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MASSOB Is Fighting Against Injustice - Umeagbalasi

Opinion article, Post Express (Lagos), 6 August 2000

Lagos—For sometime now, the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) has been in the news, especially with its efforts at declaring a Sovereign State of Biafra.

In this piece, the Vice Chairman and Head, Complaint, Media and Publicity of the Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO) in Anambra State, Emeka Umeagbalasi takes a look at some of the reasons behind the agitation of the people, for a Sovereign State of Biafra.

Did the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and her body of laws, the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights of 1981; Common Wealth of Nations Declaration on Democracy, Human Rights and Good Governance of 1990; United Nations' Declaration of Human Rights of 1945 and her other humanitarian laws make provisions for the actualisation of the types of struggles which MASSOB is engaging in? Yes these laws which Nigeria was a party to, do insert such rights so long as the principles of non-violence is strictly maintained.

Precious Chapter Four of 1999 Constitution dwells on Fundamental Human Rights which was incidentally inserted and entrenched in Nigeria's premier sacred writings to protect the minorities from being marginalised as a result of the Willink Commission report of 1957. Under the one of 1948, Uwazurike and MASSOB's rights were drawn from the following areas articles five, thirteen, fifteen, eighteen, nineteen, twenty, twenty-one, twenty-two, twenty-eight and twenty-nine. Under the African Charter on Human and peoples' Rights of 1981, MASSOB and Uwazurike were accorded with such rights in the following articles- Four, Six, seven, nine, ten, eleven twelve, nineteen, twenty,

Twenty-three, twenty-four, twenty-seven and twenty-eight, MASSOB's rights to self-determination and so on, were equally guaranteed by Common Wealth's Principles on Human Rights, Democracy and Governance of 1990 and other humanitarian laws of the United Nations Organisation.

Are the factors that necessitated these struggles still on the ground? The answer to this is capital yes. If you do not feel angry about injustice, you may not be able to do justice or work for justice. You must be angry against injustice. But in trying to correct injustice, we should not try to create more injustice. Obasanjo must have been aware that he would soon preside over injustice-stricken Nigeria when he made this contribution during his interview with London based Africa Today after his release in 1998. The visible factor in MASSOB's struggles is gross injustice being meted on Igbos in Nigeria. The most brazen injustice meted on Ndhigbo was a sinister and cold- blooded murder of her Sons and daughters by her co-travellers in nationhood at the slightest or no provocations. In Jos 1945, Kano 1953, 1966 pogrom, 1967-1970 Igbo genocide (civil-war), 1970-1975 economic repression against Igbos with five thousand deaths, Maitaistine-kano, 1980, Maiduguri 1982, Jimeta-Yola 1984, Funtua 1993, Akaluka/Kano 1994, Gboko 1998, June 12,1993, February, 2000 ethnic-religious butchering, May, 2000 following killings, to mention but a few. More than three million Igbos were butchered during the aforementioned systematic ethnic cleansings. Another important factor for MASSOBs calls for justice is education. Education according to Karl Marx is the gradual socialisation of man and his emancipation from intellectual weakness to the intellectual wisdom.

About two million educated class were systematically butchered in Cambodia by Mr. Pol Pot between 1975-1979 because, he viewed them to be more dangerous than fifteen million illiterates combined. In Nigeria, some ethnic zealots who hid under one examination cum educational body or the other have success-fully waged academic repression against Igbo sons and daughters. Eastwhile prestigious British West African (Anglophone) examination body allowed itself to be ethnicised when from 1990 to 1999, it was systematically used to send tens of thousands of our sons and daughters into armed robbery, prostitution and unprepared apprenticeship and trading. During the time of Alhaji Dauda Brimai as Education minster, he announced the abolition's of pre-science degree courses and shutting off of the satellite campuses in his attempt to deny Igbos other means of acquiring university education like their partners in nationhood.

Yet again in 1998, the then education Minister, Mr. Samuel Olaiya came up with another bombshell when he told millions of Nigerians (Igbos) who were striving to acquire prestigious university education to forget having anything to do with the nation's political administration and civil service because they were acquiring them through distant education programmes.

