From Magnus Eze, Enugu
The National President of the Association of South East Town Unions (ASETU), Chief Emeka Diwe, has accused some political actors in the North of instigating pro-Biafra movements in the country.
He explained how the actions of those he described as the “ascendant ruling class in the North” create and reinforce the impetus for Biafra secessionist struggles. Excerpt:
There are growing concerns over the possibility of a Nigerian president of Igbo extraction come 2023 in view of the disagreements among some key Igbo groups. What do you think is the most feasible approach to attaining this dream of Ndigbo?
I don’t think there has been any forum where Ndigbo generally agreed that our priority has become to run for the presidency of Nigeria. If there is any such understanding, it is not to my knowledge. But what I do know is that the socio-political character of Ndigbo in Nigeria is often misconstrued. What you may see as disunity and disagreement among our people may actually be the source of our strength. This is the dialectics of the Igbo. This stems from our thoroughgoing republican and democratic heritage. One thing also is that for any popular cause, Igbo people must always unite. To sustain a 30-month genocidal civil war against the rest of Nigeria was a testimony to the unity of purpose which Ndigbo often strike in a condition of overriding collective interest. So, if in your assessment there are disagreements among Igbo groups and discordance in the clamour for a president of Igbo extraction, that should suggest to you that our people have not really prioritized the agenda. Largely, what our people are concerned about is cohesion to attain our collective self-development. This is the reason that the ‘Aku ruo ulo’ initiative is topmost on our agenda. We are driving towards backward integration, to repatriate our human and material resources and make our land the cynosure of attention in Africa, just the way Dubai is in the UAE and California in the USA.
Is the renewed agitation for the secession of Biafra also on the agenda?
It is important we understand this issue of neo-Biafran agitation and the factors that propel it. To be clear, those who are endorsing and sponsoring Biafra secession are in the North. Yes! They are the Northern oligarchs who have continued to see the Igbo as vassals, those who see our people as unequal to them in a union that is supposedly jointly owned. The ascendant ruling class in the North does not care about peace, cohesion and mutual respect among the various nationalities in the country. The ferment of Biafra that you see today is a symptom of a disease afflicted on Ndigbo by this class of people in the North, who see Nigeria as the estate of their forefathers and Nigerians as their serfs. On a daily basis, Fulani herdsmen kill our people. They rape our women. They sack our communities. They destroy our farmlands and destroy our crops. Our livelihoods are now sorely imperiled by the activities of the herdsmen. Yet, no single herdsman has ever been arrested, not to mention being punished for the atrocities against our poor rural dwellers. Those who have aided and abetted this infamy through words and deeds, through actions and inactions are the people sponsoring secession. Take a look at the roads across Igbo land. Law enforcement agents have turned their roadblocks to cash-out points, where they undisguisedly extort our motorists of their hard-earned money. On the authority of the last survey we carried out, untold millions of Naira leave our shores everyday through these extortions. Does such an ugly scenario obtain elsewhere in Nigeria? Never! This is one of the ways they create the albatross that is now haunting Nigeria in the form of secession. The injustices that Ndigbo have had to bear in Nigeria are unthinkable! Save for the murder of Cain by Abel, and anti-semitism in Germany, nothing else in history compares to what our people have suffered in Nigeria. To scheme out our brilliant children from education and employment, the North came up with the Federal Character principle and quota system. They created more states in the North to give them absolute advantage in these matters. Now they have even abandoned the Federal Character. Every appointment is now meant for them. It is an aberration that in the past six years no South Easterner has been appointed into the headship of any security establishment in the country. How can you push people away and refuse them from leaving? The country would go to borrow money abroad, and Igbo land would not be captured in the projects on which the loan would be expended. Yet, the oil and gas through which the country hopes to repay the loan are mostly found in our land. Which other zone in the country has five states? Only Southeast! The noise you hear about the construction of Second Niger Bridge now suggests that they really don’t see it as a national project, rather as a favour being done to Ndigbo. How many rail lines are currently being done in Igbo land? We have a government that is instead constructing railways through the Sahara to other countries. Of what economic significance are they to the country? So, those who are perpetuating this unfair system against our people are the sponsors of secession. As the leaders of the Igbo grassroots who hear directly from the people, we have consistently warned against all these and pointed out their consequences. For three years, we have called for an end to open grazing. We wrote the governors and the Houses of Assembly three times over the matter and called for the enactment of anti-open grazing laws. Today, what is happening? If they had listened to us, this danger the nation now faces would have been averted. Those who murder the Igbo, discriminate against us, and sustain the injustices against us are the sponsors of Biafra agitations. If the marginalization against the Igbo stops today, I can assure you that you won’t hear about Biafra tomorrow. The Igboman sees himself as a Biafran to the extent that he is being oppressed in Nigeria. For him, Biafra is an expression of displeasure over an unfair system foisted on him by the dominant political actors in Northern Nigeria. So, to understand the trouble in the South, look North!
Recently, there was a clash between members Eastern Security Network and the Nigerian security operatives in Orlu, Imo State. What do you make of the situation?
It was an unfortunate situation. The loss of countless innocent lives and assaults on peace-loving citizens should never be condoned by any modern society. Gory images abound about the pathetic situation. A mother, food vendor, was shot dead, likewise a young man on his way to Orlu from Njaba. Scores of other-yet-to-be-identified corpses littered the streets, arson, and the beating up of a respected traditional ruler were just a few of the lamentable cases and humiliations to which Orlu residents were subjected. Yet, law enforcement agents must not be treated like enemies of the people especially when they are carrying out their legal duties and doing so in line with their code of ethics. This is the reason a painstaking investigation is required into the situation. What is needed with the urgency of now is an independent judicial panel of inquiry to unearth the immediate and remote causes of the incident and to bring those involved in the reckless killing of unarmed civilians and human rights violations to book. The government should, therefore, set it up as quickly as possible to forestall a recurrence of such ugly incident.
The election of a new President General for Ohanaeze Ndigbo has continued to generate reactions, with a group known as Concerned Ime-Obi Members agitating for a fresh election. What do you think is the way forward?
We are reviewing the situation and consulting. During the electoral process, we had our field observers who have thrown in their reports. As you may have known, the building block of Ohanaeze is the town unions. Below the state chapter level, what you have as Ohanaeze is a committee of town union functionaries. That is how fundamental the town union is in the discourse of Ohanaeze. Any decision we will make regarding the recent Ohanaeze election shall be informed by facts, good judgment and overriding interest of peace and unity in Igbo land.