STAR INTERVIEW: It is Impossible to Realise Biafra Republic – Madiebo

1 Comment » October 15th, 2004 posted by // Categories: Other Peoples' Essays


STAR INTERVIEW: It is Impossible to Realise Biafra Republic – Madiebo


New Age

Friday, October 15, 2004

It is impossible to realise Biafra republic – Madiebo

Ex-Biafran Army Commander during the Nigerian Civil War, Major-General Alex Madiebo says that it is impossible to realise Biafra republic again because some historical and administrative changes have overtaken the quest. Though he is in support of the growing clamour for a Nigerian president of Igbo extraction in 2007, Madiebo says Igbo presidency may not be the elixir for South-East’s problems, in this interview with Ngozi Nwozor.

As one who played a major role in the defunct Biafra, how would you describe the current agitation by the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB)?

First of all, I have been away for a long time because I wasn’t very well. For 18 months. I was in the United States. Well, MASSOB really is a movement against marginalisation. It is not really a movement for the actualisation of Biafra. Nobody is interested in a sovereign state of Biafra now. But people are interested in the fact that Igbos are being marginalised, very much marginalised. So, every Igbo man ought to support MASSOB. I personally support MASSOB because I know that what they are fighting for is for the whole of Igboland. Since the Nigerian civil war ended, the war which I commanded, things have not been any better for the Igbo people. The politicians we have, I am sorry to say, appear self-centred. Everybody wants to get into politics and make money for himself, and this has not helped the Igbo cause. So, we now have young people who are giving their time and risking their lives to bring to public knowledge the fact that Igbos are being marginalised. Let me simply say that MASSOB is doing a good job.

You mentioned that Nigerian politicians are selfish. Most of them from Igboland have especially been accused of this. Do you share this view?

They are selfish in the sense that they really don’t care very much for those they are supposed to rule. In my view, they put their personal interest far above the interest of those who are supposed to be looked after. They talk about what they are capable of doing for the people but as soon as they get into office, that is the end of it. Now, what the Igbos need is something like MASSOB. MASSOB really should not be talking about actualisation of Biafra. It should be talking about saving the Igbos from marginalisation, because if you talk about Biafra, it is now nine states of the federation. So, when you talk of actualising Biafra, are you bringing the nine states that make up Biafra into one entity again? It is not possible, but it is possible that they can call the attention of the authorities to the fact that the Igbos are being marginalised. And the marginalisation seems to be getting worse, and somebody has to do something about it and MASSOB seems to be doing something about it.

Recently, President Olusegun Obasanjo invited Alhaji Asari Dokubo, the leader of a Niger Delta militia group for a parley in Aso Rock, Abuja. Some people have argued that Dokubo is agitating for his people what MASSOB is agitating for the Igbos and some people want the president to extend such invitation to MASSOB. Do you think so too?

The government, you know, is an oil company. They are only interested in oil. The ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is really the “Petroleum Development Party”, and anything that affects petroleum development is of paramount importance to them. The difference between MASSOB leader, Ralph Uwazurike and Dokubo is that with Dokubo, petrol is involved, with Uwazuike, nothing is involved. You are dealing with a partner on one hand, and perhaps a slave on the other. Dokubo can influence the riches and the fortunes of Nigeria, Uwazurike cannot. That is why the likelihood of Uwazurike being called for negotiation is not there. That is why Dokubo, who has openly declared war, is called for negotiation. He has openly said he was going to fight, that some people should pack and leave the Niger Delta. But Uwazurike, who said stay at home, and think about yourselves, your fortunes and misfortunes, don’t do anything, don’t come out, he is now being accused of treason. So, you have different strokes for different people.

What is your reaction to the lingering face-off between Chief Odumegwu Ojukwu and the State Security Services (SSS)?

