MY DEAR NDIGBO,
My attention has been drawn to a recorded speech made by Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, leader of IPOB, now streaming in the social media. The speech was ostensibly made in Germany ahead of a visit, Sen. Ike Ekweremadu and I were scheduled to make to Germany for a meeting of Ndigbo. In that video, Nnamdi peddled unprintable lies about me and rebuked Igbos in Germany for inviting me and threatened that I will not leave Germany alive. I would have ignored this speech as I have ignored many of his previous abuses and deliberate falsehood previously broadcast against me.
I had ignored them in the past not only because the distortions and falsehood were indirectly countered by the robust publicity of my activities and utterances which negated his representations but also because I thought it was indecent for a father and his son to be engaged in public disputations, especially when such disputations in our present circumstances will weaken our solidarity and portray us as a divided and unserious lot.
It has however become necessary now to rebut his persistent falsehood because, not to do so will make them credible amongst those who may not have heard my side of the story.
The IPOB leader first of all accuses me of being an accomplice to the invasion of his homestead in Umuahia by the Nigerian Army in Operation Python Dance.
Secondly, he accuses me persistently of being a Fulani stooge who would always do the beckoning of the ruling Fulani elite in Nigeria. He also accuses my late father of being a Fulani stooge.
He holds me and our South East Governors and Legislators responsible for the marginalization of the South East. He accuses me of being against the realization of Biafra and a saboteur to the Igbo cause.
First of all, I am neither the Commander-in Chief of The Nigerian Armed Forces nor a member of the Nigerian Armed Forces. Secondly, I never participated in any meeting where operation python dance was ever recommended or ordered. Truth is that when the second operation python dance was ordered, I wrote against it and advised against it in the media. I saw no need for it
I condemned the mayhem that followed it. I wrote to the GOC 82 Division N.A on the violation of the UN rules of engagement by his troops. I listened to the brief of the Abia State Government on the clashes between the Nigerian Police and Nnamdi Kanu on the establishment of the Biafra Security Service without legislative approval or knowledge of the Nigerian Police. I called for caution.
I confronted the Attorney General of the Federation on his move to obtain an interlocutory order to enable him classify IPOB as a terrorist organization. When the Federal Government finally proscribed IPOB, I criticized it. I wrote to the UN secretary General in these words. “It is a verifiable fact that, other than recourse to the use of intemperate language, the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) campaign has been generally peaceful, non-violent and in conformity with the relevant provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Their campaign has also been in conformity with the United Nations’ Instruments and Protocol on Human, Civil and Political Rights. It is for this reason that I, the undersigned, without endorsing some of the their methods of agitation, still make bold to observe that their protestations have remained at the level of verbal expressing, radio communications, peaceful street demonstrations, prayer sessions and lately, a sit-at-home event in memory of the millions of Igbo lives lost during the civil war.
At no time has any of these groups resorted to the use of arms or violence. If their sit-at –home event of 30th May 2017 was an inconvenience, it was more so to the Igbo communities of the South-East and not to the people in the Northern States or the rest of Nigeria. To therefore turn around to use it as a reason for mass ejection of the Igbo in Northern Nigeria is a mere ploy to isolate the Igbo for another round of massacre, dispossession and deprivation of their fundamental human and constitutional rights. This, Your Excellency, portends the danger of degenerating into another civil war in African’s most populous country, a breach of international peace and security, a messy break-up of Nigeria resulting in massive internal displacement of persons and high incidence of refugee flows.”
I took the IPOB case to the British Institute on International Affairs in Chatham House London and said the following words, “Let me seize this opportunity to once more thank the Royal Institute of International Affairs for inviting me as President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo to speak here today. In Nigeria, Ndigbo whose social cultural organization I lead, are, notwithstanding their historical experiences in Nigeria, the most loyal ethnic group to the concept of one Nigeria. We are the largest ethnic group other than the indigenous group in any part of Nigeria. We invest and contribute to the economic and social life of the communities wherever we live. We are proudly Christians but very accommodating of our brothers of other religious persuasions. We are grossly marginalized and still treated by the Federal government as second-class citizens. No Igboman, for instance, heads any security arm of the Nigerian Armed Forces. Our area is the most heavily policed as if there was a deliberate policy to intimidate us and hold us down.
Our endurance has been stretched beyond Hooke’s gauge for elastic limit. The deployment of the Nigerian Army under the guise of Operation Python dance to the South East was unconstitutional under S. 271 of the 1999 Constitution.
Deployment of the army in the constitution is only allowed in circumstances of insurrection, terrorism and external aggression not in killing of priests, or fighting kidnapping. And in those circumstances where they can be deployed, leave of the Senate must be sought. This brazen impunity in dealing with matters which concern the South East is provocative.
The Arewa Youths Council by issuing a quit notice for Igbos to leave Northern Nigeria and declaring a Federal Republic of Nigeria without Igboland had committed serious infractions of the law. First by declaring a new Republic of Nigeria which excises the South East unilaterally, they were committing treason. By issuing a proclamation for Nigerians to leave any part of Nigeria forcibly they were infringing the fundamental rights of innocent Nigerians, as guaranteed by the Constitution to live and do business anywhere. By commencing an inventory of Igbo property in Nigeria for seizure by October 1st, 2017, they were attempting conversion. By proclaiming a mop-up action of those who did not comply with their order by October 1st, they were, without doubt, inciting genocide. Yet, in spite of all these, orders to arrest them by the Kaduna State Government and the Inspector General of Police were not enforced nor were they prevented from holding court with Governors and leading elders from the North”
I rebuked the Federal Government for the way IPOB, an armless group fighting for self-determination, was classified as a terrorist organization whilst Fulani herdsmen classified by the Global Terrorist Index as the 4th deadliest terrorist organization in the world was treated with kid gloves.
