For some weeks now, the city of Owerri capital of Imo State, (easily the heartland of Ndigbo) has been in the news for less than edifying reasons. While the latest of these may be the recent Easter day jail break following an attack on the Nigerian Correctional Services (prison) in Owerri, which led to the escape of about 1,800 prisoners, as well as the destruction of parts of the premises of the headquarters of the Imo State Police Command also in Owerri, signs of the anomy had been palpable for some time but were apparently unheeded not only by the authorities, but also a wide cross section of the masses.
For instance, just before the attack on the correctional facility and the police premises, there had been a running flare-up between the Nigerian military and suspected locations of one shadowy, supposedly armed militant group that goes by the name Eastern Security Network (ESN) around Orlu, one of the principal towns in Imo State. This was preceded by a face-off between the sitting governor Hope Uzodinma of the All Progressives Congress (APC), and the immediate past one – Rochas Okorocha also of the APC, and which showed signs of deep seated animosity and inclination for bellicosity between them and their respective followers. Meanwhile, Uzodinma had come into office after an acrimonious electoral battle against Emeka Ihedioha of the Peoples Democratic Party ( PDP), which was resolved through a Supreme Court judgment that was based on still widely contested legal premises. One could go on and on reeling out instances that point to a build-up of resentment that would likely ignite into full blown fracas some time, some day.
A popular Ibo proverb says that “if vultures are not sighted at the scene of a sacrifice then there must be a problem in the land of the spirits”. The lesson here is that if vultures who throng scenes where animals are sacrificed ritually to scavenge on the meat fail to appear at any such location, there must be an unusual development as reason for their absence. Reflecting on the run of the recent attacks on the Owerri correctional centre and police station points to a complement of twists and turns which dictate that there is much more in the macabre drama than meets the eye. While the initial reports seemed to have stripped the development of some of its more seedy angles, the visit by the Vice President Yemi Osinbanjo on a damage assessment mission to the crisis sites, seemed to have opened up the Pandora’s Box of inanities which preceded and trailed the development.
According to media reports, the extensive scope of the damage to the two facilities was not through an air borne raid whereby it could have taken by surprise, the complement of on ground security agents including a nearby check point mounted by the Nigerian Army. Another report has it that charges of dynamite were used to blow up the damaged facilities. Could it have been that the deafening noise from such assault did not get to the soldiers nearby? In the same vein, a few questions have been trending since the incident including the following. Firstly is that given the proximity of the attacked premises from a military location just a few kilometres away, why did the soldiers not intervene as routine duty demands? Did they not have any inkling of what was going on around them?
Secondly did the leaderships of both the Nigerian Correctional Centre and Nigeria Police Command in Imo State reach out to the military for back-up and were denied such support? What of the official security apparatus of the Governor of Imo State who failed to respond as required even as the scenes of assault were close to the Imo State Government House? Were they sleeping on duty when their principal could have been kidnapped for ransom or some other untoward end? Meanwhile there are also other angles to the development such as the trending twist that the Department of State Security Services (DSSS) had earlier warned of the likelihood of such an anomic development anytime.
Putting the recent Owerri flare-up in proper context reinforces the ever disturbing and most unedifying picture that country’s security architecture leaves much to be desired. This factor alone changes the dynamics of the Owerri flare-ups as being more than a local issue for Imo State alone, but a national security breach.
Be that as it may, the onus lies on the Ndigbo intelligentsia, to be guided by the circumstances of a seeming escalation of turbulence in their environs with the recent Owerri flare-ups as the new high point. If they do not see a looming, scary picture of their community spiraling inexorably down a vortex of perdition, they must misreading the situation. It is beyond conjecture that their house is on fire, set by a few of them. And in the circumstances only their enterprise can resolve the situation.
A word they say is enough for the wise. And by any measure, Ndigbo are wise people.