There are many writers in the world. Some of them are just writing while some are not just writing. There are writers who cannot just work up and start writing. People like Chinua Achebe are not just writers. Their writings are prophetic and visionary. Achebe was a Biafran sage and seer. He knew what he saw before he wrote the stories like Things Fall Apart and There Was A Country.
Everybody in Igboland knows the stories. Who among us did not know that Ralph Uwasuruike started well as leader of MASSOB? How many of us did not know that things fell apart? How many?
I am asking these because I see things happening in Igboland as if Igbo had been beheaded by enemies and saboteurs. That was why I wrote and published articles in this regards. One of the articles was titled, "Uwazuruike and vacant throne. Udo!!!
Chukwubuike Ukeagu published an article which was taken from Rudolf Okonkwo's column. The article was originally published no Tuesday, April 24, 2001 - An Evening with Biafria: A Reporter’s Notebook,
“I have seen the future. I am happy to say that the future is Biafra”, so proclaimed the witness on Friday, April 20, 2001, “I was present at Robert Treat Hotel in Newark, New Jersey, where Igbos from the New York – New Jersey axis hosted Chief. I came, I saw, I believed. Ralph Uwazurike, Uche Ukwukwu and Prince Longinus Orjiakor epitomized courage. By their words, thoughts, and actions, the trio is obviously determined to take the dead country called Nigeria to its final resting-place. I heard Uwazurike say to the audience, again and again,” Rudolf Okonkwo reported. “I will surprise you!” he heard Ralph Uwazurike said in sincerity of heart.
The spirits of dead Biafrans must have smiled. Igbos from all walks of life came out in masse to welcome the leader of the Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB). The conference was organized by the Igbo in USA of New Jersey in conjunction with other pan Igbo groups like PANDEM, World Igbo Congress, and Igbo Organization of New York amongst others. It was an evening of reawakening. The once proud and progressive people of the lower Niger, again, resolved to regain their freedom, their homeland and their manhood.
In his address to the gathering, Chief Uwazurike explained the mission of MASSOB as the actualization of Biafra. He revealed that MASSOB has 23 steps towards Biafra’s actualization and wondered how the powers that be would behave when MASSOB gets to step 6, if already there is panic in the land at step 3 where MASSOB currently is. Igbos, he said, would remain slaves in Nigeria if Biafra is not actualized. He announced the new policy of establishing frontline states essential to the struggle. “You cannot do anything in Nigeria without the frontline states”, he said. The concept of the frontline states is part of MASSOB’s strategy for mobilizing all the diverse ethnic groups in the former Eastern Nigeria for the challenge ahead. MASSOB, he said, has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Ijaws and is looking to do the same with all the other groups in the former Eastern region. This, he said, would help establish a unifying front against all who feed on the resources of eastern Nigeria while leaving the territory desolate and in ruins.
“There is nothing like one Nigeria”, says the MASSOB leader. “It is the absence of oneness in Nigeria that makes people to shout one Nigeria.” He described Obasanjo as an enemy of the Igbos and warned, “Your enemy cannot take care of you.” To Igbo people who ally themselves with the Hausa- Fulani ruling clan, Chief Uwazurike admonished that the time is coming when they would explain to Igbos the Hausa that they speak. “We have to show our anger to them and until their sabotage is ended, Igbos will remain slaves. Let the voices of dissent move to Yorubaland or Hausaland.”
Chief Uwazurike appealed to Igbos abroad to begin to formulate the policy of Ndi Igbo from their bases. He described Igbos abroad as the refined ones who would be difficult to corrupt. “Design the policy”, he charged, “and leave the implementation for us”. He described the current fuel shortage in Eastern Nigeria as a shameful thing. “There was no fuel shortage during Biafra” he lamented. The current friction MASSOB is having with fuel dealers in Eastern Nigeria, he said, was as a result of the greed of these dealers. Governors, ministers and senators, own most of these fuel stations, the MASSOB leader stated. Because of that, they use the might of the government to descend on MASSOB members who are trying to ensure that people in the East buy fuel at the price people in other parts of Nigeria pay for fuel.
During the reception, an appeal fund was lunched in support of MASSOB and over $10 000 dollars was raised on the spot. “We are proud beggars,” MASSOB leader said. “If you give us money, we shall continue. If you do not give us money, we shall also continue.” He revealed that his organization was yet to receive any form of support from Igbos at home and abroad. Neither was any country backing MASSOB. “All we had were things we sourced out ourselves.” He narrated instances where the government tried to bribe him. “I do not like money”, he said, “because money brings evil… I had only one bus but the police shattered it.” Chief Uwazurike however asked Igbos to support Biafra because it is good.
