UK authorities sees us as people wanting to destroy what they’ve created
My office hasn’t undergone any diplomatic mission, my focus at the moment is stabilizing IPOB in the UK
Interview By Chukwuemeka Chimerue, Chief Editor, The Biafra Times
May 16, 2018
Dr. Justice Ukachi-Lois is the national coordinator of the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, resident in the United Kingdom. He is an active medical practitioner who has also been coordinating the activities of IPOB in the country since his appointment in March 2017. He has initiated a lot of reforms since his appointment into the office.
In this exclusive interview with THE BIAFRA TIMES Chief Editor, the Owerri, Imo State-born Surgeon hailed US President Donald Trump’s condemnation of the unabated killings of Christians in Nigeria, even as he advised that Christians should not let down their guards as a result of the statement, adding that it should rather spur them to get ready to always defend themselves.
Ukachi-Lois also spoke briefly on the successes and challenges confronting IPOB in the UK, underscoring the ignorant attitudinal disposition of those he referred to as ‘the elites of the Biafran society’ in Britain, towards the call for participation and commitment in the struggle for the restoration of Biafra.
He strongly advocated for the employment of peaceful means towards solving the Biafra conundrum through dialogue and referendum, noting that conducting a referendum would be the easiest way of averting bloodshed and that even if the agitation eventually leads to war, people are still going to sit down to reach a peaceful resolution.
The Indigenous People of Biafra in the UK recently staged a 2-day protest during the Commonwealth Heads Of Government Meeting, CHOGM, at Westminster, London. Can you highlight the significant impact you think was created during the demonstration and what do you think the international community has been doing concerning the plight of Biafrans in Nigeria?
We came out to register our anger against the Nigerian government and its leader, Muhammadu Buhari. We were able to highlight the continuing suffering and killing of Biafrans in Nigeria and the need for Biafrans to go their separate ways and regain their independence from Nigeria.
The issue of demonstrating and the security concerns implied that we needed to obtained police permit because of the nature of the protest. The host country has to make sure we are in a place not to disrupt the meeting that was ongoing. So they have to quarantine us somewhere away from the main site but allowing where our democratic rights to protest. It was a static protest; meaning that there was not much moving around nonetheless where we were positioned, we made sure that our presence was felt.
The impact of the protest was that those people who are not aware of what is happening in Nigeria, when they pass by, they asked us questions about what we are doing. A lot of people, including the local and international media houses, approached us to pick report and find out what was happening. So we made a whole lot of progress from the demonstration at the CHOGM in London.
Likewise, the other part of the protest was outside Abuja House in London, for a 2-day vigil.
This is to let Buhari know that Biafrans are not happy with the ongoing killing of Biafrans, disappearance of Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, his parents as well as other victims of Operation Python Dance while acting as the Head of State unlike other Commonwealth Heads of State.
Moving away from the protest, at the U.S-Nigeria bilateral meeting, President Donald Trump frowned against the continued killing of Christians in Nigeria, vowing that the US government would no longer fold its arm and watch as Christians are being killed in Nigeria. How would you react to this bold statement coming from Trump?
Well, it is very encouraging. It is what I call ‘mood music’. Every single president of America, before they get into office, always say something positive about Biafra and in the last war President Nixon condemned the genocide going on then in Biafra, but when they get into office, they change their mind. I was thinking is Donald Trump going to do the same?’ Because during his inauguration, a lot of people went out from Biafraland to go and show solidarity and welcome him as President. Biafrans were at the streets celebrating his inauguration. While some Nigerians who demonstrated against is Presidency had a Police escort, while Biafrans were shot with live bullets by Nigerian forces, some were killed, some were injured, some were imprisoned and all sorts of mayhem broke out. And we’ve been waiting to hear from Trump to say something to condemn such acts.
