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BreakingNews 24/10/13 - Chuks Ibegbu Talks On Various Local And National Issues

BreakingNews 24/10/13 - Chuks Ibegbu Talks On Various Local And National Issues

[ Masterweb Reports ] – Chuks Ibegbu, a well known social commentator, poet/writer, President–World Igbo Leadership, Educational And Cultural Council and  President–Movement For Justice And Equity In Nigeria, in this interview by Igbo Information Network looks into various local and national issues.

Q The President recently acquiesced to the National Conference many Nigerians have been calling for. What do you say to that?

A Its a right step in the right direction. Its long overdue and I hope it will bring about the desired result. 

Q Some people day that its a diversionary and escapist move by Mr President to keep Nigerians arguing among themselves why he perfects his self-succession bid as past rulers of the country did. What do you say to that?.

A Well , people have the right to their opinion but I think its still better than nothing or  the present drifting to the abyss of the country. Whether Jonathan is sincere or not on the Conference , the critical thing is that Nigerians can sit down and talk to each other . The National Assembly has been talking but to themselves and their pockets. If the National Assembly as the representatives of the people have been living up to their responsibilities, there may have been no need for the Conference but all they are interested since 1999 is their pockets, constituency allowances  and committees to chair. Tell me one single bill these so-called Distinguished and Honorables have passed that affected the lives of Nigerians since 1999. None, but they have squandered more than five trillion naira of state funds since 1999. So you see that what Mr President did is better than nothing.

Q What do you think the Conference should address?

A The Conference should look into our nationhood in totality. Do we really want to continue living together as a people.How can we live together in peace without the kind of violence and killings going on everywhere in the country.How can Nigerians be ruled with social justice, economic justice and political justice. How should power be distributed equitably in the country. I think these should form the bedrock of the Conference. There must be no no-go-area. Even those who think we should break up must be asked why they think so. Nobody should muzzle anybody.

Q How would the decisions of the Conference be implemented?
A The decisions should be subjected to a plebiscite or taken to the National Assembly for ratification.But ofcourse the Conference should also discuss the present system of government we are running which is the costliest in the world and the status of the National Assembly, its size , and composition.

Q Some people believe the structure of the country at present is unjust to some parts of the country?

A That is what am saying . All these issues should be discussed at the Assembly. We must discuss the present structure of Nigeria which has been deeply unjust to some sections of the country.
Q How do you see the opposition parties , the crisis in the PDP,  and the rumoured ambition of President Goodluck Jonathan in 2015?

A Opposition parties are necessary features of any viable democracy. The coming on board of the APC  is commendable. It will make the PDP  to sit up.  As for the PDP internal crisis , I believe it will soon be over. Its all about who controls the lever of power in 2015.They will soon solve their 'family' problem. On the rumoured ambition of Mr President, I think Jonathan has the political right to contest in 2015 . What am still not sure is his moral right. May be if he is able to address some fundamental issues in the country he may also earn the moral right. You see we have been for long running a turn-by-turn Presidency instead of Presidency by merit. If we are to go by this policy , its even the Igbos that have a more superior and moral right to clamor for the next Presidency of Nigeria. . They have been tolerant enough, but it looks as though if Jonathan address these problems am talking about , the Igbos may support him in 2015 and thereafter succeed him. Well, lets look at how it plays out.  Personally , I do not think those clamoring for power shift to the North are fair to the Igbos or the South South.

Q What do you say about the recent killings at Apo village in Abuja?

A Some years ago some Igbo traders were killed by the Police in the same Apo area and those that should have shouted kept mum may be because the victims are not from their place.  Now similar thing has occured in the same area and there is the argument whether they are BOKO HARAM or innocent people. I am not in the position to state whom they were but my position is that the culture of impunity is much in this country. Security agents kill innocent Nigerians at random and those that should do something keep quiet. Mr President has the constitutional duty to protect all Nigerians. I think there must be a thorough investigation into that killing. We must ascertain whom those victims were.You see what happened at EZU RIVER in Anambra state. Has Mr President and the authorities gotten to the root of that matter. Has it not been swept under carpet. You see, as long as we fail to address the culture of impunity in this country , the more this kind of horror will continue to happen.  Our security agents must stop extra-judicial killing going on all over the country.
Q Chief Fani-Kayode made other claim against the Igbos insisting that they should be grateful to the Yorubas for giving them a base in Lagos over the years which the Igbos have not reciprocated?