In fact, let me say this, Ojukwu is perhaps the most patriotic, one of the very few patriotic Nigerians of his age, which is my age too. I don’t always agree with him but that is true of him. Now he fought for what Uwazurike is trying to do now without fighting. It is obvious that people should expect him to support MASSOB, because this is what he fought for. He does not need to support Biafra as an independent nation, there is no need. But he has to support MASSOB as a means of achieving what he could not achieve by war. I support MASSOB for that reason. I wanted to stop marginalisation by war, but I failed. If somebody can achieve it through peaceful means, the person should get a Nobel Peace Prize. In fact, Uwazurike is a possible candidate for a Nobel Peace Prize, in my own view. Ojukwu is just saying the obvious. The Igbos lack any collective leadership. If we have one or two people who are trying to let the fortunes of the Igbos be realised, Ojukwu is one of them. If for saying that he supports his people, you say he has committed an offence, I don’t agree with that. Ojukwu is too old now to go to war, but there is no reason why as an elder he should not express his views. So, I support Ojukwu in that respect. And of all the Nigerian heroes, he is the only one who has not been involved in a coup. So, what is the talk all the time about Ojukwu. All the Nigerian champions — Generals Yakubu Gowon, Muritala Muhammed, Ibrahim Babangida, Muhammadu Buhari — are all coup graduates. Now they are the champions, going round in cycle, ruling Nigeria in rotation. Ojukwu, who fought against a rebellion, he fought against a rebellion, not rebels, we were fighting against a rebellion, because there was no Nigerian government at the time, the only offence people like us might have committed is that we failed. Failure is a crime. If you do a coup and you fail, you will be killed, but if you succeed, you will become a national hero.

So do you support Ojukwu in his face-off with the SSS?

The SSS is a government security agency. If Ojukwu is properly invited, he will decide to go, but I think it is a bit wrong to send a boy to his house with an identity card which can be faked by anybody and say, come you are wanted in Abuja. What is the guarantee that, that person is genuine?

The Igbo elite has been calling for an Igbo to emerge as Nigerian president in 2007. The South-East governors and Ohaneze Ndigbo are at the forefront of this clamour. What do you think about it? 

I have been an Igbo man for over 70 years. I know the mentality of Igbos. I know what an Igbo man can do and what he cannot do. Taking all that into consideration, I am not sure that the Igbos will gain more by having one of their own as president than having any other Nigerian as president. It is not in the person. What can an Igbo president do now for the Igbo without the approval of, or the normal constitutional requirements being there? In fact, from my experience, I find that Igbos might even lose by having an Igbo become president just because he is an Igbo, if he is too scared to do anything. Remember such a president now will be put there, so he hasn’t got the political strength, he hasn’t got the solid background to rule Nigeria.

Background in terms of experience or educational qualifications?

No, I mean the fact that he is not on his own, he has been put there, he cannot take any decision that will influence a change of fortunes for the Igbos. Remember when Obasanjo was head of state the first time, as a military man, he was put there, he was even too scared to accept the offer initially. But when he agreed to lead, he was so scared that he just left the running of the government to his second-in-command, the late Major General Shehu Musa Yar’Adua. This was because he knew that he was put there, he didn’t deserve the position. If an Igboman is put in Aso Rock today in much the same circumstances, because, yes, everybody has agreed, oh let the Igbo man go, he will go there and do what he is told. Obasanjo went there the first time, he had to please those that put him there. But this time, he won the election and now does what he likes. So, if the Igboman is put there, on whose strength is he going to take decision? Is he going to build roads only for eastern Nigeria? Is he going to build bridges all over the East alone? But having said all that, if you elect an Igbo man as president, it only shows that the civil war has been put aside. That is the only thing that will be achieved, and it will be a new dawn indeed. That would mean that the civil war era is over. Right now, Obasanjo still regards the Igbos as a conquered race, and it is in his interest that the civil war is not forgotten because that is the only thing he is known for. He defeated the Igbos, so he wants to make sure that the Igbos will continue to be defeated. So really, you can’t get anything for the Igbos till he goes away. The only thing he is known for is the civil war, so it is not in his interest to forget the civil war.



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