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Anioma, Not A Part of Biafra-A rebuttal

Press Release:

The attention of the Proudly Anioma-Proudly Igbo Group of Nigeria, a friendship/family group of Anioma people and their eastern Igbo kith and kin has been drawn to a “Press Release” written by some deluded individuals claiming to speak on behalf of the entire Anioma people. To begin with, it is important to note that the said group “Ndi-Anioma” as they call themselves is not the umbrella body of the Anioma people at home and in the Diaspora. This responsibility lies with the Izu-Anioma organization head by Brig. Gen Alabi Isama (rtd), the Ajieh-Osa, Anagba and Ochiagha of Utagba land. In the charter of Izu-Anioma, the Anioma people were not defined as an “ethnic group” but rather an umbrella body covering the people identified in the course of Nigerian nationhood as West-Niger Ibos, Western Ibos, then Midwest Ibos , Bendel Ibos and now its often called Delta Ibos. Anioma is a political identity covering the entire area and was coined by the venerable Chief Dennis Osadebay in the late 1970s. It is important as well to note that our leader, Gen. Isama has stated in several fora and without any bit of contradiction that Anioma people are Igbos. We of the Proudly Anioma-Proudly Igbo organization concur with his assertions. Therefore any claim , a self-seeking one for that matter by a group of political wannabee parading themselves as “the umbrella body of Anioma people” should not be taken by the general public seriously. Their rant is not worth a pinch of salt. We are aware that those parading themselves as “umbrella body of all Anioma people” have their loyalties tied to a particular political party in Nigeria. With such interests, their unfounded claims should not be taken by the public seriously.

As stated by one of our leaders Col Achuzie, the Ikemba of Asaba, we believe that the issues leading the end of Biafran war and the pacification which followed thereafter has not assuaged a good percentage of the Igbo people of Nigeria that they have been fully integrated in the country. Many of them still feel they have been treated as second-class citizens and there are empirical evidences to suggest that some of these claims have some taints of truth and reality in it. Among some of the issues include the slicing off of some Igbo communities out of core Igbo states and merger to other states. We can give examples

1. The area of Ndoki south covering the present Oyigbo (originally Obigbo) transferred from the old Aba division and lumped to Rivers State in 1976. Also, in the 1980s, three Ndoki villages namely Ohaobu, Mkpukpuaja and Ogbuagu villages carved from the then Imo State and lumped to Etim-Ekpo LGA of Akwa Ibom State. It is noteworthy to state that Oyigbo LGA apart from Oloibiri was the first place in Nigeria to produce oil and gas in commercial quantities (at Afam). Unlike Oloibiri which has dried-up since the 1980s, Afam and other Oyigbo oil-fields keep yielding vast quantities of petroleum.

2. Egbema communities now in Rivers State. Egbema has 16 villages and out of these 16 villages , 3 namely Mgbede, Aggah and Okwuzi has the largest reserves of oil and gas in the community. This is apparently the reason they were lumped to Rivers while the other 13 villages were left in Imo State where they had to contend with more modest reserves of the commodity.

It is important to note that this “punishment” at least as perceived by many Igbos did not end up with the eastern Igbo people. The Aniomas or Western Igbos had to loose Ndoni area to Rivers State and Osekwenike-Onyah area to Sagbama area of Bayelsa State. Just like the other examples I gave , all of these areas are oil-producing. It is often claimed that the Nigerian Civil war was a war fought over oil and gas and the actions of the federal government just like these examples seems to reflect suggest that the federal government had intended to give a tag of non-oil producing to Igbo areas including Anioma. While it is interesting to note that parts of Igbo land has been excised and lumped to other states, a good part of Itsekiri land embracing what is defined as Ugbege area was lumped to Ondo State; A state where Itsekiri people are not indigenous. This is one just an example of the double standards in Nigeria which seem to swell such protests. It therefore lies with the federal government to initiate moves to douse such feelings of alienation or punishment for the war. A common song by Peter Tosh , which has one of its iconic lyrics “Everyone is crying out for peace but no one for justice” brings to the fore what we are trying to pass across here.

The attention of Ndi Anioma of Nigeria, the umbrella body covering Anioma people at home and in Diaspora has been drawn to the recent protest associated with a group of people, in the name of Biafra, in which protesters of South East origin are calling for the secession of a separate state of Biafra from Nigeria.