A Again it shows how his petty mind works. Lagos owes its status tody to the Igbo industry and energy and the oil from the East. Igboss are explorers and developers.  Lagos and the west should thank their God that the Igbos have spent their fortune to develop Lagos. Now let me tell you , nobody can lay claim to Lagos anymore. It may be in the west  but its a Nigerians commercial centre developed by the effort of all Nigerians.Lagos status can only be contested if Nigeria breaks up but nobody wishes that unless the Fani Kayodes think so so that they will reap where they did not sow.
Q What do you advise the Igbos and the Yorubas who pitched themselves against each other following the deportation saga and Fani-Kayode's outburst?
A The Yorubas and the Igbos are intelligent people that have lived together and peacefully for decades. These two great races should not allow rabid racists like Fani -Kayode to pitch them against each other.  He is a frustrated mind and trouble maker. He deserves pity and does not have the monopoly of overzealousness or dirty writing. I advice Yoruba leaders to call him to order. He should stop inciting the public and recently he shifted his tirade to the Minister of Aviation, a woman that is now healing the wound Kayode left in the Ministry.Kayode is a very confused mind and we have not forgotten his virulent activities when he was an aide of President Obasanjo. He should pray to God to forgive him or declaring his support for the unfortunate pogrom in the 60s  . It clearly shows the beast in him and I believe he is not a true son of Oduduwa, a people noted for discipline , respect and diplomatic tact.

Q How do you see the apology from Governor Fashola?

A Its medicine after death and done because of Ngige gubernatorial activities in Anambra. However his apology is encouraging but I advise him to compensate the victims of the obnoxious act. I also want to advice other state governments to do enough to stop their people drifting to lagos or abuja in search of white collar jobs.
Q What do you have to say about the ASUU strike?
I think the spate of ASUU strike is becoming embarassing. The only reason why I sympatise with ASUU,  if that word is even proper is because our politicians are alloting much money to themselves  for doing little or nothing. If a senator that may not have seen the forewalls of any school is given more then forty million naira every month, why would a Professor be happy. So you see, though I believe ASUU is over-reacting on this issue, they also have a reason to demand their own part of our national cake which is being shared with reckless abandon by the politicians.That goes the same to our doctors . Every body is now looking for his own share of the national cake which politicians are presently sharing among themselves. Nobody is talking about baking the cake anymore. Nobody is interestd in research in our schools tool Students are now gunea pig and are half baked. You see, the greed of the political class has spawned interminable and insatiable demand by all sectors of the society.  Believe me, we are in trouble, big trouble  due to the inordinate greed by our elites and political class. I have always been asking why we should have five hundred legislators at the centre and more than two thousand at the state levels. Our democracy is the costliest in the world.
Q How do you assess the BOKO HARAM WAR in the North?
A I have said and written a lot aabout BOKO HARAM. Boko Haram was a product of the past misrule in the country. Remember that this group was harmless earlier but the politicians in Borno state began to arm them against their opponents. Later, they could not control them and they went haywire. Ali Modu Sheriff of Borno then was using and funding them until they began to fight him. He quickly masterminded the death of their leader Muhammed Yusuf. Soon they got help from discredited politicians and foreign insurgents. They sent hundreds of misled Youths for training by the AL QAEDA groups in the middle East and North Africa and are today unleashing mayhem on innocent Nigerians including students. Its indeed a calamity that will continue to haunt us in years to come though the present regime is doing its best to checkmate them. Our young men in the Armed forces should be praised for the challenges they are facing in the affected areas.
Q How do you think the situation on BOKO HARAM can be solved?
A I dont know  frankly speaking. Ask those that engendered them.Iam only weeping for our young men and women in uniform dying daily for a cause they can hardly explain . Am weeping for the students and innocent persons in the hot zones, the xtains, in the north, moderate moslems, security agents and other Nigerians facing this challenges in the North everyday.Never has since the end of the war has our nation witnessed this kind of security breach in the North.
Q Now lets go to the foreign scene. How do you see the war in Syria and the trial of the Kenyan President and his Vice by the international criminal court at the Hague?
A I condenm the potracted war in Syria. I believe that Assad used chemical weapons on his people and he must pay for that.But again those fighting him are no less innocent. I do want a radical islamic group to take over Syria but at the same time Assad has lost the moral right to continue ruling Syria. He must quit the scene so that Syria can be rebuilt.On the trial of Kenya's President and his Vice by ICC , its not a bad idea. Forget about the outburst of the AU. The AU is encouraging dictactorship and violence in Africa.  I am disappointed in their tirades. How has the AU helped to facilitiate transparent leadership in Africa. The trial will send a signal to African bloodthirsty dictators and human right abusers that one day they will pay for their misdeeds. The world is a global village, dont forget. Those attacking the ICC  are the ones that have poor human right records in their countries.
Q What is your message to Nigerians as the 2015 elections approaches?
A Nigerians should shun the antics or those who do not wish this country well. They should ensure that our democratic journey is not hijacked by unpatriotic elements. They should guard our democracy very well. The national conference that President Goodluck Jonathan has initiated is a good opportunity for them to ventilate their view.
Q The issue of oil theft has become embarrassing to the government. Ifs affecting national budget. What do you say to that?
A The government should stop shouting. The thieves are in high and low places. The government has the machinery to apprehend them and stop giving excuses.
Q A christain gal was  alleged to have been abducted by an emir in Niger state recently and its generating furore in the country . What do you think about that?
A If the gal was abducted against her will , its despicable and unconstitutional. The judiciary and security agents are expected to rescue and protect her. We must never condone such acts no matter the status of the culprits. The Niger state government must take steps to get to the root of that matter.
Q Some time ago there was a shocking discovery of more than 50 corpses of some young men in the EZU RIVER  in Anambra state. Up to now nothing has been heard about that and there is the recent killings at Apo in Abuja. What is your say on that?
A There is extra-judicial killings by security agents all over the country and none of the puzzle is solved. It  is the duty of Mr President to direct appropriate authorities to solve all such puzzles. Mr President cannot just keep quiete in the face of all these extra judicial killings. We want to know whom the EZU RIVER VICTIMS were and who klled them. We want to know whom the Apo victims were and who killed them . Unless these killings are unravelled , more ot such cases will happen in the future.
Q In your last interview you stated that Biafra was never defeated and that the war may have continued  till date if not for the intervention of some world leaders that spirited Gen Ojukwu away from Biafra?

