BNW Face-2-Face: MASSOB Leader, Chief Ralph Uwazuruike, Takes The “Hot Seat”

by BNW Staff

 

On Sunday, September 8, 2002, MASSOB Leader, Chief Ralph Uwazuruike, took the BNW “Hot Seat” and answered burning questions about MASSOB, the group’s recent leadership crisis, and the Biafra Movement

BiafraNigeriaWorld: Let’s begin the conversation by asking you to introduce yourself.  Tell us when and where you were born, where you went to school, and what you do for a living.
Chief Uwazuruike: Okay.  My name is Ralf Uwazuruike.  I was born in Okwe, Okigwe Province around 1958, 59, 60.  I attended the Okwe Primary School, and the Okigwe National Secondary School before I proceeded to India.  I studied Political Science at Punjab University, and read law in Bombay University.  Then, I came to Nigeria and went to Nigerian Law School and was called to bar on the 6th of June, 1991.

BiafraNigeriaWorld: You say 1958, 59, 60.  Are you unsure about your date of birth?

 

Chief Uwazuruike: Yes.  In those days, people did not always have birth records.  But, through my parents and people that I have been told were born the same time that I was born, I know I was born during that period.

 

BiafraNigeriaWorld: Did you do any sport at school?

 

Chief Uwazuruike: Yes, I was a goalkeeper throughout my school years.

 

BiafraNigeriaWorld: Why did you opt to study in far away India?

 

Chief Uwazuruike: I studied in far away India because I had the mission of understudying Mahatma Ghandi.  As I said before, I went to India and my interest in Biafra started when I was about nine years old, when my sister Mary died in my lap during the civil war, when my mother went to buy medicine for her and my father when to “Comb in” [reconnaissance] to search for Hausa enemies in the bush with others, a little girl left to die because she was suffering from kwashiorkor.  After her death, I felt that I should start the issue of Biafra again when I realized that we had lost the war.  Millions of other children died of the same deprivation, and of the same injustice.

 

BiafraNigeriaWorld: You had mentioned earlier in another speech that you began the MASSOB Movement following the failure of the Obasanjo administration to appoint Igbo ministers into key positions.  And now you are referring to a much earlier period in the sixties when the War had just ended as the beginning of your quest for Biafra.  Which one is it?

 

Chief Uwazuruike: Both.  I saw the 1999 incident as a launching pad.  Otherwise, I consummated the idea right from 1966 or thereabouts.  It was in 1970 when the war ended when I said I would revisit the issue again.  So between that time and after I finished my school, I was looking for an opportunity and when in 1999 Obasanjo could not appoint Igbos in any meaningful position in his administration, I felt the time had come for me to pick up the struggle.

 

BiafraNigeriaWorld: How did a young man like you end up being addressed as “chief”?

 

Chief Uwazuruike: I was coronated a “chief” by my people in Lagos following what they perceived as my good work to the people and to the community in Lagos.  I was not the only person.  The coronation was organized by the all Igbo-speaking states in Lagos, and seven of us were coronated at the same time.  I represented Imo State.  Prominent people in Igboland were there.  Ojukwu was there; the Eze from Delta State was there; and the former Chairman of the Eastern Council of Chiefs from Enugu was there.  It was a big occasion.

 

BiafraNigeriaWorld: Do you hold a chietancy title that has its origin in Okigwe?

 

Chief Uwazuruike: Why not?  The thing is that I don’t like these chietancy title things.  Since I assumed the position as the MASSOB leader, I told myself I would never take any title.  Since then, I have received 15-20 chieftancy title invitations and I didn’t attend any of them.

 

BiafraNigeriaWorld: How would you respond to the allegation that you started screaming “Biafra, Biafra!” because your candidate, Ekwueme, lost to Obasanjo at the primary?  In other words are you using Biafra as a bargaining chip and/or cheap blackmailing tool and are you willing to settle for less than Biafra?