Moreso, because throughout his campaign to becoming president, he said if Biafra wants their independence, they will get it. And we are waiting to literally hear him mention the word ‘Biafra’ since he was elected. So, when we heard that he’s inviting Muhammadu Buhari to the White House, for me, it was quite a surprise because given that we had protested in London, telling the world how he has been killing people back in Nigeria, we thought that might be, if you like, a precursor for him (Trump) not to say he didn’t know what Buhari is doing because we highlighted that in London and all the information issued out there to the world.
So, when Buhari now turned up, the question about whether our protest is having any impact, or not is easy to appreciate. I think the best we can do is to continue to highlight what has been happening to our people but when you asked me what is the international community is doing; it is our hope that undercover of media glare, they are discussing the atrocities being meted on to people of various ethnic groups in Nigeria and the Biafran one is a long-running case of genocide as far as am concerned.
Therefore, it is my hope that our protests has helped to sensitize the White House that the person(Buhari) coming to White House is a well-known Jihadist. He’s so biased, he’s trying to conduct what I call the ‘fulanization’ of Nigeria; everyone has to be a Fulani to benefit from the current set up in Nigeria. Therefore, if you’re a Biafran, then you’re the lest of his concerns. Lots of people have died before the war, during the war, and after the war and the killing hasn’t stopped.
So, we’re hoping as he is going to White House, as long as we continue the campaign as IPOB is in America, telling the world that this guy called Buhari is not what he turns out to be, may have had an impact on Donald Trump. And he mentioned that the killings are horrible and these killings are on Christians. Now, am not going to say it’s all about Biafrans as there are other Christians also being killed but predominantly, they are Biafrans.
So, by telling Buhari to find a way to stop the killings is a step in a right or positive direction. It is better than what we’ve had in the past. What it does mean is that all the efforts IPOB and all well-meaning freedom fighters are doing is having some impact. At least, it has been registered even though more has to be done. The next thing is not to lull ourselves into false sense of security. America is not going to send their US Marines(corps) to come and beat up Nigeria for killing Christians. That may not happen but it doesn’t mean that we are going to let down our guards. We have to keep alerting the world and insist that these killings has to stop.
There’s a way around it; you negotiate. You don’t keep killing people because you disagreed with them. So, it was really a wake-up call for Nigerians that their president went to the White House and was told to do something about the killings of Christians which of course, includes the Biafrans. So, there is a useful benefit to us in that sense. We all hope that bloodshed stops because Nigeria has killed many people and innocent blood have been flowing. I think it was Shakespeare who in Macbeth asked, “will all great Neptune’s ocean wash this blood clean from my hand? No, this my hand will rather the multitudinous seas incarnadine, making the green one red.” Implying that if you want to wash-off the blood that Nigeria have shed, particularly over Biafrans, between 3 to 5 million lives and continuing, the actual washing of that blood will turn the River Niger, River Benue, the Atlantic ocean (the green and white flag of Nigeria) red…incarnadine. So, it’s horrific the amount of blood that has been shed thus far and yet no end in sight, no peace in the land. Is buying more weapons from US the priority or is Referendum a better option?
So, if Christians are being killed and Donald Trump, for the first time is mentioning it, it’s the first major Western Head of State who have recognized this and the Christians being killed in Nigeria are blacks. So, black lives does matter but Biafrans are being martyred for a long time now. So, that was why I said it was a positive step in the right direction and we need to do more, we need to do something to physically stop the killings.
But it appears that Trump’s reaction to the killing of Christians has raised a lot of dust in the polity, particularly in Nigeria where some Muslim groups such as the MURIC, Muslim students, etc, has protested against what they referred to as Trump’s ‘myopic sectionalism and uncivilized comments’ on the killings. How do you feel about this?
It is what I call ‘selective hearing’ on the part of the Muslim groups whom before now, have not come out to boldly condemn the killings. Donald Trump said the killings of Christians are horrible and then he ended by saying of all faiths, all religious killings, which I would have thought the Muslims would also include themselves as Shiites have also been killed. So, President Donald Trump mentioned them as well. It is not every single person that is being killed is Christian. They are other people being killed but the majority, the preponderance of them all are Christians. So, by highlighting it, if people want to bury their hands in the sand, Ostrich-like mentality, and pretend that Christians are not being killed, then they are not being sensitive about the bloodshed in Nigeria, it’s consequences both spiritually and physically and need to be told by another concerned human being thousands of miles away.
