There has been claims and counter-claims about the origin of the Indigenous People of Biafra, with stories flying about regarding this.
Some say it is the brainchild of Nnamdi Kanu, while the Chairman of the Governing Council of the Customary Government of Biafra, Barrister Emeka Emekesiri is also said to be the real brain behind the project.
In yet other instances, proponents of Biafra are of the opinion that it doesn’t matter who founded the Movement since the original goal is being achieved through it.
However, Barrister Emeka Emekesiri discussed extensively with the Editor-in-Chief of Jungle Journalist Media Ltd on the social media, where he spoke on his full Biafran project, why he undertook this lofty project, and at what level it is at the moment.
He also narrates how the Indigenous People of Biafra came to he, the roles Kanu played at the beginning, and how he (Nnamdi Kanu) hijacked and derailed the comprehensive Biafran project.
He also explains why the Kanu move disrupted the project of the Vision Bearer, and what has been done to set the project back on course.
Barrister Emeka Emekesiri, the Vision Bearer of the Legal Methodology of Self-determination of Biafra. The project, which began in 2004,gave birth to the Indigenous People of Biafra, Bilie Human Rights Initiative, Customary Government of Indigenous People of Biafra, Elders Council of the Indigenous People of Biafra and Movement of Biafrans in Nigeria.
Sir, we would like to know you and your works in the struggle for the independence of Biafra.
My name is Emeka John Chigozie Emekesiri. I am a Barrister & Solicitor, Estate Surveyor & Valuer, Management Consultant and a Missionary Pastor. I am from Okwara Unegbu Village, Amucha, Imo State, Nigeria. My hometown, Amucha, is presently in the Njaba Local Government Area in Orlu Senatorial District. We are called Ndi Orlu or Ndi Uzo Ulo. I think this is enough introduction, or perhaps, I may also add that my maternal home is Okwudor. I am an Igbo man and proud to be an Igbo man.
Yes, you have made a good introduction but we would like to know about your works in the struggle for the independence of Biafra.
Oh, it’s a long story. It started in 2004 when the Federal Government arrested Ralph Uwazuruike of the MASSOB group, Asari Dokubo of the Niger Delta Volunteer Force and Dr Gani Adams and Dr Frederick Fasehun of the OPC of the Yoruba group. I was then the Spokesman of the Igbo Lawyers Forum with my Law Chambers in Port Harcourt and Aba. It was because of the Sit-At-Home Order which Ralph Uwazuruike issued in August 2004 that crippled Nigeria for a whole day. All the Igbo people obeyed him and closed down their businesses and shops in all parts of Nigeria. It was a terrible experience for Nigeria. It was the first of its kind. Everywhere was paralysed. At that time, some Igbo people were saying that it was the turn of the Igbo Nation to produce a Nigerian President while Ralph Uwazuruike and his group were insisting on having an independent Biafran nation. The TELL Magazine posed a question in one of its publications, “Biafra or Presidency- What do Igbos Want?” This question threw a challenge to me and I started conducting a research to write a book on that issue. The title of the book is “Biafra or Nigerian Presidency- What the Ibos Want”. I started that book in 2004 and completed it in 2011 and published in 2012.
The Government said that that Ralph Uwazuruike, Asari Dokubo and Gani Adams were troubling the country and must be caged. Apart from Ralph Uwazuruike who declared that his method was non-violent and non-exodus, the others were violent in their mode of agitation and waged war with the Federal Government with serious casualties on both sides. In fact, their acts were treasonable. But do you know what happened?
President Obasanjo released the OPC boys and left office. President Umaru Yar Adua came to power and released Asari Dokubo and gave amnesty to the Niger Delta Militants so that he could have access to the oil in the Niger Delta. Oddly enough, he left Ralph Uwazuruike in prison, the person who was not violent, the person who did not carry any gun. I became very angry as a human rights lawyer and could not sleep well over the injustice. I interpreted it as an insult to the Igbo Nation. The Government released the militants from other ethnic nationalities who committed treasonable offences but left a non-violent person in prison because he is an Igbo man.
So, did you join MASSOB to fight for Ralph Uwazuruike?