 

Chief Uwazuruike: I am not using Biafra for blackmail.  As I said, Biafra came up right from the time we lost the war.  It was in my mind that I would one day bring up the issue again, and I was looking for an opportunity to do that when the issue of Obasanjo’s 1999 election came up and his failure to appoint Ndi’Igbo to good positions in his government.  I’m not into MASSOB to serve anybody, neither Ekwueme nor any other person.  I am into MASSOB for the general interest of my people and for the emancipation of Ndi’Igbo from the slavery status in Nigeria.

 

BiafraNigeriaWorld: How come you didn’t take long to join the “Igbo president” bandwagon?  Are you not worried that you might come across as being inconsistent?

 

Chief Uwazuruike: No.  The Igbo Presidency wagon is of right.  Nd’Igbo deserve to be the president of Nigeria in as much as Nd’Igbo form part and parcel of Nigeria.  What I am saying is, for the past 30 years after the end of the civil war, no Igbo man has been the president. If there is any other president in Nigeria, it should be an Igbo man.  An Igbo president should not stop MASOB from its agitation for Biafra.  I would rather we redouble our effort for Biafra today if an Igbo man is president.  And we would prefer an Igbo man as president rather than a Hausa or Yuroba man.

 

BiafraNigeriaWorld: From the threats you issued on Iwuanyanwu and one “Chief” Martin Okeke, it does appear your organization is acting more like a glorified errand boy for Ohaneze.  Is MASSOB responsible for the dirty jobs of the high and mighty in IgboLand?

 

Chief Uwazuruike: No, there is nothing like that.  Our position is that Ndi’Igbo or Igbo leaders should not use the newspapers, radio or television as a platform to reconcile themselves or to settle their scores.  If thee is any problem, Ndi’Igbo should go to Ohaneze or stay in Igboland to settle whatever differences they have.  No Igboman should come to the public to say no Igboman should be president of Nigeria or start working against the general aspirations of Ndi’Igbo.  If we find out that we should discipline that person, that is a problem in Igboland today.  There is nothing that any Igboman regards as virtue as far as Ndi’Igbo are concerned.  Rather, every Igboman would like to work for a Hausa or Yoruba man, but we never work for another Igboman.  We are saying that no Igboman is bigger than the whole generality of Ndi’Igbo.  And if you think that nobody should talk to you or discipline you, MASSOB is there to discipline you.  That is why we chose somebody like Iwuanyanwu who people feel is mighty overlord and all that.  For saying that, we said we must strip you naked and parade you in the streets, and he ran to America.  And if any Igboman does that tomorrow, we shall do that to him.

 

BiafraNigeriaWorld: What is your relationship with Ohaneze and do you think they share your goal of Biafra actualization?

 

Chief Uwazuruike: Yes, I have a good relationship with Ohaneze.  By Ohaneze, I mean the present-day Ohaneze under the leadership Eze  Ozobu, because he is a disciplined man and he has shown a sense of responsibility to Nd’Igbo through his leadership.  We see the present day Ohaneze as a leadership by example and it is a body that MASSOB can work with.  We don’t believe in Igbo leaders who go to Abuja to look for contracts.  Chief Ozobu, being a retired justice, has some honor and has some credibility and we feel that we can work with him. And you must remember that Ohaneze represents Nd’Igbo and Nd’Igbo are one of the ethnic groups in Biafra.  Biafra embraces those who are not Igbo-speaking, but Ohaneze, being the umbrella organization of Nd’Igbo and Nd’Igbi being the majority in Biafra, has a lot at stake.

 

BiafraNigeriaWorld: You were at the last WIC convention in Houston, TX right?

 

Chief Uwazuruike: Yes.

 

BiafraNigeriaWorld: What do you think was achieved at that congress?  Someone said it was a showcase of unity in diversity meaning pro Aremu, pro IBB/hausa fulani and pro Igbo/Biafrans gathered together.  Personally, how did you feel sitting on the same table with Ojo Maduekwe and Omar Sanda Nwachukwu?

