Sunday Magazine

Ebonyi: Govt, opposition trade blames over escalating violence

With two weeks to the general elections, violence has reached its climax in Ebonyi State. This is coming from the attack on the governorship candidate of All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Professor Bernard Odoh, which led to the death of some security personnel attached to him. UCHENNA INYA reports

The Ebonyi political atmosphere was peaceful before now but it seems the peace has flown out of the state, especially as candidates of political parties canvass for votes for the forthcoming general elections. Three months ago, the governorship candidate of All Progressives Grand Alliance(APGA) in the state, Professor Bernard Odoh, was attacked in Izzi Local Government Area during campaign visit to the place. Though no life was lost during the attack, his Sports Utility Vehichle(SUV) windscreen was shattered with bullets.

The attack received wide condemnation across the state. As the dust raised by that attack was about to settle, Odoh almost lost his life last week when he was ambushed by gunmen while returning from campaign in Agba, Ishielu Local Government Area of the state.

The incident occurred late in the evening on Thursday last week. Odoh was attacked near Rest House, Okpoto axis of Ishielu LGA. Odoh’s driver, a Civil Defence officer was shot dead by the gunmen while his police orderly, Inspector Ibrahim Gudu was shot close to the chest. He was rushed to the accident and emergency unit of Alex Ekwueme Federal University Teaching Hospital, Abakaliki (AE-FUTHA) and placed on Intensive Care.

On Monday morning, January 6th, 2023, Gudu passed away. Gudu, a native of Niger State and a devote Muslim was posted to Professor Odoh from the Special Protection Unit, SPU, Base 4 Port- Harcourt, Rivers State. His body has been laid to rest according to Muslim rites in his home State. Another security personnel, Ikechukwu Nweke, who was shot on the hand is still in the hospital receiving treatment. A Pilot Toyota Hilux in the convoy belonging to Nweke was burnt by the attackers. It was learnt that some others in the Odoh convoy received varying degree of injuries. Nweke, who was shot on the hand and who is lying critically at the AE-FUTHA , said those who attacked them operated with pump action guns and AK-47.

“They started shooting at us when they saw us returning from where we went to. They shot me and burnt my car. They carried pump action guns and AK-47. It was in the night that they attacked us,” he stated. The attack has received a wide condemnation, even as many accused the state’s security outfit, Ebubeagu of perpetrating the attack. But Ebonyi State government has countered the claim, describing it as a fabrication. Director of Media and Publicity of his campaign organisation, Charles Out, alleged that an unmarked silver-coloured Sienna, loaded with suspected Ebubeagu militia with not less than eight persons parked at the left flank of the road, opened fire with AK47 as soon as they sighted the lead pilot vehicle of the Odoh’s campaign team.

“The pilot vehicle was shot at not less than eight times before they cordoned off the governorship candidate’s vehicle and riddled his Prado jeep with bullets. “In the process, his driver was shot at and as he bled profusely; the ADC swiftly maneuvered and drove off the vehicle with all tyres already punctured and flat down till he managed to get to Pele Filling station,” he stated.

APGA condemns attack

The All Progressives Grand Alliance(APGA) in the state described the attack as unwarranted and accused the state government of masterminding it. In a statement signed by the party’s Publicity Secretary, Nwanchor Chibuike, APGA said: “This is among several attempts of the ruling APC government to suppress Ebonyi APGA, whose message has penetrated every nook and cranny in Ebonyi State.

“Recall that Ebonyi APC masterminded the beating of APGA supporters in Afikpo North, Ugwulangwu in Ohaozara LGA and the destruction of vehicles during APGA campaign at Izzi LGA sometime last year. In the face of such sordid act, they persisted in laying ambush, fired to kill the Guber candidate but succeeded in killing the driver while others sustained various degrees of injuries. “It is now clear to everyone that the plan of the APC in the state is to use Ebebuagu militia to intimidate and destabilize the peaceful conduct of the election starting on the 25th February, 2023.

