Biafra: Buhari’s Military delegation visit and the anger of Igbo Leaders
Cross sections of Igbo leaders, clerics and activists who were consulted by the high powered military delegation form the presidency on issues pertaining to Biafra agitations, marginalization and the best ways to restore the confidence of the people of the South East in the project called Nigeria, have expressed anger that six months after the visit of the military officers, nothing concrete has been done to make the Igbo nation feel a sense of belonging.
The clerics, igbo leaders and activists have specifically expressed their anger and worry at the Director General of Igbo Mandate Congress, Rev Obinna Akukwe, who played a vital role in ensuring that the meeting with the military high command took place. They many occasions, including series of meetings on rampaging herdsmen and build up to the burial of Rev Pa JMJ Emesin , Father of Igbo Pentecostal Revival Movement, in Enugu and Aguleri last week to privately express disappointment that all they demanded that government should do for the Igbo are yet to be implemented and they asked Rev Akukwe to take their complaint to the appropriate quarters.
Weeks before the Biafra protests ensued, the Presidency had reportedly mandated the military chiefs to seek means of resolving issues capable of turning the nation into a battle ground and destabilize the Buhari presidency. They identified the South East, South South and North East as areas where the destabilization of Nigeria could start but bureaucratic bottlenecks hampered their activities.
However, while waiting for empowerment, the leader of IPOB, Nnamdi Kanu was arrested and the Igbos of South East Nigeria registered a great displeasure at his unlawful detention, sparking off protests all over the South East. The Presidency directed the military authorities to go on a fact finding and this prompted the Air Vice Marshal Monday Morgan, Chief of Defense Intelligence, , Major General S D Aliyu,( Deputy Chief of Defense Intelligence), Major General S.J Davies( Director of Admin) Air Commodore Omoyinbo, ( Director of Intelligence ) Dr Ben Okwuonu (Director of Psychological Operations) among other senior military officers and Directors from across the services to strategize on how to meet with the grassroots leaders in the South East and get first hand information on all the age old grievances of the people which prompted the sudden zeal for the renewal of Biafra agitations with intention of resolving the disputes peacefully.
The strategy also included bye passing disgruntled politicians who run to Abuja for gratifications at the expense of the people of the South East and meeting with those ho have pocket of influences across the zone and hear them out on the way out.
The Delegation was led by Air Commodore Benson Omoyinbo while Barrister Okpalaukwu Okpalaezeukwu, Assistant Secretary General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, and Coordinator of Igbo Ohanaeze Integrity Groups (IOIG) aided the senior military officers on the peace initiative and introduced them to Igbo leaders..Dr Ben Okwuonu and Mr Stephen Akamitu added color to the delegation.
Their first port of call on the 17th of December was at Asaba where they met with Rtd Colonel Joe Achuzia(Secretary General of IPOB, Past President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo and the most famous Biafran Commander during the Civil War).
Colonel Achuzia in the company of Rev Canon Sam Eke told the delegation that contrary to insinuations, he was the one who facilitated the surrender of Biafra after Obasanjo begged him to do so to avoid more casualties on both sides, and that the term ‘No Victor, No Vanquished’ was coined by him after he had fruitful discussions with then Military Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon. Achuzia lamented that what they repaid him with for facilitating the surrender of Biafra was years of detention without trial at Katsina Prisons, contrary to agreements reached, and other officers of Biafra served years of imprisonments and that this grievances is part of the unsettled issues of Biafra. He asked for the release of Nnamdi Kanu.
The next port of call was the country home of Dr Mbazulike Amechi (Chairman Ohanaeze Ndigbo Elders Council, First Republic Minister of Transportation under Azikiwe and Balewa) at Nnewi on the 18th of December. Chief Mbazulike Amechi gave the delegation copies of the Ohanaeze documents demanding that the Federal Government reparates Ndigbo with N2 Trillion naira as compensation for years of marginalization and destructions occasioned by the civil war.
The military officers also met with Dr Dozie Ikedife (Deputy Chairman of IPOB, Past President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo) at his country home. Dr Ikedife called for the immediate release of Nnamdi Kanu. He wept profusely while narrating the ordeals of Ndigbo in the Nigerian project, and almost walked out on the delegation. Dr Ikedife called for the implementation of the 2014 National Conference Reports and insisted that the document contains most of the solutions to the Nigerian problems.
