…Original plans of IPOB before it was hijacked
…Untold story of Nigerian-Biafra war, why Aburi Accord failed
…Gowon’s master stroke, Ojukwu’s political mistake
…How North worked against rotational presidency for six regions
By Onochie Anibeze
Emeka John Chigozie Emekesiri, the man who founded and nurtured Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, before it was hijacked, in this presentation to Igbo Congress at the 3rd Quarter Board / HOD Meeting, talks about the original plans of the body, how late former military Head of State, General Sani Abacha, was impressed by their master plan as presented by late Vice President Alex Ekwueme, and how the plan failed.
He went back to history and revealed why General Yakubu Gowon reneged on the Aburi Accord, the role Ken Saro-Wiwa played, and the political mistake of Chief Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, who led the Biafran secession. The Imo State-born lawyer, pastor, estate surveyor & valuer, and management consultant revealed that the original plan of IPOB was to achieve a strong, united and well-developed Igbo nation in a united Nigeria before any other consideration. Read on:
On early struggle for self-determination by Biafran people
In the struggle for self-determination of the Biafran people, I am the founder, originator and vision bearer of the movement of Indigenous People of Biafra established by the authority of the Supreme Council of Elders of Indigenous People of Biafra under the leadership of late Igbo icons: His Royal Majesty, His Lordship, the Honourable Justice Eze Ozobu OFR; Dr Dozie Ikedife, OON; Brig Gen Joe Achuzia; and Chief Barr Debe Odumegwu-Ojukwu. Although these founding fathers have joined our ancestors, the struggle for self-determination continues on the same foundation they laid. Today, I will speak on what the Igbo people want and how they can achieve what they want.
What the Igbo people want and how to achieve it
The Igbo people are known to be very friendly and hard working believing in fairness, equity and justice. They believe in the concept of reward for hard work and not reward for laziness. In the traditional Igbo society, we had no beggar and it was a shameful thing to be a beggar. The Igbo people are daring and adventurous, taking risks to succeed where others fail.
They love themselves and also love strangers even more than they love their own brothers. Anywhere they settle down in this world, they make the place to look like their own home. They contribute in the development of their places of habitation in all parts of the world.
They know that the Government in Nigeria has failed them at all levels and therefore they do not rely or depend on the Government but on their individual and community efforts. However, some of us have observed that the individualistic tendency is getting to an unacceptable extreme contrary to the Igbo Philosophy of “Igwe Bu Ike”, “Ike Otu Onye Adighi Ire”; “Anyukoo Mamiri Onu, Ogbaa Ufufu”. These are Igbo Philosophies that preach the power of unity and synergy of teamwork. This is the strength we are lacking now and which we must regain in order to succeed as a nation not as individuals.
Putting our House in order by Effective Leadership and Followership in the Igbo Nation
The psyche of the Igbo society was destroyed after the war between Biafra and Nigeria. Before the war, there was orderliness and effective governance in the whole Igbo nation by the Elders of the land right from the Family Head to the Community Head. If you brought a large sum of money home without a visible source of income, the Family Head or Elders of the Village would invite you to explain how you made the money. If your source or sources of wealth and riches were questionable, they would ostracise you from the Village Meeting. They believed that good name was better than silver and gold. Their philosophy was “Ezi Afa Ka Ego” (good name is better than money). The youths who misbehaved were brought to the Village Square and flogged as a deterrent to others.
There was a strong foundation of godliness, morality, honesty, integrity, fear and respect for elders and constituted authorities in the land. Thus, there was orderliness anchored on effective leadership and followership in the Igbo Nation. The Igbo Union was the powerbase of the Igbo Nation where decisions were made in the interest of the entire Igbo people in Nigeria.
Today, the youths of the present generation have lost their bearing. They have decided to wander in the wilderness like sheep without a shepherd even though the old shepherds from the old generation are still alive and willing to guide the youths to the Promised Land. Unfortunately, most of the youths of today have become unteachable and corrigible.
The major problem in the Igbo Nation now is the spirit of rebellion among the youths. In fact, almost all Igbo organizations have split into many factions because of insubordination and rebellion. I have a bitter experience on this issue.
When I came into the Biafra Struggle, the first thing I did was to create an Organization under the Elders of the Land so that all the Biafran activists would be properly guided and protected. This was why I created the body known as INDIGENOUS PEOPLE OF BIAFRA to represent all the remnants of the Biafrans not consumed in the war which Dr Dozie Ikedife abbreviated to IPOB in 2013.
Even though I created the movement, I did not make myself the Leader but only described myself as the Solicitor for Indigenous People of Biafra because I was the person who filed the case between Biafra and Nigeria.