Prof Chinua Achebe’s book “There was a Country” puts to rest any country called Biafra. There was indeed a country called “Biafra”. However, Col Emeka Odimegwu Ojukwu talked on a “Biafra of the Mind”. This “Biafra of the Mind” has in our opinion different dimensions to it. Biafra is a part of the history of Nigeria and there is no way we can forget about it collectively as Nigerians and more importantly as Igbos. Therefore, anyone in whatever guise declaring “Biafra died permanently in 1970 with the surrender speech made by Philip Effiong” is being comical. In the United States of America, people freely talk about the Confederate States of Southern USA and the old Confederate flag is embedded in the state flags of many Southern States because it is deemed as a part of their heritage. Telling Igbos and other Nigerians who suffered a lot to pretend that no Biafra of the Mind exists is a sheer display of wickedness and irresponsibility. There is nothing to ever stop a war which led to the death of one-seventh of the Igbo people and left much of Anioma land decimated.

In spite of this circumstance, a few resentful people of South-East origin who are attempting to exploit a non-existent opportunity to make the present democratic dispensation ungovernable, have keyed into MASSOB’s long-time motive designed to secede their people. Worse still, some people of that region have gone on a wild chase of goose, making diagrammatic representation in an irredentist manner where important territories outside the South-East, including our Anioma have been included in their inventive maps to convince the world on the expansiveness of Biafra and probably for the benefit of oil in Anioma.

Anyone who claims that a “few resentful people of South-East origin” are the ones behind the protests. We have seen some pictures of the protests and such pictures do not seem to suggest that the protests were the handiwork of a “few resentful people”. It seems to demonstrate a mass movement among the youths of the South-east region in particular and areas of the South-south as well. Protest like this as far as it is peaceful is a hallmark of a vibrant democracy. Laying accusing fingers on MASSOB is diversionary. The government must do the needful and address the grievances of these people no matter how “stupid” it would seem. The idea of trying to separate Anioma from Biafra is laughable. In the 1960s when the Biafra war was fought, the Aniomas were drawn to it. The reason is not far-fetched; the war was perceived as a rebellion of Igbos and Aniomas being western Igbos were involved. This is not a peculiar case. From Rwanda, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo were drawn into the conflicts between the Hutu and Tutsi. This is sadly a feature of ethnic politics which manifests at times as war in Africa. Gen Obasanjo who was a major actor in the Nigerian Civil war and former president, did not hide his understanding that Aniomas are Igbos. In his Niger Delta Special Development Initiative of 2005, he had Imo, Abia and Anioma area of Delta removed as beneficiaries. Yet he had Ondo and its rocky capital city of Akure included as “part of the Niger Delta”. The said inventive maps claimed by these people who represent just themselves and no one else in Anioma is a proposal and it’s in tandem with International law and practices. It was the case with South Sudan. In the original proposal Southern Blue, Abyei and Nuba were proposed and this was adopted in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) of Sudan and South Sudan. Abyei was to decide after a referendum while Southern Blue Nile and Nuba would decide after popular consultation. Claiming that the “expansiveness of Biafra” has anything to do with oil is ridiculous. Firstly the price of oil has crashed significantly and there is nothing to suggest that in future, oil will be “black gold” it used to be. Besides the southeast region even with the exclusion of the areas annexed and lumped to Rivers has some reserves of the commodity. Anioma herself also has oil. But anyone who thinks that the future of Anioma , the larger Igbo race or Africa lies in oil or other commodities has serious issues. The main drive of development is haman capital no less no more. Igbos has this factor perhaps more than any other group in Nigeria.

These people have made a long journey from their South-East region to Asaba, the Delta State capital, blocking off major roads to give the false impression that the Anioma people have agreed to be part of Biafra. But for posterity, Ndi Anioma must make its position clear thus:

It is also worthy to note that several Anioma people are well-disposed to the protests and the involvement of Anioma towns of Agbor and Asaba. This can be collaborated by the opinion of Col Joe Achuzie, the Ikemba of Asaba. The fact that our rulers and other leaders have kept a dignified silence to the matter would indicate that we are not hostile to such protests as far as its done peacefully and orderly. It is therefore not the responsibility of a faceless organization to claim to have “made a position”. Those who are making the position are just a group of politicians based mainly in the UK using their paid lackeys to make some noise for them. They hope in return for “loyalty”, the ruling APC would share some “cakes” for them. This we know very well. Let us state once again that these faceless people do not represent the Anioma people. Our prime organization is the Izu-Anioma. Before we conclude let us dwell a bit on the points they raised.

