By Onyedika Agbedo and Tony Udemba
President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief John Nnia Nwodo, has restated his earlier position that it will be injurious to the Igbo to pursue self-determination and urged members of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) to drop their agitation and join the organisation’s quest for a restructured Nigeria.
He spoke during a Town Hall meeting organised by the apex Igbo socio-cultural organisation in Lagos, yesterday.
Nwodo, who noted that the youths were free to express themselves over what he described as the relegation of the Igbo to second class citizens in Nigeria, stressed that the South East would be the ultimate loser in the event of another civil war.
“Whether we agree with them or not, they have a right to express their opinions. When I was at their age, I was in the trench fighting for Biafra. I’m not sure that anyone of them has heard the sound of a gun. I lost a close friend who was with me in the trench; a mortar caught him in the ear and he died instantly.
The Ndigbo leader disclosed that more than half a million Igbo died in the war through the gun and bombings by the federal troop while another one million died out of hunger and starvation.
‘‘The Igbo suffered enormous loss to the war. I am telling this story because I, Nnia Nwodo, will be a saboteur if the Igbo choose to go for another civil war. Anybody at my age who does not speak the truth is not doing himself any good. Ohanaeze does not support war; we support restructuring, which will allow the federating units in Nigeria to take charge of their affairs.”he told the gathering. Members of IPOB had come to the event displaying placards with various inscriptions like “Biafra is the solution,” “Ohanaeze stop deceiving us,” “No federal presence in the South East, only python dance,” “Where is Nnamdi Kanu,” and “Ohanaeze Ndigbo stop the killings in Biafra land,” among others.
Nwodo emphatically told the agitators to stop nursing the dream of an independent state of Biafra, saying, “when you want to fight a war, you must ask yourself how do I fight this war’’.
‘‘Our young men must learn; we know better than them and they must learn to listen to us. In order to get a pride of place for every Nigerian, we must ask ourselves how do we do it. If we go back to the trenches to fight, we are doing disservice to this nation; we are doing disservice to our children.”
While maintaining that the solution to the countless challenges confronting the country lies in restructuring, he added: “The 1999 constitution was drafted by the military. There was no constituent assembly; there was no referendum. Nobody in this country voted for this constitution. It was an imposition by a military government.
“We have asked for a conference of all the peoples of Nigeria. We have started a meeting of Southern Leaders Forum constituting of the South East as represented by Ohanaeze, South West as represented by Afenifere, and South South as represented the Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF). We have reached a resolution that we want restructuring and the Middle Belt of Nigeria recently joined us.” Nwodo, who stated that the essence of the meeting was to unite the Igbo in Lagos, noted that without unity, the people of the South East would continue to lose their pride of place in the country. He urged the Igbo in Lagos to take advantage of their huge population in and position themselves to play active roles in the politics of the state.