By Victor Onwubike
There is no doubt that the first three days of the #ENDSARS Protest in Enugu was peaceful, but not without element of politics and deviation.
Leveraging on this some disgruntled and unscrupulous political elements conspired and directly hijacked the protest, recruited criminals and vandals as protesters to unleash mayhem on the state. This was just in a bid to disrupt the peace in the state for selfish and parochial reasons.
For two days, these hired vandals, criminals and miscreants, who their emotional sympathisers and sponsors intentionally described as hungry and armless youths to delude the gullibles and divert attention, destroyed private and public properties and wasted lives in Enugu with ease.
In their desperation to satisfy their paymasters, they boldly defied the 24 hours curfew imposed by Enugu State Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi to carryout their dastardly and mindless acts in some parts of the state, leaving the once beautiful and clean state in ruins and tatters.
The finesse and audacity they deployed in planning and executing the mayhem point to the fact that they have collaborators, allies and sponsors within the state, who covertly worked and still working with them. It is a case of the home rats telling the one in the bush that there is fish in the house.
Ordinarily and legally, whenever 24 hours curfew is imposed in a state, nobody needs to be seen moving about, except those on essential duties and security agents.This was not the case in Enugu after the 24 hours curfew was imposed by Gov. Ugwuanyi on Wednesday October 21, 2020.
Even before Police conclude investigations and normalcy restored in the state, some characters have by their actions and inactions showed that they know more than others about the ugly incidents that ravaged Enugu State for two days and left many shocked and wondering if this is the same ever peaceful city for all.
They have hastily and eagerly commenced preemptive actions, playing to the gallery and scoring cheap popularity with the aftermath of the mayhem.
Leading the pack of these sycophants and conspirators is the member representing Ezeagu Constituency in Enugu State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Chima Obieze.
According to a publication in an online medium called Journalist 101 on October 25, 2020, Obieze visited families of the victims of violent protest, condemned the killings, found security agents guilty of murder “in his court” and awarded scholarship to the siblings. Hmm, if this is not to encourage other paid miscreants that their families would be supported when they die what else is the motive. IT IS ALSO A PUZZLE THAT THREE VICTIMS ARE FROM EZEAGU LOCAL GOVERNMENT, Hon Chima Obieze’s Constituency.
The publication read: “the Member representing Ezeabgu constituency in Enugu State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Chima Obieze on Sunday, October 25, 2020 visited the families of the people killed by the bullets from the guns security operatives when the #EndSARS protest was hijacked by hoodlums in Enugu State.
The three victims were killed on different days as the police attempted to disperse hoodlums that hijacked the #EndSARS protest and were destroying both public and private properties across the state.
Visiting the family of Ejike Okeke in their country home, Amaogbu, Akama Oghe in Ezeagu LGA who was a student of Institute of Management and Technology, IMT, Enugu before his untimely death at Nkpokiti on Saturday, 24th October, Obieze assured them he will be with them in this trying time and will contribute towards the burial of their son.
Obieze also visited the family of late Obi Chinedu Solomon at their Enugu residence at Abakpa. Late Chinedu was a motor mechanic and was shut dead at T-Junction area of Abakpa Nike, Enugu and hails from Okpogho, in Ezeagu local government area.
Obieze promised to take responsibility for the burial of the victim and offered University scholarship to the younger brother of the deceased; Obi Odinaka Joshua as his late brother was the breadwinner of the family.
Lastly, Obieze visited the family of late Onyima Tochukwu at their residence at Ugwunwani, Ugbene I, Abakpa Nike, Enugu. The victim is from Obeleagu Umana, in Ezeagu LGA and was a furniture maker before his death.
Narrating the ugly incident, the younger brother of the deceased, Chukwunonso Onyima said his brother was killed after he finished eating at a restaurant near T-Junction. “When we arrived the scene, some particles of the food he ate was still in his mouth. When we attempted to take him to the hospital, the police blocked us at Penoks and threatened to shot if we don’t go back.
“They even attempted to take his body away from us but we resisted. Our brother took his last breath before we could make it to another hospital,” Tochukwu said in grief.
Similarly, the lawmaker promised to support them for the burial of their son and offered University to the younger brother of the deceased, Tochukwu Onyima.
Barr. Obieze while visiting the families of the three victims berated the security agents for acting in a very unprofessional manner insisting that “these deaths were avoidable.”
“The action of the security agents are worrisome because there could have been other ways of dispersing the protesters without killing anyone. Our police needs to be reformed and the officers retrained.”
“No one deserved to die in this circumstance. These killings were avoidable if the security agents were professional enough in their conduct. Agreed, some violent and criminal elements joined the protest but most of the dead victims were innocent unarmed protesters who had to pay the ultimate price.
“What happened to dialogue, to hot water spray, to rubber bullets and all other options. What happened to Rules of Engagement. The deed is already done. When these youths took to the streets shouting #EndSARS & #Endpolicebrutality this is a good picture of what they mean.
