On September 1, 2017, the people of Atta in Oru West Local Government Area of Imo State marked the 15th anniversary of the murder of Barnabas Igwe, his wife, Abigail and their unborn baby, in Onitsha, Anambra State. Barnabas Igwe was then the chairman of the Onitsha branch of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA). His wife was also a lawyer based in Onitsha. They were travelling in a car when some shadowy characters emerged from nowhere and assassinated them with machetes. Mrs Abigail was pregnant, and the murderers did not spare the unborn baby. Barnabas Igwe was then at loggerheads with the state government, and in his capacity as the chairman of the biggest and most vibrant Bar Association branch in the state demanded the state governor to pay striking workers and then resign for incompetence.
So, when the murders occurred, fingers were naturally pointed in the direction of the state government. As Africans generally say, the witch cried at night and the baby died this morning. It is most likely that Dr Chinwoke Mbadinuju, who was then the governor, knew absolutely nothing about the deaths, but there were some controversial politicians in his government who probably did it with some members of the dreaded Bakassi Boys, as the Igwe family has alleged. One of the controversial politicians has always been very close to student cultists. There is a general belief in the state that a particular student cultist is very close to the politician. This very cultist has now fully grown into a politician himself. And he is even a candidate in the November 18 gubernatorial election in the state! In other words, some Anambra politicians are dancing on the graves of Barnabas and Abigail Igwe and their unborn child. This is a most callous way to mark the 15th anniversary of the assassination of the Igwes.
It is indefensible for any political party to use the 15th anniversary to nominate as its candidate for public office a person suspected, rightly or wrongly, of having a hand in the gruesome murders. A party which does so must be very filthy and callous. Such a party cannot possibly be interested in a free and fair election. In a free and fair election, the people choose from a number of candidates the person they want to lead them. Doomed is any party which chooses a very controversial candidate. Put succinctly, the party in question must have given up winning the election even before the November 18 governorship votes are cast.
The people of Anambra State are discerning. They have a robust tradition of fighting injustice. This is the home state of such great social crusaders as Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe who won Nigeria’s independence by fearlessly fighting British colonialists based on the principles of justice, fairness and respect for human dignity. Anambra is also the home state of such social crusaders as Professor Chinua Achebe whose sense of justice will remain legendary for ages. Dr Olisa Agbakoba, Senior Advocate of Nigeria, founder of the Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO) and arguably the father of the modern civil society movement in Nigeria who has been to jail several times for standing up against injustice, hails from Anambra State. The people of such a great state cannot by any means stomach the nonsense of a political party nominating a notorious student cultist as its candidate for the sacred and high office of governor.
It is such a pity that the gruesome murder of Barnabas and Abigail Igwe and their baby has been politicized for long. Even Peter Obi, the greatest beneficiary who rose to fame by condemning the assassinations, did not seek the face of justice to address the killings after he became governor in 2006. For example, a press statement signed on January 20, 2009, by Mr Vincent Igwe on behalf of the family reads in part:
“It is sad that rather do what a sadist would have conceded to, Governor Obi continues to play politics with our family’s plight. During many of his usual television programmes, he lied to the people of Anambra State that he is the highest donor to the endowment fund established for the three orphans of the Igwes and that his government has done a lot more. Let us put on record that the best which Governor Obi has done was to request our family to release the three orphans to pose for a photo session with him during the last National Executive Council meeting of the Nigerian Bar Association which was held in Onitsha recently”.
The statement continued: “What Governor Obi owes Anambra State people is to use their money to deliver quality jobs now instead of inferior jobs, and not save money in banks where he holds substantial interest. Governor Obi must also stop deceiving outsiders that he is performing… the same Governor Obi who refused to set up a commission of inquiry into the unprecedented unlawful killings of over 50,000 people in the streets of Anambra State between 2000 and 2002 has set up a kangaroo commission into the tenure and transactions of the Electronics Dealers Association, a non-governmental organization, and also awarded scholarships to the siblings of an unmarried young man who lost his life during the infamous Immigration Service screening, an award the governor is yet to redeem”. For details, read: klinreports.blogspot.com/2009/01/obi-dont-kill-obele-chuka-igwe-family.html
Since Governor Obi, who benefitted enormously from the murder of the Igwes in 2009 but could not establish a commission to unmask those behind the killings, it will be a great tribute to the memory of Barrister Barnabas Chidi Igwe, Barrister (Mrs) Abigail Amaka Igwe and their unborn baby if Governor Willie Obiano could use the occasion of the 15h anniversary of the killing of the Igwes to institute the commission of inquiry. Let it not be said that the Igwes died in vain. They should not die in vain because we know them to be fighters for social and economic justice and fighters for the restoration of the dignity of man.
As for the political party which chose the 15th anniversary to nominate a suspected killer of the Igwes as its candidate in the impending election in Anambra State, they are simply dancing on the graves of the Igwes. The blood of the Igwes will be on the heads of members of the party. They will be tormented all their lives. Their children will not know peace. Not even their children’s children. This is the promise of all scriptures.
Orjiakor, a lawyer, lives in Onitsha.