In a strategy designed to separate himself from a controversial movement that parades two factions, the leader of the Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra, MASSOB, Chief Ralph Uwazuruike, has announced a new name, Biafra Independent Movement, BIM, for the group.
This came as former Governor of Abia State, Orji Uzor Kalu declared that the Igbo have the full right to agitate for self-determination.
Chief Uwazuruike, who made the announcement, yesterday, while addressing the press in Owerri, also said that he was irked by the bad corporate image some dissidents of MASSOB, were attracting to the group.
“The change in name became absolutely necessary because of the sad introduction of violence by the disgruntled dissidents and this is at variance with the non-violence stance of MASSOB over the years,” Uwazuruike said.
He said that real loyalists of MASSOB feel ashamed to be associated with violence, promising that they will restructure MASSOB to make it the youth wing of the Biafra Independent Movement.
While saying that there is vicarious liability in civil law, Chief Uwazuruike equally recalled how he recruited Nnamdi Kanu in 1989, to head Radio Biafra.
“I recruited Nnamdi Kanu in 1989, when I established Radio Biafra and appointed him the director of the establishment. He started preaching hatred and brainwashing the youths. MASSOB sacked him,” Uwazuruike recalled.
Answering a question, Uwazuruike said he had been imprisoned 16 times in the past and wondered why and how the heavens should fall because Kanu was incarcerated for just one month.
He pleaded with the Federal Government to release Kanu and Benjamin Onwuka, a former student of Emmanuel College, Owerri, and chieftain of MASSOB, who had been in prison for years.
Uwazuruike reminded those preaching violence that Biafra could not be achieved through violence, pointing out that, “the South East is landlocked and there is no way we can win the battle for freedom through violence.”
He reminded followers of Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, that if they close the Niger Bridge for one month or more, it will not affect activities in either Lagos or Abuja.
“Closing the Niger Bridge will only scuttle the business activities of Ndigbo. The protest in the South East, as arranged and implemented by IPOB, ended up unleashing a high degree of suffering on Ndigbo,” Uwazuruike said.
He, however, blamed the Directorate of State Services, DSS, for bungling the arrest, detention and prosecution of Mr. Kanu.
“The DSS is largely responsible for the protest. They arrested Kanu, charged him for bailable offences and the court granted him bail, but the DSS refused to release him. They later came up with treason charges and asked the court to give them 90 days to conclude investigations. This cannot hold in democracy,” Uwazuruike said.
The right to clamour
Similarly, former Governor Orji Uzor Kalu of Abia State affirmed that the right of the Igbo had been embedded in the United Nation’s charter, which gave them the full right to ask for a secession if they were no longer comfortable in living together as one country called Nigeria.
Speaking to newsmen at the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos, he stressed that the way and manner the youths were going about the demonstration was wrong as they had turned what was supposed to be a peaceful protest into violent killings and destruction of properties.
He said: “Those boys are right, they have a right to demonstrate, but not violent demonstration, not killing soldiers because if I am a Commander- in -Chief, and you kill one of my soldiers, I will kill everybody. You cannot kill soldiers. You cannot kill police. You have a right to say no, we want our own Republic. The United Nations charter gives them the right to ask for self-determination. It is not a right of determination to go and destroy people’s properties, to go and destroy Nigerian Armed Forces, whether it is Nigerian Army, Nigerian Navy or Nigerian Police. These are not the rights. They have the right to speak for self-determination. This is the full right.
“If I am president, I will set up either traditional rulers and some political leaders to go and ask the boys what they really want, what is really their problem, what can be done to stop them from asking for this. This is how Boko Haram started killing members of Catholic Church, and as a Catholic, I spoke vehemently against it. I told you airport correspondents that they will finish killing the Catholic and will go and start killing everybody and it happened.
“When kidnapping just started, then I was governor, they were kidnapping white people and I spoke out. I said when they finished kidnapping white people and there were no more white man to kidnap, they would start kidnapping us and that is what is happening in the country today.