As if that is not enough, the Council for Legal Education recently came up (April 2000) with yet another ethnic motivated policy when it announced that henceforth, those (Igbos) who read or are reading law through part-time would no longer be admitted into law school which is a yardstick for somebody to be called to bar. Was it not Comrade Deng Xiam-Ping of China who said that it does not matter whether a cat is short, tall, tin or fat, so long as it catches a rat? If Awolowo were given the same treatment, I do not think, he would have risen to lead his people let alone being a fore-most lawyer.

Other factors can be seen especially in the area of infrastructural developments. It is on record that the Southeast has no single International Airport. Federal Government is still owing Imo State millions of naira it used in building Imo Air port despite several promises. River Niger cannot be in any part of the country without being dredged and accorded a befitting seaport, let alone building another bridge that will support the ailing one. There is no single Federal Government industry and befitting market in Igbo-land. Since the abolition of regionalism and the introduction of statism in 1967, no single and befitting railway has been constructed in Igbo-land. Onitsha/Owerri Road is one of the busiest roads in Nigeria; yet, it cannot be dualised, because it is in Igbo-land. Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka is yet to receive its take- off grant from the Federal Government eight years after its inception while a common technical school in the North or Southwest is structurally and materially shaped than any eastern University. The Engineering Department of university of Nigeria, Nsukka was sometimes ago gutted by fire and millions of naira worth of equipment were destroyed, up till today, that important Department has been left un-cared for and unre-equipped whereas Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria, its sister university looks as if it were, that it were a Kuwait City University built with petrol-dollar.

Security is another area, Igbos have been grossly maltreated. In the police Zonal Commands, no command was allotted to the Southeast. Instead, the south eastern states were balkanised into Makurdi and Benin. Out of about 14 AIGs, we have, it was only one that came from the Southeast.

Out of the 37 states CPS and Abuja, only two are from the South- east. In January 2000, Anambra States witnessed the worst ethnic motivated police brutality when some ethnic zealots in uniform went and murdered eight OTA executives, threw down from the second floor OTA boss's wife with impunity. Today, the so called Area Commander and his co-travellers in crimes are wallowing in impunity with their new posts at the Force Headquarters, Awka while the OTA president's wife is half- dead and her husband has given up the ghost (29-05-2000), ostensity from injuries he sustained. Can they commit such heinous and horrendous crimes in other parts of the country and walk free?

During the recent Sharia reactions in Aba, the Abia State Commissioner of Police nearly succeeded in his perfected plan to use public arms and ammunition to perpetrate another ethnic cleansing if not for the timely intervention of that mercurian governor. Most recently, the Federal Government brazenly opened the floodgate of its legion of security apparatus with her newly acquired arms in order to confront MASSOB and its non-violent posture while in far away Kaduna where thousands of people have been roasted, she did not find it pertinent to man and protect the state. Is that not indecorous? Thousands of innocent Igbos are being cold-bloodedly murdered by the legion of security agencies in Igbo-land with impunity. Another precious factor in the struggles is in the area of federal appointments. Igbos have not been fairly represented in federal appointments. In the army, no Igbo man is General Officer Commanding (GOC) or Commanding officer of any strategic military formation. No Igboman is Flag Officer Commanding in Navy and the Air Force. In the Federal Civil Service, out of about seventy permanent secretaries, less than six are from the East. In the previous regimes (Abacha and Abubakar), it was less than one. Out of the whole chief executive officers (CEOs) of federal companies and corporations, only one is from Igbo land (Ozobia/ Nigerdock) and they did not even allow him to have a healthy tenure.

No reason was given for the unceremonious removal of AIG Onovo Ogbonnaya from the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, NDLEA, and his transfer to police college- Kano. Out of thirty-seven CPs, Lagos State CP is oldest among them both in service and in age yet, he is still a CP. The Nigeria Army medical surgeon (Igboman) is still in the Army with the rank of colonel. Out of about twenty Vice Chancellors of federal universities, only four are from the East (fair). In NEPA, NITEL, NIPOST, Water Corporation, Health, Aviation, Transpot, Trade, Judiciary: (no Igboman has been Chief Justice of the Federation, President, Federal Court of Appeal and Chief judge of the Federal High Courts), ENVIRONMENT, AGRICULTURE and NDE (National Directorate of Employment), Igbos have suffered untold marginalisation. These have proved MASSOB right that it is not fighting for empty factors but visible factors on the ground.

