Home » Headlines, South-East » ‘Any day Igbo go militant, Nigeria will cease to exist’

‘Any day Igbo go militant, Nigeria will cease to exist’

The Igbo Youth Movement (IYM), a group that has remained consistent in championing the cause of Igbo people in Nigeria, was at the thick of the recent and controversial arrest and detention of the leader of the Movement for the Actualisation of a Sovereign State of Biafra, Chief Ralph Uwazuruike and scores of his followers.  Rather than frustrate the efforts of the group, which marked its 12 anniversary in Enugu, the action of the police and other security agencies helped in bringing to the fore the significance of the event, which was to honour former Biafra warlord and Ikemba Nnewi, Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, as an outstanding Igbo man.

Uwazuruike had noted, on the occasion, that no government in the South East or Nigeria has ever thought it wise to honour the Igbo leader, who is currently recuperating in a London Hospital. Thus was the significance of the Enugu IYM award to Ojukwu.
In this exclusive interview, the national president of IYM, Comrade Elliot Uko, said his group has no regrets over what happened. He explained the importance of the award to Igbo nation. He also spoke on the continued marginalisation of Igbo in Nigeria among other things.

Do you have regrets that it was at your event that MASSOB members were arrested?
We see what happened as part of the struggle. My organization and I have suffered such things in the past 12 years. The attack on our 12th anniversary is just one of the things we take in our strides. We have been slandered; we have been persecuted; my phones have been bugged; my cars have been bugged; my businesses have been attacked, and on a particular year armed robbers attacked my wife’s shop 16 times in a year, all to impoverish me and to kill IYM. They believe that if they impoverish me then IYM will die; I have suffered worse things. I even fight spiritually (raises his clothes to show odd marks on his body). This one was just immediately after the anniversary event. So what happened is just one of those things.

How do you see the arrest?
I want to tell you that the reason the police commissioner sent policemen and they came and arrested MASSOB members and took them away is because they know that there is no militant group in Igbo land. Igbo people are superior; we are wise, and we are gentlemen; we know that violence doesn’t help. They did that because they know there is no violence group in Igbo land. If the MASSOB members were armed, police will not come to arrest them. Our 12th anniversary was a peaceful event. The previous day, we held thanksgiving services; the next day we wanted to honour people we thought have made sacrifices for Ndigbo. It was peaceful; MASSOB members were not armed, but the police moved in and took them away. After the event, their leader, Chief Ralph Uwazuruike, went to ask why his boys were arrested; they detained him. The reason is because they know that there is no militant group in Igbo-land. But let me warn; the day any Igbo group will take up arms, that will be the end of Nigeria. The last time Ndigbo took up arms, 44 years ago, we saw what happened. They were angry when they saw headless bodies arriving Enugu railway station from the North. The whole world stood still for 30 months.

Nigeria lost her innocence, lost her soul, lost two million souls, ceded Bakassi peninsula and lost it forever, signed off our oil for so many years to a particular colonial government, which accounted for only 10% of oil they stole from Nigeria for more than 40 years. We lost everything; and that was 44 years ago; other people can say they are militants, they bombed UN building, they bombed oil facilities, and they bombed police stations, but let me tell you, the day any Igbo group takes up arms again will be the end of Nigeria. So Nigeria should thank their stars that the groups in Igboland have decided not to be militant; we just want Nigeria to move forward.country missed opportunities and destroyed opportunities; this country wasted resources for more than four decades. Fifty years ago, Malaysia, Indonesia, Brazil, South Korea, all of them were behind Nigeria, in every indices. Today, they are very much ahead. It is time now to rebuild Nigeria and that is why Igbo’s voted for Jonathan. 

Why the award?
Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu is a unique man; he is recuperating in a London hospital. Let me give you a testimony: For more than 15 years, he was the only Igbo man who will call me at odd hours and summon me when Igbo people are killed in Bauchi, Kano or Jos. He will tell me to find out how many people died, their names, state of origin, if possible. He would plead with me to issue a statement condemning those killings; he was worried about the lives of Ndigbo; no other Igbo man ever cared. In fact, what they will do is to hide under the bed because they don’t want to offend their northern friends. Ojukwu is unique. I testify that he cares about Ndigbo. The other gentlemen who were also honoured are people who have shown the IYM that they cared about Ndigbo

Why do you think the South East governors have refused to honour Ojukwu?
That’s why I told you that the PDP government, in the past 12 years, has been a disaster; Ndigbo are not PDP; Ndigbo despise PDP; the only reason PDP survived the last election was that they presented a very meek, educated presidential candidate and Ndigbo believed in him and voted him; that was what saved PDP. The only reason Ndigbo voted PDP in 1999 was because Dr. Alex Ekwueme was there. When fellow Nigerians shot him down at Jos convention, he quickly congratulated Obasanjo, the winner of that primary; so Ndigbo still maintained part of their sympathy for PDP. But PDP is a big disappointment.

