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Enugu’s Assistant Governor: killing of a citizen meets death of emotion in government

It is increasingly becoming apparent that the luxuriating lush of beard he wears is a cultivated façade hiding deep ignorance and some sort of lack of soul. These days, wearing bushy jaws has enables many to many compelling fashion statements, but it is clear that hiding, like stubborn lice inside many people’s facial hair are Talibanistic inhumanity, the kind that should scare even the most strong-hearted.

I have read a few of his press statements. Tight. Terse. Few words. Scant of details. You can glean, even in their poor constructs, either arrogance or ignorance. Or even both. But you only need to look up into to those piercing eyes a few inches above the forest of hair some measure of cold, Bin- Ladenic lack of the regular human emotion.

If you want to take this course with me, kindly take the few seconds required to read the press statement issued by the Secretary to the Enugu State Government, Prof Chidiebere Onyia on the unfortunate killing of a son of Enugu State on Wednesday, July 26, 2023, while he, along with thousands of other law-abiding citizens were protesting the cruel shutdown of their shops and businesses for no other reason than their refusal to risk their lives in obedience of an order for every business in the state to open on Mondays in defiance of the sit-at-home order instituted by the indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), nearly two years ago.

According to what I read from the press, the young man, who should be in his late 20s (from what I could make out of the video of his dead body circulating on the social media), like every protester, was expressing his anger over the closure of their shops, and perhaps went a few extra inches by attempting to allegedly deface a flex bearing the image of the presiding demagogue in Enugu, Barr Peter Ndubuisi Mbah.

For daring to attack this flex bearing the image of Emperor Mbah, a marksman in uniform aimed a corked gun at him and shot him in the head.

And the (young) man died.

And then, in the best way to mourn a potentially promising young man cut in his prime by a bullet purchased by the Nigerian state for his security and those of all the people who thronged the streets in that protest, the Enugu State SSG issued this statement that I am going to reproduce here; every word of it, including his sign-off:

The Enugu State Government received with grave concern the ugly incident at Ogbete Main Market, Enugu, today.
Information available to Government shows that traders whose shops were sealed for non-compliance with Government’s order banning Monday sit-at-home, defied the instruction on how the shops should be re-opened and resorted to self-help by removing the seals. This led to internal squabbles between the market leadership and some of the affected traders.
The ensuing confrontation resulted in a protest, which was infiltrated and hijacked by dangerously armed hoodlums and miscreants, who broke shops and looted traders’ wares.
Attempt by security operatives to restore order and prevent further looting was violently resisted by the imported and armed hoodlums. Government is receiving further briefings on the development.
In the meantime, investigation to unravel the circumstance surrounding the incident, including the reports of casualty, is already ongoing.
Government calls on the people and residents of Enugu to remain calm and go about their lawful businesses, as adequate security measures are in place to secure lives and property in the State.
Secretary to Enugu State Government (SSG)
Wednesday, July 26, 2023

Just like that.

I have taken the pains (and it is really painful) to read this statement four times, and I will want my readers to go through it as many times, if not more, just to see if any would spot the presence of any emotion from a government who just lost a citizen under such cold-bloodedly cruel circumstances.

But I could not see any; not even an implied one. This is a young man that, as I later learned, just returned from Dubai where he had gone in search of green pasture. This is a son of Enugu State that, I am sure, was thinking that joining the protest would help infuse some form of human emotion into the government and push them to think and do better for the people. He lost his life in the process and the only way his leaders would describe his cruel passage is to casually report it as a “casualty.”

While I was still chewing this, the now toxic media in Enugu began to churn out news reports, attempting to blame the entire protest on the Labour Party governorship candidate in the 2023 elections, Chijioke Edeoga, suggesting that he instigated the protest. Again, in that press release, no single word strayed into the callous narrative, to mourn the unfortunate killing of the young man.

If the sum total of all our learnings is to improve the human condition, it then means that our prof has achieved very little, if his response to the death of his people during the recent protest is anything to go by. As Theodore Roosevelt once said, “No one cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.”

I would not blame the leprous hands that wrote that news story. It has become characteristic of nearly all the members of the Peter Mbah team to hide behind scapegoat-mongering to launder the eroding reputation of the governor. They have built for him, an image of a man who, is charge of everything and responsible for nothing. Even his lingering case of certificate forgery and election manipulation has been wrought to have the telltales of manipulation by everybody except the man himself.

In the less than five hours that available to me, after the SSG issues his statement, I had to attempt some research into the background of Prof Chidiebere Onyia, the powerful SSG, who, it seems, serves as the chief spokesman of the governor, and my findings point to a man whose life has been tailor-made for the role he is now playing.

Like his principal, his profile was written mostly to impress, rather than to point out where he has really been hand-on. Prof Onyia says he has a degree in “Biological Sciences” but failed to mention the university. That is not even the point. I doubt if there is a university in the world that offers Biological Sciences as a course, because Biological Sciences is an omnibus subject area covering nearly 10 disciplines that include botany, microbiology, medicine, molecular biology, physiology, zoology, and a potpourri of others. It is the same way that his current principal has projected himself as a consummate international oil and gas businessman that, among other unmeasurable footprints, got exclusive dealership for a US-based oil & gas company, whose name has never been mentioned.

