By Dickson Okafor
Mr Barnabas Okoro, former Deputy Director, Administrative and Staff College of Nigeria (ASCON) has condemned the branding of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) as a terrorist group by the federal government.
This is just as he described the use of force against Igbo agitators who according to him were exercising their fundamental human rights as a crime against humanity. The Legal Adviser to Ohaneze Ndigbo, Badagry chapter, also called for the withdrawal of the military from the zone. He spoke on other issues.
Having lived in the Badagry area of Lagos State for close to 38 years, are you not suppose to enjoy the rights of an indigene?
That is how it ought to be as it is done in other clime but not so in Nigeria. Having worked and lived in Lagos for 37 years I’m supposed to become an indigene of the state and also enjoy all the rights and privileges. I gave birth to all my children here in Badagry yet, they cannot be addressed as indigenes but they still see them as strangers.
What is your take on the use force by the federal government to tame the activities of the Indigenous People of Biafra?
It is ridiculous for the Nigerian Army Headquarters to brand the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) as a terrorist group. It is a breach of the fundamental human rights of IPOB members because they are not violent but a peaceful group. The Nnamdi Kanu led IPOB is just like other groups agitating for equal rights in the country. Why haven’t government arrested Fulani herdsmen and Arewa youths who gave Igbo quit notice to leave the north on or before 1st October? Why are soldiers sent to Abia State to kill our unarmed people, a group whose agitation is peaceful in the South-East? Take a look around Lagos and virtually all parts of the country, you see Igbo making contributions towards the development of these areas.
Our investments are scattered all over the six geopolitical zones helping to build the economy of the nation, yet, we are denied rights and privileges of indigenes of these states. Go to Igbo land, there is no federal presence. The government was quick to detail the military called ‘Operation Python Dance’ to force the people to drop agitation for their right to self-determination; unfortunately, they have refused to apply such speed in the development of the South-East. Military action cannot solve the problem rather it will worsen the matter. Why are our brothers and sisters in the north against restructuring the country? Nigeria has outlived its usefulness and it is a time we re-negotiate the terms of engagement and that is what the Igbo is demanding for. What is wrong in a family sitting down to talk about their problems and find a way to solve it?
Why are you not blaming your representatives in the National Assembly for not putting up a legislation that could correct the issue?
Igbo representatives in the National Assembly won’t do more than they have done because Northern legislators are more in number. So, the Hausa Fulani hegemony is a ploy to keep Igbo underdeveloped and politically incapacitated. Any attempt by South-East legislators to create an additional state in the zone will be shot down by the northern lawmakers. The same applies to indigeneship. Any attempt to give non-indigenes rights of an indigene having lived in a part of the country for 20 years will be resisted by indigenes of the geopolitical zones especially the north. This is so because only a few of them live in the South-East. Also, the lawmakers from the South-west will oppose the motion for the same reason. In fact, it will be dead on arrival. Therefore, there are no democratic means that can make that happen except we restructure and that is one of the reasons Northerners are opposed to restructuring.
Recently Southwest leaders converged on Ibadan to back regionalism, why haven’t Igbo taken a collective position on restructuring?
Mind you, Igbo was the first to demand restructuring which is the Aburi Accord. Today, other regions tried to dodge the word, Aburi Accord, so they chose nomenclatures like, true federalism, restructure, regionalism, resource control and state police. The late Dim Chukwuemeka Odimegwu Ojukwu capture all these phrases in the Aburi Accord and Gen. Yakubu Gowon accepted it and signed, but when he got home, the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo interpreted it to him and Gowon renege on that agreement. Igbo said on Aburi we stand and that led to civil war. The reneging of that accord marked the beginning of supremacy clash among the regions in Nigeria.
So, that the Yoruba took a decision recently on restructuring is not new because they are trying to right the wrong. Even some Northerners who are clamouring for restructuring today are doing so because they have seen the need for it. Many who killed Aburi Accord are regretting it today because Aburi Accord if implemented, would have united the country. It is unfortunate that Ojukwu who saw tomorrow was misunderstood. But because the lopsidedness of the country’s structure favoured the north, they won’t endorse restructuring.
Hate speeches and inciting statements have dominated our airwaves in the recent time, is that the best way to go about restructuring?
I don’t support hate speeches or inciting statements in whatever guise, but come to think of it, President Muhammadu Buhari should be blamed for hate speeches because he started it.
When he said those who voted for him -90 per cent would benefit more from his government and he indeed gave people from other regions more attention that is the reason for the lopsidedness in his appointments. He contradicted himself when he said he was for nobody but for everybody during his inaugural address.
I expected President Buhari to prove the Igbo wrong who during the 2015 election believed he was anti-Igbo and decided not to vote for him, but instead of Buhari to win our confidence by engaging Igbo in his administration, he chose to marginalise the South-East.