“So, I will advise the Federal Government. This is a federation, you need to manage the federation. Some people must ask for self-determination. It is the management of the people that matters. President Buhari, as a matter of fact, should set out traditional rulers, set out people, set out securities and intelligent agencies to intervene. They should be more intelligent than policemen or military people carrying guns. They should find a way and tell the boys that what they are doing is not the right thing to do. So, it is left for the Federal Government. This is the right time to nip the agitation in the bud, but not by force. It is a wrong strategy hearing people saying that we will quench it by force. We cannot quench anything by force because it is their right to ask for self- determination.
“But is it the right thing to do in a bigger country like ours? It is only a president that doesn’t know what he wants that will want a section of his country to go. I think negotiation is part of democracy . I have seen your Enugu-Port Harcourt, Aba-Umahia express road that have not been built, I will build it in two years, I have seen your Awka-Onitsha express way that is not built, I will build it in two years, I have seen that your Umuahia-Ohafia to Aruchukuwu to Cross River express way is not built, I will do it. I have seen that your Arondizuogu-Okigwe express way is not done, I will do it. I have seen your Enugu to Makurdi express way is bad, people are dying there every day, which was what I quarrelled with the government over it in 2001.
“I said our roads are bad. Federal roads are very bad and they are taking it for granted. Check what I have said ten years ago, they are reccurring today and the government is still playing with it, people are still doing politics with it,” he stressed.
Meantime, women members of the IPOB have handed a seven day ultimatum calling on the Federal Government to release the detained leader of the group, Nnamdi Kanu, or face its wrath.
The women, who were dressed in Biafran emblems and Kanu’s portraits, vowed to embark on the next stage of its struggle to free Kanu including several activities which they claimed will embarrass the Federal Government.
The group, who handed the ultimatum while protesting along the Enyimba area and the Ariaria junction of the Enugu-Port Harcourt expressway, Aba, warned that Nigeria was sliding towards danger with the continued detention of Kanu.
“We are handing a seven day ultimatum to the Federal Government to release Nnamdi Kanu. It is either they release him or face our wrath. In Igbo land, when women embark on a protest march, it means that the matter at hand had become serious.We decided to hold this protest to appeal to the Federal Government to release him.
“We can’t understand why the government is still detaining Nnamdi Kanu since he has been granted bail. IPOB sees this as part of the larger plot in the marginalization of Ndigbo. This is another proof that Ndigbo are not wanted in Nigeria, if a freedom fighter like Nnamdi Kanu, will be detained indefinitely.”
Remain non violent —Igboezue
Adding its own voice, the Igboezue International Association of Nigeria and Diaspora had appealed to all the pro-Biafra groups in Nigeria and in Diaspora, to ensure that all their protests and demonstrations were done peacefully because Igbo were not known to be violent people, but peaceful even in the face of marginalization.
National President of the association, Elder Pius Okoye while briefing newsmen in Onitsha, yesterday, said there was room for peaceful protest worldwide and the Nigerian constitution also provided room for peaceful protest and demonstration.
“Government is a continuum. It is not a private business. The last National Conference was well represented by all parts of the country. Nigerians expected continuity regarding the outcome of that National Conference, but we were disappointed that no mention had been made of it. However, we believe the implementation of its recommendations would bring peace in Nigeria,” he said.
He said IPOB and MASSOB had the right to protest and demonstrate as far as it was peaceful and non-violent and within the ambit of the law, warning that “involving or allowing violent miscreants to infiltrate their fold will make nonsense of their agitations that have been recognized worldwide.
“It is the duty of the police to control protesters and prevent them from destroying lives and properties, or involving in violent activities. The military should not shoot at protesters like animals,“he said.
Okoye told IPOB and MASSOB to scrutinize their members to avoid criminal elements infiltrating their folds and cashing in on that to rob and loot people’s property, after Nigerians and even the churches have testified through their publications that they had been peaceful in all their activities.
No to secession— Ebonyi govt
Over the weekend, Ebonyi State government revealed that the South East geopolitical zone of the country was not advocating secession contrary to the wave of the agitation rocking the zone.
Briefing newsmen on the outcome of the state executive council meeting at the Government House in Abakaliki, the state commissioner for Information and State Orientation, Sen. Emmanuel Onwe added that the state government having carried out a critique of the whole situation was not in support of secession or any act of abuse on the government of the federation.
He appealed to the Biafran agitators to channel their grievances to the appropriate quarters and avoid incidents of violence and destruction of properties belonging to innocent citizens of the nation.