One’s enemy can do anything to malign him or her, the enemy can sell any disinformation to the public in making sure he or she brings to the end of the enemy. That is the disinformation yours truly have been observing that is being sold against the leader of the Movement for the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB), Chief Ralph Uwazuruike, since its formation in 1999.
Many people, Ndiigbo not excluded, had thought that Uwazuruike would not go this far, in his agitation for the Sovereign State of Biafra, because the issue of Biafra and Biafrans in Nigeria was like the issue of Osu-caste system in ala-Igbo, after the formation of the Republic of Biafra in 1967, which was the outcome of the pogrom targeted against Ndiigbo in the Northern part of Nigeria, which plunged Nigerian into a 30 month civil war.
After that war, which led to the destruction of lives and property, the issue of Biafra became sacred that anybody who discusses Biafra in the newspapers or on the radio stood a chance of being persecuted by the Nigerian government. But luck has come the way of Biafrans in Nigeria since Uwazuruike broke that jinx by his establishment of MASSOB, which has been gaining prominence in not only foreign media, as usual after that war, but also in the Nigerian media and even sometimes discussed in the people’s parliament: in the newsstands and buses without minding if the person by the side is a Nigerian security operative or not.
Uwazuruike faced and is still facing a lot of setback in the hand of the Nigerian government, which has often incarcerated him in the many obsolete prisons Nigerian government proud it has. On Oct. 26 2007, Uwazuruike was acquitted from the prison of a treason charge after spending 3 years in the prison, and on condition that he should go and bury his late mother, who had stayed in the morgue than the dead itself could condone.
The acquitting was not indefinite, he was asked to stay for a period of three months and come back to the prison, a condition given him by a presiding judge, Justice Binta Murtala Nyako, at the Federal High Court, after the proposal of granting Uwazuruike bail failed over three times.
Uwazuruike was in the custody of two serving senators, Uche Chukwumerije and Ikechukwu Obiora, and two traditional rulers, Eze Christian Uchechukwu Nwachukwu (Eze Ndigbo Lagos) and Eze Nwosu Ibe (Eze Ndigbo of Abuja), as one of the conditions of granting him bail.
Another condition was that the MASSOB leader was also expected to report to the nearest police station as well as ensure peace and order reign during the three-month period. And Uwaruruike obliged by these conditions in making sure that peace and order reign, even that many Igbo sons and daughters who were at the same time charged to court in connection with MASSOB, languish in the Nigerians prisons; some even, were alleged killed by Nigerian security agents, during MASSOB rallies.
While the Nigerian government feels that Uwazuruike deserves to die in the prison, it forgot the partiality to justice it played on December 19, 2006, when the leader of a militant group, Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC), Gani Adams and five others walked out free of charge from a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, while Ndiigbo sons and daughters who are connected to MASSOB were left to rot in the Nigerian prison?
The Nigerian government struck-out the case of Adams and his followers on the ground that, it lacked jurisdiction. But the Federal Government forgot that not like non- violence MASSOB, Adams faction of the OPC was demanding the course of its self reliance and had been backed by notable grassroot Awoists. One might say that the release of the radical eggheads in Yorubaland was because this case lacked jurisdiction or that the Yoruba elite was behind him, but this could be because he was not Igbo.
It could be recalled that before Adams’ unconditional release, Dr Frederick Fasheun who led another faction of OPC was released on health grounds. The pan Yoruba group, Afenifere, put its head in making sure that he was released. Also, the Niger Delta militant, Muhajid Asari-Dokubo, who was alleged, had caused all sorts of havoc, raising arms and annihilating innocent citizens with members of his deadly gang, the Niger Delta Peoples Volunteers Force (NDPVF), was granted bail through the legacy of a profound Ijaw leadership. But Chief Ralph Uwazuruike and his followers who were locked up on the same charges and who lodged complaints of ill-health was denied bail to seek medical attention. And it was a big shame on many Igbo elites group not to have had the guts to put their heads, like the Afenifere did. Uwazuruike was sick and desperate for medical attention; he was not a free man until Justice Binta Murtala Nyako, on Friday, October 26, 2007, granted him bail. While the Ndiigbo Ohanaeze perhaps wanted Uwazuruike dead, Nigerians unequivocally saw that in a reportedly interview by the then Secretary General of the group, Chief Joe Achuzie who in this interview with Cajetan Mmuta of the Daily Champion issued a statement saying:
Ohanaeze cannot lend support to Uwazuruike other than ask Uwazuruike and his group to recant. They can fight against Igbo marginalization if that is what they are fighting for under a different name, not actualization of sovereign state of Biafra. It is unfortunate that everytime MASSOB is mentioned, everybody looks on the Igbo as if they were the architect and activists of MASSOB. I want to make it abundantly clear that at no time did Ohanaeze or Nd’Igbo in any meeting of any kind sit down to fashion out an organization called MASSOB.
This statement by Achuzie whose civil war credentials is still today questionable, reportedly made this comment upon Uwazuruike’s arrest on November 28, 2005. This degenerated a lot of comments.
