Biafra : BIM/MASSOB Leader Interviewed On Igbo Rights and Biafra Cause in Nigeria
The leader of UNPO member BIM/MASSOB, Ralph Uwazuruike, conducted an interview with the Sun Nigeria on his work as head of the Biafrian group that advocated for self-determination. Topics discussed included the lack of Igbo unity, the non-violent approach the BIM/MASSOB adopts when advocating Igbo rights, the way UNPO works with BIM/MASSOB and the issue of Igbo marginalisation in general.
The following article was originally published by the SUN Nigeria
Founder and leader of Biafra Independent Movement/ Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (BIM/MASSOB), Chief Ralph Uwazuruike says he has not wavered in his commitment to the Biafra cause.
He spoke on the renewed agitation for the sovereign state of Biafra; his non-violence approach and why it received world acclaim. He also flayed Igbo leaders for not working for the interest of their people in this interview with GEORGE ONYEJIUWA.
You started this renewed agitation for the Sovereign State of Biafra. Already it is now public knowledge that BIM/MASSOB is a member of the United Nations Unrepresented Peoples Organization. Now, what next?
Well, I started MASSOB in 1999 with 25 agenda. Before I started MASSOB, I took into consideration the protocol of the Montevideo Convention of 1933 in mind. Before this time, there was this belief that the United Nations would recognise a people who are fighting for their independence using whatever means.
But the Montevideo Convention of 1933 spelt out the modalities for a group of people fighting for their independence. So, what I did is to come up with a 25 agenda of action towards the realisation of an independent Biafra. The first thing I did was to produce the Bill of Rights which I sent to the United Nations in the early part of 2000. I remembered that it was even one of our great sons, Emeka Obasi of Hallmark, who helped me with the correct addresses of the offices of the United Nations. However, I did not make the 25 agenda of action public because I knew that our people are hijackers and that they would steal the programmes. So, I was just taking them one after the other. One of the reasons is that at a certain stage in the struggle, we would have political parties for participation in elections in Nigeria because we took into consideration that referendum is not part of the 1999 constitution as amended and such provisions has to be inserted into the constitution before you start talking about referendum in Nigeria. And this has to be done by our own platform, our people and supporters. That was even why, at a later stage with the late Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, we even had to float the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), so that the APGA government in the South East could push for such agenda.
But the politicians who came into the party did not understand our motives but rather started carving their own agenda of becoming the president of Nigeria. Today, you can see where APGA is. Instead of a party that is supposed to be present in all the South East states, it is only now in Anambra State and being managed by a small group of people who are using APGA as their source of livelihood.
So, the question of what obtains today. I was taking these things virtually in consideration of the modalities of the Montevideo Convention of 1933. Today, we have a mini-constitution in BIM/MASSOB, which I drafted while being detained at Keffi Prisons. And after my release, it was ratified, which we are using today. It is also on that platform that we have our yearly elections through which our executives emerge. We have our parliament. These are the things that Montevideo Convention enumerated. You must have a constitution, executives, parliament and defined territory. You must have the population and you must have a mini-government and these are the requirements. And we are practising these things. That was even the main reasons that I established Radio Biafra London to educate our members and people that this is what we need to do to have an independent Biafra, and before you could be recognised by the United Nations. And that was even why the United Nations Unrepresented Peoples Organisation said that we are the people they are looking for.
Even before we were recognised, some pro-Biafra organisations had applied to be accepted into United Nations Unrepresented Peoples Organisation, but they were not accepted. But BIM/MASSOB was registered by the UNPO as the representative of the People of Biafra because we have been following the protocol of the Montevideo Convention of 1933.
Even before we applied, Rene Bonchi called me and said that we are the people they want and that he knew that we have been in the struggle for a long time and that was why they didn’t register any other Biafra group because they had not followed the Montevideo Convention protocol.
This Montevideo Convention protocol tries to tailor emerging new states to abhor violence, that is, emerging states can pursue their independence without violence and if you don’t follow that principle of non-violence you will never make sense to them. And that was why the applications of other Biafra Organisations were rejected by the UNPO.
Now, how does the membership of BIM/MASSOB in the UNPO help in the realisation of the independent State of Biafra when the same has no power to grant such?
It helps because many nations who formed the UNPO are today independent countries. Yes, they help and only few are yet to become independent. They may not grant you independence on their own, but they are attached to the United Nations representing all the unrepresented peoples and nations. While the United Nations is for the independent nations, the UNPO is for the non-independent nations of the world. But UNPO prepares the unrepresented nations and peoples for independence.