 

Chief Uwazuruike: Like I said, these people you have mentioned are Igbos and they are my brothers.  Their views may different, but my sitting with them does not matter.  What matters is the view of MASSOB, which I represent.  They are entitled to their own views, but their views will not influence my own view if I feel that their views are wrong.  The World Igbo Congress is a platform for Nd’Igbo to come and express themselves, and we were all there, including the ministers campaigning for Obasanjo, but they saw in the World Igbo Congress that the majority of the people support the Igbo presidency and they did not make any impact.

 

BiafraNigeriaWorld: Who is your Igbo candidate for the presidency of BiafraNigeria and why?  Would you support Ike Omar Sanda Nwachukwu, were he to beat the other Igbo candidates?

 

Chief Uwazuruike: I have no Igbo candidate and I am not interested in who becomes the president of Nigeria from Igbo stock.

 

BiafraNigeriaWorld: Would you support Ike Omar Sanda Nwachukwu were he to beat the other Igbo candidates?

 

Chief Uwazuruike: MASSOB is not supporting ANY of the candidates.

 

BiafraNigeriaWorld: Are there still any MASSOB members in detention, and what are you doing to secure their release?

 

Chief Uwazuruike: Yes.  As of today we have about 58 MASSOB members in detention.  About 28 of them were arrested in Onitsha after MASSOB held its rally at Onitsha and about 30 or 31 were arrested in Owerri after MASSOB had its rally in Owerri.  MASSOB sent their new national legal advisor from Onitsha to secure the release the members who are currently being detained in Abuja.  And our lawyer was arrested as well.  He is still in Abuja now with the rest of the members.

 

BiafraNigeriaWorld: What is your lawyer’s name?

 

Chief Uwazuruike: B. Alue.

 

BiafraNigeriaWorld: You mentioned 58 members in detention.  You also mentioned rallies in Onitsha and Owerri.  When were those rallies held in Onitsha and Owerri?

 

Chief Uwazuruike: We hold general rallies once a month.  The one in Onitsha was held on the 10th of July and the one in Owerri was held around the 15th of August, and on the 13th of this month, we are holding a rally at Enugu.

 

BiafraNigeriaWorld: So those arrests were made during those recent rallies held this year?

 

Chief Uwazuruike: Yes.

 

BiafraNigeriaWorld: This may be a bit redundant in light of the answer you just gave.  But, I will ask anyway.  What is the current status of MASSOB vis a vis your purported suspension by Uche Okwukwu and co.?  Is your organization still active?  What are some of its latest activities?

 

Chief Uwazuruike: My organization is most active now because the organization grows day by day.  Like I said before, in law, we say “Nemo dat qui non habet” (one does not give what one does not have).  So neither Uche Okwukwu nor Logenius has the right to suspend me because I was the person that brought in Logenius Orjiako into MASSOB and gave him an appointment and I was the person who recruited Uche Okwukwu as our legal adviser.  And an employee of the company cannot sack the managing director or the chairman of the company. That is a ruse.  It is only on the Internet that that has weight.  On the ground, nobody knows them.

 

BiafraNigeriaWorld: Are you saying there is no mechanism in place today for removing you as leader of MASSOB?

 

Chief Uwazuruike: This is a revolution.  After 30 years, no Igboman talked about Biafra.  I came out to talk about Biafra.  I have my modus, my techniques, my principles.  If you think my principles are not okay with you, go and form your own organization.  It is there for the public.  If they like what I’m saying, what I am doing, to follow me.  If they don’t like it, they’ll reject me.  But you cannot come to my organization and say you have suspended me or want me to follow your principle, which is not in line with what I am advocating.

