The new leader of Movement for the Actualisation of Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB), Uchenna Madu, has said that former leader of the organisation, Chief Ralph Uwazurike was suspended because he deviated from the mission and vision of the Biafra struggle, and started personal aggrandizement using the organisation as front.
In this interview with Saturday Sun, Madu said the former MASSOB leader was a sellout. Excerpts…
What led to the expulsion of Chief Ralph Uwazurike from MASSOB?
There were so many reasons we expelled him. In the first place, he deviated from the original vision and the mission of MASSOB towards actualizing Biafra. He used the organisation as a platform to enrich himself, and also used it to propagate his political interest. Remember, at the last election, he used MASSOB to campaign for political parties; he used the organisation to stage a protest, calling for the sack of former Chairman of Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof Attahiru Jega. Those developments diminished the status and image of MASSOB, as a self-determination group.
In September 2013, Uwazurike signed a document of oneness of Nigeria with Hamza Mustapha, Alhaji Sani Yerima of Arewa Youths and Dr. Frederick Fasehun of OPC and Dokubo Asari. He introduced what he called Biafran International Passport, which he used to obtain more than N100 million from members by telling them that they would travel with it, but today no one is travelling with it, even his wife and his children are not. That is fraud.
He has used the group to enrich himself, as members contributed money running into several millions of naira; minimum of N60 million as dues into MASSOB account monthly. This money he uses to enrich himself. Today in Owerri, Imo State capital, he has bought almost one quarter of Owerri. We have evidences of this. It is not a matter of allegation or one trying to run him down. We have avalanche of evidence and documents to prove to people.
Since he came out from prison, he has never done anything positively for Biafra. He is just there claiming to be the leader of MASSOB, saying he is the Ijele Ndigbo. We joined MASSOB because of Biafra; we are ready to make the necessary sacrifice and to do everything to make sure that Biafra becomes a reality. We can’t continue with a man who defrauds people in the name of Biafra. We cannot continue with a man who is no longer interested in Biafra actualization; a man who has built his own paradise on this earth. I can quote Uwazurike as reported in Vanguard of last November 17, that he was in struggle not for anyone but for the interest of his children to make them to be comfortable. So, that is why we expelled him. As a matter of fact, since August 2014, our own faction of MASSOB has been operating from Okwe. I’m speaking to you from Okwe, Imo State. He has never returned home for the past one year and four months. He has never visited his home, Okwe. We told him that he should never come back. He is on exile now.
We have been having a running battle with him. Many of our members are still in the mortuary. Since 2006, about 54 MASSOB members have been in the mortuary. Many of our members, who died because of the struggle for Biafra on MASSOB platform have not been accorded any befitting burial. Their families have not been consoled. Their children and wives have been abandoned, and we are supposed to console them; give them something to take care of their families as an appreciation for the sacrifice their breadwinner made for Biafra. Uwazurike is not interested in the welfare of members.
He claimed that he has built a house for the Biafran war veterans. He deceived Ndigbo by saying that he wasn’t happy the manner the Biafran war veterans were begging along the Enugu-Onitsha road. We contributed the money; MASSOB contributed this money and we were the labourers and we built the house. Uwazurike made more than N80 million from people’s goodwill but today, these people are still abandoned. All these are the ways he wanted to rule Ndigbo in the name of Biafra. That is why we expelled him from the struggle of Biafra.
Today, we learnt he has formed another group called, Biafra Independent Movement. This is another way to cover his evil deeds, but we will never allow him to go scot-free. He must give a full account of his stewardship as MASSOB leader, because many have died because of MASSOB. All the properties of the organisation he must release them. We are not against him forming any group but he must first of all give an account of his stewardship as the leader of the group.
On the issue of MASSOB headquarters, Uwazurike said in an interview with our reporter that Okwe has ceased to be the headquarters of the group, that anywhere the leader is, that is the headquarters of the group. Is that true?