What hope for Igbo now that Ojukwu is getting older and weaker?
The younger generations are aware that Ndigbo must get justice. What has happened between 1999 and 2000, which we call Igbo renaissance, was an awakening of consciousness; Ndigbo have realised that our potentials have been caged in an ungodly manner, by enemies of Ndigbo and we are ready to release ourselves. Believe it, in the next decade or so Igbo-land will be transformed to the Dubai of West Africa.
You talked about Igbo support for Jonathan; has he done anything to show he appreciates this support?

I agree with you that Ndigbo are yet to see any signs of a new beginning, a process to begin the fulfillment of any one of the many promises President Jonathan gave during his campaign at Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium Enugu; at Owerri, at Aba township stadium, at Umuahia, at Abakaliki and everywhere he went in Igbo land. They include a coal-powered independent power station in this region, second Niger Bridge in Onitsha, seaport in Onitsha, upgrading the Nnamdi Azikiwe airport to become a functional International Airport.  It is sensible for me to respect my president and believe him; it will be unfair if I doubt the words pronounced by my president. I should believe him and the ball is in his court to take action, so that we would see work going on. There is no time to waste; we want to see construction going on in Onitsha. I want to see the Enugu International airport functional. I want my people to travel from here to China and Dubai direct from Igbo-land, which was deliberately denied us by successive governments; we want begin to see those things now; that’s what we want so that it can reinforce our faith in President Jonathan.

Why, in your thinking, are Igbo suffering in Nigeria?
The reason the Igbo have suffered over the years is not because of the selfishness of some Igbo leaders but a deliberate policy of wickedness meted out on Ndigbo by past governments since 1970. Everything was done to exclude the Igbo man; everything was deliberately done to punish the Igbo man. In the location of universities in the early 70s the Igbo lost. There were University of Port Harcourt, University of Calabar and University of Benin, University of Jos. Igboland was excluded. When Federal polytechnics were being sited, Igboland was excluded; when they wanted to site projects, like Ajaokuta Steel, Alaja Steel and NAFCON Fertilizer in Port Harcourt, everything was done to exclude Igboland. Everything in Nigeria has always been done to exclude Ndigbo and punish them for fighting the war; it’s man inhumanity to man. The creation of local government was deliberately skewed against Ndigbo. Jigawa and Kano States have more local governments than the entire South-East of Anambra, Imo, Abia, Enugu and Ebonyi put together. There are states in the North with 1.7 million population, but they have 12 members in the House of Representatives.

There are states in Igbo-land with 3.7 million population represented by only eight members in the House of Reps. Even the delineation of federal constituencies was deliberately done to deny Ndigbo fair representation. In state creation Igbo-land with over 45 million were caged in only five states out 36; 45 million Ndigbo are more than one-third of Nigeria but they are caged into five states only, out of 36 states. That is man’s inhumanity to man and the principal architect of this wickedness against Ndigbo is Gen. Ibrahim Babangida. He’s the man who created the states and deliberately denied Ndigbo her fair shares. Babangida engineered all the problems we are going through today. In September 1987, 24 years ago, he created two states and announced that he had closed with state creation; that he would not create any more state. He created Akwa Ibom from Cross River and Katsina from Kaduna. He knew from census reports that Ndigbo constituted 69% of the population of the old Eastern Region and that our brothers from the minority constituted 31%. He gave them a third state. He gave 31% of the old Eastern region, Cross River, Akwa Ibom and Rivers and then left 69% of old Eastern region in only Anambra and Imo; that is the height of wickedness.

The problem Ndigbo are going through is that the state of Nigeria has refused to give them justice, holding us down, not knowing that when you are holding somebody down you are holding yourself.
Yes, it could be correct that Igbo leaders have not carried themselves well but the crux of the problem is that our fellow countrymen hate us with so much passion, deny us dues, and deny us our rights, which was the only reason Ndigbo voted Jonathan to correct those things. And if Jonathan disappoints Ndigbo, believe me, Ndigbo do not forgive any leader who disappoints them. You can ask Ukpabi Asika. The only reason the Igbo masses rose up and voted for Jonathan was because they believed that he would wipe their tears, that he would begin to address these injustices, that he will begin to implement immediately a policy of affirmative action to redress the many long years of neglect and oppression in Igbo-land. Igbo-land is barren; completely barren; when young men graduates they migrate out to Lagos, Abuja and elsewhere; nothing is here. We believe that President Jonathan would correct it because we believe he will be fair to all the sections of the country. We are not asking Jonathan to face only Igbo-land; we are asking him to be fair to all the sections of this country; if he is fair, then Ndigbo will get justice we have never had justice in the last 40 years. 


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