What exactly do they want him to say? Remain in a state of denial that Christians are not being killed? Let’s all shake hands and carry-on trading? Let’s give you more weapon so that more people will die? For the first time in the western world, somebody have stood up and said these killings have to stop. When somebody used nerve gas in Iraq, in Syria and killed people which is horrific as it is because the chemical weapons are banned, America responded with military might, but how many Christians have died these past few years alone? Thousands of them. And the world have been watching. So, Trump stating that Christian killings has to stop is a wake-up call that whether you’re a Muslim or a Christian, it is bad enough. I think the Muslims have in their saying, that if one innocent person is killed it’s like killing the whole of humanity. So, are they not seeing that? Are they saying it’s just alright to kill Christians? So, am not really sure why they are objecting to Donald Trump stating the obvious.
What good prospects do you think Trump’s statement holds for Biafra agitators in the future?
Historically, during the Nigeria-Biafra war, it was viewed in some quarters, as a religious war. That’s one angle of looking at it since the Muslims are getting agitated by the whole statement. It’s like during the Biafra war, the Egyptians and most Arab countries, joined in piloting Nigerian warplanes and they were on the Nigerian side. And indeed, Ojukwu(late Biafran Head of State) told us that OAU, the Organization of African Unity, really should be renamed the Organization of Arab Unity because they were strongly behind Nigeria, making sure that in any negotiation for us to discuss how we live as human beings with our Nigerian neighbours, the only argument is that ‘you must come back to Nigeria and you can’t secede from Nigeria.’ That there is only one side to the dispute and will go to any length to appease to the indivisibility of Nigeria whose sovereignty is colonial in origin led to the needless death of millions of fellow Africans which is their sacred duty to protect from colonial enslavement.
So, in other words, they blocked every avenue for Biafrans to exist, hence you have countries like Zambia, Ivory Coast, Gabon and Tanzania who are not Arabic, recognizing Biafra during the war. So the Arabic or Muslim component is not unusual in condemning or seeing that the killing of Christians is something they take for granted. Having said that, Biafrans have to understand that our plight, our struggle is not something that we should give up on because some people think that being Christians, we have every God-given right to be killed. We turned the other cheek, yes, but it doesn’t give you the excuse to stand still like a tree and be cut down in perpetuity, you suppose to defend yourself.
So, it would have a significant impact to what he said if Christians and indeed Biafrans, wake-up and say we’re not going to carry on being killed because it is wrong. Even the people of the Middle-Belt are waking up to the realization that watching while being killed is not the right way, they have to defend themselves. I think it was Theophilus Danjuma who said that people should pick up arms and defend themselves. Well, he just quoted the third line in the Biafra national anthem that “we must defend ourselves or we shall perish else we perish.” We said the same thing 50 years ago, he’s only just waking up to it. To him, we say, ‘Good morning!’ I hope I’ve been able to answer your questions.
Some people have described Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari as ‘Biafra’s albatross’ especially as he has made known his intention to rule the country for a second term. Do you fall within this category?
Well, it’s just the same way as letting you know today that Biafra and Biafrans is Buhari’s and Nigeria’s albatross when turned the other way round. The longer Buhari stays in power, the more we draw closer to our freedom and the more our struggle and Biafra restoration becomes ineluctable. Therefore, his coming back into power was a major boost in our struggle for liberation. Whether Buhari remains the president or not, it’s not going to affect us and we won’t back down on the agitation. Therefore, he’s welcomed to stay as long as he wishes.
Since your assumption into office as the UK national coordinator, can you outline the advantages and challenges IPOB has encountered in the UK?
