Ebonyi Professionals condemn planned attack on Umahi’s critic, Onyeike
Tiamiyu Saheed Oluwatosin
A pressure group, the Edda Professionals’ League has faulted the threat against a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Chief Abia Onyeike over his criticism of Governor David Umahi of Ebonyi State.
Onyeike, a die hard critic of Umahi’s policies, has been asked to apologize to the governor or face traditional sanctions from his community.
But reacting via a statement made available to Press, the Edda Professional’s League wondered when people’s right to free expression became a crime.
In the statement signed by the group’s secretary, Mr. Ikenna Emewu, they asked the public to ignore any announcement made against Onyeike as he would not apologise for an offence he didn’t commit.
The statement read, “We had it on good authority and from very reliable sources that some political interests in Edda (Afikpo South LGA) banded themselves together to come up with a public statement that would purport to coerce, compel, cajole and stampede Chief Abia Onyeike to tender public apology to the government of Ebonyi State and denounce whatever he had at any time said to the media about the government of the state as lie.
“Eventually, after we had alerted the public through several publications, the statement was announced on the Ebonyi State Radio asking Onyeike to recant his criticisms of the governor or face traditional sanction.
“We also make it clear that the persons that signed the statement have no powers in our tradition to traditionally sanction who committed no offence as criticism of government or any leadership is not an offence in our land. Moreover, if any son of the land commits an offence, there is a procedure for meting out punishment and that process was never followed by the signatories because they know he didn’t do any wrong. What they did is just cheap politics for their stomach and a way of cheapening the traditional institutions and political office.
“But we want to place it on record that the announcement asking the journalist and member of the opposition APC to recant his criticism of the governor makes no sense in our democracy.
“Those people that signed the statement never spoke for the Edda Clan which is not a political party, and rather a natural clan where people have the right to ascribe to different political leanings. We therefore ask people to ignore that piece of announcement as worthless and of no consequence as the signatories have no powers in law and in Edda tradition to strip any citizen of Nigeria the right to free speech.
“The Edda Professionals’ League as a group of eminent and informed Edda natives are fully aware of the traditional methods through which people are called to order in Edda in case they step outside the line and such measures don’t include disowning our own before the outer world.
“We state for certain that there has never been a time the Edda Clan gathered at Osisioma, Ububa, Atamata or any of the traditional decision grounds to indict Chief Onyeike first as to bring him to public denial as consequence.
“We know the history of the unfortunate announcement since on June 9, 2020 when Onyeike alongside two other panellists attended a discussion on Dream FM Radio Enugu and aired his views on the performance of Governor David Umahi. Right from that day, things have not been the same.
“For the records, Onyeike is a member of the opposition APC in the state, and also a journalist, who by the mandate of Sections 22 and 39 of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria has a legal duty to checkmate and hold the government accountable.
“We have also listened to the clip of the discussion and his position on the performance of the government of the state and have not seen where Onyeike mistepped or acted ultra vires his powers as a citizen of Nigeria, an opposition politician or as a journalist.
“As professionals, we would not have come to the defence of our son if he had acted wrongly, therefore as the laws of Nigeria endow him with the freedom of expression within the law, we would advise anyone trying to curtail such rights to reconsider his or her intentions.
“Onyeike has not done anything wrong to criticise a government of his state and if he did any wrong, we would call that he retraces his steps and not deny or disown him.
“We state without equivocation that Edda and the Pro-Edda body stand with him on this development. If the family members of the governor take it personal with him for criticising their brother rather than the Ebonyi State governor, we will be bringing Edda to ridicule before the world to deny our son; and soon, the hawks would be landing in Edda whenever they wish to take more preys until Edda would be fully subjugated.”
“Again, on the same June 9 after Onyeike was done with the radio discussion, a younger brother of Governor Umahi, sent Onyeike a stinker Whatsapp message attacking, insulting and threatening him for criticising his brother which was totally wrong.
That step was totally against the law as Onyeike didn’t attack or criticise the attacker’s brother, but the governor of his state.
“As if that was not enough and while we still thought about how to handle this affront of personalizing governance in the state, the issue of plans by Nde Eze or any other people to coerce and compel Onyeike to recant or be disowned came up.
“And since the Ebonyi State Commissioner for Information on June 18 attended a discussion on the same Dream FM Enugu to fault and reply Onyeike’s criticism, we feel it has become an overkill for anyone especially in Edda to plan this most unfortunate intimidation of our son.
“We call that political grandstanding shouldn’t be taken rather too far in the wrong direction.
“In conclusion, we urge the public to disregard any publication any day by any group or individual claiming to speak for Edda and urging punishment on Onyeike or claiming to disown him.
“For the records, the Edda Clan is not a political party or the wing of any political party, therefore, some interest or bodies that should rather protect the integrity of Edda must purge itself of debasing acts of unholy interference and derogatory bad politics.”
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