Leader of the Supreme Egbesu Assembly, Sergeant Werinipre Noel Digifa has dismissed the declaration of a Republic of Biafra by a Niger Delta warlord, Alhaji Asari Dokubo as meaningless and of no effect to the Ijaws.
He said in a telephone interview with TNN on Monday that Asari was either looking for attention or was trying to re-connect with his Igbo lineage, hence the action. Digifa said reiterated his earlier position that no Ijaw man would have anything to do with Biafra.
According to Digifa, Asari’s mother was an Igbo woman, explaining that his decision to pursue the cause of Biafra was a way of getting back to her mother’s roots. But he was quick to add that neither Asari’s children nor his fellow Ijaw people would have anything to do with Biafra.
He also said the decision to identify with Biafra and declare himself leader of the struggle would further divide the Biafra project promoters.
Asari himself has not been in good terms with Nnamdi Kanu, the fleeing leader of IPOB. He once described Kanu as a megalomaniac.
TNN made efforts to speak with Asari on Monday to confirm that he actually declared himself leader of the Biafra Republic. He did not pick his calls, neither did he respond to our whatsapp message.
When TNN repeatedly called the line, the voice on the other end identified himself as Mr Ogodo. He said Asari was not available at the time to speak. But when TNN repeatedly called his line, the person at the other end identified himself as Mr Ogodo and confirmed that Asari was now the head of the Biafra Republic.
He also confirmed that people like Raph Uwarurike were now working with him. When asked if Asari was also working with Kanu, he told TNN that Asari would respond to that when he returns.
Some years ago, Digifa had told TNN in an exclusive interview about why the Ijawas can never be part of Biafra. According to him “Ijaws and Biafra have no link. Even before my death, I will put it in writing before I have to die….We the Ijaws were marginalised by Biafra more than the British colonial masters and more than even the other two major tribes of Nigeria, the Hausa and the Yorubas.
“The Igbos took the Ijaws and treated them like animals during the civil war and it is still very fresh in our memory.
“Even at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, the late Isaac Adaka Boro was pushed to the ground and prevented from winning an election because he was from the minority tribe. Isaac Boro was condemned by the Agui Ironsi government.
“It was the Biafra propaganda machinery that came on air to proclaim the death of Isaac Boro who was the arrow head of the Ijaw struggle. We are not their enemies and we will never be. We see them as friends but Ijaw can never be part of Biafra.
“There is no negotiation, no discussion about that issue. It is a clear issue, supported by our ancestors. Even our ancestors will not accept Biafra. The Igbo people took over Port Harcourt. For you to build a house in Port Harcourt, you must travel to Enugu, the then eastern region headquarters, to take a permit to build a house in Port Harcourt.
“The firewood carrying association, the Igbos were not carrying firewood. But the association was headed by an Igbo man. Ikwerre people were the only people carrying firewood. Then the feaces carrying association. The Igbo man was not carrying (shit)faeces, but an Igbo man was chairman of the association. If you go to the Nembe waterside, the fish sellers union chairman was an Igbo man. But the Igbos were not going into the river to catch fish.”
The Egbesu leader said the Ijaws would not relent in their clamour for a republic. He said it was unfortunate that those who were canvassing for a Biafra republic could not think of what was happening to the psyche of those they dealt with many years ago.
“See all the streets in Port Harcourt, they are named after Igbo communities. What the Igbos did in our villages during the civil war was terrible. Our women were raped, they treated our people like animals.
“They came to my village and stole all the fowls and goats. I know that some of our illustrious sons, their parents have roots in Igbo land. But that doesn’t mean that they are going to drag us into Biafra.
“It is not possible. If anybody wants to be Biafra, they can relocate. Any Ijaw man who says he will join Biafra is on his own. I am talking on behalf of the Ijaw people. We can never be annexed to Biafra. We will continue to fight for our own independence.
“If you look at this present Biafra, you will see where they are placing Bayelsa. The marginalisation has already started. They are even divided themselves.
“If God says we should break out from Nigeria, we will not join Biafra. From Ondo to Akwa Ibom, Ibeno, our people are there from Ondo to Delta to Edo, our people are in the coasts.
“Majority of Ijaw people will not go with Biafra. I don’t know if their struggle will succeed. The people are not honest to themselves. Their protests are not coordinated. Their struggle is not coordinated. No consultations.”
On Monday, Digifa had also told TNN that he had a discussion with the governor of Bayelsa State last week and that the governor’s position remained that Bayelsa people and indeed the Ijaws would not be part of Biafra.
He also said plans were afoot to organise an all Ijaws summit, where discussion on this and other issues affecting the interest of the ethnic nationality would be discussed.