Why Biafra agitation can’t stop
Foremost nationalist and outspoken elder statesman, Chief Mbazulike Amaechi, in this interview with Saturday Sun was his usual vocal self. The First Republic Minister of Aviation, cried out that the Igbo have been treated as slaves in Nigeria, and justified the agitations of separatist groups like MASSOB and IPOB. He also spoke on the current economic downturn ravaging the country, the brouhaha that surrounded President Muhammadu Buhari’s medical vacation and other national issues. He spoke with HENRY OKONKWO in his country home in Ukpor.
There is so much hardship in the country now with ordinary Nigerians even finding it difficult to feed, and unemployment has soared so high because companies are grinding to a halt. Many blame the situation on the activities and inaction of the past PDP government. With whom do you stand on this?
No doubt, the misgovernment of the PDP contributed. Not just the PDP but all political parties that ruled in the past. For example, I was advocating in many public statements, in the era of Presidents Olusegun Obasanjo and Goodluck Jonathan and down to the governors of the two eras that government should not squander all the excess revenue from oil- when the price of crude oil got shot-up so much. I said that government should continue to save, and save massively from the surprising gains against the rainy day, because the rainy day must surely come. I said that in many of my public statements, but nobody listened to me. Nobody took me seriously.
And so the Federal Government under the pressure of the governors squandered all the surplus wealth of those era. They decided on grabbing and sharing the whole money. Some of the governors took the money in the form of what they called ecological purposes and the money was frittered away. The ecology was their bank accounts. The ecology was their bank accounts with strange names and companies they formed. And the people in political position in government were looting in their own side. Even public and civil servants were looting but you see what is happening now, a situation where over $9.7 million would be found in somebody’s house. If he kept so much at home, you can imagine how much he kept in his foreign and other local accounts not bearing his true name.
So, the past government stole the country dry. But this government came up and instead of improving the situation, has left the country in a crisis situation, and worsened by the global recession in the economy. Instead of declaring unofficial state of emergency and mobilizing all hands to salvage the country, they are being myopically narrow-minded. So terribly narrow-minded about it and believing that they alone have the magic wand; and then using most of the people who are thieves themselves and had in the past contributed to bleeding the country dry. So, there’s no sincerity even in the present government.
Look at their fight against corruption. It is purely selective. All right, look at the attempt to run the country as a dictatorship, the attempt to destroy the only viable opposition party in the country, PDP. It is created and funded by the government through the APC to destroy the opposition. Even the government using courts, and one particular federal High court judge; giving criminal judgements and frivolous court injuctions. What kind of a country is that?
Don’t you think your knowledge would be more beneficial to the country if you go on to be active in politics or even join any of the political parties we have?
The parties we have here are limited liability companies, a conglomeration of strange bedfellows who have come together to see whether they can grab power in order to steal; that is the purpose of the political parties we have in the country
All of them?
All most all of them without any exception. PDP was a conglomeration of strange bed fellows, no ideological link or connection whatsoever. What brought them together was the opportunity to grab power. They grabbed the power, and they started looting from every corner, until the APC came up two or three years ago. Not to be a patriotic party, but to form their own looting conglomerate. Some of the leaders of the APC are notorious and well established rouges in their state; either when they were governors of the state, or when they were holding key offices in the state. So, there’s no difference.
Well, as for the other smaller parties, it is all the same thing. The propensity for wealth is so pervading among the various political parties, that you don’t call them nationalist or patriotic organisation.
With this kind of political parties and leadership, what then do you foresee as the way forward?
The exploitation is getting so protracted, that I see a repair very difficult. EFCC, ICPC are created to fight corruption. You can see they have not been effective in the fight for corruption. Even they themselves are not clean. The people leading them are more corrupt and are bigger thieves than the people they want to investigate. They tell you they recover money, but the ones they recover and don’t want to tell you, what about them. Even the one they recovered from the thieves has been re-stolen by some officials in these agencies.
So, my fear is that this tendency for established corruption in government has been so long in years. And it has stayed so much and there’s no end to it, that a solution may be very difficult, because if it becomes part of the body, either the country will collapse economically and consequentially politically. Or it will lead to a chaotic crisis where people will start fighting, doing criminal things and so forth. It will lead to total collapse.
The president’s seven weeks absence over ill health was a major issue over the days. What do you make of the whole unease?
It shows a country that is seriously and terminally sick. The whole country is seriously sick not just the president. Because when everything is in such a chaotic condition, the economy, the security and the very unity of the country itself, it is in serious chaotic condition. And the president is critically ill and there’s no way of handling the situation. It means not just the president is ill but the country is ill. And a solution has to be found.
I’m not a doctor or a medical man. And I haven’t the opportunity of examining the president. But if it is that the president is still really sick enough that he is not in a position physically to continue running the country in our present difficulties, in our present crisis, then I would call for his replacement by the vice-president. I definitely would recommend that the VP be sworn in as the substantive president. And then he would assume an honourable position as somebody who brought out himself to run a country, but nature and circumstance or poor health has prevented him from doing so.
But statements from the APC and supporters of the President said the whole hoopla concerning his health situation is unnecessary. That the president is human, and is liable to get ill at a time…
That’s what I’m saying. The President is liable to get ill at a time. But if the president as a human being gets ill now, and that illness makes it impossible to stay and run a country of 200 million people, the lives of 200 million people, the security of 200 million people, the living of 200 million people, the existence of 200 million in this country is more than an individual and a political party. That is what I’m saying. It would be patriotic for a president who physically can no longer run a country to stand aside. That is real patriotism. And not the myopic idea of a political party or supporters; afterwards, it is the same VP of the APC that should be sworn in. This country should learn to do the right thing without caring whose ox is gored.
