A former President-General of the Ohaneze Ndigbo, Dr Dozie Ikedife, spoke with OKEGWO KENECHUKWU on the sundry issue. Excerpts:
What should be the expectation of Ndigbo as President Muhammadu Buhari prepares to run for a second tenure?
This raises a question whether the Igbo should support Buhari to win so that in 2023, Ndigbo will have an indisputable right to field a candidate for the Presidency or they should allow him to be defeated by perhaps another Northerner, who will be there for another eight years and that will cancel the chances of a candidate from the South East in 2023.
Another important question is what do those in Biafra land want. Is it Nigerian presidency or self-determination or the actualisation of Biafra. That is an issue that has to be resolved. These are the questions to be answered with as much rationalisation and logic as possible.
Who among the Igbo would answer these questions?
It is a difficult one. You will notice that if any group comes up to talk, another group will stand up and discredit it. It makes the thing look cacophonic. There is a disharmonious communication. One person will say one thing, another person will counter it and say a different thing.
A case in point to illustrate what I’m saying is what happened recently. The President General of Ohaneze Ndigbo, Chief Nnia Nwodo, got a report that the youth wing of Ohaneze had sacked him. What did he do? What is their locus for saying that? Is it the tail wagging the dog or the dog wagging the tail? All these kinds of situations are proofs of what I’m saying. The Igbo have to get their house in order. The people of Biafra land should get their house in order.
We have Alaigbo Development Foundation, South East Elders Forum and Even the Supreme Council of Indigenous People of Biafra, apart from Ohaneze Ndigbo. Which among these groups is qualified to address the issues?
Of course, they are all qualified. They are all legitimate Igbo organisation working for the interest of the Igbo people.
What is your own perception of the declaration of President Buhari to contest in 2019?
These are issues that have to be balanced. Buhari has every right to contest if he so wished. It is for the Nigerian electorate to decide whether he deserves a second tenure or not. There is a school of thought in assessing him, I think judging from the way he ran the first four years; the suffering of people of the South East and the cry of marginalisation, another four years will make it appear like 40 years of neglect and marginalisation of the whole of South East.
The reference point is the reaction to the so-called Fulani herdsmen’s sacking of villages, communities and towns, planting themselves and carrying dangerous weapons without licences.
Why do you think the Fulani herdsmen attacks have continued unabated?
Now, it is understood that certain things happened during the Nigeria-Biafra Civil War. Biafra declared its independence on May 30, 1967, and the then Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon who was the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Nigeria, said he was declaring a war against Biafra and expected that it would last for few weeks. He then underrated the resistance and resolve of the Biafrans.
When the thing did not end in three weeks as he expected, he engaged mercenaries who came and fought, took their money and left. But Biafrans did not surrender. Then he was told that the Nigerian troops could take Port Harcourt, that so long as PortHarcourt was in Biafra land, Biafra will not cave in. To reach Port Harcourt, he apparently signed an agreement with the people of Cameroon that they should allow him access through Bakassi area to Port Harcourt and at the end of the war, Cameroon should take Bakassi. That was done.
He signed that agreement as Nigeria signing away part of Biafran land while at that time Biafra was a sovereign state of its own recognised by some countries and Nigeria should have no legal right to sign away any part of its land. Notwithstanding, Biafra did not fall.
Gowon was said to have obliged to enlist help from Muslim soldiers from other West African countries where a good number of them came to help fight and decimated Biafra to bring it back to Nigeria. The condition for that service was that they would be allowed grazing rights all the way down Eastern Region, that was agreed.
And it appeared that looking back after the war, Cameroon claimed Bakassi and sacked natives of Bakassi who said they were Nigerians. Former President Olusegun Obasanjo as at that time took the case to the International Court of Justice (ICC) which ruled against Nigeria.
Similarly, Fulani herdsmen from neighbouring countries are of the assertion that based on the agreement with the Nigerian government during the civil war, they will graze their cattle at any place they want. And they now have the temerity to sack villages, communities and towns. And when they do, they just set up their homes and it appears that Buhari’s hands are tied because of that agreement allegedly signed by Gowon.
Is there no way the agreement could be reversed?
The legal questions are: Did Gowon have the right to sign away Biafran land if he did that when Biafra was standing as a sovereign state? Did he consult the people of Biafra then? Did any of them join in signing? Did he get their consent before signing it? If he did not consult the people of Biafra, is that agreement legitimate, is it binding? These are questions that deserve resolution by a court of
law. (New Telegraph)