Mr. Ibezimako Aghanya is a retired commissioner of police. He served in Kogi, Benue and Ekiti states respectively. During the Igbo Day celebration at the Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida (IBB) Square in Makurdi, the Benue State capital, last week, the security expert spoke to our correspondent on the current agitation for a Republic of Biafra by some of his Igbo kinsmen.
He said the governors from the South-East and various security agencies should take decisive actions to quell the protests, adding that the likes of Nnamdi Kanu should not be allowed to cause problems again in Igboland. According to him, Biafra is dead and buried and nothing would ever resurrect it. He further said the protests were the handiwork of those who are afraid of the Buhari administration.
Considering the security situation in the North-East, where soldiers are still battling insurgency; what is your view on the current agitation for a Republic of Biafra by some Igbo people?
Nnamdi Kanu and Ralph Uwazurike, who are now agitating for Biafra, were born in the 1980s. I was a boy of about 15 years during the war. I didn’t go to war, but when federal troops entered Port-Harcourt, I trekked for about 35 kilometres from Port-Harcourt to Igita. We were running like the refugees you now see in the North-East.
They would shell some places and we would take cover. All of us would fall into gutters and other dangerous places. People were abandoning their children. Nobody wants that type of thing again. Uwazurike, Kanu and his sister don’t know anything about Biafra, and they have not read any book written on Biafra. If they had read books on Biafra, they would have known why the agitation failed and whether it can rise again. They would know whether the circumstances prevailing now were the same thing then. They are quite different. If these boys talking of Biafra had read Achuzie’s book, they would ask why Nnamdi Azikiwe (Zik of Africa), at a particular stage, ran back to Nigeria. It was Zik who took Ojukwu to get the recognition of Tanzania, Ivory Coast and other countries for Biafra. Why did he (Zik) go back to Nigeria and declare to the whole world that there was no genocide in Biafra?
It is instructive that the late Biafran warlord, Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu joined the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) and told the whole world that his mission was to reintegrate the Igbo into the mainstream of Nigerian politics.
So who is telling Kanu and Uwazurike and the rest of them that there is still something called Biafra? Ojukwu even contested to be the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. This means that before he died, Ojukwu submitted himself to the authorities of the Nigerian government. It means that Biafra is dead and buried.
Now, let us look at why Kanu is talking of Biafra. On one hand, he said he wanted to liberate the oppressed people that are bound genetically and culturally by the same value system. He started mentioning Idoma people, Igbo people, the Efik, Anang, Ijaw, Itsekiri, Urhobo, Igala and so on. The Idoma have nothing to do with the Igbo. These people he is mentioning can never join the South-East to agitate for Biafra. He cannot go to Warri and tell them that they are Igbo. I remember that when the Igbo were making noise during the elections, Edwin Clark told them that Jonathan did not need their votes to win presidential election. And he will be disappointed to believe what Asari Dokubo is saying. Dokubo should be talking about resource control, not Biafra. Recall that the people of South-South respect the late freedom fighter, Isaac Adaka Boro, a lot because he never wanted to have anything to do with the Igbo.
Unfortunately, I don’t know why the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN) is breeding all these militants. Isaac Adaka Boro dropped out from the UNN, Kanu is also a UNN dropout. I heard that Kanu went to London because of strike in Nigeria. He is a university dropout.
Kanu agreed that the Igbo have shops all over Nigeria, and they are making profits and are wealthy; so how can he say they are oppressed? As far as I am concerned it is the Igbo that are oppressing other people all over Nigeria. They are everywhere trading, including Maiduguri.
You see, the Igbo are no longer what they were before the 1966 coup. They were humble, meek and mild, but had the courage of a lion. The claim that the Igbo are being oppressed is not true. I served in the Nigeria Police Force for 35 years and nobody oppressed me. My wife is doing business in Makurdi and nobody is oppressing her. Igbo people are buying plots of land all over the country. If you go to Enugu today, no Hausa or Yoruba man has been allocated any plot of land. It is the same in Anambra and other eastern states. But in the North, lands are allocated to the Igbo. So no Igbo man should be talking of oppression. They should be humble wherever they are. They should be meek and mild but have the courage of a lion so that one day, the Igbo man will contest election in Sokoto, Maiduguri and so and win. That is what we want.
What actually led to the initial proclamation of Biafra?
The late Chinua Achede said there was a country called Biafra. Before the 1966 civil war, the Igbo were dominant in all aspects of life in Nigeria: trade, education, military, police etc. In the army, we had the highest number of high- ranking officers. In the police, we had the highest.
