The World Igbo Congress (WIC) urged President Muhammadu Buhari and the Department of State Security (DSS) to immediately release Nnamdi Kanu, leader of the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB).
In a statement released today and signed by its chairman, Joe Nze Etoh, and public relations officer, Chigozie Onwukwe, the WIC declared its opposition to any group’s use of force to pursue the goal of self-determination, but also warned the government against using force against people using peaceful means to agitate for their rights. The WIC stated its “support for Nnamdi Kanu and IPOB as long as they seek a peaceful dialogue with the Buhari administration for their self-determination.”
The organization, which represents Igbo interests globally, recounted the outcome of the Biafran War and cautioned the government to address grievances by Igbo and other groups within Nigeria.
Below is the text of the WIC’s statement:
The World Igbo Congress has read in various media with utter dismay, the trumped up charges against Nnamdi Kanu, the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) by the Federal Government of Nigeria. It is our understanding that Nnamdi Kanu was arrested in Abuja, October 16, 2015, granted bail on October 19, and held extra-judicially by the DSS until his arraignment on November 23, 2015. Nnamdi Kanu’s arrest has evoked peaceful street protests and other forms of agitations by his followers and supporters within Nigeria and her embassies, seeking his release.
The World Igbo Congress (WIC) unequivocally states the following:
1. The Nigerian Armed Forces defeated the State of Biafra in a 30-month war that ended in January of 1970, with a surrender instrument handed to Nigeria by General Philip Effiong on behalf of Biafra. In a spirit of re-integration, Nigeria committed to the “No Victor, No Vanquished” declaration by Yakubu Gowon. The State of Biafra subsequently collapsed. The Igbo establishment returned to Nigeria, fully committed to “One Nigeria”, bringing with them all Igbo human and material resources needed to make Nigeria a paradise for all Nigerians.
2. Biafra lives in the mind of every Igbo worldwide, and in the memory of every Nigerian. These are indisputable facts. The Nigerian State has the responsibility to contain and restrain Biafra in this virtual space, and this can only be sustained when every Nigerian is guaranteed equal human, social and economic right in the Nigerian State.
3. The Nigerian government must recognize in words and by action that the war ended over 45 years ago. The Continued repression and obvious third class treatment of the Igbo and her region, completely at variance with the Gowon’s promise of “No Victor, No Vanquished” triggers the street agitation for Biafra. Nigeria has more than collected her pound of flesh on the Igbo even as the Igbo was forced to defend herself in a gruesome act of genocide against her. (See Emir of Kano, Sanusi Lamido’s narrative of the chilling, repulsive grinding of the Igbo by the Generals of the Nigerian Army who took over the administration of Nigeria post war, and his admonishment that Nigeria will have itself to blame if it continues to visit vengeance on the Igbo indefinitely). Has the chicken come home to roost?
4. There is no Nigerian ethnic group more Nigerian than the Igbo. It is the Igbo’s total commitment to One Nigeria that explains his voluntary presence in every nook and corner of Nigeria, contributing his hard work to the development of the remotest Nigerian villages. There is hardly any presence of other Nigerian ethnic groups in the present Southeast and South-south of Nigeria, even as these zones provide the entire nation with its economic lifeline. The Igbo sacrificed self-interests unlike other colonized Nigerians in the struggle for Nigeria’s independence, even as he understood that the British Colonial Master would fight him till the end of time. He has been persistently, brutally hunted and hounded without cause, and now for what appears to be sports in competitive massacre of the Igbo in the communities in the North of Nigeria where he resides and provides services to sustain communities. (See attached diary of Igbo massacre in Northern Nigeria since 1945). It is instructive to note that to date not a single culprit in these massacres spanning over 70 years has been convicted for mass or individual murder of fellow Nigerians who are Igbo. In 2014, a seating governor of Lagos state “deported” Igbo destitute to Anambra state, in violation of the 1999 constitution, and in mockery of the “One Nigeria” mantra. In 2007, 2011 and 2014, Candidate Muhammadu Buhari for President and some of his supporters from the North of Nigeria threatened to make Nigeria ungovernable if a Northern candidate did not win the presidential elections. This posture is very revealing and makes caricature of “One Nigeria”. Compare this with President Goodluck’s statesmanship in conceding an election victory to now President Muhammadu Buhari, even when there were solid grounds to seek a cancellation of that election. Jonathan’s statesmanship here was not an act of cowardice, but a show of commitment to “One Nigeria”. Let us be serious here. Dependence on Arms, Arrogance and bravado show of military might and intimidation will never secure “One Nigeria” for all Nigerians, but will certainly continue to evoke disintegration sentiments among the ethnic groups. The Yoruba Kingdom has been openly calling for Oduduwa nation; MEND has not yet seen cause to collapse their struggle for equitable justice for the Niger Delta; the minorities of Benue and Plateau states seem to be permanently under siege by the Islamic hardliners who burn churches and community settlements in the area and then occupy them. A seating governor of Benue State was confronted by Islamists armed with sophisticated rifles, and narrowly escaped assassination. There is no known attempt by the federal Government of Nigeria to take action that effectively deters the repeat of these barbaric incidents. These are extremely worrisome developments that need to be resolved at a table, and not by Gestapo style intimidation.
