Six months after the military invaded the Afaraukwu home of the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, Nnamdi Kanu, the people of the community have been licking their wounds and waiting in anxiety for the return of their traditional ruler, Eze Israel Okwu Kanu and his wife, who were taken away, but have not come home since then.
As they are waiting, the people are also demanding from the Federal Government the sum of N500 million to enable them cleanse their community which they claimed the invading soldiers desecrated.
The Afaraukwu invasion
The Afaraukwu community, a key integral part of the boisterous Abia State capital also had a serene environment, no wonder it is home to the Abia State Government House, quarters of most senior military and police officers in the state; and most importantly, home to the famous Ojukwu Bunker. The serenity of the community was, however, disrupted on September 14, 2017, when the military invaded the area purportedly in search of the IPOB leader.
Since then, Afaraukwu lost her virginity and has not remained the same again. If the deaths recorded as a result of that raid were agonizing, the missing of the traditional ruler of the community till date was more worrisome. Indeed, the head of the Afaraukwu community has been bruised with the entire community groaning in pain.
Visit to Nnamdi Kanu’s home
To get a first-hand knowledge of how the people of Afaraukwu have been coping without their traditional ruler since September 14, this reporter set out for a trip to the place hosting the golden Guinea Breweries and other landmark edifices in Umuahia.
The first port of call was the Kanus. The compound was desolate; it had no trace of any human life. What were evident were scars left on what used to be the royal walls by bullets ostensibly fired by the military; and destroyed cars, which were parked outside the palace home of the Kanus.
Nnamdi Kanu’s younger brother, Emmanuel who was not at home but spoke from a distant location said that they are yet to know the whereabouts of his father.
“Ever since that day the military invaded our house and killed about 22 people and our dog, Jack, took so many people away, including the living and the dead, we’ve not set eyes on our father, mother, and brother, Nnamdi; we’ve been in search of them, we’ve not seen them.
“They were within the house before the invasion took place, ever since, we’ve not set our eyes on them. The soldiers should produce them whether dead or alive. If they are dead, give us their corpse, that’s what we are asking for.”
The Kanus are not alone in their moment of pain as the President General of Afaraukwu Ibeku Development Association (AIDA), Chief Ikechukwu Nwabueze, told Sunday Sun that their community is feeling greatly the long absence of their monarch.
Hear him: “Since after the operation Python Dance in September last year, the Isiama Afaraukwu community has not seen our monarch and it has not been easy for us more especially I, the president general, because I cannot do my own duty as well do the work of the monarch. “As a result of that, our community has been in shambles because the Eze is the father that holds the tradition and all that.”
Desecration of land and cleansing of the palace
Outside the debilitating fact that their traditional ruler has not been seen and remained incommunicado, the people Afaraukwu community are much worried that their land and in particular, the palace of the traditional ruler – the Egwu Ukwu palace – was desecrated. This they believe would make it impossible for their monarch to return to the palace without first of all cleansing it, if he is finally allowed to go home by his ‘captors’.
“Outside the fact that we have not seen our traditional ruler since the invasion of our community by the military last year, we are equally worried over the desecration of our land and in particular, the Egwu Ukwu palace,” Chief Nwabueze said.
On what should be done to cleanse the land and the palace, Chief Nwabueze said: “Some time ago, we wrote an open letter to the Federal Government asking them to come for a total cleansing of the area, what we call ’Egwu Avu’ because there are certain things they need to bring because of the type of people that entered there and because of the killings inside the palace.
“This should be done so that our gods will be appeased because since after the invasion of our community and the palace in particular by the military, so many strange things have been happening in the community. Since that time, we have been experiencing some kind of strange deaths in our community now. More so, they did a lot of damage, so many people we’ve not seen, so many people died as a result of shock and things like that, so, we need to appease our gods for the land to be calm.
“So, all we are saying is that they should sanitize our place that was desecrated and also we are asking the Federal Government to pay us N500 million so that we can buy all the necessary things we need for the cleansing of our land that was desecrated. The things that are needed include white tortoise, white kite, white cow, white goat, white Igbo kola nut (37 in number). We’ve made inquiries and those and others are what we are supposed to do.”
The monetary aspect, according to the president general, is secondary, as what was paramount to the people was for the Federal Government to send delegation to visit the community after which they would roll out what should be procured for the cleansing of the land. He, however, said that if the Federal Government would not be able to get the items needed, then they should give the community money for that purpose. He said that all the people wanted was the cleansing of their land and rebuilding of their monarch’s palace that was destroyed during the military raid.
