The Minority Leader in the Nigerian Senate, Mr. Enyinnaya Abaribe has said that in a hypothetical referendum for Biafra, he would vote yes. He made the declaration in an interview with Rudolf Okonkwo of Irokopost TV. “I will vote for us to actually be on our own,” he said. “I think we are being dragged down by all the different things that weigh Nigeria down.”
The senator representing Abia-South Constituency in the Senate, however, warned that the Nigerian constitution does not have a provision for a referendum. “Which means, if you want a referendum, you have to go outside the constitution,” he continued. “Jettisoning the 1999 constitution requires having a meeting of all the different groups in Nigeria and having them agree to set that constitution aside and have a conference to agree on a new thing.” He said those who are benefiting from the current structure would always ignore that suggestion.
Mr. Abaribe challenged different Biafran groups to come together under one umbrella to avoid dissipating energy needed to focus and get to a particular position. “While we look for getting out of Nigeria, we should also, at this time, use the resources that we have to be able to make our homeland a better place for us,” he insisted. “Because if we are not doing anything with the resources that we already have, what is the guarantee that going into Biafra will give us a better frame of mind?”
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On the issue of Fulani herdsmen attacking communities across the South and the influx of Northern youth to the South, the senator acknowledged that elected officials from the East are worried about some of the young people coming in from outside Nigeria. “They don’t speak regular Hausa, they don’t speak English, they don’t speak Pidgin,” he said. “Some of them just speak French, some speak other languages and those are the ones that we are very very bothered about because we think that these people may just be people who are coming as sleeper cells and can be activated anytime.”
The Leader of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in the Senate said it would be good for people in the East to come together and have one response to the situation. He suggested that it would be better for the East to respond using the tools available to elected Chief Executives in government houses across the region.
“What we don’t want is a situation where you take your own personal action and it is tagged something else,” Mr. Abaribe said. “The type of stigmatization that they did to IPOB and all that, will also apply if we don’t go through the formal networks that the governors would have to institute. It will be seen as something else and when you now have a clash with the police and the army, of course, we know what follows.”
He reminded his constituents that, “everything that happens in the South East is regarded as a different thing.” He warned that, “We do really want to solve a problem not to create another problem while solving it.”
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When pushed back on why everything that happens in the East should be regarded differently, the former Deputy Governor of Abia State told Irokpost TV’s Rudolf Okonkwo that, “The civil war has not ended in some people’s mind in Nigeria,”
“The government in power seems to have that mindset that whatever they do, that they are doing Saraka (a favor) to us, that it is not our right, that we are just giving you what you don’t deserve.”
He said that the mindset of people in the corridors of power in Nigeria is that nobody elected them and as such, they owe the people nothing and could not be held accountable. “Sorry to say, in the North, there is a feudalistic mindset in which you have people up there and the rest of the people on the ground and whatever they do for them, they are just doing them a favor and when they extend it to the rest of us in the South and see our reaction, they cannot understand it.”
Mr. Abaribe urged young people to get involved in the political process, to put heat on elected officials to compel them to do the right thing. When reminded that when young people get involved they are killed by security agencies, he said, “Getting involved demands sacrifices. Sometimes it is easier to do it from the cozy rooms in front of your laptop than to be on the street and march.”
The former lecturer at Edo State University said that the alternative to agitation despite the risks involved was for bad people to continue to do the wrong things. “We don’t avoid war because we could be killed,” he said, deploying an Igbo proverb. “We just have to continue to do what we need to do in terms of agitation because if we don’t, ultimately bad people will continue to do wrong things.”