Chief Ralph Nwazuruike, founder of the Movement for the Actucalisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB), spoke to DARE ADEKANMBI on the admission of Biafra by the Unrepresented Nations Peoples Organisation (UNPO) as its 46th member, describing it as a huge boost for the Igbo nation to gain sovereign status and pull out of Nigeria.
WHAT does the admission of the Igbo nation into UNPO mean for you?
It means a whole lot to us. We have been seeking that admission and recognition for three years now and it will surely be a huge boost for our struggle because other nations that are members of the United Nations were at one time members of UNPO. The body contains nations that are currently not members of the United Nations. The organisation will help us to champion our case for independence before the UN. So, we are very glad to be a part of that body.
What did you tell officials of UNPO to convince them to list the Igbo nation as a member?
It has been on for a long time. They have been asking us so many questions and we have been responding to their questions. We sent so many documents relating to the struggle. We were able to establish that the struggle is not violent and that MASSOB, as founded by me, has never for once engaged in a violent struggle in its 20 years of existence. We also established that there is democracy in MASSOB and that we are financially independent. A lot of water went under the bridge before we were recognised. We did a whole lot of things and I cannot off hand mention all of them now.
In terms of the relationship between Biafra agitators, Igbo nation and Nigeria, what are the implications of this global recognition?
The issue here is that Biafra is what we have been championing for a long time and now this recognition has improved our chances of sovereignty and God willing, we will become a sovereign nation in few years from now. Our chances are brighter now and we are happy for the honour of being admitted into the body.
On our relationship with Nigeria, we have been looking forward to a situation like this, an avenue to stay on our own and manage our resources and live according to our own way of life, in accordance with our customs and tradition.
How do you see the Igbo nation using this instrument? Are you going to resurrect the clamour for restructuring or agitate for Igbo president in 2023?
My brother, you are going off the line. We are not interested in Igbo presidency. We are not interested in restructuring. We want a sovereign nation for Biafrans and stay on our own like every other country. We want to be a member-state of the UN. We want our people to be independent and be represented at the UN as Biafrans. We are not part of the people clamouring for restructuring or Igbo presidency. That is not the position of MASSOB.
How will you be able to achieve this sovereign status for Biafra Republic without the support of the political leaders from Igbo nation. Are the governors and other leaders on the same page with you on this?
Well, we would not be able to say who is on the same page with us or not for now. There are procedures for this thing. If we want to determine who is on the same page with us, it is by a referendum or a plebiscite as done in most countries. We can never say who is on the same page with us for now. When you talk of the elite, yes, they are very important and vocal like others. But when you want to measure such support, it is by a common referendum and then the majority will carry the day.
Are you optimistic that the political leadership will key into the agenda for a sovereign state for Biafra?
Why not? If you look at the things that are happening today to the people today, you would see that some of those who are talking about restructuring were hitherto afraid of restructuring in the past. I don’t want to mention names. Some of them are Generals who were then occupying spaces in Nigeria. Today, they are talking about restructuring. The same thing applies to Biafra. Many of the people who have not been supporting Biafra are turning back to support us because of the emerging situations in the country.
There was a debate for and against the claim that Biafra extends to some parts of the Niger Delta, though many counter-claimed that Biafra is restricted to the five states in the South-East. Could you clear the air on this?
Forget about the number of states. I won’t want to discuss that for now. But the underlying factor here is that we are not going to force anybody to be part of Biafra. Even in Igbo states, if any state does not want to be part of Biafra, nobody will force such state to be a part of us.
You spoke about non-violence being part of the code of conduct for UNPO members and I recall that one of the groups with the same philosophy as MASSOB, that is clamouring for a Biafra Republic, the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), has had confrontations with security operatives who were trying to suppress their demonstration. How do you intend to ensure violence does not taint your struggle from now on?
I am not going to speak for IPOB, but I will speak for MASSOB. Let me tell you something. In every country that has agitated for independence, there will be many organisations and among those organisations, you will have the main organisation. Like you rightly pointed out, we started this revolution in 1999 with MASSOB. Today, we have over 30 different organisations and most of them are break-away factions of MASSOB. So, what matters is what the parent body in doing. It is just like in South Africa, they have African National Congress (ANC), Inkatha Freedom Party, Pan African Congress (PAC) and others. But then, people knew ANC was at the vanguard of the revolution in South Africa. We don’t have to mind what some fringe elements are doing about the struggle. What matters is what the parent body, which is MASSOB, is doing.
Let me use the opportunity to state that it is not the Igbo nation that was admitted into UNPO. It is Biafra.
What is the difference between Biafra and Igbo nation?
The difference is that MASSOB is an organisation championing the cause of Biafra and we applied for recognition as Biafrans and not as Igbos. If you read our letter, it was there clearly stated that the UNPO welcomed Biafra as its 46th member. They said they welcome Biafrans and didn’t say they welcome Igbo nation.
What is the timeline you have set for the realisation of this agenda?
I would not say. It is God that determines everything, including our lives. Whenever God wants it, He will make it happen.
Now that this recognition has come, what will MASSOB be doing?
The normal things we have been doing we will continue to do. What we are going to plan now is how to up our game. We have our timeframe for everything. We have 25 stages and this has gone now. We will continue from where we stopped.
Whatever your next move will be, are you afraid there might be a counter-move from the federal authority? Successive governments have mouthed the indivisibility of the country as a mantra…
My dear bother, I don’t know whether you are aware that I have gone to prison before now.
I am strongly aware and I know your antecedent in the struggle largely.
Are you also aware that I have been charged with the highest offence in Nigeria, which is treason? So, I don’t know what next they are going to do to me tomorrow that will be different from what they have done to me in the past.
Are you saying MASSOB will dare the government if it moves against it in the light of your new status as UNPO member?
We will dare them any day, anytime.
What was the reaction of the Igbo or Biafrans in the Diaspora to the development?
When you talk of Igbo in Diaspora, our members constitute majority. They always take instructions from here and they do what we tell them to do. They have been sending me congratulatory letters, commending me for the efforts.
How did you react to the admission of the Yoruba nation as well?
I am very happy for the Yoruba too. I asked my foreign representative to send them a congratulatory letter which he has done. I congratulate them. We have been working hand in hand and that is why our recognition came at the same time. We have been working cordially with the Yoruba for a long time. They can tell you that. I am happy to work with them and I am happy they were also recognised. We will continue to work together with them.
What about the Niger Delta people?
It is the same. When you talk of Biafra, the Niger Delta people are also included. I don’t include anybody by force. If anybody says they are not part of Biafra, there is no problem in that.