Ngozi Uwazuruike, wife of leader of Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB), Ralph Uwazuruike, has a lot in common with her husband who was arrested on Tuesday, January 12, over alleged kidnap, assault and other charges. Both appear stubborn and firmly convinced on the MASSOB struggle. In this interview with SNR Correspondent, EMMA MADUABUCHI, she talks on life with her husband behind bars and her determination to sustain the agitation in the event of his being killed in the struggle. Excerpts:
How have you been coping since your husband’s arrest and detention last January?
It has not been easy. Everyone knows that in such a situation, things cannot be normal. Moreover, he is the breadwinner of the family. So it has not been easy for me; it has been such a tough time, both for the children and me.
How have your people; the Igbo, MASSOB been relating with you? Have they not been asking questions? Have they not been asking after him? Have they not been helping out?
Actually Igbo people are asking and helping out. But then, as you know, among us, there are still saboteurs. Such people like Ohakim (Imo State Governor), are strongly behind the travails of my husband.
Are you sure?
There is no doubt that. He has been seriously interested in seeing that my husband is out of that state, even if illegally. But what we have always wanted Ohakim to know is that my husband is not contesting the governorship of the state with him. What we are after is Biafra, and not the election. We are not disturbing those who chose to serve Nigeria. One thing is sure, Igbo people who understand the situation we have in Nigeria are really behind my husband, and talking about it.
Don’t you think you are being too hard on Ohakim?
Let me tell you one thing, were Ohakim to have his way, he will even prefer a situation where my husband will be eliminated. But we know his problem is that he is not qualified to govern Imo State. We know that nobody goes into politics in Nigeria that is qualified. All of them are corrupt, and that is why Nigeria is the way it is today. That is why Nigeria is not moving, and that is why our people are crying that they want to get out of Nigeria, and have a sovereign state of our own.
But Nigerians say you can’t have it?
Why can’t we have it? Is it a crime? If it is a crime, they have charged him for treasonable felony, and both the treasonable and the felony, none of them could stand the test of law. You know if it were a crime they would have found him guilty long ago and must have crucified him by now. So you can see that it is not a crime. That is why we have gone to court for almost 50 times and the case never amounted to anything. Today again, they have gone the way of kidnapping.
Is that what they are charging him for?
But even if he had done kidnapping, is that why they will not bring him to court to face the charges? Our lawyer has served production warrant on two occasions, and Uwazuruike has never been produced in court. Personally, to me, I suspect he is no longer alive.
Why do you suspect that?
The day they drove him out of Owerri prison, I was there. When I came with my people we suspected the situation of things, and what baffled me most was that he was driven out in an ambulance. And I did not think that somebody alive and well would be driven out in an ambulance.
But if he is dead, wouldn’t they have told you?
But ever since we have been saying this, the government has not come out to say Uwazuruike is alive, he is under our custody. And our lawyer has served them production warrant twice and they could not produce him in court. So why are we sure that my husband is alive?
Are you saying that you do not know where he is now, or that you have not even seen him?
Yes, I only saw him last when he was at Owerri prison. I saw him last on Saturday – I served him, and on Sunday when I wanted to give him food, they asked me to wait. In fact they were playing pranks and telling me cock and bull stories. It was then the ambulance came out of the prison yard. There was very heavy security presence. Both the police and the State Security Service (SSS) were there. You would think there was an international war between Nigeria and Togo or Sierra Leone.
So right now you are afraid your husband might have been killed?
Oh sure, I am not even sure he is alive. I just told you that they have been given production warrant twice, and they flouted all and have not produced him in court. Even the last one we went, the judge just came out to say that since the accused person was not in the court, he would give a new date for the case. But our lawyer, Festus Keyamo, had to stand up to say that if the accused person was not in court that he (the counsel) was in court and should stand to defend his client. Our lawyer also requested of the judge to inquire of the prosecutor the whereabouts of the accused person and to produce him in court.
How is the family feeling on the way things are going with your husband?
We are just panicking. The highest offence somebody can commit is murder, and even at that the accused person must defend himself. But here the Nigerian state is trampling on the rights of my husband as a peace-loving man. Uwazuruike cannot be taken away from Imo State to an unknown place, and up till today nobody knows his whereabouts.
Would you rather say that your husband gives up the fight?
I am not tired. I cannot be tired. If I should get tired, it would not be now. My mind is so strong and made up now that if my husband is killed, I will lead the struggle. If my husband drops dead today, the struggle will continue, because I know that by God’s grace we must actualize Biafra.
Many call you omekadiya (one who acts like her husband), why do they call you that?
Well, I have just told you, if my husband does not complete this journey, I will do like him – I will complete it. But I know that he will complete it.
How did you actually meet Uwazuruike, your husband?
Brother, it is a miracle and also a coincidence. We met here in Lagos. But before then, like I had told other people, it started at home. There, his father had already, jokingly told my mother that he would want me to be the wife of one of his sons. But my mother objected to it. You know how mothers do. She said that onye ala bekee (somebody living abroad) would marry my daughter. Of course as you know it turned out that Uwazuruike came from abroad and then married me. So you see there is power in the tongue. We met miraculously. In fact, let me say that it is the will of God. It has been written that we will get married.
How loving is he?
