Cowardice of Today’s Igbo Governors – by Ochereome Nnanna
The governors of the 36 states of the Federation are designated by the Constitution as the “Chief Executives” and “Chief Security Officers” of their states. It is for this reason that they arrogate to themselves billions of naira worth of “security votes” every year. It is also for this reason that they ride in armored convoys with daredevil secret policemen, mobile policemen and sometimes even military personnel at their beck and call round-the-clock. That is why they are also pavilioned with immunity. They are well protected from any form of enemy aggression. But, what about the people who vote them into that exalted office; the common people? Don’t they also deserve to be protected? Are governors the Chief Security Officers of themselves and their families alone? Is the security of lives and property of the people no longer the foremost function of government?
Most state governors have abandoned the protection of their own people from armed invaders masquerading as Fulani herdsmen for totally objectionable reasons.
In Kaduna State, armed herdsmen are attacking Christian and non-Muslim communities in Southern Kaduna, killing, maiming and chasing people away from their native lands, burning down villages and occupying them with their cattle. Governor Nasir el Rufai plays deaf and dumb about it. The Federal Government and its security agents pay lip service to protection of lives and property, and the menace continues unabated. It is happening in Nasarawa, Plateau, Benue and most other states in the Middle Belt, Southwest, Southeast and Southsouth, with very tepid responses from the governors and little or no response from a Buhari administration that has security at the top of its three-point agenda.
I have often wondered why the people of the Middle Belt, who were massively mobilized for the anti-Igbo pogroms of 1966 and became the main Northern contingent of the federal side during the Civil War, appear to have suddenly lost their fighting spirit. Their communities and people are faced with total annihilation and the Federal Government is not interested to do its constitutional duties. The Middle Belt states still constitute a sizable element in the security forces today (army, police, DSS, Customs, Prisons, Immigration and other armed services). In fact, working for the security agencies appears to be their first choice of profession after farming.
How could such a people renowned for their gallant roles in defending the nation fall so short when armed invaders, for over ten years now, have been threatening their people with extinction? If the Federal Government does not want to protect them, should they lie supine and allow themselves to be obliterated? Is self-defense no longer the first law of nature?
The situation in the Southeast is even more baffling. Nearly 50 years ago, these people mounted a bid for independence and withstood the whole federation and its foreign sponsors for thirty long months. They fought with locally-improvised armament. When criminals threatened to overwhelm the area after 1999, the governors, especially Orji Uzor Kalu of Abia State, elevated the people’s vigilante (the Bakassi Boys) into a state-sponsored outfit, which was used to contain the criminals. The experiment was copied by Anambra and Imo States. Bakassi Boys were so effective that, when the Sharia riots hit the North as from the year 2000 and many Igbos became victims, the Northern population in Abia State felt the heat and begged Governor Kalu to find a safe haven for them away from the Aba and Umuahia hotbeds. They were given a settlement at Lokpanta on the Port Harcourt – Enugu Expressway, where they have lived peacefully and flourished in their cattle and other businesses.
But today, in spite of the presence of the socially-irrelevant Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra, MASSOB, and the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra, IPOB, armed herdsmen have extended their invasions from the Non-Muslim North to Igboland with impunity. The governors and people of these states have offered no meaningful response, and the emboldened Nigerian Janjaweed are raiding more communities. The responses of the governors have been so pathetic. Enugu State has been conquered because the governor there, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi (Gburugburu) has offered to surrender his powers as the Chief Security Officer. When Ukpabi Nimbo was invaded and scores killed, Gburugburu wept like a baby. The following day, he dressed himself up in white Northern popular attire (babanriga) and went to Aso Villa to beg Buhari. The President promised to deal with the “criminals”, but nothing changed. This same Ugwuanyi was the first governor to place full-page color adverts congratulating Fulani king, the Sultan of Sokoto on his 10th anniversary. How have Ugwuanyi’s bootlicking antics helped to protect those who elected him into power?
Barely five days after Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo State dressed up in an over-sized turban and went with a large delegation to genuflect before Sultan Abubakar III of the Sokoto Caliphate, an Air Peace aircraft with over 150 passengers on board nearly crashed into a herd of cattle on the Owerri Airport runway, but for the dexterity of the pilot! Cattle nearly ran his convoy off Orlu Road, Owerri in August this year. These are just tips of the huge iceberg on the menace of armed herdsmen in Imo State without any heartfelt response by the “Rescue Mission” governor. Rochas’ antics are obviously aimed at getting Buhari, the Sultan and the North to anoint him for president! Even if he gets it, you can imagine what manner of president he would be.
In Abia State, Governor Okezie Ikpeazu initially responded to the murderous Fulani herdsmen challenge by resuscitating the Bakassi Vigilante in all the communities to work with the Police to protect the people. Still, we get reports of villagers being killed in their farms by these invaders all over the state, the latest being in Abam.
Governor Willie Obiano responded to the menace with typical grandiloquent rhetoric: he would start a helicopter patrol of the state. But only last week, three communities: Aguleri Otu (he is from Aguleri), Mkpunando and Eziagulu Otu, started mobilizing to defend their farms against the herdsmen this harvest season. Just how effective is Obiano’s helicopter surveillance?
Contrast with this measure from Ekiti State in the South West. Armed herdsmen have killed, kidnapped people and destroyed farms in the zone, particularly Ondo, Ogun, Oyo, even Lagos, with very little done to deter them. But Governor Ayo Fayose rose to the occasion. He created a law against unauthorized grazing and established a task force to implement it. It became so effective that the Fulani Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association (MACBAN) sent a delegation to him. Matters were talked over, and both sides took groups photographs to celebrate a negotiated settlement. How many other states has MACBAN responded to in this dignifying and esteemed way? This governor did not cry, beg or prostrate before Buhari and Sultan Abubakar. When Federal agencies failed to do their work, Fayose spoke the language of leadership and demonstrated his true stature as the Chief Security Officer of Ekiti State. The sponsors of the invasions came to beg. He put his people first. That is a leader!
“Cowards die many times before their death”, Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar said hundreds of years ago. Igbos are not known for the cowardice which their today’s governors portray. Does it mean that Igbos elected the wrong persons to be their Chief Security Officers? Any governor who cannot protect his people does not deserve a second term in office. If the Federal Government and the state governors fail in their duties to protect the people according to law, then there is no need for government. Left on their own, the people must protect themselves.
No coward can ever be my leader.
Culled from Vanguard News