…It’s Biafra or death –Group
By ENYERIBE EJIOGU (Lagos) and Jeff Amechi Agbodo (Onitsha)
the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) has said that the leadership of the group has come under pressure to accept the decision of Igbo leaders to pursue a restructuring of the country rather than the quest for the restoration of Biafra.
IPOB, however, has declared that no amount of pressure and persuasion would change its resolve to push for the restoration of Biafra as being championed by its leader, Nnamdi Kanu.
The Media and Publicity Secretary of IPOB, Mr. Emma Powerful, who spoke to Sunday Sun said that under no circumstance would IPOB accept restructuring because the Aburi Accord was a form of restructuring, which the British Government advised the Hausa Fulani to reject in the aftermath of the crisis that arose in the country, following the Major Chukwuma Nzeogwu-led January 15, 1966 coup, which claimed the lives of prominent politicians including the then Prime Minister, Sir Tafawa Balewa, the Premier of the North, Sir Ahmadu Bello, Chief Ladoke Akintola as well as the July 29 counter-coup of the same year, led by young northern military officers, in which the then military head of state, Major-General Aguiyi Ironsi was gruesomely killed.
The counter-coup led the foundation for the widespread massacre of Igbo people in the North. It was in the bid to find a lasting solution that the then federal military government led by Lt. Colonel Yakubu Gowon, as he then was, and the then military governor of the defunct Eastern Region, Lt. Colonel Chukwuemeka Odimegwu Ojukwu, as he then was, met in Ghana to negotiate the future of the country and thereafter arrived at the Aburi Accord, which would have enthroned a confederal structure in the political administration of Nigeria. Gowon and Ojukwu signed the agreement, but soon after Gowon set foot in Lagos, he dumped the Aburi Accord, on the instigation of the British government, which believed that implementation of the agreement would cripple its grand agenda to continue exerting political influence in the newly independent Nigeria. With the Aburi Accord stalemated, events quickly snowballed in a way that led to the Nigerian civil war, following Ojukwu’s declaration of the then Eastern Region as the Republic of Biafra, a name taken from the Bight of Biafra, which was later changed to the Bight of Benin by the Nigerian government. A three-year war that caused massive loss of Igbo lives as well as economic assets ensued in 1967 and ended in 1970 with the capitulation of Biafra.
In the light of the 1966-67 crisis, and not wanting to have a repeat of that, Ohanaeze Ndigbo as well as other notable Igbo leaders have been calling for restructuring of the country as opposed to IPOB’s drive for restoration of Biafra. Besides, a groundswell of support for restructuring has grown across the country from the South-west, South-south and the Middle Belt. Moreover, notable northern stakeholders like former vice-president, Atiku Abubakar and former military president, Ibrahim Babangida, have both endorsed restructuring.
Against this background, Igbo elders and the apex Igbo leadership group, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, advised IPOB and other Biafra agitation groups to dump secession and adopt restructuring as their primary agenda for the country as it could be achieved with the support of other geopolitical zones through dialogue that would produce fundamental and relevant constitutional amendments without the break out of war, which a secession bid would entail.
The President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief John Nnia Nwodo, in a press release, explained why the majority of the Igbo prefer a restructuring of the country to total break up. Nwodo said that no ethnic group has more stake in the Nigeria Project than the Igbo and as such cannot consider a break up as a viable option. He said that there is no part of this country where Ndigbo have not invested their resources even without any corresponding investment in Igboland by people from other parts of the country.
While appreciating the circumstances that prompted the youth agitations under the MASSOB and IPOB platforms, Nwodo noted that the elders do not believe that leaving the country is a reasonable option at this time.
He said that the various segments of Igbo leadership comprising Ohanaeze leadership, governors, National Assembly members, traditional and religious leaders after deliberating on the situation when they met in Enugu came to the conclusion that the restructuring option offers Igbo the best way forward.
He said that restructuring would bring Nigeria to a level where every person regardless of tribe, religion or class would have a sense of belonging and in return give in their best for the development of the country.
Nwodo assured that the leadership of the apex body would carry along the youths of the region and ensure that the Ndigbo have a common and unified position on the way forward for them. “Equal partnership, equal ownership and level playing ground for all is the right way to go to bring out the best in our people and set the country on the path of growth and development,” he said.
In the same vein, Ohanaeze Ndigbo Deputy National Publicity Secretary, Chukwudi Ibegbu, graphically summarised the position of the apex Igbo group in a recent media report: “We want fiscal and structural restructuring. We want implementation of the 2014 confab reports and more states and more local government areas in the South-East. We want equity, justice and fair-play. We want issues that lead to agitation to be addressed. We want the killing of our people in the North to be stopped.”
Former governor of Anambra State, Dr. Chukwuemeka Ezeife, who was at the 2014 Confab expressed the same thought when he spoke at a forum in Abuja: “We must go back to the ‘agreed Nigeria,’ that is, the structure of Nigeria, as agreed by the founding fathers— our heroes past. That ‘agreed Nigeria’ was a federal structure, with regions as federating units.
“Initially, there were three regions: Eastern, Western and Northern. Midwestern region was created later, making four regions: three in the South, one in the North. Each region had its own constitution and operated fairly autonomously. The Federal Government handled issues universally agreed to be federal responsibilities, issues like external relations, currency, weights and measures, etc.
“There was fiscal federalism as the resources for running the Federal Government came, basically, from the federating units. Each region controlled its resources and grew at its own pace. The people owned their regions in the sense that people in the regions were, particularly, concerned about how their regions were run. That was mainly because the money spent in the regions was basically internally generated—contributed by the people of the regions, through taxation, other payments, etc.
“The main problem is that as the country is currently structured and run, the country is growing backwards, indeed, taking giant steps backwards.”
However, in explaining why IPOB would continue pursuing its agenda, Powerful said: “We are always misunderstood because people are not conversant with what IPOB is all about. We want to be free from Nigeria, not restructuring it.
“However, we have maintained our stance of Biafra or death, from which we cannot shift. Nigeria is irreedemable. The soldiers killed many of our people, buried them in mass graves without anybody saying anything and at same time denied killing the innocent civilians in different locations. Since inception, we have never been involved in any form of crime but the government ordered the killing to suppress the people’s wish. That is a pointer that the Hausa Fulani ‘born-to-rule’ champions do not want anything from this region to come up.
“We, IPOB, have nothing to do with restructuring. Anybody or group of persons are entitled to their opinion but we want total freedom not just for Biafra but for every ethnic nationality in Nigeria because a lot of ethnic nationalities are being denied their rights by the same people who want to bury Biafrans but we said no to what they have done to our elders and fathers. This generation said we can’t allow such to continue unless they kill all of us in one day.
He spoke further: “We advise the elders not to go against the wish of the people because many have sacrificed their lives, to ensure that Biafra is restored. If they don’t know, we have crossed the Rubicon, there is no going back. They should not allow themselves to be seen as siding with the oppressors of poor masses. The IPOB agenda is ordained by the Most High God Almighty. Who can stand against the wish of God Almighty, Chukwu Okike Abiama? IPOB is moving with the direction of Almighty God in Heaven but those are myopic may not know or see it.”
“Every right thinking person must know that the time has come for Biafra to be free from Nigeria and history will be kind to those that recognise this moment and are able to seize it. We call on our Igbo leaders not to allow their old political loyalties and affiliations to becloud their sense of judgement because we are witnessing the tentative emergence of the new Biafra nation. They cannot serve Hausa-Fulani interest in perpetuity. The time has come for them to remain strong and side with the people, otherwise they will lose relevance forever in this contraption created by Lord Lugard.”