Gentlemen of the press,
Our silence as a group on the renewed agitation for the Sovereign State of Biafra majorly by Igbo traders and youth particularly in Igboland was deliberate. We decided not to be hasty so that our pronouncement as a group will be backed with facts and figures that will be difficult to dispute.
The late Chief Odimegwu Ojukwu, Ikemba Nnewi once described the Biafran struggle as no longer a physical thing (fight) but a struggle of the mind (a mind thing). You will also recall that while Ojukwu was alive, one Ralph Uwazurike started agitating for a Sovereign State of Biafra with his group known as MASSOB .The Ikemba never paid any attention to them but admonished that it was no longer by physical combat but with a mindset that yearns for equity and justice. Government’s response to MASSOB’s agitation was often times severe and a case in point was the massive killing of some of the agitators who were later dumped in a river in Anambra State sometimes ago. This took place under the last dispensation and up till today the deaths and how it occurred remains a mystery.
During the build up to the election of 2015, MASSOB that is clamoring for a Sovereign State of Biafra became interested in Nigerian politics and even issued threats that unless Prof. Attahiru Jega the then INEC Chairman is removed, they will burn down Nigeria. That was an unpardonable blunder, as they portrayed themselves as an unserious group of men and women who were approbating and reprobating at the same time. What has INEC, the election of former President Goodluck Jonathan got to do with a group that desired a State of Biafra? The former President Goodluck Jonathan and INEC represented a personality and an institution that belonged to the Nigerian State that they wanted to be free from. Discerning minds got the message clearly that this fight by these men and women was not about the Igbo cause but about selfish and personal interest, in short it is about bread and butter.
The election of 2015 has been won and lost. The losers and winners are history. What is now unfolding is the resurgence and renewed agitation by a new group known as the Indigenous People of Biafra IPOB lead by a young man living in Britain known by the name Nnamdi Kanu. His modus operandi is through a radio medium known as Radio Biafra where it is alleged that he spews out hate speeches and engages in name calling and abuses of all personalities and the Nigerian Government. He uses social media a lot to propagate his agenda and to be sincere he seems to have mobilized a large followership who consist of the youths, traders and even some educated elite.
What is peculiar about this audience is that majority of them neither saw nor experienced the 1967 – 70 war in Nigeria, at best they read the story as History or Social Studies. The intrigues, mistakes, avoidance, connivance, betrayals, wisdom, foolishness of that war cannot be as real to them as to those who were witnesses to it. So what we are seeing presently is a group of young men and women who are trained to sing “let my people go” song all over the South East demanding that Igbos should pull out of the Nigerian State as their economic survival, safety, equity, justice cannot be guaranteed under the present arrangement in the Nigerian State. This is as hollow as it is defeatist and is borne out of the most blood cuddling political scam ever visited on Ndigbo.
We have taken time to engage in this lengthy historical voyage to lay a foundation for our comments and solutions below, which we believe will nip this brewing crisis in the bud once and for all.
LET IT BE NOTED:
The Nigerian State as it is today has the imprint of the Igbos, be it the foundational struggle for independence and nationalism. No one can deny the invaluable contributions of the Zik of Africa and a rich swathe of Igbos.
While there are good grounds to dismiss the demonstrations as part of the legendary propensity of the Nigerian people for drama, it has become important to make a clear statement on this development because of the obvious implications for Ndigbo. The reluctance of respected Igbo men and women across the nation and beyond to speak on the agitation because they consider it infra dig to expend precious time on it has enabled a handful of charlatans and politicians working in cahoots with the demonstrators to seek to create the impression that a majority of Igbo people are in solidarity with the agitators.
Let us state the obvious: neither Nnamdi Kanu nor his followers have the mandate of the Igbo people. They were never elected. To the best of our knowledge, they did not consult Ndigbo on their agitation for Biafra which led to Mr Kanu’s arrest and detention on suspicion of threats of terrorism, kidnapping, ethnic and religious incitement, and waging of war against the people and government of Nigeria. If anything, the youngsters calling for Biafra appear to be tools in the hands of failed politicians. One of the most prominent of the politicians did tell journalists on January 15, 2015, that Nigeria would break up if Dr Goodluck Jonathan was not reelected as Nigeria’s president in the last March 29 general elections, adding for effect that the legal instrument which brought the country into existence had expired.
