Biafra is not Igbo and Igbo is not Biafra
Many have been misled to believe that the defunct Republic of Biafra was another name for the Igbo ethnic group in Nigeria. This notion is totally untrue. The defunct Republic of Biafra was the name for the entire eastern region of Nigeria as at May 30, 1967, which comprised of 8 provinces namely: Port Harcourt province, Calabar province, Ogoja province, Abakaliki province, Enugu province, Onitsha province, Umuahia province, and Owerri province. Five out of these 8 provinces (Abakaliki, Enugu, Onitsha, Umuahia and Owerri) were/are homes for the Igbo ethnic group, while the remaining 3 provinces (Port Harcourt, Ogoja and Calabar) were/are homes for the Ijaw, Efik, Ibibio, Ikwere, Ogoni, and few other ethnic groups. The eastern region of Nigeria comprising of the above ethnic groups inhabiting the 8 provinces, was declared the Republic of Biafra on My 30, 1967.
When the northerners massacred about 30,000 innocent civilian easterner living in the north in July of 1966, the victims were not only Igbos. Many easterners from Ijaw, Efik, Ibibio, Ikwere, Ogoni, including Nigerians from the mid-west were among the victims of the pogrom. Easterners were the main target of the massacre by northerners. However, since Igbos were the dominant ethnic group in eastern Nigeria, majority of the victims of the July 1966 massacre in the north were therefore, the Igbos.
Easterners who escaped the massacre in the north, ran back to eastern region and became refugees. These refugees were not only Igbos but also people from other ethnic groups as mentioned above. Most of these refugees became homeless and were housed and fed in school buildings and other public properties all over the eastern region. Some of the refugees died during the war on the streets, market places and in school buildings where they were housed.
It was well understood at the beginning that the Republic of Biafra was the new name for the old eastern region of Nigeria. However, the Nigerian military government brilliantly succeeded in defining the Republic of Biafra to be another name for the Igbo nation. To achieve this, they quickly adopted the concept of “divide and conquer” in which they divided the eastern region into 3 states namely: River State for the Ijaw, Ikwere. Ogoni and other minor ethnic groups, Cross River State for the Efik, Ibibio and other minor ethnic groups and then East Central State for the Igbo ethnic group. The strategy worked very well for the Nigerian military government because it empowered the minority ethnic groups in eastern region and gave them autonomy so they could no longer see themselves as part of the new Republic of Biafra any more. The Nigerian military government installed a military governor for River State with head quarters in Port Harcourt, a military governor for Cross River State with head quarters in Calabar, and an administrator for East Central State with head quarters in Enugu. All these were created in 1967 to destabilize, disintegrate and disorganize the new Republic of Biafra and it worked brilliantly. With that major accomplishment, the war was safely and boldly proclaimed as Nigeria’s effort to crush Igbo rebellion in their attempt to grab Nigeria’s oil territory. The military government of Nigerian had succeeded in re-branding and re-defining the struggle for the survival of the easterners from total extinction, into the fight of the Igbos for Nigeria’s oil. And the world believed the propaganda.
The success of the 1967 Nigerian military propaganda in re-defining the Biafra struggle has led to some Igbo young people today still clamoring for the Republic of Biafra. They have been misguided into believing that Biafra is Igbo and Igbo is Biafra. They want Biafra back because they have been misled into believing that the Republic of Biafra was created for Igbos. This goes to show how strongly the power of propaganda can destroy posterity and produce generations of people who will be SINCERELY WRONG. The Nigerian military propaganda was so effective to the point that it almost erased the pioneering efforts of Igbos in the foundation of our country Nigeria. Nigerians who were born after 1970 have been taught distorted history of Nigerian which eliminates the major contributions made to Nigeria by people of the Igbo ethnic group. What do you expect? After every war, the victor writes the story to exult himself and re-writes history to cement his version of events on posterity. Nigerian military government was no different.
The Republic of Biafra is gone and she now dwells in the hearts and sacredly cherished by those who experienced and participated in the struggle. May the fighting souls of the those who died in the struggle rest in peace. May the soul of General Chikwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu rest in perfect peace.
Our new President was sworn in yesterday, May 29, 2015, in the person of General Buhari. Under the leadership of President Buhari, Nigeria has another chance to put her house in order and join the rest of the civilized countries in moving forward. I am tempted to say that President Buhari may be Nigeria’s last chance to clean house. I believe in Buhari’s strong credentials and capabilities in leading Nigeria out of decadence. I also I know that the Almighty God has control and He will not turn His back on the poor citizens of Nigeria.
I am asking all Nigerians to support and cooperate with Buhari’s administration in every way possible because this may be our last chance to salvage Nigeria. Those who did not support Buhari’s candidacy can now support his presidency for goodness sake and for posterity. Let it be Nigeria for all and all for Nigeria.
Dr. Mike Okeke