Aisha Maureen Edwards is an Indigene of Ebonyi State, married to a Kano State indigene. She is based in Anambra State and considers herself a detribalized Nigerian. She in this exclusive interview registers her displeasure with an alleged character assassination crusade on social media by a notorious social media influencer who goes by the pen name, “the Chief Priest. Aisha calls on the Ebonyi State and Anambra State Governors to make a statement concerning what she calls “a tribalistic and volatile hate speech.”
WHAT can you tell us about Ebonyi State Indigenes Welfare Association?
I was the National Secretary of Ebonyi State Indigene Welfare Association, Anambra Chapter. The group is saddled with the responsibilities and challenges of Ebonyi State indigenes in every State especially in Anambra State where the headquarters is located.
Ebonyi State Indigenes Welfare Association prominently try as much as it can to guard against crime among its people. Before now, there has been this conventional Impression people had of our people. When they say “Nwa Abakaliki a”, they tend to connote “that riff raff, that half baked lawless brute,” and Once there is any crime, they say, “these Abakaliki people.” Such things affect us psychologically.
I am one person that is very proud of my roots. I will do anything to protect anybody from Ebonyi State. Before now, our people were slow to accept civilisation and Westernisation. I thank God for democracy which has facilitated speedy civilisation in my place. The infrastructural development in Ebonyi State now is second to none, ironically.
I am someone that comes from a mixed marriage; my mother is from Imo State, while my father is an Ebonyian. I am a person that embraces Nigerians wherever I find them because I don’t know where my daughter would end up. So, I always have zero tolerance for nepotism and indigene consciousness, tribalism and discrimination.
What recent Occurrence threatens the psyche of your welfare association?
Scandalous and defamatory press releases are recently emerging from someone who is yet to append his legal name to his posts but Uses a pen name, “Chief Priest.” I do not know if this chief priest is a traditionalist with a shrine somewhere.
He went on the new media to discredit the commendable appointment made by the executive governor of Anambra State, Governor Willie Obiano, to the former OC SARS Commander, in the person of CSP James Nwafor, as Senior Special Assistant on Security. I wonder why someone would sit somewhere and be instigating war, violence, confusion, and an elder for that matter.
I know that Whoever is behind this mischief is an elder who knows the rule of law and understands the system of the government very well. So, I wonder why such a person would summon courage to go as far as using innocent young, vulnerable Nigerians to go online to be defaming person’s Character.
So, you are saying that several facebook accounts have been circulating the alleged defamation on the new media?
Yes. And it is only a Jobless youth would do that. No meaningfully engaged young Nigerian would be party to circulating such junk. Why I am this angry is that if this so called Chief Priest had gone to court to sue the accused, if he thinks Nwafor had gone against any law.
He says he is a human rights activist. But he forgot so fast that wherever his rights end is where others’ start. I started following the accused, James Nwafor, as a fan, right from when he was at FCT, Abuja. I was in Abuja too. I came into Enugu State on a special assignment. When kidnapping was so bad, I heard about Nwafor when he was newly posted to Anambra State; his exploits. I never even knew that he was an Ebonyi man.
How I knew that he was an indigene was the day the President Chief Michael Nwali of our association decided to invite him to come and speak to us during association meeting as was our custom during every association meeting.
James could not make it but he sent a strong worded letter to our people. He told all of us that are Ebonyians in Anambra State to do everything possible to stay away from crime. He said that he was going to mete out 10 times the punishment he would give to a suspect of other states of origin to any Ebonyian convicted of crime.
He said that we should not go and commit crime believing that he would come and bail us because he would not as he earned his reputation through hard work and consistency. This happened before his recent appointment by Governor Obiano.
This went to show that James Nwafor is a very principled person. For you to be a successful force Person, you must be very strong and principled. You should not be indecisive in taking your decision. No matter whose ox is gored, deal with issues as the law demands; that is the person of James Nwafor. So, for someone to go on social media to be castigating the same person is unacceptable.
What can you tell us about the source of this disturbing post?
I have told you that he goes by the name “Chief Priest.” He posts that James Nwafor is brutal to criminals and has killed many suspects. He said he is the unshackled Brain Master but I have decided to launch a crusade that would shrink the unshackled brain he Claims which he claims to be a Master.
