After 40 Years: MASSOB Relocates Biafran War Veterans
From VAL OKARA, Owerri
After 40 years the Nigerian-Biafran War ended, the Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) has started to rehabilitate the ex-Biafran war veterans who have been languishing at the Oji River camp in Enugu State.
MASSOB had embarked on a housing estate at its Okwe, Onuimo, Imo State headquarters to house the war veterans who were settled at the Oji River camp by the then East Central State Government in 1975.
The group has built 20 units of two-bedroom flats in an over 5,000 acres of land, which is directly opposite the Freedom House (Biafra House) in Okwe, the home town of the leader of the group, Chief Ralph Uwazuruike.
Thus when on January 14 this year the movement from Oji River to Okwe started, the ex-Biafran soldiers were highly excited.
Some of the beneficiaries of the houses who spoke to Daily Sun expressed gratitude to Chief Uwazuruike for providing them a new lease of life.
The owners of the acquired land for the estate, it was gathered have been adequately compensated except for three families who have gone to court.
A 73-year-old former Biafran soldier, Chief Israel Nwagbara from Obodun Ndoki in Ukwa East Local Government Area of Abia State told Daily Sun that they were taken to the Government Technical College (GTC) Enugu at the end of the Nigeria civil in 1970.
He said that they were relocated to Orji River Camp on July 29, 1975 and left there to their fate.
He said that prior to January 14, 2011 when they were relocated to Okwe Housing Estate they have been on the highways begging for alms to fend for themselves. The Biafran war veteran expressed gratitude to Chief Uwazuruike and urged other the well-to-do Igbo sons and daughters to support him.
The President of the Disabled Biafran War Veterans, Mr Lawrence Akpu from Mgbagbuwu in Enugu State and a father of six, said that he had no regret defending the Biafran territory.
According to him, if the opportunity comes up again, he will be ready to take up arms.
The 62-year-old ex-soldier who was a staff Sergeant during the war and had served at the 1st Demonstration Battalion of Biafra Army, Orlu said that he was injured on April 13, 1969 at Uzoakoli Sector in Abia State.
According to him, they (ex-Biafran war veterans) were forced to beg on the highways because of lack of care, adding that today they are full of praises to the MASSOB leader for providing them with decent accommodation.
Akpu said that he is currently disabled, but will continue to lend his support to young Igbo men to ensure the actualization of the Republic of Biafra.
His words: "I will continue to encourage our younger ones to ensure the actualization of the Republic of Biafra. I am ready to fight again for the survival of Biafra; and Nigeria should grant us freedom."
Speaking, the MASSOB leader, Uwazuruike, said that the purpose of setting up a housing estate for the wounded Biafran veterans was to give them a sense of belonging, saying that their labour to liberate Biafrans will not be in vain.
According to him, they fought for the survival of the majority of the Biafrans (Ndigbo), adding that "as long as the struggle for the actualization of the Biafra Republic continues, they are the heroes and ours start where their own stopped," disclosing that they did the construction of the housing estate to accommodate them and their families.
He said that the group has not received any dime from any foreign donor for the project or anybody within the country except dues paid by their members. "Nobody has contributed a dime to the project except MASSOB members who are paying their dues."
The MASSOB leader also disclosed that compensations have been paid to 28 families whose lands were acquired for the projects except three families who were in court.
Source: Sun, 30th March 2011.
Technological Path for Nigeria from the
Ashes of Biafra
By Japhet Alakam
It was another intellectual feast for Nigerians and the rest of the world as memories of the scientific and technological innovations made by the Biafrans during the tragic Nigerian civil war that happened over 44 years ago was relived as one of the major actors in the war, Dr Felix Oragwu, a Nuclear Physicist and the brain behind the Scientific and Technological innovations that sustained Biafra during the war years recounts the story of one of the fascinating aspects of the war in his new book, Scientific and Technological Innovations in Biafra, The Ogbunigwe Fame 1967-1970 which was presented to the public last week at the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs, (NIIA)Victoria Island.
The occasion which was graced by notable dignitaries ;especially some of the major players during the ill fated war afforded the people the opportunity to reminisce on the war and its aftermaths.
Speaking in his capacity as the Chairman of the occasion, Admiral Ndubuisi Kanu, former military Governor of old Imo State and Lagos State and member of the Supreme Military Council called on the Federal government to as a matter of urgency imbibe and absorb the surviving Biafran scientist and technologist that produced the series of technological and scientific innovations that sustained them during the thirty months civil war despite the adverse conditions in which they operated.
Failure of the leaders
Admiral Ndubuisi Kanu who pointed out that the issue is not an Igbo nor Nigeria affair, but a matter that goes beyond that, disclosed that the loss of Biafra robbed Africa of what could have been a World Power- technologically, economically, politically, and so on. And lamented that "it is most unfortunate that Nigeria could not imbibe and absorb any lesson from the scientific and technological innovations in Biafra. That is why, 50 years after, along with the underpinning problems of faulty foundational structure, the country can hardly generate electricity or refine crude oil."
Continuing, the Retired Navy Officer bemoaned Nigeria leaders for their failure to learn from the lessons of the war. " It is also unfortunate that Nigeria in real terms, did not learn anything from the war itself." Pointing out that virtually all the societal problems that led to the war are still present and have not been addressed.
The reviewer of the book, Dr Walter Ofonagoro who took time to reminisce over that war of attrition stated that war brings out the worst and best in history. He said that the book talks about how technological innovations can come out of people that were under pressure and therefore called on Nigerians to learn a lesson from that and apply it in order to achieve the Vision 2020.
Continuing, he added that the book should be a wake up call to Nigerians adding that , " some of the scientist that manufactured those weapons are still alive, they should be consulted and used before they pass on. Biafrans survived for 30 months because of the ingenuity of the likes of Felix Oragwu.." He said.
He also described the 130 pages book published by Fourth Dimensions Publishers, Enugu as a very useful addition to list of literature on the Nigeria/Biafran war and finally called on Nigerians to address the issues that led to the civil war instead of debating on which zone should produce the president.
On his part , the author of the book , Felix Oragwu stated that the book, Scientific and Technological Innovations in Biafra: The Ogbunigwe Fame, 1967-1970 is a documentation and appraisal of the technological feats and phenomenal achievements of scientists and engineers in Biafra without foreign support and or assistance in the production of modern technologies including unique military technologies such as Ogbunigwe, food and basic needs of the population and in the construction of economic development infrastructures such as energy, airports, crude petroleum refining plants, medicines among others which were unthinkable in Nigeria before the Civil War.
Continuing, he said that the book addresses two fundamental and very serious issues of concern to the development of Nigeria as a stable and competitive industrial nation. The first is what to do to establish National political cohesion, political stability, patriotism and pride in Nigeria so that all its citizens will be proud and happy to belong and be prepared to "die a little" to defend it in order to avoid a repeat of the type of the Civil War that almost tore the country apart between 1967-1970.
Path for development
The second issue, he noted, is what the post Civil War Nigeria should do in order to develop and use science and technology activities, in particular, S & T education, R&D, technology production and technology innovation, as was experienced in Biafra, to enable Nigeria reduce technology import dependence for the commanding tasks of her economy and to leapfrog into a competing World technology and industrial nation.
The book presentation was graced by notable dignitaries including; Ohanaeze chieftains, Ndi Igbo Lagos, scholars, political leaders, corporate executive and other notable faces at the events, including: Ambassador Ralph Uwechue, special guest of honour who was represented by Dr Sylvanus Ebigwe, President of Aka Ikenga, Chief G.C. Oranika, the book presenter represented by Chief Laz IIoka, Prof. Anya O. Anya, Deputy President of Ndi Igbo Lagos, Chief Oliver Akubueze, Rear Adimiral Alison Madueke, Gen. Philip Onyekwere, Captain August Okpe, Chief Ayo Opadakun, Igwe Laz Ekweme, Elder Umar Eleazu, Prof. J.O C. Ezeilo, Prof. Isaac Osisiogu, Prof Green Nwankwo and others.
Source: Vanguard, 11th March 2011.
44 Years after Ironsi, Igbo Named Army Chief
•Onovo removed as IG
•SSS gets new DG
From Kunle Akogun and Yemi Akinsuyi in Abuja, 09.09.2010
A new page in Nigeria's history was written yesterday as President Goodluck Jonathan appointed Major-General Onyeabo Azubike Ihejirika as the Chief of Army Staff.Ihejirika is the first Igbo to occupy the highly strategic military position since the end of the Civil War.
The last time an officer from the South-east occupied the position was 44 years ago. The late Major-General Johnson Thomas Umunnakwe Aguiyi-Ironsi was General Officer Commanding the Army (as Chief of Army Staff was then known) before he became head of state following the failed coup led by Major Kaduna Nzeogwu.
