story. Those who make up the Eastern Security Network, and those who will make up the proposed Ebubeagu, will be Igbo youths.
These Igbo youths would be made to face each other in the battlefield. They will fight each other. They will kill themselves, perhaps, assisted by some external forces, the Nigerian military and the Police, who are always ready to do the bidding of those who invited them, those who wanted their services.
In the end, what we may be leaving behind as history will be, that at one stage in our quest for political power or for whatever purpose, we got had some Igbo youths to engage each other in battle, where they killed themselves for us to be in control!That may not be too palatable to the ear.
Perhaps, it may not be out of place to suggest that we seek understanding of those we call the recalcitrant group. They are our children. We do not think that it will be nice for us to continue to disown them, to push them away, even if we may regard them as “spoilt children.” Jesus said he came not for the healthy, but for the sick. Let’s see how we can bring them closer to us.