As a strategy to ensure that fuel scarcity is a thing of the past in Eastern Nigeria, Chief Uwazurike declared that MASSOB would, from May 1st 2001, stop all fuel tankers loaded with fuel from leaving Eastern Nigeria. He explained that it is unacceptable for 75% of fuel from Eastern Nigeria to be taken to the North while less than 7% is allotted to eastern Nigeria. “I will ensure that our supporters see to it that fuel loading out of Eastern Nigeria is stopped. We have to do that for the interest of the East.”
Also speaking at the occasion, Uche Okwukwu, the leader of the Congress for the Liberation of Ikwere People called for the unity of the minorities of Eastern Nigeria with the Igbos. “Igbos,” he said, “have not been protective of the minorities, so they are running to Hausas and Yorubas”. The fierce looking revolutionary who helped in the defense of Ken Saro Wiwa proclaimed that the youths of the east must stop the flow of oil as a base for negotiation. He described the members of the ruling caliphates in the north as brutal self-servers who would use anybody at their disposal and dump them after. “They used the Middle Belt to prosecute the Biafran War. Since 1976, when they felt the area was no longer of any use, they have been crushing the Middle Belt.” He went on to say that, “the Yorubas and the Hausas have shared Nigeria. They now quarrel amongst themselves on who should rule Nigeria…they are still looting. When these people finish Nigeria, when Nigeria becomes dry, they will call for secession.” Uche Okwukwu called MASSOB a rallying point for the entire East. “A divided East cannot stop the North or the West”, he asserted.
Different dignitaries present at the occasion expressed their gratitude to Chief Uwazurike who has staked his life to see to the actualization of Biafra. “Since 1970, no Igbo man has done for Ndi Igbo what this man has done since he began MASSOB” proclaimed, Uche Okwukwu. Also speaking at the event, the President of Igbo Organization of New York, Chief Okike Nwankwo, announced, “we shall support this war with Nigeria from now till time without end.” The Chairman of PANDEM called Chief Uwazurike the essence of PANDEM.
The smiling and amiable-looking Chief Uwazurike was not one of your regular revolutionaries. He was soft spoken and warm. The mystery of his looks concurred with the surprises of his convictions. He seemed fully committed and, all through the night appeared reflective, pensive and undaunted.
Behind the euphoria of the night stood a steep mountain to climb, Uwazurike, it seemed, had since identified Nigeria’s failure not just as a result of poor leadership, but also as a conspiracy of the ruling Hausa elite whose continued determination to decide the fate of the people of Nigeria by collective deceit has thrown the country into a big mess. Uwazurike has abandoned the illusion that Nigeria could possibly progress while still giving any form of relevance to the Hausa-Fulani. His struggle is in line with the struggle of all those who believe that Obasanjo should be the last trick that should be allowed to emerge from the goatskin bag of the North.
The significance of Uwazurike is the ascension of a new thought process that is deeply rooted in reality, devoid of emotional bias – a thought process that has identified the incompatibility of the diverse cultures in a single nation where prejudices are deeply entrenched, and the arrogance of the different key players an obstacle to possible compromise. He has heaped in the dustbin of history, the possibility that an arrangement could be worked out to bring people whose existence and diversity is comparable to having people like the Germans, the Saudis and the Irish under one country.
The singular fact that the Americans allowed Chief Uwazurike to visit the United States and raise money was a sign of a possible shift in Washington’s policy towards the fast evolving crises of legitimacy facing Nigeria. With this visit, Uwazurike will cease to appear as a mere irritant to Nigerian government. Now apparent to Nigerian government is the fact that, if anything happens to Chief Uwazurike, it will answer to Igbos abroad and the international community. Having received the overwhelming mandate of Igbos abroad, Uwazurike is undoubtedly going to be reinvigorated and with the right advice, he might surprise that nation called Nigeria and achieve a goal he seemed destined to fulfill. As he made his final remark at the occasion, Chief Uwazurike told his audience “From tomorrow, I’ll begin the work of Biafra.”
That tomorrow is here. And chances are that Chief Ralph Uwazurike may surprise us all.
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