Who Killed Dr. Akunyili?
Although the banned secessionist group, the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) has denied responsibility for the gruesome murder on September 28, of the widower of the former Director-General of the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), Professor Dora Akunyulli, the group cannot credibly escape suspicion for possible culpability in the killing of Dr Chike Akunyili.
For one, despite its insistent claim to enjoying overwhelming support among the populace in the South East, IPOB has largely been using force, violence and intimidation to ensure compliance with its directives in the region. An example is the directive of some elements of the group that people should observe a sit-at-home order every Monday since August 9, 2021, when its leader, Nnamdi Kanu, was apprehended in Kenya and flown back to the country to resume trial at the Federal High Court in Abuja.
Even after the leadership of IPOB had formally issued a statement that the sit-at-home order should be observed only on days when Kanu would be arraigned in court, some other members have continued to enforce the directive every Monday, with the populace largely complying for fear of violent reprisals.
Furthermore, IPOB has spoken openly against elections holding anywhere in the South East, and in particular, had warned that the governorship election scheduled for November 6 in Anambra State would not be allowed to take place. Eyewitnesses to the senseless murder of Dr Akunyili reported that the assailants, who also killed his driver and police orderly, were shouting that there would be no elections in Anambra next month. There have been speculations that Dr Akunyili was targeted because his vehicle was carrying a policeman in uniform as security officials have been the target of attacks in the South East by anonymous gunmen in recent times.
Dr Akunyili’s murder poignantly illustrates, once again, the virtual breakdown of law and order and descent to anarchy in most parts of the South East, just as in large swathes of the country. It has been reported, for instance, that between September 26 and 28, there had been attacks on citizens in Oko, Agulu, Obosi, Nkpor, Nnobi and Nnewi, all in Anambra State. We recall the violent attack on the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) in the forthcoming Anambra election, Professor Charles Soludo, the torching of the houses of Mr Joe Igbokwe as well as the Imo State governor, Senator Hope Uzodinma, the killing of another top politician in Owerri, Mr Ahmed Gulak, in addition to sundry other attacks on innocent citizens and symbols of state authority in the region.
Although the Anambra State governor, Mr Willie Obiano, has announced a reward of N20 million for anyone who can provide useful information on those responsible for Dr Akunyili’s murder, it is our view that the governor and his other colleagues across the South East are not being as aggressive and creative as they ought to be in responding to the security emergency in the states under their control. For instance, they jointly announced the setting up of a security outfit for the region in April named Ebube Agu, not much has been heard of the initiative. While it is true that, under the subsisting constitutional arrangement, governors are chief security officers of their states only symbolically as the security agencies are entirely under the control of the Federal Government, they can surely learn from the example of Lagos State, for example, which has extensively funded and equipped the Nigeria Police Force to defend its citizens. Also, the South West governors have created a local security outfit known as Amotekun, which is liaising with the police and other security agencies to gather and share requisite information and intelligence, and cooperating to fight crime.
The deteriorated security situation in the South East, like other parts of the country, is also most importantly a failure of intelligence. It is an embarrassment, for instance, that the Department of State Services (DSS) has branches in every state and local government in the country, yet criminal gangs carry out their nefarious activities almost effortlessly. It is instructive that Dr Akunyili was killed while he was returning to Enugu from an event in Onitsha where his late wife, Dora, was honoured. Over seven years after her death, her country men and women obviously continue to remember and cherish the memory of a woman who served with such exemplary courage, industry and honesty, particularly as DG of NAFDAC.
Incidentally, Dr Akunyili was no less a remarkable, patriotic and selfless citizen than his wife. The medical doctor, who was running one of the largest health facilities in Enugu, St Leo Hospital, graduated with a first class degree and was noted for treating citizens across the country often on grounds of charity. At the lecture in honour of his wife, which he attended, he reportedly donated N500,000 to the University of Nigeria Nsukka (UNN), Onitsha branch, the organisers of the event. In their powerful and moving testimony to their late father, his children noted that he fought as a young man in the Biafra civil war and was even hit by a bullet that remained lodged in his skull all his life. In their words, “From this experience of violence and death, he went on to become a doctor saving thousands of lives, a powerful testament to his journey through life”.
May the memory of this great man and his late wife inspire and motivate all stakeholders in a position to heal the nation’s wounds and actualise her vast potential not to spare any effort in doing so.
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