Ihejirika, a former General Officer Commanding 83, Division, Lagos, replaces Gen. Abdulrahman Dambazzau.Ihejirika is now in a position to become the first four-star General of Igbo extraction in the history of the Nigerian Army.
President Jonathan dropped all the service chiefs as well as the Inspector-General of Police and the Director-General of State Security Service (SSS).
Air Marshal Oluseyi Petinrin, former Chief of Air Staff, has been appointed the Chief of Defence Staff, replacing Air Chief Marshal Paul Dike.Rear Admiral O. S. Ibrahim, Flag Officer Commanding Western Naval Command replaces Admiral Ishaya Ibrahim as the Chief of Naval Staff while Air Vice Marshal M.D. Umar takes over from Petinrin as the Chief of Air Staff.
Assistant Inspector General of Police (AIG) Zone 9, Umuahia, Alhaji Hafiz Ringim, is the new Inspector General of Police. He takes over from Mr. Ogbonna Onovo.
Mr. Ita Ekpeyong, former SSS Director in Lagos, replaces Mr. Afakiriya Gadzama as the director general of the State Security Sservice (SSS).Ringim's elevation is expected to lead to the retirement of the six Deputy Inspector-Generals of Police (DIGs) who are all his seniors.
They are: Uba Ringim (Administration and Finance), Israel Ajao (Operations), John Ahmadu (CID), Declan Uzorma (Works), Olusegun Efuntayo (Training), and Udom Ekpo Udom (Research and Planning).
In a six-paragraph statement, the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Ima Niboro, said the appointments, which take immediate effect, "are however subject to the confirmation of the National Assembly, in line with the provision of the armed forces act section 18, Cap A20, laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria".
Niboro said Jonathan thanked the outgoing service chiefs, "whose tenure expired in August, for their loyalty and dedication to service. He particularly commended them for defending the Nigerian constitution at all times and for successful command of the armed forces during their tenure".
Since the current democratic dispensation in 1999, no service chief has spent more than two years in office, with the exception of former army chief Gen. Martin Agwai, who spent over two years.
The tenures of the former chiefs were said to have lapsed last month.A Defence source told THISDAY yesterday: "This is the first time a democratic government is following laid-down rules in the appointment of service chiefs. In the past, their names were announced and they assumed office without recourse to the National Assembly."
A Presidency source said the service chiefs had not been removed before now because the president believed there was no need.
"There were pressures on him to change the chiefs, but he insisted that he was on a joint ticket with the late President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua and would not remove anybody except it was absolutely necessary. Their tenures have expired now so there is no issue with that," he said.
Asked if the appointment of an Igbo as army chief would not be interpreted as a political move, he said: "The ethnic origin is of no significance to the president. We must accept that Nigeria belongs to us all. We must send the signals out clearly that there are no positions in the country that cannot be occupied by a particular person because of his or her ethnic origin."
Significantly, there is no service chief from the South-south where the president comes from, but an insider said it does not matter "because the biggest position in the land is already occupied by a person from that geo-political zone".
The removal of Onovo, THISDAY learnt, was not unconnected with the unchecked crime wave in the country, especially kidnapping.
His refusal to obey a court summons recently is also said to have irked the president who was said to have described the incident as an affront on the rule of law and an embarrassment to the government.
Source: This Day, 9th September 2010.
Igboman Heads Army 40 Yrs After Civil War
IYOBOSA UWUGIAREN, CHUKS OHUEGBE, GOLU TIMOTHY AND EMMANUEL IRIOGBE, ABUJA
As Jonathan fires service chiefs, Gadzama, Onovo || Appoints 6 govs as zonal campaign co-ordinators || Forty years after the end of the civil war fought by Dim Chukwemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu-led Republic of Biafra and General Yakubu Gowon-led Nigeria army, President Goodluck Jonathan yesterday appointed an Igbo man, Major-General Onyeabo Azubuike Ihejirika, from Ovim, Isuikwuato Local Government Area of Abia State to head the Nigeria Army.
Major-General Ihejirika was born on February 13, 1956 and was commissioned in the army on December 17, 1977. A fellow of Nigeria Institute of Quantity Surveyors, he was the Chief of Defence Logistic, Defence Headquarters before he assumed his new position.
In a surprise announcement, the president shocked all departments of security units in the country, when he also announced the sack of all the service chiefs, the director-general of the State Security Services (SSS) and the inspector-general of police, and appointed new ones to take over from them.
In the new appointments announced through a press statement by the presidential spokesman, Mr. Ima Niboro, the former Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Oluseyin Petinrin, took over from Air Chief Marshal Paul Dike as the new Chief of Defence Staff.
Major General Ihejirika took over from Lieutenant General Abdulrahaman Dambazzau.
The appointment of Ihejirika was last night viewed as the "end of the perceived marginalisation of Ndi-Igbo in the army," as he becomes the first man of Igbo extraction to head the army 40 years after the civil war.
Others appointed were Real Admiral Ola Saad Ibrahim, Chief of Naval Staff, and Air Vice Marshal Mohammed Umar, Chief of Air Staff.
Air Vice Marshal Umar was born in Kano Municipal Local Government Area of Kano State on June 20, 1955. He started his early education at Victory College Cairo, Egypt in 1963 before he proceeded to Sardauna Memorial College Kaduna from 1969 to 1973. He later attended Pivotal Teachers' College Kano in 1975 where he obtained the West African School Certificate and Grade 2 Teachers' certificates respectively. The senior officer was enlisted into the Nigerian Air Force in July 1976 as a member of Nigerian Defence Academy Short Service Course 12.
Air Vice Marshal Umar commenced his flying training on the Bulldog aircraft in January 1977 at the then Primary Flying Training Wing now 301 Flying Training School, Kaduna. Other courses attended include: Basic Flying Courses on the Jet Provosts 3 and 5 at RAF Linton-On-Ouse, Advance Flying Course at the Royal Air Force, Valley and DO-228 conversion course at 301 Flying Training School, Kaduna. He also attended HS125, Hawker 1000, Falcon 900 and B727 aircraft Conversion Courses. The senior officer is a qualified Flying Instructor with a total of 8175 flying hours. He took over from Vice Admiral Ishaku Ibrahim.
The Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Ogbonna Onovo and the Director-General of SSS, Mr. Afakriya Gadzama were also affected by the purge. For their replacements, Mr. Hafiz A. Ringim, an assistant inspector-general of police in Charge of Zone 9, Umuahia, has been directed to take over the Nigeria Police Force on acting capacity while Mr. Ita Ekpenyong is now the director-general of the SSS.
They were sacked after what looked like a valedictory meeting with the president at the villa yesterday morning, at the same time the weekly Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting, was going on with Vice-President Mohammed Namadi Sambo presiding.
According to Niboro, 'The appointments which take immediate effect are however subject to confirmation by the National Assembly, in line with the provisions of the Armed Forces Act, Section 18,cap A20, laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
He said the president thanked the outgoing service chiefs whose tenure expired in August, for their loyalty and dedication to service and specially commended them for defending the Nigeria constitution at all times and for successful command of the armed forces during their tenure.
This is the second consecutive time an air officer is heading the defence headquarters of the armed forces.
Meanwhile, sequel to President Jonathan's declaration to governors that he will run for the presidency in 2011 general election, six governors have been appointed campaign co-ordinators.
Besides the co-ordinators, the president who met with the governors on Tuesday in Abuja also appointed Senator Dalhatu Seriki Tafida as the director-general of the president's campaign organisation.
The governors who were appointed on zonal basis are: Ibrahim Shema of Katsina State (North-West), Isa Yuguda of Bauchi State (North-East), Gabriel Suswam of Benue State (North-Central), Gbenga Daniel of Ogun State (South-West), Liyel Imoke of Cross River State (South-South) and Martins Elechi of Ebonyi State (South-East).
President Jonathan is scheduled to flag-off his presidential campaign on the 18th of this month in Abuja.
Meanwhile, national chairman of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo has warned officers, especially state chairmen of the party at all levels, to desist from imposing candidates of their choice on the party and to stop making themselves campaign managers of aspirants .
Dr. Nwodo's warning came as he addressed a delegation of party members from Taraba State who have listed a number of allegations against the state chairman of the party.
A statement from the media aide to the national chairman, Ike Abonyi quoted him as saying that "as umpires in a game, leaders of the party must remain neutral."
"Don't close the door to any aspirants, give them equal attention, if you have interest hide it," Nwodo said.
He said that the national leadership of the party will deal ruthlessly with any state or ward official said to be campaigning for one candidate.
Nwodo said that neutrality is necessary for leaders of the party so as to give a sense of belonging to all members.
