Pirate radio: To some Igbo, Biafra is alive and kicking – Agbu, civil war veteran
Can you compare the Nigerian Railway of that time and now?
It is indescribable, I never thought the rot would get to this level. Former President Goodluck Jonathan did his best to revamp the sector because the bad state of the railway is one of the major reasons the country is suffering today.
How do you mean?
You can’t imagine the rate at which trailers are killing people everyday. Go to Lagos, fuel tankers and trailer drivers continuously cause gridlock on the Apapa / Oshodi Express Road. It was reported in Ogun State, recently, that a trailer crushed to death students of Olabisi Onabanjo University along the Shagamu Expressway. Just imagine that at our level of development, trailers killing university students probably due to brake failure or mechanical inadequacies. Whereas one train, manned by a driver, a set man and a guard, can carry 30 tanker trailer loads of petrol conveniently from anywhere, even from Port Harcourt to other parts of the country, including the North, for safe delivery.
What actually led to this decadence in the railway?
Our railway system was effective before the civil war. But during that war, rail tracks were destroyed. And this seriously hindered the movement of goods from the North to the South and vice-versa. This became a big challenge in the transportation sector.
This caused scarcity of food across the country, particularly in the South-East. So because the North has to send their food items like yam, tomatoes and others, they decided to buy trailers to convey these items to the South. This was the beginning of the problem. You are aware that the war was as a result of the genocide that was suffered majorly by Ndigbo in the North, because there was this thinking that the Igbo were not wanted in northern Nigeria. I count myself lucky that I survived the war but I was prepared and willing to die for a just cause. I didn’t wait to be conscripted. I joined the Biafra Army on my own accord to fight for the survival of our people.
When you look at the Boko Haram insurgency and the authorities response to it, there are people who say genocide is still going on in the country. What do you say?
I believe Boko Haram has political tendencies. I am of the opinion that this insurgency was instigated by these northerners, as a bait to cause trouble, but they never knew it would get out of hand. If you are conversant with Nigeria’s history, you will notice that the North had always wanted to carve itself out of the Nigerian nation. This passion grows whenever they are out of power. The amalgamation of 1914, for instance, proved this. The British then was part of the problem because the North used to be on their own while the South stayed on their own. They interfaced for trade.
With President Buhari committed to ending the insurgency, do you foresee a peaceful North-East soon?
It is too early to rate his achievement, but even the commendation they gave him during his military days should go to the late Gen. Idiagbon. If Gen. Babangida did not remove them, Nigeria would have been a better place now. However, I believe his mission to the United States of America is to get support on security matters with regards to the insurgency in the North-East. But with my experience as a Biafran soldier, he should engage vigilante groups to fight the insurgents. You can imagine young girls being used by the sect as suicide bombers. So matching them man to man will help to end the problem, instead of shooting in the bush without knowing where the bullets drop.
What is the impact of sacking security chiefs and replacing them on the Boko Haram issue?
The removal of services chiefs is a political strategy. Their replacement ought to have political spread among the six geo-political zones. Why would two replacements of the top service chiefs come from Borno State alone? I am not a soldier now, but if what he is saying is that two out of six offices can be occupied by one zone, then politics is playing out.
But analyst say that with appointments into major parastatals, it is clear he intends to take care of all sections of the country?
I have knowledge of administration. President Buhari is no longer a soldier, he is a politician. So there is always an element of politics in political appointments.
Should he not adopt the federal character in major appointments?
As an activist, that is the type of fight we are happy to engage in, so as to set the records straight. But remember he belongs to a political party which many say belongs to the Hausa/Fulani and the Yoruba. Members of the House of Reps are still fighting, even the Senate. They could not help a situation where an elected PDP politician emerged as Deputy Senate President.
Do you also commend the process that saw the emergence of Senator Ike Ekweremadu as the Deputy Senate President?
Absolutely! It shows true and patriotic politics. Look, I was in Britain during the Labour Party regime. It was tough. They aligned with the Liberal Party, and since then, its been Conservatives all through, because the Liberal no long agrees with the Labour Party. It was in the labour movement that the governor of Edo State, Adams Oshiohmole, won the confidence of the people. Now, he is talking politics. He is my junior in unionism. He didn’t know me but I knew him when he was in Kaduna as the leaders of the Textile Workers Union where he became popular. We met in Zaria, 1973,when I went to do Public Relations and Administration on Trade Union Scholarship for nine months.
There are those who say Senator Ekweremadu should resign for peace to reign in the Senate. What do you say?
Why should he resign on a position he was constitutionally elected in the Senate! Is he to resign because they were lazying about when they knew the 8th Assembly was going to be inaugurated at 10 o’clock that morning? They forgot that the Clerk had constitutional authority to commence the proceedings of the Assembly. Senators Bukola Saraki and Ike Ekweremadu must be commended for not joining a crowd intent on derailing the Senate. Ekweremadu has a Ph.D. in law, he should know his rights in the present circumstances. They should just move ahead and stop reopening old wounds. It is a sweet/bitter pills they have to swallow to move Nigeria forward as they have acknowledged.
What do you think of the Nigerian government jamming Radio Biafra and declaring the station illegal, as well as trailing the sponsors of the station?
Sincerely, to some Igbo people, Biafra is alive and kicking. During the war, Radio Biafra was in the air. It can be likened to Radio Kudirat operated by NADECO forces during the late Gen. Sani Abacha’s regime. They were moving it about from one location to the other, and from one frequency to the other. I heard their broadcast recently. It is, however, the job of the Federal Government to stop them. I don’t agree with the sponsors of Radio Biafra because they are dragging us back as a nation. They said no victor no vanquished.
Why can’t they accept it! Even though it is not true because we were vanquished. That is the reason we have not gotten our deserved position in Nigeria. But at my stage in life I don’t want trouble. Although some Ndigbo are still bitter about the treatment they got, the government is not ready to negotiate with them; so they should hold their peace. We, Ndigbo should be re integrated into the main stream of the Nigerian nation. Nigeria and Nigerians owe that to us.
What is the significance of Agbalanze in the development of Onitsha Kingdom?
It is a prestigious cultural society that has moved ahead to be a highly ranked association. I was initiated into the Agbalanze 11years ago. Now, I am the Vice President of Agbalanze Cultural Association. We removed the word society because it seemed to connote a lot of things both evil and good. Six years ago, we changed it to an association of like minds. The Agbalanze is the third tier of government in Onitsha, after the Igwe and the Ndi-Ichie. It is a prestigious association.