Agitation for Biafra should not be violent – Debe Ojukwu - The No.1 Infotainment blog

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Thursday, 14 September 2017

Agitation for Biafra should not be violent – Debe Ojukwu

Chief Debe Odumegwu-Ojukwu, a lawyer and businessman, is the son of the late Biafra leader, Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu. He speaks in this interview with TEMITOPE OGUNBANKE on calls for restructuring of Nigeria, the National Assembly and agitations by various groups in the South-East, among other issues
What is your take on the state of the nation?
I think most of the things that led us to the present state we are in Nigeria are due to mismanagement. When you have a patrimony and wealth; the wealth can blossom, flourish or waste due to wrong management. We have not managed our patrimony very well. First of all, salaries and emoluments of some public office holders are too much. There should be slashing of all salaries across board. All public officers should make sacrifice; all legislators should make sacrifice because there is no point spending huge amount of money on the legislators. The way money is spent to make laws is too much. In those days, some of our grandfathers and fathers who were lawmakers did not receive salaries as legislators; they earned sitting allowances for the number of days they sat for legislative duties.
The work of a legislator is not really in the House; the work is in the constituency. They are supposed to be in their constituency because that is where their constituents are supposed to meet them to discuss their problems because those are the things the lawmakers will reflect in the bills they will table in the House. But you will find out that most of our legislators don’t even know the way to their constituencies; they don’t go home. So, their constituents don’t know them and that is why each time there is election, they only come home to share some money because they are not close to their constituents. If you attend to their problems, you don’t need to bribe them during elections.

Do you see the present National Assembly endorsing such?So, you are suggesting a part-time legislature?
It should be on part-time basis and you pay them allowances for sitting.
It depends on what we want because we put them there. If we clamour that this is what should be, it will be. It should be part of the re-engineering to bring us out of the woods. If we don’t do that, we are not going anywhere. If you check, there is a kind of chart on the emoluments of legislators all over the world; Nigeria is the highest and yet the people are the poorest, which means the poor are financing the rich. They are giving above their means. If you are financing something, you are supposed to be bigger and greater than what you are financing because it is only part of what you have that you use to finance but now the financed is richer than the financier.
Talking about re-engineering, what is your take on the clamour for restructuring of Nigeria?
That is not too farfetched. As a lawyer, I always try to transit most of my learning to solve problems. In Law, if there is a dispute, in other to bring peace, the interjection of the court is usually to advise those involved to maintain the status quo. In this particular case, if we are to transmit that legal solution to political solution, it means that we have to return to where we started our fight from. Reasonably, without any iota of doubt, if people will agree you, will find out that our fight started when the military made incursion into politics and it was misunderstood because it was an aberration. We had a prime minister, federal ministers and all other elected officials, who were removed by the military. They might have the best intension then, but at a point, it was tagged an Igbo coup and that was what led to the counter-coup.
So, when you look at all these things, you will find out that aberrations are not good. When the army made incursion into politics, they brought so many things and people gave different interpretations and those interpretations led us to where we are today. That was the beginning of the fight. We should go back to the status quo we had before the military incursion by experimenting on the 1960 and 1963 constitutions – the Independence and Republican constitutions. Our founding fathers thinkered with the constitutions and agreed that that was the model we should adopt. We had the regions and everybody was okay. It was the entrance of the military that brought most of the problems we had. So if along the line, we have experimented on some things and we found it uncomfortable, I think what we should do is to go back to status quo.
Are you invariable saying that we should return back to Independence and Republican constitutions?
Yes. That was the last agreement we had. The next best to it was the Aburi Accord because in that accord, the military officers met and agreed on confederation. So, if we don’t agree on confederation, we should at least go to the 1963 Constitution. That constitution talks about regionalism.
So you are in support of Nigeria returning to regional government?
Yes! We must go back to regionalism because we are talking about resource control. The clamour for restructuring was because we felt that the other side is taking advantages of us. We should go back to the 1963 Constitution; use it and see how far we can go. The constitution given to us by the military, which we are using today is not the best for us; let us go back to where we have started from.
What is your take on the clamour and agitations for the breaking of Nigeria by different groups across the country?
There must be provisions that if you are dissatisfied with your membership of organisation, you can say you want to withdraw it. There is nothing wrong with agitation and that is what is called self-determination. People can agitate for whatever they want, but I don’t want people to do it violently. It is supposed to be legally, politically and diplomatically. They are supposed to pursue it with fine language, legally and politically. Things should not be done violently because there is nobody who has monopoly of hate speech. Crisis usually starts with hate speech. So, it is advisable not to abuse people and use hate speech because there is nobody that has a monopoly of hate speech.
Your father, late Dim Ojukwu, fought for Biafra and in recent time there are renewed calls for Biafra by several groups in South-East…
Biafra is my father’s baby and I will be deceiving you if I say Biafra is nothing. I discussed it several times with him when he was alive. A man does not kill his child; Biafra is my father’s baby and there is no way Ojukwu will tell you that Biafra is nonsense. Biafra is a throwback to injustice. He did not just wake up and said let me start Biafra; it was because of the injustice. As long as there is no injustice and everybody is living peacefully, nobody will talk of Biafra. It is when there are inequalities in the polity that you will have agitations. There will always be agitations when you have somebody who has first a class or second class upper and without a job while somebody with a pass gets a job or when merit is no longer given prominence.
Do you agree with some schools of thought that the agitation for Biafra is as a result of alleged marginalisation of the South-East?
That is it. It was because of so many things that were not taken care off. A lot of people are making incursion into the South-East. I always tell people that the South-East does not rule South-East; we have puppets ruling South-East. So, the agitations are good. The intensions are good if it would be taken to its logical conclusion so that the rulers of South-East will be accountable to their people. It is not when you go to Abuja to collect N100 billion to tar the roads in the South-East and you transfer the money to your account abroad.

What do you mean by puppets ruling South-East?So, you believe in the present agitation by the Movement for the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) and Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) is in order?
Yes but it should not be violent. My only departing point from them is violence; the agitation should be peaceful. They don’t need to block the roads because they are protesting. If they want to protest, they can go to a field or rent a stadium; pay money for the stadium to demonstrate and hold peaceful meetings. When you are there, you can sit down and hold your candles; then bring some media houses to help you beam your protest to the world for the world to be aware of what you are protesting against. It is advisable that agitation should not be by violence. You don’t express your right, while abridging the rights of another person.
They are not the people who are responsible to the people. There is a lot of money politics, the Igbo man might not have money but somebody somewhere would give him a loan to go and contest. When he contests; then he would have a way of paying back that money.

Why has it been difficult for anybody to step into your father’s shoes as Igbo leader?Why has Igbo not been able to have a rallying point or acceptable leader like Dim Ojukwu and are they still missing him?
They will miss him because of the way he related with them. But I believe in leadership being evolutionary. I believe it will come up when it is right; somebody who will tell the Igbo the truth and somebody who will not be leading the Igbo for his own personal gain.
It is like that everywhere. Yoruba have not been able to replicate Obafemi Awolowo. The Northerners have not been able to replicate Sir Ahmadu Bello. Everyday, they are crying over Sardauna because they have not been able to have a replicate him. It is evolutionary and it is not easy to have it.

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