New Service Chiefs
• Chief of Defence Staff: Air Marshal Oluseyi Petinrin
• Chief of Army Staff: Maj-Gen. Azubuike Ihejirika
• Chief of Naval Staff: Vice-Admiral Ola Saad Ibrahim
• Chief of Air Staff: Air Vice Marshal Mohammed Umar
• Ag. IGP: Mr. Hafiz A. Ringim
• DG SSS: Mr. Ita Ekpenyong
Source: Leadership, 9th September 2010.
Civil war drew Nigeria 40 yrs back –Cleric
From OKEY SAMPSON, Aba
The Nigeria civil war of 1967 – 1970 has been described as one that drew the country 40 years back.
Rev. Chuks Alozie, head, media and publicity of Jubilee 2010 who stated this at the 2010 valedictory service of Abia State Polytechnic, Aba, said he was optimistic that after October 1, 2010 things would change for the better in the country.
He stressed the need for present political leaders to work hard to make up for the lost years.
"The civil war took 40 years of our independence. But after 1st of October this year, things would change. There must be a way out after the 50th anniversary celebration. Corruption must be stamped out in our national life," he said
Alozie advised Nigerian students to come out en masse and register in the forthcoming voters registration exercise, saying it was by so doing they would be able to vote in people who would steer the ship of the nation well.
Describing president Goodluck Jonathan as a jubilee president, the clergyman said it was the will of God that Jonathan would lead Nigeria into the jubilee and post-jubilee era and urged all to support him.
The rector of the polytechnic, Elder Alwell Onukaogu said the service which was held twice yearly, was a way of giving back to God what he has given staff and students of the institution.
"The service is also very important, aside thanking God, we use it to build up the students spiritually because we cannot teach them intellectually and forget their spiritual life"
He also used the occasion to inform of plans to start core engineering and informatics programmes in the institution by next academic year in addition to reconstruction of internal roads in the polytechnic.
Onukaogu commended students who brought honours to the institution in different fields and promised to always reward such students.
In a sermon entitled, "moral integrity the hallmark of patriotism'', the counselor of the polytechnic, Rev. Azu Oko lamented that despite the establishment of anti corruption agencies, corruption was waxing stronger and even assumed official dimension and urged political leaders to stand for justice.
" There are a lot of potentials in that bill when it is put into actions. we will benefit a lot from it" stressed the governor, disclosing that a committee will be set up soon to manager it.
Source: Daily Sun, 31st August 2010.
Remembering Biafra veterans
LAST week, the Biafra war veterans at Oji River, Enugu State, had reasons to smile.
They were remembered by no other people than their comrades at arm during the 30-month civil war, who were lucky not to have been maimed while the war lasted.
The Settlement meant for Biafra soldiers who were maimed during the war was established by the then Head of State, Gen. Yakubu Gowon, in 1975 at Oji River as part of his Rehabilitation, Reconciliation and Reconstruction (3Rs) programme, but after his government was toppled few weeks after the establishment of the Settlement, the place was allowed to collapse by successive governments.
So, for the veterans, the visit by their comrades gave them the opportunity to tell the world their plight.
The President of the Veterans, Mr. Lawrence Akpo, in a welcome address urged the ex- Biafra war lord, Ikemba Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu to prevail on governors of Southeast states to come to their rescue.
Akpo lamented that no Southeast governor has deemed it fit to visit them at Oji-River as part of solidarity either during their electioneering campaigns or even after.
He said that traditional rulers and politicians from the area equally have neglected them in spite of their lip-service that they love Igbo race, saying that nobody can claim to love Igbo race when they ignore the people who fought to sustain the interest of the race.
He commended their comrades for finding time to visit them, pleading with Ikemba Nnewi, Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu to prevail on South-east governors to come to their aid as some of their children are no longer attending school, while their health is further deteriorating for lack of proper attention.
Akpo commended the monthly allowances, provision of foodstuff by the leaders of the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) Chief Ralph Uwazuruike.
He also disclosed that Uwazuruike was on the final lapse of the rehabilitation programme for the veterans especially with permanent accommodation for them at Okwe in Onuimo Council Area of Imo State.
The visitors, who gave out clothes, food items and money were led by Col. Emma Ossai under the aegis of the War Veterans Social Welfare Association.
Presenting the items, Ossai equally restated that Chief Uwazuruike has completed a permanent home for them which would soon be commissioned.
He said there have been efforts to bring all the veterans under one umbrella for their common interest.
According to him, he was given the mandate by Ojukwu to bring the war veterans together and ensure that they were taken care of.
Source: The Nation, 22nd August 2010
Ekwueme Bemoans Nigeria-Biafra War
LEO ALIGWO and KALU OKWARA
Former Vice President, Dr. Alex Ekwueme has lamented the resort to war in resolving conflicts while describing the Nigeria-Biafra War as an exercise in futility.
He said this yesterday at the public presentation of a book – written by Captain August Okpe, at the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs (NIIA), Victoria Island, Lagos. He said it was wrong for brothers to take up arms against one another.
"From the book we can learn about futility of war especially among brothers," he said.
Dr. Ekwueme, who chaired the event recommended the book for everybody to read, saying he first met the author in 1968, when he was the director of planning of the Biafran Airforce while Okpe, a Squadron Leader later headed the Tactical Airforce Base at Uga in Anambra State.
Ekwueme, an architect said the first major job he did was redesigning of the Enugu Airport, a job that was given to him by the then Head of state, General Yakubu Gowon, when he visited the then Eastern Region to assess the damage done through the war.
According to him, millions of lives and property worth billions of Naira were destroyed as a result of the civil conflict. In addition, the people suffered socio-psychological and physical dislocations suffered during the war which commenced in 1967 and ended on January 12, 1970.
On the crisis rocking the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) of which he is the founding chairman, Ekwueme said: "There is no crisis in the PDP. We had the National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting Tuesday and everybody was there. "We passed a vote of confidence on the Acting President and the party's national leadership, including the national chairman."
He said PDP is a very big political party, but that does not mean there wouldn't be any difference of opinion, retorting, "There must be but the important thing is that such differences should be resolved through the party machinery and its constitution."
Asked what would be the fate of the 19 members of the PDP Reform Forum, Dr. Ekwueme who is a member of the Board of Trustees (BoT) of the PDP, said their suspension would last for one month as provided by their constitution, during which the affected members would be given the opportunity to defend themselves.
On the decision of the House of Representatives to vest the power of the appointment of the chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on the president, he said: "Throughout Nigeria's history, the chairman of the electoral body has always been appointed by the Executive (president)."
He said in 1993 when Nigeria had a very successful election, the chairman of the electoral body who conducted the election, Prof. Humphrey Nwosu was appointed by the president. People said the election he conducted was free and fair. "So, I do not believe that the problem is who appoints the INEC chairman but rather the person appointed has the capacity to assert the independence of the electoral body," he said.
"I think the two issues are-the independence of the electoral body and the ability of the person appointed to do the work dispassionately, objectively and must be reputable."
Reviewing the book, Sen. Uche Chukwumerije said although the book came out 40 years after the war, its ample store of revelations of hitherto unknown events made it one of the most comprehensive and objective accounts of the war so far published.
"is far larger and deeper than a tale of war and one service: a gifted story-teller, the author uses the vintage point of Biafran Airforce to knit together the essential happenings in virtually all sectors of the war theatre, including its political environment.
"The book is almost a full picture of Biafran seen through the clear lenses of a major actor," he said.
He said the book reminded people, the example of the self-reliant-efforts of Biafrans, of what the black man could be in the world if he had a little more self-confidence and self-exertion.
"It paints an inspiring portrait of the high potential of Biafran technology, Biafra imported virtually nothing. She was compelled by necessity to make her armoured cars, built her refineries, and distilled fuel, deviced alternatives to energy, equipped and turned rickety second world war airplanes into effective bombers," he said, while Nigeria conversely sank deeper into external dependence.
He said if Nigerians could learn the lessons of the civil war and cultivate the nation and make it a "plural political community, Nigeria would be the largest, strongest, most powerful black country in the world."
In his remarks, Okpe, while thanking the people said the title of the book was taken from one of the segments of the war, when he took what turned out to be the last flight that had to return to base when he saw the mass of Nigerian soldiers everywhere.
The occasion attracted prominent personalities like the former military Administrator of Imo and Lagos States respectively, in the defunct Babangida regime Rear Admiral Ndubuisi Kanu (rtd), the former Chairman, Presidential Task Force (PTF) on the liquidated Nigeria Airways, Air Vice Marshal A.D. Bello, Chief of Defence Staff, Paul Dike (represented by Air Vice Marshal J.O. Oshoniyi), Air Vice Marshal Adekunle Nyananyo (representing Chief of Air Staff), Governor Ikedi Ohakim (represented by Austin Otuekere) and Governor Peter Obi (represented by Chukwudum Nkemdiri).
