By Egufe Yafugborhi
Front-line leader of N’digbo Delta state, Eze (Sir) Peter Chibueze Chukwu (KSJI), in a chat with Egufe Yafugborhi in Warri, stressed that the desired emancipation of Igbo from perceived marginalisation by the Nigerian state does not lie in another futile Biafra war, but in collective agreement of N’digbo to use its numerical strength to win greater political power in a Nigerian state where the vast diaspora investment of the Ibo man is his worst weakness.
Since end of the Civil War, N’digbo has been complaining of marginalization, oppression, the height of the attendant agitation being manifested in the maniacal push for another secessionist move by either Movement for Actualization of Sovereign State of Biafra, MASSOB or Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOD.
Eze (Sir) Peter Chibueze Chukwu (KSJI), former Chairman, Ohaneze N’Digbo, Delta Central and South, is among N’Digbo leaders who fervently believe the thought of another armed struggle to liberate Igbo is not only retrogressive, but also a distraction that continues to blind Igbo from utilizing their real potent force in rebuilding the Igbo of their dream from the losses of the war.
“I am”, Chukwu stressed, “not against Biafra. There is the Biafra in every Igbo man given what we have suffered, but I am saying Igbo should stop complaining. Igbo, by the endless complaining, have started to marginalize themselves. The endless complaining has become self immolation and has made us weaker in the Nigerian union. The urgent change we need is to dissipate our energy in using what we have to get what we want.
Justification to feel oppressed
It is true that after the civil war, the military government at the time foisted clay footed leaders, choosing charlatans among the people for appointments. By the end of that era, Igbo values were completely destroyed.
It is the common experience. When people are defeated in war, the conquerors put a deliberate structure in place to disunite them, so they won’t be able to unite to fight again, like what they did to Germany. After 1st World War, structures were not put in place to downgrade Germany, so they were able to gather cohesion to fight the 2nd World War.
After their defeat, the allied nations put structures in place, like North Atlantic Organisation. Today, America, Britain, France, Russia are occupying Germany as a result. The occupation I mean is military. These nations have military settlements in German territory today not to the wish of the Germans, but to make sure they don’t gather cohesion to create another war.
This condition was meted out to the Igbo. Because Igbo fought Nigeria, they had to dismantle the Igbo. That’s why Igbo is no longer Igbo today. By end of that military era of 1970 to 79, Igbo values were complete destroyed. Igbo were now disunited in Nigeria. That is why they have been complaining.
Subsequently, federal government comes to Igbo to pick their own choice of representatives, not the choice of the people. They pick self centered Igbos to do their bidding against the common good. They pick somebody, for instance, they can call to say we have so and so contract to make road for your people, and he says no, give me the money. He goes to buy house in Paris, London or elsewhere. It is happening all over the land, and that has aggravated the misplaced agitations.
Eze (Sir) Peter Chibueze Chukwu (KSJI)
Igbo blinded to its greatest strength
For historically conscious Chukwu, “the untapped strength Igbo has to fight this moral war, not of guns, is their numerical strength. They have the population. Regrettably, Igbo have not bothered to look at maximizing the value in this unique strength. Apathetic to government for not caring, over the years, about them after coming to power, Igbos hardly care who is chosen to represent them in government and how he is chosen. They believe in what they can do with their own hands to survive and they are surviving.
An Igbo will be in his shop, wishing somebody wins election, but he is not prepared to close shop for a moment to go out, get registered and vote so that his choice of person wins. He would rather not waste his time voting because his business is sure. If he is not registered, he cannot not vote, so they continue to foist charlatans on him. This has been the attitude of our people. This has established a paradox of self marginalisation.
To get out of this self marginalisation, the solution, Chukwu noted, lies in genuine active participation in voting or being voted for to displace the charlatans from occupying Igbo leadership in government. The system now does not allow quality people to come and their destiny is in their hands to make change for quality representation to deliver them. Igbo are no longer marginalised. Anyone feeling marginalised should de-marginalise himself. First is to get registered and have voting power.
Igbo political leaders, elders, should educate their people on the value of utilizing their numerical strength. If they put that into use, Igbos will decide who wins election in any part of Nigeria today beyond their home land. Because of their enterprise consciousness, Igbos are everywhere. Because government is not favouring them, they are not looking at this advantage. Look at the faces of the Igbo in 15 January 1970, the day the war ended. See the recovery they have made by their own will and industry without government support.