Besides this, the powerful prof mentions scores of positions he has occupied, mostly with institutions outside the country, in ways that closer observation can reveal he may have merely had associations with those institutions but never really did any measurable works.

Those who know him, however, describe him in not-very complimentary ways. I heard that in his days at the Coal City University, his records in the area of human relations and people management were not worthy of any reference. Anywhere his name is mentioned, those who have encountered him would immediately begin to recall his bitter encounter with a certain Prof Okwueze, whose dream to become Vice Chancellor of Coal City university was alleged to have been frustrated by Prof Onyia.

I understand that the ban on the illegal sit-at-home is Prof Onyia’s personal project, considering that nearly all the statements that has been issued from the time the ban was put in place, to the present unfortunate incident, has emanated from his office. This being the case, the prof must be inclined to make sure that he earns the bragging right of being the person who supervised the termination of a regime of terror that has been imposed on the people for so long by the IPOB.

But it is important for the prof to be to told to his permanently emotionless, deadpan face dislodging non-state terrorism with state terror like helping someone cure a toothache, and then force the person to chew glass. The illegal site-at-home in the southeast is a disease caused by the failure of government. No person likes it; no one who complies to the weekly observance feels good abandoning his or her business for an extended weekend.

The southeast as a whole loses billions of naira every Monday on account of this unfortunate order. But even with all the losses they incur, people had to comply with the order because people who occupied the position such as Prof Onyia is occupying at the present failed to address the issue, and preferred to play nefarious politics with it, at the expense of the suffering masses.

It is therefore unintelligent for the government to attack this malaise using the wrong antidote. People stayed away from their businesses out of fear. Time and again the enforcers of the illegal order had killed those who defied it. Cars have been burnt and injuries inflicted on people.

Assuming that the people who were adhering to the sit-at-home order were disobeying government is even stupid. Government has consistently shied away from providing security for the people. Under the present government where Prof Onyia has found himself as the “Assistant Governor,” security is still not anywhere near optimal. But rather than address this, the government took recourse to punishing the people.

This strategy is cowardly, if I must put it in one word. Attacking the citizens, the very people that are economically at risk as a result or the order cannot be anything but an act of cowardice on the part of Prof Onyia and his government. If he was brave, let him step out every Monday without security and move around. As we speak, the Government House where he operates from is guarded by detachments of police, Civil Defence, the DSS and even the Army. But the trader who will have to travel the long distance from Abakpa Nike or Gariki to Ogbete Main Market, might make that journey without seeing any security official, except the ones extorting money from motorists, and even then, you won’t see them anywhere on Mondays.

If the security agencies adhere to the sit-at-home order; if they are scared of the IPOB enforcers and stay off major exposure points, what f=does Prof Onyia expect ordinary citizens to do?

I do not want to discuss the issue of violation of the rights of citizens that was the manifest interpretation of the action of government in forcing people to open their businesses when they have elected not to. My concern and pain are that in doing this, lives have been lost, and Prof Onyia and his government are treating it as if it was a mischievous fly that was just squashed against the wall.

Prof Onyia may have impressed many (certainly not me) with his CV, but his lack of human emotion makes nonsense of whatever academic achievements he may have accumulated. If the sum total of all our learnings is to improve the human condition, it then means that our prof has achieved very little, if his response to the death of his people during the recent protest is anything to go by. As Theodore Roosevelt once said, “No one cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.”


Ikem Okuhu is a journalist, a Public Relations professional, brand strategist and teacher. With a career that traversed Print Media, Oil & Gas, Banking and entrepreneurship, Ikem is the author of wave-making book; PITCH: Debunking Marketing’s Strongest Myths, a dispassionate exposition of the dos and don’ts of successful engagement in the marketplace, especially the Nigerian marketplace. He is the founder/publisher of BRANDish, Nigeria’s first nationally circulating Brands and Marketing magazine. He has also handled the PR and reputation management consultancies for a number of brands, businesses and public figures.

  • Kachi

    From his statement, it shows that it was a taggeted attempt. Mbah want to finish Enugu state

    July 27, 2023 at 10:20 am Reply
  • Adeyinka

    So sad to see a beautiful cut short in its prime.

    July 27, 2023 at 10:23 am Reply
  • Ken Eze

    Whenever I read press releases from the SSG, I wonder if they were really coming from a Prof. This is a man who tripples as an SSG, Assistant Governor and Chief Press Secretary to Mbah.

    July 27, 2023 at 3:06 pm Reply
  • Dr. Comrade Tony Nnamdi Alumona

    The unwarranted killing of an innocent citizen in the course of peaceful protest to assert their right is absolutely condemnable. The SSG’s stance on the horrific & brazen incident was highly regrettable & shocking!

    July 27, 2023 at 3:13 pm Reply

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