Others are Prof. Laz Ekwueme, Navy Captain Alison Madueke, Dr. AB Orjiakor, Dr. Abel Ubeku, Chief Alex Akinyele, Chief C.N.C. Nweke, Chief Michael Adeojo, Willy Bruce, Captain Shuaibu Alfa, Goddy Uwazurike, and Chief Toyin Akeju (who represented Senator Bola Tinubu).
Source: Daily Champion, 29th April 2010.
Achebe Relives Civil War Experience in New Book
From Laolu Akande, New York
FORTY years after the end of the civil war, new insights regarding some of the controversial claims and counter-claims that have impacted the rhetoric and historical accounts of the war may emerge as Nigeria's internationally-acclaimed author, Prof. Chinua Achebe, is expected to release an autobiographical account of the war.
Entitled: Reflections on the Nigerian Civil War 1967-1970, a statement released yesterday by Achebe's U.S.-based medical doctor son, Dr. Chidi Achebe said the book, which he described as "a major opus" will be out later this year, 50 years after Nigeria's independence.
According to the statement, the book "will cover a chronological history of events that led to, occurred during, and took place immediately after one of the bloodiest wars in history that claimed about two million lives."
The statement added that because the work will be about Achebe's life "in the milieu of the tragedy, it will not be a strictly historical but autobiographical work. He envisions a book of over 300 pages."
Achebe's Things Fall Apart is a world class novel, which had attained several honours and recognitions, including being deemed as one of the leading books of the century about a decade ago at the end of the century. The book has also sold millions worldwide and translated into several foreign languages as well.
Achebe's new book is expected to provide new insights as it would be recalled that during the Nigerian Civil War between 1967-70, Achebe was actually in the Biafran government service, where he embarked on a number of missions for Biafra to Europe, Africa and the Americas before its fall.
Several accounts of the war have been recorded and Achebe's writing is sure to recreate some of the major themes of the war, even as some of the controversial fallouts of the conflict are still alive today, including the nationhood of Nigeria and the terms of a professed unity among the several ethnic nationalities.
Achebe's book may also re-ignite some of the controversies surrounding the role and actions of some Nigerian leaders during the war, including political leaders and military rulers.
According to the statement, previous writings of Achebe from and about this period have been in the form of short stories and anguished award winning poetry that reflect his deep personal disappointment with what Nigeria became after independence.
A chapter in the book would also be dedicated to the famous poet, Christopher Okigbo, with whom Achebe in 1967, co-founded a publishing company at Enugu. Christopher Okigbo was killed during the civil war.
The statement added that: "Many observers expect that this new book will be of immense universal literary, historical, and political significance. There are few Nigerian civilians more qualified to provide an insider's eye witness account of this conflict and many are waiting with bated breath to read Achebe's rendition of this war."
Source: The Guardian, 28th April 2010.
The Principles of the Biafran Revolution known
as The Ahiara Declaration.
PROUD AND COURAGEOUS BIAFRANS,
FELLOW COUNTRY MEN AND WOMEN,
I salute you. Today, as I look back over our two years as a sovereign and independent nation, I am overwhelmed with the feeling of pride and satisfaction in our performance and achievement as a people. Our indomitable will, our courage, our endurance of the severest privations, our resourcefulness and inventiveness in the face of tremendous odds and dangers, have become proverbial in a world so bereft of heroism, and have become a source of frustration to Nigeria and her foreign masters. For this and for the many miracles of our time, let us give thanks to Almighty God. I congratulate all Biafrans at home and abroad. I thank you all the part you have played and have continued to play in this struggle, for your devotion to the high ideals and principles on which this Republic was founded.
I thank you for your absolute commitment to the cause for which our youth are making daily, the supreme sacrifice, and a cause for which we all have been dispossessed, blockaded, bombarded, starved and massacred. I salute you for your tenacity of purpose and amazing steadfastness under siege.
I salute the memory of the many patriots who have laid down their lives in defence of our Fatherland. I salute the memory of all Biafrans - men, women and children - who died victims of the Nigerian crime of genocide. We shall never forget them. Please God, their sacrifice shall not be in vain. For the dead on the other side of this conflict, may their souls rest in peace. To our friends and well-wishers, to the growing band of men and women around the world who have, in spite of the vile propaganda mounted against us, identified themselves with the justice of our cause, in particular to our courageous friends, officers and staff of the Relief Agencies and humanitarian organisations, pilots who daily offer themselves in sacrifice that our people might be saved; to Governments, in particular Tanzania, Gabon, Ivory Coast, Zambia and Haiti. I give my warmest thanks and those of our entire people.
Fellow country men and women, for nearly two years we have been engaged in a war which threatens our people with total destruction. Our enemy has been unrelenting in his fury and has fought our defenceless people with a vast array of military hardware of a sophistication unknown to Africa. For two years we have withstood his assaults with nothing other than our stout hearts and bare hands. We have frustrated his diabolical intentions and have beaten his wicked mentors in their calculations and innovations. Shamelessly, our enemy has moved from deadline to deadline, seeking excuses justifying his failures to an ever credulous world. Today, I am happy and proud to report that, all the odds notwithstanding, the enemy, at great cost in lives and equipment, is nowhere near to his avowed objective.
In the Onitsha sector of the war, our gallant forces have kept the enemy confined in the town which they entered 15 months ago. Despite the fact that this sector has great strategic attraction for the vandal hordes, being a gate-way, as it is, to the now famous jungle strip of Biafra, and the scene of the bloodiest encounters of this war, it is significant that the enemy has made no gains throughout this long period.
In the Awka sector of the war, the story remains the same. The enemy is confined only to the highway between Enugu and Onitsha, not venturing north or south of that road.
In the Okigwe sector, from where the enemy made the thrust that brought him into Umuahia, the situation remains unchanged, with our troops making the entire enemy route from Okigwe to Umuahia no joy ride. In Umuahia town itself, fighting has continued in the township.
In the Ikot Ekpene, Azumini and Aba sectors of the war, the vandals, whilst maintaining their positions in Ikot Ekpene and Aba with our troops surrounding them, have continued to suffer heavy casualties in their attempt to hold firmly on to Azumini.
We now come to the Owerri/Port Harcourt sector. After the clearing of Owerri township and our rapid move towards Port Harcourt, our gallant forces are holding positions in Eleele town, in the outskirts of Igirita and forward of Omoku.
Across the Niger, the successes of our troops have been maintained despite numerous enemy counter-attacks. Our Navy has continued to support all operations along the Niger with good results. Our guerrillas have continued their magnificent work of harassing the enemy and giving him no respite on our soil. I salute them all.
In the air, the Biafran Air Force has made a most dramatic re-entry into the war, and in a brilliant series of raids has all but paralyzed the Nigerian Air Force. In four days' operations, eleven operational planes of the enemy were put of action, three control towers in Port Harcourt, Enugu and Benin were set ablaze, the Airport building in Enugu, and the numerous gun positions were knocked out. The refinery in Port Harcourt was set on fire. And, more recently, three days ago, the Ughelli Power Station was put out of action. The brilliance of this performance, the precision of the strike, the genius of target selection, have left Nigeria in a daze and her friends bewildered. Another way of looking at this is that in four days of operation, the Biafran Air Force has destroyed more military targets than what the Nigerian Air Force has been able to do for two years.
In cost, probably twice what the Nigerian air raids have cost us in military equipment and installations. The only superiority left in the record of achievement of the Nigerian Air Force is the number of civilians and civilian targets their cowardly raids have destroyed. Proud Biafrans, I have kept my promise.
Diplomatically, our friends have increased and have remained steadfast to our cause; and despite the rantings of our detractors, indications are that their support will continue.
At home, our sufferings have continued. Scarcity and want have remained our companions. Yet, with fortitude, we seem to have overcome th once imminent danger of mass starvation and can now look forward to a period after the rains of comparative plenty. Our efforts in the Land Army programme give visible signs all over our land of imminent victory in the war against want.
Fellow countrymen and women, the signs are auspicious, the future fills us with less foreboding. I am confident. With the initiative in war now in our own hands, we have turned the last bend in our race to self-realisation and are now set on the home straight in this our struggle. We must not flag. The tape is in sight. What we need now is a final burst of speed to breast the tape and secure the victory which will ensure for us, for all time, glory and honour, peace and progress.