The Honourable Justice Eze Ozobu was the Leader. Dr Ikedife was the Deputy Leader. Col Achuzia was the Secretary-General. In short, the Elders were in charge and the youths were obedient to their Elders. It was a glorious movement respected by the Nigerian Authorities.
Unfortunately, the person we put in our Media Department, who came from MASSOB and joined us, introduced the spirit of rebellion and insubordination in the Movement. He announced on the Radio that he had dissolved the Supreme Council of Elders of Indigenous People of Biafra and had become the leader and founder of Indigenous People of Biafra. He accused our Elders of being traitors and saboteurs. The Elders ostracised him and he created his own faction of Indigenous People of Biafra and registered it in the Company House in London as Indigenous People of Biafra Ltd. The same spirit of rebellion followed him and after some years, some of his followers also broke away and created their own faction. Now, there are many factions of IPOB.
The rebellious children did not stop there. They wanted to do the same thing to Ohanaeze Ndigbo. They applied to the Corporate Affairs Commission Abuja and registered Ohanaeze Ndigbo General Assembly as a corporate organization. They announced that the original Ohanaeze Ndigbo is not registered. They described the original Ohanaeze Ndigbo as “Ohanaeze Ndioshi”. Unfortunately for them, they thought that the Nigerian Law is like the British Law. Their coup against Ohanaeze Ndigbo failed and their certificate was withdrawn by the Corporate Affairs Commission.
They did not know that Customary Law is part of the Nigerian Legal System and Customary Institutions are not registered. In fact, the major characteristic of customary law is that it is unwritten. Ohanaeze Ndigbo is a customary institution that does not exist on a piece of paper called Certificate of Registration. The Federal Government of Nigeria and the International Community know this and respect the Leadership of Ohanaeze Ndigbo. It is a customary institution that remains valid even if Nigeria disintegrates just like the Nzuko Umunna of my village. I will not be surprised that one of these rebellious children may someday go to the Company House and register Nzuko Umunna Ltd and obtain a certificate of registration!
For the Igbo Nation to move forward and achieve its goals, we must have effective leadership and followership. This is why we have made it clear that Ohanaeze Ndigbo is the APEX Igbo Organization. Every other Igbo organization must become an affiliate to Ohanaeze Ndigbo. The membership of Ohanaeze Ndigbo is automatic by birth just like the membership of the Nzuko Umunna of my village. You do not need registration to become a member of Ohanaeze Ndigbo.
Without disciplinary measures, there will be no effective leadership and followership. The rebellious children are emboldened by the lack of controls and punishments in the Igbo National Politics. They may think that nothing can be done to them. They may have riches and wealth and connections in high places but a pronouncement of ostracism by the Leadership of Ohanaeze Ndigbo against them will certainly subject their names to generational shame and opprobrium. I therefore advise the Leadership of Ohanaeze Ndigbo to pronounce ostracism against the rebellious coup plotters as a deterrent to others. There must be discipline and orderliness in the Igbo Nation otherwise we shall not achieve our goal.
The Goal of the Igbo Nation
The Igbo Nation believes in the concept of “Egbe Bere Ugo Bere” (Let the Eagle perch and let the Hawk also perch). We believe that the world is large enough to accommodate everybody. In the same way, we believe that Nigeria is large enough to accommodate everybody but if we are not accepted and accorded the same rights and privileges as given to other people, we shall leave Nigeria based on our philosophy that “Onye ajuru aju anaghi aju onwe ya” (He that is rejected does not reject himself).
Therefore, the Igbo Nation held the Mkpoko Igbo Conference in 1994 and drew a roadmap to restructure Nigeria and emancipate all the people of Nigeria from the institutionalised injustice and neo-colonialism entrenched in the Nigerian polity. The Conference was held in preparation for the Sani Abacha Constitutional Conference scheduled for the following year 1995.
During the Conference, the Igbo Intelligentsia made a constructive critique of the Aburi Accord and why it failed. I am aware that many people have blamed General Yakubu Gowon for the failure to implement the Aburi Accord. Yes, the buck stopped at his desk. He was ultimately responsible for the violation of the Aburi Accord but many people who are crying today joined in the betrayal and subversion of the will of the people expressed in the Aburi Accord.
Mr Ken Saro-Wiwa, in his book, “On a Darkling Plain”, Pages 61 – 62, said as follows: “When news came that general agreement had been reached at a cordial meeting in Aburi, there was general elation. Ojukwu returned and spoke in glowing terms of Aburi. He had virtually achieved his confederal aims; if the decisions of Aburi were implemented, there was little doubt that peace would return to Nigeria. The generality of Ibos were cock-a-hoop about Aburi- it was inconceivable that an Igbo would go to bargain with Hausa and fail to win. The non-Ibos, on the other hand, were dismayed: it looked as though the nation had sold them to the Ibos. In Rivers circles particularly, there was great agitation. Some showed their dismay openly.”
