By Clifford Ndujihe, Evelyn Usman, Anayo Okoli, Charles Kumolu, Jude Opara, Levinus Nwabughiogu, Nwabueze Okonkwo, Francis Igata & Marie-Therese Nanlong
LAGOS — DISTURBED by what increasing protests and agitation for a Biafra Republic portend, leaders of the apex Igbo socio-cultural organization, Ohanaeze Ndigbo and some affiliate groups have resolved to embark on wide consultations with all stakeholders to take a common position on the issue.
This was one of the decisions the leaders took after a two-day meeting in Lagos, yesterday, sources at the meeting told Vanguard.
The leaders, including Ohanaeze President-General, Chief Gary Enwo Igariwey; Professor George Obiozor; Second Republic politician, Chief Guy Ikokwu; National Secretary, Ohanaeze Youths, Okwu Nnabuike among others, when asked their view on Biafra, declined comments until the end of the consultations “in a few days.”
However, to ensure harmonious relations between Ndigbo and their hosts all over the world, especially in Nigeria, they prohibited the crowning of Eze Ndigbo outside Igboland. They specifically prohibited the use of the following appellations: His Royal Majesty, His Royal Highness, His Highness and His Imperial Majesty.
This came as President Muhammadu Buhari, yesterday, said that in spite of challenges, Nigerians are determined to remain together as a united country just as the pro-Biafra protests continued in Umuahia, the Abia State capital and at Nnamdi Kanu’s home. Nnamdi Kanu is the Director of Radio Biafra, who is still being detained by the Federal Government.
Meanwhile, the Nigeria Army has vowed to crush any insurrection and restore law and order, if called upon as Imo State Governor, Owelle Rochas Okorocha, after listening to leaders of the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra, MASSOB, called for urgent restructuring of the country to contain the widening disquiet and discontent.
Ohanaeze consults on Biafra, outlaws Eze Ndi Igbo in diaspora
It was gathered that given the sensitivity of the Biafra matter, Ohanaeze leaders have commenced consultations with prominent Igbo leaders on how to have a common stand on the issue.
Said the source: “Ohanaeze and some statesmen in Igbo land are being circumspect. But I can tell you that they are not on the same page on this sensitive matter. The good thing is that they want the country restructured in line with the recommendations of the National Confab.
“The South-East deserves an equitable share in this country, but as things are today, the zone is obviously marginalised. That is what those boys are protesting for. They want a country where every region will be treated fairly. I can assure you that Ndigbo will speak with one voice on the issue in a matter of days.”
In the interim, Ohanaeze Ndigbo outlawed the crowing of Eze Ndigbo outside Igboland, warning that no Igbo leader in diaspora should flaunt himself as a traditional ruler.
The group said at a forum jointly convened by the Igbo-speaking Community Lagos State, Aka Ikenga, Otu Okaiwu and Ndigbo Lagos to address the controversies surrounding the existence of Eze Igbo in diaspora.
A communiqué signed by Igariwey; National Secretary of Ohanaeze Youth Wing, Mr. Okwu Nnabuike and other Igbo leaders in attendance, warned that any Eze found violating the order on the crowning of Eze Ndi-Igbo would be sanctioned.
The statement read in part: “Under the leadership of Ohanaeze Ndi-Igbo on November 15, 2015, it was agreed that the crowning of Eze Ndi-Igbo outside Igbo land is hereby prohibited until the final regulation and pronouncement by the apex body of Ndi Igbo leadership.
“None of the Ezes has any right whatsoever to use the appellations of the title: His Royal Majesty, His Royal Highness, His Highness and His Imperial Majesty.
None of the Ezes has any right whatsoever to use such titles on their complimentary cards and signboards.”
Our people want to remain together — Buhari
Speaking at the launching of the 2016 Armed Forces Remembrance Emblem at the Presidential Villa, Buhari said: “Today’s occasion reminds us of the need to appreciate the noble contributions of our fallen heroes who paid the supreme sacrifice to maintain national and international peace and security.
“Our nation has recently celebrated 55 years of political independence and continues to remain as one indivisible entity despite several grievous challenges. Since independence, Nigeria has witnessed a lot of internal strife, survived a civil war and has remained united.
“This feat achieved by the country is an eloquent testimony to the determination of our citizens to remain as one people. The sacrifices of our fallen heroes, heroines, and veterans who rose up to the security challenges cannot go unnoticed.
Pro-Biafra group protest in Umuahia, Nnamdi Kanu’s home town
Pro-Biafra protesters, yesterday, carried their “release Nnamdi-Kanu” protest to Umuahia and the home town of Nnamdi Kanu, marching through the major streets of the city under the watch of security agents.
The protesters, who are members of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and MASSOB demanded the release of the promoter of Radio Biafra, Nnamdi Kanu, who was arrested by the Department of State Services (DSS) over alleged anti-Nigerian Government comments on Radio Biafra.