Since the UNPO cannot grant independence to any of its members, how has the leadership of BIM/ MASSOB been able to push its case to the United Nations General Assembly?
We are following the UNPO as a member who will bring up our case before the General Assembly and Security Council. Recently, UNPO is seeking to be admitted as a permanent member in the Security Council. Now, as BIM/ MASSOB, we cannot approach the Security Council but as a member of the UNPO, the UNPO will bring up our problem before the UN Security Council. The last time the UN had a meeting with selected members of UNPO, BIM/MASSOB was among them. It was the UNPO that sent the list of recognised members to the UN that participated in that meeting which was through zoom.
It has been alleged that you have been bought over by the government and given some largesse. How do you react to this?
I don’t even need to react because our people are fond of that. None of them asked me to start agitating for Biafra in the first place. I didn’t seek anybody’s permission to start agitating for Biafra in 1999. Since 1999 till date, has any of them contributed one dollar or one naira in the struggle for Biafra? All the time I had been in detention, did they ask whether my family was eating? Did they ask if my children were going to school? Did they send any delegation to visit me while in detention? Have they ever asked, how does this man eat that has brought out his time to fight for Ndigbo? I’m a lawyer and not a jobless man. I left my legal practice and started the agitation. I am 33 years now at the Bar, but I left it to fight for them. What they see is that Uwazuruike has been settled, Uwazuruike is no longer talking. What have they been doing? They are the ones setting me backwards. They are the ones sabotaging me, hijacking my platforms. Do you understand? They are the ones who would come to say Uwazuruike has been settled, that Uwazuruike has collected money. Collected money from who? Ask them who gave me this money? From which account was the money paid from to me? I don’t believe in any government giving me money and I am not a lazy man who waits for people to give him. Even though I am no longer practising but I still have to do something to make money to take care of my family. I am not a beggar. The most important thing is that I have set the struggle for the actualization of the independent state of Biafra in motion. Whether some people are doing it the right way or not, today the issue being discussed all over the world is Biafra independence.
Even if I start a party today, they will be the ones to sabotage it. The late Dim Ojukwu and I tried to promote APGA but the same persons accusing me of being settled hijacked and sabotaged the party, and today they are using APGA as kalokalo and said that they have sacked everybody. If I start another party or take over one of these mushroom parties, they will hijack it. The same people will come and say that they have expelled me from the party and hijack it. This is the way they hijacked my radio in London, hijacked APGA and even the Peoples Democratic Congress which we formed before APGA by Chekwas, Ojukwu and I. Don’t mind these people. I don’t even listen to them because they are saboteurs.
How do you think the issue of Igbo marginalisation should be best addressed?
Who is marginalising who? Ndigbo are the ones marginalising themselves. If you want to be marginalised, you will be marginalised. But if you don’t to be marginalised, nobody will marginalise you.
Simple; they lack unity. Ndigbo hate themselves and they behave as if they don’t understand anything; even politics itself. They are talking of President of Nigeria. For where? How would they get it? It’s impossible as of today. How can you be talking of Ndigbo producing the president in 2023 when the South East governors are bifurcated in three parties? Two governors in PDP, two governors in APC and one in APGA? Which party will give you their platform to run with two governors in APC and PDP? There are only two parties in Nigeria today: the PDP and the APC that can contest for the presidency in the real sense. Which one of them can Ndigbo say that they are in control of its decision making? Which party can come to Igbo land and say they want to pick the candidate with two states? They don’t know anything. I have told Ndigbo that if they want to be President of Nigeria, all the governors must be in one party and if they see that you’re all in one party, they will begin to take you serious, that senses have come back. They should forget about 2023 because it is already gone and focus on 2027.
But the South East has been agitating that the presidential slots of the two major parties should be zoned to the South East…
Never. They will rather zone it to South-South or South-West. If you come to South-South, they have six states. And of these six states, only the Cross River State governor is in APC, and he recently joined. The South West has six states, and only Oyo state is PDP. The rest five are APC. You cannot compare it with South East. It is not possible for APC or PDP to zone their presidential ticket to the South East. They will never.
Are you saying that the cause of the marginalisation of Ndigbo is their lack of unity?