 

BiafraNigeriaWorld: There were strong accusations against you by some of your erstwhile lieutenants, which we would like you to address mainly:

 

BiafraNigeriaWorld: Self-enrichment by using MASSOB’s resources to build homes in Okigwe and taking bribes from the Imo state deputy governor.

 

Chief Uwazuruike: First and foremost, all the properties used by MASSOB are my properties.  The house MASSOB is using in Lagos as their secretariat is my personal house, and the national secretariat of MASSOB in Okigwe, which was burned by the government last December is also my house.  And for the past 3 years that these properties have been used by MASSOB, nobody has paid rent to me.

 

Secondly, before MASSOB was inaugurated, I single-handedly funded MASSOB before these people came on board, and I am doing that for my interest.  I’m not asking anybody to pay me for it.  And if you say that I am using MASSOB resources to build a house, all these houses that are used by MASSOB, did I use MASSOB resources to build them?  I bought them.  I built some of them with my money and if somebody is saying that I am using MASSOB resources to build a house, from where did the resources come from?  Who contributed? Did we levy any money for anybody to pay, or did the government give me money?  Did any country donate money to MASSOB?  You ask such person, where did the money come from?

 

BiafraNigeriaWorld: What about the deputy governor?

 

Chief Uwazuruike: I don’t have any relationship with any governor or deputy.  Do you understand it?  Like I said about my house.

 

BiafraNigeriaWorld: So you did not take any bribe from the deputy governor of Imo State?

 

Chief Uwazuruike: Why should I take any bribe from a deputy governor?  I can change a car.  Or somebody can give a car to me.  Somebody donated a car to me.  But it was not a deputy governor.  A businessman donated a car to me.  When the police came to Akigwe, stormed my house and vandalized a bus I was driving.  I was walking the streets and somebody saw me, an Igbo man who felt what I was doing was good for the Igbos and bought me the car.  So this idea of deputy governor is just nonsense.

 

BiafraNigeriaWorld: You mentioned that most of the money spent by MASSOB is your own money.  I asked you earlier what you do for a living.  I don’t recall that you answered that part of the question.  Do you mind answering it now?

 

Chief Uwazuruike: I am a legal practitioner.  I have practiced law for more than 10 years now.  Throughout my practice I was into property.  I buy and sell land and houses.  Before MASSOB, I had five houses in Lagos and when MASOOB started I sold one and later I sold another one which I’m using to rebuild a house in my village after they destroyed my house in Okigwe.  Before MASSOB I had five vehicles.  I was driving 3, my wife was using two.  I sold the two vehicles of my wife and sold one of mine for MASSOB.  Today, the two that are remaining are vandalized by the police and are immovable.  All these things are my personal things.

 

BiafraNigeriaWorld: So, those are the sources of all the funds you personally expend on MASSOB.

 

 

Chief Uwazuruike: Yes.  Sure.

 

BiafraNigeriaWorld: You have also been accused of aligning yourself with some of the eastern governors and compromising the safety of MASSOB members.

 

Chief Uwazuruike: It’s funny.  I have no direct dealing with any eastern governor.  As a matter of fact, you ask any of them if I have ever come to their office for the first day.  The only governor whose office I have ever gone to is Orji Zur Kalu, and that was whenLongenius Orjiako was alleged to have bought guns given to MASSOB members to fight against Bakassi.  Then, two Bakassi men were killed by MASSOB men, and four MASSOB members were killed by Bakassi.  Then, Orji Zur Kalu summoned me and I went and they said, look, what is happening?  Then we discussed the issue and I investigated and Longenius Orjiako told me that actually he bought some guns and gave them to our members to challenge Bakassi because Bakassi people were terrorizing MASSOB members.  Then I asked him where he got the money and he said his junior brother gave him the money.  He said 1.3 million Naira.  He said he was sorry.  I said no, you don’t’ do things like that.  If you want violence, you have to form your own organization.  If I’m the leader of MASSOB, I have to control MASSOB.  Then, I suspended him according to our rules and regulations, non-violence, that’s all.

