Today, we conclude the interview with Captain Gbulie who was one of the plotters of Nigeria first military coup in January, 1966. Last week, he recalled his involvement in the coup and how he was sent to Ngwa now in Abia State by Ojukwu to stop the people from eating human beings during the war. Today he peaks on the renewed agitation for Biafra, restructuring of the polity and other issues
What is your view on the issue of the renewed agitation for Biafra?
Let me address this issue by saying that I am calling for restraint on the part of youths of Ndigbo. We have had a raw deal from Nigeria. By Nigeria I mean those who are not Igbo because we have enemies all around us. Whether we like it or not, even some of our people are our enemies, so I call for restraint. We have to be very careful how we move. We should go for dialogue as opposed to insurgence. All these carrying of arms and all that is not the answer; death is something that concerns everybody even if you are the governor or the Prime Minister you will die one day, so what is this for? What we need is to put our own acts together. We fought a war to protect lives and property but why are we kidnapping our own people; why are we seeking the down fall of our own people, why don’t we do onye ahana nwanneya (be our brother’s keeper). If you go to Abuja and you are given a job, you allow your brother and come in there and speak Igbo and not when he speaks Igbo you will say mba, no, don’t speak Igbo here. We must relate to one another in a manner that shows we are together. We must put our acts together, we must ask questions, find out from those who have experience. English people said experience is the best teacher but they also say experience is a teacher of fools. Fools learn by their own experience. Those who are wise learn from other people’s experience. The history books are there to guide you. It was Napoleon Bonaparte who said that God is on the side of stronger battalion. By that he meant that if you are not strong, don’t go to war; don’t ride on the back of a Tiger. Our young men and women should prevail on our governors to hold conferences where we can discuss our affairs; where they can be told which way forward. It is amazing that I keep hearing of IPOB (Indigenous People of Biafra) and all manner of titles and all of a sudden herdsmen started killing our people at our boarder here and where were the IPOB people? They vanished; these are the people who want Biafra, people who are going to rule themselves? You cannot rule by words of mouth, you have to have strong battalion.
QUESTIONS FOR IPOB
When Ojukwu was here and he declared Biafra, he was a governor of the East, he had a territory he could control, he had provisional secretaries and all that under him but all these boys talking about IPOB or whatever, what do they have? They even tell you they have supporters but who are their supporters or are they keeping it secret? Let me tell you, let it not be like the support France gave to Biafra. France would never come out in the open to say we support Biafra, they never even recognized Biafra in the United Nations. So if you are not strong don’t dare anybody and even if you are strong, the best thing is to use your might to negotiate. There was a time Ojukwu could have negotiated and got something, he would have got a confederation. During that conference Ojukwu said Biafra was not negotiable and that was why things fell apart. It was he who said no power in Black Africa could destroy Biafra and when the chips were down he was on his way to Ivory Coast, leaving us to die. So you can see! Let no body be taken for a sucker; that is what I am telling the youths. Where is the land, the terrain you will put your troops on? Where are the people you are going to lead out of Nigeria? Is it Ebonyi people most of whom don’t believe they are Igbo to start with? There is only one snag about it, if Abuja will stop this nonsense about unitary system of government. When Ironsi was in power he had decree no. 45 by which he made Nigeria a unitary government, not federal government and the north killed him because of his action but no sooner than Ironsi was out of the way, the same north under Gowon started practicing unitary system. All these states were created by the northerners; you can’t see anybody from any other place that created any state, its northerners, so they can give one village a state and nobody will care because you could be scorched. Our people don’t know that these things that are happening are for a purpose. Some people are waiting for an opportunity to kill Igbo. I am asking my people not to give anybody that opportunity. If you think you are ready to fight, well, consult us let us see your might. Let us see your artillery, your mortars, your Ogbunigwes because at least Biafra had Ogbunigwe. I don’t know what these boys have or is it all these machine guns, etc! Machine guns can kill alright but they are not strong weapons that can hold sway, so that the place becomes a sovereign state. That is why we have to be extra careful, that’s all I am trying to say and if necessary, if we can get what we want through dialogue so be it.
Are you not aware that the present agitators are talking about using non-violent means to renegotiate for Biafra?
Good. Then why are they provoking the Federal Government?
How do you mean; provoking?
If the Federal Government’s army and police are killing our people on the pretence that they are doing demonstration and they prove that no permit was gotten for the demonstration who is provoking who? Yes, it could be peaceful demonstration but you know in Nigeria today you need to go to the police to obtain permit to be able to have that kind of demonstration and police will supervise it and if they refuse and you go ahead, obviously you have offended the law. I have already said it that Biafra is already there. There is no removing the idea of Biafra, it’s a fact of history. My Biafra is in the mind, it is a Biafra that remains forever. It is in the history books.
