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*Ahiara Declaration, 2015 & The Struggle For Igbo Emancipation
A colloquium on Ahiara declaration (January 16-17, 2012 ) formed one of the frontlines of activities to commemorate the life, times, tremendous courage and sacrifice of late Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, leader of the then Republic of Biafra which now comprises of South Eastern and South-Southern parts of Nigeria. Ahiara declaration made by Ojukwu on June 1, 1969, two years into the Nigeria-Biafra war of 1967-1970, has been described by analysts as masterpiece political and ideological testament in which a vision of a new society was articulated in the light of the contradictions that led to the civil war and near breakup of Nigeria. It was a moral boost to the Biafran/Igbo struggle.
As Igbo prepares for the burial of her illustrious and brave son and hero, Dim Emeka Ojukwu, it becomes pertinent, not only once, to recount the declaration of unity, focus and bravery which mark the Igbo spirit – declaration made by Eze Igbo Gburugburu himself. Below is a paper presentation by Chief Charles O. Okereke, Publisher - Nigeria Masterweb (www.nigeriamasterweb.com) at the Colloquium On Ahiara Declaration held January 16-17, 2012 in Ahiara, Mbaise, Imo State, Nigeria – at the venue of the declaration by Ojukwu in 1969.
Ahiara Declaration, 2015 And The Struggle For Igbo Emancipation
By Chief Charles O. Okereke
( Paper Presentation At The Colloquium On Ahiara Declaration – January 16-17, 2012 )
Igbo Kwenu! Ohanaeze Kwenu! Ndigbo kwezuonu! Nke onye chiri, ya zara. Fathers, mothers, elders, brothers, sisters, ladies and gentlemen, I stand gratefully here today, in my humble self, to address a nation whom God has blessed with all blessings, a people bound in love, wisdom and unbreakable unity, and before great men and women whose desire for a better posterity is unmatched all over the world. I stand here today, the least of the brothers, first of all, to show my undiluted gratitude to Igbo who, even in the midst of great injustice and threat to slavery, especially in the 60s, came out en masse - leaving everything we held dear - our families, barns and business- to defend our generation against a common enemy - the spirit of genocide and annihilation – and to gain an eternal place for our people in a free world. Age, experience and ‘Nzuko Igbo” have taught me that the spirit of Igbo is one; indeed we are one and we cannot be anything else but united- no matter the height of our jubilations or the depth of our sorrows. Above all, I stand here before you, Ndi nwem, and before the God of all - our one and only king - to pour out my gratitude to God for His mercies to us all in our journey in Nigeria and in life. Although it’s been over forty (40) years since the Nigeria-Biafra (Igbo) war ended, you, my brothers and sisters, can still agree with me that, despite the continued unwritten law which militates against Igbo progress in Nigeria, through God, there still remain reasons to shout, once again, at the top of our voices: “Happy survival!”
On Tuesday, May 30, 1967, mandated by the elders and leaders of the old eastern region of Nigeria, late Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, leading Ndigbo and other Biafrans, declared secession from Nigeria and announced the republic of Biafra. On June 1, 1969, two years on, and while the war was nearing its end as a result of many factors which have remained recited in different quarters, our leader, the true servant of our people, Emeka, delivered the speech known as “The Ahiara Declaration.” Not feigning non-cognizance of many opposing reasons as to why the declaration made by Ojukwu in Mbaise, Imo State, Nigeria, was made, and having been taught by age, experience and the elders, I have arrived at this obvious and irrefutable truth: the Ahiara declaration was the spirit of Igbo, the spirit of unity, survival, freedom and progress. It was the spirit of manliness which stands, taller than all, even at the point of death. Picking from the words of the declaration, and I quote: “We have fought alone, we have fought with honor, we have fought in the highest traditions of Christian civilization. Yet, the very custodians of this civilization and our one-time mentors, are the very self-same monsters who have vowed to devour us;” it was abundantly clear that the intention of true Igbo leadership and the will of the spirit of Igbo remains one and only: to keep Igbo united through thick and thin- through injustice, hypocrisy, or in good times. The content of Ahiara declaration should, in no wise, be mistaken for weakness or a plea to those who never cared for anything besides their selfish interests and callous decisions. On reacting to external influences which militated and still militate against Igbo spirit in Nigeria, Ojukwu read: “Our struggle has far-reaching significance. It is the latest recrudescence in our time of the age-old struggle of the black man for his full stature as man. We are the latest victims of a wicked collusion between the three traditional scourges of the black man - racism, Arab-Muslim expansionism and white economic imperialism. Playing a subsidiary role is Bolshevik Russia seeking for a place in the African sun. Our struggle is a total and vehement rejection of all those evils which blighted Nigeria, evils which were bound to lead to the disintegration of that ill-fated federation. Our struggle is not a mere resistance - that would be purely negative. It is a positive commitment to build a healthy, dynamic and progressive state, such as would be the pride of black men the world over.”
