By Brown Chimezie
John Onyebuchukwu Uche is the first Chairman Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Lagos State. He told Daily Sun that the quit notice handed Ndigbo in the North was an invitation to anarchy and warned that unless the Federal Government takes urgent steps to address the root cause of agitations, the country may be heading for disintegration.
Recently the Arewa youths gave Igbo in the North a quit notice, what is your reaction to that notice?
Well that is the burning issue in Nigeria today and for Arewa Youths to give quit notice to Ndigbo, I don’t know where they are coming from. I say so because most of these young men were not even born during the civil war and some of them don’t even know what war is all about. We are talking of one indivisible Nigeria. We know that the North has been clamoring for war right from independence and the Nigerian/Biafran war was cause by them and not by the Igbo. They fought us, killed and maimed us. After the civil war, we still came back and agreed to live together as one.
But now that they are asking the Igbo to leave a section of the country, I don’t think they know where they are coming from. Let me warn that what happened in 1966 should never happen again. We don’t pray for war but if they believe that what their father did to the Igbo in 1966, when thousands of Ndigbo were killed in the north, was what they are thinking again, then they would be making grievous mistakes. If one person, woman, man or child of Igbo extraction or other southern tribe is killed, my brother there would be a catastrophic repercussion of a large dimension that they have never seen before.
Do you find similarities between the quit notice by Arewa youths and ‘araba’ calls made by the North in 1966?
Exactly! That is the reincarnation of ‘araba.’ Before 1966, they were clamouring for secession. When the Igbo leaders then were calling for one strong Nigeria, they were calling for confederation. When the military junta struck in 1966, they quickly termed it Igbo coup and used that opportunity to begin killing Igbo in the North. ‘Araba ‘which means secession ignited the Igbo killing in 1966 and today we are at the threshold of another killing.
Some people have blamed IPOB for this quit notice. What do you think?
My brother no one can blame IPOB for this statement. A situation where millions of Igbo were killed during the civil war and their properties acquired, they were left with nothing. At the end of the war, reconciliation, reconstruction and rehabilitation was proclaimed by the federal government and up till now nothing was done. How can you reconcile with Igbo when you left them with nothing after the war when operation 20 pounds was initiated by the government of the day? The South-East has remained underdeveloped, yet we claim that we are in one Nigeria. Have you gone to the South- East recently? Virtually all Federal roads are in comatose. The only road connecting South- East to South- South, from Onitsha through Owerri, Umuahia, Aba to Port-Harcourt has collapsed. No single Federal presence in the South –East. In the political and economic sector, we are nowhere. So this is the things we are talking about. Injustice against Igbo must stop in order to end agitations. Therefore, the country has to be restructured.
Do you think restructuring is workable?
That is the only action that will keep Nigeria together. If you don’t restructure now, that could be the end of the entity called Nigeria. Restructuring Nigeria covers everything that concerned Nigerians. Every facet of government as far as governance is concerned has to be taken into consideration. Equal status, equal state creation, and resource control. As I’m talking to you now, South- East has the least state in the federation. It is either all the regions are equal in number of states or we go back to regionalism. A situation where some geo-political zones have between seven and six states and the South-East, the only one with five, is unacceptable. When it comes to the military and police, the entire region must have equal men and resources. A situation where a particular region dominates the rank and file of the armed forces and police is marginalisation.