Nigerian Civil War hero, Col. Joseph Achuzia (rtd.), fondly known among his colleagues as ‘Joe’ believes providence has kept him alive to recount the details of the war. Besides clarifying the issues surrounding the clamour for Biafran Republic and resurgent militancy in this interview with DOMINIC ADEWOLE, he describes the war as a ‘senseless battle,’ even as he says there’s nothing wrong about advocating for Nigeria’s breakup
The Spokesperson of the Northern Elders’ Forum, Prof. Ango Abdulahi and Dr. Junaid Mohammed recently said the North is ready for Nigeria’s break up. How ready is the Igbo race?
In the first place, Ango Abdulahi first spoke his own mind, and then what he conceived to be the stand of his people. For me and on behalf of my people, we have never been agitating for the breakup of the Nigerian federation. What we have been doing? We have always canvassed true federalism, or in the absence of that, we want equality in everything concerning anything concerning the present military type of federalism. No, we have never are clamoured to opt out of the country or seek its beak up, because we have invested a lot in the country. Most of the so-called civilised investments in the Nigeria came from our people. It is only a fool that will abandon a proper house and go and live in a batcher, or in the open field.
There is nothing that Nigeria has that the Igbo man needs except the population and the opportunity to expand his business interests.
And that is why, if an Igbo man finds another market for his business empire, he would not bother about what happens in the other parts of Nigeria. So, if Ango Abdulahi is actually speaking for his people, he should be seen to the saying, ‘let us implement the result of former President Goodluck Jonathan’s National Conference’, which was meant to address all the ethnic imbalances in Nigeria that have reawakened the consciousness, that made everybody to be ethnic conscious. It is this ethnic consciousness that, when people talk, one takes it that we are asking for Nigeria’s breakup people misconstrued to be that we are calling for Nigeria’s break up. To whose advantage if Nigeria breaks up? Is it to the advantage of the Northerners, or those of us in the South- East or the Westerners? No. It will creating more problems for every ethnic group in Nigeria.
But what we are saying is that, we want true federalism; that no ethnic group wants to be slave to the other, we want to be treated with respect, and given what is due to us, and nobody will complain.
So, if Ango Abdulahi has any new thing to tell Nigerians, he should do us, not that they are ready for Nigeria’s break up. Is he trying to say they have been ready for the break up all along, hence they did not accept true federalism? Or is he trying to say they won’t accept the agitation for true federalism every ethnic group will get what is due to it? That seems to be what he is telling us.
Your response has contravened the position of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), the Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) and the Biafra Independent Movement (BIM) that have demanded for the Sovereign State of Biafra, Biafran Republic?
How? I am always confused when people talk about IPOB. Which of the IPOB’s are people talking about? IPOB as represented by Nnamdi Kanu that is held in detention, or the remnants of the people that fought the Nigerian War that have refused to be denied their right, that yes I fought the war?
I reserve the right to be called Biafran and have refused to be denied their rights and have maintained that their rights should and privileges should be preserved. To say yes, I fought a civil war, I deserved the right to be called a Biafran.
How about the IPOB of Nnamdi Kanu?
Haa! The IPOB of Kanu is populated by youths that were born during the Nigerian War and those that were born thereafter. These are Kanu’s mates. These are the children that were sent out of Biafra during the war to other countries, with the label on their neck that they are Biafran children. So, they have the right to be in Biafra, because that is where they came from, so they have the right to make their demands. But for those of us that fought the war and lived there, the remnants that survived the war, we also have the right to say, ‘yes, I lived in Biafra and fought for it, that is what we fought for, we are Biafrans.’
You cannot ask anybody not answer the names he or she wants. And that is why the remnants of Biafra that survived the war have gone to court. That is what made the remnants of the civil war drag the Federal Government to court in Owerri, Imo State, to determine for us whether we have the right to answer Biafrans or not. If the court says we have no right, the matter will come to a halt but if it went the other way round, then the Federal Government still has a case to answer.
Who between the Nigerian Army and Biafran troops actually bowed to the war pressure?
We (Biafran soldiers) halted the war. I made the announcement that halted them (Nigerian troops). Nigerian Army did not want the war on their side hence they carried it to us. They did not want the war to come to an end. If it was going to be a situation of ‘No victor, no vanquished’, the war would not have lasted that long because it was a war they started and they could have stopped it at any given time.
The end of the war was supposed to be a complete annihilation of our people or subjugation of the Igbo race into slavery but the resistance by Biafran soldiers, which delayed the advance of the federal troops into Igbo land, forced them to cease from the ongoing massacre. Each effort made internationally to the end the war was resisted by the federal troops based on the strenuous condition they imposed on Biafra for them to halt their march on us.
Their guts stemmed from the fact that they were over confident about the end result of the war. We then had to halt them. They laid down their arms and we laid down our own. There has never been a war that ended that way in the history of the world. I was the one that confronted Obasanjo (former President Olusegun) and made the announcement that ended the war. We moved from there to Owerri where we exchanged views, discussed at length and agreed that it had been a senseless battle. The initiative did not come from the Federal Government, rather it came from us. That is not surrender. Hence our troops went home with their weapons and other things, and were later entertained federal troops who were still in their area as colleagues, to let bygone be bygone.
What is your take about the alleged killing of Biafran agitators, those you referred to as ‘Children of Biafra’ by Nigerian soldiers?
