The Anglican Archbishop of Enugu Ecclesiastical Province, Most Reverend Emmanuel Chukwuma, has spoken on the faith of the Igbos in Nigeria and Biafra agitation, says that President Muhammadu Buhari hates the Igbos.
Bishop Chukwuma made the statement in part of an interview with Sun while taking a critical look at the current state of Nigerians at 57th independence anniversary.
Talking about the alleged marginalisation of the South-east by the present administration, do you subscribe to the view in some quarters that President Buhari hates the Igbo?
He does and that is very obvious. Buhari hates the Igbo and he made it quite clear initially because he felt that Igbos didn’t vote for him. But once politics is over, political grievances should also be over. He should not be marginalising the Igbo because they did not vote for him.
How about tomorrow? You have to prepare their minds and show them that you love them so that they can vote for you or your party tomorrow. But he is not doing that because there is a sort of sentimental negativity against the Igbo, which is not right at all.
Look at the issue of IPOB and Fulani herdsmen; the government has declared IPOB as a terrorist group but says that Fulani herdsmen that have been terrorising communities across the country are not terrorists but herdsmen. That is part of the hatred.
What development has he brought to Igbo land? The roads are not good; the second Niger Bridge is not done; the harbour in Onitsha is being neglected; and appointments are not being equitably shared. I mean, what kind of rubbish is that?
So, he should behave himself as a leader of all and not behaving as if he is a leader of Daura or the Hausa/Fulani alone.
On the issue of IPOB, don’t you think they really went too far by, for instance, by establishing a secret security service and all that?
If you can recall, there was a time I warned Nnamdi Kanu in your newspaper. It was on the front page of The Sun. I do not support the actions of IPOB. By the way, who are the IPOB? IPOB is not recognised by the United Nations because Igbo people who were the indigenous people of America are no more there.
So, it’s a wrong terminology and it’s not even registered. But the thing is that something caused them to be doing what they are doing — agitating for their right. And that is what we must look into. What is the cause of these peoples’ action?
Two, the elders in the South-east have failed to take their positions and that is why the youth stepped in. That is why the elders must take up their positions rightly now.
The elders in the South-east have been sleeping; they have neglected their responsibilities and they have allowed things to go bad. Even our politicians too have not done enough to protect the future of these youths; they use them for politics and dump them. And somebody came out from somewhere and said, ‘look, we have lost a lot, let us begin to agitate’. And they gave themselves a name called the IPOB.
Well, they are not indigenous people. But the thing is that I don’t support violent actions or having a sovereign nation. You cannot have a nation within a nation. Of course, Nigeria is not a nation but a country.
But the thing is that government could have handled the situation differently because when the Niger Delta militants were doing their own agitation, we all saw how it was resolved. It was not handled with force. So, government must find a way to pacify these boys and dialogue with them to find out what they want.
Unemployment is one of the problems; those boys are frustrated. And what is the Nigerian government doing to end their frustration? They are not thinking about it. The politicians are busy using the money they make to recycle themselves in politics. This is the problem; nobody is talking about how to establish industries to create employment.
Look at the forthcoming Anambra governorship election; the amount of money that is being wasted in politics is a shame to Anambra State. How many industries have those jostling to govern the state established? How many job opportunities have they created for the people? But they can bring out billions of naira to canvass for votes. Why? Is politics business? Politics is service but they have taken it as a way of making money because of what they will be stealing in office. It’s a shame and this is why these young boys are very much annoyed that they have not been given the right direction and the right leadership. And that is something we must address as a country.
What is your advice to members of IPOB in the face of the current situation?
When I earlier warned Nnamdi Kanu, I said they must now lie low and let the elders take up the issue and re-direct it to the government. They must not resort to violence because Ojukwu himself said that he led the first war and that a second one is not necessary. Most of these boys have never seen war; they have not experienced war.
Nnamdi Kanu was born in 1976, six years after the civil war. So, what does he know about war? War does not bring peace or progress. So, I think he must be re-directed.
I thank God that Ohanaeze Ndigbo and the South-east governors have now come up to do that. All of us must now join hands to make sure that they take up what these boys are agitating for maturely and in the right direction to make sure the government gets the message and knows their grievances for which they have been acting the way they do.
If they see that government is listening to their elders, they will pipe down. So, there should be an approach that will make the boys see that the elders have now waded in to re-direct their agitations so that the government can understand their grievances, as was the case with the Niger Delta militants. Then things will be properly shaped and there will be peace.
Nobody wants violence; nobody wants war. I experienced the Nigerian civil war and I don’t want war any more. I don’t even want a separate Igbo nation.
The thing is that the colonial masters should also be blamed for the situation of the country as far as I am concerned. I listened to an elderly man sometime ago when I traveled to London who confessed that they made a mistake in the way they ceded power to the North. It’s not they are more than us; it was a mistake.
So, it was the colonial masters that made the mistake that caused the confusion in the country with some people thinking that they have more powers than others or that they should rule forever. But everything should be shared. There should be shared governance. In fact, once there is shared governance and equity and we take each other as one in this nation, nobody will be complaining or agitating. That is my stand.
You advocated for the conduct of a referendum earlier in this interaction. What do you think it should be based upon?
It should be based on enthroning equity and justice; it should be based on enthroning equal sharing. There is a lot of cheating in the country today. The power at the centre must be diffused. When there is too much power at the centre, then the state and local governments suffer.
A situation where everybody goes to the centre to look for money aids corruption; it also doesn’t help grassroots development because the grassroots are not up there. The grassroots are the states and local councils.
Again, the unity of Nigeria should be discussed in the referendum. Are we going to be together or not? Are we ready to tolerate ourselves? Are we ready to share power? Are we ready to know that we are one and that nobody is bigger than the other, that we are all Nigerians? These are the things we must discuss.
And there have been talks about restructuring. Restructuring, yes, but what are we restructuring really? We must begin to itemise. And if restructuring is going to be a better option, then government must begin to listen. They must listen; but unfortunately the government is not listening. That is the problem.
But there is need for the government to call people and say, ‘okay, what is this restructuring you are agitating for all about’. If they discuss it, they will know the next way forward. But when you just say no to restructuring, we are not under a military or an autocratic government.