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Last Updated: Friday, 6 July 2007, 11:11 GMT 12:11 UK
Call for Biafra to leave Nigeria
Emeka Ojukwu
Emeka Ojukwu said he regretted the Biafran war
The Igbo people of south-eastern Nigeria have more reason than ever to seek independence, the leader of the region's 1960s separatist group says.

On the 40th anniversary of the start of the Biafran war, in which more than 1m died, Emeka Ojukwu told the BBC that Igbos were still marginalised.

He also said that 14m people in the region had been denied the right to vote in April's elections.

"The only alternative is a separate existence," Mr Ojukwu said.

But he said it would be possible for Nigeria to remain united.

What upsets the Igbo population is we are not equally Nigerian as the others
Emeka Ojukwu

"Give us a free and fair election - allow us to be fully part of Nigeria," he told the BBC's Network Africa programme.

Mr Ojukwu was a presidential candidate in the polls, coming sixth, with 155,000 votes, according to official results.

The elections, won by ruling party candidate Umaru Yar'Adua, were condemned by international observers as "not credible".

Cases of rigging were recorded in the south-east, as well as other parts of the country.

"What upsets the Igbo population is we are not equally Nigerian as the others," he said.

Such feelings led to Mr Ojukwu's declaration of independence on 30 May 1967.

Five weeks later the first shots were fired in the three-year war, in which more than 1m people died, mostly from hunger.

Mr Ojukwu said he regretted the war and the deaths but said he was proud that his people had fought back.




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