I maintained the same view in my public lectures at Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, UNN, Odumegwu Ojukwu University, Anambra State and many other places within and outside Nigeria.
I challenge Nnamdi to give me one single evidence of my involvement in conspiring Operation Python Dance.
Notwithstanding these abundant evidence of my championing IPOB cause, he ordered an invasion of my telephone with numerous insulting calls and threats to my life. My home in Ukehe was bombed. Police investigations of these incidences linked some of them to IPOB members. Their lawyers approached me and I thought that a father taking his son to court and subsequently to jail would be un-Igbo. Notwithstanding their confessional statements, I withdrew my compliant against them and they pledged to be of good behavior.
Thereafter the campaign of calumny resumed. Prof. Ben Nwabueze, a foremost Igbo leader, summoned two meetings of myself accompanied by some members of Ohanaeze executive and IPOB leaders to his homes in Enugu and Atani. After these meetings, he declared that IPOB has not established any prima facie case against me and that he did not want any of their spurious allegations raised again. We shook hands and embraced each other.
Nnamdi accuses me of being a Fulani stooge!! I am sure no reasonable Igbo man believes him. I have criticized President Muhammed Buhari more than any other Nigerian. Perhaps, what I don’t do is to insult his person or call Nigeria a zoo. I was trained to be respectful. I can disagree with you without being rude and impertinent.
No matter how sectional, incompetent or unproductive I consider the President of Nigeria to be, I must respect his age and office in my criticisms of him. As for the attack on my late father, I forgive Nnamdi. My father was Zik’s Minister and Okpara’s Minister. My father and late Chief M.N Ugochukwu were some of the prominent financiers of the Biafran War. I fought the Biafran War myself as a Biafran soldier at a very young age without my parents objecting.
Yes, I served President Shehu Shagari and General Abdulsalami Abubakar as minister. I respect them notwithstanding differences of opinion we may have on the structure of Nigeria.
Odumegwu Ojukwu was like my senior brother. Bianca can attest to our closeness and my loyalty to him. Vice President Alex Ekwueme was my mentor and friend. Nnamdi Azikiwe confided in me and treated me like a son. M.I. Okpara was the Chairman of my wedding. Late Dr. Dozie Ikedife was the first person to sign my nomination form for the office of President General of Ohanaeze. None of these Igbo leaders found me a traitor of Igbo cause. Every-where I have been in Igboland, young men and women embrace me, pose for photographs with me and commend my efforts in championing our case. I salute them all.
The IPOB leader accuses me of joining the South East Governors to sabotage the cause of our people. This youngman either does not understand nor appreciate the system we run. Our Governors were elected in accordance with the law. They are Chief Security Officers of our States even though the armed forces that should assist them take orders from Abuja. I do not belong to any organ in their governments. They do not give me instructions neither do I give them. We are supposed to cooperate and work together in the interest of our people. Where we differ, I must respect our freedom to do so but in some cases I must also respect the confidentiality of our discussions.
Finally, no amount of insultive, provocative and incendiary speeches can get us Biafra or Restructuring.
I was one of the agents that put together the Southern and Middle Belt Leadership Forum. No pressure group in Nigeria is as strong as this group in the struggle to restructure Nigeria. Restructuring Nigeria will give the South East sovereign independence in the control of our national resources and political control of our government structures. Short of a war you can’t force Nigeria to grant us Biafra. I believe that working together we can achieve a referendum/constitutional amendment or a plebiscite. That will be a first step to self-determination. The journey of Catalonia and Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic are examples of how long and tedious the struggle for self-determination is in our contemporary world. Let’s go step by step and without acrimony.
I have noted the threats to my life from the IPOB leader. I leave that to God and the law.
Ndigbo will recall that when the leader of IPOB was released, the South East Senate caucus advised him to leverage with me and other Igbo leaders so that we can achieve a synergy. We met once and three weeks after that in spite of our cordial discussions, I was the subject of his abuse on Radio Biafra. It would appear that he is on a megalomaniac streak where he arrogates to himself the monopoly of wisdom and capacity to cause mayhem.
Ndigbo, I have championed your cause with every amount of energy in me. I have worked with little encouragement or assistance. Thank God my team and I have elevated Ohanaeze Ndigbo to an enviable status. It is dangerous for our solidarity and ultimate success if we allow these vituperative outbursts to truncate our solidarity. In spite of all I say, I salute Nnamdi for his courage and his persistence in upholding our case but I urge you all to rise up and condemn what is condemnable. Speak up and shame those who would want us to split into pieces and destroy our resolve to fight as a united people.
As a father, I will always forgive an erring child but not without drawing his attention to a misdemeanor which should never be repeated.
JOHN NNIA NWODO
OHANAEZE NDIGBO WORLDWIDE.