1.”Anioma has never been part of Biafra in history or administration”. This is how these people contradict themselves. These were the same people who told anyone who seemed to care that Onitsha and Oguta are not “Ndi-Igbo” but Ndi-Anioma. Onitsha and Oguta are in Anambra and Imo States respectively. They were advised to refrain from such spurious claims but they refused. Now, since it suites them to declare that Anioma had never been part of Biafra, they have eaten their words and claims and have restricted Anioma territory. This inconsistent game they play would only suggest that they don’t even know what they are talking about. Anioma is the political identity of Western Igbos which means they are scattered not just in Delta but also in parts of Edo, Rivers and even Bayelsa State. Bringing the issue of a South-south is inconsequential. There is nothing like that in the constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria. We are also aware that we share the closest relatives within the larger Igbo nation are within the “Biafran” communities of Onitsha, Ogbaru and Oguta. Based on International law, we should be at liberty to decide ultimately where we should belong. Sadly, Nigeria has failed to restructure (based on ethnic groups) and create regions recognized by law just like what was done in India by its first Prime Minister, Nehru.

2.”Our people accompanied Chief Obafemi Awolowo to Enugu, in May 6, 1967”- A fat lie. Awolowo only took his western regional delegates to Enugu. No Midwest leader was involved. Let the writers of this lie list the names of the supposed Midwest leaders that accompanied Awo to Enugu and more importantly the Anioma leaders that we invited. Maybe the writer, whom I suspect is one wannabe “historian” seems to have forgotten is that the said delegation from the Midwest was at the instance of the government in Lagos. And the Midwest delegation pledged “neutrality” considering the seeming tension between the East and the rest of the country. If they are sure of their claims, we dare them to list the Anioma delegates in that said meeting with Ojukwu.

3”There was never a time, place nor venue, the leadership or representative of the Anioma region agreed to enter into any form of alliance with the people of the Southeast or any region in existence”. Yet more lies. In the memoirs of Chief Dennis Osadebay, he was full of praises for Chief Michael Okpara for all the support rendered to the Midwest regional movement which led to the creation of the new region in 1963 and enthronement of the NCNC in 1964. It is also well-known that many Aniomas were members of the the defunct Igbo State Movement which cemented the ethnic bounds of all Igbos, west and east of the Niger. There were even agitations to carve out the old Asaba and Aboh divisions and have them merged with the East with the likes of Rev SW Martin of Issele Uku as the main driver of the proposal. To further expose their lies, we have attached a letter written by community leaders of the Ika East area comprising of Umunede, Igbodo, Otolokpo, Mbiri, Ute-Ogbeje and Akumazi and goes as thus: ‘ ” We the undersigned, on behalf of the people of Umunede clan,Igbodo clan,Akwumazi clan,Mbiri clan and Ute-Ugbeje clan in Ika Division,Midwest take this opportunity to express our deep gratitude on the historic liberation of the Midwest and wish you God’s guidance.We equally take this opportunity to congratulate His Excellency Major A.O Okonkwo on his appointment as the Military Administrator of the Midwest and pledge our unalloyed support and loyalty to his government. Although we the above 5 clans in Umunede zone have already donated sums of money and foodstuff towards win the war funds on individual clans,we jointly donate herewith the sum of 105 pounds to win the war. WE FERVENTLY PRAY FOR GOD’S HELP THAT WE CRUSH THE ENEMY.While thanking you for what you have already achieved-liberation of Midwest-we wish to place here on record that it will be your guide while deliberating on any future association,our feelings should be put into utmost consideration” ” Signatories to this September 1967 letter to Ojukwu include: HRH Obi N Gbenoba; Obi of Umunede.HRH A.O Iyeke;Obi of Igbodo,Obi S.C Osagie; Obi of Akwumazi,HRH Obi Ogana; Obi of Mbiri and Regent I Alekwe,Regent of Mbiri. Also signatory to that letter are political leaders including Chief S.O.Osuhor, Chief Z.C Egbuchinem, Chief L.O.C Azikiwe,Chief Odiase,Chief E O Nwabueze, Madam Julie Onyeagwu and Mr B.O Okoh. Source- Nigeria: Echoes of a Century: Volume One 1914-1999 By Ifeoha Azikiwe.

