From JOE EFFIONG, UYO
FORMER governor of Akwa Ibom State, Obong Victor Attah, has described Biafra agitators, especially those of the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, led by Nnamdi Kanu as misguided elements, even as he reminded them that their dream died with the instrument of surrender handed to Nigerian government in January 1970.
Attah however, stressed that Biafra and other secessionist groups, and agitations should be the last resort after all efforts to have a just and fair Nigeria have failed. He stated this in a telephone interview with Saturday Sun in reaction to the attack on him last week by IPOB over his claim that “Biafra is for the Igbo alone”
The former governor of the oil rich Akwa Ibom State said it would be useless to go into back-and-forth argument over Bifra with IPOB or any other group in Nigeria. His words: “I’m not prepared to go into any kind of nonsense dialogue but I have made my statement; go and read my statement again. I have said it. In fact, this group (IPOB) is a misguided group.
“Have you read the leaders of thought of Igbo land? I have read them and even the latest one by Dr Chukwuemeka Ezeife. All of them corroborate my statement that the Igbo will be very happy in a just and fair Nigeria. They went to Owerri and said: ‘We are not going to complain about this again; we just want to claim our rights as major stakeholders.’ How does that tally with Biafra?
“These are Igbos starting from (Chief Emeka) Anyaoku, who suggested six zones; and one of the six zones is South East, if I know the history and geography of Nigeria; the other is South South. So which of the zones are we talking about?
“I would rather go with those leaders whom I believe know what they are talking about and who have corroborated my position very clearly that all we need is a fair and just Nigeria, that all of us will be very happy to belong to.
“For people who want history lessons, tell them that the Biafra that they are talking about, that Philip Effiong belonged to; that N. U. Akpan belonged to, and all those people they can name; that Biafra wrote an instrument of surrender to Nigeria and came back to Nigeria. So which Biafra are we talking about that include Akwa Ibom, Rivers, Bayelsa and all that?
“But all the same, I am too old to get into any nonsense argument because this is a nonsense argument. We are talking serious matter here and that is how to build the country and make it better for all of us to belong to and be happy.
“For me, Biafra cannot be the starting point of the argument. If you try to build Nigeria and in the end you cannot reach an understanding, then you can talk about how you can go your separate ways. But until then, that should not be the starting point.
“Everybody is affected. Go and read my statement; I said that we don’t have common concerns. We have sectional agencies; that is why I said that we are still in the process of trying to mould and establish a country.
“That is why I said that (President Muhammadu) Buhari clearly cannot be right when he said that those conditions cannot be negotiated. Those conditions must be negotiated so that we all will be happy to belong in a Nigeria that we all contribute and say this is the country we want.”
IPOB had in a strong reaction to Attah’s comment on ‘Biafra is for Igbo alone’, last week, asked the ex-governor and strong crusader of resource control to explain who Philip Effiong was if Biafra is just for Igbo. IPOB in a statement signed by its spokeman, Dr Clifford Iroanya and Mr. Emma Mmezu, regretted that “some elders in Biafra land have become the most clueless people in the world and it rings more true for people who are supposedly seen as educated like the former governor of Akwa Ibom State, Obong Victor Attah who last week made an objection against the statement made by the President Muhammadu Buhari that Nigeria’s unity is not negotiable.
“While we generally applauded Obong Attah on his response to President Buhari that the unity of Nigeria is negotiable, we regrettably read few days later the same man blabbing and saying Biafra is for the Igbo alone. So, we began to ask ourselves critical questions about this statement coming from the man we respected so much.
“We are forced to ask if Obong Victor Attah lack full knowledge and history about the Biafra civil war or does he not know who was called General Philip Effiong, the Biafran second in command to General Odumegwu Ojukwu, who happened to come from the same state with him, Akwa Ibom.
“With due respect , Biafra is not for Igbo alone, rather, Igbo is one of the tribes that makes up Biafra. In case you forget the history, His Royal Highness Chief Frank Opigo Dawai 111, Amananaowei of Angiama, an elder statesman, politician, educationist, philanthropist and graduate in 1953, became the administrator of Yenegoa Province of Biafra and the Commissioner for Rural Development in 1967.
“Chief Opigo in a meeting summoned by late Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu suggested the name Biafra. He gave the name Biafra, after the Bight of Biafra now Bonny and the rest of the old Eastern elders in that meeting including General Odimegwu Ojukwu, adopted the name”.
According to IPOB “as a matter of fact, Biafra’s historical record would remain incomplete if this great Ijaw son is not mentioned or remembered. Sir you also forgot that as at the time when Ojukwu declared Biafra, he was Governor of Eastern Region that includes Rivers, Bayelsa, Akwa Ibom and Cross River states, Old Rivers and Old Cross Rivers were already created by Gowon.
“In other words Biafra consists of Abia, Akwa Ibom, Anambra, Bayelsa, Cross River, Delta, Ebonyi, Enugu, Imo, and Rivers states. Sir your statement that Biafra is only for the Igbo tribe is clueless and we wonder if you were not born before the war.
“Sir, you forgot too soon that Phillip Effiong who is from Akangkang of Ibiono Ibom in Akwa Ibom State, a Chief of General Staff and next to the Head of State General Ojukwu, fought in defense of his people to the last second of the war, General Ojukwu handed over power to General Effiong, leaving for Côte d’Ivoire. Effiong thereafter became Biafra’s new Head of State till his death.
“Henceforth we are ever united now, more stronger than before, more determined, we will never give room and will never tolerate anybody who will instigate the divide and rule tactics used on us by our enemies and we will ever remain fearless before anybody who will stand as an enemy to the restoration of our dear country Biafra, and we hope sir that you will not be one of those people we are talking about.”