TREM’s presiding Bishop, Mike Okonkwo speaks on IPOB, S/East governors
The presiding Bishop of The Redeemed Evangelical Mission (TREM), Dr. Mike Okonkwo, is one cleric who rarely dabbles into political matters in the country but who does not mince words when he chooses to. Few days ago, he was his usual self when he spoke with select journalists, at the TREM headquarters in Lagos on the state of affairs in the country. He lambasted the governors of the Southeast states for losing the confidence of the people as well as condemned the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) for beating the drums of war in the Southeast.
On the question of his thoughts on the situation in the Southeast where there seems to be two governing authorities, the state governments on one side and the IPOB on the other side, as evidenced in the recent sit-at-homes ordered by the IPOB, which was obeyed by the residents despite a counter directive by the state governors?
He said, “Let me first say that the reason most people sit-at-home is not that they necessarily want to obey the IPOB, it is simply because they are afraid as IPOB will threaten them. They will tell you that if you do this, they will kill you or burn down your home. Who wants to be the scapegoat? So, I would rather stay away; I don’t want their trouble.
“The other day they sat at home, I saw somebody who was cooking in front of his house even though the streets were empty and they came and poured away what he was cooking. There were people who had their drinks on their corridors and they broke all of them. When you do that type of thing why do I want to come out? Does that mean that I am respecting your orders? No! It’s the threat to life that makes people to obey them.
“And that is what I have been saying; much as I know that the state governments have not played the way they should play; they are supposed to be the voice of the people and stand and address issues that have to do with them. The easterners have lost confidence in the governors; that is why they are looking for a new voice that will lead them.
“I am not a strong advocate of IPOB for one singular reason – one person cannot be the final authority in a thing. No other person can make any suggestion. If you make any suggestion you are under fire no matter how good your suggestion is. That’s wrong! It’s almost becoming a dictatorial issue. So, it’s difficult to accept that; one person cannot be the only custodian of an idea. And a lot of them who are jumping up and down did not see the Nigeria-Biafra war; they never saw it. I think that even Nnamdi Kanu was born after the war or during the war, so he was a boy who didn’t know anything.
“One of the songs they used to sing in those days was ‘Ojukwu give me gun let me go and kill Gowon.’ Is it easy? Gowon is still alive today. Let us be real; war is not a good experience. When the bombs begin to land, no one will tell you to run for your life. So, people don’t understand the implications of war; there will be no medication, no food and everything you have laboured for over the years will be lost. The implications of war are so much that you don’t want it. If you can have an alternative, no matter how long it takes, sitting down round the table and discussing your issues, is the best way.
“At the end of the war, easterners were given 20 pounds. I am a witness; I worked in a bank before the war. For Igbos to be able to bounce back to the dimension that they have been able to bounce back now is a miracle. Why do you want to destroy those things over night and start again? Why would you continue with a vicious cycle? It doesn’t make sense. It’s not being a coward; it’s being wise. Wisdom is better than weapons of war.
“So, for me, there is need for both the younger generations’ strength and the old men’s wisdom to meet together so that we will know which direction to go. You can’t just label any person who brings an idea contrary to yours a saboteur. How can I be a saboteur for advising you based on what I know about the way war goes? So, I think that the Southeast governments should win back the confidence of the people”.
When asked how they will do that, as the sit-at-home orders is said to be seriously threatening the economy of the Southeast?
Bishop Okonkwo replied, “I thought so myself that the instruction is counterproductive. I have asked myself how sitting at home on Mondays is beneficial to IPOB. Does that affect the Federal Government? It’s not their business; it’s not going to change anything. So, I’m still trying to understand how telling easterners who are basically traders to sit-at-home and do nothing on Mondays is beneficial to IPOB. At the end the Igbos are the losers.
“You see, that is why I keep harping on the need to do a massive enlightenment so that people can understand where they are coming from. This issue of I don’t want to hear, you must hear. When you listen to another argument that is more superior, you will be able to understand. But as at now, they are too violent; all they want to do is whatever Nnamdi Kanu says to them, whether we like it or not. When you tell them to sit down and hear the other side, they say no.
“So, I think the governments should still continue to try and see how they can get their people and say, ‘look, we are also seeing the obvious partiality against the Southeast, but at the same time, there is a better way to approach the situation”.
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