….Col. Achuzia again!
….Ojukwu left two things for Ndigbo: Biafra and APGA
….Commends Obiano for honouring Igbo war heroes
By Nwabueze Okonkwo
ONITSHA – Col. Joe Achuzia (Retd.), a Biafran war veteran popularly known as the Biafran Hannibal recently played host to the Senior Special Assistant on political matters to Governor Willie Obiano of Anambra state, Hon. Arinzechukwu Awogu at his country home in Asaba, Delta state where he expressed appreciation on behalf of the Biafran war veterans to Obiano for fulfilling the duty the living owes the dead, by taking the bold step on January 12, 2015 to bury those who died during the Biafran civil war.
Achuzia, who is known for his frankness on topical issues, revealed that himself and the late Dim Chukwemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu had approached the then governor of Anambra state, Dr. Chinwoke Mbadinuju for a proposal to bury the dead in the Biafran war for which Mbadinuju agreed and made a parcel of land available at Uli in Ihiala Local Government Area of the state. He however expressed regret that Mbadinuju changed his mind and abandoned the plan when the then President Olusegun Obasanjo got wind of it and made trouble with Mbadinuju.
According to Col. Achuzia, “few months into the life of his administration, Gov. Willie Obiano invited Col. Ben Gbulie, Col. Emma Nwobosi, Col. E. M. Udeaja, myself and others and asked us to join in the drawing of a programme for the formal burial ceremony of dead Biafran war heroes Christened: “Ozoemezina” (Let it not happen again) and I laughed and asked Obiano” ‘can you stand the heat from the federal government?’ And the governor bluntly said: “if burying those who died during the Biafran war will take me to jail, I’m ready.”
Achuzia lamented that the Nigerian authorities have continued to frustrate and undermine the existence of Igbo/Biafra by upturning nearly every date that matters to Ndigbo. He said “the civil war ended on January 15th and we planned to be marking it every January 15th but the Nigerian authorities trivialized it by making January 15th their Armed Forces Remembrance Day.
And when we chose May 29 as the day to commemorate the genocide against Ndigbo, the Nigerian authorities decided to make the day Democracy Day Celebration. That was why Ohanaeze Ndigbo shifted Igbo Day to September 29th instead of May 29th.” He stressed the need for Anambra state and other states in the old Eastern region to always observe January 12th as public holiday in honour of those who died during the Biafran war since it was on January 12th that they were formally buried.
Col. Achuzia recalled that when the war ended, anyone who saw his fellow Biafran would tell him, “happy survival”. He went on to ask “what then do we say to the dead who were not fortunate to survive the war; Is it happy dead? Therefore, all we had to do for them was to formally give them a resting place which no one had the courage to do except Governor Willie Obiano”.
He further declared:”And considering the courage with which the governor buried the Biafran war victims at the expense of his office in worst case scenario, it will be preposterous for anyone to accuse the governor of being against the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, not to talk of having hands in the death of any Biafran activist or not doing anything at all to prevent the killing of pro-Biafra activists in his state”.
He revealed the motive behind the formation of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, maintaining that the survival of the political platform should be a concern to all Ndigbo.
He frowned at the suggestion that APGA is a mere political party insisting that APGA is the soul of Ndigbo which is at the heart of Igbo survival as an identity vehicle to Igbo quest to managing its own affairs politically.
Achuzia recalled that the two legacies bequeathed to Ndigbo by Dim Ojukwu were Biafra and APGA, adding that Ojukwu’s soul rested on these two legacies. He said that Ojukwu’s thought on Biafra was for a final abode where nobody could cross to harass his people, while APGA was founded as a platform to resist political limitations against Ndigbo in Nigeria.
He argued that since the first republic, Ndigbo were not only denied a shot at the presidency as no political party was willing to give them presidential ticket but were also prevented from having ideological political platform to rally round their own people.
Achuzia, a British trained Aeronautic engineer and one-time Secretary General of the apex Igbo socio-cultural organization, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, then commended Gov. Willie Obiano for living up to the dreams of APGA’s founding fathers, despite the challenges in human management.
He implored Obiano to ensure that APGA produces a presidential candidate in 2019 general election if Biafra has not been restored or actualized by then.
The fiery war commander revealed that it was Ojukwu’s desire to be on record that an Igbo runs for the presidency of Nigeria in every election year and that the Igbo should come together under a political platform and nurture it to national mainstream.
