From Jeff Amechi Agbodo, Onitsha
The General Overseer of Livingspring Word Alive Assembly Incorporated, Achuputa Obosi, Anambra State, Bishop Silvanus Onwuachu, has advised the Federal Government to give Ndigbo their due in Nigeria and the agitation for the Republic of Biafra would fizzle out immediately.
He also threw his weight behind the ongoing clamour for the restructuring of the country into six geo-political zones.
Onwuachu kicked against the Sharia bill said to be before the Senate, saying that, if passed into law, it would cause religious war, so the Senate must stop the bill. Excerpt:
What is your take on the supposed neglect and marginalisation of the South-East zone?
South-East Senators recently visited the President on the affairs of Ndigbo, where they raised so many issues to be addressed by the Federal Government. The President said sometime ago that he is for nobody, and for everybody; but we are not seeing it so, it seems he is for some people only. Why is it that there is no Igbo man in the Security Council of Nigeria? If they are sitting to discuss an issue in Nigeria, no Igbo man is represented in the council; so we are against it. Look at the roads in the South-East, federal roads, they are death traps. You cannot travel on the roads. I don’t know why it is so in Igboland. They should give Ndigbo what is due to them. Some people are agitating for certain things, but we are trying to hold them, we are trying to say they should stop, but suppose we are given what is due to us, people would not agitate for separation and all that.
However, everybody is turning a deaf ear to what Ndigbo are saying and we feel bad about it. They are neglecting the Igbo. The federal government should give us what is due to us, as there is no important industry sited in Igboland by government, nothing. We are saying no to that. Let somebody from Igboland be in the Security Council, we are one of the three largest tribes in Nigeria and what is due to us should be given to us.
What is your advice to pro-Biafra agitators?
Let what is due to us be given to us and let nobody come here to intimidate us, allow us to be in our place and control our place. We should still be called Nigeria and if you give us what is due to us, you will see that the agitation will go down. I want to advise our fellow Igbo people agitating for Biafra, yes, it is good to pressurise government for them to know that we exist. Let them know that there are people and a place like Igboland. They should pressurise government and let them know that we are not fools, that what is due to us should be given to us, but peacefully, and we will be okay; no part of Nigeria is born to rule while others will be slaves. We reject that slavish mentality. That is what is causing this agitation, we will not be slave to anybody anymore and will not be second class citizens in Nigeria. And if that should be, let everybody go their separate ways.
What is your view on calls for restructuring of Nigeria and secession?
I’m calling for restructuring but I am not in support of calls for secession, but if total secession will be the solution to our problems, so be it; but let Nigeria be restructured. Let every geopolitical zone of the country take possession of what they have and then let the power at the centre be devolved to the zones. If there is restructuring based on the zones, you will see competition, you will see that agriculture will rise again, the groundnut pyramids will get up again, palm oil will increase again. God has blessed this country, there is no part of this country that doesn’t have one thing or the other as natural resource. God has given it to them to be rich. If we restructure Nigeria, every segment will be viable. But for the total secession of Nigeria, no, let us not dismember Nigeria. Let us make Nigeria what it should be, let everybody in any part of Nigeria be given a sense of belonging, we all own Nigeria together.
It has been alleged that there is a religious bill on Sharia before the Senate; how do you see this development?
We are getting conflicting reports on the Sharia bill, which I gathered has passed the second reading at the Senate, but a Senator from the North refuted it, saying that it is not the name it is being called, that a senator moved a motion for amendment of a section of the Constitution after which a committee was set up and that amendment will accommodate the issue of Sharia. We are not comfortable with it all, so we say no to the Sharia that will make law in Nigeria binding on both Christians and Muslims. That is not acceptable and if it is done there will be trouble in Nigeria. Government should be careful on how they handle religious issues because if we have religious war in Nigeria it will affect everybody. Boko Haram will be a small issue. Christians in the Senate should be careful, how could they allow such a bill to pass the second reading in the Senate and did not raise their voice against it? The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) did not do anything and even till now CAN has not said anything about the bill. I’m saying that, if there is such a bill, the Senate should drop it because it will cause war in Nigeria. Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN) and CAN should not wait until it is passed into law before they begin to react. They are sleeping and should wake up from their slumber. Nigeria is a secular state and it will remain a secular state.
There has been a warning that there could be hunger next year because of the exportation of food; how do you react to this?
I read it on the dailies that they are exporting some food items that we have in Nigeria, that 15 lorryloads leave Nigeria every week to foreign countries where they are exporting it to. There is trouble, there is hunger already and they are warning us now that there will be (more) hunger by January next year; where is this government going? This government seems to be disappointing us. All that they promised us before they came in, we have not seen any one being fulfilled: hunger here and there, people are dying of hunger and they don’t know what to do and they have taken what we have out for export. There is much hunger in the country, we are closer to the people, there is poverty to the highest level, people don’t complain again because what will you complain about. Let government stop the export of agricultural produce so that we can have food to eat next year.