The shock that took over the South East after the invasion of unknown armed men and subsequent announcement of a security outfit in the region named Ebube-Agu (glory or fear of the lion) has dissipated, but this seems to be gradually replaced with suspicion and distrust. If Ebube-Agu is to fight anything, it may be to distrust and fear of rejection in the region.
This is because the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB) that seems to control the minds of many easterners has rejected Ebube-Agu, urging the youths not to enroll as operatives. IPOB is believed to have formed Eastern Security Network (ESN) which claims to be fighting against herdsmen in the forests.
Now, many groups in the east seem to like what ESN is doing and seem to think Ebube-Agu is out to stop ESN and thus out to set back the march to their dream republic. Many interpretations seem to cluster the security initiative formed by governors of the geo-political zone.
Some others think that the presence of two All Progressives Congress (APC) governors (Hope Uzodimma of Imo State and David Umahi of Ebonyi State) could make the Igbos not to see Ebube-Agu as the people’s security outfit, they think the enemies would rather use these leaders to turn Ebube-Agu to a terrorist outfit against the people.
An observer said: “The way both governors posed on the day Umahi was announcing the formation of the outfit, gave an indication that it was an APC thing. Governor Uzodinma stood close to Governor Umahi and that was a very dangerous signal.”
This has rather kicked up the issue of security votes and the use to what they have been put in the past years. A prominent public commentator, publisher and social crusader, Obiaruko Ndukwe, told BD SUNDAY that anybody who wants to situate Ebube-Agu must first seek to know what is happening in Imo and Ebonyi in terms of attacks.
She said Ebonyi may be connected with inter-communal strife but that of Imo has not been understood as no group accepts responsibility.
“It is obvious only an organised group could have done it. What could be the intention? To make sure the area is not governable and that election does not hold there. Critical look can show that those against Ebube Agu may have something up their selves. Why would anybody oppose what is decided by those in power? They hold the security votes which is at their pleasure to spend without account.”
Ndukwe frowned at use of the votes so far. “Do they use it for espionage, intelligence, at local and international levels to understand what may happen ahead? They know there are those who push for their own country, there are invaders wanting to take over the area, etc.”
On whether Ebube-Agu is the solution, Ndukwe, a titled woman, opined that the governors are the ones with security votes but wondered if they have been intelligent enough to know that there are threats, there are those threatening to invade the region. “Or are they using it to play politics, make their wives open the biggest boutiques, send their children abroad. Etc?”
Many have quarreled over the name, saying it looks like copy work from Western Nigeria’s Amotekun (fear or glory of the tiger). The people do not like to copy some other region. A source wondered why ‘Aguiyi’ was not adopted, considering the significance and attachment to one of the South-East’s greatest military leader and man who evoked fear with his ‘Aguiyi’ insignia.
Ndukwe however said: “The name may not be the issue. But do the armed persons in the east fear anything anymore? The glory or fear aura can be physical or unseen.
“Agu is the king of the jungle and its glory means a lot. Do the criminals have any fear for this invisible lion? Do they feel that the invisible lion is like the physical one that can protect the territory?
“We must speak truth to power. Enough of sharing the money meant for security. Else, we may be wasting our time. IPOB and ESN may have a point, but what is their point? Are they asking to take over the responsibility of security? It’s about making adequate contingencies for situations.
“So, if there is Ebube-Agu, we need to see budgets, plans, etc, not just photos, drinks. There is need for weekly meetings, many talks, actions, plans, etc. There is nothing on ground yet but many may say it’s just starting. Most programmes that do not start with actions end that way.
“IPOB and ESN may be selfish because they had expected to be strengthened by the governors but their modus operandi and attitudes to even their own people are something to worry about. For now, they can make suggestions and can ask to be represented but you may be holding meetings with people that may be there to study your methods and counter you. They talk in a way that evokes fear. If care is not taken, you may see people rising up in the east.”
Governor Umahi thinks the attackers are external and have intention to destabilise the region ahead of the 2023 election. Others agree with him and say it’s to reduce the Igbo voting strength and rob the region of presidential slot.
An APC chieftain in Port Harcourt, Eze Chukwuemeka Eze, said the attacks on the two APC-controlled states in the East are unacceptable, provocative, and condemnable as they have an undertone. He said it could be a likely ploy by enemies of the country to embarrass the APC-led FG and to scuttle genuine efforts by the progressives’ party to sweep the entire old Eastern region in the 2023 election.
Eze reiterated that opponents of APC have been so uncomfortable with the defection of Governor Umahi to APC from PDP and ready to do anything to make Ebonyi State and in extension the entire South East region unsecured and ungovernable. “If I still know Governor Umahi very well, this is an exercise in futility as he will always find a way out of this madness.”
An ex-oil worker and security source said Ebube-Agu as a security initiative in the South East is a knee jerk reaction to the ESN. “The South East governors had ruled out the formation of a common security organisation like the South West Amotekun. They rather opted for community policing after having a meeting with the then IG of police. Apparently they did not have the balls to stand a certain Federal Government disapproval of any such initiative as the Yoruba governors were able to do. These governors continued in this shenanigan. The governor of Imo State once said that IPOB stole the name they planned to name the security organisation they had in mind. I guess it took them months to remember an alternative name in Ebube-Agu.