Greatest weakness against another arms struggle
The greatest weakness of Igbo is their overwhelming diaspora investments. This underscores the futility of another arms struggle. The quantum of investment outside their homeland is their greatest weakness. The Igbo home land is far too saturated, too small to accommodate the volume of investment such that if most Igbos with huge investments outside Igboland were to return home, they may not find the business space to succeed.
Go across Africa, in South Africa, Libreville, Cotonou, Zaire, Yaounde, Ibos are bubbling in business successes everywhere. They cannot leave it and go home dry. I saw Nigeria under colonial rule, through independence, under the civil war. I am able to compare, contrast and be able to advocate what is beneficial for all.
I don’t want another war. I have eleven ground children now, I want a Nigeria they will be happy to belong to. Genuine people don’t want to talk about Biafra for fear of being attacked. I am not against Biafra, but as a leader, I can attest that Igbos with investments in diaspora may not be willing to return home because the population of the Ibos overwhelms their home landmass.
Win win alternatives
Rather than relive Biafra, Chukwu advocates campaigns as demonstrated in UK’s Brexit, giving opportunity for people to vote and make choices without recourse to civil war. “If it is the issue of pro-Biafra campaign or campaign for sustained Nigerian state, let’s have a plebiscite or referendum so people decide where they want to be. There was plebiscite for Western, Eastern Cameroon, for Nigerians around that area to join Cameroon. Western Nigeria opted to join Cameroon which they are still regretting till date because they would have been better if they had chosen to remain in Nigeria. Till today they are marginalised in Cameroon.
To reemphasize dialogue as very key in human relationship, the Holy Land, Israel, for centuries witnessed hundreds of people dying annually, struggling for the land, Muslim, Christian and Judaism. In 1148AD, Saladin, the Egyptian General conquered Jerusalem by force of arms. The King of England at the time called for a third crusade to liberate Jerusalem, but Pope Sylvanus called for dialogue, saying why killing and killing in the name of God? Let us come and discuss.
The holy land was shared in dialogue among Christians, Jews and Muslims. Christians had Bethlehem where you have Church of Nativity people visit on pilgrimage. East Jerusalem was ceded to Muslims and Jews had the Awele Wall, their holy site. People today just rush to pilgrimage and come back without knowing how the place came about.
In August 1945, when America wanted to drop the atomic bomb in Nagasaki and Hiroshima, Wirohito, the Japanese Emperor, directed the Japanese foreign minister to make contact with the American Government through her Ambassador in Moscow to tell America that Japan was prepared to surrender. A committee was set to look into the Japanese proposal, but America were already set to test the nuclear. They had already won the war, but they were itching to test the nuclear arsenal.
Japan, however, maintained that their emperor was infallible, he could do no wrong. Coupled with America’s determination to test its new weapon, this was the flaw that spoilt the dialogue that could have prevented the atomic bombing which were eventually launched and the consequences remain living history.
FG loses nothing dialoguing with Nnamdi Kanu
Chukwu wonders why President Mohammadu Buhari doesn’t want to dialogue over the critical issues of agitation. “He has to dialogue with Nnamdi Kanu. It won’t stop government from doing what it wants to do. Biafra is an idea of the mind. An idea of the mind is not something you fight with AK47. You fight it by enlightening the people, not by detaining or suffering Kanu and associates. And such an option won’t be entirely new.
“In 1964, Late Chief Obafemi Awolowo was charged for treason. When Gen. Yakubu Gowon came to power, there was dialogue between Yoruba leaders and the Gowon administration. Awolowo was pardoned and appointed Deputy Chairman, Supreme Military Council. Awolowo was able to manage the economy and Nigeria did not borrow a dime to prosecute the war against the Igbo.
Isaac Adaka Boro in 1965 was charged for treason during the 14day Revolution when he was demanding for Rivers’ region. He and Nottingham Duke and Anthony Nwunere. Gowon and South South authorities dialogued. Charges were dropped. Boro was released from prison, reenlisted into the Nigerian Army and became useful after. He died a Major, in the battle for Port Harcourt and had a hero’s funeral. Go to Port Harcourt, you will see the Adaka Boro memorial park.
“Why can’t same measure of dialogue be extended to Kanu. He can still be brought out and released, for good of the country rather than allow him to languish there. Government should speak with Kanu, after all, if there is referendum in Nigeria today about Biafra, there is more likelihood that agitators for Biafra, whether IPOB or MASSOB may not win over any call for seperation. So, I don’t know what government is afraid of.