Yes of course, because they hate themselves. Now, take for instance all those people talking of President of Nigeria from Igbo extraction, how many have visited me as the Ijele Ndigbo, to tell me, even though they know that I have a platform of millions of followers? Rather, it is people from the North who have come here to seek my support for their ambition because they recognise me. But because we hate ourselves, my own people cannot come here because of hatred. They would rather go to the Yoruba and Hausa. It is not their fault because it is in their genes. With disunity, hatred and bigotry, how can we achieve anything?
My own position on the 2023 presidency is that it should be given to the youths. I have been saying it, let the youths take over the governance of this country, even if it is for four years. Both Bill Clinton and Obama all became the presidents of America in their 40s. The president of France, Macron is less than 50 years and these countries are super powers. I want this 2023 election to be ceded to the youths. We have youthful governors, senators, House of Reps members who are doing very well. In fact, my candidate for the 2023 Presidential election is the Kogi State Governor, Yahaya Bello. The young man came here all the way from Kogi State to seek my support. I think he will do well. He is about 46 years and serving his second term as governor. So, we should cede this 2023 elections to the younger generation. I would like a situation where the sons of Atiku Abubakar and Muhammadu Buhari will be coming out to contest for governors or the president. That has always been my view.
Ndigbo have been lamenting that the sit-at-home order every Monday is affecting the economy of the South East. Even though the IPOB has washed its hands from the matter. What do you think is happening?
I am not a member of IPOB. I am not in control and so I can’t decide for them. I first ordered the sit-at-home in 2004 and it was successful and we didn’t force anybody because we were working according to the Montevideo Convention protocol. In the 2004 sit-at-home, no force or intimidation or violence was used to compel people to obey. And if it was found out that either force or violence were applied in that sit-at-home, you have flouted the Montevideo Protocol because the whole world is watching. If it is discovered that people were killed, houses burnt in the sit-at-home, then the use of force and violence has made nonsense of what you have achieved.
Have you made any submission to the National Assembly on the issue of inserting the provision of referendum into the constitution, so as to give Nigerians the opportunity to vote for or against major political/economic policies as it is done in Western democracies?
I know what you’re saying. I have done enough for our people. I brought the issue of Biafra for the elite to use to negotiate. Do you understand it? Obasanjo became the President of Nigeria from the platform of the OPC. Abiola was denied becoming president of Nigeria, but when OPC started rioting, Obasanjo was made president to pacify the South West. The South South used MEND to make Jonathan president after the death of Umaru Yar’ Adua when they starting blowing up the oil pipelines in the Niger-Delta and Nigeria used Goodluck Jonathan to appease MEND. I brought the issue of Biafra but Ndigbo couldn’t use it. That is what I am telling you that they lack knowledge, yet they claim to know. But Ndigbo could not do that because of their hatred for Uwazuruike. But if they had used the issue of Biafra as a pressure group, Ndigbo wouldn’t have been going cap in hand begging for the presidency of Nigeria. It would have been the other way round. But because of their hatred for Uwazuruike, they couldn’t use it. That is why I said earlier that Ndigbo are the ones marginalising themselves. They cannot use what they have to get what they want because they hate Uwazuruike and they are afraid to be associated with Biafra.
But if they had used the instrumentality that I had provided for them, the situation would have been different. But since they have refused to use the platform, I had already provided for them, they will continue to beg to rule Nigeria till thy kingdom come, and they will never get it. It is the same people who are shouting Igbo marginalisation that sabotaged and hijacked APGA. Do you know what Dim Ojukwu, Chekwas and I suffered to form the party? And this same people frustrated everything. Look at Ohanaeze Ndigbo. Every year, the governors will come together and bring one stooge whether retired civil servant or politician who is a 90-year-old man who cannot even fend for himself and depend on you. That is the kind of a person they want who they will manipulate and who does what they want without thinking because he solely depends on the governors for his upkeep.
But they can’t use me because I am not a hungry man, neither do I rely on them for money. And so, of course I cannot be used by any governor to do what I don’t want to do and that’s why they don’t want to relate with me even though they know that I have millions of followers. Ask any of the governors if they have ever given me one kobo or whether I have ever sent anybody to them for money. They don’t like my kind of person who will tell them the truth but a stooge who will depend on them for his sustenance.
The Ohanaeze president cannot even call a meeting without the approval of the governors. He cannot even mobilise the people. He is just there speaking old grammar that has no meaning to the average Igbo youths on the street. And nobody takes him serious because he cannot mobilise the people. But if I say that I am going to do this today, I will do it because I have the reach and the platform.