“We seize this opportunity to call for the disbandment of Ebubeagu militia in Ebonyi State and alert security agencies, the Inspector-General of Police, the Director General of the Directorate of State Security Services and the National Intelligence Agency ( NIA), to checkmate the evil machinations of the Ebubeagu militia, whose planned destruction of lives and property may herald another round of bloodshed in the state as opposition parties will not fold their hands and watch members of Ebubeagu harm party supporters again where they are to protect the lives of Ebonyi citizens but the ruling APC government in Ebonyi has employed them to intimidate and desrupt the peaceful conduct of the 2023 general election in Ebonyi. “We wish to call on the APGA supporters in Ebonyi State to be committed, resilient, and never be distracted for we have made all the necessary plans and strategies to curtail this menace while we pray for the eternal rest of the deceased.” PDP

condemns attack

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state has also condemned the attack and accused Ebubeagu Security Network of being behind it. The Director-General of Ifeanyi Odii Campaign Organisation of the PDP, Chief Austin Edeze, at a press briefing in Abakaliki, lamented the escalating insecurity in the state, which he described as man-made. “It has become expedient for us to express our disgust and dissatisfaction over the escalating man-made insecurity in Ebonyi State, manifesting in the sporadic attacks of the opposition groups.

In the buildup to the commencement of electioneering campaigns in the country, the Eboyi State Governor, Chief David Umahi, had stridently and ingloriously declared that he and his party, the APC, would take victory at the polls by force. “Shortly after that ignoble and provocative pronouncement last year 2022, he made good his desire and intention by directing his instrument of oppression and suppression, the Ebubeagu militia, to attack the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Prof. Bernard Odoh, during a rally in Izzii Local Government.

Since then, his command has remained an open-ended directive to the killer squad called Ebubeagu. “On Wednesday, February 1, 2023, Senator Dr Sam Egwu, his supporters and the PDP faithful, held a rally in the home of Michael Nwebonyi at Obegu Abba in Ebonyi Loal Government Area. Shortly after the end of the rally, the Ebubeagu squad arrived and shot for more than 30 minutes, dispersed the crowd and left many wounded. “On Saturday, February 4, 2023, Senator Egwu scheduled a rally at the home of Senator Ngiji Ngele at Amagu in Abakaliki Local Government.

The Ebubeagu militia blocked the road to Ngiji’s home and chased the PDP faithful to stop them from attending the rally. “In the night, they swooped on Ngiji’s home, shot for about 25 minutes and left. Also on Thursday, February 2nd, 2023, the gubernatorial candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Prof. Bernard Odoh, was ambushed at Okpoto, Ishielu LGA, as he was returning to Abakaliki from a rally. His driver was killed in the attack while a Police Escort was severely wounded. He later died at the Federal Teaching Hospital. “On Sunday, the February 5, 2023, Hon. Ene Odii hosted a PDP meeting in his home in Uburu. Senator Michael Ama Nnachi was in attendance.

The PDP gubernatorial candidate, Dr Ifeanyi Chukwuma Odii was billed to attend that meeting. “By providential grace, he had not arrived the venue before over 50 Ebubeagu militia swooped on them and unleashed volley of shots on them. We have it from competent source that Governor Umahi has recruited more than 2,000 gunmen, including the Ebubeagu militia to execute his order to eliminate all opposition elements in the state. “Governor Umahi’s overly and inordinate desire to impose an atrophied personality on the state is an inherently tyrannical political and social disruption. GovernorUmahiisextremelydesperatelyindulging hisfancies, hisfiendishpleasuresandactionswithout thinking of how history will remember him.

“These attacks are unacceptable, absolutely condemnable and uncalled for. Democracy does not limit anybody from contesting elections and nobody has the legitimate authority to stop the electorate from voting for any candidate of their choice”, he said. Also, Ebonyi South Senatorial candidate of the party, Chief Ifeanyi Eleje, has condemned the attack on Odoh, the APGA governorship, describing it as heinous.

He said: “I am shocked to learn of the brazen attack on the convoy of Prof. Ben Odoh, the All Progressives Congress Grand Alliance, APGA, governorship candidate for Ebonyi State on Thursday, February 2, 2023. The attack, which was carried out by gunmen suspected to be Ebubeagu Security operatives and who fired bullets with aim of killing Prof Odoh resulted in the death of his driver and severe injuries on his escorts.” He appealed to the Inspector-General of Police, and other heads of security agencies, including the President and C-in-C, the Chief of Defence Staff, the Chief of Army Staff, the NSA, the DG, DSS, and the DG, NIA , the NBA, INEC and the International community to give the undemocratic practices in Ebonyi State deserved attention. Eleje said: “I have also been informed that specific directives have been issued by the Governor’s team to the same outfit that I (his opponent in the senate race) should be attacked, incapacitated, and hospitalised until after the Senate election scheduled to hold this February 25, 2023 by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).”