Today, the very things spoken as in prophecy still stare us in the face, not one have bettered; if anything, the pains and cries have escalated. Which shall we accept amongst these three evils: racism (tribalism, anti-Igbo), Arab-Muslim expansionism, or white economic imperialism (which has always favored other Nigerians against the Igbo)? Do we accept any of these or do we maintain that Nigeria must rightly and urgently evolve to a healthy, dynamic and progressive state, such as would be the pride of black men the world over? In Ahiara declaration, more than making the world, once again, inexcusable for her silence and support for the genocide against Igbo, the intention was primarily and solely centered on reviving the Igbo spirit- the spirit on oneness and unity in the face of challenges and extinction threats. One surely cannot mistake the passion and depth of Ojukwu’s appeal to our people in the 60s to stand their ground for justice to the end as an act of surrendering or plea. The Igbo spirit does not surrender, no matter the circumstances. In Ojukwu’s words of encouragement and focus for our peace, and I quote “We must not flag. The tape is in sight. What we need now is a final burst of speed to breast the tape and secure the victory which will ensure for us, for all time, glory and honor, peace and progress,” I also implore and encourage us to stand up and for the Igbo course because victory - this time, not with just 28 rusty riffles, bare hands and wills to survive, but with democracy determined to take its course - is at hand and, indeed, the tape is in sight. It was the spirit of Igbo’s unity which the Ahiara declaration rekindled. This same spirit is what I call on us all, especially at this critical time of our seemingly choking life in Nigeria, to embrace and work with, for the safeguarding of our core values and raising a grateful posterity. “Onye ajuru anaghi aju onwe ya” is a wise Igbo saying which still stands true for the Igbo in Nigeria today; we can no longer answer the many strange names given us in Nigeria, we must, as a matter of urgency, retain our relevance and indispensability in the polity of this country.
Although the war officially ended on January 15, 1970, it’s no longer a secret that the very things which precipitated and necessitated Igbo secession have remained, nonetheless, in their multiplied dimensions. Today, Igbo blood is still being poured all over Nigeria - especially in the North. Our fathers, mothers, husbands, wives, brothers, sisters, and children, to this very day, still fall victims of the unwritten law in Nigeria which seeks to wipe us off the map. Nigeria belongs to all, and that is what we, Igbo, have said and shown to all in Nigeria; yet, without having to enumerate the many wrongs done us in Nigeria, what now stands at the vertex of all truths is that the Igbo have remained and are still marginalized in Nigeria. The crescendo to which this crafted callousness has reached is no longer hidden- even before the eyes of those whose ignorance erected monuments of sorrows in every family in Igboland as a result of the war. To attest to this, one can still hear- in many quarters of Nigeria, of the mistakes and regrets of fighting the wisdom and vision of the Igbo in Nigeria, and the invasion of our homeland form 1967-1970. Alluding briefly to the injustice done against me and against Igbo in the African union symbols competition held from February 17 – October 31, 2003, where I was denied my rights to the first position simply and obviously because I am Igbo; the hang man’s noose against Ndigbo still dangles. The composition of the person acclaimed to have won the first position was not played before the panel of judges, and the person to whom they sold the second position happened to be one of the judges in the panel - a rule birthed in injustice against Igbo; mine, rigged to the third position, was the only played anthem before the judges which Africans also voted the best online. Yet, only and only because I am Igbo, the very people who have ceaselessly but unsuccessfully championed for an extinct Igbo race extended their claw of injustice to the African Union. It was in my several unaddressed petitions that I came to observe one obvious truth: from the early days of the amalgamation, through the war to this day, one thing which has stood clear above all else is the continuous machinations of some elite within Nigeria to deny and deprive Igbo of any glory- locally and in foreign spheres. One could also still recall that Philip Emeagwali, a true son of Ala-Igbo who has made marks in the global hall of fame, has received untold criticisms and undisguised animosity towards everything Igbo from the many peoples of other tribes in Nigeria. These they have done and continue to do, not because the truth is not clear for all to see, but because the Igbo man - right from the days of Ahmadu Bello’s inflammatory and hate-filled remarks to date, has largely remained comfortably successful in all his endeavors. For these, we have been hated and marginalized.
