Agitation For Biafra Caused by Injustice- Sam Ekeledo

Reverend Sam Ekeledo is the Ikwuano/Umuahia UPP House of Representatives candidate in the 2019
election. In 2002 he contested as the candidate of the defunct NRC for the same seat. In this interview
with CHIKA NWABUEZE, the former Executive Chairman of Umuahia North Local Government Council
said the agitation for Biafran is a product of historical injustice. Excerpts:

Q. It’s over two and half decades since you contested for the Federal House of Representatives as the
candidate of the defunct National Republican Convention (NRC), today you are back as the flag-bearer
of the UPP for the Ikwuano/Umuahia federal constituency. How did it happen?
A. We are interested in history and the decision of 1992 to run for the House of Representatives was
hinged on one or two different factors. It was a decision we made at the time to reflect the
circumstances of that era. In my view not so much has changed since 1992 to date a period of about 26
years. It’s instructive that a whole new generation has emerged, a new crop of young men and women
have come into maturity, yet virtually little has changed.
I will not place the blame on any particular person, however, my aspiration now is to get back to the
federal House of Representatives and propose exactly those same bills I had in mind 26 years ago and
see how they could help to rejig the system.
Q. Are you saying that 26 years down the line nobody has thought of the ideas you had in mind?
A. Not one of them, I don’t think thinking is a special forte here in our clime, I don’t think we are deep
Q. What are those bills you want to sponsor now?
A. Close to the idea of restructuring is my own thinking that states as organ of government represents a
bogusness that is not effective for political administration. I believe in what I call a two-tier
administrative arrangement- federal government and local government. We believe the federal
government need not retain more than 15 percent of the revenue. That way we will curb urban
migration, and again Nigeria will operate on a more even way because there will be a plethora of
leadership all over the place. So, it’s not just about one person emerging governor of the state and he is
like the emperor, whereas there is multiplicity of leadership with 774 local government areas. It will
improve things.
Q. Do you think this idea is feasible in Nigeria given the fact that local government councils have a
reputation of not performing?
A. We don’t have local government as they should be, what we have particularly here in Abia state are
parastatals of the Ministry of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs. They are not councils that
deliver some of those dividends of democracy. We have a situation where in terms of staffing,

appointment or promotions or even sack, the local government in Abia is totally subjected to the Local
Government Service Commission. On the other hand, the administrative control whether it’s budgeting
or receipt of allocation, they are again subjected to the Ministry of Chieftaincy and Local Government
Affairs. Ask the Accountant General no local government chairman can authoritatively say that what the
federal government publishes as their allocations is what they actually receive.
In my time you only appear at the JAC meeting and what you are given is what you take back to the
council. In view of this kind of foundational deficiency, you can’t expect anything better. What I
advocate is local government system as it should be, as it is practiced all over the world whether it’s
USA, UK, or Hong Kong. It’s a different ball game because when you are a local government chairman
you are in charge.
The other two is the fact that I always believed that a more healthy and productive society is built by
what we call youth acculturation. What we have today as NYSC scheme should be abrogated and in its
place we should have compulsory universal military service. To me, this is the best way we could build
back our nationhood. We are a divided people now, but we can build back our nationhood by making
this a three year programme. It’s universal in the sense that it’s not your graduation from the university
that qualifies you, what qualifies you is attainment of a certain age across board. At 18 years you
become eligible, and you will be drafted into the compulsory universal military service, so that you can
actually get to serve your nation whether male or female. All this idea of trying to train people in
entrepreneurship skills etc will be subsumed in the programme. That is to say that people will pass out
after three years full of skills, of discipline and of course greater zeal and sense of patriotism.
Q. Do you think Nigeria is ripe for this kind of programme?
A. What are we ripe for, armed robbery?
Q. But our system…
A. It’s easy, what we will do is utilize the standing army to train the reserve army, that’s it. During the
three year period, they are active, at the end they are discharged into the reserve, it’s simple. Then you
carry it out in phases, every year we take a certain number. It’s for our own good and we are not lacking
in military facilities, then we expand them. We are actually delaying the development of our capacity. I
can tell you again that one of the things it will ensure is that there will be no crime again in this country
because every other person is trained.
The third one is very dear to me, we continue with the agitation for N30,000 minimum wage for civil
servants , but we cart away N13 million every month as representative of the people. The question I ask
myself is that when you have been made representative of the people, does all that money belongs to
you alone and your family. I think we should find ways of investing it around our constituency to
energise youth employment and productive capacity around.
My research shows that in a three year period, with selfless accountability one can apply that money to
set up at least 18 cottage industries in a three year period within your constituency. That can absolve at