That is a lie. Okwe remains our headquarters from first day. He is living in Owerri and he can’t use his residential house as MASSOB headquarters. We don’t have headquarters in Owerri, that is another way of deceiving people. Even if Okwe is not the headquarters, why can’t he return home? It is his village, his kinsmen have never seen him for over 14 months.
He said he had expelled you for over three years ago when you tried to introduce violence in the struggle. So, you are not a member of MASSOB, not to talk of expelling him?
In the first place I wasn’t expelled. There was no record or any newspaper that reported that I was expelled from MASSOB. I wasn’t expelled from MASSOB by Uwazurike. I was still in prison, when Uwazurike was released in 2007; I was later released in 2009. I was in detention for four years.
All these years, I didn’t want to say the problem Uwazurike and I had. Members are not even aware but it is high time I said it out. The problem started about 2013, when the polytechnics and colleges of education were on strike for several months. I made a statement telling former President Goodluck Jonathan to intervene and save the future of our children, that these students were the leaders of tomorrow. I even told Patience Jonathan, as the mother of the country, to intervene to make sure that our children went back to school. I advised Jonathan that if he could not do anything that this strike might affect his re-election bid in 2015. That was the issue and after the news came out, Uwazurike called me and asked me why I made such statement that Goodluck Jonathan was his friend; that he has a very good relationship with the family; that anyone who attacked Jonathan attacked him. I told him that the issue was about the future of our people; about our members who were students; about members who were staff and also Ndigbo, who have been affected because of the strike. I told him that his friendship with Jonathan cannot surpass Igbo’s interest. He said, ‘Uche , because you attacked Jonathan, I am going to remove you as director of Information’, I said , ‘Ok, no problem’. That wasn’t expulsion. The issue is that along the line, a lot of us in the struggle were telling him that the people were suffering and complaining because every month they would pay huge sums of money, as national dues and some selling their lands for the struggle and these are poor people, and we implored him to reduce the dues. These monies are being paid in his personal accounts. He was not accountable to anyone and at the same time there were a lot of leverages coming from government. We were aware of what Jonathan was giving him every month as leverage; we were aware of what politicians were bringing to him, but we were not interested.
He asked why we should advise him on how to run MASSOB. He saw the organisation and ran it as a personal estate. That was the problem and from that very moment, he started developing animosity towards me. There was no time I introduced violence in the struggle. They were saying that I wanted to be violent, what was the evidence?
He started devising a means to discredit me. What was the violence, did I wage war against him or Nigeria, did I use MASSOB to wage war against Nigeria, was there any action that I took that suggested that I was violent? All these things are just ways he is trying to cover up. Very soon I will come up with details of the issue of Oji River.
Who established and funded Radio Biafra? Uwazurike said he did it, but Nnamdi Kanu defrauded him. What do you know about this?
That is a lie. He is trying to discredit people and he loves doing that. He is not comfortable when other people are making progress for Biafra. He always likes to see himself as the lord in everything about Biafra, but at the same time he is not thinking of the Biafra struggle; he is fighting for his personal interest and welfare.
Radio Biafra was established in London and he was a partner just like the Biafran community in London. We contributed money but the fact remains that MASSOB remitted greater part of the money, and other people contributed. Nnamdi Kanu was the coordinator of Biafran community in London, and there were other people in the struggle whose names I would not mention.
He told them that he wanted to buy a house, and he didn’t know they were recording their discussion. He told them he wanted to buy a house and that they should help him look for one. These people said ‘no, you are the leader of the Biafran struggle, what are you buying a house for?’ He told them that he wanted to buy a house, it opened their eyes to start understanding that he had ulterior motives. From that very moment, there arose a disagreement. He said, okay, not that he wanted to buy a house, that he just wanted to buy a small place, where his family would be coming for holidays.
From there, he introduced the issue of Biafran International Passport. They disagreed with him that the passport was not useful for now because Biafra has not attained sovereignty. He saw it as a business venture, that was where disagreement set in. There were other things for him to introduce – how we can get more international support, how to clamour for referendum and how to involve more intellectuals and experts in the struggle, but he disagreed with them. He said he didn’t want all these things and asserted that he was the leader of Biafra agitation. So, they started suspecting that he has another agenda.