 

BiafraNigeriaWorld: You have been accused of exhibiting dictatorial tendencies in running MASSOB affairs.

 

Chief Uwazuruike: I’m not a dictator, and no other person will say it.  If I were dictatorial, I wouldn’t have given all the powers and privileges I gave to them.  Twice I came to America, I brought them; I gave them open hand.  Today, I’m in America and they are not with me.

 

BiafraNigeriaWorld: Why did you make the statement that you are bigger than MASSOB, and that if anybody doesn’t like what you are doing, they should go and form their own organization?  Do you intend that you will always be bigger than MASSOB?

 

Chief Uwazuruike: As a matter of fact, I’m sorry I made that statement.  I made that statement in anger.  I was trying to tell the world that every and each member that is in MASSOB today is there on the belief that the government has tried so many times to bribe me and I couldn’t be bribed.  Some of these members I took to some of the negotiations where money was offered to me, and I rejected.  They saw this, they told others.  People said if this is the case, here is an Igbo man who could not be bought and they came into MASSOB.  People tried to see me because of the things they hear about me, and people are into MASSOB because they know I cannot betray them.  So for somebody to come and say he has done this and that, I tried to tell him, look man, Uwazuruike formed MASSOB and MASSOB is synonymous with toUwazuruike as Biafra is synonymous to Ojukwu, as ANC is synonymous to Nelson Mandela.  As India National Congress is synonymous to Mahatma Ghandi.  So, MASSOB minus Uwazuruike is shaky.  There was no time that a group of people came together to form MASSOB, no.

 

BiafraNigeriaWorld: We understand that you are very important to MASSOB.  But today, Mandela is not heading ANC.  And in India, Ghandi was shot and killed and the party he headed continued.  What program do you have in place for succession in MASSOB?  It has been observed that your name is synonymous with MASSOB and you take it (MASSOB) wherever you go, leaving nothing behind.  For example, all our forum members who have been home lately agree that MASSOB activities in the East has been on the lowest ebb since you migrated toLagos.  How do you respond to this?

 

Chief Uwazuruike: I don’t think there is anything like that because this information is wrong.  MASSOB today in the east is the talk of the town.  As I’m talking to you here now there are rallies all over the east.  We have covered the local government areas and we are into all the wards in the east.  And I don’t like playing to the gallery, newspaper advertisement.  We don’t like it because that brings the security against us.  We are on the ground, and there are migrating to Lagos.  All these rallies are not being held in Lagos.  I was in Onitsha against the security directive that I should not come.  I was in Owerri and two armored tanks were placed on Okigwe Road to keep me from coming but when they saw all the crowd they quickly ran back to their barracks.  As I’m going home now, I’m going directly to Okigwe.  My family is inLagos.  Once in a while I come into Lagos to see my children and my wife.  Then I go back to my base.

 

BiafraNigeriaWorld: What program do you have in place for succession in MASSOB?

 

Chief Uwazuruike: We have a hierarchy in MASSOB.  But what I have refused to do is to say that this is my executive, this is my financial secretary, this is my treasurer, this is my deputy.  Because once I do that, the government will catch up on that and bribe some of them to scuttle the movement.  So if I’d had an executive where perhaps  Uche Okwukwu or Longenius Orjiakor was my secretary or my deputy, the government would have used them to scuttle MASSOB.

 

BiafraNigeriaWorld: So, if something happens to you today, who would succeed you?

 

Chief Uwazuruike: If something happened to me today, MASSOB hierarchy knows the next in line.  We don’t expose all these things in the papers because of security implications.

 

BiafraNigeriaWorld: You live in Ijeshatedo.  Is that correct?

 

Chief Uwazuruike:  Yes.

 

BiafraNigeriaWorld: Don’t you think it is absurd for a leader of the Biafra movement to reside outside Biafra and in enemy territory?

