By Joseph Jibueze
A community leader in Anambra State, Comrade Bonny Okonkwo, has said it will be wrong to assume that all Igbos are in support of secessionist agitations.
He said what the Southeast needed was a country anchored on equity and fairness, and in which everyone will have a sense of belonging.
In an interview with The Nation, Okonkwo, a rights activist and Coordinator of the Oraifite Development Platform, condemned the killing of security agents in the region.
“I do not subscribe to the killing of security agents or any other person, because every life matters.
“Let us look for a way forward by making peace based on equity, justice and fairness,” he said.
On agitations for Biafra and Yoruba nation, Okonkwo said Nigeria’s disintegration is not the answer.
He emphasised that such agitations will persist when any part of the country feels marginalised.
“When sections of the country are being treated as second-class citizens, what do you expect them to do?
“We should also understand that freedom, referendum, control of resources, and self-determination are not a crime anywhere in the world,” he said.
Okonkwo believes dialogue, as suggested by South’s governors at their meeting in Delta, is the way to go.
He urged President Muhammadu Buhari to heed the call.
“I agree with those that are calling for dialogue and that is the best option.
“Even when there has been war, people can sit down at the discussion table and map the way forward.
“The earlier the government accepts to dialogue, the better it will be for the country because it is obvious that we are heading into a state of anarchy,” he said.
On the activities of killer-herdsmen, Okonkwo’s is concerned that the President’s body language may further embolden them, especially his recent comments that grazing routes will be resuscitated.
He said: “He wants to implement a First Republic gazette on cattle routes, but will not adopt the 1963 Constitution.
“It’s as if he is a tribal leader and not a national leader as is expected. It is so unfortunate that this is coming from a 21st-century president of Nigeria.
“If Buhari can mobilise the military against the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and others, why can’t he stop the invasion by killer-herdsmen?
“As the Commander-in-Chief, he ought to order his soldiers to flash out the foreign terrorists
“It is quite obvious that the government has double standards when it comes to handling insecurity in Nigeria.”
Although he is not an IPOB member, Okonkwo explained why the outlawed group appears to be gaining sympathy.
“No, I am not an IPOB member,” he said.
“But the President’s handling of the terrorist group parading as herdsmen is one of the reasons why IPOB continues to draw sympathy even from those who do not support its activities.
“I do not think that killing IPOB members is helping the President’s image either, nor that of the country as a democracy.”
He faulted the alleged killing of an aide of IPOB lawyer Ifeanyi Ejiofor during an invasion of his Oraifite home by security agents.
The aide’s body was reportedly set ablaze in a vehicle.
“That was the height of impunity, wickedness, and lawlessness. It is heartbreaking.
“Barrister Ejiofor is a well-known lawyer and the security agents know him very well.
“They should have summoned him, instead of causing that ugly scene that took place in my hometown.
“Trying to assassinate him will worsen the security challenges in Nigeria, especially in the South.
“What I don’t understand is that a terrorist group parading themselves as herdsmen are kidnapping, killing and raping women but rather than bring them to book, the government pays ransom and pampers them.
“On what basis is the government now going after freedom fighters?”
Okonkwo is proud that Oilserv, a company owned by an Anambra man, Emeka Okwuosa, is handling the Ajaokuta-Kaduna-Kano natural gas pipeline project.
“I must commend our President for awarding the contract to an indigenous company ‘Oilserv’ owned by an illustrious son of Oraifite, Engr. Emeka Okwuosa.
“I have no doubt that he will deliver as usual. His track record is there to prove any doubting Thomases wrong. Engr. Okwuosa has been a great blessing to my community.
“He is, at the moment, singlehandedly, constructing a modern church building, church hall and vicarage and a world-class hospital in Oraifite, both of which will be commissioned before the end of this year.
“However, the most endearing quality about him is his simplicity. He is very unassuming and has never used his wealth or connections to oppress anyone in our community.
“The man, in simple language, is a First Class gentleman,” he said.
Okonkwo, a social commentator, has a pending court action against the Police and businessman Emeka Offor, following what he described as his unjust incarceration and violation of his rights.
“The matter is in the Court of Appeal in Abuja. As you know, I won the case in the High Court (Abuja). By God’s grace, legal luminary Femi Falana (SAN) is representing me in the Court of Appeal and I have confidence that I will win again,” he said.
On the Oraifite Development Platform and his role in the non-political, non-religious and not-for-profit group, he said: “It is about developing our hometown (Oraifite) with the resources that we can put together as a collective.
“I am not the leader of this noble platform. Rather, I am one of the initiators. Initially, it was the four of us that came up with the idea and we have since grown beyond what we thought it would be.
“We are privileged to be led by a man of honour, Elder Goddy Unyimadu; and our deputy who is an economist Chief Ales Anamaje. I am only a coordinator of the platform and I see myself as a servant to our people for this great cause.
“From the start of this initiative, there are some projects that we have embarked on which I will be able to share in due course.”