Ebonyi State, like many other states across Nigeria, is bracing up for the 2023 general election, which, barring any last-minute change in the timetable of the Independent National Electoral Commission, will take place between February and March 2023.
In an ideal world, as election dates approach, those seeking elective positions should begin organising their plans, actions, and strategies to communicate or market them to the electorates whose mandate they seek in the election.
Presently, however, all appears not to be rosy for opposition politicians and their supporters in the state. The intrigues, happenings, and events currently playing out in the Salt of the Nation have thrown actors in the political space into a state of “the more you look, the less you see.’’
Before the election, members of the Ebubeagu Security Outfit were accused of having attacked, dehumanised and maimed opposition elements in the state, allegedly at the request of the Ebonyi State Government and overseen by the governor, Engr. David Umahi. Opposition elements have repeatedly accused the ruling APC of gagging them in a bid to have a smooth ride to victory come 2023.
The current scenario thus negates the popular view in a democracy that a successful political system is a coalition in which there is peaceful coexistence between its diverse groups and where candidates from different parties can compete and win freely. To political watchers, the state is on the verge of political implosion.
Commenting on the situation, the All Progressives Grand Alliance senatorial candidate for Ebonyi South Zone, Ifeanyi Eleje, decried the alleged nefarious activities of the Ebubeagu militia, adding that it had outlived its usefulness.
According to him, the militia’s actions in the state have closed the political space and hindered citizens’ freedom of expression.
He said, “For me, what the Ebubeagu militia is doing in Ebonyi State is rather closing the space and not allowing the citizens’ freedom of expression. Politicians must communicate to the electorate what they have in store for them. If you gag people, they don’t talk; you are merely disenfranchising the electorate because they don’t know what they are buying.
“I think the Ebubeagu Security Outfit has outlived its usefulness. Yes, it might have been well intended but we both know that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Nobody currently trusts it. And if a society does not trust the security architecture, no organisation can claim to provide security to that society.”
Michael Ugochukwu, an Ebonyi indigene and member of the state’s old APC Legacy Group, said the heinous operations of the Ebubeagu operatives have reached a tipping point, and he has called on the Inspector-General of Police, Usman Baba to disband the outfit.
“I believe it is time for the Federal Government, through the Inspector General of Police to step in and protect the rights and lives of all Ebonyi people. I also call for the disbandment of the so-called terrorist group in the name of the Ebubeagu Security Network. The network is being used as a cover to commit various crimes to benefit their paymaster, who happens to be the Governor of Ebonyi State, David Umahi.”
According to a former Commissioner for Information and chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party, Chief Abia Onyike, the Ebubeagu Security Outfit was not rendering the duty for which it was established in the South-East geopolitical region.
According to him, the group had been converted to a private militia by Governor Umahi.
“The Ebubeagu came and abducted me where I was buying drugs and took me to their torture chambers at the old Government House, Abakaliki, where I was stripped naked and given severe beatings for more than one hour. When I asked what my offence was, they said, I’m criticising Umahi. Umahi runs a rogue state in Ebonyi that is sustained by a massive propaganda and a brutal machine of state terrorism called Ebubeagu.
“The essence is to use the militia outfit to suppress and subdue opposition and deploy violence that will undermine the sovereign will of the people to elect leaders of their choice. Instead of establishing a regional security organisation to deal with herdsmen, he cleverly converted it to his personal militia,” he said.
Also, a member of the Labour Party in the state, Dr David Ogbonna, and supporter of the incarcerated senatorial candidate of the party for Ebonyi South District, Hon. Linus Okorie, lamented the activities of Ebubeagu, saying it had been a willing tool of oppression and subjugation by its purveyors.
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He said, “I called on the Nigerian Police to immediately disband this state militia group. And I also call on the National Security Adviser to investigate the proliferation of arms in Ebonyi State and retrieve these automatic guns from the Ebubeagu militia group.
“Given the size of arms that have proliferated through the group’s operations, we fear for the state and the southeast after 2023 if the Ebubeagu is not checked.”
Aside from alleged attacks, harassment, and victimisation of opposition politicians and supporters, Governor Umahi issued an executive order prohibiting political campaigns and rallies in state markets, schools, and parks. Citing the defacing of such places as a reason, the governor had placed a refundable fee of N5 million for anybody who wishes to use such facilities.
This has also put members of the opposition on edge, giving the impression that they are currently unable to move around and market themselves to voters.
A convoy of the governorship candidate of the APGA, Prof. Benard Odoh was attacked on October 20, 2022, at Iboko in the Izzi Local Government Area of the state on his way to a meeting with party faithful.
A two-term member of the House of Representatives, Okorie, who arrived in Abakaliki, the Ebonyi State capital, from Abuja on Saturday morning (October 16), was to meet with his supporters on Sunday (October 17) in the Onicha Local Government Area of the state, when the Ebubeagu team whisked him away.
His whereabouts were uncertain throughout Sunday until news filtered in on Monday morning that he had been arrested by members of the Ebubeagu Security Outfit in liaison with the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency over alleged illicit drug dealings.
But on Monday morning (October 18), the NDLEA State Commandant, Iyke Uche, denied ever knowing the whereabouts of the former lawmaker, saying the agency neither met him nor arrested him. Also, a strong member of the PDP in the Onicha council area of the state, Soul2Soul, was abducted and tortured for close to one week before he was allowed to go.
Two opposition youth leaders were abducted, stripped naked, and severely beaten in Okporojo village, the Idima community in the Afikpo South LGA in the state, and were later whisked to Abakaliki on grounds of various unfounded allegations. On November 12, 2022, the militia attacked youths in the Ohaozara LGA of the state who were attending an Obi-Dient meeting. That incident led to the death of an old woman and left scores of people with varying degrees of injuries.
Just this past Saturday, another PDP chieftain and Lagos-based businessman, Chief Julius Orji (aka Ochiri Edda), was allegedly attacked and missed death by whiskers. The Ebubeagu men were said to have opened fire on his convoy at Ekoli community in Afikpo South LGA of the state. This is in addition to the complaints about Ebubeagu operatives destroying opposition campaign billboards and materials at will.
Reacting, the Public Secretary of APGA, Chinedu Nwanchor, said, “What has happened to our opposition political parties, especially the incident of the Labour Party at Okposi is condemnable, unacceptable, and an act of intimidation by the ruling party APC in Ebonyi State. The Ebonyi State government has been trying to enforce all manner of order in the state in a bid to retain power by all means. But what it does not know is that you can take a horse to the river, but you cannot force him to drink water. Ebonyians are wiser now. When the D-Day comes, Ebonyians will decide at the polls.
He added, “Governor Umahi banned political campaigns and rallies in schools, markets, parts, etc. But the question I and my fellow Ebonyians should ask him is: when he contested for election in 2015, did he pay N5 million to hold political rallies? And if he did, where is the evidence?”
Reacting, Governor Umahi said the Ebubeagu outfit, as a legal creation, was complementing conventional security apparatus to maintain law and order in the state.
His Special Assistant on Media and Strategy, Chooks Okoh, stated this in an interview with our correspondent.
He said, “Ebubeagu is a legal creation actively aiding the regular security outfits to maintain law and order. I believe they have been doing great. I believe that they are after only criminals and lawbreakers. I don’t believe they are political in their dealings; they are well trained.” ,
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