Dateline: 20/09/2004
It 'll be War to Arrest Ojukwu, Says APGA
From Emmanuel Ugwu in Enugu, Joseph Ushigiale and Eugene Agha in Lagos

The National Chairman of the All Progressive Grand Alliance (AGPA), Chief Chekwas Okorie, has warned that any attempt by the State Security Service (SSS) to arrest the party's former presidential candidate, Chief Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, will be seen as a declaration of war.

Okorie who spoke with newsmen in Enugu at the weekend warned that if the Federal Government go as far as arresting Ojukwu "what will happen would be beyond everybody's control."

Ojukwu shunned an invitation by the SSS to discuss the activities of the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) and dared the agency to arrest if he had committed an offence.

"The Igbo see Ojukwu as a symbol of their struggle for survival in Nigeria. They feel that arresting him is a humiliation. If Ojukwu is arrested on the opinion he expressed, while some of us elders might take recourse to constitutional means of seeking redress, I can't guarantee that the youth will see it like that. They will see it as a declaration of war," said Okorie weekend.

According to him, "the Igbo youth population is composed mainly of those born after the war and they are tetchier since they did not experience the civil war."

He was, however, quick to point out that it was the government that "is constantly pushing the people to the edge and it would only take a little provocation like what they are trying to do" for conflagration to erupt.

He said instead of hounding Ndigbo, "a responsible government" should rather go back to the drawing board to find out why a group of people feels so marginalized and then come out with a solution.

Okorie stated that the current "provocation" of Ndigbo is President Olusegun Obasanjo's personal agenda, which has no ethnic colouration.

"I want Igbo people worldwide to note that what is happening today is not Yoruba/Igbo conflict or Hausa/Igbo conflict. It is President Obasanjo fighting a personal war with Ikemba and we don't know where his legendary Igbophobia came from. But the unfortunate thing is that the battle he is fighting may affect innocent people," he said.

To support his view, Okorie said from his interactions with the SSS operatives they "are well trained gentlemen" who under normal circumstances would do their job professionally without getting involved in dirty politics.

"It is Obasanjo that is rubbishing them," he said while adding that "I really symphatise with SSS dilemma."

Okorie said the issue has elicited strong international concerns as the governments of the United States of America and the United Kingdom have told the Federal Government to be cautious while Ndigbo in diaspora would begin series of demonstrations across the globe. Okorie said the international dimension of the Ojukwu matter came about after his complaints at the American State Department and the British Home Office respectively. "I personally lodged a complaint at the State Department and the Home Office in London and I'm happy they have responded promptly to it," he said. The APGA leader, who just returned from the World Igbo Congress Convention held in New Jersey, U.S.A, said he was alarmed at the dangerous dimension the plot to humiliate Ojukwu was assuming hence he alerted the U.S and UK governments. He added that the Igbo in Diaspora would from today embark on civil protests to register their anger at what is happening at home and also draw the attention of the international community to the plight of Ndigbo in the Nigerian federation. The APGA leader said the protest would hold in U.S, Canada, Britain, South East Asia and South America. He added that Igbo organisations in specific countries would organise their own demonstration and deliver a letter containing their collective grievances to their host governments. "It won't just be a street protest. They (Igbo in Diaspora) would articulate all their grievances and give to the governments in countries where they reside," Okorie said. Meanwhile, members of the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) has been asked to stay away from Lagos State. The State Police Commissioner, Mr. Israel Ajao, while speaking with THISDAY on telephone on the recent arrest of about 53 suspected members of the group at Abule-Ado in Ojo end of the metropolis said the activities of members of the group in recent time could cause a breach of the peace. At least about 53 suspected members of MASSOB were arrested last Thursday while holding their monthly meetings inside the premises of a technical school located at Abule-Ado, in Ojo end of Lagos. The police boss said the suspects were arrested while planning to stage a mass protest in the state. "Their action is an act of mutiny and I will advise them to stay away from Lagos in their own interest," he said. Those arrested, he explained were conducting themselves in an act that was liable to cause a break-down of law and order. He said that the police will not sit down and fold its hands while some group of people throw the state into confusion Although, those arrested have been remanded at Ikoyi Prison, Ajao also revealed that the suspects were arraigned in court on charges, ranging from mutiny to an act liable to cause a break down of law and order. "You could describe their action as treasonable felony," he added. While appealing to members of the public to report to the police the activities of any group of persons or groups that may be considered as an act of treason, Ajao said police raid of places used for such activities would continue. The police said MASSOB were planning to stage a mass demonstration in the state before they were arrested. The arrest, according to police source was sequel to an information received at the Command Headquarters, Ikeja, about a plan to disrupt the security of the state as a way of pressing home their demand for the actualisation of a state of Biafra. The aborted protest may not be unconnected with the invitation extended to Ojukwu by the SSS. However, the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) has challenged Ojukwu to appear before the SSS to prove he has no hidden agenda. Its National President, Omooba Adekunle, in a statement also called on Obasanjo to stem the sordid slide in the polity by convening a National Conference to discuss the country's future. On Ojukwu's refusal to honour the SSS's invitation, NANS said the accusations bordering on threat to national security were "too sensitive on the moral standard of Ojukwu to be ignored." While supporting Ojukwu's position in blaming the SSS for inviting him orally, NANS however "implored the Director General of the SSS to write him officially. This will go a long way in clearing the coast of whether Ojukwu is having any hidden agenda or not."

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