By Doris Obinna
Author, anti-genocide crusader and Ohanaeze Ndigbo chieftain, Hon Emma Okocha, has said that what Nigeria needs was “total and complete revolution” and not restructuring.
In this interview, on his returned from an African conflict management seminar in East Africa, he spoke on the proscription of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), clamor for restructuring and others.
The IPOB has been proscribed following their agitation for a separate nation that was almost turning the whole of the South East into a bloody battleground. What do you think?
The demystification of the leader of the IPOB, Nnamdi Kanu, was planned and orchestrated by the Ohanaeze, in conspiracy with the governors of the South East, who were alarmed by the sudden popularity of the young man who came out from prison and stopped activities in eastern states on May 29 2017, with the sit-at-home strike.
For the first time since Zik, Okpara, Odumegwu Ojukwu, the Igbo located a new leader. For the records, the Igbo leader is not the one given by government appointment nor does he emerge after the type of elections we engage ourselves in Nigeria. From 1939, when my uncle, Chief Dennis Osadebay, founded the Igbo Union, the great leaders of the Igbo are the ones that never lobby for the position. To fill up vacant Igbo positions, delegations are usually sent to them and they are persuaded to take up the mantle of leadership as a reward for their outstanding contributions to the community. Examples abound. Okonkwo Kano, Mbonu, the man who, in 1966, built modern Maiduguri; built all the city roads, the hospitals, the churches, the only aerodrome and all the schools, his house boy, Mia Deribe, is the richest man now in that area. In Port Harcourt, we had Chief Obi, Ihekwaba, Anyanwu, and the Nzimiros etc.
But the governors joining forces with Ohanaeze united the people’s voice?
I am sorry, the governors, since the inception of Ohanaeze, were never active members. In distancing themselves from their governors, the founding fathers of Ohanaeze, namely, Dr. Pius Okigbo, Dr. Akanu Ibiam, Ugochukwu, the tyre mandarin, and again my uncle DC Osadebay, were very circumspect on this issue and did everything to allow the governors who are mainly politicians to take their space and leave the Igbo dialogue with other groups in Nigeria specifically for Ohanaeze to handle. Those founding fathers thought that the governors were already full with enough responsibilities, worrying about the state of affairs in their individual states, the rise and fall of the economy, the steep level crimes in their states and the heat of paying professionals and civil servants under them. The founding fathers critically noted that these governors did not belong to the same national political parties and were, therefore, always rife and most of the time victims of colliding and divergent political aspirations and interests. Moreover they had their governors’ forum to themselves to ventilate their views and play their politics.
For the records, when Ohanaeze was established, Governors Jim Nwobodo and Sam Mbakwe were not in a position and were never sought after for joint statements or joint activities with the leadership. These two governors and their legacies were far in grading and value compared with the subsequent Igbo governors, most of who tried to overwhelm the independence of the Ohanaeze Ndigbo.
Presently, in marriage with their governors, the Ohanaeze has degenerated to a mere pressure group. An Ohanaeze without the late Clem Nwankwo, the late Uche Chukwumerijie, Mrs. Emetelom, former Vice Chancellor Ikoku is a megaphone of the governors, who have no time and not equipped to thread on the minds field that is the Igbo aspiration and interest in the Nigerian Federation.
The South East governors proscribed activities of IPOB and they said there is peace now in the zone. What do you think?
What we have is peace of the cemetery. I sympathise with the governors, especially the one at Abakaliki, hitherto, an unknown resource head who has no previous contribution to the century old struggle for Igbo emancipation in the Nigerian federation. How can he, without any policy papers, research, consultations, just in a few hours of deliberations…. and reports have it that the governors were annoyed simply because the gentleman couldn’t make their invitation. Just in one day of unfocused reflections, they proscribed Biafra. Biafra is an internal obsession, an inveterate, underlining national aspiration of every Igbo in the Nigerian federation. With that infamy, the governors, especially that Abakaliki fellow, participating in that betrayal, have written their political obituary. The federal army landed when the internal dissension gave them the green light.
With the crackdown, do you still envisage a sovereign State of Biafra or a restructured federation to appease the agitators?
Biafra means a lot to many people. I have attempted to define Biafra in the context of the Igbo bloody antecedents, struggle and dilemma in the Nigerian federation. On the other hand, as an Anioma, from the West of the Niger, I see Biafra as the end of the Nigeria national pretentions, and the end of the state’s continuous plummet into the precipice. The clamor for restructuring is not an Igbo resolution. This is a Yoruba agenda and it is not the way out. The Nigerian system is beyond restructuring and it’s a system that needs total and complete revolution. Where in the world do you see the type of Nigerian Police Department, Customs Service or the Prisons and the Internal Affairs Ministry? You cannot be able to restructure the corrupt bureaucracy; the Nigerian Senate is beyond reformation. Electric power generation is beyond restructuring. The whole system is in miasma. To kill finally the restructuring option, the question arises, who can you trust now in the power corridors, in the horizon that could be invited and trusted with the herculean task of restructuring all the dead Nigerian systems, departments and institutions? Is it the Judiciary, the Nigerian Army that cannot face up an insurgent rebel unit like the Boko Haram or even pocket the excesses of unarmed Afara Robin Hood?
So what is the way out?
The revolution doesn’t have to come from the barracks. Biafra must be on the table, just like Oduduwa and OPC are still being maintained by the Yoruba, as they push their restructuring thrust. The North is not going to abandon Arewa and the philosophy Arewa professes. Already the Sharia is the law in the core north and they don’t care if that judicature conflicts with the Nigerian constitution. Biafra is on the table because that is the only true resolution and agitation the Igbo have tabled out since the Oputa Panel, where we asked for compensation for our millions dead. It is false to tag the uprising the agitation for the young and “for those who never saw the war.” Grandfathers, lecturers, ambassadors, traditional rulers, if the truth must be told, profess Biafra and they are all over the world. For the records, almost 35 per cent and they are millions yearn for Biafra; 60 per cent of the Igbo sympathize with Biafra, but may not know how to attain it and, therefore, shudder on the next move, and fear about the consequences of the agitation.
We are left with only five per cent of the Igbo who are permanent residents in Lagos, parts of the West, the far North, including Abuja, who, because of their investment over the years in property, condone the Nigeria miasma and will rather stay in the broken federation. I have news for them. A serious policy for Biafra will investigate these properties, produce data on them and would be the first issue to be negotiated on when decision and a possible referendum has been conducted to ascertain the wishes of the Nigeria people’s on Biafra.
In that wise, we may, like Tanzania, decide to have a federation that will ensure the group interests of the Igbo, as in the case of the Island of Zanzibar sharing with Tanganyika in a two state federation of Tanzania materialises. They are other options and we are going to have that meeting very soon, which may take two weeks in a secluded community, like Oguta or on the hills of Awgu in Enugu State.
The Federal Government lost a golden opportunity to arrive at a peaceful quick outcome when they failed to accost and embrace a resolution with Nnamdi when he was incapacitated at Kuje Prisons. Dead or alive, Nnamdi is the Mandela of the struggling people of the sun.
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