The Aburi Accord was signed on 5th January 1967. According to Mr Ken Saro-Wiwa, the non-Ibos were not happy with the Aburi Accord which created a confederation of regional governments. In the book, he told the story of how he took some of the chiefs in the riverine area and went to Lagos and defected to the Nigerian side and told General Gowon that the non-Ibos in Eastern Nigeria did not want to be joined with the Ibos in the same region and did not want Biafra.
Consequently, General Gowon violated the Aburi Accord and divided the Eastern Region into three on 27 May 1967 by creating three States, namely: East Central State with headquarters at Enugu; Rivers State with headquarters at Port Harcourt; and South Eastern State with headquarters at Calabar. Three days later, on 30 May 1967, Ojukwu declared the Republic of Biafra. This was a wrong move in political calculations because the region had already been divided three days earlier. It was a master stroke by General Gowon. The Rivers State and South Eastern State had been given their own separate political identities three days before Biafra was declared. The whole Eastern Region was no longer one entity on 30 May 1967.
Mr Ken Saro-Wiwa said that their rejection of Biafra and rejection of being together with the Ibos in the same region was based on their fear that the Igbo people would dominate over them. In fact, he used a phrase that the Nigerian Government had sold them to the Ibos as slaves by signing the Aburi Accord.
The Igbo Intelligentsia discovered that the same fear of Igbo domination has remained with and tormented the non-Ibos in the Eastern Region. They also found that the North uses the people of the Middle Belt against the Igbo people in political and military strategies. Therefore, the Igbo Intelligentsia decided to divide the North and the South to create a balance of power in political equation. They invented two imaginary geographical cardinal points known as “South-South” and “North Central”. Those in the riverine of the Eastern Region they called South-South and those in the Middle Belt they called North-Central. Then, they separated the Fulani and the Kanuri into North West and North East.
In all, the Igbo Intelligentsia created the six geopolitical regions instead of the four regions contained in the Aburi Accord. They proposed that the Presidency of Nigeria shall rotate among the six regions turn by turn. The plan is that each of the regions will have a sense of belonging in Nigeria as a self-governing region within Nigeria and may in future attain the status of an outright independent nation by the rule of law. The Biafra Independence Project is planned to be achieved in three phases: Phase 1 is the Awareness Creation. Phase 2 is Regional Autonomy and Phase 3 is outright independence in future.
The Igbo Intelligentsia delegated Dr Alex Ekwueme, Dee Sam Mbakwe and Chief Odumegwu Ojukwu to represent us in the Abacha Constitutional Conference in 1995 and present the Igbo Master Plan. Dr Ekwueme made a wonderful presentation that got everybody captivated and convinced that the Igbo Master Plan was the best for all Nigerians. In the end, General Abacha was very impressed and approved the Igbo Master Plan. The structure of six geopolitical regions was accepted. The rotational presidency was accepted but the North said it would rotate between North and South instead of rotating among the six geopolitical regions. Their game plan is that when it comes to the turn of the South, they would support a candidate from South-South or South-West but never the South-East.
Where do we go from here? Some are asking for Igbo Presidency while others are asking for Biafra. We are not really very keen on pushing for Igbo Presidency but for the Restructuring of Nigeria into Regional Governments in line with the Igbo Master Plan drawn in 1994. However, if they decide to give the Presidency to an Igbo man, we shall accept it but continue with our Master Plan. We have an example in the United Kingdom where Mr Gordon Brown from Scotland was made the Prime Minister of The Great Britain and Scotland still continued pushing for Independence.
At the moment, we want to develop Biafraland to look like Dubai. Some people think that Dubai is a country. Some think that Taiwan is a country. Some people even think that London is a country. Most of the people agitating for Biafra do not have the correct mind-set. They are thinking about going to their Promised Land without understanding that we are already in our Promised Land. We are not like the Israelites who travelled for 40 years and fought wars for 40 years before reaching their Promised Land. In our own case, we did not lose our Territory. We were not annihilated. We have argued in Court in the case between Biafra and Nigeria that what we lost after the war was our sovereignty and not our indigenous identity as a people.
Therefore, we are Nigerians by citizenship but Biafrans by indigenous identity until we gain independence from Nigeria. We are the remnants of Biafraland that were not consumed in the war. This is why I coined our name as Indigenous People of Biafra.
We want to develop our Biafran Region to become like Taiwan, London, Dubai, etc, so that the whole world will be coming to Biafraland for business and tourism. This is the Biafra Project Phase II. From Regional Autonomy we can push for outright independence in future. This is the Igbo Master Plan for the emancipation of the Igbo Nation. Everything has a process. It is a long-term plan. Patience is required.