As far as I am concerned, Nigerian soldiers have no right to kill anybody who lives in Nigeria; who have the right to be in Nigeria because they are demonstrating, or agitating for something. That is not proper. And that in itself is ethnic cleansing. It only amounts to genocide for anyone to incite an armed group to attack an unarmed group of civilians. Whoever does that has committed genocide. At the appointed time, whoever is doing that or that has done that will answer for it. Anybody that is advising the Federal Government to do that should have a rethink.
Is that a military exercise?
No. That is not it. You cannot be killing the people you are meant to defend and call that military exercise. You don’t carry gun to confront those you are called to defend. That is genocide. That is not what they are in military uniform to do. The menace of ‘killer’ herdsmen has further fuelled the agitation for break up especially in the South-Eastern part of Nigeria, is that the proper thing to do?
Without sounding like the President of America, Donald Trump, the best way to address their menace is to follow the suggestion of Anglo Muhammed who said Nigeria should break up, ‘To your tent oh Israel.’ The only easy way to stop it is to adhere to Anglo Muhammed’s suggestion.
Similar agitation was mooted in the Niger Delta region by a factional militia group, what is your take on this?
What would I compare what is going on in the Niger Delta region with? Should I refer you to what Donald Trump prescribed as the solution? What is going on the Niger Delta region is what I will call ‘alum-able’ terminology, designed to lump everybody together. That is not very good. Niger Delta constitutes all the states across the Niger Delta region. Some states don’t agitate for their rights, some do.
Some states in the region are calm, some have taken their destiny in their hands and are determined to resist hardships, gross marginalization, environmental degradation, pollution and what have you. Some states agitate, not for what people thought they were agitating for. Some are agitating for the problems that are inherent in their area, the oil and gas pollution, and so on in their territory. How can you lump all these together with those who don’t feel the effect of oil pollution and so on in their area, and are not making troubles? So, not to sound like Donald Trump (laugh) I will say that the social media should try and distinguish between various calls within the agitation, or else, lumping them together makes everybody in the Niger Delta almost, a militant, and that is not good.
But are the militants justified, going by the way and manner they are bombing oil and gas facilities in their area?
First, before one embarks on militancy, that person must have been wounded or suffered some losses, that have defiled peaceful solution for decades. That is what leads to militancy. Militancy does not really require carrying of arms, because arms are not easily available or acquirable. So, where do you expect them to get arms from to make their demands? Our mentality is such that as soon as we hear militant, every eye goes to weapon. That is not it. If that is the case, where do they expect all those that are crying out against one injustice or the other to get weapons to arm the militants to press home their demands? There is nothing wrong in agitation but the manner may not be right.
Don’t forget that I said those that have been wounded for ages or suffered some losses are involved in agitation. An hungry man, is an angry man. Some of the agitators don’t want their generation to suffer what they have suffered, hence they are trying to correct the age-long misrule, mismanagement of resources.
Does it justify why the whole area was militarized?
What do you mean by that? There is nothing like that. Your semantic is wrong. Do you call the Federal Government deployment to the area militarization? Militarization of an area presupposes a situation of fire fir fire. There is nothing like that. What you are talking about is Federal Government reaction to militancy by moving soldiers to the area. What your question presupposes is that the militants are all armed, waiting to oust Federal troops. No, that is not it. Militants must first of all be armed before the militarization you are talking about can take place. Niger Delta area was not militarized.
Moving soldiers to the region does not imply militarization. From my observation, what the Federal Government did or was trying to do was to deploy soldiers to the area to douse the tension that had engulfed it. To the best of my knowledge, that is not militarization because the militants are not armed, they have not opened fire on civilians and soldiers, they are protesters. From my thinking, what the Federal Government was trying to do was, once soldiers are armed and positioned in a place, it naturally douses tension in the area by people trying to avoid confrontation with the arms, the soldiers.
Is the ongoing anti-graft war being successfully fought?
Anti-corruption war? Haa! I don’t know what to say. Why I say so is that, during President Goodluck Jonathan period there was corruption. During Olusegun Obasanjo’s era (former President), there was corruption. During Ibrahim Babangida’s era, there was corruption. During Yakubu Gowon’s era, there was corruption. As a matter of fact, it was corruption that brought about Nigeria’s first coup. All these endemic nature of corruption is such that it will be wrong to try to blame it on any government. There is corruption in our language, in the food we eat and water we drink.
There is corruption in our everyday activity. Even corruption is imbedded in the gift we offer to ourselves. Every Nigerian will take a dash any day. If I say, ‘look o, take this, it is a dash,’ you will take it but it is corruption. So we live in corruption. All we are trying to do is to retrace our steps. Dash will have to go away from our system. In Nigeria, the giver is corrupt, the receiver is corrupt, because every Nigerian, no matter highly placed, is corrupt and must retrace his or her steps.
What language will you use to describe the recovery of millions and billions of dollars from homes of some Nigerians?
That is politicisation of the corruption fight. That is politics my friend. Tell me how many people, how many Nigerians have seen the billions where they are starched since the matter started, how many? Who has seen it with his or her eyes? We only read it in the media. What we have seen so far is paper and television work. If all the billions of money, dollars, they have recovered have gone into the banks, will we be crying about poverty? No my friend.
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