“I blame whoever ordered the Lekki massacre of peaceful protesters. That action angered youths nationwide and some criminals took advantage of that anger. But enough is enough. When we say #EndSARS we don’t mean change the name of SARS to SWAT, we mean reform the personnel. Our problem is not with the name of the police unit but with the orientation and modus operandi of the unit.
Reform the Nigerian police force. Make them more professional, more proactive, give them more logistics & pay them higher wages to stop extortion and their quest for bribes. Punish erring officers. Set up structures that monitor their activities. This is Internet age, also, mount CCTV in every station or post in the State and have a central Control room for monitoring amongst others,” Obieze advised. Obieze also called on the leaders in the country to see the protest by the youths as a wake up call for them to do the right thing.
“What has happened in the past few weeks should be an eye opener not only to Security agencies but to every Government/Public servant out there. By now its obvious to us all that THE PEOPLE ARE NOT COMPLETELY HELPLESS. “So let’s get to work, do the right thing and never forget that truly, power belongs to the people and act in a manner that will make them trust you with it.
Consoling the families, Obieze promised to present their situations to the Governor of the State, Rt. Hon Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi stressing that the peace-loving governor of the state is saddened by the deaths.
He also assured the affected families that he would ensure that any officer complicit in the killings of the youths will be fished out and made to face the law for their unprofessional conduct that led to the deaths.
On different notes, the families expressed their satisfaction for the visit of their representative and thanked him for standing with them in this their moment of grief. They also thanked him for the scholarships and prayed to God to repay him back.
As patriotic, empathic and sympathetic, Obieze’s visits and gestures could be or looked on the surface, lies below are some disturbing questions, trends and scenarios. How come that the three victims of the hijacked protests are all from Obieze’s local government Ezeagu, but died in different locations in Enugu where the crisis took toll? Is this a coincidence or a conspiracy that backfired?
Are there things these victims and Obieze know that the rest of Nigerians did not know about the destruction and vandalism in Enugu that lasted for two days. Is not possible that these victims were hired to coordinate the mayhem at these locations, but met their waterloo in the proccess? Or is it that they are mere victims of circumstance? Why was Obieze quick to blame the security agents, especially the Police when investigations have not been concluded. Why didn’t he condemn the vandals who were up in arms against the security agents during the protests? Is Obieze saying that it was only the Police that shot during the protest, whereas many security agents, especially the policemen were seriously maimed and killed in the state and across the country during the hijacked protests.
It is expected of Obieze as a lawmaker and lawyer to know where to draw the line between politics and activism. He should have a grasp of the law as regards the operations of security agents in a crisis situation.These puzzles and happenstances need to be looked into and resolved by the security agencies as investigations into the ugly developments in the state continue. Obieze should have known that 2023 is still far for one to be playing its politics with lives of the people, peace and unity of Enugu.
Also followed the path of Obieze to sought for hasty and cheap popularity in this serious matter is the Student Union Government (SUG) President of Institute of Management and Technology (IMT) Enugu, Mr. Ugochukwu Anichukwu, who hurriedly issued a press statement condemning and blaming security agents for the death of one, Ejike Eze, who he claimed was a student of IMT Enugu from a strayed bullets during the protest at Juhel filling station Nkponkiti.
Assuming without conceding that Ejike was truly at Juhel filling station Nkponkiti to discharge fuel on that Saturday before he was fell down by strayed bullets, why was he at work or outside when there was 24hours curfew in the state that was only relaxed to 6am to 6pm on Sunday October 25, 2020? Again, IMT is not in session. Why? Why didn’t the SUG wait or consult with IMT management to investigate and make a statement on the issue?
Why the hurry by SUG President to issue a statement and rush to visit the victim’s family? This is the responsibility of the IMT management, not SUG if it is confirmed that he was a student of the school. Nobody is celebrating or justifying anybody or Ejike’s demise in the protest. But there is every need to review and investigate circumstances surrounding his demise and his involvement or otherwise in the protests. It is not wise and legal for anyone to speak with finality on circumstances surrounding Ejike’s death without proper investigations by appropriate authorities. Justice has to be done for the victims of the protests, including security agents that were killed and maimed in the battle.
The viral video where some of the hoodlums and vandals, who were brought in to destroy Enugu, were seen with AK47 gun running at Edozie Street, Uwani Enugu on Saturday October 24, is enough evidence that they are criminals and vandals armed to the teeth. This is contray to the erroneous and misleading impressions by their sponsors, some people on social media platforms and far away from Enugu that they are armless, hungry and protesting youths.
Meanwhile, as security agents continue to unravel the circumstances that led to the two days mayhem in the state and following the sequence of events, there is need for searchlight to be beamed on some characters, who have shown vested interests in the matter with their utterances and actions. They would be of immense help to the security agents, people of the state and government to actually know the origin, immediate and remote causes of the crisis and those behind it. As it is, it is not beyond the case of the owl cried in the night and the child died in the morning.
Mr. Victor Onwubike, a US- trained security expert writes from Allen Avenue, Ikeja, Lagos. It could be reached on email@example.com