Oh! He is as lovely as anything. My husband cannot hurt you. He doesn’t hurt a fly. He does not want to hurt any one. But then the matters of love should be private.
Would you say you are enjoying the marriage, with his arrests and other challenges?
By God’s grace yes. Even the arrest is part of the marriage, for better or for worse. What if we have gotten married and after two or three years the man dies, won’t I remain a widow? Let them arrest him; he will come back. All I want and pray is that he will die a natural death. Not a death that he is killed for fighting for his own right. Nobody should kill him when he is fighting for justice, fairness and peace. Imagine other countries, they live peacefully. But come to Nigeria nothing is enjoyable. My people are more or less like slaves.
You don’t seem to like Nigeria much, do you?
Consider what we are going through in this country. An Igbo man will have all the qualifications and he will end up being a servant to others. This is actually what we reject. Since they have shown us that we are not wanted, they should leave us alone. You had a maid and she is serving you, you do not value her, and she says she wants to leave. Why must you keep her against her wish? We cannot be slaves in a country we call ours. If we are one we won’t be fighting and killing ourselves daily. We should have remained peacefully. Let me tell you one truth, Nigerians have refused to heed, the countries in Nigeria will only achieve something when they separate and go their own ways. But so long as we remain one; so long as we are forced into this so-called united Nigeria, we shall never make progress, mark that.
Odumegwu Ojukwu, the Ikemba Nnewi, has come to be known as Uwazuruike’s father, because your husband calls him his father. How has it been now that Uwazuruike is in detention? Has Ojukwu abandoned him?
Oh no, not at all! He calls me on daily basis to find out how I am fairing and how the children are. You know how he is; he encourages me at every opportunity not to give up the struggle. He can never abandon us. He himself has spoken out that if the authorities know that Uwazuruike has committed an offence that they should produce him and try him in an open court. That is why we say that Nigeria is a lawless country. Does it surprise you why Nigerians are not law abiding? It is because the country itself is not law abiding. So how can its citizens be law abiding?
Do you have any special reason to say that?
Yes, Nigeria wants you to keep the law, but the country itself does not keep the law. How can you just imprison somebody without trying the person? In fact, it is abuse of rights.
Nigeria does not even teach its young and upcoming ones the importance of rule of law, or give them good examples. That is why we have concluded that its future is very bleak. They are the ones that preach that before one is punished he must be judged, but they persecute people everyday and punish them without judgement. Why should they not allow my husband his rights? This is a man under non-violence and yet they are persecuting him. If he had started this struggle with violence, I will be the first to divorce him. I would work against him. This is because violence is all about taking peoples’ lives. And in the end it may be his life or even mine. Then what would he have achieved?
By the precious blood of Jesus, my husband chose to follow the step of peace, but unfortunately they have continued to attack us. They cannot attack OPC (Oodua Peoples Congress) like that, but cannot attack militants of the Niger Delta like that.
Are you being attacked?
Of course, the last time I was in the east, combined team of policemen broke into our house. That is breaking and entry, unlawful. How can you come into somebody’s premises while the place is under lock and key, then you break and enter? There is no good example in that. They came in here and arrested the boys keeping watch over our home. If you go up you will see where they broke windows and glasses, and made away with our properties and documents. Now how will people learn that breaking and entry is an offence? That is why we talk of the rule of law and equality before the law. There are also laws guiding the three arms of government. You cannot because you have control of the instrument of force override the requirements of the law.
You don’t seem to be happy?
Why should I be? You see what is happening is cheating, and that is why we want to get out of Nigeria. This country is not a place where one will stay and be happy. It is a sad place. It is a place that when you remember you lose your peace and lose your sleep. That is why people always hang themselves here. God blessed this land with so much, but some people chose to make it a hell for others. That is why selfishness is everywhere. People in offices are sharing the money. Both Presidents and Governors and Senators and Councilors, all of them are sharing the money. Nobody thinks about the poor masses. That is why a councilor of yesterday will begin to build mansions everywhere.
You have said you would take over the fight if, God forbid, your husband is no more. But he talks about a programme. Do you know that programme?
Yes, we have many programmes.
I am aware, and we have been following the programmes gradually. But all we know is that Biafra must be actualized. It is a matter of time. Nigeria is almost on its way out now.
But you don’t know when?
We are not God, but the issue of Biafra is like that of a pregnant woman. Even if the doctor gives a date, the woman might stay beyond that date or even deliver before it. So we don’t know the time. But what we know is that when the pregnancy is due, we will see the child. Biafra must be actualized.
There are Biafran groups outside Nigeria. Are they also calling to find out how you are fairing?
Yes, some of them do call me to enquire how we are doing. However, you don’t expect everybody to call. Some of them call and still give me the strong mind to continue and not to faint.
What advice do you have for MASSOB members?
The advice I have for them is that they should be peaceful and continue on non-violence. Non -violence is a very strong weapon against an arrogant country like Nigeria. With non-violence you will get anything you want from Nigeria. Forget the violence they are perpetrating against us. The world is seeing them, and we will use non-violence to achieve our freedom. In fact they will be the ones to tell us that they are tired. Every part of the world is seeing what is happening in Nigeria. Nigeria wants to be the giant of Africa, but can’t work as a giant.