By Ben Destiny Okenwa
In recent times, Igboland has witnessed a worrying trend of civil unrest and a near economic paralysis, largely fuelled by the activities of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB).
One of their most contentious methods is the illegal imposition of sit-at-home orders, coercively compelling businesses, schools, and essential services to shut down. As the collective voice of responsible journalism, it is essential to critically analyse the impacts of these orders and call for their cessation in the interest of national unity and socio-economic progress of the Igbo nation.
First and foremost, it is crucial to acknowledge the right of individuals and groups to express their grievances in a peaceful and lawful manner. However, the indiscriminate enforcement of sit-at-home orders by an IPOB-splinter faction which has resulted in loss of lives and property has not only impinged on the rights of others but has also led to devastating consequences for the ordinary citizens they claim to represent.
One of the most glaring issues with these orders is the crippling effect they have on the already fragile economy of Enugu State, and by extension, Southeast zone. Small and medium-sized businesses, which are the backbone of our economy, suffer severe losses each time a sit-at-home order is illegally imposed. The disruption to the supply chain, loss of revenue, and potential layoffs of workers threaten the livelihoods of countless families, exacerbating poverty and economic inequality.
Furthermore, the impact on education cannot be ignored. The illegal sit-at-home orders disrupt learning activities for students, affecting their educational growth and overall future prospects. Education is the bedrock of any progressive society, and we cannot afford to hinder the development of our future leaders. Our children are the most pivotal investment and pillar of our society. The way we treat them today determines the kind of future we want to leave behind us. We cannot afford to play a dangerous politics with the education of our children. Doing that will mean igniting a destructive explosive with existential threats to the survival of the Igbo man.
Beyond the economic and educational ramifications, the sit-at-home orders also pose a significant threat to national unity. A united Nigeria thrives on diversity and inclusivity, fostering a sense of belonging for all its citizens. IPOB’s divisive actions hinder this unity by promoting separatism and nurturing feelings of alienation among certain ethnic groups. Instead of sowing seeds of discord, we should be working together to bridge the gaps and build a stronger, more virile, and more cohesive nation.
It is pertinent to address one of the root causes that, hitherto, fuelled IPOB’s grievances which was the primary and most fundamental reason Peter Mbah, the governor of Enugu State, in is his quest to deliver to us the Enugu our dream, has paid visits to President Bola Ahmed Tinubu on the need to release Mazi Nnamdi Kanu from detention. The governor has done what is expected of a reasonable and responsible leader. The call for Kanu’s release by the governor should serve as a pacifier to anyone in arms struggle against the state. It is enough to convince aggrieved individuals to drop their weapons and embrace the truce process Governor Mbah had already initiated. Only those sworn to perpetuate criminal activities in the name of Kanu would continue to rampage as sit-at-home enforcers.
The time has come for the citizens of Enugu State to re-evaluate the efficacy of the sit-at-home orders imposed by Simon Ekpa’s IPOB faction. While the group may claim that these actions are borne out of a genuine desire for justice and self-determination, the method they employ only perpetuates division, stifles economic growth, and hampers the development of our great state. The Igbo people are gradually dying economically, socially, academically, and psychologically. It is crucial for the citizens to realize that they should not be compelled to abide by the IPOB sit-at-home orders, especially when the government and relevant authorities have taken a stand against such acts of economic sabotage.
Governor Mbah’s order to stop the enforcement of the sit-at-home order within the state is a significant step towards restoring normalcy and fostering economic activities. It is essential for individuals and businesses to recognize that the strength of our democracy lies in our collective resolve to reject violence and uphold the rule of law. While acknowledging legitimate grievances, resorting to disruptive actions like sit-at-home orders only hamper progress and reinforce a cycle of animosity. Ignoring such orders is a way of demonstrating resilience and commitment to the growth and prosperity of our people.
The decision by the Governor to end the IPOB sit-at-home order should serve as an example for other leaders across the region. It is a clear indication that the government is attuned to the concerns of its citizens and is determined to protect their rights and freedoms. By respecting the governor’s directive, the people of Enugu State can contribute to an atmosphere of peace and stability that fosters economic growth and social harmony. Furthermore, it is essential for the media, civil society, and community leaders to play an active role in enlightening the populace about the need to reject actions that undermine national cohesion. By promoting a message of unity, inclusivity, and adherence to the rule of law, we can collectively discourage the enforcement of sit-at-home orders and other divisive activities. As a society, we must prioritize the values of peace, understanding, and tolerance. We have experienced firsthand the devastating effects of civil unrest and must remain committed to safeguarding our hard-earned democratic values. Resorting to peaceful means of conflict resolution is the hallmark of a civilized society and a testament to our collective maturity as a nation. The IPOB must drop their guns and embrace the reconciliatory initiative he had already forged.
In fact, while the right to peaceful protest is a fundamental aspect of democracy, it is essential to strike a balance between expressing grievances and ensuring economic stability. The sit-at-home protests organized by IPOB in Enugu State have had far-reaching negative impacts on the economy. Such acts amount to sabotage of the Igbo people and must be ignored by our people. The disruption of businesses, the strain on government resources, the impact on education, the erosion of investors’ confidence, and the decline in tourism all undermine the state’s growth potential and the well-being of our people.
Moving forward, it is crucial for all stakeholders, including the government, community leaders, and activists, to engage in constructive dialogues and seek peaceful means to address concerns and grievances while ensuring that the criminals enforcing sit-at-home, depriving our people of their freedom of movement, and harassing the citizens should be brutally flushed out with all the available state resources and instrumentality of force.
By promoting dialogue, inclusive governance, and participatory decision-making processes, Enugu State can work towards sustainable development and social harmony, fostering an environment where citizens’ aspirations are met without sacrificing economic progress. People should desist from politicizing the illegal and unconstitutional sit-at-home order by a proscribed group in order to score a cheap and irrelevant political point so as not to give credence to hoodlums and criminal elements against a legitimately constituted authority with people’s mandate and legitimacy. It is time for Enugu people to stand up, reject criminals parading as freedom fighters to intimidate, harass and molest them, and go back their normal businesses having in mind that Governor Mbah has strategically positioned sustainable security architecture for their safety.