Biafran warlord and Secretary-General of Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, world-wide, Col Joe Achuzia, retd, is no doubt, a stormy petrel who does not mince words on topical issues no matter whose ox is gored.
In this encounter, he demanded that he, as a person, should be addressed as “a Biafran” as that reflects his true identity.
He however clarified that the struggle by the pro-Biafran groups especially the IPOB is not targeted towards pulling out of Nigeria but the name Biafra is for proclamation as an identity while accusing the Federal Government of double standard over the establishment of Radio Biafra. Topical issues such as why the civil war was fought, corruption, recession among others were also discussed.
How do you assess the state of the nation? Are you satisfied with what is happening generally in the country today?
For me to say that the state of the nation is stable would be deceiving myself and deceiving the general public. The situation confronting us is a contrasting administrative set up. One, we lived through over the years under a particular political set up.
Then, we have the new political set up under the APC which has brought in a completely contrasting administrative machinery that one cannot at present determine what sort of government we are under. First the leadership of a government portrays the type of body movement the party can be viewed from. The body language of the leadership of the present government leaves a lot to be desired.
This is in contrast with what is being portrayed before us by the leadership of the government who is saying one thing while the unions under him who were supposed to echo the stand of the leader are saying another thing. It is these contrasting voices that alarmed everybody and put the nation in a state of insecurity because we cannot say what is going to come next.
The present government on one hand appears to be draconian while on the other hand, we hear a voice of temperance, being echoed. Before you can relax, the tension returns. The issue of hunger is all over the country. Go to the most rural area you can think of in this country, all you hear is the cry of hunger and as long as that cry of hunger is being echoed all over the place, there is nothing you can say that can alleviate or make the government not to be called to question on why we should be hungry in the so-called midst of plenty.
As of now, for the first time, we are hearing our currency being enumerated and counted in quantum of billions, trillions and so forth and you wonder where that amount of money was all along.
And under the present system of single accounting system, the treasury should be busting due to the amount of money that is supposed to have been recovered or discovered,. But instead, in the midst of recovering so much money, we are being told or being asked to allow the government to sell our structures to raise money or to go cap in hand to borrow money and pile up debts not only on us but on our children and those yet unborn.
That in itself is scandalous because it is frightening. On one hand, those in government are not telling us the truth or if they are telling us the truth that they have recovered so much money, then the treasury should be busting with so much money being lodged right across the board from every sector.
Are you proposing that the single treasury system should be phased out?
By the present showing and standard, it should be phased out because all along under the previous system that has been well tested, each sector that is responsible for fund knows the amount that is allocated to them to use.
Nowadays the hospitals are now moribund because every kobo that comes into the hospital cannot be spent by the hospital. It must go into the single treasury system until the powers that be decide to allocate what they think they can afford to give them. The result is that the federal hospitals are no more what they are supposed to be, so also the educational institutions.
Even school fees paid by the school children go back into single account. The university relies on government subvention. All the tuition paid by children go into the single accounting system and yet they haven’t worked out a system of how much, based on the numerical strength of those universities, colleges, hospitals and so forth goes back to them. This should have been worked out first before embarking on a journey like single accounting system.
The country is presently in recession, what is the way out?
Recession does not come overnight. Recession means a progressive downturn of economical pursuit. During the period before the declaration of recession, the people husbanding our economy must have seen that there was such a depreciation that will lead them into recession but nothing was done.
I don’t like to appear to be naïve but I will ask this question. There is no alarm or clamour that we were heading into recession while the election campaign was going on. We were living under the cloud of plenty, money was flowing here and there. How come that overnight, immediately the result of the election was announced, we were plunged into recession.
Recession came in simultaneously with single accounting system. You cannot seize all the money into one purse held by one man and expect the others to be buoyant when they have no right to spend the money in their hand. All these are frightening, so I don’t buy the idea, that the country went into recession because of bad management in the past. I don’t believe that.
Yes there is corruption. There is what we call the abuse of the right of governance. It has been with us for decades. If it hasn’t been with us for decades, I don’t think that EFCC would be set up and written into our constitution. The idea of setting them up is to go and fish them out and stop corruption. So, all the so called witch-hunting going on by EFCC and so on at the moment has become witch hunting of perceived enemies
So, are you saying the Federal Government is not fighting corruption in a just way or are you also insinuating the fight is selective?
It is a selective fight against corruption. Why I said this is that you cannot wake up overnight and say there is a recession. You must give us (Nigerians) the catalogue of how we drifted into recession. Those monies being orchestrated as what has been targeted and recovered by the EFCC borders on ingenuity that defies classification. To find that kind of money overnight is impossible.
In other words, for a long time, people know where the money was and because of change of government, they try to present a new face to the new government and the card was turned upside down, presenting the file that was hidden all along. And what is the truth and what are we being told about the recovered money? Where is the money because if they recovered these monies, then, we should not be in recession, we shouldn’t be having difficulty in getting money to the rural areas.
