Biafra will fail ~ Maitama Sule


Elder statesman, Alhaji Yusuf Maitama Sule, is not known for granting many interviews; rather, the media gets update on his thoughts from his grand public speeches. However, on this occasion, he was willing to speak exclusively to Daily Sun

Alhaji Yusuf Maitama Sule

In this interview, he remarked that the true story of the Civil War in the country was yet to be told.

He spoke on the recent efforts by some people in the South-east to resurrect the Biafra Republic, saying they would not succeed. Excerpt:

What is your personal reaction to the huge story of corruption that is prevalent in Nigeria today. How do you see it?

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I see it as something that is very, very bad! I have told you, I have painted the picture black, but I have not lost hope. I have faith in God. And Nigerians, both Muslims and Christians are good followers of their religions and I hope that they would practice what they have been taught in their religions: he who has faith in God does not lose hope in Him. I am, therefore, optimistic – I am not a pessimist- that all the ugly things that are now around us would one day come to an end, by the grace of God. I have seen it in the past; I saw so many crises, before Independence, on Independence and after Independence. We have been able to overcome them, by the grace of God. Some­times, it was a miracle how we were able to overcome them, some of these crises.

I saw the crisis of the Independence Motion of Chief Enahoro in 1952 or 53, which almost broke the country apart. That was during the colonial days. He brought this motion asking for Independence immediately and the Northern members of the House who were representatives amended the motion to read, ” as soon as practicable.” This did not go down with our Southern brothers and they organized all sorts of things against them. The Northern legislators were stoned, they were abused, and indeed, they had to be escorted to Kaduna by the police. Later Chief Akintola was sent to Kano to give a lecture, to explain to the people in the North that their representatives did not want Independence for the country. The lecture was never held and that was the reason we had the very first political riot in Kano. But soon after, we were able to put these things behind our back and our leaders came together and they started discussing the real issues of Independence. We overcame. Then, there was the census crisis in the House of Representatives in 1958 or so.

The census figures were not accepted. For about a week, there was heated debate in the House, the country was about to break to pieces. Like a miracle , one morning the Prime Minister made a short a statement, a short statement lasting not more than five minutes. And that brought to an end the heated crisis. Again, we were able to over­come. In 1959, after the Independence elec­tions, no one party had the overall majority to enable it form the government alone. But NPC had more seats than either of the two parties , Action Group or NCNC. People started talking or urging the two southern parties, Action Group and NCNC, to form an alliance. If they did, they would be able to form a government. But some well-meaning people waded into the crisis. They said look, if you do that, you will elbow out the North. The NPC represents the North; it is more than half of the country in size and population. If you did that, you will elbow out the North and the North might think of breaking away from the country. They told Zik, “ Look you were in the forefront for the struggle of the independence of the country and you wanted an independent , united Nigeria. If you did this , you will be breaking up Nigeria. That was not your wish.” And Zik did the right thing, he agreed to enter into alliance with the NPC.

He agreed to surrender the prime ministership with the executive power to the NPC. That saved the country again. In 1964, we had a controver­sial election, the two main political parties – Action Group and NCNC, boycotted the elections. The NPC and the UNDP, a new party formed by Chief Akintola after he had broken away from the Action Group, went to the polls. Akintola was the premier of the West. So the West and the North went to the polls. The East and Mid -West did not and we claimed that we had won the elections. The President, Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe, according to the Constitution was the one to invite the leader of the party or governing party or majority party to form the government. He said that he would not because elections were not conclusive, or the elections were not conducted properly. The country became ungovernable. Some well-meaning people waded into the crisis and they brought the leaders of the parties, NCNC and NPC together and they agreed that parties that did not hold the elections should go and conduct elections- in the Mid West and in the East where there were no elections and where the NCNC was in control. They went and held elections and brought their members, and they joined to form what was then called a broad-based government.

Again we overcame. Even the coup in 1966 would not have been possible if the statement the prime minister had wanted to make the next day, if he had made it. This is because on the night of the coup, the prime minister was telling K O Mbadiwe and Festus Okotie -Eboh, when they went to discuss the Western crisis that he did not support the crisis and that he would make a statement the next day and declare a state of emergency in the West, remove Akintola and appoint an administrator.

He had even draft­ed the speech and given it to K.O Mbadiwe and said he should go and sleep over it. That if he had any suggestions he should bring them back the next morning. That was the statement he never made. On that night, he was carried away and killed. So if he had made that statement, we would have over­come that crisis. However, after the coup, when there was a counter coup in June and July 1966, many people wanted to break out. Again some people waded into the crisis and we were able to save the country and the country remained one.

Then the Civil War came. Nobody expected that Nigeria would be the same again. In no part of the world was there any civil war at the end of which the country remained the same. Here in Nigeria, we were able to make it. After the Civil War, we came back together and we are still together. God has done it. What God has brought together, let no man put asunder.

(cuts in) But the Biafran people in the East are still making noise that they want to secede?

They will not succeed by the grace of God. There are people who did not know what happened during the Civil War. The story of the Civil War, the Biafran war is presented in different ways by different people. But the truth is yet to be known.

Those of us that know what it was and that saw it all……. For example, no one in Lagos; no one of us in Lagos today knows about the crisis of the Civil War or about the night of the coup and the day after, no one knows it more than I do. And I have been asked severally to write about what I saw on that night. But I have told people that I will not! Were I to say or to write and tell the nation what I knew, what I saw, what I heard before, during and after the coup, I will open a fresh wound. I will not do that! Having enjoyed peace, having come together, having forgiven one another, I should not open the old wound. No!

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What about your advice to the youth agitating in the South-east for the birth of Biafra?

Let them listen to their elders. Those agitating for it are young people who don’t know what happened in those days; who don’t know the history. And in any event, those, for example, in the North are not afraid, but they don’t want it. I don’t want this country to disintegrate and I don’t pray for the disintegration of this country, not because we (the North) cannot stand on our own……. I was the minister of mines and power. At Independence, I was the first min­ister of oil and I had served more than any other minister in that ministry having been there for almost seven years- From 1959 to 1966, I know what we have in the country; I know what we have in the North. The North has got enough. We have got diamonds, gold, uranium and even oil and minerals. We have got agricultural lands. We have got the land and we can be on our own , but I don’t want us to be alone .

I want us to share these with our brothers. It is not for nothing that God has brought us together- different tribes, different t religions and different political inclinations, and even different climatic conditions. God has brought us together so that we may learn to live with one another in peace. Because of the role he wants us to play. God wants us to lead Africa; God wants us to inspire the blacks of the world. We can only do this if we are united at home and if we respect one another at home. Nigeria is big enough to accommodate all of us. We must learn to respect one another.

Today, we are talking of globalization and yet people here are talking of disintegration. Europe has formed European Union. Even Africa has got an African Union. The United States of America is thinking of teaming up with Cana­da and Brazil to form an Economic Union in that area. We are talking of globalization and unification. Quite recently, Scotland wanted to break away from Great Britain, they had a plebiscite recently . It did not succeed. They remained one.

They are still part of Great Britain. Yet, here you are talking of breaking away. No! Let those sons of ours think of Nigeria, not of themselves. It is not in their interest. Their people are very enterprising, hardworking. They are industrious. They go to other parts of the country. I want them to feel free to go to any part of the country and feel that we are together, that we are our brothers’ keeper.



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