Posted by Editor | 16 November 2015, 08:55pm | 17970
Presidential candidate of the United Progressives Party (UPP), Chief Chekwas Okorie has opted to lead the way in any move to prevent the current protest of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) from boiling over.
But that is on the condition that the Federal Government must not only take the initiative of inviting him into the matter, but show its readiness for a negotiated settlement of the agitation of the group seeking for the carving out of a separate state of Biafra, from Nigeria, and willingness to give Ndigbo a chance to be Nigerians.
The fact that Okorie was not only a very close ally of the late Ikemba Nnewi, Chief Emeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, who led the original Biafra to a 30-month civil war with Nigeria, but also the founder of All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), which the IPOB leader, Nnamdi Kanu was the London branch chairman, could give him the platform to effectively undertake the mission of engaging the leaders of the group.
Okorie, in an exclusive interview with Whirlwindnews.com, warned that the Federal Government must not make the same mistake it did in dismissing Boko Haram at its embryo stage as inconsequential until it blossomed to its current uncontrollable stage.
Besides, he argued that if the same government was now chasing after the terrorist group with a proposal to reach a truce, there was no reason it should not sit down and prevent a different fire from being ignited somewhere else in the country.
Arguing that it would be foolhardy to allow the IPOB agitation to boil over in the belief that it would be crushed as the Nigerian Army threatened recently, Okorie reasoned that it would be far costlier to engage in the anticipated wastage of human and material resources than to contain it now through dialogue.
Apart from leading to the massive spilling of blood of Nigerians on both sides, it could also lead to the crippling of the economy, by preventing the production of oil from the Niger Delta, part of which has also joined in the agitation.
Okorie, who said any such raproachment must commence immediately, argued that even though the agitation had remained peaceful so far, there was a thin line between the ongoing protests and violence, which would only take a single incident to ignite, which must never be allowed.
Asked if he was in touch with the agitators, Okorie answered in the negative, but added if asked to do so, he was likely to succeed since he had earned enough respect in Igboland, including the youth that they were likely to listen to him.
Hear him: Not at the moment when the situation is still very dicey, because the government is busy looking for who are the leaders behind the agitation instead of addressing the issue at hand. I have received some calls, perhaps not founded, to distance myself from the agitation so that I don’t become a suspect when my real intention is to bring peace to the country. But if the leadership finds me legitimate enough to broker peace, I believe, without being immodest that I have earned enough respect among my people that if I call these young men to a meeting, they can oblige me with their presence. So, if the government engages me to play a mediatory role, I think I can do it very effectively and I believe I will get result for everybody.”
Warning that the situation must not be allowed to fester, he added: “When Boko Haram started, nobody thought it was going to degenerate into war. They thought it was just skirmishes of some few disgruntled persons. But it has grown into a full-scale war. And the reason why Nigeria has survived and is even talking about defeating Boko Haram, is because there is no single resource that Nigeria is dependent on that is coming from the North East.
“But if you have such a thing in the South East, which will immediately extend to the South South, Nigeria will not survive three months of it. Six months will be like eternity. The reason is that Nigeria’s lifeline is dependent on what comes from that area. If the oil workers vacate and you cannot even drill, not to talk of exporting, how will Nigeria survive? Right now, there is so much hunger. You are talking about bail out, that time who will bail out the other? So, Nigeria leaders should immediately stem this thing and not allow it blow over and then they will start looking for people to come out.
“If they are looking for Boko Haram leaders to negotiate with in spite of the damage that Boko Haram has caused and they can’t find anybody to negotiate with, now that these people have leaders that are identifiable, including the one they are holding, is it not easier to engage them in discussion and then leaders like us can come and tell them, well, you have achieved a great thing for everybody because now your grievances are being looked into and when all these things are achieved, everybody will benefit. Who wouldn’t like to ride on a good road, who wouldn’t want the erosion menace changed and many other things? Who wouldn’t want these young people to be gainfully employed to make the environment safer? If all these things are agreed upon through negotiation, it will be good for everybody.”
The former presidential hopeful, while expressing delight that many Nigerians outside Igboland were already speaking out about the lot of the Igbo people, Okorie detested the attitude of the Nigerian Army, in thinking that the agitation is something they could easily contain, adding that they should take the Boko Haram situation as an eye opener.
“Even the many of the Nigerian soldiers are believed to be sympathetic to Boko Haram. Many of them have been court-marshalled for the haphazard manner they were prosecuting the war. Did former President Jonathan not tell us that Boko Haram members were in his government? So, if they allow the same thing to occur in the South East and South South, who says there will not be division, disloyalty and suspicion in the army? You cannot recruit Southern soldiers to go and be shooting down their people and you expect 100 per cent loyalty. You cannot also withdraw them from action and send only Northern soldiers to go and fight. It will be read as genocide.
“So, it is a tricky situation that ought not be allowed to happen. And given that the resources are on the other side, it is a recipe for the disintegration of the country. I don’t belive that President Muhammadu Buhari is silent. I believe he is studying the situation keenly. It is nothing he will wish away. I believe that he will do something that will show that he is a father and leader of the whole country. But sometimes the quality of advice is critical. If the advice is the type that I heard Obasanjo mouth that these are miscreants or that other people who want to write off these gentlemen as dropouts and people who are looking, well it will be unfortunate, because this is the time the saying of making hay while the sun shines is relevant,” he said.