This injustice goes beyond my humble self, Chief Charles Okereke, and Engineer Emeagwali; the desire to keep the Igbo enslaved and marginalized has become endemic in the minds of those Nigerians who would never see or appreciate any good from Igbo. Today, you can see another dimension of this hatred leading to the massacre of our people all over the North with the very silence which greeted the pogrom and genocide of the 60s. Although these facts are there for all to see, what we, the Igbo say today, is that “enough is enough;” the marginalization of the Igbo has reached its elastic limit and the continuous blood-spilling of our people no longer serves any excuse in the quest for a united Nigeria. If anything, they still tend to force on us the spirit of slavery and defeat; but the spirit of Igbo says “no” and our elders echo this voice of truth. Igbo is a nation of peaceful and democratic people, and we will no longer let ourselves be relegated to the background because of our Godly values and respect for mankind- no matter where they come from. One cannot recount the many areas of marginalization of Ndigbo by the unwritten law of those bent on keeping Nigeria underdeveloped, but truly one stands out: Igbo can and will no longer accept or tolerate the seat of defeated thrust upon us by those who would never want to see us regain our God-given potentials. This 2015, above all things, and for a truly functional and democratic Nigeria, an Igbo presidency is one thing every Igbo should and must unconditionally stand in support of. Without using bigotry, and speaking from a generally accepted point of view, the crafted, systematic and systemic denial of Igbo presidency since the war ended has grossly impeded the growth of this nation. Some who do not wish Nigeria well may wish to differ, but, looking at what we, the Igbo, have achieved in every area of development with just N20.00 each after the civil war speaks in favor of the undying and resilient Igbo spirit. By the virtue of our blessed inheritance, we turn forests into cities and make deserts enviable homes. Igbo is a spirit and the spirit of Igbo is the spirit of all-round success. Having carefully studied the politics of Nigeria and how tribalism and undefined hatred and animosity against the Igbo have played their roles in impeding growth in every sector of the Nigerian society, I humbly, as our father, Dim severally did before he returned home, make these passionate pleas:
1. That Igbo should, and as a matter of survival and living, must come, once again and forever, together in the spirit of the Ahiara declaration to assert our basic rights in Nigeria.
2. That the Igbo take it upon us, from this very blessed and memorable day, to champion for Igbo presidency in Nigeria come 2015.
3. That our leaders- in their different capacities- do whatever it takes, in the spirit of true federalism, to prevail upon our friends and neighbors from other tribes and ethic groups within Nigeria on the need for an Igbo presidency come 2015. We, as Igbo nation, have severally, in the past, stood behind and seen to the successes of peoples from other tribes and ethnicities in Nigeria for the post of the presidency - a post no Igbo has occupied since we lost in a “no victor no vanquished” war.
4. That, in other to achieve this, every other matter and reason for disparity and disagreements amongst us should and must be relegated to the background and all efforts, wisdom, knowledge, understanding, resources and time be channeled towards communicating with, educating, and reaching agreements with our people in their different positions and beliefs in Nigeria.
