Imo State has lately been in the news for the wrong reasons. The security reports emanating from the state in recent times are quite disturbing with chilling tales of attacks on prisons, police, INEC etc. facilities; burning down of private homes of government officials and killing of security personnel all by non-state actors.
There are also cases of loss of innocent civilian lives caught up in the crossfire.
It is disheartening that our dear Imo State has become a metaphor for bloodshed, violence and insecurity that residents now celebrate any day that passes without any incidence of gunshots.
The once bubbly Owerri City with a bustling nightlife is now a replica of Gaza where people live in fear of the unknown and scurry to their tents before nightfall. This is not who we are. Ihea aburo njiri mara ndi Imo. We are known to be peace loving jolly good fellows who enjoy life to the blast and abhor all forms of violence and bloodshed.
The Eastern Heartland is renowned for its tranquillity, hospitality and merriment. Owerri, the Ngwori city, is arguably the entertainment headquarters of Nigeria. Shootings, killings and destructions are alien to us and we must reject them less they gain a foothold on our state.
It is worrisome that some supposedly knowledgeable people are, for political expediency, pleased with the situation and are even justifying the activities of the hoodlums.
Quite disturbing was a video clip, which went viral on the internet that shows some residents of Orji area hailing the instigators of this violence as messiahs.
That leaves one with the realization that some people are yet to understand the danger we are in. These people need to understand that any attack anywhere in Imo is an attack on our future generations.
The destruction being wrought on Imo today will have a telling effect on generations yet unborn. One needs not be reminded that resources that would have been used for certain beneficial projects will now be channelled into rebuilding/reconstructing the destroyed public facilities.
The damage inflicted on the state’s economy will take years to recover while precious lives lost will never be restored. It’s sad that what started like a child’s play was left to fester and grow into a monster threatening to consume all that we cherished and held dear.
Let it be known that anyone or group that goes about disrupting the peace and tranquillity of the state, destroying public facilities and security apparatus do not mean well for the state. It does not matter their professed intentions.
Dismantling the security architecture put in place for the maintenance of law and order in the state will only make Ndi Imo vulnerable to all manner of attacks by criminal elements.
Insecurity has never been and can never be an attractive attribute of a state. No state bedevilled by insecurity can ever make any meaningful progress.
No genuine investor invests in a volatile polity where the security of his life and investment are not guaranteed. If we must develop our state, build infrastructures, grow the economy and create employment, prosperity and better life for our teeming population, we must all strive to engender peace, security and socio-political stability.
The steps taken so far by the state government in tackling the situation and restoring normalcy are commendable but the government alone cannot handle the task.
There is a need for a non-partisan collaboration between the government and the people towards finding a lasting solution to the security challenges facing the state.
The situation demands that various community leaders, political leaders, religious leaders, student leaders and opinion moulders should rise to the occasion and join hands with the state government to recover the state from this cankerworm.
It is gratifying to know that the state Governor, Sen. Hope Uzodinma has, in words and deeds, expressed readiness to collaborate with genuine critical stakeholders in order to restore peace in the state. Investigations have shown that some of these hoodlums are our sons and brothers, and their operational bases are in our communities.
What this means is that the ‘Unknown Gunmen’ are really not unknown. If we can all play our parts diligently and responsibly, we would be helping the state government to arrest this ugly situation. Security is everyone’s business. Let’s all join hands to save Imo. Imo belongs to all of us.
• Oguzie writes from Owerri