Okogie spoke, yesterday, as Acting President Yemi Osinbajo engaged in meetings with leaders of some Igbo and northern groups, last week, after some northern groups asked Igbo in the North to vacate theareaby October 1.
The northern groups had reacted to the lingering agitation by some groups to allow the Igbo to break away from Nigeria on the auspices of Biafra, the name under which the South-East tried to secede between 1967 and 1970.
Meanwhile, Governor Aminu Masari of Katsina State says the Igbo do not have the capacity to actualise Biafra.
The National Chairman of the United Progressive Party (UPP), Chief Chekwas Okorie, countered that Biafra cannot be wished away.
Okogie, who spoke on the occasion to mark his 81st birthday in Lagos, said, “We in Nigeria once made a mistake—a grave one for that matter—goingtowarwhenwe could have resolved our differences peacefully. The scar of the war remains. To avoid another war is an obligation we all must assume. To avoid going to war is not cowardice. It is to have the courage to subdue our ego and negotiate. To go to war when we could and ought to have avoided it is not courageous but reckless. To assume the obligation of avoiding a war, we must refrain from revisionist accounts of the 1967-70 war”.
The archbishop emeritus blamed the Nigerian political class for failing to see the urgent need for far-reaching constitutional reforms and are pitching the youths against themselves while the elders are stoking the embers of disintegration.
According to him, similar circumstances precipitated the Rwandan genocide of 1994. “Would it not be wise to learn from past mistakes, ours and others? This is the time to stand back from the brink”, he stated. Saying the quality of life of the average Nigerian is low, Okogie said: “Whether one talks of education, medical service delivery, security or the economy, every aspect of our life in this country is in downward motion.
The extent of poverty experienced by our people is simply unacceptable. “This country has more than enough resources to make life liveable. If there is so much discomfort, we must interrogate those who manage the affairs of our country. Why is it that government—federal, state and local—has failed Nigerians?”
“We have said it before that we live in clear and present danger. We said it when herdsmen went on the rampage and arms were being brought into Nigeria by “ghost importers”. Now we should ask ourselves: is there a correlation between illegal importation of arms into Nigeria and the drumbeats and dance steps of war we are currently witnessing?”
Governor Masari said, at the weekend, that Biafra will not stand even if a referendum was called to determine its fate.
“Referendum on what? If we are to have a referendum on Biafra, it will fail; even if it will win, it will only be in the South- East zone which has only five states against 31”. Masari said in an interview. (see Page 33/ 34)
In a reaction, Okorie said: “The issue of Biafra cannot be wished away with provocative statements.
“Nigerians are talking about constructive dialogue. Acting President Yemi Osinbajo has engaged leaders of ethnic nationalities across the country to douse tension.
“Apart from Biafra, groups in South-West are agitating for Oodua Republic; people are also agitating for Niger-Delta Republic and even gave northerners October 1 deadline to leave the Niger- Delta as Arewa youth coalition gave to the Igbo living in the North. The country is at the edge of the precipice.”
Also reacting, the founder of the Igbo Youth Movement and Deputy National Secretary of Igbo Leaders of Thought, ILT, Evangelist Elliot Ugochukwu- Uko said, “Nigeria is drifting simply because those scared of restructuring are using all sorts of excuses, making all kinds of threats and hoping still to intimidate the political elite from other regions into accepting the northern view point as standard gospel.
“They are repeating themselves like a broken record. If Biafra is dead, why are they so frightened of the very successful May 30th stay at home, to the extent that they reacted childishly with a 90 day quit order?
“Truth actually is: the ongoing tug of war between those for and against restructuring is dragging this long, simply because some people are afraid of change, any kind of change. They see a restructured Nigeria as creating a level playing field for all.”