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Total shutdown, disagreement trail President Buhari visit to Imo

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By Sunday Elom N

President Muhammadu Buhari finally landed Sam Mbakwe Airport in Owerri, Imo State capital at about 9:30a.m today (Thursday 9th September, 2021), where he was received by the Southeast governors who were led by Ebonyi State governor and Chairman of South East Governors Forum, Engr. Dave Umahi, the host governor, Hope Uzodimma and other Southeast leaders.

President Buhari is expected to commission some projects in the State and also meet with Igbo leaders and other Igbo groups to discuss the state of the nation and the Southeast region in particular.

Meanwhile, Orient Weekend can report that there was a total adherence to the sit-at-home order issued by the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, over the president’s visit across major cities and towns in the Southeast states as major roads and markets were deserted by residents and business operators.

Deserted street in Imo State as Buhari visited. Photo credit: Sahara Reporters

But on the little contrary, when this paper spoke with a motorist who simply identified himself as Chidi, who traveled from Enugu metropolis to Abia state through Okigwe in Imo on Thursday morning, it was learnt that whereas many parts of Owerri, the Imo State capital are completely deserted by residents and business operators, other parts including Okigwe, many major cities in Abia State were very busy with “people going about their normal businesses.”

“I’m just returning from Aba, Abia State now and I drove through Okigwe and I can tell you that there is free movement. Even in Okigwe, people are going about their normal businesses,” Chidi who spoke with this paper on the phone from Enugu state said.

In a similar scenario, there was also partial movement in some parts of Awka, the Anambra State capital as some Keke Napep riders, motorists and business operators went about their businesses unhindered, although with vigilance as they were afraid of any eventualities as there were reports of violence in Ekwulobia, a distance of about 30 minutes’ drive from Awka.

A trader who gave his name as Emma at Ukwu-Oji, behind Government House, Awka, who did not open his shop in full, said that he is afraid of possible attack by IPOB members who may be enforcing the sit-at-home order; thus, he can easily gather the few goods he displayed if anything happens.

Deserted street in Awka. Photo credit: Daily Post

The President’s visit had elicited divided agreement between the apex Igbo socio-cultural group, Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide and the IPOB.

While IPOB through its Directorate of States, DOS, ordered a total sit-at-home “across all the Biafran land,” Ohanaeze Ndigbo had vehemently insisted that it is not against the President’s visit but rather they would welcome him wholeheartedly.  

According to a press statement the group’s spokesman, Chief Alex Ogbonnia, made available to newsmen, the group said, “The attention of the leadership of Ohanaeze Ndigbo has been drawn to a statement making the rounds in the media and purportedly issued by the President-General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo.

“The press statement, issued by one Chidi Ibeh; a nondescript and unknown to Ohanaeze, gave the impression that Ohanaeze Ndigbo is at odds with the planned visit of President Muhammadu Buhari to Imo State today, September 9, 2021. Nothing can be more dishonest than this.

“Ohanaeze Ndigbo, under the leadership of Prof. George Obiozor, dissociates itself from the purported statement and urges Ndigbo to disregard same. We are appalled that some miscreants, masquerading as leaders of Ohanaeze could issue such a rheumy and dubious statement on behalf of Ndigbo.

“The statement is mischievous, ill-intended and a deliberate attempt to put Ndigbo in harms’ way.

“May we reiterate here that Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide welcomes His Excellency, Muhammadu Buhari, President and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to Owerri in Igbo Land.

“We are, therefore, deeply delighted that President Muhammadu Buhari has chosen to visit Ndigbo in Igbo land at this critical juncture in Igbo history. By this visit, the President has proven, beyond doubts, that he is the father of the nation.

“It is therefore, the height of wickedness, callousness, mischief, rabble-rousing, and miscreancy for Mr. Chidi Ibeh and his co-travellers to issue such a discordant statement in the name of Ndigbo.

“Ohanaeze Ndigbo would no longer take such idiosyncracy and urge our people to totally disregard the mischief of Mr. Chidi Ibeh and his recalcitrant, misguided impostors, impersonators and pretenders.

“We urge Ndigbo to troop out en-masse to welcome our President and accord him the honour due to him. The Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide are persuaded that this land-mark visit to the South East of Nigeria by Mr. President is critical and a turning point in the Igbo political history.”

In the same vein, the national youth leader of Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide, Engr. Damian Okafor, in press statement said, “It is with euphoria and sense of responsibility that I wish to address Igbo youths on the occasion of the august visit of   President Muhammadu Buhari to Igboland in Imo State to be precise.

“As the number one citizen of the Federal Republic of Nigeria visits Igboland,  I  call for total calm in the length and breadth of the land as the Igbo leaders ably led by the President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide Ambassador (Professor) George A. Obiozor; the Chairman of the South East Governors Forum,  Engr. Chief David Nweze Umahi  and not excluding the host governor,  Sen. Hope Odidika Uzodimma are ready to expose the facts about the challenges affecting the Igbo nation to Mr. President. Hence, I encourage Igbo youths to come out en masse to give Mr. President a resounding welcome.

“It is believed that Mr. President cannot come to the Igbo land, hear all our problems and leave us without a solution, especially as it concerns the carnages being perpetrated by the Fulani mercenaries, the exclusion of the Igbo from the composition of Service Chiefs’ appointment, the underdevelopment of Igbo Nation, the high rate of unemployment among Igbo youths, the socio-economic war against the Igbo nation; among others.

“Let us once again reactivate our spirit of hope and believe in the Word of God which says that to the living, there is hope. Ndigbo should have a better bargain than secession.

 “To Mr. President, I say welcome to the Igbo nation. While we believe that your coming will leave us better than your absence. I wish you a successful trip to the Eastern Heartland,” parts of the statement read.

IPOB/Ohanaeze Ndigbo. Photo credit: ThisDayLive

Also, a statement by the National Director of Information of the Movement for Actualization of Sovereign State of Biafra, MASSOB, Comrade Edeson Samuel, charged the Southeast leaders to use the opportunity of the President Buhari’s visit to demand justice and release of the detained IPOB leader, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu.

According to the statement made available to journalists, MASSOB said, “The leadership of the Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra, MASSOB, hereby advises the political, traditional, religious and opinion leaders of Igbo land to demand the release of Mazi Nnamdi Kanu from President Muhamadu Buhari during his state visit to Imo and Ebonyi States.

“It is imperative that Mazi Nnamdi Kanu is being subjected to inhuman torture at the DSS detention cage because of Ndigbo. He represents the aspirations of Ndigbo in Nigeria.”

“MASSOB advises Igbo political leaders to use the occasion of President Muhamadu Buhari’s visit to revive the lost confidence and hope Ndigbo bestowed on them by telling Buhari that Ndigbo are not being treated as co-citizens. They must demand for the release of Mazi Nnamdi Kanu from detention.

“MASSOB reiterates that what Ndigbo want is Biafra from Nigeria. We can never deviate from this clamour for independence of Biafra Republic.”

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