Indeed this is Nigeria where a soldier show his competence and aura only against unarmed people but fall like a pack of card in a combat and buried secretly to conceal the shame. I am a hardcore IPOB and on first of December, tempered by the hanky-panky trial of Nnamdi Kanu i decided to protest against injustice and intimidation because if no one talks, it would definitely reach everyone someday. On my way to Oyi local government headquarter, I plied onitsha-Nsugbe express way and I spotted hundreds of IPOB members on a march at popular Housing gate 3-3 Onitsha, viewing them from my car as soldiers watched them without any shred of concern, I was motivated to alight and follow the protest. The protesters singing and making way for passing vehicles while a blunt-looking set of vibrant youths controlled the crowd, “somebody begged a motorist money” a young boy in his twenties complained to the blunt-looking youths and they immediately rushed to the suspect and warned him to stay off such lane “we are IPOB and not Massob” I realized they are security gadgets for the protest, I observed with keen interest until they reached main market and one average man waged the protesters along Bright line main market as the youths sing and dance. “IPOB!” he shouted for their attention “freedom” they replied “who is that” I asked a cyclist conveying me “coordinator of the zone” my cyclist replied me and looked at me suspiciously “I am Ifeanyi Chijioke you used to hear about, a Biafran journalist” I told him to arrest his distrust ” nobody should go into any shop, touch nothing but say or sing what you want, we are IPOB and must be whiter than snow” the coordinator addressed them and a song started, I almost laughed when I heard them sang ” Sabo eme anyi ife, ndi sabo na azu ahia” meaning saboteurs have sabotaged them by trading, they sang as they march, traders began to laugh, dancing and cheering them while some sang alongside to other traders.
They marched through main market as I followed them but soon realized they are heading to onitsha bridge head. I thought of going back because army men must be there but I decided to continue, on reaching to bridge I saw a mammoth crowd, I was terrified and speechless. Where did these people come from? I walked to and fro on the bridge to cherish the passion for Nnamdi Kanu. The soldiers that were deployed were overwhelmed, they threatened the crowd that they would shoot but compromised when it was the whole world against them. I was afraid their guns will be snatched, but to my greatest surprise, the protesters danced around them and escorted them to where they sat and made their check point no-go area. Such level of discipline is a rare one notwithstanding that Nigerian soldiers are hostile to IPOB members, they have shot a good number of them to death in previous protests. The significant but sad thing about this protest was, cars could not move again, it caused a disturbing grid-lock. I lead the team of journalists that was called for documentary, interviewed passengers, drivers and IPOB principal officers among them the popular artiste that released “Mbaka why”. Passengers on business trip complaining of economic meltdown and loss of time, drivers blaming government why they held Nnamdi Kanu hence he can’t be prosecuted while IPOB principal officers reiterated their readiness to die, soldiers who stood vibrantly receiving and making calls ejected interviews. Singing and dancing, mothers with their mat, young girls with Biafran flags and men as well “only our commander will command us to leave here, how many people Buhari will kill? Let him come and kill us” they shouted and sing. The day was gradually disappearing, night setting in and my camera began to lose light, the documentary will be forced to untimely end. I packed my camera and engaged with the stranded passengers “this road will not go for three days” I said to one black skinny passenger
“You don’t know what you are saying; you think Buhari will shoot them? Buhari will use hot-water carrying helicopter on them and they would run away ” is that not crime against humanity?” I asked “humanity for where, UN and world leaders in abroad are not here so leave that” he waved off the idea and soon complete darkness came, I sat on my car watching the protesters dance around and hurdle the express way against cars as they lied on the road so comfortably like it’s their bed. By night the crowd had reduced by 70% and the soldiers passed intelligence to the protesters ” they are preparing to come here and we won’t have any option but obey command and do our job” the intelligence was neglected by the protesters and around one in the midnight while in my car that‘s at the front of the gridlock. I heard sporadic shots and some people started running while some protesters gathered shouting IPOB! IPOB!! Still singing and circled in one place, I watched to know what is happening, then another sporadic shot came again and now it was directly at the protesters, I was shocked and left my car to run when three soldiers I was with all day long pointed their guns at escapees with me and shooting us. I ran upward to Asaba through the Bridge and shortly before I could reach the other end of the bridge while the sporadic gun shots continued, three ambulances passed to the scene and I began to shed tears. They have shot unarmed people, peaceful and loving people, they will put them in their ambulances to conceal such wickedness and they world would not know. The news making round that only four people were shot is ignorance, the four were living ones they could not cart away, parents and relations should publicize disappearance of their own because Nigerian soldiers have killed and taken them. Ezu river tragedy is back again!
– By Ifeanyi Chijioke
(For Family Writers)