Fellow compatriots, today, being our Thanksgiving Day, it is most appropriate that we pause awhile to take stock, to consider our past, our successes notwithstanding; to consider our future, our aspirations and our fears. For two long years we have been locked in mortal combat with an enemy unequalled in viciousness; for two long years, defenceless and weak, we have withstood without respite the concerted assault of a determined foe. We have fought alone, we have fought with honour, we have fought in the highest traditions of christian civilization. Yet, the very custodians of this civilization and our one-time mentors, are the very self-same monsters who have vowed to devour us.
Fellow Biafrans, I have for a long time thought about this our predicament - the attitude of the civilized world to this our conflict. The more I think about it the more I am convinced that our disability is racial. The root cause of our problem lies in the fact that we are black. If all the things that have happened to us had happened to another people who are not black, if other people who are not black had reacted in the way our people have reacted these two long years, the world's response would surely have been different.
In 1966, some 50,000 of us were slaughtered like cattle in Nigeria. In the course of this war, well over one million of us have been killed; yet the world is unimpressed and looks on in indifference. Last year, some blood-thirsty Nigerian troops for sport murdered the entire male population of a village. All the world did was to indulge in an academic argument whether the number was in hundreds or in thousands. Today, because a handful of white men collaborating with the enemy, fighting side by side with the enemy, were caught by our gallant troops, the entire world threatens to stop. For 18 white men, Europe is aroused. What have they said about our millions? 18 white men assisting the crime of genocide! What does Europe say about our murdered innocents? Have we not died enough? How many black dead make one missing white? Mathematicians, please answer me. Is it infinity?
Take another example. For two years we have been subjected to a total blockade. We all know how bitter, bloody and protracted the First and Second World Wars were. At no stage in those wars did the white belligerents carry out a total blockade of their fellow whites. In each case where a blockade was imposed, allowance was made for certain basic necessities of life in the interest of women, children and other non-combatants. Ours is the only example in recent history where a whole people have been so treated. What is it that makes our case different? Do we not have women, children and other non-combatants? Does the fact that they are black women, black children and black non-combatants make such a world of difference?
Nigeria embarked on a crime of genocide against our people by first mounting a total blockade against Biafra. To cover up their designs and deceive the black world, the white powers supporting Nigeria blame Biafrans for the continuation of the blockade and for the starvation and suffering which that entails. They uphold Nigerian proposals on relief which in any case they helped to formulate, as being "conciliatory" or "satisfactory" . Knowing that these proposals would give Nigeria further military advantage, and compromise the basic cause for which we have struggled for two years, they turn round to condemn us for rejecting them. They accepted the total blockade against us as a legitimate weapon of war because it suits them and because we are black. Had we been white the inhuman and cruel blockade would long have been lifted.
The mass deaths of our citizens resulting from starvation and indiscriminate air raids and large despoliation of towns and villages are a mere continuation of this crime. That Nigeria has received complete support from Britain should surprise no one. For Britain is a country whose history is replete with instances of genocide.
In my address to you on the occasion of the first anniversary of our independence, I touched on a number of issues relevant to our struggle and to our hope for a prosperous, just and happy society. I talked to you of the background to our struggle and on the visions and values which inspired us to found our own State.
THE MYTH ABOUT THE NEGRO
On this occasion of our second anniversary, I shall go further in the examination of the meaning and import of our revolution by discussing the wider issues involved and the character and structure of the new society we are determined and committed to build. Our enemies and their foreign sponsors have deliberately sought by false and ill-motivated propaganda to becloud the real issues which caused and still determine the course and character of our struggle. They have sought in various ways to dismiss our struggle as a tribal conflict. They have attributed it to the mad adventurism of a fictitious power-seeking clique anxious to carve out an empire to rule, dominate and exploit. But they have failed. Our cause is transparently just and no amount of propaganda can detract from it.
Our struggle has far-reaching significance. It is the latest recrudescence in our time of the age-old struggle of the black man for his full stature as man. We are the latest victims of a wicked collusion between the three traditional scourges of the black man - racism, Arab-Muslim expansionism and white economic imperialism. Playing a subsidiary role is Bolshevik Russia seeking for a place in the African sun. Our struggle is a total and vehement rejection of all those evils which blighted Nigeria, evils which were bound to lead to the disintegration of that ill-fated federation. Our struggle is not a mere resistance - that would be purely negative. It is a positive commitment to build a healthy, dynamic and progressive state, such as would be the pride of black men the world over.
For this reason, our struggle is a movement against racial prejudice, in particular against that tendency to regard the black man as culturally, morally, spiritually, intellectually, and physically inferior to the other two major races of the world - the yellow and the white races. This belief in the innate inferiority of the Negro and that his proper place in the world is that of the servant of the other races, has from early days coloured the attitude of the outside world to Negro problems. It still does today.
Not so long ago the fashion was to question the humanity of the Negro. Some white theorists attributed the creation to the Devil, others even identified the Devil as the first Negro. Later they derived the Negro from the accursed progeny of Ham. Nearer to us still in time, it became a topic for serious debate in learned circles in Europe whether the Negro was in fact a man; whether he had a soul; and if he had a soul, whether conversion to christianity could make any difference to his spiritual condition and destination. By the nineteenth century it had been reluctantly conceded that the Negro is in fact human, but a different kind of man, certainly not the same kind of man as the white. Pseudo-intellectual s went to work to prove that the Negro was a different kind of man from the white. They uncovered the abundant so-called anthropological evidence from archaelogy which "proved" to them conclusively that the Negro was no more the same kind of man as the European than a rat was a rabbit.
It is this myth about the Negro that still conditions the thinking and attitude of most white governments on all issues concerning black Africa and the black man; it explains the double standards which they apply to present-day world problems; it explains their stand on the whole question of independence and basic human rights for the black peoples of the world. These myths explain the stand of many of the world governments and organisations on our present struggle.
Our disagreement with the Nigerians arose in part from a conflict between two diametrically opposed conceptions of the end and purpose of the modern African state. It was, and still is, our firm conviction that a modern Negro African government worth the trust placed in it by the people, must build a progressive state that ensures the reign of social and economic justice, and of the rule of law. But the Nigerians, under the leadership of the Hausa-Fulani feudal aristocracy preferred anarchy and injustice.
Since in the thinking of many white powers a good, progressive and efficient government is good only for whites, our view was considered dangerous and pernicious: a point of view which explains but does not justify the blind support which these powers have given to uphold the Nigerian ideal of a corrupt, decadent and putrefying society. To them genocide is an appropriate answer to any group of black people who have the temerity to attempt to evolve their own social system.
When the Nigerians violated our basic human rights and liberties, we decided reluctantly but bravely to found our own state, to exercise our inalienable right to self-determination as our only remaining hope for survival as a people. Yet, because we are black, we are denied by the white powers the exercise of this right which they themselves have proclaimed inalienable. In our struggle we have learnt that the right of self-determination is inalienable, but only to the white man.
The right to self-determination was good for the Greeks in 1822, for the Belgians in 1830, and for the Central and Eastern Europeans and the Irish at the end of the First World War. Yet it is not good for Biafrans because we are black. When blacks claim that right, they are warned against dangers trumped up by the imperialists - "fragmentation" and "Balkanization" , as if the trouble with the Balkans is the result of the application of the principle of self-determination. Were the Balkans a healthier place before they emerged from the ruins of the Ottoman Empire? Those who sustained the Ottoman Empire considered it a European necessity, for its Eastern European provinces stood as a buffer between two ambitious and mutually antagonistic empires - the Russian and the Austrian. For the peace and repose of Europe, it therefore became a major cncern of European statesmen to preserve the integrity of that empire. But when it was discovered that Ottoman rule was not only corrupt, oppressive and unprogressive, but also stubbornly irreformable, the happiness and well-being of its white populations came to be considered paramount. So by 1918 the integrity of that ancient and sprawling empire had been sacrificed to the well-being of the Eastern Europeans. Fellow Biafrans, that was in the white world.
But what do we find here in Negro Africa? The Federation of Nigeria is today as corrupt, as unprogressive and as oppressive and irreformable as the Ottoman Empire was in Eastern Europe over a century ago. And in contrast, the Nigerian Federation in the form it was constituted by the British cannot by any stretch of imagination be considered an African necessity. Yet we are being forced to sacrifice our very existence as a people to the integrity of that ramshackle creation that has no justification either in history or in the freely expressed wishes of the people. What other reason for this can there be than the fact that we are black?
In 1966, 50,000 Biafrans - men, women and children - were massacred in cold blood in Nigeria. Since July 6, 1967, hundreds of Biafrans have been killed daily by shelling, bombing, strafing and starvation advised, organised and supervised by Anglo-Saxon Britain. None of these atrocities has raised enough stir in many European capitals. But on the few occasions when a single white man died in Africa, even where he was a convicted bandit like the notorious case in the Congo, all the diplomatic chanceries of the world have been astir.; the whole world has been shaken to its very foundations by the din of protest against the alleged atrocity and by the clamour for vengeance. This was the case when the Nigerian vandals turned their British-supplied rifles on white Red Cross workers in Okigwe. Recently this has been the case with the reported disappearance of some white oil technicians in the Republic of Benin. But when we are massacred in thousands, nobody cares, because we are black.
