CASMIR IGBOKWE e-mail: email@example.com
Donatus was a Maiduguribased businessman. All through his adult life, he knew no other lucrative location for business than the Borno state capital. He spoke Hausa fluently, made friends with many Northerners and imbibed a lot of their way of life. In 2012, Dona, as he was fondly called, was preparing to leave the North for good. Not that he didn’t like the people anymore.
But the murderous activities of Boko Haram terrorists prompted his bid to relocate to the East. That really never happened. In March 2012, some gunmen suspected to be Boko Haram members struck in his area. People started running helter-skelter. But before he realised what was amiss, he had been gunned down. Rather than come back alive as he planned, it was his corpse we received with tears. Dona, my uncle, left behind a wife and five children.
Prior to this personal loss, many Anambrarians, nay South-Easterners, had lost many of their loved ones to the dreaded terrorists. In one moment of madness, they invaded a place where some Anambra people were holding town union meeting and slaughtered them like fowls. Some have had their shops looted. Some had lost their houses. Some had lost their entire means of livelihood. Many others had since relocated to other places outside the North.
It is in this context that one can appreciate the massive protests that trailed the alleged transfer of some Boko Haram captives to Aguata prison in Anambra. The first protest took place across the state last Saturday. Traders trooped out in their thousands, chanting Igbo solidarity songs and waving anti-Boko Haram placards. Then, last Tuesday, similar protests rocked Ekwulobia, the headquarters of Aguata Local Government Area of Anambra. The President General of the South-East Markets Amalgamated Traders Association (SEMATAS), Okwudili Ezenwankwo, was quoted to have confirmed that Boko Haram detainees were moved into Ekwulobia last Sunday night.
The concern of the people of the state is that bringing Boko Haram detainees to their prisons poses some dangers. Knowing the antecedents of the group, they can invade the prisons to free their members. They can begin to pay visits to the areas where their members are in detention and start plotting how to plant bombs in strategic places. The fear of the people is not misplaced.
There is no need recalling the atrocities of the terrorists in the North. Be it in Borno, Yobe, Adamawa, Gombe or Kano, Boko Haram has done and continues to do a lot of havoc in the society. They have killed many innocent people. Last year, they kidnapped over 200 schoolgirls from a community called Chibok and up until date, the girls are yet to be found. Latest reports indicate that the girls may have been co-opted into fighting for the militants. One of the women who recently escaped from the Sambisa forest stronghold of the group, told the British Broadcasting Corporation that “people were tied and laid down and …the Chibok girls slit their throats.”
People of the South-East have seen war and do not want to see it anymore. They suffered untold hardship and deprivation during the 30-month civil war and do not want Boko Haram to bring another round of humanitarian crisis to them. Even the exit of former President Goodluck Jonathan and the emergence of President Muhammadu Buhari have not brought any respite in the murderous tendencies of the blood-thirsty group. It is as if the coming of Buhari has propelled them to launch more attacks. The annoying thing about the whole episode is the attempt to politicise the situation.
For instance, the Anambra State chapter of the All Progressives Congress, APC, accused the state government of sponsoring the traders’ protest. The state chairman of the party, Emeka Ibeh, reportedly advised all APC members in the state to “take reasonable step to protect the party, themselves and their properties against any premeditated hate campaign or attendant actions masterminded by the APGAled government in Anambra State.” I don’t see why anybody will want to politicise this kind of issue. We are talking of a major threat to the security of a group and someone is talking of APGA-led government trying to undermine the APC-led Federal Government. On what basis is this allegation being made? Is APC saying that Governor Willie Obiano fabricated the story? The governor had urged his people to remain calm.
In a statement by the state Commissioner for Information, Culture and Tourism, Dr (Mrs) Uju Nwogu, Obiano noted that extensive consultations were going on and that all relevant authorities were being reached. “Chief Willie Obiano as the Governor of Anambra State, remains the most concerned and disturbed always, over any issue bothering his people. Ndi Anambra are therefore requested to be calm, remain law abiding and go about their normal businesses as His Excellency would explore all means to resolve the issue as quickly as possible,” the statement noted. Ndigbo may not have voted for the APC in the last general elections, but is that why the ruling party wants to punish them by exporting Boko Haram terrorists to their small prisons? It is bad enough that the terrorists are ravaging the North. It will be worse if government deliberately escalates the problem to other parts of the country. The spirit of Donatus and all those who lost their lives to the crisis will not allow that to happen.