FEARS of possible embarrassment, as one security source put it, from the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, was responsible for the absence of President Muhammadu Buhari and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo from the mega rally of the Al Progressives Congress, APC, at the Umuahia Township Stadium on Tuesday.
“The message to the President was clear,” the security source continued “ he had to stay away. Umuahia would not be a good place for the President to appear after the events of September.”
He was making a veiled reference to the military invasion of the home of IPOB leader Nnamdi Kanu on 15 September 2017. Nnamdi and his parents have neither been seen, nor heard from since the invasion. IPOB might have dispersed after the invasion, but its members still demand for the whereabouts of the IPOB leader, his parents and others arrested on that night.
A court case between the Federal Government and Kanu has been stalled over the demand of IPOB lawyers that they needed to know the whereabouts of Kanu. Also Senator Enyinnaya Harcourt Abaribe, one of the sureties for Kanu, had asked the court to hold the military, which invaded Kanu’s home, responsible, for his whereabouts.
The court is asking the Senator to produce Kanu. The case comes up in February.
“IPOB members were at the Umuahia Township Stadium,” a source told The Oracle Today. They wanted to know what the President would say. They would have at some point started asking for Kanu. It seems that the security gave a hint of that and asked the President and the Vice President not to be in Umuahia.”
Unconfirmed sources said that some daring IPOB members had wanted to storm the venue with their flags and placards demanding for the whereabouts of Nnamdi Kanu. “It would have been a very embarrassing situation for the President,” said the source.
Asked why IPOB did not appear at the rally eventually, the source explained that IPOB has its own intelligence. “I think that IPOB found out that the President would not attend, so it didn’t bother. Whatever it wanted to do, it wanted the President to be there,” said our source.
Umuahia Township Stadium, where the rally held, is less than three kilometres to the Afara Ukwu home of Nnamdi Kanu.
“Buhari’s presence in Umuahia would have been provocative,” the same source said. “The options were weighed, but the more generally accepted position was that it was better that the President stayed away.” So the President did not attend the rally that was supposed to win APC supporters in Abia State.
Disappointment was obvious as some of the party members started leaving before the end of the event. It was also a low point for the organisers.
“All the announcements and campaigns in the past few months about how important APC considered Abia State disappeared with the absence of the President. The organisers had no explanation for neither the President, nor the Vice President being at the event,” said an APC member.
“None of those who spoke at the rally could have been speaking for the President. His absence was a big disappointment to us.”
Gideon Samani, Senior Special Assistant, Political Matters, to President Buhari, represented him at the rally.