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Wednesday, September 22 2004

Vol 17 No.30

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  • New Page 6

    Afenifere, M/Belt storm Ojukwu’s home

    •South-South Movement too

    NKIRU OKEKE, Enugu and ALPHONSUS NWEZE, Onitsha

    A ground swell of support yesterday came for Ikemba Nnewi, Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu from pan-Yoruba body Afenifere, the South-South Movement, Ijaw National Congress (INC) and Middle Belt Progressives in his Enugu home, over his face-off with the State Security Services (SSS).

    The groups were on solidarity visits under the platform of Ethnic Nationalities Forum.

    Afenifere acting leader, Chief Reuben Fasoranti, who spoke on behalf of the visitors, described Ojukwu as a lover of Nigeria and one who detests violence even as the Ikemba called for the convocation of a national conference to resolve the visible and debilitating contradictions besetting the Nigerian federation, adding that the country is in trouble.

    Ojukwu also said he would not be cowed by anybody in Nigeria.

    Also, the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) has accused the Federal Government of double standards in the latter’s reaction to agitation by different ethnic-based organisations in the country.

    Among those who stormed the residence of the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) in the 2003 elections, apart from Chief Fasoranti, were the former governor of Ondo State, Chief Adebayo Adefarati, chieftain of Afenifere, Chief Adeniyi Ajayi, co-ordinator of South South Movement, Mr. Solomon Asamota (SAN) and Prince Jide Akinbiyi.

    Others were leader of Afenifere in Lagos State, Alhaji Ganiyu Dawodu, chairman of Afenifere in Ogun State, Chief Akinola and chairman, Middle Belt Progressive Movement, Mr. P. A. Dabok.

    Speaking on behalf of the group, Chief Fasoranti maintained that Ojukwu’s action since he came back from exile in the early 80s pointed to the facts that he wanted a united Nigeria.

    Said he: "We are here to tell you on the situation that you find yourself today. We know you will be unruffled.

    "I know since you came back, you have not spoken in support of violence. Your movement, your actions point to the fact that you want one Nigeria where everybody will be a citizen.

    Dim Ojukwu, who had declined the SSS invitation for him for questioning over an opinion he held on MASSOB, in his response, said that the only thing the country need is a round table conference for people to table their problems.

    According to him, "Nigeria is in trouble, but we must find a way of putting Nigeria right and we must remain true to ourselves and true to our people. All the ethnic nationalities in Nigeria have a stake in Nigeria and they must exercise their rights.

    "If any Nigerian from any part of Nigeria feels marginalised, the answer is not shout up, the answer is ‘brother sit down, let us discuss it’ because it is the only way you can find a solution. Let nobody deceive you and say that we don’t need a national conference. It is the beginning of wisdom in this country. We must sit down in the round table and discuss our problems."

    He added that "Clinton, former U.S president said ‘for 200 years we have been trying to make our union more perfect.’ We say for 40 years we had enough experience. We have not begun yet. A situation might arise where our constitution will be mandatorily reviewed every five years. What we think is good today, might be quite primitive in future. Our children might design a better Nigeria."

    On his harassment by the SSS, Ojukwu said the nation’s past heroes suffered the same fate in the hands of government, but maintained that he would not be cowed by anybody.

    Said he: "What I am suffering today, many leaders in the past had suffered it. Awolowo was taken, humiliated before the public. Even his own people have wrong opinions against him. He died a hero. Abiola was humiliated, the wife was humiliated.

    "Just look through the history. All we are doing is bring up our leaders, have them intimidated and cut off from us. But in these past few days, I said they will not cow me and certainly they will not separate me from my people."

    Members of the Ethnic Nationality Forum later went into a closed-door meeting with Ojukwu.

    Director of information of MASSOB, Uchenna Madu said in a statement in Onitsha, Anambra State, that government was favouring the Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC), based mainly in the South-West, and Sharia fundamentalists, in the North, and treating their agitations with kid’s glove.

    According to him, no member of both organisations is before any court on charges of treason.

    He also said that no political leader or notable figurer from the South-West or North had been questioned by the Federal Government in connection with the activities of OPC and the Sharia fundamentalists.

    The MASSOB director described as curious a situation where the federal government cannot muster courage to prefer treasonable felony charges against members of OPC and the fundamentalists who unleash terror and kill fellow Nigerians.

    But, MASSOB members, Madu noted are non-violent in their agitation, but are hounded into prison, charged with treason and sometimes killed by police while some Igbo leaders are harassed and intimidated.

    Comrade Madu said that the only way to explain what he described as this selective and discriminatory treatment was that there is pathological hatred of Ndigbo by some elements in the federal government.

    According to MASSOB, these officials still regard Ndigbo as conquered or vanquished people who should only be seen and not heard.

    The organisation lamented, the present nationwide crackdown on MASSOB members, pointing out that more than 200 members of the Movement are being detained.

    Despite those hurdles, Comrade Madu said, the struggle for a Sovereign State of Biafra is not mission impossible and called on Ndigbo to rise up to the occasion.

    He claimed that the greatest tragedy of the Igbo race would be the failure of the present generation to bequeath a legacy to the future generation of Igbo.

    "It would amount to subjecting the future generations of Ndigbo to perpetual enslavement and servitude in a Nigeria that does not at all believe that Ndigbo have equal rights with other ethnic nationalists within it," he said.

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