Fellow countrymen and women, the fact is that in spite of their open protestations to the contrary, the white peoples of the world are still far from accepting that what is good for them can also be good for blacks. The day they make this basic concession that day will the non-Anglo-Saxon nations tell Britain to her face that she is guilty of genocide against us; that day will they call a halt to this monstrous war.
Because the black man is considered inferior and servile to the white, he must accept his political, social and economic system and ideologies ready made from Europe, America or the Soviet Union. Within the confines of his nation he must accept a federation or confederation or unitary government if federation or confederation or unitary government suits the interests of his white masters; he must accept inept and unimaginative leadership because the contrary would hurt the interests of the master race; he must accept economic exploitation by alien commercial firms and companies because the whites benefit from it. Beyond the confines of his state, he must accept regional and continental organisations which provide a front for the manipulation of the imperialist powers; organisations which are therefore unable to respond to African problems in a truly African manner. For Africans to show a true independence is to ask for anathemization and total liquidation.
The Biafran struggle is, on another plane, a resistance to the Arab-Muslim expansionism which has menaced and ravaged the African continent for twelve centuries. As early as the first quarter of the seventh century, the Arabs, a people from the Near-East, evolved Islam not just as a religion but as a cover for their insatiable territorial ambitions. By the tenth century they had overrun and occupied, among other places, Egypt and North Africa. Had they stopped there, we would not today be faced with the wicked and unholy collusion we are fighting against. On the contrary, they cast their hungry and envious eyes across the Sahara on to the land of the Negroes.
Our Biafran ancestors remained immune from the Islamic contagion. From the middle years of the last century Christianity was established in our land. In this way we came to be a predominantly Christian people. We came to stand out as a non-Muslim island in a raging Islamic sea. Throughout the period of the ill-fated Nigerian experiment, the Muslims hoped to infiltrate Biafra by peaceful means and quiet propaganda, but failed. Then the late Ahmadu Bello, the Sarduana of Sokoto tried, by political and economic blackmail and terrorism, to convert Biafrans settled in Northern Nigeria to Islam. His hope was that these Biafrans on dispersion would then carry Islam to Biafra, and by so doing give the religion political control of the area. The crises which agitated the so-called independent Nigeria from 1962 gave these aggressive proselytisers the chance to try converting us by force.
It is now evident why the fanatic Arab-Muslim states like Algeria, Egypt and the Sudan have come out openly and massively to support and aid Nigeria in her present war of genocide against us. These states see militant Arabism as a powerful instrument for attaining power in the world.
Biafra is one of the few African states untainted by Islam. Therefore, to militant Arabism, Biafra is a stumbling block to their plan for controlling the whole continent. This control is fast becoming manifest in the Organisation of African Unity. On the question of the Middle East, the Sudanese crisis, in the war between Nigeria and Biafra, militant Arabism has succeeded in imposing its point of view through blackmail and bluster. It has threatened African leaders and governments with inciting their Muslim minorities to rebellion if the governments adopted an independent line on these questions. In this way an O.A.U that has not felt itself able to discuss the genocide in the Sudan and Biafra, an O.A.U. that has again and again advertised its ineptitude as a peace-maker, has rushed into open condemnation of Israel over the Middle East dispute. Indeed in recent times, by its performance, the O.A.U. might well be an Organisation of Arab Unity.
Our struggle, in an even more fundamental sense, is the culmination of the confrontation between Negro nationalism and white imperialism. It is a movement designed to ensure the realization of man's full stature in Africa.
Ever since the 15th century, the European world has treated the African continent as a field for exploitation. Their policies in Africa have for so long been determined to a very great extent by their greed for economic gain. For over three and half centuries, it suited them to transport and transplant millions of the flower of our manhood for the purpose of exploiting the Americas and the West Indies. They did so with no uneasiness of conscience. They justified this trade in men by reference to biblical passages violently torn out of context.
When it became no longer profitable to them to continue with the depopulation and uncontrolled spoilation of Negro Africa, their need of the moment became to exploit the natural resources of the continent, using Negro labour. In response to this need they evolved their informal empire in the 19th century under which they controlled and exploited Negro Africa through their missionaries and monopolist mercantile companies. As time went on they discarded the empire of informal sway as unsatisfactory and established the direct empire as the most effective means of exploiting our homeland. It was at this stage that with cynical imperturbability they carved up the African continent, and boxed up the native populations in artificial states designed purely to minister to white economic interests.
This brutal and unprecedented rape of a whole continent was a violent challenge to Negro self-respect. Not surprisingly, within half a century the theory and practice of empire ran into stiff opposition from Negro nationalism. In the face of the movement for Negro freedom the white imperialists changed tactics. They decided to install puppet African administrations to create the illusion of political independence, while retaining the control of the economy. And this they quickly did between 1957 and 1965. The direct empire was transformed into an indirect empire, that regime of fraud and exploitation which African nationalists aptly describe as Neo-Colonialism.
To God be all Glory!!
Biafra war: FG destroys 122 explosives in Imo
EMMA OGU, Owerri
About 122 landmines and other wartime explosive devices recovered from Imo State were Monday destroyed by the Federal Ministry of Defence under its humanitarian de-mining programme.
The destruction conducted at Army Range at the 34 Field Artillery Brigade, Obinze, by officials of the Federal Government de-mining consulting firm led by a bomb expert, Dr. Bala Yakubu, was witnessed by the Defence Minister Major-Gen Godwin Abbe and Governor Ikedi Ohakim of Imo State represented by the deputy, Dr. Ada Okwuonu.
Abbe restated Federal Government's determination to make land safe for the citizens, rehabilitate, renovate and resettle war affected areas.
He said under the de-mining programme of the Federal Government; all the unexploded ordinance and explosives of the Nigerian-Biafran War of 1967-1970 would be recovered and destroyed in the interest of humanity.
In his speech on the occasion, Ohakim said that with the destruction of the recovered explosives the state is now free of such dangerous objects which he said poses serious danger to the people even 40 years after the civil war.
On his part, Chief consultant of the humanitarian de-mining, Dr. Bala Yakubu said the stockpiled landmines recovered from Imo State were made up of conventional landmines, locally manufactured anti-personnel and anti-tank/vehicle landmines which were left over from the effect of the unfortunate 30-month civil war.
He said his group lost two staff in the 183 days it has taken risk to find and dig out the explosives pointing out that Imo turned out to habour the highest number of anti-personnel landmines, anti-tank mines and a very large number of unexploded ordinances compared to other states within the core Eastern region.
Yakubu said the position of the present Imo state in the civil war was very unique as the state saw the surrender that marked the end of the war while Owerri in particular changed hands between the Biafran and Nigerian troops.
"It was the nucleus of what I call the Ojukwu tactical circle, composed of the now dismantled Madonna circle 1-8 which was made up of Ojukwu's tactical command headquarters, logistic bases, hospitals etc. It was also where the armament manufacturing depot was located at the Aquinas Secondary School, Isiala Mbano. In that school we cleared anti-personnel landmines and anti-tank. Owerri today is the home of the first mine action center not only in Nigeria but the sub region," he said.
He also stated that his group within the period of their operation found the largest stockpile of locally manufactured weapons and stressed that if Nigeria could manufacture such weapons in the late sixties, then the country would have by now be competing with favourably with some of the countries she buys its defence needs from.
Yakubu therefore called on Abbe to work closely with the government of Imo state so that the manufacturers of the weapons could be traced and provided with enabling environment to continue with their researches in conjunction with the defence industries and other such industries in the country.
He said his group has cleared since July 2009 about 327 landmines and over 6000 unexploded ordinances across the states where the civil war was fought.
Source: Daily Champion, 17th March 2010.
My role in Nigeria-Biafra war —Gowon
RAYMOND GUKAS, Jos
Former military Head of State, Gen. Yakubu Gowon (rtd) has explained why he had to use military force to bring the Nigerian civil war of 1967 to an end.
He spoke yesterday in Jos the Plateau State capital while addressing the inaugural meeting of the peace building conference, put in place by the Institute of Governance and Peace.
He said: "Those who know me know that I have always been on the side of peaceful resolution of all conflicts. If you will recall as Head of State, I did all that was possible to secure a peaceful resolution of the Nigeria crises in the 2nd half of 1960. Unfortunately because of circumstances beyond my control, I had to use force to preserve the unity of our nation.
