Mr Obi Uchechukwu, ad hoc secretary of the Igbo community in Finland, explains to VICTOR AYENI why the community issued a press statement condemning activities of Simon Ekpa, an Indigenous Peoples of Biafra leader in Finland
What is your stance regarding the Biafran agitation, and why did you dissociate the Igbo community in Finland from what Ekpa is espousing?
As you all know, many of us are in support of the agitation. We are all from Biafra. But what we are worried about is the modus operandi of Simon Ekpa. We all know that his style of agitation is very violent, and we want the best for our region, South-East Nigeria, and we don’t want bloodshed or any violence.
The rate of insecurity in South Eastern Nigeria is alarming, and we, the Igbo in Finland, have been receiving phone calls from various sources asking us what our stance is on Simon Ekpa’s activities. We thought it was high time the Igbo in Finland came together to know what our stance is, and we need to stand by it.
That press release was issued after we had a meeting on December 18, which Ekpa and his ‘autopiloters’ attended. It will surprise you to know that he now moves with his security personnel, who is armed with a gun, and before he could get to the venue of the meeting, our own security at the door asked him to drop the gun before they could get in, and it took him quite a while to comply. We knew that the meeting, if care wasn’t taken, could degenerate into violence, so the government here gave us papers, and we got our own security guards.
We asked him several questions bordering on his activities, and the reason why we even called for the meeting was because of his incessant orders like the sit-at-home, which Nnamdi Kanu had already cancelled, and also because of his constant pronouncement that there will not be any election in South Eastern Nigeria and no political gathering.
We were not okay with these two statements, and that is why we called for this meeting to ask him face-to-face if he meant what he was saying, and he told us vividly that he was not going to back down, that he would stand by his orders, and continue to issue the sit-at-home orders.
And we all know that whenever he issues the sit-at-home order from Finland here, all those criminal elements in Nigeria will use that opportunity to kill and attack people who defy his orders.
What was the outcome of that meeting? Were there back-and-forth arguments or scenarios that attempted to convince Ekpa to modify his methods or words?
The first meeting was held on Saturday, December 17, and it was a virtual (online) meeting, which I attended. Ekpa hosted the meeting, and we allowed him to do so, so that he would be at ease. He was asked several questions, and his answers weren’t convincing. That was why we decided to hold the physical meeting the following day.
Before then, Ekpa’s Indigenous People of Biafra commandant here in Finland, a man who goes by the name Clement Anyaegbu, made an audio message in which he ordered all the ‘autopiloters’ to come to the meeting venue to come and fight and destroy things and make sure that the meeting didn’t hold. I have all his audio messages with me and may even publish one.
In another leaked audio message by this same Anyaegbu, he mentioned some names of Igbo men here in Finland and said he would send their phone numbers to some people in Nigeria so that they could deal with them.
At the meeting, Ekpa was asked questions bordering on three major things: the sit-at-home order, no election in Biafraland, and the constant threats towards those who are against what they stand for.
According to a report, he stated that the five-day sit-at-home order he issued, which resulted in the loss of lives and property, was a test run and that before the presidential election, he will issue another sit-at-home order, which could be lengthy, and he insists that no election will take place in the entire south-eastern Nigeria. These did not go down well with all of us at the meeting that day.
I was taking the minutes as the ad hoc secretary, and the meeting almost degenerated into chaos. Then Ekpa left with all his followers, the ‘autopiloters.’ That was when the progressives now sat down and had our meeting, and we came up with this resolution in that press release.
Since the press statement was issued, there have been hateful comments from Ekpa’s followers, and many of them have been sharing photos of key members of your group in Finland on social media, labelling them as “saboteurs” and “criminals.” Have you received threats since the press release was issued? Are you concerned your lives could be in danger given that you share the same country with Simon and his followers?
Yes, my life is in danger. That picture being shared is mine, and they mentioned my name, and they even had the guts to include the name of my town in that picture, indicating that I’m the one who wrote and released the press statement. I have been seeing the pictures everywhere. I want it to be on record that I have reported this matter to the Finnish police. I have also filed criminal charges against Clement Anyaegbu and Simon Ekpa.
Several other people have done the same thing, and as I previously stated, there is an audio message in which Anyaegbu says he is going to deal with certain people whose names he mentioned. This is a big issue.
Yesterday, they released their own press release on their website to counter what we published, and they also included my photo and that of our chairman, Kingsley Orji. They also put our town and our real names, and you know what that means?
Fortunately, no media house in Nigeria published that nonsense. It was when I saw it that I went to the Finnish police to file criminal charges, and we have more things to come up in order to contain these guys here. My life is at risk.
Do you think these petitions to the Finnish government might affect the residential status of Nigerians in Finland as a result of this baffling issue?
I don’t think so because I am an influential person here, I’m already in the media, and I have never committed any crime in Finland, though I can’t speak for others.
But invariably, I don’t think it will affect us. I believe that the majority of us who are pushing this cause don’t have skeletons in our cupboards.
Has the Finnish consulate reached out to you, or have you reached out to them, to discuss these issues?
We have not. I think so because I also follow what is happening in Nigeria. The Berekete Family called the Finnish embassy in Nigeria about two or three weeks ago, and their anchor told the Finnish representative from the embassy that if they did not want to do anything about Simon Ekpa, he would lead a protest of angry Nigerians to the Finnish Embassy in Abuja so that Simon Ekpa could be brought to justice.
So as it stands, no one has reached me or the chairman, from the embassy or from the government, but we have our plans. You know, this press release is just the first thing that we have done to let Nigerians know our stance to dissociate and distance ourselves from Ekpa’s.
We also have other plans that we are going to carry out in the coming weeks that will get the attention of the Finnish government.
Do you think Ekpa could suffer the same fate as Nnamdi Kanu — extradited to Nigeria and charged with crimes against humanity?
I don’t know because, first of all, he’s a Finnish citizen like many of us. I don’t know how the Finnish law works in relation to that. Since we are from the same place, we have a voice, and like one of the guys who attended the meeting said, “It is only the Igbo in Finland that can make Ekpa stop what he’s doing, because we are here with him and we live in Finland legally.”
So, the government should hear us, know what the problem is, and investigate the matter.
Ekpa’s fundamental right to expression will not be breached, but he should calm down and scrutinise the impact of what he is doing. Many Igbo men who are in Nigeria now for Christmas couldn’t travel. They can’t cross the Niger Bridge from Asaba because of their fear of being killed by these guys in the South-East.