Dr Emmanuel Okereke is the founder of African Liberation Party and the Director General, National Taskforce to Combat Illegal Importation of Small Arms, Ammunition, and Light Weapons, NATFORCE. He spoke with PAUL UWADIMA on national issues.
What is your position on the agitation for biafra?
I have said it without number that we don’t have any reason to call for biafra. Biafra happened out of mistake by the former leader Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, whom I was opportune to have a meeting with and with some other prominent Igbo leaders and northern leaders.
That was in 2003, three days to the presidential election at NICON Hilton Hotel with President Muhammadu Buhari, and we had a fruitful meeting. That was when Obasanjo was about to rig the election and we took a stand to boycott it but Buhari as a peacemaker said no, let us be law abiding, that we are not going to boycott the election. Let us see the outcome of the election. After we had our meeting, which started at about 10pm and ended by 2am, we decided to address a world press conference which was addressed, by President Buhari and Balarabe Musa and they gave warning to Obasanjo that if he rigged the election they were not going to accept it. That was what happened. After that meeting, Ojukwu said that Buhari is going to win the election, let him follow him to Katsina to address certain issues because the condition of Ndigbo in Obasanjo’s government, according to him was bad. He said he wanted to consult with President Muhammadu Buhari, incoming president, because his belief was that Buhari was going to win the election and become the next president .
Who is to be blamed for the recent biafran agitation and the emergence of Nnamdi Kanu?
After Buhari won the election, we started hearing about the leader of IPOB. I will not blame anybody but DSS. It is DSS that caused that problem . Number one is that they don’t need to arrest Nnamdi Kanu. Somebody you said has Radio biafra, and as old as I am, as enlightened as I am, I have never heard or tuned to the Radio biafra because I am not interested and I know that over 90 per cent of Igbos have never tuned to the station. But surprisingly, DSS arrested him and he said it is because he is an Igbo man, he is a biafran. They named him leader of IPOB which entered into his head, and when he was detained, you could see people campaigning for his release. Majority of them never knew him only that somebody who is fighting for them is being detained.
Arresting him was a mistake.
It appears that the youths agitating for biafra are not aware of the consequences of their agitation. What is your advice to them?
I was three or four years old during the war. Many of these youths never experienced the war. I know the story of the war because my father taught us the history of it. So, anybody who has such history will not want such to repeat itself. The first war was a mistake but that is how God wants it. That is the work of God. The Igbos suffered abandoned properties because of the war in the hands of our brothers.
Now, the Igbos are everywhere in Nigeria. In every state in Nigeria there is no way we don’t own 30 per cent or more of the property in that state. Igbos have estates in Ghana, go to Cameroun they have estates, go to Lagos, Igbos have majority of the properties there. Given this scenario, a sensible human being cannot say he is seceding.
If you secede, what of the people who have invested their lives outside Igbo land? What is going to be their condition? What are they going to do? You want them to die? What of the businesses the Igbos have and you say Igbos should come back home, come and do what? Do you have a market for them? Did you build secretariat for them? Do you know the number of Igbos that are working at the Federal Secretariat?
This issue should not come up because we have outgrown biafra. Biafra is like a community, we are now in 774 communities out of one community.
What then should be the concern of Ndigbo?
What every Igbo man should be asking of is how can we become president after President Muhammadu Buhari? Based on that, every Igbo man should support Buhari in 2019 so that the north will do two terms and power will be shifted to the South East in 2023. That should be the position of every right thinking Igbo man, because this government needs total support. Buhari is not a wicked man. Buhari is only somebody that is thorough. Buhari does not like cheating. Let me tell you one thing, under the Jonathan government, the EFCC was chasing me up and down but Buhari came in and told them, “don’t disturb this young man again. This man, I know him, this man never committed any crime. This man is an honest man that only tells you the truth, nobody should near him again.” If not, there are many petitions against me, security agencies will meet and they will label me a terrorist. I think Okereke is walking along the streets today. Buhari is a man that stands for the truth. He is a man that knows the truth and is a man that knows what security agents can do. Nigerians don’t know why Buhari survived. It is only God that brought the man back. God knows what he wants to do for Nigeria. That man is a savior, people don’t understand why God preserved him. People complain about recession, that there is no money. They handed over empty treasury to him.
How do you assess the performance of Ohanaeze in terms of calling the agitators to order?
Ohanaeze should know that they are not a political organisation. However, before the election, the Ohanaeze made it categorically clear that they don’t need Buhari, they only want Jonathan. You can’t tell me to my face that you hate me and I will embrace you. I think we still owe him apology and I think that was why they changed the leadership of Ohanaeze. Let us not be saying everyday that we are being marginalised. You marginalised yourself. The leadership of South East did not handle the matter on time the way they should. You know today in the political circle you have the senators, you have member of the House of Representatives and state houses of assembly, and I
know that people voted for them . They are supposed to go back to their communities and call the people to order and tell them, look this thing cannot work. Don’t go and kill yourself. But they didn’t do it. It was when they saw Operation Python Dance that they started shouting.
What have you to say about the quit notice by the northern youths although it had been withdrawn?
I think they wanted to show that they can do without the Igbos. But they got it wrong. I can tell you that 99 per cent of Igbos are against secession and they are not members of IPOB. It pains me when other Nigerians say that Igbos want to secede as if all Igbos are members of IPOB.
How would you assess the performance of Buhari so far?
Sometimes we don’t understand the situation of things. It is someone who wears the shoes that knows where it pinches. Buhari will not come out to tell us what he inherited from the past government. Buhari inherited enormous problems from the past administration including empty treasury. I am into the security sector, I know the information we are having, we are going to shock Nigerians very soon. For them to see that this man called President Muhammadu Buhari is an innocent man. The man has good intention for Nigeria. That is why I am saying that Nigerians must give him another four years. Because if you check the two years he has spent, it was almost lost, he was sick and he had been battling with his health. As God may have it, he survived and he is stronger than before. I believe that Buhari will surprise Nigerians. The only thing I will advise him to do is to reshuffle his cabinet.