Magnus Eze, Enugu
Co-Director of Radio Biafra, Dr Chukwuma Egemba, was in the country recently to participate in the programmes of the coalition of pro-Biafra organisations.
The London-based Biafra activist spoke on the resurfacing of the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB); the call for election boycott, restructuring and the 2019 general elections, among others.
What’s the latest about Biafra struggle?
The latest about Biafra struggle is that we’re working to create a strong synergy that will move our struggle forward. What this means is that all the groups are coming together under an umbrella; forming a coalition to achieve Biafra emancipation and restoration. That’s what we’ve been working seriously on.
The process has been on for a while; why is it taking this long?
I am not surprised because since the current efforts of Biafra restoration struggle started in 1999, a lot has happened both, good and bad; resulting to multiplicity of groups fighting for the same thing and fighting from different angles, duplicating efforts. So, what we’re doing now is to harmonise efforts to make sure that we now see it from one perspective and it’s getting long because we want to get it right this time around. The foundation for this current level of coming together as a coalition was laid in Ghana in 2016 and it has taken more than two years and we would rather allow it take longer time to get it right than to rush and at the end of the day, we still come back to square one. I think we’re very close to getting it right.
As a pro-Biafra activist, what’s your view about the call by IPOB for election boycott?
I am speaking for myself and not authorised to speak for the Biafran coalition. So, what I am saying may not represent the view of the coalition. That said; voting is a civic responsibility. We are still part of the Nigerian state; whether we like it or not, we’re still part of the geographical space called Nigeria no matter how you quantify it; therefore, all citizens have the right to express themselves during elections. Anyone who wants to vote should go and express their civic responsibility. If you do; it’s your right to use your vote the way you like. Then the result will be different. Whether the people you voted for will do what you want them to do is a different matter altogether, but voting is a civic responsibility.
Anybody calling for boycott is not right; our people have suffered the effect of boycott in different periods in the past. It didn’t bring us any gain and why it’s a stupid idea to boycott is that if you boycott; election will still hold and if you don’t boycott; election will still hold. If you vote during election; the vote will be counted even if it is 20 people that voted; the 20 votes will be counted.
Whoever wins out of that 20 votes will be declared winner and that will be the government. Is it not stupid to boycott? So, if you boycott, then you’re saying, whatever happens; I don’t care; whatever comes my way, I will take it. Whoever wins; I don’t care. But in reality, our people should care. Therefore, I’m not saying vote for candidate A or candidate B; or vote for party A or party B, because they are different things, but going to vote in an election is a civic responsibility, which only you will decide who to vote for when you get to the polling point. So, it’s not up to me to say who or which party you should vote for. But it will be stupid to say boycott election because boycott will not solve the problem.
Are you not worried about the discordant tunes in the Biafra struggle?
Discordant tunes from where; for whom and for what? Anybody can come up and say anything, but I told you that our people are not stupid; what is important is the result of what you said. It’s really disturbing; what’s disturbing most is the misery that our people are going through.
Anything that will add an inch to that misery; suffering, hardship that our people are currently going through should be resisted; anybody who wants to add an inch of hardship to our people now should think twice. In our struggle for the restoration of Biafra, there’re some strategic moves that we will adopt when the time comes.
Boycotting election is not the same thing as saying that we are not participating in an election. If you say that you’re not participating in an election, and the whole people in our geographical zone did not vote at all; that’s what I mean by not participating; that’s not what I mean by boycott. Boycott means that some people choose to vote; while some people stay away.
Non-participation means that the whole of Southeast; the whole of South-south; Southwest or an entire geographical area chose not to vote at all; which means that there was no election. That means that whatever happens; they are not part of it. And those who don’t know should be made to know the difference between the two.
As a person, I am not calling for anyone yet. When the time comes; it’s left for our people to decide whether election will take place or not. I will rather prefer for election not to hold in the first place than to boycott. I would prefer that we don’t send anybody to Abuja and don’t have people in Government Houses.
But that will have consequences?
Yes; I know that nature abhors vacuum, but when we get to that; we have worked out how to handle it. Sometime ago, you talked about diplomatic moves going on as part of the Biafra struggle.
What’s the situation now?
I won’t spew all we’ve done here, but what you can go to bank with is that there are some diplomatic moves here and there and we’re receiving feedbacks. As I said, I am not at liberty to give details. We’ve sent representations to some governments and we have received feedbacks. It’s not the same as going to stand in front of a building or a flag like the UN building and take photographs and publish. That’s not our idea of diplomatic moves. It annoys me when people try to trivialise serious issue as if it’s a childish thing or propaganda something. Yes, there are cases when you deploy propaganda, but that’s measured propaganda. When you use it to a position of ridicule, it becomes very worrying to me.
However, one thing I can tell you is that since the last time we met; that more moves have been made; more representations have been made to foreign governments.
We have heard about Igbo Presidency in 2023; we also hear of people calling for restructuring first. What do you think about these?
Restructuring is not going to work; sometimes, I give measured consideration to it. But as it stands now; as an individual, after careful, extensive consultations, analyses of what has happened in Nigeria within the last couple of months; including the primaries of the political parties, I found out that restructuring is not going to be possible. Any restructuring that will be based on the 1999 Constitution is not restructuring and I am not going to be part of it.
Nobody fighting for independence; sovereignty, self-determination, justice will support the renewal of this slavery condition which the 1999 Constitution placed on Nigerian people. On that basis; I am not rooting for any restructuring that will be based on this wicked constitution.
I was thinking that the nomination of a prominent Igbo son; Peter Obi as running mate of the PDP presidential candidate will be cheering news to activists like you.
What’s cheering about it; what am I going to gain from vice presidential slot? As far as I’m concerned, I would rather opt for the Chairman of my local government than go for vice president. Being a vice president is like a spare tyre, which is of no use; it can only be used when required. That your spare tyre might not be required for more than three years; but as chairman of my local government, I have executive powers. I am not part of those cheering. Besides, he and the other politicians are still going to be sworn in under the 1999 Constitution; and as long as that happens, there’s no meaningful restructuring that will take place under the 1999 Nigerian constitution.
The restructuring the Ohanaeze, Afenifere and others are calling for what will lead to devolution of powers to regions and you don’t support this?
I stand by my position that any restructuring that is based on the 1999 Constitution will not work. But if you say they are going to tinker with the constitution; I don’t know how they are going to do that and who is going to tinker it. How are you going to tinker the constitution; is it the Senate or House of Representatives, or jointly where number plays the game? So, how is the constitution going to be tinkered with? For me, voting in 2019 amounts to renewal of slavery so long as it’s based on the 1999 slavery and evil constitution; and for us, the struggle continues because there is not going to be any meaningful change whether it’s Atiku/Obi or Buhari/Osinbajo.
The constitution is the foundation of everything. Remember that when a president is sworn-in; he is sworn-in to defend the constitution; when the governor, National Assembly members and any other persons are sworn-in; they are sworn-in under that constitution. So, there won’t be any meaningful change in Nigeria.
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