Tell your friends to forget Biafra, Buhari to Igbo corpers
Eniola Akinkuotu and Ihuoma Chiedozie
President Muhammadu Buhari has urged the National Youth Service Corps members of Igbo extraction to tell their colleagues that there is no hope of having a sovereign ‘Biafran State’.
Buhari said this when over 100 corps members serving in Katsina State came to visit him at his Daura residence on Tuesday.
A statement by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Mr. Garba Shehu, said the President urged the corps members to do everything to ensure the unity of Nigeria.
Speaking specifically to corps members from the south-eastern states, the President said, “Tell your colleagues who want Biafra to forget about it.”
The President said as a young soldier during the Civil War between 1967 and 1970, he fought hard to ensure the unity of the nation.
He, therefore, maintained that Nigeria would never disintegrate under his watch.
Buhari added, “As a military commander, I walked from Degem, a border town between the North and the East, to the border between Cameroun and Nigeria. I walked on my foot for most of the 30 months that we fought the Nigeria-Biafra Civil War, in which at least two million Nigerians were killed.
“We were made by our leaders to go and fight Biafra not because of money or oil, because oil was not a critical factor then, but because of one Nigeria.
“Thus, if leaderships at various levels failed, it was not the fault of the rest of Nigerians who had no quarrel with one another. So, please tell your colleagues that we must be together to build this country. It is big enough for us and potentially big enough in terms of resources.
“Those who work hard will earn a respectable living. I have seen this country, I fought for this country and I will continue to work for the unity of this country.”
Buhari hailed a former military Head of State, Gen. Yakubu Gowon, for inaugurating the NYSC scheme in 1973.
He said the scheme had helped to foster national integration by exposing young people to the uniqueness and cultural diversity of Nigeria.
The President said, “I asked for those from the other end of Nigeria because I very much appreciate the NYSC scheme and whenever I see General Gowon, I always thank him for that.’’
In his remarks, Mr. Egbewumi Adebolu, the Corps Liaison Officer in Daura, thanked the President for the honour of receiving them and making their stay in Daura memorable.
He said the youths strongly believed in the programme of the President to reduce unemployment and create jobs for more Nigerians.
Adebolu thanked the President for his personal gifts of cows, bags of rice and cash to corps members in the community for Sallah celebration.
But reacting to the directive of the President to the corps members, the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra said Nigeria had never been a nation.
MASSOB spokesman, Comrade Samuel Edeson, who spoke in an interview with one of our correspondents, insisted that all Igbo, including those NYSC members that met Buhari, were Biafrans.
“Every Igbo man is a Biafran. Biafra has come to stay and Buhari should know that 95 per cent of Igbo want Biafra.
“We are not going to take up arms against the Nigerian government but we will make the country ungovernable until we actualise Biafra.
“There is no way we will forget Biafra and there is nothing the government will do that will make us to give up the struggle.
“Even if they continue to oppress and intimidate our members, we will continue to push ahead with the struggle,” he said.
The MASSOB spokesman advised Buhari to call a meeting of all ethnic nationalities where Nigeria’s future would be discussed.
He said, “Rather than telling the NYSC members to tell their people to forget Biafra, he should call the Biafra agitators and other ethnic nationalities to a roundtable meeting to discuss how Nigerians would continue to live together.”
Also reacting to the development, the Ohanaeze Ndigbo said Buhari should restructure the country, if he really wanted the pro-Biafra agitation to go away.
The President of the Ohanaeze Youth Council, Mazi Okechukwu Isiguzoro, also said Buhari should set free all detained Biafra agitators, particularly Ben Onwuka, the leader of the Biafra Zionist Movement.
He said, “Buhari should ask himself why the Biafra agitation resurrected during his tenure. He should also explain what he meant by 95 per cent and five per cent.
“The people of the South-East are angry and there is hunger in the land. There is a total collapse of infrastructure in the zone; federal roads are no longer passable.
“The South-East zone has the highest number of unemployed youths in the country. Those NYSC members that went to see him will be unemployed tomorrow.
“The only solution to the agitation for Biafra is restructuring. Ohanaeze Ndigbo is not calling for secession but we are calling for restructuring. The North-West has seven states but the South-East has only five; it is not acceptable.
“If Buhari fails to restructure the country, we are afraid that those calling for secession may succeed so if he really wants Igbos to forget Biafra, he should restructure the country.”