Biafran struggle still on- Uwazuruike

2011-01-29
THE SUN Newspaper- Val Okara

Leader of the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB), Chief Ralph Uwazuruike, has said that the struggle for the state of Biafra is still on.
He said that his group will keep pressing for the state of Biafra until this is achieved, revealing that MASSOB has built an estate for wounded Biafran soldiers and MASSOB members in Okwe, Okigwe, with a view to taking care of them.

In this interview, Uwazuruike spoke on his struggle and why MASSOB encouraged Igbo to participate in the current votersí registration.

What informed your group (MASSOB) to build a housing estate for wounded Biafra war veterans?
The project is for the rehabilitation of wounded Biafra soldiers and I donít like the word ex-Biafra soldiers because the struggle has not stopped and Biafra is still alive. And outside them, some members of the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) are also wounded but we are trying to rehabilitate those who were wounded during the Biafran war. The purpose of setting up the place is to give them a sense of belonging, since they suffered for the majority of Biafrans and they are just abandoned in Orji River Camp, in Enugu State and their efforts are still being remembered. As long as the struggle continues, they are the heroes and ours started where their own stopped. We did the construction of the housing estate to accommodate them and their families.

The land is about 5, 000 acres, not plots. We have been able to pay compensation to 28 families whose lands were acquired and three families who refuse compensation and went to court, but the community is looking into the matter. The community is appealing to them to withdraw their case from the court because the project is for the welfare of the Biafrans and the underprivileged.

The project is capital intensive.
Where do you source the funds to execute the project?
Nobody has contributed a dime for the project, except the MASSOB members who are paying their dues. No prominent Igbo man has contributed a dime for the project, except MASSOB members.

What other facilities do you want to put in place in the area?
We want to build old peopleís home in addition to the housing estate, which will be about 50 buildings. The old people will include our own members who have contributed to the struggle and members of the public. We want to put up a clinic next month, to look after the people already transferred from Orji River Camp. The clinic would be manned by some qualified medical doctors and nurses, who will be available on a daily basis to attend to the wounded Biafran soldiers.

We want to have a recreation centre in the place for the children and members of the public. We want to have what we call Ojukwuís House that will accommodate about 5, 000 people and the centre at Okwe in Onuimo Local Government Area of Imo State is just like the capital of Biafra. It is why we are taking much time not to abuse the area by setting up irrelevant structures in the area. The place will also have a portion where we will bury the unknown Biafran heroes (soldiers)

How do intend to see the welfare of the Biafran veterans transferred form Orji River to this area?
For the past five years, we have been supplying them with food items at the Orji River Camp, but we told them that they should not go to the press for any reason. Each month we buy food items and send to them and we have been doing it for the past five years.
Although, it was not enough because some of their children have to go to school and some are ready in the higher institutions. We brought them here to take adequate care of them and to see that none of their children drop from school. At Orji River, they are being attacked by wild animals, thieves and even crushed by vehicles. And if any of them dies, he will be buried here because this is Biafran land, unless where the family of the decreased thinks otherwise; but most Biafrans and MASSOB will like to be buried opposite the Freedom House.

Still on funding, do you intend to reach out to the international donors and wealthy Nigerians for assistance?
Why not? But, I wouldnít like it to be the type of thing the non-governmental organisations are doing. The NGOs we have in Nigeria are extorting money from people and international bodies. We are not interested in such programmes. This is something we are doing for ourselves and right now we are sourcing the funds internally, but if we have any assistance from the international community the people concerned will benefit from it. We donít want to use it as a campaign, like other NGOs to get funds from members of the public and we donít even intend talking to international community and other volunteers now, so that people will not abuse it. As I said earlier, for the past five years we have been sustaining them at the Orji River Camp and nobody knows about it. I am not a politician and I am not contesting for any election and I donít want anybody to know what I am doing; rather I am doing it for my people.

