The only surviving nationalist and first Republic Minister of Aviation, Chief Mbazulike Amaechi, has expressed sadness at downward slide of Nigeria at 62 years of independence.
Amechi in this interview with Pamela Eboh said that his generation did their bit during their time with expectations that those coming after them would do better.
He also gave an exposee into the massacre of Ndigbo in Nigeria, the genesis of Nigeria’s divide and decay, even while regretting that no form of compensation has been given to them as a way of pacifying them.
Q. Nigeria celebrates her independence yearly, but many believe that nothing have changed from the old bloc. Same old story of failed leadership and poverty in the midst of plenty?
A. I worry as much as an old man will worry over a situation that cannot be helped but endured. I have found out that what people are pursuing now are not the things we fought for. They are not things that we had in mind, while fighting for Nigeria’s independence from the colonial masters. We have done our own bit during our own time; let them keep doing what they are doing now in Nigeria. Time shall tell. Some time ago, a subject like History was stopped in our schools; government said that History should not be taught in schools simply because soldiers were in power for 38 years, so they don’t want the true history of the country to be told. They abolished History in schools but when a civilian came to power, it did not occur to him to return History to the curriculum.
Q. What do you think informed this action of removing History from the school curriculum?
A. When people like us come out to talk, the young ones will say ‘who are these foolish old men?’ Because they were not taught about the history of this country, they do not know anybody or anything about those that fought for the independence of Nigeria. In fact, Nigeria has forgotten people like us and I do not know how many of us, who are still alive, strong and healthy enough.
Q. Despite the policy of Reconciliation, Reconstruction and Rehabilitation (3Rs) and the ‘no victor no vanquished’ mantra after the Nigerian Civil war, Ndigbo have continued to cry marginalization by the Federal Government. What are your views on the issue?
A. The policy has not been implemented how much more solving the problem. Okay, you said no victor no vanquished and you turned back and took away the wealth of Ndigbo and said that all money belonging to Ndigbo during the war were cancelled and valueless and Igbo adults were given twenty pounds each to start life. Everybody who was an adult that is rich now started with life with twenty pounds after the war. You said no victor no vanquished but Egbema, which is part of Oguta in Imo State; Andoni which is part of Ogbaru Division of Anambra, both oil producing areas, were excised and ceded to River State because they do not want any part of Igbo land to benefit from oil revenue. You also said that there will be no more generation of electricity in Igbo land and so the Oji River Power Station which was built to use coal to generate electricity was closed down and that led to the closure of Enugu Coal Mines and sending of about 10,000 workers to the unemployment market. Then Afam Power Station, one of the biggest power stations in the country, which was part of Aba Division, was taken away and given Rivers State. That was what Nigeria did to Ndigbo and they told us no victor no vanquished.
Q. But, some people are of the opinion that Ndigbo have been integrated into Nigeria…
A. In political appointments as well as promotions and development, Ndigbo have continuously been largely discriminated against. Former President Olusegun Obasanjo instituted the Justice Chuklwudifu Oputa-led Commission of Enquiry, which made several recommendations, including that payment of compensations to Ndigbo but Obasanjo refused to implement any of the commission’s recommendations. The Oputa report is now gathering dust and even the present government is still carrying on with the discrimination against Ndigbo.
Q. Sometime ago, there was a demand for the payment of reparation to Ndigbo over the civil war, how far has that gone?
A. I am the chairman of the Reparation Committee of the Ohanaeze Ndigbo and my committee had started before the issue became an agenda at the National Conference. My committee went into research to find out what injustices, what atrocities were committed against Ndigbo not just only during the civil war but also before the civil war.
Q. When exactly did the killing Ndigbo start in Nigeria?
A. The serious and massive killing of Ndigbo started in 1953. Anthony Enahoro moved a motion in the House of Representatives, asking for the independence of Nigeria but Northern members of the House under the leadership of Sardauna of Sokoto, vehemently opposed the motion and even threatened to break the North away from the country. The National Council of Nigerian Citizens (NCNC), Northern Elements Progressive Union (NEPU) and Action Group (AG) aligned to demand for self-government for Nigeria, but the Northern Peoples Congress (NPC) under the leadership of Sardauna of Sokoto broke away and left the conference. After that, Ladoke Akintola went to Kano to deliver a lecture on the need for independence and in the course of the lecture, he probably said something the northerners did not like and a riot ensued. They did not kill Akintola but they pounced on Ndigbo and over 300 of them were killed. But the colonial government only admitted that 27 people were killed. Yet there was no action, no compensation for Ndigbo. In 1966, the military unpatriotically struck and took over the government of the country in a treasonable coup d’état, killing the prime minister. This action was taken by some majors in the military, not just Ndigbo because there were Yorubas and Hausas involved. But again, the evil was visited on Ndigbo.
Q. You mean more massacre of the Igbo people?
A. Yes. There was massive killing of Ndigbo in the North; the massive killing of Ndigbo in the West, particularly in Ibadan and Ikeja cantonments, and eventually, Nigeria imposed a civil war on Biafra. Ndigbo said ‘if you do not want us in this country, allow us to go away.’ In the process of going away, the military government of the time declared war on Biafra and fought a war of many weapons, which included all weapons of war, diplomatic weapon, economic weapon and that of starvation. They used economic blockade against Ndigbo, against any contact with the outside world. There was massive killing of Ndigbo in churches, markets and other places. All these cost Ndigbo nearly two million lives. Before this, when the riots were organized in the North, we published details about how Ndigbo were killed at railway stations in Kaduna, Kano and at the Kano Airport where they were assembled to be flown down to the East. They were slaughtered at the railway stations they were asked to assemble, so that they would be taken down to the East and they also killed men and women as well as children during the war. But after wars, those who are victorious will always go back to pay war reparation and war rehabilitation. This happened after the World War II, when the American government went to Germany to launch a marshall plan. In the case of Nigeria, Biafra was forced back to the country and Yakubu Gowon said that he was declaring a policy of no victor no vanquished but since then the punishment against Ndigbo has continued. Ndigbo said that we are going to demand for reparation for all these atrocities on our people and that informed the committee of which I am its chairman. Igbo delegates at the National Conference wanted the memorandum that we had written and we gave it to them and they presented it at the conference, so that is where we are