 

Chief Uwazuruike: Before I started MASSOB, I was in Lagos.  I have properties in Lagos.  I’m not a tenant.  I have kids who attend school in Lagos.  My wife is also in Lagos.  East is the warfront.  They burnt my house in Okigwe.  Suppose my wife and children had been there. I am in the warfront.  Must I go to the warfront with my wife and my children?  I have lived in Lagos since I came back from India.  From Lagos I started the movement and I am fighting and struggling.

 

BiafraNigeriaWorld: There are many pro-Biafra groups in operation today and there does not seem to be much co-ordination.  Do you think that the emergence of so many groups compromises the message?

 

Chief Uwazuruike: Not at all.  Rather, it is a welcome development.  Today, we have the BF, Ekwenche, Igbo USA, BNW, we have PANDEM.  We are partners in progress.  But there must be a consensus, a working relationship, an umbrella, something that makes us sit together once in a while to review the progress we have made.  The issue is the actualization of Biafra.  The more the merrier.  That is what I told my subordinates, Uche Okwukwu and Orjiakor.  Go and form your own organization.  If it is a Biafra oriented organization, I will work with you.  But you must have your own agenda.  If you are not comfortable with non-violence, go and form your own organization and do whatever you like there.

 

BiafraNigeriaWorld: Why has MASSOB not been restructured after some of last year’s turmoil?

 

Chief Uwazuruike: It has been restructured.  When Uche Okwukwu and Prince were there, we had an eastern coordinator.  But immediately after that, we introduced a provincial system.  Ojukwu had twenty provinces.  Today, we added four provinces covering Delta, Agbor,Warri and Ughelli.  These places were not part of Biafra during the war, but today, they are Igbo areas and they have shown interest.  We included them.  Today we have directors who serve as ministers.  We have fifteen directors of MASSOB covering director of education, director of welfare.  Administrators serve as governors of these provinces.  We call them provincial administrators.  Then at the local government level we call them districts.  At another level we call them ward officers.  All these things were not there before.

 

BiafraNigeriaWorld: Are there any other of the allegations by Uche Okwukwu and his group that I have not mentioned that you would like to address?

 

Chief Uwazuruike: Yes.  According to the findings of the committee set up to investigate why Longenius bought guns, which he admitted, we found out that one Igbo politician living in Abuja working for Obasanjo, recruited the two of them to (1) fight against Orji Zur Kalu, two.

 

BiafraNigeriaWorld: When you say two of them, two of whom?

 

Chief Uwazuruike: That is Uche and Prince.  … to fight against Orji Zur Kalu.  The politician is from Abia State, Aba in particular, working in the presidency.  Then, to fight against MASSOB.  And Prince himself, admitted that to me in the office of one of my relations called PrinceChibeze.  And it’s the same Prince and some of my relatives begging me to come and forgive him and all that.  I don’t act on hearsay.  He admitted to me once that his brother gave him 1.3 million Naira to buy arms, and later we found out that the money was actually from one ofObasanjo’s men.  So they were sponsored to scuttle the objectives of MASSOB.

 

BiafraNigeriaWorld: It is very desirable that a leader understand the temperament of his individual team members in addition to knowing himself.  Can you seriously say you knew Mr. Okwukwu’s temperament, especially now that you have gone through last year’s controversy with Mr. Okwukwu?

 

Chief Uwazuruike: Yes, I would say that.  If I knew him as I know him today I wouldn’t really have appointed him as our legal advisor.  Or if I knew Longinus Orjiako as I know him today, I wouldn’t have appointed him eastern coordinator then.  We learn every day, and experience is the best teacher.

 

BiafraNigeriaWorld: You said earlier that they had apologized.  Does this mean that they are now back in the fold?  Or does it mean you have forgiven each other and everybody is doing their own thing now?