Who are you unshackling their brain? I made effort to reach out to the human rights persons who Chief Priest claims to associate with to ascertain the validity of their claim. I was however taken aback when those human rights persons told me that they were as piqued as I was at the unguarded acts of the Chief Priest. They said that they planned to give James Nwafor an award at Onitsha there, and with the recent onslaught by the renegade social media propagandist, the chances were slim.
Incidentally, James has not responded to these attacks on social media. It is his well wishers who are more worried given the effect of such statements on the safety of James’ family members and friends. The man went ahead to say that “Ebonyi people rejected James Nwafor.” How?
How did Ebonyi people reject this man that served a nation. Does it mean that as intelligent as Obiano is, who won overwhelming in the just concluded election would go and engage someone with questionable reputation in his second tenure. Of course you know that Obiano is not looking for another tenure.
He is looking for a legacy to leave behind. I doubt if in his sanity, he would bring anything that would dent his image and reputation in this second tenure. So, for Obiano to have made this appointment, there must be something he is seeing in this man who is not even from Anambra State, to deserve such an honour in Anambra State. Don’t forget that Obiano is the chief security officer of Anambra and receives security briefing on a regular basis.
When this same James Nwafor was going to be awarded by Human Rights Defenders of Nigeria, this man (Chief Priest) started a campaign against the same James calling on the bar association. I am determined to think that someone is desperate to cover up crimes. I am determined to find out what actually transpired between this man and James.
How did the appointment affect Ebonyi people and how has this recent media attack been affecting the psyche of Ebonyi people resident in Anambra State?
James is a hero. It is true that a prophet is not honoured in his town, but James, as far as I am concerned, has made Ebonyi people proud. It is not easy for you to go to another man’s land and leave a legacy there, and you receive an honour.
It is rare. So I am very proud of my Ebonyi brethren like James Nwafor who, against all odds, distinguish themselves. Ebonyians are very hard working. They have an extra combatant spirit just like the Fulani at war. So, the appointment is well deserved and we Ebonyians saw it as a strong message to all Nigerians to look beyond tribal, religious differences and stand stronger together sharing responsibilities among themselves based on competence. Note that the commissioner for youths and sports in Ebonyi State is from Anambra State.
And I have not heard any day that anybody is Ebonyian saying that Anambra State governor rejected the commissioner in question. Ebonyi State indigenes welcome excellence. Anambra State has been extremely accommodating too, not only to the Ebonyians but also to so many other tribes with what I am seeing. Even the campaign that I am championing, Association of People Living with Sickle Cell disorder, Anambra people and government have been quite Cooperative.
If we have had any hitches so far, it is from people of questionable characters. So, in all, since these press releases have been making rounds, Ebonyi people as a whole have been unsettled as the press release is connoting that it is because Nwafor is not an indigene that he is being attacked for assuming a government appointment.
What is the Ebonyi Indigenes welfare intending to do to curb such inciting publications?
The association will Sue those behind these inciting press releases on social media. I am also Challenging Governor Willie Obiano, to make a strong statement now against such propaganda. It is James Nwafor today, it could be me tomorrow. This kind of malicious statements is capable of inciting misunderstandings in Ebonyi State.
The insecurity this guy is trying to instigate is quite worrisome. I also call on the Ebonyi State governor to make a statement now concerning the allegation leveled against him by the same chief priest that he rejected James Nwafor. Why would our state governor reject James who served the federal government.
What is your final message?
The perpetrators of these malicious posts should be careful. They should be mindful of their territories. They should not take our silence and respect for our environment to be a sign of cowardice. We are not uncultured. We are all from decent homes.
This man is pushing the likes of us to dig deep and lay bare what actually transpired between him and James. James Nwafor has told me that the Source of the posts must be one of the criminals he fought. Of course, you know the popular cliché in Nigeria; “When you fight corruption, corruption fights back.” They should go to court to present evidence of the people James killed as they allege instead of making malicious publications. They did a similar thing with Peter Obi in the past, today, they are on James Nwafor.
The governor of Anambra State should apprehend this man so that he presents the evidence he said he has. My primary reason for constantly speaking up for those of the security agencies is that they are not being appreciated enough. These are men and women who sacrifice the comfort of family life to protect our lives and properties. I know this because I come from a family that has people working in the force and I have worked with the Nigerian Army too, I sincerely know it feels for you not to see your loved ones for as long as four years as a result of frequent postings, national Sacrifice and patriotism at the expense of your Joy, peace and safety of life.