By Obinna Ezugwu
President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Dr. John Nnia Nwodo has emphasized that an independent state of Biafra being advocated by the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB) was not achievable because the 1999 constitution which he said, was an imposition of the Northern wing of the Nigerian military, did not provide for self determination.
Nwodo who spoke in Lagos, Thursday at a peace rally organized by Ohanaeze Ndigbo Lagos, explained that the only way Biafra could be achieved was through the United Nations or the African Union, but according to him, such would be impossible because the UN defers to the voice of Britain whenever issues concerning its former colonies in Africa is raised at the world body and the British government has made it clear that it does not support secession in Nigeria.
Recalling his experiences during the Biafra war, Nwodo said the Igbo lost 3.5 million people and maintained that he was not ready to allow anybody to lead Ndigbo to another war. He said restructuring was the only way forward and called for all and sundry to support it.
“Whether I agree with them (IPOB) or not, they have a right to express their opinions. When I was their age, I was in the trench of Biafra fighting. I’m not sure anyone of them has heard the sound of a gun pass through their ears. My closet friend was with me in the trench when he died. He was hit with mortar which tore up his chest and he died. 3.5 million Igbo died in the war,” he said.
“One and a half million were those killed at the war front. One million died of starvation because we were blockaded. Another one million are Igbo children whose parents had been killed, they didn’t know who their parents were, they had no one to cater for them. Others were those in the hospital but there was no medicine to treat them. Those children were packed up in the C130 aircraft than was bringing food and weapons. They were tied in wrappers; those one-year-olds; two-year-olds, when the plan takes off, some will hit their heads on the steel work and die.
“Those who get to their destination are often not up to half of those taken. Those who eventually succeeded in getting to the destination were undocumented; nobody knows who their parents were. Many of them are in Gabon today, some in Ghana and some in Ivory Coast. They are in different countries of West Africa. Not long ago, the people of Gabon sued their president and said he should not govern them because he is an Igbo man; that his father, Bongo adopted him.
“Why I’m telling this story is that any Igbo man that says another war should be brought to our land, me, Nnia Nwodo will be a saboteur. Anyone my age who is afraid of saying the truth then know he has something to hide. The youths will do their own, but the evil that befell your parents must not befall you. That’s why Ohanaeze decided that what we are supporting is the restructuring of the country so that everyone will develop his place.”
Speaking on the need for unity among the Igbo in Lagos, the Ohanaeze president said it was unfortunate that the Igbo have allowed lack of unity they have to put them in a state where nobody reckons with them politically and most of the decisions that affect them taken without their consultation or input. He lamented that the Igbo who own business in the state, such as transport companies would simply be ordered to leave where they have built up and asked to go to another area and start all over again without at least being consulted despite their contributions to the state.
“There are 36 states in Nigeria; there is no state in Nigeria. Outside the seven states in which Igbo are aborigines, Lagos State houses the highest population of the Igbo of any other state in the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The size of the Igbo here is equivalent to the population of some states in Nigeria. The extent of your size here is the extent of our attention and our interest in Lagos as Ohanaeze,” he said.
“The Igbo in Lagos are not those on excursion, they are hardworking people who contribute to the development of Lagos. Igbo investment in Lagos State is perhaps more than Igbo investment in entire Igbo nation. Igbo contribution to the revenue of Lagos State is not less than 40 percent of Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) of the state. Our exposure in Lagos is tremendous; it is not commensurate with the political attention and recognition we get.
“If a man calls himself a rat, the cat will eat him. If the Igbo in Lagos do not organize themselves as those who contribute to Lagos, Lagos will put them by the side. When Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe was in Lagos, he was the leader of council in this place. At the time, Lagos and Ibadan were Western Region, Azikiwe was almost premier of Western Region until the celebrated carpet crossing on the floor of Western House of Assembly,” he noted.
Also speaking at the event, Chief Charles Odunukwe, President of Igbo think tank group, Aka Ikenga and secretary of Ohanaeze Anambra State, said the Igbo have great number in Lagos but lamented that because of lack of unity, they are not able to use the number to achieve anything.
“If we organize ourselves in Lagos, our stake in the state will not be denied us,” he said.
“We have the number, but because we are not organized, we are not able to use that number to achieve anything. We want that to change. We should rally behind Ohanaeze.”