Special Commentary:
Obasanjo's obsession with Biafra versus facts of history.
By Prof. Herbert Ekwe-Ekwe

Calling "ex-Biafran soldiers traitors is nonsensical, as it is inflammatory and unpatriotic" says Okadigbo

Special to
USAfrica The Newspaper, Houston
The Black Business Journal

Dr. Chuba Okadigbo, political philosopher and former president of the Senate of Nigeria, has addressed his views to two raging issues in his country: the controversial electoral bill recently signed into law by Nigeria's president retired Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo and the December 2001 debates concerning Biafra, Igbos and the mention of secession. Obasanjo, Nigeria's Minister of State for defense, Dupe Adelaja (said to be the daughter of Afenifere Yoruba leader former Sen. Abraham Adesanya) and some of Obasanjo's kinsmen such as retired Gen. Adeyinka Adebayo and a few journalists closely associated with Obasanjo are actively involved in the Biafra debate, too.

Okadigbo who spoke during the celebration of his 60th birthday cautioned that the electoral act is endangering law and order and capable of destroying the fourth republic.

The following are key excerpts from Okadigbo's analysis of the issues as published by, and USAfrica The Newspaper, Houston:

"A Senator of a republic has a minimum of three obligations: (a) to his electors and constituency, (b) to his colleagues and Chamber, and (c) to the nation at large. Therefore, a senator must make public and clear his positions on critical issues, especially when urgent.

Here, I must stress that Section 4 (2) of the Nigerian Constitution vests upon the National Assembly the power to "make laws for the peace, order and good government of the federation.

As an abiding democrat and senator, I do subject myself to majority decision, where such decision is proper. Also, I should comply with the Standing Rules of the Senate, which include the reality that any position that I express in any Executive Session of the Senate begins and ends there, subject to NO public exertions. Nevertheless, I sustain the imperative that the way and manner that National Assembly decisions conduce or otherwise to enlightened public interests are open to public debate, review, commendation, reprimand or sanction. Hence, this intervention.

Today, Nigeria and Nigerians are afflicted by a dangerous fever &emdash; the fever of the second term, effective 2003. The evolution of the Electoral Bill, its Amendments and the Electoral Act 2001 are manifestations of this fever. It has gripped the electors and the elected, LG chairmen and councillors, national and state legislators, President and Vice-President, governors and deputy governors. Before it converts itself into a terminal cancer of our fourth republic, this fever must be urgently arrested.

"I verily aver that the right or otherwise of the process of the evolution of the Electoral Bill into the Electoral Act 2001 is trite. However, it is noted that President Olusegun Obasanjo has pronounced that no law is perfect and that those opposed to the Electoral Act should go to court. It is equally notable that Senate President, Anyim Pius Anyim has indicated that any law can be revisited any time in the future. These are food for sober reflection and positive action. Consequently, a few remarks thereon are mandatory and urgent.

The Chairman of the PDP Board of Trustees, an architect and lawyer, who was Vice-President of Nigeria (1979-1983), Dr. Alex Ekwueme has pointed out that neither the National Assembly nor the governors have the power to elongate or to reduce &emdash; even by one minute &emdash; the tenure of the current local government chairmen and councillors. In taking this stand, he cited the provisions of Sections 7 and 8 plus Item 22 in Part 1 of the Exclusive List in the 1999 Nigerian Constitution.

This position is well supported by Item 11, Part II of the Concurrent Legislative List which empowers the National Assembly to "make laws for the federation with respect to the registration of voters and the procedure regulating elections to a local government council. In this connection, we must distinguish carefully between the words "procedure" on the one hand and "election" on the other, and take a sharper look at the caveat on retroactive legislation, as supported by Section 4 (9), Nigerian constitution 1999, be such legislation criminal, overtly or covertly.

The upshot of the foregoing are as follows:

The governors, civil rights' activists and other interest groups opposed to the Electoral act, in part or whole, should seek remedy through the courts, and the sooner, the better.

The National Assembly, noting that President Obasanjo did observe that the Electoral Act is imperfect, and that the Senate President also observed that any legislation is open to review any time, should re-visit the Electoral Act 2001, as a matter of urgency.

When aggrieved persons come for remedy or justice, the court must act, expeditiously and courageously, no matter whose ox is gored. After all, no Nigerian lord justice, state, high court or federal, is unaware of the issues at stake nor unconscious of the consequences of dilly-dallying, in the face of national legislative, executive, political or social emergency.

Therefore, all Nigerians, high or low, must place, national interest, national integration, justice and harmony above personal, group or ethnic interests.

All Nigerians are advised to put all hands on deck. In the process, we must all be cautious and patriotic in our utterances and actions.

On this score, I will briefly address the re-entry of Biafra as a talking drum in our recent polity. A minister of state (Mrs. Dupe Adelaja) had the recklessness to say that Biafran soldiers cannot enjoy retirement benefits, not minding, for instance, the reality that some of them were Nigerian soldiers before the emergence of Biafra and that pardon has been granted to all ex-Biafran soldiers.

By bringing the Biafran issue back on stream, this minister was rubbing salt on injury. All these without any defensible or logical cause and in defiance of years of our labour to establish and consolidate our handshake across the Niger! Now we know better why the leader of the Yoruba nation, Sen. Abraham Adesanya had cautioned against the appointment of the relevant minister in the Federal Government under the leadership of Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo.

Another disturbing phenomenon is the claim of Gen. Adeyinka Adebayo to the effect that ex-Biafran soldiers are traitors who deserve no compensation whatsoever but should rather have been punished. This renewed volteface, reminiscent of his utterances before, during and soon after the Nigerian civil war is as unprovoked and nonsensical, as it is inflammatory and unpatriotic.

In my studied opinion, some people enjoy their imaginary bravery by harping on an event that happened 34 years ago which I consider mischievous.

In my view, it is an attempt to boost up this anti-Igbo sentiment.

We want them to know that they have been detected and will be methodically dealt with by the Igbo nation. All those who want to promote Igboland into centre of national confusion wherever they may be, will be methodically detected and dealt with by the Igbo nation.

The Republic of Biafra which gave way in January 1970 is not an abiding national issue and the promotion of it to the centre of national discourse today is mischievous, manifestly mischievous and deliberately concocted as a diversionary tactic, a deviation from national debate on urgent national issues.

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