A document like this can easily be sourced from the National Archives. The representation of Anioma land in the maps could therefore be viewed based on International practices as normal until the Anioma people deem it via a referendum if they accept their inclusion or not.

Henceforward, the representation of Anioma in different maps of Biafra does not and cannot amount to Anioma being part of Biafra. That can only be in the figment of the imagination of desperate irredentist adventurers who creatively made such maps to satisfy their thirst for empire-building. They may make Anioma to exist in their maps, but the world must note that it does not have our consent as we reject that tag, vehemently.

4.”The Anioma nation challenges pro-Biafra advocates to provide any evidence or agreement in which Anioma leaders allied with them to secede from Nigeria and became part of Biafra”….Another laughable demand. It is well known in the history of Nigeria that the declaration of a “Republic of Benin” with Albert Okonkwo as leader was in itself suggestive of a movement which was emanated by the Biafran enclave. This is even why the maps of the declared republic of Benin was similar to that of Biafra. As such there is no need to isolate one from the other. In the letter I posted in (2), one can clearly see that the community leaders in the Ika East area were favorably disposed to identify with both the Republic of Benin and the republic of Biafra. They even made a donation of over 100 pounds to support the cause. It was common knowledge that the invasion of the Midwest region and subsequent declaration of “Republic of Benin” had the support of Midwest Igbos which brought serious consequences when the region was overran by federal troops in 1967.

5.”Understand that barricading our roads and shutting down socio-economic activities cannot earn them our backing nor patronage”

Well, for people of wrapped minds nothing done , no matter how civil it would be would them any support. This is the same people who woke up one moring and manufactured a new ethnic group. We ask them here to tell us what the Midwest Igbos were called before Osadebay coined the name “Anioma”. It is not the responsibility of a mere facebook group like Ndi Anioma to talk about support, or alliance or whether the elites of the Igbo people support the agitation or not. We are aware just like most Aniomas that in any protest no matter how peacefully it was conducted would bring some discomfort. This, we understand and this is why our rulers and leaders are indifferent on the matter at least for now.

6. “Asaba remains the capital of Delta State and Delta State remains one of the 36 states of the Federal Republic of Nigeria”

We are not aware that the status quo has changed. Even the protesters are aware they are Nigerians so this issue is misdirected and a case of raising false alarm.

7. “Slaves overnight” Slaves to whom? It is strange that those who are now claiming the Niger “as the natural boundary” were just few years ago champions f claiming Onitsha and Oguta. They went further to declare that those towns are not “Ndi-Igbo”. Now , since it suits their interests, the Niger has suddenly become the natural boundary. Our response to this is an emphatic No! The Niger is the boundary up to Ndoni/Aboh axis, where the Anioma people occupy both sides of the Niger and the boundary shifts in this axis to the Orashi river. These people have proven once again to be meandering snakes, inconsistent with their claims and positions. Ours on the other hand had never for once been adjusted to suit some myopic political gains. When these people talk of slaves , the question we raise is simple, slaves to whom? Because we are aware that our closest relatives in the Southeast region had never for once been slaves to anybody. From Onitsha the likes of the Azikiwes, Asikas, Anyaegbunams, Mbanefos, Arakas, Bialonwus, Ofodiles, and so many others have risen to fame because of the support of their supposedly “slave owners”. From Ogbaru, are the likes of Prof Ben Nwabueze, Osita Osadebe, the Kaines of Ossomari, Oduahs of Akili, Oscar Onyema now DG of the Nigerian Stock Exchange etc have gained prominence with tactic support of their “slave owners in Igbo land” and lastly from Oguta are the likes of AC Nwapa, the legendary mayor of Port Harcourt, Nzeribes, Nwakuches, Oputas, Nwadialors and many others have rose to fame as well. We cannot compare the level of infrastructural development of the Ogbaru/Oguta axis who are supposed to be under servitude to those of their closest kith in Ndokwa East area of Anioma are according to the authors of that “Press Release” are not under slavery. Such claims by these liars and enemies of peaceful coexistence are ridiculous and cannot be backed by facts or history. One of the reasons, the Asaba metropolitan area is even developing is because of the investments our supposed slave owners are pouring into the city.

