The spokesperson for Alaigbo Development Foundation (ADF), and Former Commissioner for Information in Ebonyi State, Chief Abia Onyike has warned that if the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB) and other pro-Biafra groups decide to take up arms like the insurgents in the north, Nigeria will not last six months.
Onyike, a former Deputy National President, Nigeria Union of Journalist (NUJ), who spoke in this interview with one of our correspondents in Abakailiki, also alleged that political leaders of the north encouraged Boko Haram and other insurgents in the region by their actions.
President Muhammadu Buhari continues to make decisions that many say are inappropriate. There are issues like the disobedience of court orders, the lopsided appointments.
Are you worried about the way things are going in the country?
Of course every Nigerian who is serious-minded must be worried. Nigeria is now more divided than ever before. That is because of Buhari’s official policy, which is based on sectionalism. There was this misunderstanding that the government of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan was pro-Igbo because, under him, Igbo people held certain positions like chief of army staff, chief of naval staff and all that. Now, the Yoruba people became more angry than any other group. They were the people who plotted to install Buhari in power so that Buhari will join with them to seize the political and economic paraphernalia of governance in Nigeria to the exclusion of the Igbo. So, it was just like what happened during and after the civil war when (Obafemi) Awolowo aligned with the northern caliphate to levy war on the Igbo and the rest of Biafra. But even the Yoruba should now know better, they should check how far they have faired; whether the Fulani people have any respect for them. Have the Fulani been sharing things 50/50 with them? That’s the point.
Where, in your opinion, are we headed in the country?
I belong to a group known as Alaigbo Development Foundation (ADF). The group is one of the pro-Igbo socio-cultural organisations. Our own position is very clear. We support the restructuring of Nigeria in such a way that we shall have autonomous regions. We should have a federation of autonomous regions. Even if the regions are the six geopolitical zones, let them be autonomous; let them develop at their own pace. Nigeria is so large a country territorially, and in terms of religion, culture, we are very different. You cannot therefore compact everybody under one central authority in Abuja. It cannot work, and has never worked. So, we support a return to a federation of autonomous regions. If you are insisting that we continue to be governed from Abuja, that is fascism and if you want to insist on that, then whatever you see you take.
Do you fear there might be implosion in the country if nothing is done about the structure?
The implosion, has it not started? Are you not seeing the level of armed confrontations in the country? The federal government is battling so many things right now, including the Boko Haram insurgency and banditry in the northwest, and all kinds of violent groups. The only group that is not armed now is the IPOB, MASSOB and other pro-Biafra groups. And they know it that if they were to be armed, Nigeria will not last six months. So, let us thank God that the pro-Biafra groups are committed to peaceful agitation, the Mahatma Gandhi type of agitation. But all the Islamic insurgents are armed to the teeth because they want to impose their religion on the rest of us. Unfortunately, the leadership of the region and the country contributed to it. When you are the leader at the centre, and you begin to sympathize with Islamic ideology, you incubate insurgency. Then when it gets out of hand, you begin to battle to retrieve it, that’s the problem we are having now.
But what could Buhari for instance could have done to fuel the insurgency?
It did not start now. What was Ahmadu Bello saying? On the 12 of October 1960, 12 days after independence, what did he say?
That this new nation shall be an estate of his great grandfather…?
Yes! Why should a leader talk like that when he knows that people are mixed up? And most of the leaders who led Nigeria since the civil war, from 1970 to now, were they not people who had the same ideology? Including Murtala Mohammed. What were they expecting? In the year 1999 when we returned to democracy, what happened? 12 contiguous northern states adopted Sharia law. What did that mean in a circular country that should be governed without religion? So, when you are doing that, you are giving signs to the masses that it is where you are going. Then, some will become more fanatical than you, and that’s exactly what gave rise to Boko Haram and the Islamic State of West Africa. Now, the leaders are pretending to be fighting it. Are they serious?
All those imaginations will come to naught. If you want peace in Nigeria, then the Nigerian state must remain a state that is neither for this or that religion, that’s the only way we can build a Nigerian state. We are mixed up, not everyone is a Muslim, not everyone is a Christian and not everyone is a feudalist. Those of us from the eastern part of Nigeria were not brought up under feudal institutions. We believe in democratic government. We believe that Nigeria is a republic, a democratic federal republic. We don’t owe any allegiance to any feudal authority, wherever it is. That is the way the Igbo man works. That was the basis for what happened immediately after the independence period. Recall what happened in the Western Region, the killings that were taking place there. And now, look at what is happening, Fulani herdsmen.
Does that show you that the people want peace? The population of Igbo people is 60 million in Nigeria, we are not a small group. And the population of the Igbo nation is larger than any existing independent African state with the exception of Ethiopia. So, why do you think you can pocket the Igbo people. If you don’t want them, why not allow them to be independent?
Some have accused Buhari of pursuing ethnic ‘Fulanisation’ agenda. Do you share that belief?
It’s not a belief, we look at statistics, statements. There are statements he made which have been quoted severally. He never denied them. Look at the appointments he has made so far, all the key appointments have been given to Hausa/Fulani Muslims. Majority of the service chiefs are from his own part of the country. So, what do you want us to say? Look at even appointments into the police hierarchy now. What type of thing is that? You want the country to be united, and the resources you are using to govern the country is coming from the Eastern Region, yet you do things like that. Are you not ashamed of yourself? Does it show that you are intelligent and that you want the country to stand? There is a level to which human beings should not play God.
You have a book that is coming up in which you said you traced the history of Nigeria, especially as it concerns…?
Yes, the book is about the history of Nigeria: Igbo nation and Biafra, Africa’s last colony. I’m just seeing the Igbo nation as a colony. It was colonised first by Britain and when they were leaving, they handed us over to the caliphate to recolonise. That’s what it is. And why was Nigeria colonised? Nigeria was colonised because of the rich resources in Southern Igbo land and the Niger Delta territories. That area is the richest part of Africa. That’s the reason the British colonised the area, they didn’t do so because of the North or the West. But when they went there to colonise, they discovered that the people there are the Igbo people whom they had known in history.
They knew that these people would be very difficult to contend with. So, they decided to create an omnibus federation by bringing in all kinds of people who have nothing at stake in order to create a nation-state of divided people that would be permanently under tension and crisis-ridden. That way, the indigenous people who own the rich economic resources would be under permanent slavery, just as you have in Southern Africa. That’s the history of Nigeria. And until you understand it from that perspective, you cannot explain the permanent turbulence of the Nigerian federation.
Chibuike John Nebeokike
For: Radio Biafra Media