You don’t tell us that you will give us money to go into agriculture. If you go into agriculture, it takes more than six months for the result to come up. Remember the people that are carrying out the agricultural work in the farm must eat. You don’t work in the farm in empty stomach.
I have joined several agricultural committees. They demanded that one should go and produce such and such amount. I am sorry to say that over five years, I have been with over six different banks targeted for agriculture. I have never received a kobo. But we heard money has arrived, that we will soon get it. People come from Abuja with abracadabra and then that is the last you know about it.
If the government wants to help and reduce the hunger that is biting strongly, first of all, there should be the independence of the local government from the state government. The local government knows the people within their locality. That is why they are local government. They know those who are capable when they receive fund. You cannot do this from the quarters of a state governor who only once in a while, drives into a local government maybe once in a year. In other words, for the whole of his four year term, he only visited the local government once. Some never visited at all.
This type of thing should be addressed. So, telling me that we are in a recession, recession does not fall from the sky. Recession is man’s incompetence to economic management.
Can you say that the Igbo leaders are helping matters in the quest towards advancing the Igbo cause?
You see people tend to forget the paradox about the Igbo. The word Igbo is not a tribal identity, it is linguistic identity. It is a language of a people collectively residing in the eastern region that used to be known as Southern Sudan. From the 14th, 15th, 16th century, the area was known as Southern Sudan. That is where the people known as Biafrans lived, hence the Bight of Biafra.
There would never have been a Bight of Biafra if there were no inhabitants occupying the mainland. I’m not here pleading a cause for Biafra. No, I’m only taking you to historical antecedents. You asked a question about the so called Igbo leaders. There are two types of Igbo leaders – Igbo political leaders who professed to be Igbo by residing in certain rural areas in the south east of the country and by accumulation of wealth, imposed themselves on the people as their leaders.
They have all the sophistication of political activities, while the indigenes because of poverty imposed by the activities of the civil war were unable to elevate themselves to the level required by the new masters.
These were the people that impose themselves as leaders of Igbo. In our language, it says ‘ebo nwe nwunye nzo, nwunye nzo mala onye nwe anyi’, meaning that the community knows their wife or leader and the wife and the true leaders know the people who appointed them. Unfortunately, what we have is the Pharaoh that does not know Joseph. Some of the so-called leaders of Ndigbo even up to date are those whose wealth are questionable. Yet unfortunately, it is only wealth that decides who becomes a leader of a people that goes for activities of government.
You said you are not pleading the cause of Biafra, so what are all the agitations going on by pro-Biafran groups or are the agitations misplaced as government is accusing them of planning secession?
No, we fought for survival. Biafra never fought or did not attempt to break away from the Lugardian set up known as Nigeria. No! We, from the south east fought to prevent us from being exterminated in an effort to push us out of the federation. That we remembered out past, the thought came to our succour because when a people are under pressure of extermination, history comes to their assistance.
How did our forefathers survive under the pressure that we had at the time from colonial masters? How did they survive? They survived by recollecting who they were and pulled together, hence the mark on our faces. Those marks differentiate the people who are Biafrans. Each community has a peculiar mark even though nowadays, we don’t do it anymore but it is engraved in our heart.
And that is why we resolved that we cannot fight individually as Nigeria wanted us then. We had to fight collectively as Biafrans. Biafra wasn’t coined to break up Nigeria, no.
What is the way out for the Igbo ?
The way out is quite simple. The whole world is now a global village. Part of the north had already established themselves not only in our present day Nigeria but throughout the world whereby they set up what they called Hausa BBC linguistic dissemination of information. Everything is said in Hausa whereby people from our area, from the Biafran area do not even understand what is being disseminated .
We feel that we are equally entitled to that. But to tell us that the name Biafra be expunged from the lexicon of Nigeria while it remains in the lexicon of the world, we will not agree because that is denying us of our fundamental human right. We have a right to answer whatever name we feel is indigenous to us . Nigeria is not indigenous to us.
But the Federal Government says the name Biafra is illegal.
The Federal Government cannot decide what is legal or illegal for us, hence we have gone to the court. Let the court decide for us. The court should tell us whether as a people, we have a right to answer whatever name we want. We are not fighting the FG over piece of land or territory or anything. We are claiming what is our right. For me, if you ask me, ‘where do you come from’, I will say I come from Biafra. There is Biafra in Nigeria here if we must retain the name Nigeria for corporate existence
How can it be achieved because the group of pro-Biafran agitators are being labelled as secessionists with Nnamdi Kanu and others being dragged to court over alleged treasonable offence?
There is no treason. Treason in what? Treason presupposes an attempt to upset a legitimate government. All they are saying and I repeat, these are children born and brought up during the war when their parents were going under the name Biafra. For survival, because of what their parents faced, their parents therefore parceled them with a tag on the neck, and clothing.