Achuzia who is now the Secretary-General of the Supreme Council of Elders of the Indigenous People of Biafra, SCE of IPOB world-wide, absolved Obiano of being a party to the gruesome murder of unarmed members of the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB at Nkpor and other locations in Anambra state on May, 30, 2016.
He recalled that the Amnesty International, AI had in its November, 2016 report accused Nigerian security forces of killing unarmed IPOB activists. Makmid Kamara, the Interim Director of AI Nigeria was quoted as saying: “By far the largest number of pro-Biafra activists were killed on Biafra Remembrance Day on 30 May 2016 when thousands of IPOB members and supporters gathered for a rally in Onitsha, Anambra State.
The night before the rally, the security forces raided homes and a church where IPOB members were sleeping. On Remembrance Day itself, the security forces shot people in several locations. AI has not been able to verify the exact number of extra-judicial executions, but estimates that at least 60 people were killed and 70 injured in these two days. The real number is likely to be higher”.
But in absolving Obiano of any involvement in the said killings, Achuzia said that he held a meeting with the then Anambra state Commissioner of Police, Hosea-Hassan Karma, now Assistant Inspector-General of Police in-charge of Zone 9, Umuahia, on the 29th of May 2016 where they agreed on police non-interference with the event of the following day, May 30th.
He stressed that in that meeting, Karma had assured him that the police would stay away from the Biafra Remembrance Day event of May 30th; but that while himself and others had secured police consent and understanding for a hitch-free Biafra Remembrance Day celebration, they forgot that there was the army too.
The Biafan war legend who famed his heroic feat that gave him the name “Air Raid” during the 30-month old civil war, revealed that the bulk of IPOB members that moved from Asaba assembled and took off from his house in Asaba to cross the Niger bridge into Onitsha and regretted that Obiano’s name was being wrongly associated with the May 30th killings.
He however blamed the misinformation on people who believe in “hear say”, “people who were far from the scene but chose to believe anything they hear. “People who were not in the know of what actually happened preferred to absorb unfathomable lies for truth,” he said, as he insisted that Obiano was not a party to what the army did and should be left alone.
Achuzia, who at 90 is still mentally sound, thanked Awogu for deeming it fit to visit him as he marked his 90th birthday, saying that he bore the brunt of the civil war as he was thrown into jail for seven years after the war ended on the orders of the Federal Government under Gen. Yakubu Gowon.
He lamented that those who were in power at the end of the civil war did everything against his person because of his role in the civil war except that they didn’t harm him which he attributed to God’s will, and for him to live to clock 90 years can only be God’s extra-ordinary grace, he said.
Achuzia, a stormy petrel who does not mince words on topical issues, demanded that he, as a person, should be addressed as “a Biafran” as that reflects his true identity, stressing that he was particularly impressed with the way Obiano resolved the issue of the Boko Haram convicts who were brought to Ekwulobia, in Anambra state to spite Ndigbo and create a sense of apprehension among the people.
He affirmed that it is only a true son who could have wrestled the federal government into relocating the terrorists from Ekwulobia, pointing out that Obiano’s relocation of the Boko Haram convicts from Anambra state and the entire Igboland was the second frontal confrontation the governor was having in his defense of Ndigbo against the Nigerian establishment, the first being the governor’s insistence on burying Biafran war victims.
Responding, Awogu, SSA to Obiano on political matters, recalled that Col. Achuzia was the first chairman of APGA in Delta state and expressed happiness that the nonagenarian was still conscious of the survival of the APGA, as a party with Igbo identity and assured him that Obiano has worked exceptionally well to deserve a second term mandate from the Anambra electorate which according to him, would in turn energize the party.
Awogu however used the opportunity to call on Anambra electorate to not only ensure the continuity of APGA rule in Anambra state but to be ready to defend their votes on November 18, this year against manipulations.
The SSA maintained that Obiano’s administration was never in conflict with members and leadership of IPOB, adding that the state, as the cradle of the Igbo race would accommodate all shades of opinion, saying “We are not in conflict with our IPOB brothers”.
According to Awogu, “We are as a matter of principle on the same page with IPOB in the quest for a better treatment for our people and it is our view that with some degree of understanding and a little flexibility in our approaches to resolving the Igbo question, we could make Ndigbo win on all sides of our struggles for a better homeland”.
Awogu therefore wished him more years in good health as he continues to direct the affairs of the Biafrans as the most senior surviving member of the Biafran revolution.