Founder of the Customary Government for the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, Barrister Emeka Emekesiri says that even as the method and manner of the re-arrest of Mazi Nnamdi Kanu could be faulted, Kanu’s rearrest may make many resonate with the original philosophy and method of operation of IPOB before it was hijacked by Kanu.
Emekesiri said that the way forward for IPOB now is to stick to its original legal and political frameworks. He said that whereas his own IPOB is pursuing restructuring in the present time, it looks forward to a Biafra that could still be part of Nigeria until a referendum is conducted among the Biafrans on whether to remain in Nigeria or pull out as an independent nation.
Emekesiri said that the original IPOB which he propels is following up its submission at the just concluded constitutional amendment review for devolution of powers and restructuring of Nigeria back to regional governments, which in the present time will compose of the six geopolitical zones in Nigeria. He said that getting the regional government will be getting closer to Biafra, which he said is the ultimate determination of the Indigenous people of Biafra, the remnants of the old Biafra Republic of Eastern Nigeria that is a customary entity.
He also spoke of Asari Dokubu and Ralp Uwazurike’s buy in the IPOB Customary government project. He regrets that people tend to listen more to Nnamdi Kanu’s version of IPOB than the original philosophy for creation of IPOB. He said that the present agitation of Biafra is a self assertion of the remnants of the people of Biafra who were not wiped out by the Nigeria genocide against Biafra between 1967 and 1970. Excerpts:
What is your immediate reaction on the re-arrest of Mazi Nnamdi kanu?
Yes, as a lawyer I always believe in the rule of law and that the course of justice should always be followed and justice should take its course and I cannot speak anything contrary to what the law says. I understand he was standing trial and he has been brought to continue his trial and so if that is what happened, it’s ok. I cannot oppose what the law says because someone who is standing trial and he jumped the bail is bound to return and continue his trial.
But does that require that he should be abducted or extradited without due process?
From what I read, he was not arrested in UK, assuming it was in UK, the UK government would have followed the process of extradition. I don’t know where he was arrested but if it were in UK, definitely he would have gone through the extradition process.
So it was abduction then?
No, what I am saying is that from what I read, he was arrested but not in the UK. If you make yourself available for arrest, you will be arrested. Remember it was not only the Nigerian authority that was involved, the Interpol was also involved.
Shouldn’t that be when one is declared as a criminal, is Nnamdi Kanu a criminal?
No, but if you are declared wanted, there was a bench warrant issued by a court when the court revoked his bail. When the court cancelled his bail, the court issued a bench warrant for him to be arrested and so there is a bench warrant on him. He was aware there was a bench warrant issued by a Judge for him to be arrested and maybe he put himself in a way where he was arrested.
So, now that Nnamdi Kanu who hijacked the original IPOB that you founded is down, what is the future of IPOB?
We are still on, our future has never been in argument, we are still moving forward, we are the ones who are before the Nigerian government, we are the ones who presented our Biafra bills before the National Assembly, are we not the ones who are in court with Nigeria even the court of Appeal right now?
The original IPOB is still going on and nothing has happened to us, it’s just that those of you guys in the media, you promote the Nnamdi Kanu faction because he makes a lot of noise and you don’t want to promote the one that is before the Nigeria government. You can take a telephone now and call Aso Rock, call the Senate President and ask about us, they have our documents, they have our case and our papers are before the Nigeria authorities. So we are moving forward and nothing has stopped us from moving forward.
So Nnamdi Kanu’s arrest concerns his own faction, his cult, he built a cult of gangsters and so he is not speaking for us. Let it be known that Nnamdi Kanu does not speak for the Igbo nation. The Igbo nation made our point clear in 1995, we held a meeting, the Biafra elders held a meeting in 1994 at Nzuko Igbo conference in Enugu and drew the map on the way forward, both for Biafra and for Nigeria and we brought this proposal before the national conference organised by General Abacha in 1995 and it was approved.
We want Nigeria to be restructured into six nations in one, that is our stand, the stand of elders of Biafra land; that is the stand of Igbo elders that we want Nigeria to be restructured into six nations in one and that was why we created the six regions. The Igbo elders created these six geopolitical zones you are hearing about today and we want these six geopolitical zones now to become six nations in one Nigeria, for now. Our stand is clear, Nnamdi Kanu is not speaking for us, and he doesn’t speak for the Igbo nation.
Has the Biafra case ever been heard on the floor of the National Assembly?
Of course I told you that we have presented our memorandum before the national Assembly, the Senate committee on the constitution review. The procedure is that now that we have presented our case, they will now discuss and debate on it and put it to vote. The Biafra prayers, what we are asking for is what we presented before the committee in all the centers of the six geopolitical regions.
Asri Dokubu suddenly appeared in your game, what is the connection of Dokubu in IPOB?
Asari Dokubu at a point they said he wanted to come into the umbrella of the customary government and I said that’s good, there is customary government instituted by the elders of which I am their spokesman or Chairman of the governing council, so I said if that is the case let us go ahead and let us agree on the way forward, how do we harmonise our activities because they have their own structures, different organizations, let us come together.
While I was in Enugu, I made a move and called Asari Dokubu and requested for a meeting with Ralph Uwazuruike but Asari said he will not be able to come to Owerri because of security reasons, and then I called Uwazuruike and asked that we go to Yenegoa and Ralph said he was very busy. At one point I said ok you are not available and Asari is not available, how do we go about it because the three of us should sit down together and plan on how to work together but they did not agree.