5. The name “Biafra” was not constructed in 1967 by secessionist agitators. That name had existed for the area before the 1914 amalgamation of the 300 plus ethnic nations in the area. That name actually existed for the area before the 1885 Berlin conference that assigned the area to Britain during the partitioning of or was it “scramble for” Africa. It exists in the Portuguese map drawn on their arrival in the 14th century. No one should use the name Biafra as an excuse for a mental block to a reasonable dialogue for restoration of peace pursuant to the “One Nigeria” objective. It is understandable that “Biafra” invokes distasteful memories among the Generals who prosecuted the war on the Nigerian side.
The way to bury the haunting spirit of Biafra, though, is to cure the hateful suppression of the Igbo and her territory and restore her sense of belonging within Nigeria.
6. It is somewhat complicated that Nigeria would not let Biafra be, and would not value her enough either, by making right most of the wrong done to her persistently without let. How do you keep whipping a child and at the same time not allowing the child to cry? World Igbo Congress (WIC) does not support any group (MEND, ODUDUWA, MOSOP, IPOB, MASSOB, LNC etc) to take up arms against the sovereign state of Nigeria in pursuit of self-determination. World Igbo Congress will not also support any violent agitation for self-determination by any group. To the best of our knowledge, Nnamdi Kanu and his supporters have so far toed a peaceful path as they seek self-determination. It is their inalienable right that should be respected even by the Buhari administration. The United Nations has guaranteed all indigenous groups worldwide the right to self-determination (See A/RES/61/295). Nigeria is a member of the United Nations and although it abstained from the adoption vote, it is bound by its provisions since the majority of the 143 members voted in favor, 4 voted against and 11 (including Nigeria) abstained. The act of abstinence is by itself a betrayal of the trust Nigerians have on their leaders. Nevertheless, Nigeria is bound to honor it, to avoid undermining her own status with the UN. There is a UN procedure to deal with Nnamdi Kalu and those who seek similar interests as IPOB. The UN supervised a Referendum recently for the Scotts as they sought autonomy from Britain. The Buhari Administration should emulate her ally, Cameron, the Prime Minister of Britain on his democratic wisdom of allowing the referendum in Scotland. It will be a wise move for Buhari. Using the DSS to shut down democratic essentials will always breed unrest among the constituencies that make up Nigeria. We emphasize our support for Nnamdi Kanu and IPOB as long as they seek a peaceful dialogue with the Buhari administration for their self-determination.
7. WIC observes that the meeting held in Enugu on Nov. 23, 2015 by the Southeast governors to discuss the IPOB issue was not properly organized if it is true that Ohanaeze Ndi Igbo, Igbo representatives at the National Assembly, various Igbo professional bodies, other numerous stake holders, and most importantly, the IPOB leadership were not properly invited to the meeting. This is poor judgment by the Governors, and ties into their track record of lack of regard for their constituents. It has also earned them the lack of trust by the grass roots. This show of arrogance has already invalidated the outcome of any meeting with the Buhari administration. After all, these were the same governors who did not utter a word when Gov. Fashola “deported” the Igbo “destitute” to Anambra State, or when the Nigerian Police and Army shot to death more than 80 members of MASSOB who were in a peaceful, orderly meeting somewhere in Anambra State, and whose dead bodies floated on Ezu River for weeks. The Nnamdi Kalu issue is a serious issue and should be treated with more seriousness, and far from personal, political interests. Ohaneze should actually show some leadership and invite stakeholders, including the governors to the table. The governors do not control the grass root Igbo, who see them as tin gods who have compounded their misery in Nigeria due to recognizable evidence of excessive wealth acquisition at the expense of the masses.
8. Finally, WIC calls on President Buhari and DSS to:
a. Unconditionally release Nnamdi Kanu without further delay unless there are grievous charges other than the trumped up charges under which he is being held.
b. Set in motion the machinery for a true “3-Rs” (Rehabilitation, Reconciliation and Reconstruction) so as to demonstrate a genuine desire on the part of the Nigerian government and the rest of the federation to promote the process of re-integration of the Igbo into Nigeria 45 years after the end of hostilities.
c. Immediately set up a high-powered reconciliation commission to address the issues that precipitate the incessant eruption of agitations for self-determination
d. Bring to the table the outcome of the constitutional conference initiated and conducted by the last administration as a means of opening up dialogue on how to legitimize the terms of association of the federating units of the federal republic of Nigeria.
Chigozie Onwukwe (Public Relations Officer)
Joe Nze Etoh (Chairman)