Why didn't MASSOB consult OHA-NA-EZE-NDIGBO, elected governors and Assembly men and women and hundreds of Igbo Associations as alleged and are they worthy to be consulted? Give us men, time like this demands strong minds, great hearts, true faith and ready brains; men who posses opinions and wills; men who have honour, men who will not lie, men who stand before the demagogue and damn his treacherous flatteries without winking powerful comrade Uwazuruike and MASSOB might have taken cognisance of this piece from Oliver.W.Holmes (1809-1894), a foremost American Philosopher and poet, before they came into these sacred struggles. On the side of our elected men and women, they have been conscientised with stack republicanism and individualism. Our Assemblymen and women are parliamentarians with the tattered constituencies while our governors are unconscionable political loyalists of a shattered Federation. These attributes are different in the Southwest where their counterparts are endowed with favourable republicanism, collectivism and progressivism. The emancipation of Yoruba race is their watchword. They believe in Yoruba first Before Nigeria (Awolowo) while their counterparts believe in Nigeria first Before Ndigbo (ZIK)

From the above attribute of theirs, it would amount to blatant stupidity for them to be consulted as they wished

(House to house consultation). There comes OHA-NA-EZE NDIGBO. This supposedly fore most Igbo socio-cultural Organisation ought to be consulted and its blessings sought. But this organisation is suffering credibility problem because of its composition. In OHA-NA-EZE-NDIGBO, the following class of individuals are members: - the political gifoloists and turn-coats, the sell-outs, the minions of Igbo haters, the loud and double mouthed paper-tigers, the contract-seekers, the praise singers, the non-State Origin policy makers, the contracts- abandoner.

Then come the leftists, centralists, rightists and few emancipators. From an organisation that has this nature of composition what particular quality can be said to be possessed by such an Organisation? Can such an Organisation be relied upon for socio-cultural and political emancipation of Igbos race? Is OHA-NA -EZE-NDIGBO, grass-root Oriented? Is it elitist in nature? Has it done anything remarkable since its inception? Does it command respect and support of Igbos in Igbo land and Igbos in Diaspora?

It has always been pointed out that in Oduduwa land, the likes of Adedebus, Arisokolas, Babatopes and others will never set their feet in any AFENIFERE meeting, until they apologise for their sins against Yoruba race but, in Igbo land, the likes of former Chief returning officer of GDM who first gave Abacha ticket to transmogrify himself and the thwarter of Ekwueme presidency, the disgraced presidential candidates and he who took alongside him some political gigoloists and loud mouthed nonentities under the aegis of OHA-HA-EZE-NDIGBO South East Zone to ASO ROCK in 1998 and urged Abacha to ignore Ekwueme and other millions of Nigeria's call on him to step down, the Obosi high chief who took alongside him some urchins-in-legal robes called S/Eastern Lawyers, forum to Abuja Federal High Court to obtain an injunction to restrain Ekwueme-led G34 and others from asking Abacha to step down, the former revered state civilian governor and propounded of ROB-MY BACK-IROBB-yours theory who participated in Abacha two million march, the luckiest former Senate President, the Dunukofia high chief and Abacha undertaker who refused to meet his waterloo when Abacha died, the Architect of non-state orin policy that sent thousands to prostitution, armed robbery, penury and untimely deaths and the self acclaimed mayor of the coalcity and others are not only allowed but to lead some of the delegations in OHA-NA-EZE NDIGBO.

From these facts on the ground, MASSOB and UWAZURUINE would have made suicidal mistake to consult with such an Organisation with such composition and inclusively. For hundreds of Igbo associations, I am sure Uwazurike must have consulted with some of them that are credible and thousands of Igbo folks are reminiscent of 0HA-NA-EZE-NDIGBO.

In genuine strugglers like these, it is only those who believed in progressivism (apologies to Dr. Ezeife) that would be consulted and involved. The conservatives and centralists and others would be left to make choice. Uwazurike and MASSOB would not face crucifixion for the steps they have taken in this direction.