The delegation met with Governor Willie Obiano of Anambra State on the 18th of December, and the Governor reportedly told them that when the situation was getting out of hand and hoodlums are hijacking the Biafra protests, he had to step in and asked for the suspension of all protests, with the cooperation of the GOC of the 82 Division.
The delegation left Government House Awka and traveled to Enugu where they met a cross section of clerics from Christian Association of Nigeria and Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria at the residence of Apostle Dr PCJ Macjossy. Rev Obinna Akukwe (Director General of Igbo Mandate Congress,IMC, and Director of Media and Communications of GAAICOM) who facilitated the Enugu meetings with clerics and activists, told the delegation that Igbos have been denied the Presidency for years, and that either in 2019 or 2013, after the Buhari Presidency, for purposes of self belongings, the Igbos should be compensated with Nigeria’s Presidency. He also asked for the speedy reconstruction of Enugu-Onitsha, Enugu-Port Harcourt Highways as well as 2nd Niger Bridge and a Seaport at Onitsha, Oguta or anywhere to provide employment for the unemployed. So that the people of the South East will feel that they have a stake in Nigeria. He called for the release of Kanu.
Apostle Dr PCJ Macjossy (General Coordinator of General Assembly of all Igbo Christian Organizations and Ministers ,GAAICOM and member Imeobi Ohanaeze) told the delegation that he has been engaging the protesting youth on nn-violence to the point where his life was threatened severally without any input from the government and that government should make haste and address all the grievances without delay before people of the South East run out of patience; He called for the release of Nnamdi Kanu.and reiterated his call for the convocation of Igbos for a ‘3-Day Prayer Conference’ where they will renew their covenant and Jewish Heritage and Ancestry with God and their political heavens will open.
Rev Monsignor Alphonsus Oko (Director of Projects, Catholic Diocese of Enugu) lamented that the state of the South East is telling on them the clergy and asked the government to deal with men of integrity while addressing issues affecting the South East, and avoid prompting corrupt politicians.
Elder Silas Onuoha (close confidant of Nnamdi Kanu) told the delegates that it was the failed Nigerian project that gave birth to the Biafra agitations and called for the release of Kanu and the implementation of National Conference Report. Mr Emma Nnaba (Admin Secretary Igbo Mandate Congress) described unemployment of teeming Igbo graduates as part of the problems in the South East.
The delegation had earlier had audience with the General O0fficer Commanding the 82 Division of the Nigerian Army, Major General Shehu Yusuf, before proceeding for meeting with the church leaders. They also held meeting with Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State.
The delegation was at Abakaliki and after audience with Governor Dave Umahi, had fruitful discussions at the residence of Chief Bestman Anekwe where they met with some personalities and clerics.
In Abia State the delegation met with Professor JC Ogbonnaya (National Conference representative and former Chairman NPP Imo State. They also met with Comrade Chuks Ibegbu, Abia State Coordinator of Igbo Mandate Congress, pioneer Ohanaeze Youth leader and former SA to Ambassador Raph Uwechue. Emeka Yellow Ikpegbu (Youth Adviser to the Governor of Abia State) was among those consulted. The delegation also met with Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo State.
The delegation met with the Traditional ruler of Umunri and Osuofia 11 of Nawfia, Igwe Dr Kennedy Nwankwo, Chief Baron Maduagwu, leader of Road Transport Employers Association in the South East among others.
Their meting was concluded in Enugu again when they met with Emma Powerful (Spokesman for IPOB), Uchenna Madu (New leader of MASSOB) in the presence of Comrade Uche Onuigbo, Comrade Ugwuoke Ugwuoke,Comrade Arinze Ojoko,Comrade Ikechukwu Anyim,Comrade John Nwosu and Emeka Nnamani all representing either IPOB or MASSOB. These leaders of IPOB and MASSOB insisted that until Nnamdi Kanu is released, there is no basis for further discussions. They also complained about the sorry state of Ndigbo as a result of conspiracy of other Nigerians.
The leader of the delegation, Air Commodore Omoyinbo and Dr Okwuonu promised the Igbo leaders that they will send the reports of the grievances to the Presidency and promised quick response. Igbo leaders who and activists who helped to douse tension in the polity are now complaining that there is nothing in the body language of the government to show the redressing of some identified areas of marginalization of Ndigbo and advises relevant agencies to act fast before another round of protests breaks up in the system.