By chief ogbonna onyenweaku
I was just watching recently when in Enugu, how the Nigerian Police were manhandling and arresting some Igbo youths for daring to do what other ethnic nationalities are doing -asking for this entity called Nigeria to be divided or separated and for agitating in the name of Movement for the Actualization of Sovereign State of Biafara (MASSOB)
Some of us may not know or remember again that when Raph Uwazurike started the MASSOB thing some few years ago, nobody took him serous. The Igbo leaders could not perceive any Igbo agenda in the whole thing and therefore, they were against it for so many reasons:
* He was trying to remind them of a bitter past. *They see it as an impossible mission. *They do not want to lose their heavy investments outside Igbo land.
So Barr. Raph Uwazurike was like an outcast (Osu) for daring to remind them of the civil war, therefore no notable Igbo leaders then wanted to identify with his cause, particularly those looking for one favour or the other from the Northern leaders and the Federal Government. With protection coming from nowhere, the powers that be came heavily on the young man, Uwazurike. Some Igbo leaders that have media houses then banned their staff from covering the activities of the group. His situation was so bad that the only area he found little attention was from the youths, who the Igbo leaders saw as not knowing what they were doing because they did not experience the war. But the support of the youth gave Uwazurike hope and he marched on.
Raph Uwazurike and his MASSOB asking for the actualization of the sovereign state of Biafara within the sovereign state of Nigeria appears taboo to many; more so, when it was the same thing his Oga (Chief Emeka Odumegwu Ojukwu) asked for in 1967 that took the lives of thousands of Nigerians, mostly Biafrans. But today, Uwazurike is not the only person asking for such. Other ethnic groups had done the same thing and in fact, are still covertly or overtly asking that Nigeria be divided and yet nobody has either arrested or prosecuted them. Why then is Uwazurike’s own case different? Uwazurike’s MASSOB is the most peaceful of them all, unlike the OPC, Arewa youths, the EGBESU, who later transformed to Niger Delta militants, who are today being sent overseas for training and those that could not go are being paid huge allowances to keep them out of the creeks. The Arewa youths have metamorphosed into BOKO HARAM, whose violence and killings have gone out of hand and people are now cowed to ask the government to dialogue with them with a view to bringing peace.
Igbo leaders can also learn something from the sons of Ododuwa. When OPC held sway, asking for the state of ODUDUWA before Obasanjo became president; we all saw their activities and the kind of support Yoruba leaders gave them in their struggle. And any time Otunba Gani Adams was being prosecuted, we also saw the type of lawyers the leaders arranged for his defence unlike Uwazurike’s. During his birthdays, Who is Who in Yoruba including first class Obas, were there for him. But Raph Uwazurike, whose MASSOB preaches non-violence, is being haunted everyday by security operatives because they see that Ndigbo leaders are not supporting him. So many Igbo youths have been killed by the security agencies in the name of stopping the group. The question is: the lives of whose younger brothers and sisters are being wasted? Of course, ours –Igbos’! It is rather sad that OPC, Niger Delta Militants and Arewa Youths now BOKO HARAM can stage peaceful marches in the streets of Lagos, Kano, Port Harcourt, Yenagoa, with the police providing security and traffic control for them. The same peaceful march by MASSOB in the East will be visited with killings and arrests by the police.
The various governments have not thought it wise to dialogue with MASSOB with a view to finding out what their feelings are through their leaders or Igbo leaders as the case may be. The argument is very clear: if the Igbo leaders can castigate and condemn MASSOB, then why would any government like to dialogue with them? But the Federal Government has forgotten that among all the ethnic pressure groups in the country, it is only MASSOB that has branches in all states of the federation. This means that if tomorrow they are pushed to a point of becoming violent, it will not affect only the East; the whole country will be spontaneously engulfed and what OPC, BOKO HARAM and Niger Delta Militants did or are still doing, will become a child’s play. Every part of the country will be thrown into chaos at the same time.
Agreed that Igbo leaders have failed to manage MASSOB like their counterparts, with somebody like Chief T. A. Orji of Abia State, who has shown some leadership qualities; Chief Rochas Okorocha, the governor of Imo State, who many now see as the new face of Igbo leadership, Ambassador Raph Uwechue, the president of OHANAEZE and others, the Federal Government can give these people the task of bringing these youths who are wasting in name of MASSOB to order. It may be that so far no leader has spoken to them on the dangers of their actions. Looking at them, one can see that they lack direction and focus; there is no leadership approach to what they are doing, unlike their counterparts from other ethnic groups. I want to believe that they do not know whether what they are doing is right or wrong; after all, a child that does not have an elder around him always thinks he is on the right path.
Igbo leaders should rise up to their responsibilities of giving these teeming youth direction and hope. They should stop pretending as if they do not know that many of our youths are wasting their lives in the name of MASSOB; they must act now before it gets out of hand. The 280 youths sent to prison last week by Enugu magistrate court and others in other prisons, are our sons, future hope and future leaders, who are supposed to be in various tertiary institutions or learning one vocation or the other that would better their lives for the benefit of the entire country.
Igbo leaders should be ashamed of themselves that while other youths from other parts of the country are being placed on allowances every month, some sent overseas for various training and those that did not fall within these categories, are being rehabilitated by their various state governments, our own youths are being either sent to prison or killed day after day.
NDIGBO, please, think.