“Presently, his campaign activities have been disrupted as a result of incessant harassment and violent attacks by a para-military outfit established and controlled by the Umahi-led APC government and known as EBUBEAGU security operatives. “Even as I condemn this dastardly attack on Prof. Odoh and his entourage, the Director General of my campaign organization, Mr. Iheukwu Okogwu and some of our other team members have been forced to relocate outside Ebonyi State as they are being hounded by Ebubeagu security operatives who are on the prowl and searching for these supporters based on the directives of Governor David Umahi.”

Women, Youths protest attack

Women and youths from different communities of Ezza clan in the state have protested the alleged assassination attempt on the life of Odoh, their illustrious son. The women and youths who came out in their good numbers, protested round the Onueke urban, headquarters of Ezza South LGA, to demonstrate their anger and condemnation of the attack and warned that nothing should happen to Professor Odoh.

They carried placards with various inscriptions such as “Disband Ebubeagu from Ebonyi State; we say no to political intimidation, no to political violence; Odoh is our Governor, don’t touch; APGA women are against the attack on Odoh, Don’t attack Professor Odoh again; attack on Odoh is an attack on Ebonyi people,” among others. The leader of the group, Mrs. Beatrice Nkwuda, described the incessant attacks on Professor Odoh, which she said, has occurred not less than three times in different parts of the state since the 2023 political campaign started, as undemocratic and barbaric. “Professor Odoh should be allowed a level play ground to go about his campaign.

We’re asking the Federal Government to ban Ebubeagu in Ebonyi State. They have done more harm than good. We call on civil society groups and people that matter to come to the aid of Ebonyi people,” she said. Others, who spoke, including Mrs. Elizabeth Nworie, Mrs. Cynthia Nwokpoku and Mrs. Victoria Nwali, also condemned the attacks on innocent people going about their lawful campaigns in the state. In an earlier protest in Omege Umuezeokaohu community in Ezza North LGA, the hometown of Professor Odoh, some youths from the area and other stakeholders, including Messrs Benjamin Nwafor, Augustine Awaza, urged the state government to allow every political party a conducive environment to test their popularity before the electorate.

Allegations against Umahi, Ebubeagu irresponsible-Orji

The state government, reacting to the allegation that it masterminded the attack, described it as fabrication and irresponsible. Briefing journalists in Abakaliki, the state capital,the state Commissioner for Information and State Orientation, Uchenna Orji, accused APGA of blackmail and challenged the party to bring evidence to show that Ebubeagu was responsible for the attack.

The Commissioner said: “Without foundation and cleverly woven in their political material time to dent the image of a renowned and progressive administration of His Excellency, Engr. Chief David Umahi, especially at this time we are already cruising in our romance with the electorate in showcasing our performance credentials, telling the people why we must deepen the prospect of development in Ebonyi State, through the principle of consolidation and continuity. That’s, having on board the administration of Hon Chief Francis Nwifuru to continue with the wonderful strides that this administration has achieved.

“So, we are not surprised about the allegation of APGA that their governorship candidate was attacked. We’re not surprised because that’s their stock in trade. As much as it’s unfounded, we know it’s part and parcel of them because they got nothing to do, no vision and no mission, other than to go to the pages of the social media to levy accusations from time to time about unfounded things.

“Let’s challenge them to bring evidence of any Ebubeagu attacking any person, let alone the convoy of the governorship candidate of APGA. Let them come up with any empirical evidence showing the identity or even anything closer to the identity of the people that attacked them, the location and all the circumstances. And again, being a criminal matter, we also want to challenge them to please ensure they get the necessary authorities to know if they have persons they are suspecting, they must be bold and courageous to mention them. So, we challenge him to bring up any evidence against Ebubeagu.

“We are aware that APGA and other opposition forces, including PDP and LP exist only on the social media. We have given them opportunity to come to the Local Government and to come to the State levels to do their rally but evidence shows that they have got no space in Ebonyi State. “We have continued to give them all enabling environment to showcase to the people what they have but unfortunately, you can see they have got nothing to show. So, we want to dissociate ourselves as government from such frivolous allegation. “As a government, we’re responsible and responsive to ensure that lives and property are secured in Ebonyi State, especially now that we are faced with security challenge in the nation. And don’t forget that we have a very pragmatic governor, who has been doing everything possible to ensure that Ebonyi is free from kidnapping, free from banditry and free from political violence.”

