Biafra cannot be actualised without Nigeria’s support, says Uwazuruike
Chief Ralph Uwazuruike founded the Movement for the Actualisation of Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) 18 years ago. About two years ago, he reformed the movement and christened it Biafra Independent Movement (BIM). In this interview with Charles Ogugbuaja in Owerri, he spoke on the issues surrounding the agitation for a sovereign Biafra, state of the Southeast region, IPOB activities and other topical issues.
Why do you change your approach to the Biafra struggle after your incarceration by the Olusegun Obasanjo government?
Nothing has changed. How do you expect me to be talking everyday. This is an agitation. I have championed it for 18 years. I have a framework, ideology and vision. I have trained so many people in the struggle, the good; the bad and the ugly. If splinter groups are clamouring for violence, my ideology is not to join them. My title is Ijele Ndigbo, meaning the biggest masquerade in Igboland. Ijele doesn’t talk anyhow. He doesn’t come out anyhow. If anybody expects me to talk everyday, shouting like children, that person is not fair to me. I have laid down a framework through non-violent approach.
If anybody feels that he could achieve Biafra through violence, let him go ahead. We are watching. Do you understand it? Let us watch. Nobody should expect me to join issues with people I trained; people I brought up and recruited.
But many believed you compromised and politicised the Biafran struggle?
Compromised over what? Why should I compromise? What should make me to compromise in the first place? When I started the struggle, some people antagonised and persuaded me to compromise, but I refused. I went through hell. I was incarcerated severally.
I suffered. I was in prison when my mother died. Is it now that I will compromise? What have I not achieve with the struggle? When I started it no Igbo man has been Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Inspector General of Police (IGP), Chief of Army Staff. But through me, they got all of them. So why should I compromise now?
Were there attempts to compromise you?
People tried to do so, but they failed because I will not compromise no matter the situation. I am in the struggle for my children not for Ndigbo, because Ndigbo do not appreciate good things. When I say biological children, other children are also inclusive. I am not doing it for Ndigbo. Ndigbo will never appreciate it. Look at all these people on the social media platforms fanning the embers of war. When I look at them, I laugh. They say they are in the Diaspora and they demonstrate everyday. Demonstrating for what? For Biafra? What do they know about Biafra? They contribute money and give to another person. Have they contributed one Naira for Uwazurike before? Ndigbo are very ungrateful people. So, when they say compromise, did they vote for me in the first place to start the struggle? I came up to fight against injustice. Has the injustice been reversed to make me compromise? I enumerated so many things I have achieved through the struggle but I am not satisfied because the main issue has not been addressed. The issue is for an Igbo man to be safe wherever he resides in the federation; for an Igbo man to be regarded as equal to his counterpart from other ethnic groups in Nigeria. Has it been addressed?
A situation where an Igbo man will be given a quit notice in Nigeria, has it been addressed? So what will make me to compromise? Is it money? Am I a money monger? Is money the issue when I started? Is it to get money? Am I not a lawyer? Am I not close to 30 years at the Bar? Am I a jobless man? The person who says I have been compromised don’t understand my motivations. Did the person discuss with me to start the struggle? Why then should he insinuate that I have compromised? What has happened? Have those making the allegation brought one Naira to support the struggle?
Do you think Biafran independence is realisable in the present Nigeria?
It depends on what you mean. Let me tell you, when Nnamdi Kanu and his boys started jumping all over the place, saying Biafra or death, what do you understand? You were there when I started in 1999, why didn’t he come and talk of Biafra? Now they are even running and hiding. These are those who want Biafra dead. Is it by being talkative that Biafra will be actualised?
Now, you ask yourself, what did the originator of the Biafran struggle want? What did Odumegwu Ojukwu want? What does Uwazurike want? Ojukwu’s Biafra was sort of defence mechanism. Igbo were being killed everywhere in Nigeria and he was the governor of Eastern region and he said instead of killing my people, leave us alone. There was no time Ojukwu wanted to be a secessionist. But our people are not safe in Nigeria in the North and West and he said please leave us alone. Don’t kill my people while they are here. That is the meaning of Biafra today.
All these people who come up to say Biafra or death, but which Biafra are they talking about? When you begin to talk of a nation, you think and articulate what you want. I told you what I want. I want a place where Igbo man will be safe first. When you are talking about Biafra or death, am I sure that in your Biafra, the Igbo man will be safe? When your Biafra is anchored on lies, propaganda, fake news, foul language and hate language, you cannot succeed. If our Biafran cannot be better than Nigeria, we have no business having it, because you are seeking a Biafra that thrives on lies and foul language.
The Biafran I want is realistic. Look, this thing is not a do or die affair. It has to go with time. It has to go with consensus agreement, dialogue and comradeship. There is no way Biafra can be achieved without the support of Nigeria. It is not possible. Whether the United Nations, United States or Russia, if Nigeria does not support Biafra, it can’t work.
What were your other achievements in Igbo land since you started this struggle?
Yes, we have achieved other things. For the very first time, Ndigbo were taken seriously in the Nigerian equation. It was since I started the struggle that the clamour for Second Nigeria Bridge became loud. You see, when you lack knowledge as a person, self-expression becomes self-assertion. When you don’t know anything, you hear Uwazuruike saying Biafra and you jumped out because I appointed you Director of Radio Biafra. You jumped out saying you want to achieve Biafra. But do you know what Uwazurike has in mind? You want to achieve Biafra dead or alive. You don’t have anything on ground. You want to be popular. Where is he now? He ran away after sacrificing lives of thousands of Igbo. Have I ever run away in this struggle before? Have I ever been declared wanted in this struggle before? But if you want to arrest me, I will come to the Police Station and ask you to arrest me. So, why is he running? Is he is a coward?
How can Ndigbo actualise their aspiration in Nigeria?
Some many people are talking about many things. Some are talking about restructuring. Politicians are always interested in the things that make them to get power. When they talk about restructuring, they want to either be Vice President, Senate President or senators. What is uppermost in my mind is the life of the ordinary Igbo man wherever he resides in Nigeria. If there is a guarantee today that Hausas will not kill Igbo if somebody abused their religion, I won’t talk about Biafra. If I am sure that the life of Igbo man is safe wherever he is in Nigeria, I won’t talk about Biafra.
Look, I am not talking about Biafra out of hysteria or just like a Lotus Eater. There are so many things that make me to talk about it. When I see the glaring inequality in Nigeria, I begin to talk, what will be the fate of my children in Nigeria?
My methodology is different because I am a learned man. I was in India for eight years, where I studied Law and Political Science. Before I started the struggle, I had to understudy Ojukwu again for 10 good years, working hand in hand with him. I started Biafra because I had a mission.