least 360 people and of course there will be requirements to train people. We can also work out a plan
for ownership and transition, that’s not a big deal. If one accepts your role as representative of the
people, you must be ready to give back a lot of your earning to that your constituency. We are ready to
do so to ensure that life is facilitated to a better standard.
Q. Are you saying you are not satisfied with the performance of the present assembly men and
A. It’s obvious I have just enumerated three simple ideas to present, and in 26 years no one has come
near any of these ideas. Again, those who have represented us can we do a small assessment? Yes,
some of them have made impact, but I don’t think the present man we have there that after four years
he is deserving of a second term. His case is even made worse by the fact that we have in place a
rotational system of doing it from one local government to the other. Why do we want to allow abuse of
our system, it is a rotational system we have adopted and it has been working for us since 1999. I don’t
see why the Ohuhu people should allow anybody to steal the lot of our inheritance. The consequence of
that can linger, it can make life difficult. We must not allow it to happen because these are issues of
justice and fairness. Any attempt to disrupt the arrangement will have catastrophic consequences.
Q. As a former chieftain of PDP do you think the party stand a chance to win back the presidency
come 2019?
A. I was a member of PDP, and I can also say that they have made their mistakes and learnt their
lessons. As for me, it’s not entirely an examination of party but more of a focus on the prevalent life in
the society. The economy, the standard of living and those issues that affect people in the society, if we
zero in on them I will then want to argue that it’s possible that PDP has a good chance at the national
level. But again, there is also the problem of numbers, where do you have preponderance of the
supporters of the candidate of the PDP or the candidate of the APC? Who are they inclined to vote for
regardless of their knowledge and information at their disposal. There is still that godlike image that
President Muhammadu Buhari still parades, particularly in the North. Finally, I will look at both
candidates more than the party because one of the things that is clear to me today is that Nigerians are
a lot wiser that nobody is going to chaperon them into going to say PDP or APC, no!
Q. How do you view Abia state in terms of development initiatives?
A. If it is a race I will say that we started well in 1999, but over time we have lagged behind. We have not
made much progress, we are held down by the peoples’ inability to question certain situations and
events around them. Again, maybe in our attempt to elect our representatives we do not make the right
choices. We had in 2015 a situation where there was a balance between the PDP Assemblymen and the
APGA lawmakers, but overnight what happened? The APGA assembly men disappeared into PDP. Of
course everybody understands how those things happen that people are usually induced to decamp.
This is for me a call for our electorate to ensure that anyone you will send to the state Assembly should
be a person of consequence, who has a mind of his own and who understands that the responsibility he
bears is first to his constituency and second to the administration. We are not too many in numbers in
Abia, we don’t carry much burden and we have three major cities to explore. Any state in this country
that has Aba alone does not have to request anything from the federal government, but we need to
harness these and turn them around to become who we should be.

Q. Biafra resonates 50 years after the civil war, the resurgence in the agitation for Biafra do you think
it’s a product of injustice or that of the desire of a people to have their republic?
A. It’s not about a people seeking to break out. Before the civil war we were one people, by virtue of the
DNA we carry as Igbo people we are not contented in staying in one place. There is nowhere in the
world you will not find an Igbo man, it’s impossible. It’s acknowledged nationwide that anywhere you
didn’t find Igbo man better not stay there, that’s the way it’s now. We are witnessing the fact of
historical injustice. When the war ended and we knew we fought a war of attrition, no attempt was
made on helping to rebuild the Biafran enclave. And we also have lingering issues in the memory of the
fathers and to some extent the children of this enclave. Our fathers were denied whatever money they
had in the bank and they were only qualified to receive 20 pounds. Such official policy of
impoverishment is what I think the federal government should apologiise. There are other sentiments
that give rise to some of this Biafra logic. But be that as it may, I don’t believe that Nigerians of this side
called Biafra really want to break away. They want correction of some of the injustices and of the fact
that we are part of the project called Nigeria.
Q. What kind of representation do you want to offer the people of Ikwuano/Umuahia federal
A. It’s called constructive and productive engagement. It’s not about going to wear the toga of
honourable member, no; it’s about ensuring that there is accessibility. You have to see and touch your
representative. That’s guaranteed, anyone who knows me will attest that I’m available. The second will
be to have an engagement with the youth, and the only way I can think is creating a productive
environment where they can be fully trained and engaged. I’m not going to talk about going to establish
health centres and giving out machines etc. We are going to have direct productive engagement with
the people. It’s the people that count.

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