"I hereby declare my support for all peaceful means of resolving conflicts at all levels in the federation. I also support all peaceful means targeted at achieving peace in Jos and else where in the federation."
He added that he was delighted to be the chairman of the peace building conference and to be among eminent Nigerians assembled to find ways to arrest the cycle of violence in Jos Niger-Delta and Nigeria as a whole.
The conference which came a day after about 500 people lost their lives in an attack on Dogo Nahawa village by suspected Fulani herdsmen was attended by two other former President of Nigeria including Shehu Shagari and Chief Ernest Shonekan.
It was organised by the chief executive, Institute for Good Governance and Social Research (IGSR) Prof. Isawa Elaigu in collaboration with the United States Department for International Development (DFID) and supported by the Plateau State government.
Gowon said: "We are here basically to discuss the imperative of peace in Jos, the importance of peace in Nigeria as a whole, Jos and other trouble spots in Nigeria, the Niger Delta and eastern parts of Nigeria.
"The question is how did we get to where we are. There is too much insecurity of lives and properties in this country. We need to stop, analyze where we have come from, asses our strategies of moving forward and summon the political will to deal with it and forge ahead."
He said Plateau State is a microcosm of Nigeria and Jos has always been a metropolitan city with amiable weather and serene environment to calm ones nerve. This is why people of all ethnic, racial, religious and other divides have been leaving there in peace.
He pointed out that violence has now become a preferred technique of solving conflicts of inter-personal and inter-group relations.
"The serenity of Jos has evaporated while the cosmopolitan qualities stand threatened."
Shagari in his remarks said present leaders of this nation have failed to maintain the unity of the country fought for by past leaders.
Others who attended the conference include Senate President, David Mark, Chief Solomon Lar, Deputy Governor of Nassarawa, Bauchi State, representative of Sultan of Sokoto and Hon. Bistrus Kaze who represent the speaker of House of Representatives, Demaji Bankole and host of others.
Source: Daily Champion, 9th March 2010.
31 civil war EXPLOSIVES EXCAVATED IN A'IBOM
By Agency Reporter, Published: Tuesday, 9 Mar 2010
VOLUNTARY deminers claimed on Tuesday that they have excavated 31 live bombs in a primary school in Eket Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State.
While 15 81mm mortar bombs were excavated in Ikot Ebiyan, 16 of the same type of bombs were dug out in a primary school in Ikot Okudomo Okon in Eket.
The Eket Local Government Chairman, Mr. Emmanuel Udoh was said to have directed the humanitarian de-miners to scan the Government Primary School in Ikot Ebiyan for explosives.
A statement signed by the chief media officer of the Humanitarian Demining Team, Mr. Emeka Uhuegbu revealed that the demining equipment indicated the presence of explosives at the primary school's premises.
It pointed out that the headmistress of the school was immediately directed to evacuate the pupils to enable the deminers to detonate the bombs.
Some of the schools, where explosives were found since the de-miners came into the state, were said to have been used by the federal government troops and Biafran soldiers during the civil war that ended in 1970.
Source: Punch, 9th March 2010.
Agency Begins Destruction of Civil War Landmines
By Iniobong Ekponta
The Federal Government has contracted an agency to clear landmines left during the Civil War.
The agency, Inter-ministerial Committee on Humanitarian De-mining (ICHD), led by Dr. Bala Yakubu has assisted the Rivers State Government to rid the site of the ongoing construction of the ultra modern games village of the explosives.
The de-mining team has so far recovered 3,563 landmines and other explosive in Igwurrita Ale in Etche Local Government Area.
Governor Rotimi Amaechi appealed to them to rid the state of all explosive.
He said that would enable him take development to all nooks and crannies.
In Akwa Ibom, the team has recovered seven RPG 75mm bombs, 36 British made hand grenades and one locally made Ogbunigwe propellant device.
Besides, the team recovered 81mm mortar bombs in Enugu recently.
Other war relics recovered include a crashed jet fighter in Nsit Ubium Local Government Area .
Yakubu thanked Governor Godswill Akpabio for cooperating with the team and appealed to the people to report any area suspected to contain some explosive remnants of war.
Source: The Nation, 28th Feb 2010.
Civil war not against Ndigbo — Gowon
FORTY years after the Nigerian Civil War former Head of State, Gen. Yakubu Gowon, has said the war was not against Ndigbo but against those that wanted to destroy the country.
Gowon made the claim on Tuesday at the special presentation of the TV series entitled, "Nigeria: The Series" held at Terra Kulture, Victoria Island, Lagos.
He said, since the series is about telling the Nigerian story as it should be told it was pertinent to clear the air concerning the Nigerian civil war.
Gowon said the war was not to fight Ndigbo but to find a better way to settle the rift in the country then.
"Nigeria as a country would have been a failure if the Igbo race had been allowed to leave the country Nigeria because they have contributed immensely to the growth and development of this country," he said.
Gowon said it was high time Nigerians believed in their country and supported its project.
Also speaking at the event, former Vice-President, Alex Ekwueme described "Nigeria: The Series as an attempt by the producers to look at Nigeria from inside out.
He urged all to support and sponsor the project as it was telling the Nigerian story by Nigerians and with Nigerians in full participation.
Obi Asika, CEO Storm 360, executive producers of the series, said it would be tracking the development of Nigeria from 1860-1960, a time in the life of this country that many do not know about.
The series, when on air, will be run on the local television stations, international stations in America, Europe and Africa as the Nigerian story is a global one that connects a lot of people, places and continent.
Lloyd Weaver, TV series producer from Serengeti Network said that, the series is essentially the victorious struggle for independence and how Nigerians found a singular unity of purpose to be where we are today as a country."
The 13-episode series will take viewers on a journey through the lives, events, stories ad controversies that shaped the birth of Nigeria and enlighten, inform, uplift and entertain Nigerians both at home and in diaspora.
Representing the Minister of Information and Communication, Prof Dora Akunyili, CEO Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria (APCON), Alhaji Garba Bello said the project was timely especially as the ministry is leading the rebrand Nigeria project.
She said for too long Nigerians have left others to tell our stories and that it is time to tell our story ourselves while commending Storm 360 and Serengeti Network for taking the lead in that area.
Source: Daily Champion, 12th Feb 2010.
40 years after
• Igbo, Non-Igbo Relive Civil War Experiences
By IKENNA EMEWU (sunnewsonline.com)
How minutes fly into hours and days and later years is amazing. Many who saw and took part in the internecine and sanguinary war that tore the nation in shreds and still leaves its scars in the minds of a particular part of the country feel amazed that it is already 40 years since it wound to close.
Children born immediately after the war are already parents and have advanced into great minds and characters. But as the years add, the pains of the war fade because time is a healing balm.
Saturday Sun reasoned that 40 years is like a landmark on the war taking cognizance of the impacts it made in the history of the nation. From our interview sources, the history of Nigeria so far is one pivoted on that war of 30 months that cost the nation about two million lives and inflicted on its psyche an enduring gorge that has remained a borderline of disintegration of forces that should have united into a strong nation.
A participant on the Biafran side said: "A sharp knife was put at the middle of the nation's heart. The wound remains unhealed, but it has been covered by flesh over time giving the impression that it is no longer there. Every now and then, the sharp pains still remind the owner of the heart that the wound is still open and hurting. I feel for myself that I might not see the healing of the wound, which I witnessed its infliction. I participated in it. We saw extermination gazing us in the face and as human beings all we had left was to fight as means of survival. That we did and gallantly. I still remain proud that it was better and wiser we fought than fold our arms and watch the unrelenting mad crowd of killers reduce our number everyday because they were unrepentant."
There are thousands of the accounts of the war in every research step one takes. The books on our shelves, the sites on the World Wide Web (www) all narrate the war – causes, course and end. Regarding the prosecution and the methods applied, there could be variants according to the angle the narrator is coming from. But on the cause, the accounts agree that the January 15, 1966 coup brewed bad blood. That the July 1966 counter coup was worse and fallout of the earlier disturbances.
The earlier coup received ethnic coloration because of the pattern of killing. Most of the victims came from a part of the nation, while a part had no major victims. That the reprisal attack and decimation of soldiers of eastern Nigeria extraction by northern soldiers which started in Abeokuta on July 28, 1966 and culminated in another mass killing in Ikeja and later Kaduna the following day made the January coup a mere appetizer. While 15 persons were killed in January including the Prime Minister, Tafawa Balewa and Premier of Northern Region, Sir Ahmade Bello, 214 soldiers of South Eastern Nigeria fell to the firepower of the northern soldiers between July 28 and 29 in Abeokuta, Ikeja, Ibadan and Kaduna.