Lull in economic activities
Economic activities in the community, Sunday Sun learnt has come to zero due to the military raid as many of the people who ran away from the community were yet to come back while the strangers had packed and left the community. Indeed, Afaraukwu has become a pariah community as nobody wants to come to the town shaken to its foundation by the military to start any business again.
To make matters worse, the people complained that there were incessant police raids that were capped with the establishment of roadblocks at every available space with the people remaining in the community saying that the new security arrangement is driving away potential investors and other businessmen from the area. The people are twinge the more that the military invasion and the current police siege to their land happened despite the known fact that Afaraukwu natives are peace loving.
“The fortunate and the unfortunate part of it,” Okpara, a native of the community opined, “is that we the Isiama Afaraukwu community has been housing and hosting the Abia Government House since the inception of Abia State. The AIG, CP and other senior government functionaries live in our community and none of them can testify that we are violent people. The Afaraukwu people are law-abiding people; and even when the IPOB people were there, we made sure they did not go beyond their bounds. The AIG can testify to that, the CP can testify to that.”
“It is unfortunate that the man who said the place is peaceful was removed, well that is left for them,” Okpara said, making reference to the transfer of the former Commissioner of Police in the state, Mr. Oyebade. Another native of the area, Eke said: “Apart from Nnamdi our son, we’ve also not set eyes on his parents; that’s why we are telling those concerned to produce them wherever they may have kept them. We want to see our traditional ruler and speak with him; even if they are dead, we want to see their corpses so that we can bury them, they deserve that right.” Eke pointed out that Afaraukwu community is not a new creation, revealing that the ancient community pre-dated the coming of the colonial masters.
“It’s a very peaceful and loving community where people co-exist, where people love each other and go about their normal businesses. Until what happened recently, Afaraukwu has always been a peace-loving place. We have very enlightened and well-educated people who have served in the government of this very country and they contributed their best. We gave most of our choice areas of land to both the state and federal governments; we have contributed immensely to the development of the country, so, invading our community the way the military did was a bad way of paying us back.
“The community has been in chaos since the invasion, I wish you had been around when they invaded this community and the day after, Afaraukwu was like a ghost town. You know what it means invading a community, shooting anything on sight and killing them, it was a very nasty, horrible and barbaric experience,” Eze said. He, however, did not rule out the possibility of the community taking legal action over the invasion and the missing of their traditional ruler. “The community will definitely take action, we won’t keep quiet over what has been done to us, but I will not go into details for now”, Eke quipped.
The monarch may not be back soon
The general thinking in Afaraukwu is that their traditional ruler is still with the military, a feeling that was also shared by the president general. “Since the military invasion, we’ve not set our eyes on our monarch, neither have we spoken with him. I know I was with him the previous day before the incident, but after that, I have not heard anything about him. Whether he is alive, I don’t know, whether he is not alive, I also do not know. “All we are asking the government who took him is to release our monarch or tell us his position because we don’t know his whereabouts since then and the community is very much concerned, so troubled over his whereabouts,” he said. He disclosed that if eventually Eze Kanu is released today, he may not return to his palace so soon.
According to Chief Nwabueze, “definitely, there is no way the monarch will come back into a palace that was so desecrated, that’s number one. Number two, where is he going to live in? Is it the palace that was destroyed, is it the palace that they killed people everywhere? Something must be done before he returns to the palace.” Provided that their traditional ruler is still alive, the people of Afaraukwu are not in a hurry for any change of baton as they have put on their waiting apron, dismissing any thinking of their monarch being replaced either by the government or the people themselves.
“This is a traditional thing; if our traditional ruler is dead, there are things we need to do to bury him and then we will need time to choose another traditional ruler, you don’t rush things like that. I don’t think it is the duty of government to introduce traditional ruler for us. Let it be made clear, those from government be them, president or governor,, they have where they came from; they have their customs and traditions and I don’t think that if they are in our shoes, under this circumstance, they will accept anybody that will be imposed on them as traditional ruler and I don’t think our community will accept that”, Nwabueze enthused.
Despite all the hullaballoo that have trailed the invasion of the community and the disappearance of their monarch, the president general advised his people, particularly the youths to remain law-abiding and build enduring home for peace in their hearts for the sake of the community.