From DAVID ONWUCHEKWA, Nnewi
THE average person in Nigeria knows that Nnamdi Kanu, is the Director of Radio Biafra, based in London, Britain. But what most people do not know is that he is not the leader and founder of Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB). Nevertheless, he has through his incarceration by the Department of State Services become the face of IPOB.
Dr Dozie Ikedife, former President-General of Ohaneze Ndigbo and Deputy Chairman, Supreme Council of Indigenous People of Biafra in this interview sheds light on IPOB, and talks about the activities of the Fulani herdsmen, which he warns could lead to anarchy if left unchecked now.
Has the Supreme Council of Indigenous People of Biafra withered away?
Thank you for asking this question because there is confusion in the minds of people. There is Supreme Council of the Indigenous People of Biafra, which has used the Bilie Human Right Initiative (a body corporate) to take the Federal Government to court. And they are still in the Federal High Court, Owerri,Imo State. The case came up on March 30, 2016 and it is coming up again on May 2, 2016.
Now, Nnamdi Kanu has adopted and is using the acronym, IPOB. People say Nnamdi Kanu is the leader of IPOB. The truth is that Kanu is the Director of Radio Biafra. We founded the IPOB, not Kanu. In the IPOB we founded, there is division of labour. Kanu only handled the communication wing of the organization but he went ahead to arrogate himself as the founder of the IPOB because of the instrumentality of the Radio Biafra.
The Supreme Council of the Indigenous People of Biafra expressed displeasure in the language he used in his broadcast and the programme he was presenting. So, calling him the leader of the IPOB is a wrong crown on a wrong head. He has a lot of people who follow him, who demonstrate when he wants them to demonstrate, or sympathise with his plight.
Now, what differentiates your organization and the one Kanu purportedly leads?
The SCIPOB, using Bilie Human Right Initiative as a corporate body follows legal, peaceful and diplomatic process to go about the issue of self-determination to the extent that this Bilie Human Rights Initiative held a meeting on April 14 with the United Nations Security Council Committee. The purpose of the meeting was to find means of countering the funding of terrorist groups – people who are declaring war, harassing other peace-loving citizens. There lies the great difference. The real IPOB is a peaceful, legal, diplomatic and law-abiding group. We have also been given consultative status of ECOSOC of the United Nations. The interest of the Supreme Council of the Indigenous People of Biafra is well represented at these international bodies because we are pursuing our self-determination through legal, diplomatic, law-abiding and peaceful process, through respect for all the laws of the land. We are not talking about disobeying any law; we are not talking about war, we are not preaching ethnic hatred. We do not support insulting elders or constituted authority. We are not threatening physical assault on any individual or group. These cannot be the solution.
Could Kanu’s ‘hijack’ of your IPOB be the reason your organization did not talk about his release?
We are talking about his release but we are not saying if he has committed any offence, the law will not take its course. In any case, we the elders are saying let Kanu be released to us. We can caution him thereafter. We want him released to us and as elders, we will sit him down and direct him properly. We cannot achieve self-determination through calling for war and violence of any kind or any method that can lead to spilling of blood. No. That should be avoided entirely.
But the supporters of Nnamdi Kanu say your own method is very slow. What is your take on that?
Well, it is a matter of opinion. They are entitled to their own opinion. But what we all should have to understand is that we have fought a war before and we lost the war. What can you achieve by fighting? We lost so many lives and wasted much in terms of material resources and eventually you go to the roundtable to talk. Why not dialogue or argue in the courts instead of taking the war option to avoid bloodshed and other negative impacts of the war.
It doesn’t sound sensible to me that you say you must fight before you talk rather than talk and avoid fight. I fail to see the rationale, the reason and wisdom in adopting violent, non-diplomatic and war-inspiring approach.
We are gradually gaining international recognition because we are talking about peaceful process, legal process and diplomatic process. We are not talking about war or abusing people, telling them so, so and so people will be wiped out. That is very primitive. That is not acceptable.
How do you feel about the activities of Fulani herdsmen in recent times?
Well, anybody reading the newspapers, watching the television, listening to the radio and even going through the social media will certainly have heard about the menace and terror the herdsmen unleash on the populace along the routes they travel. And at the National Conference held in 2014, it was clearly stated and unanimously agreed that time for nomadic cattle rearing is over. It was agreed that cattle owners should establish ranches where their cattle will be taken care of rather than traveling around with the cattle and attacking natives at the slightest or no provocation, or destroying agricultural crops as they move around.
Talking about grazing rights, there are other countries that rear cattle, such as Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Belgium and even Britain, a relatively small island of the United Kingdom. But they don’t leave them to roam the streets and the farm lands, destroying people’s crops or the herdsmen carrying dangerous weapons, sophisticated artillery with which they attack whoever stands on their way that is resisting their cows from eating your crops. That is entirely not acceptable. It is primitive.
And, the thing that is going on now is the attempt to pass the bill on grazing rights and squatting rights. This means a native that has lived in his or her community for centuries will now have equal rights with a cattle rearer that settles in the community for some weeks. How can that be? Freedom of movement is in the constitution but not freedom of destruction of farm crops.
It is high time these things are stopped because if they go on it may be a tip of the iceberg. May be it is a subtle way of colonizing the rest of the South East and all the Christian states. It has to be stopped before it gets out of control. There is a suspicion that some of these so-called cattle rearers are not even Nigerians.
We are talking about Boko Haram in the North, militants in the South South, abductors and internally displaced people (IDP). These are enough problems. If the activities of the herdsmen are not controlled, it will explode and multiply and get out of control. I’m not a prophet, but if you look ahead you will see that there is a high potential for these things to lead to anarchy and internal war. Government should look into it and control the Fulani herdsmen through the establishment of ranches and stop nomadic migration. Efforts should be made to control the cattle and feed them in a location. Let the National Assembly consider this as a matter of urgency and of national importance and pass appropriate laws to control this potentially explosive situation. A stitch in time, they say, saves nine.