5. That, this time, as a nation united unto eternity, we must speak with a voice to the rest of Nigerians of the need, justice and inevitability of accepting and having an Igbo presidency come 2015. Subjugation is not our inheritance and the spirit of slavery in times of great freedom is strange to us.
6. That every politics we play henceforth, no matter the party, be rooted in the conviction and steps towards producing an Igbo presidency come 2015.
7. That, in all wisdom, looking at the prevailing party in Nigeria today, and its zoning methods which have always rubbed us of our rights to the presidency since the war ended, it has now become pertinent and expedient to consider coming together and joining talents and resources in a party which agrees to true federalism and which supports, unconditionally, an Igbo presidency this 2015.
8. That, unlike decades gone, we should make it clearly understood by all and sundry in Nigeria that the rejection of an Igbo presidency come 2015 would amount to Nigeria’s unfeeling of the Igbo pains and marginalization for over half a century. And making it clear that, should Nigeria and the elite who have and always would want an incapacitated Igbo in Nigeria, remain adamant on denying us our God-given rights in Nigeria, the only alternative left to us may be to lead our people out of a nation where we have remained rejected, robbed, marginalized and killed- despite our unrivaled competence and contributions towards a better Nigeria.
Today, as in the day of the declaration of our survival and the passionate appeal to keep fate in the midst of life-threatening dangers, as in the day of Ahiara declaration, I, in the spirit of our great leader, Dim Ojukwu, who has gone to rest, and in true Igbo spirit, once again, passionately implore every Igbo and Igbo body- the Ohanaeze Ndigbo- to rally round the spirit of our survival that, this time, we may not only live to survive, but survive to live in our land and in Nigeria…like the rest of Nigerians. In this plea to come and remain forever united, it is imperative that I quote, once again, a passage in Biafra’s Ahiara declaring as it thus is: “We say that Nigerians are corrupt and take bribes, but here in our country we have among us some members of the Police and the Judiciary who are corrupt and who “eat” bribe. We accuse Nigerians of inordinate love of money, ostentatious living and irresponsibility, but here, even while we are engaged in a war of national survival, even while the very life of our nation hangs in the balance, we see some public servants who throw huge parties to entertain their friends; who kill cows to christen their babies. We have members of the Armed Forces who carry on “attack” trade instead of fighting the enemy. We have traders who hoard essential goods and inflate prices thereby increasing the people’s hardship. We have “money-mongers” who aspire to build hundreds of plots on land as yet unreclaimed from the enemy; who plan to buy scores of lorries and buses and to become agents for those very foreign businessmen who have brought their country to grief. We have some civil servants who think of themselves as masters rather than servants of the people. We see doctors who stay idle in their villages while their countrymen and women suffer and die.” It is imperative, my people, that in order to actualize an Igbo presidency come 2015, we, as a untied people, must do our best to shun these things which have reduced Nigeria to a nation of unbearable corruption.
An Igbo presidency, you well know, will accord us with the power and mandate to correct the many injustices and balance the polity in the country - enabling every region and constituency to have as much rights to Nigeria as every other area within Nigeria. This has exclusively been denied us over these decades. Our leaders – from federal to state levels – must take it upon themselves to lead by example because, until this is aptly done, our children and the youths of our land will continue to find it difficult to comprehend any rational in listening to us as elders, let alone adhering to our good leadership and instructions. Ohanaeze na ndi nwen, finally, with the spirit of heaviness and uncertainty for our great loss in Eze Igbo, Chief Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, (let us maintain once again a minute of silence for Dim), finally, ndi nwem, let us rekindle the Igbo spirit which entails unity, formidable force, peace, justice, equality, progress, health, pride and life. May God grant us wisdom, willingness, and resources to build a future for our children- a future for which they will remain eternally grateful; a future which will announce to the whole world the arrival of the true Igbo. It’s the Igbo spirit and we have partaken of this grace in our noble births. Thank you and God bless you all. Amen.
Chief Charles O. Okereke, B.S., M.S.
People’s Servant (Ps.)
Publisher, Nigeria Masterweb ( www.nigeriamasterweb.com )
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Photo Above: Late Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu
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