It’s a wall of silence from the authorities. After all, they say that Nigeria is a former colony of Britain and we’re right here in Britain itself who during the war insisted that Nigeria remained one because if Nigeria (had) fragmented, it would highlight that the colony they created has been divided and it would be to their disadvantage economically. In terms of prestige, because Nigeria is supposed to be a model, a flag which they will show to the world and say, ‘you see how we civilized Africans’ but it worked out against them in the sense that they gave power to people who are not interested in uniting the country. The only criteria the North has for remaining in the amalgamated country is for them to dominate in perpetuity.
So, we’re now in the UK where the whole thing started. It is not surprising, they are not going to jump up and down and say, ‘Oh! Biafrans, you want to have your own country!’ They are seeing it that if we protest, we want to divide or destroy something they have created and no parent would like to lose any of their children if you understand what I mean. So, we are up against it in the UK.
But significantly, if Scotland can have a peaceful referendum, UK voted to extricate herself from Europe. Nigeria got her paper independence from Britain. Out of India we now have India, Pakistan, Bangladesh. Malaysia and Singapore. Out of USSR and Yugoslavia, numerous countries emerged. I am confident that one day Biafra will re-emerge as a sovereign state.
But the IPOB in the UK is obviously where Nnamdi Kanu started. So we are doing our possible best to rally round and bring up gradually to make a stronger commitment to Biafra restoration. It is a long struggle because the people who knows more about us which is the British, are keeping silent about our suffering which is unfortunate. But if what is happening to Biafrans happens to any other people, BBC would be the first to go there and start reporting and telling the whole world. But in Biafra’s case, what we get is just a wall of silence. But eventually, you can’t cover the truth forever, it would emerge and people of goodwill will know that Biafrans deserves to live as human beings and to have their own country and run their own affairs for the betterment of the rest of African countries, Nigeria inclusive. So that peace will reign and we can all go on as neighbours and build our respective part of the world at our own pace, with mutual respect.
Has there been any diplomatic mission your office has undergone since you came?
To be honest, No! Because what am doing, for the time being, is stabilizing IPOB in UK since our leader’s incarceration. It is difficult to convince people about the importance of IPOB. We have to continue propagating the Biafra restoration message to our people who obviously live in UK. The way I look at it, if you like, the elites of the Biafran society, some have managed to escape Nigeria in spite of all the trials and tribulations they have gone through. Some came during the war, some after the war and what they have done is establish themselves as those who are better off than those in Nigeria. Because of the opportunities they find here, they have made the most of it outside Nigeria. These are the extraordinary resilient OGUERI generation 1. They are the Biafrans in UK who survived the Biafra genocidal war. Their children are now at colleges and universities constituting OGUERI generation 2. From the pool of these talented individuals, a stronger IPOB UK can be built for diplomatic missions and initiatives that will assist the global effort of Biafran restoration project.
At present, therefore, if you have somebody to start telling our people about the need to restore Biafra they equate this with another war, they will look at what they are going to lose. Let’s say their properties in Abuja, Lagos, Kano, Kaduna or whatever. They say, ‘well if I lose all these things I’ve worked hard for, it’s not going to help me. Am going to make sure that if I join this IPOB people, am going to benefit from it.’ But they forget that their properties in Abuja or wherever it may be is not safe or guaranteed at present. The Kaduna Declaration can be triggered as in 1966 pogrom without the luxury of notice date. The only thing that will guarantee our continued loss of lives and properties is if you have your own country where the rule of law applies, and then you lobby as part of the negotiation and say, ‘don’t touch these properties because they belong to foreign nationals.’ Like if you are a Nigerian living in Ghana, Ghanaians don’t go and grab your properties because you are a Nigerian.
So, ironically, all the properties the elites (talking about those in UK) have, is probably best guaranteed by Biafra coming, but I don’t think some of them appreciate this as yet. It’s like the saying that you have to first secure the land before you start fighting over your mat. The equivalent of it in English is that first you are going to secure your house before you start looking for or fighting which side of the bed you are going to lie on. So, our people have to know that they need to secure Biafra as a way of guaranteeing both their properties, their wealth and their livelihood for posterity and wellbeing of their future generations.
