Defending Oyigbo: The conflicting views

Mixed reactions have greeted calls in some quarters for the withdrawal of soldiers sent to Oyigbo to maintain law and order.

While there are people insensed by the presence of the army on Oyigbo soil, the actual natives think otherwise. They believe the presence of the military is necessary, especially at this time.

Oyigbo has a large Igbo population, but the local government belongs to the Asa and Ndoki people.

Asa settlements are spread through four of the 10 wards in the local government while the Ndoki inhabit the remaining six wards.

Violence had erupted in the semi-urban area which serves as the headquarters of the local government council, following the #EndSars protest.

Incidentally, the Local Government derives its name from this boundary town that has served truckers as well as other road users and people either seeking home away from home or a haven to build their business.

The army has been in action, charged with the responsibility of restoring law and order in the troubled local government area.

The thinking in official circles suggests an unspecified number of persons allegedly belonging to the Indigenous People of Biafra may have established a base in Oyigbo.

Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State has since proscribed the movement of so-called Biafran agitators.

It has upgraded the status of IPOB to that of a terrorist group as it sets in motion, the kind of security architecture required to bring matters in Oyigbo under control.

The government openly blames the violence in the area on IPOB infiltrates.

Somehow, following the intervention of the military, peace is returning to the area after the disturbances which resulted in the destruction of public property, including courts and police stations, and the gruesome killing of six soldiers and four policemen.

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The military remains firmly rooted in Oyigbo although sources in the area tell the Telegraph that their numbers may have reduced.

Guns belonging to security operatives who were senselessly murdered have been snatched.

We have received information that the army has launched operations which has led them to the homes of suspected persons.

Most persons with alleged ties to IPOB have fled Oyigbo. There are equally others who evacuated their families from the troubled zone.

There are conflicting opinions over the continued stay of the military in the area, with Biafran propaganda claiming heinous crimes against the military through video clips which depict alleged killings and military harassment of the people.

While some Oyigbo residents want the army to be withdraw now that there is a ray stability, there are others who reason that such a move may create room for the return of undesirable elements, including Biafran activists.

Oyigbo Chiefs in the area expressed serious fears that the fleeing IPOB members could regroup and return to the area.

The chiefs implored the Defence Headquarters not to withdraw soldiers deployed to restore peace in Oyigbo to prevent remnants of IPOB from regrouping and using their area for embarking on future acts of destabilization.

Speaking under the auspices of Ogbakor Oyigbo,, the chiefs and people of the area urged all law abiding persons who deserted Oyigbo to return, saying normalcy has been restored.

High Chief, Louis Okorie, Eze Ukwu III said they were not interested in the call by some persons to withdraw the troops.

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“The Ogbakor Oyigbo General held a meeting here and said they will not allow the removal of soldiers from Oyigbo.

“On 12th of November, 2020 we met with  the Local Government Chairman, Gerald Aforji,  informing him of our plight. We don’t want  Army to be withdrawn for the benefit of Oyigbo people.

The reaction of the people have dealt a mortal blow to the position ta’en by those who seem to think the military presence is a threat.

“We need to be careful of the remnants of IPOB terrorists. We thank Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike for imposing the curfew which has calmed down the situation in Oyigbo”, Eze Ukwu III added.

The Oyigbo people from the run of events are not ready to lose their Rivers identity. They insist they are from the Niger Delta.

We have learnt that the meeting of Oyigbo Chiefs and people expressed concern over moves by non indigenous Oyigbo people to drag them into the axis control of the Biafran movement.

Said a prominent Oyigbo politician, “We will not tolerate any bid which seeks to change who we are. We are Oyigbo people!”

Chief, Lisbery Onyegorom who said indigenes of Oyigbo were still in shock, disclosed that the wanton destruction unleashed on their community by members of IPOB was totally unacceptable.

“We were surprised by the level of destruction by the IPOB. We are Rivers State and Niger Delta people. Our people are not members of IPOB .

“I am not aware of any Oyigbo indigene who is a member. We don’t allow that.

“Now, that the IPOB members have killed some soldiers, all of them have run away. The Army is investigating  and fishing them out . Most of the IPOB members arrested have given vital information about the remnants.

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Governor Nyesom Wike who has a ransom of N100 million placed on his head by Nnamdi Kanu, leader of IPOB has perhaps emerged as one of the most hated persons in Oyigbo. But the Oyigbo people are beginning to appreciate his effort to ensure that they live in peace.

“We are in support of the Governor’s ban on IPOB activities across Rivers State and hoisting of IPOB Flag.”

“The Governor did not say, go and kill people. The Army came on a rescue mission. That’s what they came for.

“It is the deployment of the Army that give us comfort… Army is going nowhere. Let the Army stay until we are sure of peace in Oyigbo”, Onyegorom remarked.

For now, the peace holds in Oyigbo as security agencies patrol the area in order to sustain law and order.

Will those who fled from Oyigbo return? Will they respect the position of Oyigbo people who want to live free of IPOB threats? What will the Wike administration do about the development concerns of the Oyigbo people?

The Telegraph would bring its readers all the sides of this developing story. In the meantime, most of those who ran out of Oyigbo as the army moved in to restore calm are still weighing their options.

It is doubtful they would be in a hurry to return to the homes that they abandoned in a hurry to escape the long arm of the law or the fear of reprisal by the army which lost six soldiers.