The immediate past deputy Senate president and member of the Ninth Senate, Ike Ekweremadu, was recently physically assaulted by members of the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB) in Nuremberg, Germany. Ekweremadu was invited to the annual cultural festival and convention organised by Ndigbo in Germany. He was to deliver a keynote address at the event.
Video recordings of the attack, which had gone viral in the social media showed some members of the IPOB, accosting him on arrival at the venue and at some point, pursuing him into the hall with sticks. He later emerged, had his dress torn by the attackers, as he hurried into a car, which whisked him away to safety.
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While claiming responsibility for the assault, IPOB said it had ordered its members to attack Igbo leaders anytime they were sighted in any part of the world. The group listed Governors Dave Umahi of Ebonyi; Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu; Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia and Willie Obiano of Anambra as well as John Nnia Nwodo, president-general of the Ohanaeze Ndigbo, among those marked for attacks.
IPOB’s grouse is that the Igbo political elite have not done much to defend their people against violent cattle herders and kidnappers, even in their own region as well as in support of self-determination for the Igbo nation.
Many notable personalities have condemned the assault on Ekweremadu, saying he did not deserve such disgraceful treatment. Some of those who expressed disappointment in the IPOB members’ conduct had also been blacklisted and threatened with attack by the group.
Senator Ekweremadu himself said he was disappointed in the Igbo youths, who rough-handled him, saying he had always spoken up on justice for the Igbo and against killings in the South-east and elsewhere on the floor of the Senate and in official engagements with the Presidency and the media.
In the same vein, Nwodo had reacted to the IPOB leader, Nnamdi Kanu’s threat to his life and members of his family for condemning the action against Ekweremadu.
However, we note that not a few personalities had also reacted, justifying the attack on Ekweremadu and warning other politicians to expect such physical assault for having not lived up to the expectations of the people they purport to serve.
The defenders of attacks on politicians cite examples of elsewhere in the world where citizens express displeasure with their leaders by pelting them with eggs or tomatoes in public.
While acknowledging the right of citizens to hold their representatives accountable and to express displeasure with their perceived poor performance, we condemn the physical assault on public office holders and politicians that could cause bodily injury or even death.
We are particularly concerned that the attack on Ekweremadu took place on foreign soil. Any such attack on a public official is an attack on the office of the victim and, therefore, a dent on the image of the country.
While the cause being championed by IPOB, that is, to ultimately get self-determination for the Igbo nation is noble, the mode of execution by the group’s leadership leaves much for concern.
The IPOB leadership is arrogating to itself the sole preserve of determining the fate of the Igbo and branding the other leaders and institutions, as traitors and irrelevant.
This stance and the directive to physically assault notable Igbo leaders are capable of dividing the Igbo and eventually hurting the resolve to fight their cause as a united people if wisdom is not applied.
It was the resort to the use of insults and violence that made IPOB an easy target for proscription and declaration by the Federal Government as a terrorist organisation in 2017 under the Terrorism (Prevention) Act 2013.
With its decision to relaunch its violent agitation abroad, we do not think IPOB would enjoy any support or sympathy from the government in any country where its members physically assault Igbo public officials and elite.
Already, after the Nigerian Embassy in Germany exerted pressure on the German authorities, a criminal investigation is now being conducted on the Ekweremadu incident and the attackers may be arrested and prosecuted.
While restating our total condemnation and abhorrence of the resort to physical assault on public officers, politicians and leaders of ethnic nationalities, we hope that these leaders would also appreciate the people’s concern about the insecurity and worsening economic conditions, which deserve very urgent attention.