So, we are having difficulty making in-roads but thankfully, the message is getting across as Buhari who is actually the albatross to Nigerian unity continues his term in office, it becomes more and more clear to them that there’s a need for them to secure their people and it is my hope and optimism that more people understands the background history of what happened in the past and what is happening currently to realize the need to join the IPOB so that we can restore Biafra in the shortest possible time. Thank you.
But, in trying to solve the Biafra question, do you subscribe to dialogue as some people has suggested, as a means to finding a lasting solution between the Nigerian government and the agitators?
That’s a very important question. Supposing there’s no dialogue and it turns out to be a shooting war, at the end of that war, there’s still going to be a dialogue. They are still going to sit down, sign a surrender document, and decide how to live in peace as neighbours. This is what we are going to be doing going forward. So, even if there’s going to be a shooting war, you still have to sit down and talk and the ultimate then is to have this negotiation and avoid war because war doesn’t solve any problem. War leads to a generation of stress, a generation of psychological pain which is difficult to quantify. You destroy lives and properties and that’s something that lasts for generations.
So those who are thinking that all we have to do is to shoot you and silence you, it hasn’t worked. We’ve done that before 50 years ago, Biafra is still here. Biafra is like a big elephant in a room. This elephant is standing in the middle of the room and you are looking at it and say, ‘this bit is the tail’ and the other says, ‘this is the head, and legs.’ You are looking at its various parts but the elephant is still there. Biafra is there, Biafra is alive.
And it hasn’t moved yet. It hasn’t turned to decide to break its way out of the room. If a shooting war should start, if violence should be the only option left, Nigeria as a room, if you like, would not remain the way it is. So dialogue is very critical that people sit down and talk. ‘What is it that is pushing you to agitate?’ Then we say, ‘well, these are the factors causing the agitation. If you want me to be a Nigerian, then treat me as a human being, as a citizen. If you don’t want me, well, let me go.’ It’s really as simple as that and the way around it is by having a referendum. The people will decide what they want. Whether they want to become Nigerians or live as Biafrans. If they want to become Nigerians, then Nigeria needs to start listening because you can’t hold or subjugate over 40 million people against their Will in perpetuity.
It doesn’t matter how long it’s going to take, Biafra will come. Biafra is already in the room waiting to breakthrough. It is a very big elephant in the room and you simply can’t ignore it. It doesn’t matter how long it takes. This Enyimba Biafra(elephant of Biafra land) is growing. There is a need to lead this elephant out of the room safely. Shooting at this elephant will compel it to charge and barge its way out of the room by force. The resultant fall out will not only affect Nigeria but Africa as well as have a global impact.
So, a UN-sponsored peaceful referendum to ascertain the will of Biafrans is in concord with their collective inalienable rights and right to self-determination as enshrined in the UN and AU Human Rights Charter.
Talking about referendum, the Catalonians and the Kurdistan have towed similar path, yet they remain under the same central governments of the countries they are trying to break out from. Their governments haven’t allowed them to form their own separate nations. Do you think if Biafrans should tow the same path it would culminate to the peaceful dissolution and dismemberment of Biafra from Nigeria?
Biafra is not something the Nigerian government is going to ‘allow.’ These are human beings. If today, all Biafrans come out and say, ‘we are no longer Nigerians,’ how much ‘allowing’ would Nigeria going to do? Fight another war? Well, Sudan fought the second war and we now have Southern Sudan. The more Nigeria kill people, the more they are guaranteeing the separation of the country. So, if you are a Nigerian, you should read about Sudan and start talking and not insisting on ‘can we allow?’ Who allowed you in the first place to be independent? The British. Why didn’t they stop you from becoming independent? So, history is on the Biafran side. History is on the side of the oppressed always. All empires comes to an end; the Babylonian, the Greek, the Roman empire, the German, the Japanese, the British, every single one of them comes to an end. You can’t hold people down forever.
