Annkio Briggs is an environmental and Niger Delta activist. In this interview monitored on African Independent Television (AIT), she speaks on President Muhammadu Buhari’s recent interviews, rising secessionist agitations in the country, South-South and South-East relationship, restructuring, among others
What is your reaction to President Buhari’s comment on South-East and south-South in his recent interviews?
Just before the Democracy Day, the President made two statements which are really amazing when you realize that this is our president who does not speak to Nigerians.
So, to make those statements back to back, three days in a row, it means that the president wanted to say something to the South-South and to the South-East.
Almost everything he said, I view them and understood them to be threats and not really talking to the people of South-South or the people of the South-East, who are really people from the old Eastern region that the Nigerian government engaged in a war almost six decades ago.
Everything for me was a threat. There was nothing said to indicate that the President understood or wanted to understand what the people of the South-South and South-East have been saying. And even the whole southern region, which include Yoruba people as well and by a large extension the Middle Belt people.
We do remember the president saying that he belongs to everybody and does not belong to anyone in particular from his first term in office and this is happening now where references are made for a particular part of the country being a dot in a circle, how do you review that from a man who said he belongs to everyone?
I have always spoken from a platform of being aware of how we got independence and when our national anthem was something of brotherhood, though tongue and tribe may differ but in brotherhood, we stand. That is the Nigeria I’m speaking from.
Two, looking at what the President said ‘I belong to no one, I belong to everybody,’ which was also something that he picked up from another president, but he debunked that immediately he was sworn in, which was one of the phrases in his ceremonial speech.
And he travelled to America and when he was asked what he intended to do about the agitation of the Niger Delta people if you could recall that the president immediately made it very clear that there were people he regarded as 97 per cent Nigerians and people he regarded as five per cent.
Now, 97 plus five is actually 102 and so maybe the other extra were people that were going to come into Nigeria.
What kind of interpretation do you make of that comment; ‘Dot in a Circle’?
Well, unfortunately, or maybe historically as someone who witnessed the war and I’m a victim and some of my family members were victims of the civil war. I recall the civil war, I understand the civil war, I know what led to the civil war.
The President in that interview was peaking as a warlord. He was speaking as a general at war with a country.
That was the way he spoke. He referred to the Igbo people because I don’t know how many people from my community or state, who have businesses in Kano, Kaduna or Lagos. He was referring specifically to the Igbo people and reminding them that they have a lot of property and investments outside the area he has described as dot.
The whole of Igbo nation is not Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB). IPOB is a movement headed by a group of people. IPOB is not an identity of nationality. The President made a claim which made me to react.
The President made a claim and said that he heard and pointed to his ears and said ‘nobody told me, I heard that leaders, elders and youths of South-South have promised that this time…’
What is this time? It means he is anticipating a war. He said this time there will be no access to the ocean. What does he mean?
The war was not about access to the ocean and it was not fought in the ocean. The war was fought on land that is today South-East and South-South. And the majority of the damage was done to the people and land of these areas.
We were formerly of the Eastern Region and I want to make this clear. My people of the Niger Delta Region, particularly the Ijaws, did not wage war against the Igbos, it was the Federal Government that waged war against Ndigbo.
How do you define the president’s state of mind right now because as we used to say that it was the presidency, not the president, but now, we have heard from the President and his body language and state of mind looks like a man who knows what he is talking about?
I totally agree with you. From the moment he gave that first interview, I said, now we have a president who wants to tell Nigerians something.
The Nigerians he is speaking to are the Nigerians who are being attacked and killed. He is speaking to Nigerians that he believes are conquered people. Now, you asked me of my take.
This is my take: I’m old enough to be responsible and to have the responsibility to speak the truth both to myself and to anybody who cares to listen. I hate to speak about anybody’s body language but the President’s so-called body language is one of war, is one of disdain and disregard.
It is an oppressive position to take against the people of South-East and South- South, and actually jamming the heads of the most critical people today in Nigeria, the South-South and the South-East.
You talked about restructuring, but it is very obvious from the body language of Mr. President that he will not consider that. What do you think is the danger ahead?
The danger is so blatantly clear and I’m surprised that we are even discussing it because for the past six years, this government came into power, telling Nigerians who voted for them, I didn’t vote for them that they understood what restructuring is.
And they campaigned on restructuring but some of us know having listened to the President in the past before he became president that he doesn’t believe in restructuring. He said that he will not even look at the 2014 National Conference and he was not going to do anything about it.