For sometime now, MASSOB activities have slowed down. What is happening?
The struggle is more than on now and as far as we have relocated the wounded Biafran war veterans to Okwe, from Orji River Camp, they are the source of our inspiration. They are the roots of our struggle and each morning I wake up, I see them before any other thing. They remind me of the Biafran war and when I see them, it reminds me that the struggle has not ended and it makes me to continue because what they have fought for will never be in vain and we have to continue to fight for it until we get it. For anybody to think that l have abandoned the struggle, the person must be sick, because one cannot abandon his life; the struggle is my life and I have no other ambition on earth than to actualize Biafra.

How do your people feel that you cited this project in your home town, Okwe?
They are very happy. You can see a mini-market on the site bubbling and moreover when we have meetings, the people are very happy. As I told you earlier, about three families went to court, but the community is against them.

Are they still facing harassment from the Nigerian security operatives?
Well, I think they are tired, but I am not tired and for the past three months, I have not gone to prison and I feel like going to prison any of these days because it is part of the struggle. And, if you stay for a long time and you donít go to prison, it looks as if nothing is happening. So, I donít know why they are feeling tired now and I want them to come. I am inviting them and let them not forget that the struggle is still on; so I am not afraid of that.

You have been accused of going to prison to get funds from the international donors/organisation?
I have never got a kobo from any country in the world and I donít have access to any international body/organisation. No NGO in Nigeria or outside the country has given me any dime. I donít have connection with outside world except our members.

MASSOB has been accused of supporting a particular political party for the coming elections in the country?
MASSOB is apolitical and Uwazuruike is apolitical and we are not members of any political party and as a matter of fact, we are not Nigerians. I am not a Nigerian, I am a Biafran and every member of MASSOB is a Biafran. We donít participate in Nigerian politics; so can we support no Nigerian political party. Dim Odimegwu Chukwuemeka Ojukwu is our hero, our father and we do support him, but when it has to do with Nigerian politics, we declined because we are not part of it. For anybody to say that Uwazuruike or MASSOB is supporting any Nigerian political party, that person is wrong.

Our organisation has taken a stand that all MASSOB members should register in this voters registration exercise for good governance. As of today, the Biafran territory is being occupied by Nigeria and is from Nigeria itself that we shall have Biafra. We believed that we are not Nigerians; we are Biafrans, but our territory is occupied by Nigeria. We will not delude ourselves on the fact that we are still in Nigeria. The leadership of MASSOB has decided that our members should go and register in the votersí registration and that does not, in anyway, make us Nigerians because roads have to be built, electricity has to be provided and there must be water. It is only when you vote good people that will provide these amenities and if you refuse to vote, bad people will be in government and your condition will worsen. I remember when we asked our members (Ndigbo) not to take part in the census; because of it, the population of Ndigbo came to a very low level; then some people started blaming MASSOB leadership and we donít have to make that mistake again. Even now I asked all the Igbo to register in this exercise.

By asking your members to register in the ongoing votersí registration, is it not a way of given credence to the Nigerian government?
No, No, I said go and register and if you register you are not forced to vote during the general elections. You may register and on the voting day you may refused to vote. We asked them to register and vote, when Biafra is got, we know that we got our independence and to administer our territory. Inasmuch as we are still in Nigeria and our economy is being managed by Nigerian authorities, we are stakeholders too. You see what is happening across the globe. Until referendum is conducted, you will not say that you have got sovereignty or your own government. Whatever we are doing is for the welfare of our people, who believe in our cause. It is not good to disfranchise ourselves; it is disadvantageous to us.

You first register to have that empowerment to vote and you decide not to vote; that is your own decision; but if you donít register you have disempowered yourself. If your child wants to register tomorrow in any of the government owned schools, he or she maybe asked to bring his fatherís registration card and if he has no voterís card, the child maybe denied admission; so I donít want my members to be incapacitated. First of all, ensure that you are qualified, but you may refuse to vote.
I personally encourage voting because if you fail to vote bad people will take over the government and they will dictate for you.

 

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