Comment (Ambrose Ehirim): This line of policy abstaining from affairs of the Igbo nation like that of Uwazuruike and MASSOB was typical of a bunch that had no clue what was going on and what the bigot Olusegun Obasanjo who had suddenly become a stateman after his command had committed rape and pillage against the Igbos. This kind of statement obviously fired up Obasanjo’s quest in determining how to handle the Igbo nation when it comes to situations like this – the slamming of Uwazuruike and his followers. But Achuzia who thought he was doing his efulefu Igbo bunch a favor in order to pacify Obasanjo, was totally wrong and missed it entirely. It also made one fear for Igbo unity because when Afenifere and elders of the Yoruba leadership forum are asking that Adams, Fasheun and the rest OPC gang be released without charge, Achuzia and his confused efulefu bunch were busy trying to see what leftovers could reach them in Abuja. It made one fear for Igbo unity because when Adams and Fasheun had had all sorts of backing from every aspect of Yoruba leadership, never minding the havocs caused by Adams faction of OPC, Achuzia and his inept dovish group were busy keeping funny books in disguise and on the ground they were representing the Igbo nation. It made one fear for Igbo unity because when other militant groups around the nation were fighting for what they figured was a just cause, the do-nothing World Igbo Congress was busy chasing money at Abuja on the pretence it was Igbo umbrella.
While the Nigerian government had looked for a tangible case to nail Uwazuruike forever aside MASSOB so that the international community who had beamed its searchlight on MASSOB would not cough, the Nigerian police in Jan. 14, 2010 rearrested Uwazuruike in a circumstance described in many quarters as, ahead of the governorship poll in the state of Anambra on Feb. 6, 2010. But to the contrary, a police spokesman said Uwazuruike was being held following a petition by an individual, Pascal Okorie, who is accusing the MASSOB leader of kidnapping him. Notwithstanding, one wonders why this allegation could be coming up now when Uwazururike had been making sure that peace reigns without violence in his MASSOB agitation? Does this mean that the Nigerian government and some individuals have made it their duty to terminate sleep from Uwazuruike’s eyes? And why would Uwazuruike kidnap Okorie? This allegation best fits to be listened with the anus.
And when we talk about kidnapping, after the arrest of Uwazuruike, his wife, Mrs. Ngozi Uwazuruike raised alarm that after her husband was put behind the bar, he was later whisked away to an unknown destination neither known to her nor to the family members, by security operatives. This devoid the appearance of Uwazuruike in court within that time frame. Was this act not kidnapping? And who would charge the Nigerian government to court for that single inhumanity act? The allegation of kidnapping on Uwazuruike will never be unconnected to his refusal to compromise the Biafran struggle. His stand on that struggle was responsible for the treasonable felony charge being pursued against him by the Nigerian government. And today, a court of law was reportedly saying that Uwazuruike is liable to face death penalty, if the charges of kidnapping levelled against him was to be found convincing.
Comment (Sab Aliozor): The MASSOB leader should be allowed to have his freedom. Other Nigerians with same political ideology are not in detention. The truth is that ‘anybody that says or does anything against MASSOB has no clear mind of calculating what is good or bad’. The person is not morally disciplined. That means you like Nigeria’s present state of corruption, electoral fraud, tribalism, poor electricity, lack of job, insult to Nigerians abroad, etc. You should understand that Uwazuruike was talking with his mouth and not talking through the barrels of the gun. Therefore putting him in detention is actually the traditional Nigeria’s political style of tribalism and its normal way of silencing opposition and truth. Most of my friends who went to Nigeria to settle have returned back here. They said the situation is terrible. The government should focus attention on people that have real threats and not on those they perceived as threats. Today’s punch newspapers (Feb. 2, 2010) talked about a group outside Nigeria which offers to train some of their Muslim brothers in Nigeria, so that they could resist the government effectively and fight the rest of the people. People’s names were mentioned. The police only said, it is ready to stop them. And I ask, why not make arrests on the matter now? Why focus attention on a group that has never fought or killed people, a group that is just operating on literal level?
Comment The Sun Friday August 1, 2008 (Ralph Uwazuruike): We have a nation that does not represent the interest of the people. If there is free and fair election in Igbo land where our representatives are voted, people like Ben Obi should be at Abuja, and not at home. But here elections are conducted and results are given to people who were never voted for. And these people who are always chosen, know that they never went there because of us and whenever they go there, they tend to represent those that facilitated their going into that post. That is the problem we have. When we conduct elections and our elections are recognized, we won’t be worried. That is the biggest problem we have. People tell me, you are a lawyer, why are you criticizing the judiciary?
As Ralph Uwazurike, I don’t believe that judiciary is independent in Nigeria, and I say it with all intents and purposes and will continue to say it. The appointment of the Chief Justice of Nigeria is being politicized. Has an Igbo man been the Chief Justice of Nigeria since 1970? In 2007, do you know that there was no election in Nigeria? And everybody knows that. Everyone knows that there was no election in 2007. And even if people should be declared us winner, not anything that has to do with PDP. People were fed up with the PDP in 2007. All things being equal, I am convinced that the biggest surprise we would have is to say that PDP won the election because there was no election. Self- determination is an inalienable right like freedom of expression, association to life, and all that. The idea of having fairness in Nigeria has nothing to do with that. Even if the whole Igbos feel that there is fairness in the land, I can still continue with the struggle as Ralph Uwazurike, not minding if I have the support or not. That is because I have the right, and I can say my family is Biafra. I don’t see any basis, like Gowon said some time that there is no basis for one Nigeria. I don’t see any basis for that, and even if we all say let’s come together, it is no guarantee that tomorrow it will not change. If the elite say that they want one Nigeria, I know that the masses would say they want Biafra.
Comment Asher (France): They can’t stop the time. I’m proudly Biafran. Long Live Biafra, Long Live Dr Ralph.
Celestine Eze Chinedu: Why is Federal Government of Nigeria afraid of Uwazuruike?
Odimegwu Onwumere is a Poet/Author, Founder of Poet Against Child Abuse (PACA), Rivers State. Mobile: +2348032552855. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org