It is not sheer coincidence that none of the prominent supporters of the Indigenous People of Biafra was in Biafra during the 30-month civil war, whose consequences are still there for any person to see. They have no firsthand experience of what it means to go through a war. Therefore, it is understandable that they have developed a penchant for beating the war drum at the drop of a hat which they erroneously assume would get the new Federal Administration to make concessions to them. While gleefully beating the war drum, they have carefully ensured that none of their relatives or family members participates in the demonstrations. The demonstrations have so far been largely peaceful, but no one can guarantee how long they could remain so because youngsters do not always act peacefully when they are in large groups, as evident when university students go on protests.
We deplore the spirited attempt by some people to distort Nigeria’s history as it affects eminent Igbo elements. We deplore in particular the attempt to cast Chief Emeka Ojukwu in the image of a poster child of Nigeria’s disunity. True, Chief Ojukwu did lead the Biafran war. But he was never a pathological rebel. In fact, Ojukwu was a pan Nigerian through and through; and did state many times that the Biafran rebellion was forced upon him by historical circumstances. Most history books consider him a reluctant rebel.
Ojukwu was a public servant in Eastern Nigeria in the late 1950s, but as Nigeria’s independence began to approach, he was worried about the increasing regionalization of the nation’s affairs. Consequently, he joined the Nigerian army which he considered the most national of all existing institutions then. With the civil war over, Ojukwu returned to his pan Nigerian activities. When he decided to participate in party politics for the first time in 1982 shortly after returning from a 13-year exile in Cote d’Ivoire, he deliberately chose the ruling National Party of Nigeria (NPN) which he believed was the most national of all political parties in the Second Republic. He even sought to serve his people at the national level through membership of the Nigerian Senate. He made it crystal clear that his sole motivation was to “complete the process of reintegrating the Igbo into the mainstream of Nigerian politics”.
After supporting such Nigerians as Dr Olusola Saraki and Alhaji Bashir Tofa as well as Chief Olu Falae to become Nigeria’s President at different times, Chief Ojukwu presented himself for election as President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in 2003 on the platform of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA).
Meanwhile, Chief Ojukwu spent years campaigning for what he called a handshake across the Niger. By this expression, he meant that all ethnic groups, beginning with his Igbo people, must find ways to live together in greater peace and harmony as one people so that the Black people could take pride of place in global affairs. Against this background, it is tragic for Nnamdi Kanu and his followers to describe Ojukwu as their inspirational figure and to consequently portray him as an Igbo irredentist. On the contrary, Ikemba was a true Nigerian citizen and sought to be seen as such. Nnamdi Kanu and his group are on a voyage of revisionism. Their ceaseless hate speeches and activities are by no means compatible with Ojukwu’s authentic personae.
Ojukwu’s acute pan Nigerian consciousness was in line with the strategic interests of Ndigbo. Our people are reputed worldwide for their industry, uncommon skills, high imaginativeness, inimitable innovation and keen competition. Nigeria is the least geographical territory to accommodate our stupendous energy, dynamism and high population. More than any other ethnic group, we live in other parts of the country. And more than any other ethnic group, we have humungous investments in places other than our ancestral home. We are proud of the role of Ndigbo in Nigeria’s history and development. We may not have begun the quest for Nigeria’s independence, but it was the entry of the critical mass of our people led by the Great Zik of Africa that changed the course of the independence struggle. We led Nigeria to freedom in 1960. Ever since then we have excelled in all aspects of human endeavour, from sports to culture, to science and technology, to business, to diplomacy and to religion.
TIC THEREFORE STATES:
1. That these characters may think that Biafra will be the solution to all their problems when they separate from Nigeria, as their sponsors have brainwashed them to believe. The situations in South Sudan and Pakistan come to mind here. While it is possible for any Yoruba man or woman from any state in the South West to serve in any capacity in Lagos it is extremely difficult if not impossible for an Igbo from one Igbo state to work in another Igbo state. A case in point is what happened in ABIA when former Gov Orji sacked all civil servants from lmo, Anambra, Enugu and Ebonyi. The same happened in Enugu State when a former Governor sacked all the civil servants from Anambra state when Enugu was carved out of the old Anambra State.