“It doesn’t require any special abilities for one to fathom the reason for the sudden change of attitude by the South East governors. The ESN is posing an unexpected challenge to the security forces. The Federal Government must have therefore, given a nod to the governors to form Ebube-Agu. They are going to recruit Igbo youths, the same youths that are in ESN. If the plan works, it will be a war of brothers against brothers.”
An Anglican cleric, Peter Opara, sees factionalisation ahead since ESN seems to enjoy the support of the people whereas Ebube-Agu would enjoy the backing of the governors.
“The truth is that the impact ESN has had on the security of our forests since its inception in the Eastern region is commendable. It has put fear in the hearts of killer herdsmen. Indeed, our forests have become safer. Conversely, the recent creation of Ebube-Agu Security Network is a ploy to throw a spanner in the works of overall local security architecture.
“Our political leaders in the East should reduce the unnecessary blackmailing of ESN and focus all attention on providing us with a formidable security outfit to ward off these enemies of our peace. The greatest disservice any group can do Easterners is to allow ego rob us of the gains of a united front against a common enemy of our destiny.”
A university lecturer deposed that Ebube-Agu would have been an ideal project, but certain obvious realities on ground if not properly and objectively analysed, would further expose the S/East to more dangerous security risk.
“Recall that this was not the first time S/East Governors met and agreed to form a security outfit. They had met severally, but none of the meetings yielded any positive result. The last time they met they resolved to seek the permission of the FG to establish a security outfit, when S/West Governors formed “Amotekun” without anybody’s permission. That resolution was seen in some circles as an obvious manifestation of cowardice on the part of the S/East Governors.
“In my view Ebube-Agu though a good initiative, will not resolve the security challenges of the S/East given the following reasons..The security outfit if eventually formed will be under the command/influence of a northerner. Records show that heads of all the conventional security agencies in the S/East from the Army, Navy, SSS and Police etc are all northerners.
“Even if an Igboman heads the command structure of the outfit, he will still report to and take orders from a superior officer, who by and large must necessarily be a northerner. You don’t handover your security to someone you do not know.
“The S/East Governors who are most likely to be the major financiers of this project can and will never agree to work together sincerely in the interest of their people. The project is likely to be politicised. Imo and Ebonyi States are now under the control of the ruling APC, while the rest of the states are PDP and APGA-controlled.
“Funding Ebube-Agu will pose a big problem to the governors, with most of them not paying or struggling to pay civil servants salaries. There are likely to be clashes for supremacy between Ebube-Agu operatives, the ESN (that seem to enjoy the hidden support of the people of the S/East) and the establishment security outfit. The operations of these diametrically opposed security outfits will make the S/East ungovernable. May God save us.”
Reports from Enugu indicate that many easterners regard Ebube-Agu as an afterthought.
Many see the governors as a group of people that have no good programmes for their people while some said that they are never serious.
All these are coming as a result of their attitude in the past, wondering why it took the governors this time to act.
Speaking to BusinessDay, a comrade, Kindness Jonah of the Enugu Civil Liberty Organisation, said that the governors were setting up the security outfit to fight ESN, to satisfy their masters in Abuja.
They wondered who the recruits would be. “Will they be given AK-47 to combat herdsmen parading AK-47 and JPGs? Which weapon will they be given? Will they be reporting to IPOB or ESN or Nigeria Police or Nigerian Military or DSS or EFCC or Immigration or who?”
He said that ESN is only formed to protect the people from attack of herdsmen and bandits and not to fight any Nigerian security outfit and wondered why the governors were not supporting them.
A source from Owerri said the initiative was necessary because the people expect protection from the governors who control the allocations (FAAC) and IGR. “When it comes to the security of the people of the South East, the current governors show lack of interest. They are not only weak in securing the South East but are cowards and are not courageous enough to speak for the security and well being of the people of the South East, unlike the Yoruba governors and leaders who displayed courage when they formed Amotekun and launched it.
“It was an act of cowardice on the part of the five South East governors that they sought permission from all the security chiefs in the country and also involved them in the formation and launching.
“All the Security Chiefs are outsiders from one region who want to overrun the Southeast and the country in general. They don’t want the well-being of the people of the Southeast and their establishments. How then will you involve such persons when you are planning for your security? How could they give you good security plans? It will not work and it is not going to be a remedy.
“The opposition to it by the IPOB and the ESN will affect the smooth take off of Ebube-Agu even though the governors are weak and were reluctant to form it. Ebube-Agu was formed to fail; its perceived failure will come from the governors. The opposition from ESN and IPOB is that the governors played into the hands of those who don’t want the well-being of the South East.”
Observers have also said that the bitter politics being played in the South East may hamper the progress of the security network. They say that a situation where sitting governors blame every criminal activity or insecurity on opponents, it points to the possibility of using the Ebube-Agu to fight real and imaginary enemies.
It appears the first task of the governors in the region is to sell Ebube-Agu to the masses unlike Amotekun that won instant approval and applause from the masses. How fast and far the governors get this first task done will determine whether Ebube-Agu would fear others or would be feared; whether it will crush its enemies or would rather be crushed.