Foremost gynaecologist and chieftain of the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB), Dr. Dozie Ikedife, calls time on the quest for an “Igbo president.” He advocates for self-determination in the face of the skewed politics and structure of the country. He said: “the agitations will not stop until the injustice is addressed.” He spoke with KODILINYE OBIAGWU
WHAT has happened to IPOB after the Operation Python Dance saga and the disappearance of its leader, Nnamdi Kalu?
The idea of Biafra is all about self-determination and it is not likely to be killed by anybody; it is self-identity, a way of thinking. The way the Federal Government is treating IPOB and others agitating for self-determination (and restructuring) will not deter them. Rather, it will encourage them to agitate the more. An oppressive law encourages disobedience in the same way oppression and negligence encourage disobedience.
People talk frequently about the negligence and marginalization of the South East. The exactness of this is immaterial, but when a song is repeated so often, the deaf might start to hear it. The government may defend itself and list the things it has done, but the populace is not impressed. The bigotry is deep. It is experienced even by pupils seeking admission into secondary schools, and students seeking admission into the universities. They suffer discrimination with the skewed cut off points set as qualifying marks for admission. Someone who scored 250 marks is denied admission while someone from a particular section of the country with a lower mark is offered admission. We have different standards for different people in the same country. This is part of a programmed system of injustice.
Of the six geopolitical zones in the country, one zone has seven states. Four others have six states, and only the South East has five states. The zone is already shortchanged in every scheme requiring numbers. What can we do about it? What is the difficulty in creating another state in the zone? Why can’t the zone have six, not seven states? This reality fires the desire for self-determination.
If you don’t want the people of the South East, let them go. This marriage was not made in heaven. Even marriages conducted in churches or mosques break down and are dissolved when one partner is no longer keen on the marriage. As long as there is disaffection, dissatisfaction, discrimination, circles of exclusion, right-thinking people will agitate. It can’t be extinguished by lies or killed by guns. Even when people are killed, their spirits will keep fighting. My prescription is the government should stop fighting Biafra, actualise the Biafra dream and peace will reign.
Does IPOB ever anticipate a dialogue with the government based on the perception of the organisation?
There will always be agitations in any society. Citizens are entitled to hold divergent views on issues. In such situations, the authorities are bound to listen to all views and not punish anyone for his views. The Federal Government dialogued with Boko Haram. It offered incentives like skill acquisition programmes to the militants in the creeks. The Federal Government has refused to dialogue with IPOB. Rather, the same government chose to visit IPOB with Python Dance and called it a terrorist group. This does not show justice; it is like using a sledgehammer to kill a fly.
Government’s readiness to hang wrong labels on people is disturbing. Those who have earned the labels are not so named, whereas others are mislabeled. IPOB is not a terrorist organisation, but that is what the Federal Government has called it. Fulani herdsmen are terrorists, but the government is not calling it that. Is that justice?
The international community has not called IPOB a terrorist group. But the herdsmen are listed as such. Why has the government not named the Fulani herdsmen as terrorists even when this has been internationally acclaimed? A terrorist has one definition, and we know it.
In IPOB there are no guns or machetes, not even good fists with which to throw a punch. How can they be terrorists? We are not terrorists. Will the government hear that?
There are groups agitating for self-determination in other ethnic nationalities. They use various methods, some more aggressive than others, and to single out IPOB from the group and label it a terrorist group is unacceptable.
Does IPOB have the unity to continue its quest?
IPOB is just a group agitating for a change in the attitude of government or to be given an opportunity for self-determination. The sense of unity is in the collective purpose. There are segments of the organization. There is the Supreme Council of Elders of the IPOB, which is purely legal and even took the Federal Government to court. Then there is the vocal segment that has chosen the use of Radio Biafra. The other segment uses the Biafra Voice International to disseminate its messages.
In the light of what you call “programmed discrimination” of the South East, what are your hopes for an Igbo presidency?
Some people have pushed the talk towards self-determination and away from Igbo presidency. There are many people who are convinced that Nigeria is not salvageable and that it is an unprofitable talking of an Igbo presidency. What will an Igbo presidency do when the National Assembly is so skewed? How will restructuring be achieved when the National Assembly that will fine-tune it is so unbalanced? What is the percentage of the people in a zone with five states in the National Assembly? Are they likely ever to win sufficient support from other parts to get a majority on any proposal? A lot need to be in place to change the narrative in the South East. The discussion should be towards self-determination.
What does the rampant killings in the country, especially in the Middle Belt region portend?
The killings are disquieting. The frequency and bestiality make me wonder if this was a visitation from outer space. This portends a system failure. Why all these killings? How did it develop to this extent that it has become a daily occurrence? When is it going to end? I am more worried because it is the same people in this geographical space. About 40 years ago, there was free movement, interaction and friendship and fellowship among these people, but today there seem to be a reign of hatred, anger, viciousness and readiness to take life as if life means nothing anymore.
Is the prevalence a failure in security and can the killings be curbed through legislation?
It is confusing. Many people do not see anything concrete being done to end this sad development. The degree of killing, the viciousness and the consistency is disturbing. It is not a matter of legislation; there are laws in place to question a man who kills another man. There are good laws to make him answer for it, and if he is guilty he will be killed or jailed. But there seems to be a lack of capacity by law enforcement agencies to help curb this thing. And this is why some people suspect that the military and the police are co-operating, conniving or abetting these killings.
Can restructuring offer a way out of this situation?
We should admit that certain things are no more tenable and should change. There is nothing federal about the present structure of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. It is almost autocratic unitary. Power should be devolved to the ethnic nationalities to states rather than concentrating power in the centre. That is why so much is expended by those aspiring to be the president because of the enormous powers and control inherent in the position. The counter drive is self-determination.
In the 1960 and 1963 constitutions, the regions were powerful and functional. In the regions, the powers allowed the people to develop at their pace, do things they wanted while contributing to the sustenance of the government at the centre. But today, the Federal Government wields the powers and the states have remnants. Sadly, the Federal Government has not shown competence in all the areas under its control. Internal security is one sector that the states need to have a good response to. If there is internal cohesion, peace and security will be enhanced. Nigerians are not happy, they are suspicious of one another, the government is suspicious of the citizens and perpetuating injustice in the treatment of the citizens.