In this report, CHIBUZO UKAIBE, writes on the intervention of the Afenifere and Ohaneze, following attempts to infuse ethnic rivaly amid the violence that trailed the ENDSARS protest
The ENDSARS protest has been a combination of the good and the ugly. The protests which started off as a demand for the scrapping of the notorious Police Unit popularly called State Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) has caught on across most states in the country, soon degenerated into an outlet by hoodlums to attack state institutions, traditional institutions and private businesses.
Although some have argued that the resort to violence was triggered by the shooting at the Lekki Toll gate by some men dressed in Army uniform, others aver that there is no justification for such violence as it would seem that criminal intent was at its core.
While the violence raged, a wave of fake news swept through the social media sphere, causing more tension within the polity, a negative narrative tending towards ethnic conflict soon emerged.
The narrative was ignited by a voice recording of the leader of the proscribed Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu who encouraged the violence in the Lagos which saw to attack on Media Houses as well as traditional and state institutions.
Worried about the comments by Kanu, a pan Yoruba group, Apapo O’odua Koya,(AOKOYA) while decrying the destruction and violence in the state, alleged a secret plot to destroy critical economic assets in Yorubaland by a combination of forces alien to the South West people.
In a statement signed by the group’s spokesperson, Ahmeda Akorede, condemning, in very strong terms, the burning down of critical economic assets in Yorubaland by some evil individuals, it said, took a swipe at Kanu, just as they pointed out that areas where Igbo businesses are predominant in Lagos were not attacked.
In response, the Apex Igbo socio-political, Ohaneze Ndigbo, who had been at variance with the proscribed IPOB and its leader, distanced it’s self from Kanu’s position while, also dismissing the insinuation that the attacks in Lagos were a scripted plot by the Igbo against the South-west.
Even though Kanu subsequently, said his recording was manipulated, a UK-based Nigerian, Grandson Adeyinka, released a video on social media, calling on Igbo indigenes to leave south-west states with 48 hours.
However the situation attracted strong reaction from the leaders of the apex Yoruba and Igbo, socio-political organisations – Afenifere and Ohanaeze.
In a joint statement, signed by Afenifere Leader, Chief R. F Fasoranti and Ohanaeze President General, Chief John Nnia Nwodo, the leaders described the attempts to put a wedge between Yoruba and Igbo as devilish. They pledged to defend the new understanding built in the last three years between the Yoruba and Igbo people just as they asked the police to investigate and arraign suspected perpetrators of the violence.
In the statement which also commiserated with all the families who lost dear ones in the Tuesday bloody masaccre in Lekki, Lagos, they said, “We do not endorse arson as responsible organizations and we call for a stop of the orgies.
“We have also noted the divisive attempt to use the violence to put a wedge between Yoruba and Igbo and destroy the new understanding we have built in the last 3 years.
“We reject this devilish attempt and ask the police to investigate and arraign suspected perpetrators responsible for the violence.
“The essence of Law and Order is for individual citizens to answer for their actions. It is where law enforcement is weak that you begin to cast ethnic slur when crimes are committed instead of holding the perpetrators.
“We appeal to our peoples to continue to live together in peace and harmony and not allow divisive elements to put a wedge between them.
Solidarity for ever,” they said.
In same vein, the Lagos State Government while warning against fake news and inciting messages as on social media and online space, warned against creating tension and encouraging ethnic conflicts.
A statement by the state Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Gbenga Omotosho, urged Lagosians to disregard the videos, which are the tools of anarchists, whose plan is to create hatred and divisiveness for which Lagos is not known for.
The statement partly reads, “Inciting videos of this nature are not what our land needs now, following the loss of lives and destruction that fake news, misinformation and unfounded rumours have triggered in our dear state in the last couple of days. The government appeals to Lagosians to disregard the calls of ethnic and religious jingoists as well as agents of destruction who are on a mission to destroy our state by pitching us against one another for yet to be ascertained reasons. This is a very critical moment for us as a people. It is, therefore important that we stand together and remain circumspect because the brewery of falsehood is unrelenting in its mission.”
The commissioner said Lagos State is the melting point of various cultures, tribes and religions across Nigeria and noted we have co-existed harmoniously for ages and will continue to live together peacefully.
While Pastor Tunde Bakare also dismissed the insinuations of rift between Yoruba and Igbo as a fallout of the orgy of violence in Lagos, Nobel laureate, Prof Wole Soyinka, who was dragged into the narrative by Adeyinka, urged the public to be wary of identity thieves using falsehood to legitimise their antics.
Soyinka in a statement titled ‘Identity Thieves on the Rampage,’ accused identity thieves of digging up ‘an ancient fabrication’ once attributed to him, which he strongly condemned, to support a video clip ordering Igbo to leave Yorubaland.
He said, “Normally, one should totally ignore the social dregs. However, in the present atmosphere where FAKE NEWS is so easily swallowed and acted upon without reflection, I feel once again obliged to denounce this recurrent obscenity.
“As for our brother and sister Igbo, I hope they have learnt to ignore the toxic bilge under which some Nigerian imbeciles seek to drown the nation.
“It is time also, I believe, to also enter the following admonition: one cannot continue to monitor and respond to the concoctions of these addicts of falsehood, and their assiduous promoters who have yet to learn to wipe the filth off their tablets.
“The patrons of social platforms should develop the art of discrimination. Some attributions are simply so gross that, to grant them even a moment’s latitude of probability diminishes the civic intelligence of the recipient,” he said.
Even though Kanu had denied the recording attributed to him, the Ohanaeze Ndigbo Youth Council still tackled the IPOB leader.
The youth council, in a statement by its secretary general, Okwu Nnabuike, said Kanu has deviated from “the peaceful approach of non-violent struggle, traditionally adopted by Biafra agitators.
“Nnamdi Kanu’s craftiness, bogus claims, lack of respect for Igbo elders and hatred for other ethnic groups in Nigeria, had endangered the lives and properties of Ndigbo in Lagos and Northern Nigeria,” the group said in the statement.
“Now, Ndigbo has seen clearly that IPOB had confirmed the reason why the once peaceful organization was proscribed and labeled a terrorist
group. In the last few weeks, private and public properties as well as lives have wasted across Igbo with people carrying Biafra flags under
the banner of EndSARS protests.
“From Aba to Awka, Onitsha, Owerri to Obigbo and Igbo towns, it has been tales of destruction and woes from the same people who are yet to
recover from the effects of the Covid-19 lockdown. What kind of leader will make a video calling his followers to get weapons, kill policemen and burn police stations? Meanwhile, the so called leader or freedom fighter is safe and away with his family in the whiteman’s country, London while his indoctrinated followers inflict death and destruction
of the same people he purportedly seeks to liberate.
“Endsars Protests is a Purely Nigerian Youth Movement aimed towards addressing the abnormalities in Nigeria, attempts by Omoyele Sowore to infiltrate the Lekki Protesters was resisted by the Yoruba Youths. The recent vituperative attacks of Adesinya Grandson on Ndigbos had been
dismissed and disowned by Afenifere and Yoruba Youths.
“The fall of Nnamdi Kanu is near, he should retreat now, and apologize to Ndigbos
for endangering their lives in the North and South West, by inciting violence in Aba and Obigbo while his father’s house and Afara community is safe. A day of reckoning is fast approaching and inevitably near, when Nnamdi Kanu will no longer influence the Youths for his fame and wealth seeking games under the guise of ill -thought out Biafra agitation,” he said.
As the nation counts its loss and victims of the violent outburst begin to face of the reality of what just happened, the expectation is that all hands will be on deck to check narratives that can incite violence at a fragile time as this.