A   Yes, but for the diplomatic tact of some world leaders who negotiated Ojukwu's removal from the scene, the war would have continued to the last man.

Q The last man?
A Yes,the last man. Despite the sufferings in Biafra, her gallant troops were ready to continue the war to the last man.

Q At what point did it become obvious that Biafra would collapse?
A I have told you earlier that Biafra did not collapse. There was only a cessation of hostilities after Gen Effiong whom Ojukwu handed over directed so. There were a lot of behind-the -scene events which a lot of people do not know that led to the end of that war. Biafra did not capitulate neither did it loose the war. As a matter of fact Ojukwu directed Biafran troops to hold existing ground until he returned from Ivory Coast and he was shocked to hear that hostility had ceased. But no one should ofcourse blame Gen Effiong for directing the cessation of hostilities. The situation was becoming foggy and even the enemy was becoming tired of the war. All Gowon's directed for 'final' pushed did not materialize so both sides were fagged out.

Q Some people till date still argue that Ojukwu did not exhaust all avenues for peaceful settlement before he declared Biafra?

A But that is not true. Ojukwu exhusted all options, but the intransigence of Gen Gowon and the cabal around him in Lagos then made all such options  unviable. Remember how Gowon and his super-permanent secretaries  doctored the Aburi accord. Remember the threats against the East. Remember the killings and humiliation of Easterners. Let me tell you , if Ojukwu had failed to declare Biafra, Easterners would have killed him.