2. That we reject the efforts by these charlatans to stereotype Ndigbo as perpetual victims of the Nigerian state and chronic complainers who can never be satisfied. We don’t understand why some Ndigbo should feel comfortable anchoring their just demands from the Nigerian system on self-pity through relentless cries of marginalization and neglect. Igbo are known for enterprise and industry and not for any syndicated appeal to self-pity, as the proponents of the present Biafra resurgence are making. As recent as six months ago, Igbo occupied and boasted of occupying prime positions in the country during the six years regime of former President Jonathan. Why is it that immediately after the defeat of the past regime in March, the cries of Igbo marginalization rose to high heavens, with slanderous allegations made against a President that was yet to be sworn in? Pray, what are the merits Ndigbo derived from this much-vaunted strategic placing in critical positions for six years? Should Igbo be crying of marginalization just few months after sitting on the top echelon of the country’s political and economic spheres if these political positions benefitted Ndigbo with their positions? Should roads and other facilities in the South East be dilapidated as badly as they are today if we benefitted from these former office holders, some of whom are sponsoring the present agitations? Should our teeming youths be jobless today if our former office holders used their positions to benefit Ndigbo? When and where did marginalization of Ndigbo start and when and where does it end?
3. That we are yet to reconcile the present embarrassing pedestrian argument surrounding this new craze for Biafra with the well acknowledged depth and staying power of Ndigbo on national issues. While Ndigbo are noted for deep introspection and reticence on issues, we dare say that the present agitators, perhaps in a haste to achieve their deadly political ends, are building on shifty hollow reasonings that repels rather than attract support. We see the resort to slander, lies, abuse, blackmail, use of indecorous language, effusive use of inciting, hate language to spark reactions and violence from other sections of Nigeria and nothing more. Igbo are not noted for these. We state that Igbo are hardworking and friendly people and not people ruled by extreme hate and negative passion, as the progenitors and sponsors of the present needless Biafran agitations present.
4. It is beyond doubt that a bulk of Igbo investment are domiciled outside the so-called Biafra, it is certain that more Igbo live outside the so called Biafra and it is beyond doubt that these senseless agitators and their sponsors are exposing both the massive Igbo properties, wealth and majority of Igbo people to danger by the present politically-induced, needless agitation. TIC believes that NIGERIA provides a big space for Igbo to thrive. When you have an Atlantic Ocean to swim in, you do not need a pond in Okigwe to do the same.
5. TIC notes with dismay that the present rootless and uncoordinated agitation has renewed anti-Igbo sentiment among our brothers and sisters in the South South and promises to rekindle an early rivalry that will negatively affect Igbo interests in the days to come. We note the angry rebuff and exhumation of already buried animosities against Ndigbo in the just efforts of our brothers and neighbours to disown this charlatanism of Biafra. We state that this is unfortunate and dangerous to Ndigbo and their interests as we reassure our neighbours and brothers that Ndigbo have no interests in acquiring their lands. We want to assure our neighbours and friends that Ndigbo have no plan to forcefully conscript them into a fancy utopia as the present agitators seek to do. We appeal that their acts should be discountenanced as they do not represent Ndigbo.
6. We note that some economic refugees staying in Europe and America, as ways of mitigating the harsh economic realities in Nigeria are fueling these agitations. Most of them, with no known means of livelihood and drawing from the social benefits of their host countries, are in the lone business of fanning the embers of hatred, persecution and destruction in the name of supporting Biafra. They continue to leverage on the stable political, economic and social spheres of their host countries to keep their children from harms ways while they instigate jobless youths, hoodlums, Okada riders, traders and victims of the system in Nigeria to suicide via the use of social media. We challenge all these economic refugees that are fanning these deadly fires to relocate to Biafra with their children and become agitators instead of prodding other unfortunate youths to destruction.
TIC is unequivocal in distancing the generality of Ndigbo from the present politically-orchestrated clamour for secession from Nigeria. It is dubious. It is fraudulent. It is selfish and does not command the support of most Igbo. It is a non-event, inconsequential, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. For, it is proven that Ndigbo are better off and will do better in a united and prosperous Nigeria.
Thank you for your patience and understanding.
Barr. Monday Onyekachi Ubani