The next thing I heard was that we were creating an implementation committee called Customary Government Implementation committee and I agreed and asked what shall we implement because we already have programmes on the ground? And the next thing I heard was an announcement that he will create 20 Biafra provinces. In fact he said that the 20 original Biafra provinces created legally by Ojukwu, that they are resuscitating and reviving the 20 provinces of Biafra. I said what! In which territory, I said that Biafra has no territory right now.
We live in Nigeria territory right now; we are Biafrans living in Nigeria. The law is that the territory belongs to Nigeria, so where are you creating your territories from, in Nigeria territory? We are Biafrans and the territory we are living in right now is Nigeria. There is a difference between the original identity of a people and the country where they are living. So we published a disclaimer that we are not part of what they are doing because we cannot do anything that is unlawful. We are in court with Nigeria and we cannot now take the laws into our hands and that’s why we disassociated ourselves from them.
What do you think is the reason your IPOB idea is being hijacked by different people, Nnamdi Kanu in the first instance and now Asari Dokubu?
You know people say that a good product is subject to counterfeits, nobody counterfeits a bad product. They know that the product I have is a good product, they know the original vision that I have and they know it’s an excellent vision and that’s why they try to counterfeit it.
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Those who believe in what I believe, we will continue with the original IPOB, the original customary government, no matter the counterfeits because in the end the original will stand.
How can your IPOB be talking about Biafra as an independent nation, yet you are seeking restructuring in Nigeria, is that not contradictory?
This is a very good question. Now, the freedom we are asking for is total freedom. Eventually we will have independent Biafra; it has to be in stages, by phases. We have conducted feasibility and viability studies of the Biafra project and we have found out that you cannot get Biafra immediately now. You can only get Biafra in phases, phase one, phase two and phase three and now phase one has been accomplished and that is the awareness creation phase. Phase two is regional autonomy, which is restructuring into regional autonomy where we will now have a regional parliament and that is Biafra. Before it is called Biafra it will first be a regional government.
Then it is the regional government that will pass the bill of referendum and it will be put to vote in a referendum for outright independence from Nigeria. It is going to be stage by stage, you cannot get it now, and anybody thinking you will get it now let him try. If you want to go to war, go and start fighting with the Nigeria government. If you want it by referendum go now and put a bill of referendum in Abuja and see if it will pass, it will not pass but if you put it in the eastern regional parliament it will pass.
So the ultimate goal of the restructuring is for the breakaway of the country into sub regions?
Let us look at it this way; the ultimate goal is to give the people the right to self-determination by referendum. For instance when we get to the regional autonomy or parliament such as the South East region, the regional government will now have the bill of referendum and the bill of referendum guarantees you the right to secede if you have 60 percent of the vote.
When you go for referendum, the whole people of south east will vote whether to remain in Nigeria or to pull out and you will see that you will find it difficult to get 60 percent because all the people in south east who leave in Lagos or Abuja will vote no, they will say we want to remain in Nigeria since we have our regional government and Biafrans in Nigeria.
This is exactly what is happening to Scotland now. Scotland has got the regional government as Scottish government but why are they not passing? They have done referendums twice and they couldn’t get 60 percent, why? Because each time they come to vote, the people of Scotland will say, ah why are we even going, we’re already on our own, we have Scottish parliament, we have Scottish government, we have Scottish police; we have everything as a government, then why are we pulling out from Britain since everywhere in Britain is our racket and so when they conduct referendum, they will fail.
The same thing will happen to Biafrans in the future. It’s not going to be easy to win in the referendum because the Biafrans living in the west, in the north, other places may say after all we’ve got the Biafra regional government in the east and so why are we pulling out and we have the whole Nigeria as our mandate. That is the beauty of democracy of choice. So for the fact that we have regional autonomy does not give automatic tickets for breakaway because we have a choice either to stay in Nigeria or to go.
Do you think that the north will agree to this restructuring since at the end of the day it may lead to disintegration of Nigeria, which the north is not inclined to?
The north does not have the power to keep us in Nigeria; the people that have power to keep us are ourselves. What are you even calling north? Because there is no more north, we have divided the north; yes we have divided the north. We created north central, that is the middle belt and they are now free from the north, they are no longer north. If you want to know, know it now that north central is no longer north, we created them in 1995. We created two imaginary geographical cardinal points called south-south and north central. In geography there is nothing like south-south or north central. In geography you have east, west, north and south.
We created those two in order to give them their own political identity so that the north will no longer be using the people of the middle belt as their errand boys to fight battles, nor will they be using the people of south-south to fight us. So how will the north stop us except if the middle belt will team up with the north and let me tell you that even in the North West, southern Kaduna is with us now; We from the north central, south east, south west and south-south, we have enough votes to say that we want restructuring or regional autonomy and the north cannot stop us.
When do you think this restructuring will come?
The senate committee is discussing it, after the hearing that took place a few weeks ago, they are now discussing devolution of powers and restructuring. You know some weeks ago President Buhari said he will never support it but he was not right because he doesn’t have the power to stop the legislature from the executive arm that he heads.
Some days ago he turned around to say he will give assent to the bill if it is passed into law. So right now the national assembly is about to pass the bill on restructuring but we are talking about restructuring along geopolitical regions and if they don’t do that the struggle will continue. So any moment from now the bill of restructuring will come to the national assembly and it will be passed because it will have no opposition because we have sufficient number of votes in the national assembly as I speak now. So I am expecting restructuring or the devolution of power to take place any moment from now.