The 1966 coup was not in the interest of Nigerians. As a result of that coup majority of the present crop of politicians are not working in the interest of Nigerians, unlike Ahmadu Bello, Nnamdi Azikiwe, Michael Okpara, Obafemi Awolowo etc. The 1966 coup caused a lot of problems in this country. From what Major Gen. Ejoh, who was in charge of the military barracks in Enugu said, the only Igbo man, Col. Unduegbe, who was killed in that coup, was in charge of the armoury. And he was killed because he refused to surrender the keys to the armoury.
Later, there was a dialogue between Yakubu Gowon and Ojukwu. They went to Aburi for peace talks, but it failed. Then, Gowon decided to create 12 states, and by so doing, changed the country from regional structure. The minorities in the South – the Anang, Ibibio, Ijaw etc – were happy about the state creation because they believed the Igbo of the South-East were oppressing them. That was why Isaac Adaka Boro started rebellion in Niger-Delta. He believed the Igbo were oppressing them. They were not in support of Biafra. And they are still not in support of Biafra.
After the war, Gowon brought reconciliation, reconstruction and rehabilitation. And I can tell you that all these were achieved because if you go to the South- East now you will not see any trace of war. There are beautiful houses in villages and everywhere.
What is the way forward?
The Igbo should seek to be accepted as indigenes of wherever they are. That was what I told the then Governor Akume when I was posted to Benue as commissioner of police. I told him I was an indigene of Benue State and a native of Anambra. So, I will fight for my right in Benue, as well as Anambra State. Our people go to America to give birth to children, and those children are regarded as American citizens and they have equal rights. So let every Igbo man fight for his right anywhere he is as a taxpaying citizen of Nigeria. Fight for your right if it is trampled on. You can go to court and pursue the case.
After the civil war, abandoned properties were declared in Rivers State. They took away properties belonging to Igbo people. Up till now, if you go to Creek Road, Bonny and so on, there are houses occupied by the Ijaw and others, which do not belong to them. They are not paying rent to anybody. Those houses belong to Igbo people. My father got his own back because he ran away with his documents. Somebody wanted to take one of his properties, but we are now in court with that man. There were abandoned properties in Rivers, Cross River and other places after the war, but there were no abandoned properties in the North. In the North, permanent secretaries were in charge of abandoned properties. You only had to come with documents to prove that the property is your own. Apart from that, the moment a native identified you as the owner or son of the owner of the property, they would give it to you. I served meritoriously for 35 years in the Nigeria Police Force and I know how I protected the rights of the Igbo and those of other citizens. We will not allow Kanu to cause confusion again in Igbo land.
During their rally, they have no right to block public highways. Is that how to look for Biafra? Is that how the Scottish are looking for a country? Is that how Catalonians are looking for a country in Spain? He just brought miscreants to cause trouble. The security agencies should expose their sponsors. The Minister of Defence has said that their action is treasonable.
As a security expert, what is your advice to the governors of the southeastern states and security agencies there?
They said they would come in full force in December. I want to advise the governors of the southeastern states to nip the situation in the bud. That is what I did in Okene., Kogi State. I brought peace in Okene when I was there. The governors of southeastern states should not be talking of who will vote for them in the next election. They should ban processions on Biafra. Anyone who wants to talk about Biafra should write articles and publish. They can also hire a hotel where they can sing about Biafra and dance if they want, but they should not come to the highway. These people closed markets in Aba, Onitsha, Enugu, and they are now abusing all prominent Igbo people and threatening their lives. That is why people are not speaking up. They are afraid because when you talk against Biafra, they would threaten to kill you. But people like us are not afraid to say our minds.
Governors of the eastern region should be very careful because in December, there will be terrible crisis in the South-East. Do you know that Uwazurike prevented the Igbo from being counted during the population census? He told them that they were not Nigerians; hence they should not come out to be counted. Do you know that Uwazurike and co prevented Igbo people from getting Permanent Voter’s Cards (PVCs)? That is why you saw that the total votes in Igbo land were not more than the total votes in a small hamlet in the North. They didn’t register.
What I am saying is that security agencies should brace up now because problem is coming in the South-East. I believe that this problem is being engineered by corrupt Igbo people who are afraid that President Buhari would come after them. They want to create confusion to divert attention.
The commissioners of police in those states should not chicken out. I did not chicken out in Kogi State when Okene people were making trouble. I used only half a unit and brought Okene people down. Let them fight for Biafra inside their rooms. Let them go to Uwazurike’s village and Kanu’s autonomous father’s kingdom. Look at the beads the man and his wife are wearing. And they said they are fighting for people’s rights. I know the cost of the beads. Look at Kanu’s sister’s hair. She’s not natural. That hair is Brazilian or Indian. And they said they are fighting for the rights of people. These people are just there to make money, and they want to bring problem. If they go violent in their protest and kill anybody from another tribe, there could be reprisal attacks and that will definitely affect Igbo people in different states across the country. At the end of the day we will lose.