This is my first visit to Abia State since after the unfortunate events of the past few weeks. Some months ago, I invited Nnamdi Kanu to my house and we met for three hours. I told him clearly that both in my personal capacity and as President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, that though there are structural imbalances and lots of injustices in Nigeria, I will never ever support any action that will lead to the shedding of blood in Igboland. No nation in history has survived two civil wars.
I saw the Biafran war with my two eyes. My father was the minister for local government in the Eastern Regional government led by Micheal Okpara. But I fought on the front lines. I was a full lieutenant in the Biafran Army. I fought in Ore. I fought in Orlu. I fought in Enugu. I taught at the Biafran School of Infantry. I worked for several months at the Biafran Airport at Uli and I saw first hand, the unimaginable carnage suffered by our people.
Available records show that 1.5 million Biafran were killed in battle. About 1 million were killed by hunger and malnutrition while another 1 million remained unaccounted for. I saw our mothers, wives, and daughters being violated.
At the Uli Airstrip, I saw the C160 planes that brought supplies for us as they carried hundreds of Biafran babies that were sick and malnourished. Most of them less than a year old. They were packed into the planes like sardines. More than half of them didn’t survive the rigors of the flight as their tender heads hit the iron body of the planes during flight turbulence or air attacks.
For the ones that survived, more than half never came back home. I told Kanu that war is not an option. I made that point clearly to him. I also told him to tone down his language. He should stop abusing the president of the Country and stop calling Nigeria a zoo.
A zoo is where wild animals are kept. If you say Nigeria is a zoo, it then means that all of us are wild animals. Even if you don’t like the president as a person, you must respect the office he occupies.
In Igboland, we respect our elders. We don’t abuse them in public no matter the level of difference. I told him to stop abusing our governors. In particular, I told him to stop abusing the Imo State governor by calling him Okoro-Hausa and questioning his paternity except he has the result of a DNA test which proved that his father didn’t give birth to him.
By questioning his paternity, you are indirectly abusing our wives and mothers. That is unacceptable.
I told him to stop calling the president a paedophile. That is wrong and I won’t condone that.
My own mum had her first child at the age of 13. In the olden days, once a girl attains puberty in Igboland, forms breast and starts menstruating, she is ripe for marriage. So, you are indirectly abusing the culture of our people.
IPOB wants an independent Biafra. Ohaneze Ndigbo wants a restructured Nigeria with strong regions and a weak center where each region will control her resources, have their own constitution while royalties are paid to the center to manage foreign affairs, immigration, defence, currency matters, etc.
Instead of talking tough and threatening fire and brimstone, let’s work together and push for a restructured Nigeria. Let’s sit down and talk with Abuja. If we form a common and united front, the federal government will listen to us.
Abusing the president will not give us Biafra. Abusing other tribes and calling them names will not give us Biafra. Telling Igbos to stop attending churches with Yoruba pastors will not give us Biafra. It will rather widen the gaps between us and these other people who themselves are victims of the injustices in Nigeria.
It will annoy them and they will abandon us. We can’t push this alone. We need the support of our neighbors. By abusing and threatening others, you put the lives of our people who live there in danger.
I said all of these to him and he refused and kept going on and on. At a point, they started abusing me too. Calling me names. I was never offended. They are my children. That is burden of fatherhood and I am prepared to bear it.
Our people have a saying “what an elder sees sitting down, a young person cannot see standing up”.
Nnia Nwodo is the president-general of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, a leading socio-political group in Igboland.
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.