Greetings to all whom this shall reach and great respects to all the outstanding Igbo sons and daughters gathered here.
I will be brief.
But first, let me thank Chief Nnia Nwodo for the outstanding leadership as Ohaneze PG. NdiIgbo are the most difficult group of people to lead and given all the resources at his disposal, Chief Nwodo has done an outstanding job. So my reflections should not in any way be construed as job approval rating for the Ohaneze PG.
While commending Chief Nwodo, I wish to also commend Prof Nwala for outstanding job of Igbo advocacy in his leadership of ADF.
The Ekwueme Square Declaration came across as academic and sterile and addressed to a rarefied elitist space. I appreciate every word that was so neatly crafted and flavored to achieve its aims, but it was over crafted and was consequently stripped of spunk and character. It appealed to reason and fundamental fairness of all Nigerians. Ordinarily, there is nothing wrong with that. But we are in Nigeria and not in Europe. We are addressing our issues to people of low political refinements, and I mean all Nigerians, and not to the European Parliament. This was an appeal to the status quo to change itself and not a demand that the status quo must change. In short, the declaration came across as bland, needlessly florid and compromised by a need to accommodate disparate interest groups and personal interests. It is an arm tied to the back, do no harm, upset no one declaration.
We cannot keep denying that we are in a struggle and we cannot keep wishing that others die our deaths. Contrast the Ekwueme Declaration with the Yoruba Declaration. The Yoruba Declaration carried punch, gravitas and had foretaste and aftertaste that left no ambiguity whatsoever that they had been pushed to the point where further accommodation of the status quo in Nigeria had become an existential endangerment.
Contrast the Ekwueme Declaration with the ADF Declaration and you can tell which one was crafted by Igbo men they way we used to make them. The ADF Declaration had the right mix of words and temperament, signaling to our compatriots that the Igbos are ready, willing and able to do what they must, including struggling for it, to win their emancipation in a rearranged Nigeria or a balkanized Nigeria.
NdiIgbo cannot and will not be taken seriously unless they demonstrate in words and deeds that joined with their Southern Compatriots, Nigeria must change or that united with Southern Nigeria, Nigeria must break up.
Let’s just be frank to ourselves. The problem with Nigeria is that we are locked in a clash of civilizations with fundamentalists of irreconcilable world views as it were. The struggle about which this generation of UmuIgbo is concerned is not freedom to hate the far North but freedom from hate from the far North. Neighboring nations or one nation, we cannot afford to hate the North but we cannot continue to live in constant apprehension of death and dismemberment in the hands of our compatriots who readily resort to violence as their preferred way to settle political conflicts. Nor can we be locked into the rigid religious doctrinaire about which their lives revolve. We demand individual, social, and political autonomies in accordance with our own world views and we should stop apologizing for it.
In the end, in trying to please everyone, Ohaneze displeased the key Igbo constituents who speak the language that Nigeria understands. The proBiafran group, not just IPOB, understand that this is a struggle and not an academic exercise. Ohaneze needs to join the struggle or take a back seat to IPOB and ADF and other self -determination groups that understand the issues better. These self determination groups understand where the Igbos need to go and how to get there. Ohaneze on the other hand is end point inclined, dreaming ruefully about the end point without a sound strategy as to how to get there other than mere appeal to reason.
Many Igbo elite do not want to take chances with their political viabilities in Nigeria. They are engaged in the struggle but are ineffectual because their biggest care and concern is that the Fulani’s do not brand them as unpatriotic and so they skirt around the issues and pick their words carefully so that come time for political opportunities, the same Fulanis who have done everything under the sun to alienate their countrymen would not deny them opportunities as deemed unpatriotic Nigerians.
If demanding for self-determination makes us less Nigerians than the Fulanis, then less Nigerians we must be. Period. We cannot keep apologizing for our right to self-determination. We demand it for all Nigerians, including the Fulanis.
To be very clear, WE have gone beyond appealing for our right to self determination to demanding for our right to self determination. The two postures are different. ADF’s position is a demand declaration. Ohaneze’s Declaration is an Appeal Declaration. The flavors are different. Demand signifies political muscularity which repudiates the status quo and demands that it moves or it will be made to move by any means necessary.
Standing in solidarity with the rest of Southern Nigeria, Ohaneze has to change its tone to a demand tone going forward. More than just a demand tone, Ohaneze needs to understand that it is time to organize to stare down our compatriots who would not accede to self-determination and show that we are braced for the push back. Emphasis is on the word organize. In solidarity with the rest of Southern Nigeria, we have to be committed to an organized struggle, emphasis on struggle, under a pan regional platform to demand the changes which we believe are fair and just for all Nigerians. And if they are not interested, then we must move with a coalition of our Southern neighbors to a separate and independent political formation that will guarantee our rights to freedom and pursuit of happiness.
Emphasis is in solidarity with Southern Nigeria. While I appreciate the proBiafran camps, I believe that a panregional, Southern Nigerian Self Determination and Independence movement is the proper vehicle in muscle and scope to wage the kind of struggles that the circumstances demand.
We owe it to our children to not pass this struggle to them. WE cannot continue to appeal to a people who are tone deaf with all the benefits of unitarism. We owe it to the lands that our forefathers bequeathed to us to not abandon them and flee. We owe it to ourselves to boldly demand freedom from hate. While we must continue to sue for peace as always necessary, we owe it to ourselves and the fine traditions of liberty that flows in our veins to demand our freedom, and if necessary, die struggling for it.
Dr Chris Aniedobe