Along the line, Kanu started using the radio to tell the people of Biafra what Uwazurike was using the money they were paying into his personal account to do; that people should stop paying money to him as he was not using it for the propagation of Biafra. Against this, he withheld part of the money MASSOB was remitting for the radio station. The radio continued as other people started contributing money. Today, the radio is all over the world. So, he wasn’t the one that established the radio in the first place. He was just a partner to the radio.
You talked about contributing money to him; do MASSOB members pay levies or dues?
I can show heaps of Ghana-must-go bags of bank tellers of money paid directly to Uwazurike’s personal accounts. As I said earlier, we contributed a minimum of N60 million into his personal account monthly. Look at how the money is being raised. In MASSOB, every local government is a region, in each region we have minimum of 20 areas, that is what we call area administrators, and we have regional administrators. Under regional administrators, we have area administrators. Each area administrator pays a minimum of N10,000 monthly. Under the area administrators, we have provincial administrators, who pay N1000 each. N1000 for provincial administrators in one area give you so much. There are 20 areas that make up one region, then you have N20,000 multiplied by 20, that gives you about N400,000 from one local government area. He was making a minimum of N400,000 from one local government area. Then we have five states in South-East, then Delta and Rivers states, where also we have so many members. Then in Lagos we have all these regions, the same with Abuja and Kaduna. These people are paying the same money into his personal accounts. Some local government areas have between 30 and 40 areas depending on the level of their mobilsation. Apart from that, we have what we call directors’ dues. We have 25 directorates. Each local government area has one director of a particular directorate, meaning each local government area has 25 directors, e.g Director of Information, Director of Sports, Director of Religion, Director of Agriculture, Director of Finance, etc. Each director pays N5, 000 as his own due. Multiply N5,000 by 25 directors in each local government area then you will know what they are paying him. We have another dues he introduced, TV and Radio. He said he wanted to establish television and radio stations and all the area administrators paid N1000. Four months ago, because of Nnamdi Kanu’s radio, Uwazurike told members that he would establish his own radio and they made the cost, it was about N250 million. For this project, members had contributed about N95 million. We have the evidences, and from June till now, not even the transmitter of the radio has been bought. There is no place you see Uwazurike’s radio. If you go to his compound in Owerri, he has not less than 60 different vehicles. The cheapest is about N7 million. His compound is about two football fields put together. There is a street in the New Owerri, called Ralph Uwazurike Street, initially he occupied only three plots, while Ojukwu Memorial Centre occupies 10 plots. Out of the 10 only three are on the street, the others are behind the street, and he owns the rest. This is not an allegation. You can go and verify.
Now MASSOB is factionalised, you have Independent People of Biafra (IPOD), you have Biafran Zionists Movement (BZM), now you Biafran Independent Movement (BIM), will this not affect the Biafra struggle?
It won’t. In a struggle, there are genuine groups and there are fakes. The only genuine groups that the world knows that are agitating for Biafra are MASSOB and IPOB.
With Uwazurike’s exit, is MASSOB not dead?
People don’t want to associate with the name, Uwazurike. They see that name in relation to Biafra struggle as a taboo. Imagine a man who is leading a struggle for emancipation and self-determination owning almost 28 buildings on a street. IPOB and MASSOB are working hand in hand. MASSOB has a good relationship with Belie Human Right, led by Engr Amadi, there is also another group called Lower Niger Congress and other elders. The man Uwazurike with his BIM is rubbish, fraud and nobody wants to associate with him.
You people are saying that international organisations recognise Biafra, which of them?
The issue of Biafra has gathered momentum and got attention of international organisations. This is struggle for self-determination. United Nations recognises what we are doing. We have made advances to them. Some people have gone and presented our papers and positions. I’m not going to say everything here for people to believe what we are doing. All I can say is that self-determination of Biafra has come to the knowledge of the international community. Even the Nigerian government is jittery and uncomfortable with the support we are gathering from outside.