 

Chief Uwazuruike: Well my friends called me.  There is one Sam Obi that lives in Aba who is my childhood friend told me that Longenus came to him and asked him to plead on his behalf that I should forgive them, he wants to come back to MASSOB.  Then one provincial administrator with Chief Osechukwu also said Longenus came to him and was begging that he should be recalled and all that.  This is not a private decision.  I have to consult my members, and I’m consulting with them and I have to see their opinion.

 

BiafraNigeriaWorld: Are you concerned that your strained relationship with Okwukwu could hamper the interactivity of Ikwerre Igbo and Okigwe Igbo for instance?

 

Chief Uwazuruike: Today, Port Harcourt, in the last rally, Port Harcourt came fourth as the zone where MASSOB is at its highest.  We count that by counting how many buses each zone came with.  So Onitsha came first, Aba came second, Owerri came third, and Port Harcourtcame fourth.  But that was at Onitsha.  Then in Owerri, Onitsha came first, Aba came second, Port Harcourt came third, before Owerri.  Then you begin to talk Enugu, Umuahia and all that.  So Uche Okwukwu doesn’t mean anything because I have people in all the local governments in Rivers State.  And Uche was working as our legal advisor, he was not working as an officer, or  as a ward officer or as a provincial officer.  He was our legal advisor.  When we had cases, he would go to court and we would pay him.  There was no case he did for us that we didn’t pay him for.  As a matter of fact, when we were here in the US, in this room, the morning we were leaving to go back home, I shared money to them.  Uche was demanding N5,500 for each detained member, as opposed to the N2,000 we used to pay for each. That was where we started having problems.  I said no, we can’t do that.  I gave them money to hold on to until we reached Nigeria, and up to this day they are holding it.  Come to the east and you will know what is happening, I’m not exaggerating.  Come and see what is on the ground.  If Uche Okwukwu and Prince could rock the boat for MASSOB, I would never dare sack them, because MASSOB and Biafra are important to me.

 

BiafraNigeriaWorld: Now that the other faction has metamorphosed into the Eastern peoples’ Congress (EPC), will your MASSOB be willing to extend the right hand of fellowship to them since you are both sworn to protect Biafran interest?

 

Chief Uwazuruike: Why not?  Inasmuch as they are for the actualization for Biafra, they are my best friends.  I would only look the other way if they started singing another tune or saying that they are for Nigeria and they are not for Biafra.  They are our brothers.  Why not?

 

BiafraNigeriaWorld: We know that in your last few “detentions” by the BiafraNigerian government, you were “detained” at Abuja Nicon Noga Hotel where you were locked in negotiation with a key government functionary (Jerry Gana).  Keen observers believe you were intimidated by the opulence of the environment and intellectual wit of Obasanjo’s representative, and that you emerged out of that detention a thoroughly changed man with no more stomach for the struggle.  Is this true?

 

Chief Uwazuruike: First of all, it was not really Jerry Gana who was talking with me.  It was an official from the presidency.  I don’t like mentioning peoples’ names.  It was in Abuja.  I was in Abuja under detention.  They burnt my house.  Why did they burn the house?  Because I did not agree to their terms.  That was about the third time they were offering me a bribe in Abuja.  They have offered my bribes three times in Abuja, two in Lagos.  In Lagos, one was in FESTAC extenstion, the other in my own house.  So this last one, it was like come here and we shall deal with you.  So they burned my house.  The newspaper carried the story on the front page.  They showed it to me and I said okay, fine.  You have burned my house can you let me go?

 

BiafraNigeriaWorld: Nelson Mandela was incarcerated for 27 years.  Yet, he and the ANC emerged victorious.  Have you prepared yourself and MASSOB to withstand that type of ordeal?

 

Chief Uwazuruike: Let me tell you.  I will be very happy in my grave if I die in this cause much less going to prison, I’m ready to die.  And you know, I’m not afraid.  If I was afraid, I would have stopped.  I’m ready to go on terms of imprisonment for 40 years, and I above that I’m ready to die the next minute for MASSOB and Biafra.