But some people are of the school of thought that having a referendum does not guarantee that one must attain nationhood because looking at what recently played out in Catalonia, it tends to lend more credence to this thought. Are you not concerned about this?
Well, that’s a good point. You have to look at every situation uniquely. In other words, everyone has their own unique features. Did the Catalonians fight a civil war? Did they lose 50 or so thousands in one go as a prelude to ferocious war? The Biafran flag has red on it because of the bloodshed. Lots of people died and then they had a genocidal war during which several more million people died, including women and children. Then after the war, you have not treated the same people with equity.
So, that’s not the case for Catalonians. It is not the case for any other referendum. To this, everyone is unique. As I mentioned earlier, South Sudan has to have two different wars before common sense prevailed. So, all those saying, ‘well, we can have a referendum and nothing would come out of it,’ great, why don’t you have it then? Why are they opposing it from happening? Because they are scared people will tell them their minds without further loss of blood.
This is what we want and when people are determined to have something, no force on earth can stop it. My headache is that some of our people don’t even know what they want. I think Harriet Tubman, the American Abolitionist said she managed to save so many from slavery but a lot more could have been saved if only they knew they were slaves.
There are lots of people in Biafra land who feels their salvation lies in Nigeria but every day shows it doesn’t. Once you make up your mind that you want to have your own country, have your own say on how you want to be governed, no force on earth can stop it. So referendum which was requested, I believe, in May 1968 in the Kampala peace talk during the war, was also requested by (Late) Nnamdi Azikiwe in February 1969 at Rhodes House in Oxford, UK when they asked for a plebiscite. These things were ignored. 50 years on, we are still talking about it. Has the need for referendum gone away?
If you feel Biafrans against their Will are trying to break out of Nigeria, well, ask them. You need to know the people’s Will. That’s why referendum remains a very peaceful option. If it goes to a shooting war, it is still going to end in a peaceful resolution. UN will have to intervene and stop all the killings and ask people what do you want. They will say, ‘we want to be free.’ Nobody given a chance to be free would want to remain a slave forever. So there’s a lot of dynamics to it. Some people will say, ‘Oh! Catalonia, Oh! Kurdistan’. Every single case is unique and Biafrans has suffered more than most and we have been going on for 50 years on perpetual killings. It’s about time the bloodshed stops. If referendum is the easiest way of minimizing the bloodshed, then let’s do it.
Sir, what would form your final words of encouragement to those seeking for freedom out there?
Freedom is not given, you have to take it by fighting for it peacefully or through wars. The last time, the war was brought to us and it was a war of survival. At the end of it, they declared ‘No Victor, No Vanquished’. We were promised the 3Rs; Reconstruction, Reconciliation, and Rehabilitation. The reconstruction started in Lagos and ended in Abuja. It didn’t come down to the Eastern part of the country where the war was fought. The abandon property policy, £20 maximum allowed withdrawal of their own bank account, the indigenisation policy killed off the reconciliation and rehabilitation plans. The ongoing marginalisation and Fulani-sation policies helped to transmogrify Nigeria into Lie-geria. The Lugardian cage is not fit for purpose.
The 3Ss of Subjugation, Sufferation, and Suffocation is now in place to ensure that Biafrans who survived Slavery, Colonialism, Genocide and continuing Genoslaughter remain in perpetual bondage.
As a people, we are guided by a set of unique principles that no condition is permanent, that tomorrow is pregnant with a lot of possibilities. That Nkiruka! A brighter tomorrow awaits us as a people. To get there quicker, be a Born Again Biafran.
I joined IPOB to help realize the endogenous potential of indigenous people of Biafra.
I will leave you with this poem to encourage all Biafrans.
The Ogu Eri Soliloquy
Happy Survival O Biafran Child
They sent me away with an empty hand
Empty, yet a full belly
Belly full of injustice
Even Mayrock’s human torch
That the UN choose not to notice
But I was empowered with a faithful heart
And a hungry mind
Happy Survival O Biafran Child