But don’t you think the North might feel cheated or robbed because by right, power was ceded to the zone?
Okay by right. If it is by right and God says ‘no, it is not your right’. Who are they to counter the will of God? Who gave them the right to rule the rest of Nigeria as their colony? The North, of the 56 years of independence of this country, has ruled Nigeria for 42 years. The North has ruled this country both as military and civilian for 42 years. What more are they talking about. What right are they talking about? What about the Eastern part of the country that fought for the independence of the country. They spearheaded the fight for the independence of the country, yet they have never ruled the country freely for any period other than the six months of the military era when Aguiyi Ironsi was there. What right have they to say it’s their right to rule? Who gave them that right? And it is this claiming of right that is going to split this country. This is what is going to lead to the painful situation of this country breaking up.
Talking about ‘breaking up’, the South-East has consistently proclaimed that the region has been grossly marginalized. This has triggered discordant but very vocal agitation for power to be ceded to the region, while others spearhead moves to secede from Nigeria. Which in your opinion is best for Ndi-Igbo; to be president of Nigeria or to have their own nation in Biafra?
Personally, Mbazulike Amechi believes in one strong big country. I fought for that. That was a strong ideological gum binding the nationalists of our era, both in the National Convention of Nigerian Citizens (NCNC) and the Zikist Movement. So, ideologically, I believe in one united big country run democratically, in which equity and justice prevail.
Unfortunately, that is what I see now. The Igbo race to which I belong in which God created me has been marked out since the civil war, and after the civil war, for almost destruction and total enslavement. The Igbo have been treated in Nigeria not as partners in a federation, not even as junior partners in a federation but as serfs, as slaves. And it’s a situation no nationalist would tolerate. No true blooded Igbo man would tolerate that any longer. And so the agitation that is on now either as IPOB or MASSOB is justified and right. I’m not saying that the breaking away and forming another country is the best solution, but such a situation would be better than remaining a slave in another country as we are being treated now.
Look at the way the Igbo are being treated in Nigeria. Look at the way we’re being killed. They are using the armed forces, and security forces to kill Ndi-Igbo. Young men meet in a non-violent demonstration, they maul them down in their hundreds. They rise to protest against a situation, they are gunned down in their hundreds. And the atrocious part of it is that when they are killed thus, the killers, murderers, police and the army take away the dead bodies of these Igbo youths, dump them into tippers, use caterpillars and excavators to dig a hole, tip them in to the hole and bury them alive. And you know the Igbo value their dead bodies. When an Igboman dies in Lagos, even if he has no money to feed himself in his lifetime, the Igbo around him gather money to bring his body back home. That is the extent to which the Igbo value and honour their dead. That is what is being denied the youth being killed. They kill them at Aba. They kill them at Nkpor. They kill them at Onitsha. They kill them at Enugu. And apart from the killings, since the Buhari government came into power, they’ve released properly trained killers called herdsmen and armed them with the most sophisticated military weapons to come and help in killing the Igbo. But the painful aspect of the whole thing is Igbo governors, Igbo Christian religious leaders, Igbo traditional rulers, Igbo business bodies instead of coming together to say ‘Ah-ah, this killings must not continue’, they are all lying timidly silent and quiet.
The governors are not concerned; they are more interested in local government revenue, the money from security votes and so forth. The traditional leaders are too timid to come out, stand up and say something. The bishops and other Christian religious leaders we have in Igboland are not saying anything. Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) of the South East should have come together and started a fight to correct this. But they are not doing anything.
So when IPOB and MASSOB started, people say it is an association of young men, and that they have a right to agitate. But the way the government is penalizing them has popularized them and their agitation has become popular now in Igboland. I don’t know if you understand what I’m saying. When they started, people didn’t attach much importance to them but the treatment of government to them has made them popular and their leaders heroes. And if you don’t take care, it would lead to a situation where 90 per cent of Igbo would now say ‘let us join these groups because we want to get out of this country’. That is where it would lead if the Federal Government continues to look at them the way they are treating them. If they are agitating for a separate country, Scotland in Great Britain agitated for a separation of great Britain, three or four years ago. A plebiscite was ordered and majority of the people voted ‘No’ and that was the end of it. Today in America, California after Trump’s election have started agitation for separation from the union. They have not mowed them down; they have not killed them the way the Igbo are being killed. And our leaders are remaining dumb and timid.
So which do you suggest is good enough for Ndi-Igbo- a president of Igbo origin or secession from Nigeria?
What I’m saying is instead of remaining as slaves, ideally I would support everything to be done to have a country, but it must be a country in equity, justice and equality of the partners that are federating, but if we cannot have that, instead of remaining enslaved, it is better we go our separate ways peacefully.
APC as a party didn’t do too well in the South East during the last general elections. But presently, they are making concerted efforts to penetrate the zone. And many political bigwigs from the South East have been defecting to the APC…
Opportunism! It is all opportunism. The politics of this day is opportunism. Not on principle or ideological inspiration or inclination. It is all opportunism. They feel that is where the power is now, so let’s troop over there. They would troop over there and become what they were in the PDP.
But these politicians have said they defected to protect the interest of their people.
That is what they would tell you. They would tell you give me power so that I would give you heaven and earth. And when they get the power, they steal you dry. It is opportunism because they think they would find better opportunities in the APC. But they would all flock in the APC, start their agitation for who would be in charge, then break up the thing. For example in Anambra State, they have destroyed the PDP. The people who destroyed the PDP are now flocking into the APC. In no time, they would destroy the APC of the state again.