 

BiafraNigeriaWorld: Let’s discuss your relationship with the Diaspora Igbo intellectuals.  There was a recent development published in a pro yoruba website where a Yoruba professor called Bolaji Aluko was alleged to have contacted a US agency website to request the removal of militant OPC from the list of terrorist organizations. Do you see the need for your MASSOB to draw from the intellectual pool of such orgs as BF , BLM, BAF, Ekwenche US, Ndigbo Gen. 60-70+, BNW etc.?  Do you know these groups and are you carrying them along?

 

Chief Uwazuruike: I’m already working with these groups, and as far as I’m concerned, I saw this morning.  My brothers and sisters are those who believe in the cause of Biafra.  And in as much as a group believes in the actualization of Biafra, that group is my darling, that group is my friend, my everything.  I’m prepared to work with them.  That is why I’m saying we should have an occasion where we can see ourselves, talk together because so many of these people, I have not seen them.  All the times I’ve been to the US, I have been sponsored by all these bodies.  And I can’t do without them.

 

BiafraNigeriaWorld: How many phases are there in your plan for Biafra Actualization and at what stage in that plan are you at the moment?  Can you give a breakdown of the first stages that you have already gone through and a quick run down of what to expect in the future?

 

Chief Uwazuruike: Yes.  We have 25 stages in the actualization of Biafra.  We are now in the fourth stage.  The first stage had to do with recruitment and mobilization for members of MASSOB.  These things go from one state to the other.  The second stage had to do with declaration of Biafra.  Which I did on the 22nd of May, 2000 at Aba.  The third stage had to do with the development of the primary aspects of sovereignty.  We instituted the Biafran court, the Biafran police, the Biafran intelligence agency, and other infrastructures and other bodies.  Today we are in the fourth stage which is civil disobedience.  This civil disobedience will take us some time because it has to do with disobeying government laws, doing things that we want in Biafra without recourse of what the Nigerian government is saying.  In this stage we have put in place the Biafra Liberation Front.  This Biafra Liberation Front is an alternative government.  With this Biafra Liberation Front, we have provinces we call the Biafran Territory and we have directors serving as ministers and they do the same work that Nigerian ministers and Nigerian governors do.

 

BiafraNigeriaWorld: Would you commit to providing a full list of all the 25 stages to go on your website?

 

Chief Uwazuruike: No.  Because if I do it, the government will know my stages and they will scuttle it.

 

BiafraNigeriaWorld: So you don’t want the stages to be public material?

 

Chief Uwazuruike: No.  This is sensitive information, and that is what saves MASSOB.  Do you know, if Uche Okwukwu and Longenus had known our stages, they would have stolen it.  They would have used it as their own platform, their own agenda.  I don’t tell anybody, including my mother, my wife, the stages.

 

BiafraNigeriaWorld: So the stages are announced as you reach them?

 

Chief Uwazuruike: Yes, the stages are announced.

 

BiafraNigeriaWorld: In the past, MASSOB indicated that there would be no elections in Biafra.  Later that statement was modified to mean that there would be no federal elections in Biafra.  What is MASSOB’s stand today?

 

Chief Uwazuruike: Today we have the same stand.  Elections will be held in the local governments and states in Biafra to allow our brothers and sisters to take control of our states because they remain in a vacuum.  But as far as federal elections are concerned, elections into the national assembly, the presidency, MASSOB has also modified that position.  We say that if an Igboman, and by Igboman, we mean that if all the six parties go to Igboland and pick their presidential candidates, we will allow the election.  But if all the six parties fail to go to Igboland as they did to Yoruba in 1998, and choose their candidates, we will not allow any elections.

 

BiafraNigeriaWorld: Thank you for the interview and we wish you a safe return to BiafraNigeria.

 

Chief Uwazuruike: It was my pleasure.

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