8. The said Mazi Kanu is neither familiar to much of the SE therefore separating Anioma and making it a special case is the height of mischief. Frequent announcements that Anioma is part of Biafra are of no consequence because there is nothing like Biafra in International law. If we say, a “Biafra of the Mind”, many Aniomas are convinced they are involved in it. Nigeria is a democracy and a free country and people have to right to associate with whom they share certain commonalities with. Nobody has branded Anioma people as messiahs except in the wrapped imagination of the authors of the said “press release”. Many people mix up the demand for Biafra as demand that would lead to the break-up of Nigeria. We do not see it in that perspective. The agitators are of the opinion that Nigeria has a lot of flaws and if those flaws are not addressed, they have every right to seek for self-determination. The founding fathers of Nigeria such as Sir Ahmadu Bello, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Sir Abubakar Tafawa-Balewa as well as Dr Nnnamdi Azikiwe had been quoted to have raised the issue ofa possibility of a break-up albeit peacefully. Narrowing this line of thinking to Igbo people is therefore absolute rubbish. Igbos were not the people who staged the Araba riots which not only called for the break-up of the country but were violent with thousands of people killed. It is strange too that the authors of the “Press Release” did not bother to add that fact in their write-up.

There was no reckless drive into Anioma territory. It was just a military strategy and the has been well-laid in many documents including the recently declassified Biafran files by the American government. We are also aware that those who committed massacres in Asaba, Igbodo, Ibusa, Ogwashi-uku, Isheagu , Aboh and other places were the Nigerian troops. Not the Biafran troops. And the casualties were civilians not combatants, so putting the blame on “reckless drive” is misdirected. The blames lie squarely on the federal troops who forgot the proper engagement of war. Deliberate mass starvation of civilians to death which was used in the Biafran enclave can as well been judged as a carry-over of the same deliberate plan by the federal troops to teach the Ibos a lesson. We cannot rewrite what happened. Recalling the fall of the Niger bridge is yet another attempt to create issues where non should even be thought of. Anioma has over 100 miles along the West bank of the Niger. I therefore do not see why the bombing of one bridge would be the reason to claim the Asaba massacre was carried out. The story of the Asaba massacre was well documented in this book “Blood on the Niger” by “Emma Okocha”. The writers should also tell us of Proudly Anioma-Proudly Igbo why thousands of people from the Ndokwa East/Ndoni axis were brutally killed. Many were accused of trying to smuggle food into the Biafra enclave using the waterways which connects that axis to Oguta.

9. The whole exercise of this “Press Release” is an exercise in futility. It is not the opinion of the people of Anioma. Those who are signatories many of them failed politicians who are now in the ruling party merely did a “Press Release” so that a piece of the cake would reach them. These people do not mind to distort history and our collective interest as far as it suits their selfish ambitions and greed. Their “Press Release” can therefore not be the position of the Anioma people. It is only the Izu-Anioma as well as the Anioma Council of Chiefs which has the likes of the Asagba of Asaba, the Obi of Owa, the Obi of Aboh and others are the ones to make decisions for us.

It has become imperative to advice the general public to beware of these people who are parading themselves as spokesmen and women of Anioma. Nobody knows them in Anioma. It is important to state categorically that we pledged our support of a democratic and fair Nigeria. We thank you are for the attention.

SIGNATORIES

1. Comrade  Ephraim Adinlofu(Igbo man)
2. Diokpa Dennis Ajufo
3. Mr Amaka Ejiofor
4. Mr.  Patrick Okobia
5. Mr Ike Okonta
6. Mr. Osita Mordi
7. Mrs.  Nina Okocha
8. Mr.  Samuel Chukwuneku
9. Mr. Carlos Chinwendu Ijomah
10. Mr. Louis-Michael Chukwuma
11. Mr.Robert Iyade
12. Mr Hilary Nduka.

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