No, I did not join MASSOB but what I did was to move a Motion in the Igbo Lawyers Assembly, for Igbo Lawyers and the whole Igbo Nation to commence a legal battle against the Federal Government of Nigeria on the issue of injustice meted to Ralph Uwazuruike and the right to self-determination which he was championing. By that Motion, Igbo Lawyers would take over the case and fight with the Federal Government from national to international courts until justice prevailed on the issue of Biafra. The Igbo Lawyers Forum instructed me to travel to Abuja and meet with Chief Dr Chimezie Ikeazor, Oboli Obosi, Senior Advocate of Nigeria, who would lead in the legal battle.
How far did the case go?
When I went to Abuja and made enquiries, I was informed that Ralph Uwazuruike was detained at the Keffi Prison in Nasarawa State. Then I travelled to Keffi. When he was told that Igbo Lawyers had sent a delegation to show solidarity and ask for his release, he came out and embraced me with joy, and said that this was the first time that the Igbo Nation had come to identify with him. He said that ever since he was held in detention, only two Igbo men who were his personal friends came to visit him. He mentioned their names as Uche Onyeaguocha and Ziggy. I told him that the Igbo Nation did not forsake him but wanted to assess the situation and know his real intention; that at the moment we had come to release him from prison and then go into serious legal battle with the Nigerian Government on the issue of the right to self-determination. He told me that he had a lawyer friend called Festus Keyamo who had filed an application for his bail. I assured him that Mr Keyamo would continue to act as his lawyer in presenting our legal argument in court but that Chief Dr Chimezie Ikeazor, SAN, would be the Lead Counsel and Senior Consultant in the matter.
We appeared in the Federal High Court Abuja on Monday 16th July 2007 before Justice Binta Nyako for Uwazuruike’s release. It was an opportunity the Igbo learned men had been waiting for to join issues with the Nigerian Government and re-open all other cases of injustice and discrimination against the Igbo people. The continued detention of Uwazuruike whose agitation was non-violent while the unrepentant violent activists from the Yoruba and Ijaw tribes had been released was sufficient evidence of discrimination and insult against the Igbo Nation for which the Igbo Lawyers arose to defend and protect the honour and integrity of the Igbo Nation.
The Judge granted an adjournment for two weeks and directed us to file the necessary papers since we had just entered into the matter. However, as we were preparing to file the necessary documents and for me to return to the East, Ralph Uwazuruike and his co-accused MASSOB members sent a letter to us and forwarded a copy to the court asking us not to appear in court again to represent them! We were embarrassed. Before their letter arrived, Chief Ikeazor had given me a letter to take to Dr Dozie Ikedife who was the then President-General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo to assemble the Igbo Intelligentsia for the legal battle for self-determination. We could not understand why Uwazuruike should dump and shun Igbo Lawyers at the time the Judge was expecting us in court. However, Uwazuruike told me that he wanted Festus Keyamo of the South-South to be in charge in order to avoid the usual accusation that the Ibos were dominating the struggle. Therefore, we could not appear in court on the next adjourned date and he continued his case as a personal matter. Nevertheless, we went back to the drawing board to repackage the case between Biafra and Nigeria. Shortly, afterwards, I relocated to the United Kingdom and continued with my works.
How then did you continue with the Biafra Struggle since Ralph Uwazuruike did not want the Igbo Lawyers to take over the case?
I told you that I had started writing a book on the issue of Biafra from 2004 on the right to self-determination. I found that Article 20 of the Nigerian Law known as the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act, Cap 10, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 1990, provided for the right to self-determination. It provides that all peoples shall have the unquestionable and inaliable right to self-determination. While I was writing the book, the United Nations in Septemebr 2007 promulgated the international law known as the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples which provided in Article 3 that Indigenous Peoples shall have the right to self-determination. It was similar to the provisions in the Nigerian Law but the difference is that the United Nations law used the term “Indigenous Peoples” while the Nigerian Law used the term “All Peoples”. I made some researches about the Indigenous Peoples and found that they are the original owners of the land who were not consumed by wars and not assimilated into other tribes in the nation-state where they live. So, I decided to describe the remnants of the Biafrans who were not consumed by the war and not assimilated into other tribes as INDIGENOUS PEOPLE OF BIAFRA. Considering that Indigenous People of Biafra is a non-legal entity which could only sue or be sued in a representative capacity, I registered a human rights organization in Nigeria called Bilie Human Rights Initiative to sue Nigeria on behalf of Indigenous People of Biafra.