The march in Umuahia was part of the threat by the pro-Biafra groups to take the protest to all the states of the South-East before going to Abuja, if Kanu was not released.
However, economic and social activities were not disrupted as offices, markets and shops remained open as residents went about their normal businesses. Numbering about 500, the protesters peacefully marched through Isi Court in Umuahia South Local Council, through Aba and Umuwaya, Bende and Enugu roads. They marched around the city carrying the portrait of Kanu and the Biafran flag while chanting songs of freedom.
Meanwhile, before the arrival of the protesters, a combined team of security agencies including police, army and civil defence had mounted surveillance at strategic locations in the city like the Government House and Isi Gate even as convoy of heavily armed security personnel patrolled the city with armoured personnel carrier.
Earlier, before the protesters surfaced, Abia Government had said in a radio announcement that it received disturbing reports that some people under the aegis of MASSOB had planned to disrupt the peace of Umuahia on Monday, and alleged that it was being sponsored by an unnamed politician.
Signed by the new Information Commissioner, Comrade Bonnie Iwuoha, the government said: “While appreciating the rights of citizens to air their views in a democracy, government will not condone lawless acts that could impede the progress of the State.”
Release Kanu, Ibeku monarchs urge FG
Traditional rulers from Ibeku Ancient Kingdom have appealed to the Federal Government to release one of their subjects, Nnamdi Kanu. According to the traditional rulers, their appeal was based on the fact that Kanu has the right to express his views in a democratic environment.
The Ibeku monarchs who spoke through the chairman of their umbrella union of Ibeku Traditional Rulers Council, Eze Henry Ezekwe, expressed worry that they could lose an illustrious son like Nnmadi Kanu if nothing is done urgently, saying Kanu has not committed any extraordinary offence to warrant his long incarceration and warned that if any harm befalls him, they would react appropriately.
The monarch lamented that the clan had lost prominent men in the past such as General Aguiyi Ironsi, saying they would not want to lose Prince Nnamdi Kanu.
In their contribution, Eze John Ibezim and Eze Chiabu Emelike urged President Buhari to listen to the demands of the agitators and international best practices on such issues instead of resorting to use of force against them.
The traditional rulers called on the President to address issues of marginalization and neglect which are some of the things the pro-Biafra groups are complaining about.
I’ll be alive to actualize Biafra —Uwazuruike
Leader of MASSOB, Chief Ralph Uwazuruike, yesterday, charged members of the movement to remain steadfast and focused in the revolutionary struggle, saying the non-violence method adopted by MASSOB had become a source of worry to the so-called northern socio-cultural group, Arewa Consultative Forum, ACF, and the Nigerian military.
Uwazuruike insisted that there was no going back in his bid to actualize Biafra now or never, stressing that he is in the struggle for freedom not for any other person but for his own children who he said desire a free country where their lives and property can be guaranteed for security.
The MASSOB leader, who spoke through the Deputy National Director for Information, Mazi Chris Mocha, weekend, at a special meeting of Enugu West Senatorial District, in Nachi, Udi Local Government Area of Enugu State, lamented that since Nigeria got her independence in 1960, it had never guaranteed security of lives and property of Ndigbo, a situation which he claimed persuaded him to seek independence of Biafra.
Army warns against felony, threatens to use force
The Nigerian Army, yesterday, said that it would not hesitate to use necessary force within its Rules of Engagement, ROE, to suppress any insurrection,if directed by President Buhari .
To this effect, it warned agitators for actualisation of Republic of Biafra, saying that it would not fold its hands and watch them endanger the security of the country,
Reviewing the Nigerian Army Rules of Engagement at the 81 Division Officers Mess, Victoria Island, the General Officer Commanding 81 Division, Major General Isido Edet, said the Nigerian Army was constitutionally obligated to, among other things, suppress insurrection and act in aid of civil authority to restore order when called upon to do so by the President.
He said: “It is in the public domain that certain elements are agitating for seccession. Though they have been counselled by elder statesmen that such exercise is not for the good of Nigerians because we have gone through that lane before. We had a civil war and in some areas we are yet to overcome the consequences of the civil war. For people to start talking about the dismemberment of the country is the most unfortunate thing at this point in time in our country.
‘’The Nigerian Army would like to send an unequivocal warning to all and sundry, more specifically, to all those threatening and agitating for the dismemberment of the country, those committing treasonable felony and arson as well as wanton destruction of lives and property that once the army is deployed, we shall apply ROE to the letter.”
He, however, wished that the present situation in the South-East region of the country would not degenerate into a situation whereby the army would be deployed, saying it could lead to the enforcement of its ROE to the fullest.
He also warned officers and soldiers not to take sides in any conflict or aid and abet any act of arson, vandalism or unprofessional conduct, threatening that anyone found culpable would face the consequences.
Major General Edet also assured Lagosians that there was no cause for alarm over report on the influx of terrorists into the country, disclosing that the 81 division was fully at alert.