Q It is believed the minorities in the East did not support secession and did not participate fully in the war?
A That again is not true. When the pogrom in the North was taking place , there was no discrimination between the Igbo., Efik, Ijaw, Ogoni, Ekoi etc They were all considered Easterners which ofcourse they were and the same treatment was meted to them. It was a mere and tactical fast move by Gowon to give the Eastern minorities two states and cut them off from their Igbo brothers in the state creation excercise of 27th May, 1967.He capitalised on the prewar agitation of the Eastern minorities for states of their own, which ofcourse also prevailed in other regions of the country. Naturally when Gowon gave them the states, some hawks in the minority area who were looking for positions to occupy accepted the Greek gift and switched to the federal side. But the bulk of the Eastern minority people stood with Biafra till the end. They had some of the best and loyal Biafran officers and men. Let me tell you what you may not know. Some of the minority elements that switched over to the enemy did so for self survival. You know when the enemy entered any Biafran town, they carried out scotched earth policy to intimidate the inhabitants so that was why the Ikwerres, Agbors and other Igbo minorities denied their Igboness at that perilous time simply to survive. If you were in their shoe you will do the same.Do you know there is an Igbo town in Edo state today called Igbanke. This town where Brigadier Osaigbovo Ogbemudia hails from had to change their name from Igbo-Akiri to Igbanke just to survive Murtala Mohammed's onslaught  in his hazardous march to Asaba.
The Ikwerres had to put R in the names of  their villages to appear as if they were not Igbos . Today you have Rumuola instead of  Umuola, etc. They still think the war is on and that is my annoyance with Ikwerre elders. They should tell their children today what happened and why they had to do what they did and then reverse back to their Igbo names. Let them assert their Igboness once more.We are no longer at war. Do you know that Gen Alabi Isama who wrote a controversial civil war book recently is an Igbo man from Ndokwa. Do you even know that Col Adekunle of the 3rd marine commando had Igbo blood in him. Its the bizarre thing about that war. Some Biafran officers were Yoruba men. Gen Ike Nwachukwu and Gen Pat Aziza were Igbo men that fought against Biafra. Its really bizarre.

Q Why did the major super -powers then support Nigeria?

A It very simple. In those days nation building was in vogue. The world frowned at seperatism at that time no matter the justness of one's cause. Nation states were emerging and the world view that time was against secessionism. If  it were now, it would have been a different pot of kettle.Today, self determination is in vogue.
Q Whom do you consider as Biafra's most operational commanders?

A There were many redoubtable Biafran officers. All complemented each other and discharged themselves well at the battle. I admired Col Archibong of the Ikot-Ekpene front, Col Tim Onwuatuegwu, Col Joe Achuzia  , the Hannibal of Biafra and Col Simon Uwakwe of the Special Force in Arochukwu who survived the enemy siege in that town.
Q What of the Nigerian side?
A Well I think  Col Adekunle was scientific , though  barbarous,Col Utuk who survived Biafran siege in Owerri, Gen Babangida who was wounded at Uzuakoli, and few other Nigerian Officers did well at the battle field.

Q What were the major battles of the war?

  A There were several major battles of that war. These included the Abagana ambush in which a Biafran company routed the 3rd Division of the Nigerian army,. The federals were also routed at Onne, Oguta, Azumini, Uzuakoli, and Owerri. Dont forget the midwest invasion in which a region collapsed. Murtala Muhammed tried three times to cross the Niger into Onitsha and he was mercilessly beaten the  three times. The Nigerian side  recorded some successes at Calabar, Portharcourt and Uyo. They also scored some goals in Aba and Umuahia at great cost in men and material. Their main achievements however was the bombing of markets, hospitals and civilians . They did this as Ozu Abam, Aba , Umuohiagu, Otuocha , Awka and many Biafran towns.

Q Do you suggest the trial of those who committed war crimes in that war?

A Well in the spirit of  the new Nigeria we are trying to build , we may forgive and forget. But there is nothing wrong if the International Criminal Court decides in its own wisdom to try war criminals especially those that massacred innocent people at Asaba and other Biafran towns, after all war criminals of the second world war and that of Rwanda are still under trial. Such trials is a deterrence to  future occurrence.

Q How did Col Timothy Onwuatuegwu die after the war had ended?

A Col Onwuatuegwu was killed at Abakiliki by some sadistic Nigerian soldiers after the war had ended. He was trying to cross over to Cameroun when a trap was set for him at Abakiliki. That was how they also killed Prof Kalu Ezera, and Col Ukpai shortly after the war. They like the 16years boy Mayrock  of Newyork who burnt himself in support of the Biafrans were among the heroes of the Biafran war

Q How do you assess the recent  civil war book by Brigadier Alabi Isama?

A Alabi's book is rich in pictures and commentaries but he exaggerated some of his claims. .The only area I agree with him was where he stated that Gen Obasanjo was always trying to take credit for other peoples achievement during the war. In his hasty bid to claim the glory for the end of the war , Obasanjo sent many enemy troops to their early grave between  Owerri and Ihiala.. Isama was one of the  few Igbo Officers that fought  for the enemy side.

Q Who fired the first shot of the war?

A It was the Nigerian side that did that at Garkem around 6am on July, 7th 1967. Biafra fought a defensive war throughout that war.

Igbo Information Network: Thank you for finding time to grant us this interview.
Ibegbu: You are welcome.

*Photo Caption – Hon. Chuks Ibegbu. He can be reached by email at and by phone at +234 8035410176.