Joe Achuzia, Biafra War Veteran’s Shocking Revelation About Biafra And Nnamdi Kanu
By Midas Okoro (S’South/S’east Senior Correspondent) Achuzia
COLONEL JOE “AIRSTRIKE” ACHUZIA does not need any introduction when it comes to the Biafran movement. He was prominent during the Nigerian civil war where he fought on the side of his Igbo homeland and was known as ‘airstrike’ for his deft use of guerilla warfare and sniper attacks. He spoke in his country home, Asaba, on the recurring agitation for Biafra, the parallel between that struggle he was involved in and the one now led by others, including the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu, the latter’s detention and the state of the nation.
Nnamdi Kanu wants to actualise the Biafran struggle. What is your position on this?
If you look critically, is he wrong?
So, he is a continuation of the Biafran struggle some of you started some years ago?
A continuation of what? You don’t have a continuation of that battle. When a battle is over, it is over; you can only open a new front.
Are you saying the present agitators are not capable of carrying on from where you stopped or you fear their mission could be self-serving?
I won’t say they are self-serving but you may not be far from the truth because I don’t see where they key into the Biafra we fought in. None of them have come to me to tell me what they are really talking about.
But why is Biafra a recurring decimal?
The issue of Biafra is an intriguing one. Today, I was visited by a delegation from England on this same Biafran issue. They were led here by some people who said they were from the Nigerian Embassy in London. So, I left them to state their mission and to enlighten me on the purpose of their visit.
They touched on so many areas like the regional arrangement; why has Biafra remained a recurring decimal and the state of the nation generally. I used an adage which says that when an elderly man stumbles twice, he stops to check whatever he is carrying, which means that something could be amiss. I also quoted Wole Soyinka who said that on the issue of Biafra, a seed was sown and by the virtue of that seed, the issue cannot be wished away. I told the delegation that the West should be careful not to lose the largest Christian community in Africa which is the South East of Nigeria.
But even as this seed was sown, it should be left to the horticulturist to see how it matures. Properly handled, it would bear hybrid fruits but with wrong handling, you cannot realise what you intended to achieve, that is why I asked you, ‘which Biafra are they talking about now?’
So, how is IPOB different from your own struggle?
The Biafra we fought in was bedeviled by a lot of problems. A coup had turned out against a region. The Igbos headed homewards so as to run away from the pogroms, but back here, the sea around them was surrounded with heavy gunboats to ensure the people did not escape. The only land mass was Cameroun but it was bought over by Gowon (Yakubu) by ceding Bakassi to the Cameroonians. This is to make sure the people that ran home did not escape alive, meaning there was a determination to exterminate them. Mark you, the world was not as civilized as it is today. It was after the Rwandan massacre that they realized that brothers killing brothers is a genocidal issue or else all the Northerners would have been prosecuted because if we are killed and our children exterminated, that is the end.
This was also why we picked up some children then and airlifted them to countries like England, America, Italy, France and so on and luckily, they accepted those children.
Do you mean some children of Igbo descent came to live in Europe and America this way?
Yes, of course, they were adopted. Do a people fight a war for three and half years, besieged, without finding a way to get out? So, those children were airlifted and this gave credence to the Biafran Friendship Society in England. Now, those children are all grown, some are even grandfathers now.
Were the children and the people in such grave danger?The creation of states was a deliberate ploy to disfigure and even dismember the terrain, yet, who are those saying they are happy that Biafra is dead? Can it die? Look at the Gambia, the other day, the President woke up and declared a Muslim state and so it is now. Our President, in a media chat, can say, ‘you have been talking about Biafra, let them go’. Well, they are many who have other agenda as Nigeria is a country of contradicting agenda
You said Kanu did not consult with people like you before embarking on his Biafran mission. Will you give him your support if he happens to approach you in the future?
Does he know me? We were the ones he was criticising through his Radio Biafra using venomous words against us and yet, journalists will go and write that we are associating with him just to sell your newspapers at our expense. It hurts because these things journalists write hit us harder than any bullet you can fire at us.
Perhaps, you are not comfortable with the way things are turning out-the other day, some of his supporters lost their lives in Onitsha?
That is why I say that Kanu is responsible for his own predicament. It was his personal Radio Biafra that landed him where he is. Even then, we the Igbos appealed to the federal government to release him unconditionally. Look at the boys that were shot dead the other day. It is we, parents, that are feeling the pains. Radio Biafra was a personal, independent company by him. Was it the people here in Nigeria that registered Radio Biafra?
Don’t you think the Igbos are better-off today than before the declaration of Biafra?
What are you talking about? Where were the Igbos before and where are they now. Can’t you see that many things are skewed against them? Buhari in his maiden media chat said he gave ministerial positions and other federal appointments to this Igbo man and to that Igbo man. Where in the world does one get a position in government by virtue of belonging to a tribe?
Is there any alternative to secession?
Did the Igbos tell you they want to secede? Don’t label people based on what they did not tell you. If the Arewa people can call themselves by that name, don’t we have a similar right to call ourselves Biafran people? What’s in a name, it’s a form of identity.
So, an independent state of Biafra was never part of the bargain?
Nobody asked for an independent state. Look, don’t write what you were not told or make any conjectures.
What is your assessment of the Jonathan’s administration?
Firstly, he was too young. Academically, he did not follow the profession that leads to power at that level. I think he did not have an idea what his position connotes and I wonder if he had even seen a soldier before becoming President and Commander-In-Chief, so, he was not able to make use of the abundance of talents in the military. There were some people in the North who believe the country belongs to them and that if he didn’t hand over power to them, they will make the country ungovernable but what an irony of fate. Those elements that fought him and the PDP are now complaining that something is amiss. Having identified one thing that made the Jonathan government not to function effectively, they promised to fight corruption but they appear to be stuck, so, the evil that men do live after them
Are people right to say the Buhari government is slow?
Why are Nigerians complaining that the Buhari administration is slow? Of course, it should be slow because he has not identified who is a friend or foe?