I gathered some of the willing and fearless Elders of Biafraland together and constituted them into a governing council under Customary Law known as Council of Elders of Indigenous People of Biafra of which His Royal Majesty, the Hon Justice Eze Ozobu, was the Chairman while Dr Dozie Ikedife was the Deputy Chairman. Col Joe Achuzia was the Secretary-General.
Our government is known as the Customary Government of Indigenous People of Biafra. We set up the Office of Indigenous People of Biafra at 90 Wetheral Road, Owerri, in the accommodation provided by Engr Amadi, who we made the President of the human rights organization for a term of five years. This was how the whole Movement of Indigenous People of Biafra started. These founding fathers have died but they transferred powers to us. In fact, Dr Ikedife invited me and told me that he was about to depart from this world. He gave me his last instructions of what to do after his departure and signed the Deed Poll of Customary Governance 72 hours before he died. I will never disobey the instructions of the founding fathers.
You keep saying that you founded Indigenous People of Biafra. How did you do this and why did you leave it for Nnamdi Kanu?
It is wrong to say “I founded Indigenous People of Biafra”. The people had existed from time immemorial. You can say that I coined the name, INDIGENOUS PEOPLE OF BIAFRA, and created the Movement of INDIGENOUS PEOPLE OF BIAFRA. In 2013, Dr Dozie Ikedife abbreviated the name to IPOB. It is the name for all Biafrans. It is the name of a nation, not a cult group that initiates its members with some fetish rituals in a shrine called Ibini Ukpabi in Arochukwu. If you read my book, you will notice that I described myself as the Solicitor for Indigenous People of Biafra. This is the capacity by which I appeared in Court for the Biafrans in 2012. If you read Page 161 of my book, you will see where I stated that here is a new Biafra now but it is not sovereign. The new Biafra consists of the remnants of the ancestors of Biafraland who I have described as INDIGENOUS PEOPLE OF BIAFRA not consumed by the war and not assimilated by other tribes.
Nnamdi Kanu was not there when we created the body known as INDIGENOUS PEOPLE OF BIAFRA under Section 40 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the governing council known as the Supreme Council of Indigenous People of Biafra. If he was there, he would have brought his father to join the Elders. His father was not among the Council of Elders. He came from MASSOB and joined us. I trusted him. It was my fault to trust somebody I had not tested. He was in charge of our Media Department. I gave him a copy of my book and all the documents I had obtained from the British Authorities with which I filed the case between Biafra and Nigeria. I wanted him to have adequate knowledge and information about the Movement of Indigenous People of Biafra so that he would understand our vision and mission.
After you set up the whole structure of the Movement of Indigenous People of Biafra with the Elders, why did you leave it for Nnamdi Kanu?
I did not leave it for Nnamdi Kanu. I advised that everybody should operate in his own department and area of professional competence. I was in charge of the Legal Department. Nnamdi was in charge of the Media Department. The Elders were in charge of the government and administration of the Movement. The Elders had the power to discipline us or correct us if we erred. I was the Legal Adviser for the Council of Elders. Engr Amadi was in charge of the human rights organization which was representing the Biafrans in Court. There was division of labour. So, I did not leave it for Nnamdi Kanu. I left the government and administration of the Movement in the hands of the Council of Elders.
In our first meeting at Owerri where I shared the vision to all the Elders and new Biafran activists who had joined us, the Elders asked me about the person who should act as their spokesman for the struggle while they played the role of advisory and disciplinary council. I suggested that Barr Debe Odumegwu Ojukwu should lead the struggle. They were surprised that I did not make myself the leader. Debe Odumegwu Ojukwu accepted to lead. After the meeting, one of the lawyers exclaimed that he had not seen a person like me who would start a Movement of this magnitude and appoint another person to lead. I told him that Debe Odumegwu Ojukwu had more experience and higher social status than I had, and a name more recognised in the whole world than mine. There was no time we decided that the person in our Media Department should be the leader of the Movement of Indigenous People of Biafra. Nnamdi Kanu did not even meet His Lordship, His Royal Majesty, the Honourable Justice Eze Ozobu, Chairman of the Supreme Council of Elders, in all his life. Our Chairman did not set his eyes on Nnamdi Kanu until his death.