These are Biafran children, please accept them, look after them so that they might survive us. They are the remnants of the survivors of Biafra. I said in the past that the seed that was sown at that point in time when Federal Government wanted to push the South-East out of the federation, the seed of Biafra was sown. It has germinated. It is now a full grown tree.
You cannot just uproot it. You have ways of accommodating us. The Federal Government is trying to uproot it by force but we say no, let us avail ourselves with legal opportunities. We are supposed to have independence of judiciary but we are afraid and it is now being subjected to the same brutish force that seemed to wreck the economy of Nigeria.
From our own point of view, we remnants of Biafra are seeking judicial intervention or call it judicial translation, we want to know the stand of the judiciary over our claim that we have a right to answer any name that we feel and that the Federal Government has no right to deny us our human right to a name because we have a right to reject any name that the Federal Government might want to impose on us and that led to an unpleasant standoff position which we don’t want.
How do we find lasting solution to the frequent clashes between herdsmen and farmers where south east has had a rough deal in the hands of herdsmen?
The issue of the herdsmen is part of the political game. There is something I saw in the headline recently that the Federal Government is negotiating to build a new pipeline from Niger Republic to Kaduna to buy oil from Niger for Kaduna refinery. Tell me, isn’t that laying the ground for secession?
If former President Jonathan while in government had tried to negotiate with Cameroun to lay a pipeline for setting up refinery in Aba instead of feeding Nigerian oil from Oloibiri oil well and Kaduna refinery, what do you think they will tell him? They will say we are laying ground for secession.
I always like to call a spade a spade. Sometime ago, the governor of Kaduna State tried to put a ban on religious movements. It took only common sense to arrest the confrontation of different religious organizations before it was rescinded.
Now the courts that used to be impartial and give justice to those who felt they were being oppressed is now being subjected to harassment, accusations and counter accusations. Heaven knows when these cases will be tried so that the judges might settle down and say yes, we can now handle our affairs and perform our legitimate duties.
We on our side see this harassment on the judiciary as a means of intimidating whoever they want to put down. Like what I have heard, the first thing every judge now does is claim they have not got the jurisdiction to handle an issue as a means of keeping out of circulation or being tagged as partial.
It is affecting our (Biafra) case. People don’t see it from that perspective but that is how I see it.
What we want is a Daniel to come to judgment, an impartial judicial officer who will see the truth, say the truth and damn the consequences. Our fear is that if we are not careful…
(cut in) When you say our fear, which set of people are you referring to?
We , the IPOB that have taken our case to the Federal High court. A Federal High court has jurisdiction in every state where it is established. The claim of not having jurisdiction will overtake our claim.
If on homeland, south-east, the federal court has no jurisdiction, how can Abuja that is miles away from where the situation being contested took place have jurisdiction? We are watching the antics of the government. We asked that we should be allowed to carry out our fundamental human right.
So what you are saying is that you are not contemplating seceding but just to retain the name, Biafra?
Of course, that is all we want. It does not require an act of parliament. It is an executive right. Let Buhari say that as far as he is concerned you can answer any name, not telling us that those who don’t want to be in Nigeria should leave. If he can carve out the land and tell us where to carry it to, then we will follow that request but we are saying we have a lot of ties with our neighbours occupying the territory called Nigeria. We want to maintain those ties but we want to answer the name we want.
Kanu is being held because of Radio Biafra but nobody is holding somebody for BBC Hausa service, nobody. Is that not double-standard?
There have been contradicting figures over the victims of pro-Biafran agitators as recently released by the Amnesty International. Also is there any likelihood that the United States of America President-elect, Donald Trump can come to the aid of the Biafrans.
Listening to Trump during his electioneering campaign, he portrayed himself a racist and myself as a Biafran cannot look forward to a racist to be a co-travelling partner. It’s like going back to the situation that existed in South Africa where we fought with all our might against racism.
The issue we are talking about is that we have made representation to the entire world not only in the United States of America, we also made in United Kingdom, Europe, China and other world regions, bringing the plight of the Biafrans to the fore. What we have been bringing before them is the denial, the use of force to tell us to abandon our God’s given name. We have never asked anybody to assist us to pull out of Nigeria. Pulling out presupposes that you have somewhere else to go. To try to say that we are trying to pull out is giving a dog a bad name.
If we wanted to pull out, we wouldn’t be allowing our people to invest so much all over Nigeria but people who want to push us out want to eliminate us and claim the heritage we have sown to make Nigeria what it is today . So, hear it loud and clear, it is not in our agenda to pull out . If people want to pull out, will they be going to court? Denying us judicial succour means they have another agenda on how to eliminate us. What makes a man independent is his identity. – Culled from Vanguard.