By Akanimo Sampson
There is a simmering tension in the Eastern axis of Nigeria following an alleged threat by the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) to abduct the five governors of the political bloc. Governor David Umahi of Ebonyi State made this public.
He spoke as they, the allegedly threatened governors, were calling on the military to caution troops to be more professional in the discharge of their duties in the region and also warning the armed security forces to remain apolitical, pointing out that any attempt to yield to the temptation of being used to manipulate general elections will be resisted.
According to the Governors Forum, the forthcoming elections will go a long way in shaping Nigeria’s future as one indivisible entity.
The military has launched Operation Python Dance III in the zone to assure residents of their safety in the face of alleged heightened tension ahead of the 2019 general elections.
Forum Chairman, Governor Umahi spoke for his colleagues when the General Officer Commanding (GOC) 82 Division of the Nigerian Army, Maj.-Gen. Abubarka Maikobi, visited him at the Government House in Abakaliki, the Ebonyi state capital.
Umahi acknowledged that Eastern Nigeria had been greatly troubled by the military presence, especially because of the recent clash between the army and members of the proscribed IPOB and accordingly called on troops deployed in the region to remain neutral and maintain high level of professionalism in the discharge of their duties for as long as the operation will last.
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) governor challenged them to come up with workable policies that will earn them the confidence of the people of the zone in the cause of their duties, adding that the army and other security agencies must remain neutral in the coming general election in the state and, by extension, the East.
Continuing, he said the zone will not have any problem with the place the army may deem fit to establish their operational headquarters as long as they keep to the ethics of their profession of protecting the people instead of being seen or accused of killing them.
He however, warned that the political bloc will resist any attempt to rig the general election in favour of the All Progressives Congress (APC), President Muhammadu Buhari’s party, using security agencies as tools, adding that the only way Nigeria will exist beyond 2019 was for credible elections to hold where all security agencies are seen to be neutral.
Gen. Maikobi said he was in the state to familiarise with the governments and people of the East and also inform him about the army’s plan to begin Operation Egwu Eke III.
According to him, ‘’I am also here to inform you that I have been mandated by the Chief of Army Staff to formally inform you as the Chief Security Officer of the state that exercise Egwu Eke III was flagged off in Maiduguiri, Borno State.
‘’The exercise is scheduled to take place from January 1 to February 28, 2019. We have selected Ebonyi under your purposeful leadership as the location for the step-up headquarters for the exercise.’’
Maikobi assured that troops will be neutral. ‘’I assure you and the good people of Ebonyi State that the Nigeria Army will remain neutral, professional and totally apolitical. Nigerian army will not compromise its constitutional roles under any guise.’’
In the mean time, at Nwaegu Military Cantonment in Abakaliki during the official flag-off of Operation Egwu Eke III by the Nigerian Army 82 Division, Governor Umahi alleged that IPOB has threatened to abduct them.
He claimed that the fresh threat from IPOB was received via text message sent to his wife, adding that his state was not part of the region which formed the sovereign States of Biafra as proclaimed by the IPOB.
Umahi is also insisting that some of the agitations of IPOB members were genuine except that their approach towards actualizing their objectives was bad adding, ‘’the GOC you are coming at a time we had note from our brothers and sisters of IPOB sending text messages that there will be no elections and insulting the leaders, particularly the south east governors.
‘’Just few days back, they sent text message to my wife that the 5 governors of south east would be kidnapped and that their security would over power that of the governors and after ransom are paid, they would kill them and kill themselves. As a leader in the zone I must say that some of their complaints are genuine but the approach is very bad, that is why the leaders of south east is not in support of their approach.
‘’And so, we are not against them but their approach. And as the Chief Security Officer of the state, I do not welcome them. Ebonyi state is not part of Biafra, we are a sovereign state. We don’t want to be colonised again; we are a state demanding better treatment in the affairs of our nation.’’
The governor has vowed to report some cult groups to Operation Egwu Eke III, allegedly due to the fact that they breached their earlier agreement reached following the recent clashes recorded in the state.