Opposition accusing me for nothing-Umahi

Governor Dave Umahi of Ebonyi State called on politicians and stakeholders in the electoral process to approach the 2023 general elections with decorum to avoid overheating the polity. Umahi made the call during a Local Government Rally in Ugbodo, Ebonyi Local Government Headquarters, on Tuesday. “I have directed the Commissioner of Police, and the Director SSS that any political party that wants to hold rally in any Local Government of the State must abide by the laws of the state. “At the Local Government level, you apply to the Chairman of Local Government Area and at the State level, you apply to the Commissioner for Youth and Sports.

“I have directed that no one should be denied access to hold rallies but you must obey the laws of the land. “When you fail to do that, I will guarantee you that your rally will not hold. Where you are denied access, report to the Commissioner of Police or Director SSS, or myself. Even if you don’t have money to pay, I will use my personal money to pay for you.

“Why I am saying this is because I just want the world to know that Professor Odoh is just busy tarnishing my name for nothing. When he was unfortunately attacked, I was not in town. Two days before the attack, two policemen and two soldiers were killed almost at that same spot. He is said to be doing campaign by 10pm according to police report and he was attacked. As curious as it sounds, I want him to concentrate in his campaign and not do anything to destabilize Ebonyi State.

“Tomorrow, he says his people will attack my 10convoy in Ebonyi State; let him try it. Let me give him the last warning, to be the Gubernatorial Candidate is not the licence to commit crime in the state or to destabilize the state. Should he continue, he will meet the laws of the land. “To the so-called Anyichuks, he is just running against the tide. He is my cousin. His place to my place is just about 5 kilometres.

The Governorship of Ebonyi State is by rotation. I am finishing in few months’ time. The thing is zoned to Ebonyi North and it is zoned to Izzi and the Izzi people and entire Ebonyi people have brought out Nwifuru, Onwa Oferekpe. Let them concentrate on their rallies. Let them know that election is not 419. “From security report, I have learnt that the opposition have recruited and branded ESN members and IPOB in every Local Government to attack APC members.

Until today, no APC person is arrested for tearing posters and billboards. They have torn many of our posters and billboards. Those arrested are already in Court. We give them our stadium, they deface it; they destroy our infrastructure. We have kept quiet as the Father of the State. We will continue to give them our stadium. “Let there be peace in Ebonyi State. Let the world know that Ebonyi is very peaceful, and for those that they have given guns, I am warning you for the last time.”

Desperate politicians causing attacks in Ebonyi-Bishop

The Catholic Bishop of Abakaliki Diocese, Rev. Peter Chukwu, condemned increasing violence in different parts of the state. In a homily at St. Theresa Cathedral, Abakaliki, he noted that lives have been lost in different parts of the state in the violence and accused desperate politicians of masterminding it in their bid to govern by force.

He urged the people to reject such politicians at the polls or be ready to face the consequences. Chukwu urged the people to pray for peaceful elections in the state and the country and averred that the general election will not be won by money and violence. “Let us pray for a peaceful election. There is no peaceful campaign in Ebonyi State. There is much violence in Ebonyi.

There is violence in Ebonyi; people were killed in Edda, Afikpo South Local Government Area; people were killed in Isu, Onicha Local Government Area. A governorship candidate went to Izzi Local Government Area for campaign and his jeep windscreen was shattered with bullets. “In Okpoto, Ishielu Local Government Area of the state, the driver of the governorship candidate was killed while returning from campaign when he was attacked.

Many, who were in his convoy were wounded. Bullet pierced the candidate’s door but couldn’t pass the opposite side. Otherwise, he would have been killed. The governorship candidate is in shock now and it is one group that is doing all these things, people who want power by all means. “So, if people of the state want someone that will be harassing them with guns, it is left for you. If you condemn what is happening, they will come after you in the night and eliminate you. If it is this type of government that you want, go and institute it both in Ebonyi and Nigeria, it is left for you people. Go and institute such government if you like it, all of us will be in danger.”

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