Imo a once-peaceful state in the southeast geopolitical region of Nigeria has for the past few months made the headlines for the wrong reasons. The state has come under sustained attacks by hoodlums who go by the tag Unknown Gun Men. This group has unleashed terror on Orlu LGA Secretariat and Ehime Mbano LGA Secretariat by attempting to completely set the secretariats ablaze.
Also, Isiala Mbano Police Division, Ihitte-Uboma Police Division, Orji Police Division, Ehime Mbano Police Division, and Aboh Mbaise Police Division have been burnt. Security officials have been mauled down, arms and ammunition carted away. The High Court in Etiti, Obowo LGA, was also burnt. The highpoint of the attacks is the attack on the Custodial Center in Owerri and freeing inmates; an attack on the Police Command and the house of the Governor in his village, Omuma, Oru East LGA.
The latest attack by the Unknown Gun Men in Imo on Tuesday which was the second attack on Orji Police station within the last couple of months has left the people in fear and panic after three persons lost their lives after being unfortunately hit by flying bullets reportedly from the barrels of the security operatives. Orji police station is less than four kilometers from Imo State Government House and the state CID. Hence it would have taken the police from the state CID less than seven minutes to arrive at the scene of the crime where they were very determined to repel the attack. Short videos captured by residents in Orji showed that the Gunmen were roaming gallantly in the area, unchallenged by the security operatives. Reports from some residents in Orji confirmed that the attack lasted for a little over 30 minutes and the gunmen had fled from the scene before security men stormed the area.
One could excuse the police in Imo for their inability to repel the attacks on the state CID and the correctional center on the basis that they were caught unawares. But another attack on a police station that is located almost in the heart of the city and at a time the police should be alert and acting on intelligence, no excuse would suffice. The criminals had another field day and innocent people were sent to their early graves by bullets from those that are paid to protect them. One would ask, what is the point in shooting carelessly when the main culprits are no longer in sight? Is there no training given to security men on how to shoot in the air without their bullets hitting innocent people?
Beyond the carelessness of our security operative is the disturbing video of people cheering the Gunmen as they carried out their assignment. In one of the videos online, the gunmen were almost shaking hands with people around. Quite disturbing. A danger signal. Before now, people scamper for safety at the sound of gunshots but what we watched yesterday were people, obviously banking in their convictions that the gunmen would register no harm on them, boosting the morale of the gunmen. This is strange and very worrisome. A complete departure from the norm. Before now, there were occasions where people, unarmed, would give gunmen a hot chase. In some cases, the gunmen were caught and served jungle justice by the residents in the areas attacked even before the arrival of policemen.
It bears repeating that I am neither a supporter nor a sympathizer to criminals and faceless gunmen. However, no government can successfully fight criminals without the support of the people. How and when did Gov Hope Uzodinma lose the support of the people he is governing to the extent that they now display overt support to the same people the governor has sworn to crush? With the recent knowledge on where the sympathies of the people are tilted toward, one would rightly say that the government should first regain the support of the people before further steps are taken to crushing these gunmen. No matter how armed security operatives in Imo are, they would achieve little or no success in the fight against insecurity if the government does not earn the trust of the people. It is the people that give credible intelligence and vital tip-off to the police but that is done only when both the government and the security operatives enjoy goodwill from the people.
To the government of Imo State led by Gov Hope Uzodinma, these attacks were engineered by those he labeled as ‘Disgruntled Opposition Politicians” in a bid to discredit his government and distract him from delivering good governance in the state. Whether this claim by the governor is right or not is not what one would boldly say as the governor enjoys exclusive information and intelligence from security operatives in the state. However, weeks after making such a claim, there is yet to be any politician in the state invited or arrested by the police for interrogation about the attacks on Imo. One would have thought that a man in the standing of a governor would not point accusing fingers on his colleagues in other political parties without preliminary investigation and the willingness to prosecute them. The expectation from the Imo people was for the governor to order for the arrest of those he had pinpointed as being behind the attacks in Imo but till now, no known opposition politician has been arrested.
The governor’s speechwriters have been of great disservice to him since the prison break. The speech they prepare for the governor oftentimes lack empathy and connection with the people. The governor would have resisted that temptation to play the blame game. He would have appealed to the conscience of all Imolites and pleaded for all hands to be on deck in the fight against insecurity. Even the governor’s spokespersons are quick to tag anyone with dissenting views on the state of the State as an opposition. The implication of this is that a supporter of PDP, APGA, or any other political parties would not want to show any serious support to the government in the fight against insecurity as the governor was quick to give political colouration to the attacks in Imo.
In the subsequent address of the governor, Gov Hope Uzodinma would assure Imo people of the safety of their lives and property and reiterate that they should go about their normal businesses as the city safe. But bullets from security operatives still killed people who were going about their normal businesses. One had expected Gov Hope Uzodinma, like Wike of Rivers State, to show empathy and regret in the avoidable deaths of young Imo citizens by at least visiting their families and commiserating with them. This would have reassured the people that their governor shares in their plight. But no such visit was done by the governor. Not even a press statement dedicated to the fallen heads nor one to caution trigger happy security men was made. It was as if something normal happened. How not relate to a people who you have sworn to protect.
These gunmen assured that they enjoy some level of overt and subtle support by the people will be gingered to initiate more attacks in the state. This Gov Uzodinma must ensure it does not happen. Gov Hope should call a stakeholders meeting. People are controlling different parts of Imo State, let him invite them irrespective of their parties and appeal to them to talk to their people. Lack of communication is the reason why criminals are having it all in Imo State. Things are falling apart and Gov Uzodimma should discard the counsels of sycophants around him, do away with political correctness as the Benue State governor, Samuel Ortom, did, embrace dialogue and incorporate fully traditional rulers and town union presidents. Above all, our governor should be advised to be answerable to Imo people only and be reminded that he is first an Imo man before becoming anything else. He should borrow a leaf from Gov Ortom.
May Imo Prevail!