Edet’s warning to the Biafran agitators was also re-echoed by the 82 Division of the Nigerian Army, which in a statement by Army Director of Public Relations,Colonel Hamza Gambo, regretted that activities of MASSOB, IPOB and other affiliate groups have led to an increased sense of insecurity across the regions.
Also, the General Officer Commanding the 3rd Division of the Nigerian Army, Hassan Umaru, said at a press conference in Maxwell Kobe Cantonment, Rukuba, Plateau State, yesterday that “the Nigerian Army would like to send an unequivocal warning to all and sundry, more specifically to all those threatening and agitating for the dismemberment of the country, committing treasonable felony and arson as well as wanton destruction of lives and property.
“Once deployed, we shall apply the ROE to the latter. It is, however, hoped that such circumstances would not arise that we should be deployed on such operations because, within the ambit of the law, we shall apply the ROE to the fullest,” he said.
FG must halt Pro-Biafra agitations —Makinde
Former member of the House of Representatives, Hon. Rotimi Makinde, however urged the Federal Government to halt the agitations because they are politically motivated.
His words: “As a patriotic Nigerian, I condemn in strong terms the potential threat to Nigeria’s unity as a result of the activities of some pro-Biafra groups, which I believe is politically motivated by some treacherous individuals.
“Nigerians have put behind them the ugly memories of 1967 to 1970; Nigeria was the theatre of a cruel and bloody civil war that is commonly known as Biafra War. The conflict allegedly originated from internal crisis such as tribalism and political failures of the civil government after the independence, as well from external influences by the ex-colonial powers. The war, which ended with Biafra surrender, confirmed the military as holder of power starting a long period of political dominance in Nigeria history.
“Unfortunately, those who are currently behind the protests are youths who have little or no idea of what the war cost Nigerians as well as the collateral damage the country suffered as a result of the 30 months war. Although I believe very strongly that the campaign was being driven by just a few people, though it is true that, majority of the Igbo people do not share this secessionist view.
We must restructure Nigeria now —Okorocha
To curtail the pro-Biafra protests and other problems in the country, Governor Okorocha called for the immediate restructuring of the country. Okorocha gave the advice, yesterday, in Abuja while delivering a lecture on “Managing Change in a Democracy” during the FRCN 2015 Annual Lecture.
He said it was worrisome that since the nation’s independence in 1960, it is still battling with how to coexist as one nation devoid of all the numerous problems of ethnicity and religion.
Okorocha, who also spoke of his meeting with leaders of the secessionists MASSOB said Nigeria must wake up from its present position, which he described as a sleeping giant to begin to do things like most other nations of the world who take the issue of their citizens seriously.
“There is a major issue that we must address urgently in Nigeria and that is the issue of unity of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Today, I must say that the only force holding Nigeria is God because all the qualities and qualifications of nations that have broken, all of them are here and all the characteristics of a broken nation are in Nigeria. Look at the insurgency in the North-East, the crisis in the South and the last election we had, yet we are still together, it means that God is not done with us yet, we must thank God but we must also not take this grace of God for granted.
“Our main problem is tribalism and sectionalism, some few months ago when President Jonathan was in power. Some people from the South-South and the Christians said it was their time. Today it is President Buhari and some local Nigerians will say it is the time for northerners and Muslims. No nation can develop in that manner.
“When the issue of MASSOB came, they ended their rally in Owerri three days ago in Imo State and it was meant to be the main rally where the catastrophe and destruction will happen. The information came to me that MASSOB was coming to Imo State. With the consent of the President and the Service Chiefs, I said no shooting, give them proper escort. So they were followed with armoured tanks and military vehicles and they went round, prayed at every junction and ended up in Imo State without a drop of blood.
“But in the night, my chief of staff told me that he got a call from somebody that the leadership of MASSOB wanted to see me, so I called Mr. President and intimated him and he said I should go ahead and receive them. So by 11 pm MASSOB arrived my house. When they came in you could see people that for a very long time did not care to take their bath and the first stood up to say ‘I am Late Dr. so, so and so, another said ‘I am late Barr. Or Late Chief so, so and so’ and I told them that I don’t communicate with dead people since they have ‘late’ attached to their names. But they told me they have their reasons.
“They said that some of them were killed in the North-East and they ran back home, they are not doing anything and most of them are orphans and their children cannot go back to school and nobody cares to listen to them. They also told me that they were part of the Niger Delta that caused the problems there but when they gave them amnesty, they were not given after surrendering their arms.
Third, they told me that in Lagos they locked up their shops and the traditional ruler said they should jump into the lagoon. Number four, that they have more than 160 corpses of their members litered all over the country without burial. Number five, they said they want God to hear them. When I asked if it is the reason they want to declare a nation, they said they want everybody to know that the issue that led to Biafra is still there. It is an ill wind that blows nobody any good, sometimes our leaders have a role to play because every unemployed youth in this country is a time bomb.”