Will Biafra only be consigned to the history books; don’t you think it will come to reality one day?
Let me tell you, there are many things that are in history books. Why the reality? I want you to note that while we were fighting the war we discovered that as the saying goes, 10 different things are not anymore necessarily different than five different things or two or one. Let me explain: Nigeria is an octopus; very large and they had their problems part of which was Biafra but inside Biafra we had even worse problems part of which was the minorities and even ourselves were the problems. People you would give money to buy arms, they went abroad and bought houses and forgot about buying arms and lived there. People who would be cartooning for the enemy and it’s still happening till today. Even most of these people saying Biafra, Biafra, they have some other motives. You said they are agitating but why are they threatening the government? They give ultimatum to government. How do you give ultimatum to a constituted government even if the elections were rigged? You don’t threaten a legitimate government like that. What I am saying is that people are trying to give them weapons with which to kill us and I don’t want that to happen. Look at how people were being killed in Okigwe, Asaba, here and there. I am not afraid of death at 77 but all I am trying to say is that I am afraid of death for our people.
Sir, is it justified that people who are just agitating peacefully will be cut down all the time by the federal forces?
I will not takes side with the Federal Government, so I will not answer that question. You go to the police with your pen and paper and ask them but I know what is right is right and you don’t threaten anybody, you don’t give ultimatum to anybody because you are nothing compared to the government and Buhari has said it that the might of the Federal Government cannot be toyed with.
Are you not worried that courts have ordered the release of Nnamdi Kanu, yet he is still being held?
Nnamdi Kanu maybe a good man but if he has offended the law…the only thing is that our Federal Government is a lethargic government. It’s not dynamic; it allows you stay in prison without trial. In other words somebody is gaining by your being in prison without trial because they know that at the end it is the court that will decide not the Head of State. You know when Buhari was coming to power people said yes this is the man who will bring about change, you don’t get change like that. You don’t get change by word of mouth. Ok look at Dasuki, why hasn’t he been brought to trial? Because they want him to suffer first, isn’t it wrong? Absolutely wrong! It offends reason but that is their way of doing things and this is what is going to happen to you and to me if you are not careful. I don’t mind if it happens to me because I am used to going into prison yards and staying there but what with these young ones? By the way that does not mean I don’t pity them, in fact I understand their plight but they should do well to ask questions. They should do well to go to Ohanaeze and tell them to sit up and they should do well to make sure that the right people are in Ohanaeze.
In your view, was it right for Buhari to go to UN to make case for Palestine liberation when back home he is against self- determination agitation as Biafra?
You see, I don’t want to say anything that may be misconstrued. The irony is that somebody like Gowon who said that the task of keeping Nigeria one was a task that must be done is only praying and not doing much now to ensure that Nigeria is one. I watched the launching of Buhari’s book and the same man who wrote Ahmadu Bello’s biography, Prof John Paden, was the same person who wrote President Buhari’s book and you know Hudahuda Press published Ahmadu Bello’s book, the same Hudahuda Press in Zaria published Buhari’s book. It’s amazing. They should come for us to talk. We should talk first. Look, unity is strength and you should know that. I was in detention from 1966 to 1967, after the war I was in detention from 1970 to 1974 which is about 6 years. When Kanu stays there for six years I will know but I am not suggesting that I am happy with his plight. But if you fall foul of the law what do you expect? If you want to play a game, play it well. If you want to tell a lie, tell it well. Anything you want to do, do it well. I took part in the coup of January 1966 and till tomorrow I am still suffering, my course mates are generals but I am being paid my pension as Captain, that is the rank I was in when the war hadn’t even started. All I am saying is let’s be careful. The governors should initiate a move for us to come together. Do you know that the governors here do not hold meetings with Ohanaeze? We must work together as a people so that we know the direction we are going.
What is your opinion about the much talked about restructuring of Nigeria?
There is need for it. I told you here that when Ironsi made his decree about unitary system of government, he was killed by northerners. He was not only killed, they started operating a unitary system. In other words all the regions before were semi-autonomous. Unitary system brings about laziness because everybody goes to the centre for pittances and that is why, today, Atiku Abubakar (former vice president) is calling for restructuring but the Arewa is saying no to restructuring.
Do you support the plans to sell Nigeria assets?
Don’t you remember when one past President was selling assets he sold some to himself? The general view is nobody should touch our assets, not anymore. If you want to change things, you don’t start with assets that have done nothing to you.
Is the war against corruption really selective as some people allege?
It is so selective that even myself that is not a partisan politician can see it. They said that others are coming so lets us wait. The indices of corruption you will find in every state. Just go to somebody who has ruled us and see the mansions which are just the assets you can see with your eyes. If you go to some places, you will weep. Taking people to task on how they amassed wealth should be across board and the interesting thing is that foreigners are watching us.