How then did Nnamdi Kanu become the leader of Indigenous People of Biafra?
It was a terrible and ugly story to tell. Nnamdi was performing well initially in the Media Department. He was among the delegates we sent to represent us in a meeting with the Australian Government. He performed well initially until the devil possessed him. Suddenly, he used the Radio and announced that he had dissolved the Supreme Council of Elders of Indigenous People of Biafra and become the founder and leader of the Movement. He took our name that has been in Court and registered it in the Companies House in London called Indigenous People of Biafra Limited. He started calling our Elders unprintable names such as saboteurs, traitors, and agents of the Nigerian Government. In his broadcasts and face book publications, he threatened to kill our Elders and Igbo leaders who had different opinions from his on the issue of self-determination. The attacks he unleashed on us were too much to bear.
He started attacking our human rights organization which he called Bilie Animal Rights. He brainwashed the youths and took them away from us. His followers threatened to assassinate us through his incitements. He used the Radio and destroyed everything we built. On 12 May 2014, the Supreme Council of Elders of Indigenous People of Biafra ostracised him by a Public Notice and Disclaimer signed by Dr Dozie Ikedife. I understand that when he came out from detention, he went to Dr Ikedife to ask for forgiveness.
Unfortunately, he did not obey the instructions given to him by the Elders but continued in his stubbornness, abuses, insults and disobedience to constituted authorities. In recent times, he commanded his followers to beat up Senator Ike Ekweremmadu and stone Chief Nnia Nwodo to death.
What is the present status of Indigenous People of Biafra as defined by you?
The original movement of Indigenous People of Biafra is still on course. Nnamdi Kanu’s faction of IPOB has been proscribed by the Nigerian Government. It was declared a terrorist organization by the Order of the Federal High Court in Nigeria and gazetted. We run the Customary Government of Indigenous People of Biafra using three dimensional strategies in our legal methodology which include the judicial process, political process and diplomatic process. Our Customary Government is not proscribed and cannot be proscribed. You must proscribe the Sharia Government before you can proscribe the Customary Government.
We are in Court with Nigeria. We are engaged in politics using our political movement called Movement of Biafrans in Nigeria (MOBIN). We are engaged in international diplomacy. We have appointed some Customary Government Envoys and Administrators in some foreign countries. We are running our Customary Government in Eastern Nigeria just like the Sharia Government is run in Northern Nigeria. We operate within the Nigerian Legal System. We have said that we are Nigerians by citizenship but Biafrans by indigenous identity. We believe in the law and politics of Nigeria but we play the politics for the benefit of Biafra. Right now, we are preparing for the Anambra State Election next year and the general elections in 2023 if the world remains till then.
What is you plan, if any, for achieving Biafra?
We carried out the Feasibility and Viability Studies of the Biafran Project and discovered that the project could only be achieved in three phases. The first phase is the Awareness Creation Phase which has been achieved by the pioneers who started the Biafra Struggle. The second phase is the Regional Autonomy which we are pushing for at the moment. We are working with Ohanaeze Ndigbo and the other Ethnic groups seeking for the restructuring of Nigeria into Autonomous Regional Governments. The third phase is outright independence which will be facilitated by the Regional Parliament. It is the Regional Parliament that can pass the bill into law for the people of the Region to vote in a referendum and decide whether to remain in Nigeria or pull out entirely as an outright independent nation just like Scotland is doing now.
For now, we want the restructuring of Nigeria into six autonomous self-governing regions so that every region will govern itself, develop at its own pace and pay the agreed percentage tax to the Federal Government. From our researches and studies, we can confirm that this is the only solution that can bring peace and save Nigeria from violent disintegration.