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Sometime in September 2021, I decided on an intercity romantic expedition – from Port Harcourt to Enugu. Because the lady closes from work around 8 pm (whenever on evening shift), it requires that I would not go home in time so as enjoy the pecks and thrills of smiling at somebody you dearly love. I stuck to this routine for some time.

One particular day, I was going home around 10 pm. Very close to Abakpa Nike Junction, 1 – 2 Km from the Government House, a soldier ordered me out of the bus, threatening to teach me a bitter lesson. Although SS2-looking in stature and composure, the soldier meant his threat. What was the offence?

He was upset that my handset was not hiding in my pant while approaching a military checkpoint. Nothing other than that. I was neither playing a soundtrack nor making a romantic call which often requires smiling and laughing. The phone was idle, to be candid. What triggered him was the lock screen light. When I came to this realisation, I politely sought to defend myself. My argument went that since a phone is a hand-held device, it was safer to have it handy in my palm. That would turn helpful in the event of sudden surprises from unknown gunmen (UGM) – a phenomenon that was commonplace at the time.

Politely, I engaged the soldier with observable candour, confidence and forthrightness. “Who are you?”, the poor soldier queried vociferously. Since he looked and sounded barely educated, I needed to overwhelm him with high-sounding words. “My name is Mr Annie; International Court of Arbitration and Mediation” I answered. Truly, I don’t know whether such an organisation exists in the world. Essentially, it was only a defence mechanism/response. In retrospect, the recruit must have come from a remote village in Gidan Kwanu or Tudun Wada or even somewhere unknown as the case may be. In a way, he fell for it. However, to “bamboozle” isn’t a fail-proof strategy.

In Nigeria, simply provoking security agents, by your fashion sense or preferences, could send you to an early grave. Be it in Lekki, Umuahia, Warri, Abakaliki, etc.; it is a common experience. As I bargained to regain my freedom unhurt; intermittently, unwholesome fear knocked at the door of my heart. “You could be neutralised!” “You could be harmed without consequences!” A gunman just needed some whispers from his mind to send some shrapnel into a head or stomach. That’s all. Thus, I fought to maintain my composure amidst my ugly reality.

Suddenly, in a quick reversal of self, he commandeered me back to the bus while muttering some inaudible words. During this parade in the valley of death, the rest of the passengers maintained dead silence. Tellingly gripped with fear, they watched this emergency non-fiction- horror movie with raised hairs. “They easily drag the trigger to fuel their worthless ego as unprofessional soldiers”. “They shoot to intimidate, suppress or repress”. These were passengers who shared their worries.

I regained my freedom and re-joined the bus without physical injuries or gun-shot wounds, save psychological abuse. Curiously, they queried about my social class or what I had told him to regain my freedom unhurt. Further, they argued among themselves: not many survive similar encounters unhurt.

This story is a metaphor for the ugly security situation in major parts of Eastern Nigeria, particularly the South East region. A war against the dignity and liberty of a nationality that must be suppressed and repressed? As a result, life has become brutish, nasty and short in the language of Thomas Hobbes (1588 – 1679). Whether perpetrated by state actors or non-state actors (as often the case), the senseless attacks on liberty and human dignity in Eastern Nigeria are utterly unimaginable.

Relatedly, although the Nigerian Army has denied a particularly disturbing video reportedly filmed at Awgu, Enugu State, where soldiers were recklessly and unconscionably showing their might against civilian targets, the message has been successfully delivered to Ndi Awgu in particular and Ndi Igbo in general. We should make no mistakes about its architecture, origin, intent and meaning.

Come November 7th, as Ndi Anambra faces the devil and the deep blue sea, they cannot afford to leave out the weirdest imagination in their analyses on who earns their mandate. Against all odds, they must not enthrone a political party that presumably hates an entire ethnic group or at least behaves in a manner that so suggests. Can’t Igbos see the dangers lurking in our doorsteps?

The military occupation and operations (for instance, Egwu Eke in the recent past) in Eastern Nigeria and specific operations in Anambra State and the excesses thereof, are not accidental. They are often designed in war rooms with specific instructions and characteristics. Back to the Anambra gubernatorial election tomorrow: why would anyone want to sweep a clean street? In this scenario, a broom is a liability and ultimately undesirable. Ndi Anambra, onye ndi ilo gbara gburugburu, n’eche ndu ya nche!

Written by Ani, Nwachukwu Agwu. Ani wrote from his village, Ohaozara, Ebonyi State.

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