Of much interest in the January 15 coup is the role of Major Chukwuma Patrick Kaduna Nzeogwu who was reputed to be the leader of the five or nine majors that played the central role. The interest in Nzeogwu is the fact that he was an Igbo like most of the other majors. An account to disabuse the mind of history on the ethnic bias and dominance of the Igbo in the team said: "Igbo were the majority in the top ranks of the army then. So, it was not abnormal that the coupists were mainly Igbo soldiers."
Although Nzeogwu was of Igbo parents, he was born and bred in Kaduna and hence his name 'Kaduna'.
Max Siollun account from www.kwenu.com partly drawn from Frederick Forsyth book noted: "Some claim that Nzeogwu's participation in the January 1966 coup was part of a grand Igbo agenda to "dominate" the country. This argument overlooks the fact that Nzeogwu was an Igbo in name only. Nzeogwu was born in the Northern Region's capital of Kaduna to Igbo immigrant parents from the Mid-West Region. Such was his family's affinity to the city of Nzeogwu's birth that they and his military colleagues called him "Kaduna." When not in his army uniform he wore northern mufti and frequently referred to himself as "a northerner. Nzeogwu spoke fluent Hausa "like a native". In fact, his command of Hausa was better than his command of Igbo."
It was just two months after that raid in the army that led to the death of the Head of State Maj. Gen. JTU Aguiyi-Ironsi and the military governor of Western Nigeria, Col. Adekunle Fajuyi that the North staged the main blood cuddling massacre. If they felt pained about the assassination of their two prominent leaders in January, which was understandable, they also felt the killing of Ironsi, also a big shot from the East and over 200 others were not enough to assuage the feelings of revenge. They capped their vengeance with the mass genocide of close to 50,000 eastern civilians in the North between September and October 1966.
The killing, according to accounts, made over two million easterners residents in the North refugees. It was horrible reading historians who documented how headless bodies kept flowing down South from the North.
A wikipedia record noted that after the success of the counter coup that had 214 South East victims, the North had scored a vital point and had the feeling that they could go on with more killings at a time a man form their region was in charge, Lt. Col. Yakubu Gowon. The resultant effect was the massacre of the Igbo in two months. The casualty list is put between 30,000 and 50,000.
"In the aftermath of the counter coup, there were pogroms in the North where soldiers, officers and civilians were killed. It was estimated that more than 30,000 out of the 13 million people of Igbo ethnic origin lost their lives. This led to a large influx of refugees from the North, about 1.8 million heading to the south east.
Several peace accords especially the one held at Aburi, Ghana (the Aburi Accord) collapsed and the shooting war followed. When attempts like the Aburi Accord failed, Ojukwu regarded it as both a failure by Gowon to keep to the spirit of the agreement, and lack of integrity on the side of Nigeria military government in the negotiations toward a united Nigeria."
The book by Ambassador Raph Uwechue on the war recounted that the real reason Biafra through Ojukwu felt it should act to protect itself was Gowon's indifference and silence in the face of the killing of tens of thousands of easterners. While the eastern Nigeria government doled out £1m for the rehabilitation of the army of about two million refugees flowing down from the North after the pogrom Gowon dropped mere paltry £300,000 pounds which he said meant about two shillings and some few pens for each refugee. "At a time the council of Obas of the West were sympathetic of the carnage, Gowon in his silence endorsed the act. Self -defence was the only thing left for the East, and therefore the declaration of a state where its people would be safe since the federal government approved of their massacre."
On July 6, 1967, the war proper started. It commenced with what Gowon had called police action. But it later took a serious dimension when blockades were introduced and full military troops moved into the East from the North. "Biafra had no alternative but to find a way to defend itself from the advancing federal troops. That involved setting up an army in a hurry", as another account, recalled which went to war to defend the territory. "By the time the Biafran troops pushed far into the West region few months into hostilities, Gowon realized that he had to do something pretty fast. At this time, he employed full and brute force of indiscriminate blockade and bombing of civilian territories after the consent of Russia and Britain supplied it airplanes to bomb Biafran territories".
What happened in the 30 months of the war is not a story for a volume of a book.
It would come in volumes. And about over 50 accounts in books and on the internet contacted have varying details of callous and savage butchering of civilians, the seizure and freezing of accounts, raiding of towns to massacre civilians, assembling of natives for random shooting, starving of children to death and many other gory details. In piecemeal, Nigeria kept dropping and shrinking the expanse of Biafra until about Christmas of 1969 when it became so glaring that Biafra had lost the struggle. On January 10, 1970, Ojukwu, the Biafran leader escaped with his family members to Ivory Coast while three days after, the war was declared ended. It was on January 15 that Maj. Gen, Phillip Effiong handed over the documents of surrender to Nigeria.
On October 7, 1967, the federal troops had captured the heart of the Biafra territory through Murtala Mohammed, the same man who headed the cleansing of the Nigeria Army of Igbo officers three months earlier in Abeokuta and Lagos. He saw himself in Asaba, an Igbo territory across the Niger. There he committed what chroniclers called "class atrocity against mankind." His acts there would only equal the bestial horror Pol Pot of Cambodia staged against his people as head of government. All the reports of the Asaba genocide say Mohammed had summoned Asaba natives to the town square by threat and hook and separated the women from men.
While one account say Mohammed lowered his target to boys of six years, another said it was 10 years age limit. But the agreement in all accounts was that in a swift, he had ordered his soldiers to shoot and kill 500 Asaba natives in less than one hour. As if that was not enough, he proceeded to Onitsha with the same men and killed 300 worshippers in an Apostolic Church.
During the sitting of the Justice Chukwudifu Oputa Commission of Human Rights Violations in 2001, it was reported that in Abuja, the then head of State Gen. Gowon apologized for the atrocities committed during the war, including the Asaba Massacre.
But in the same commission, General Officer Commanding (GOC) Two Division of the Army during the civil war, Maj. Gen. Ibrahim Haruna said that he had no regret for the Asaba massacre in which over 500 Igbo men were killed by his troops. Haruna's statement was on October 10.
Wikipedia documents also noted that whereas the Nigeria side suffered a casualty of 200,000 soldiers and civilians, Biafra lost one million lives (among whom are civilians mostly and soldiers) But there are other sources that hold the Biafran territory lost not less than 2.5m lives in all.
After the war
When the war was called off, the Federal Government of Nigeria declared that there was no victor and no vanquished. The statement was meant to persuade the parties to come together back as a nation and forge ahead.
According to Mr. Ernie Onwumere who Saturday Sun spoke with, the statement was more of rhetoric than any meaningful pronouncement from a government meant to re-unite a war torn nation and bandage the wounds. "After the statement, I don't think any Nigerian that values the truth can say for certain that there were decisive steps to go beyond the words in mending fences.
"What brought Nigeria into coup and counter coup was the gross abuse of office by public office holders. We fought a bloody war, returned to sanity, yet the evil that drove us into killing each other has worsened. The government gets worse everyday and provocations still abound that may still lead to war but for caution and the lingering bad memory of the events of 44 to 40 years ago. I don't think Nigeria gained from that war otherwise we would have been a different nation that respects the rights and dignity of citizens and value our unity. So, I can say the 40 years post-civil war are years of provocation and reminders that the nation has no plans to move forward to development."
Source: Sun, 30th January 2010.
Nigerian Civil War: 40 Years After
By Sun News Publishing
It is forty years after the end of the Nigerian Civil War. The war, fought from 1967-1970,was between the breakaway Eastern Region (Biafra) and Nigeria. Millions of people perished in the conflict which was the most traumatic and devastating experience of the nation since regaining its independence from Britain in 1960.
At the end of hostilities on January 12, 1970, the then Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon, declared that there was no victor and no vanquished. But events immediately after the war, and later, have consistently proved beyond doubt that there was, indeed, a victor and a vanquished.
The way and manner the Gowon administration and subsequent administrations in Nigeria, whether military or civilian, have treated the Igbos in the Nigerian federation suggests that the claim that there was no vanquished in the war was mere lip service.
Gowon's post-war programme of 'Reconcilia- tion, Reconstruction and Rehabilitation' (3R's) was mere palliative.
It was not meant to relieve the Igbos of the hostilities and destruction occasioned by the most atrocious but avoidable human carnage in Africa. In the creation of states in Nigeria, the Igbos have been marginalized. Up till today, the South East geo-political zone is the only one with five states while others have six a piece and one zone, the North West, has seven states. Igbos are also short-changed in the distribution of Local Government Areas. Yet, nothing is being done by the Nigerian state to redress these anomalies. The property of Igbos confiscated under the guise of abandoned property, especially in Port Harcourt, was one of the haunting, unresolved issues of the Biafran war.
Forty years after the war, there has not been any concerted effort by the federal government to integrate the Igbos into the political, economic and social fabric of Nigeria. Politically and economically, the Igbos have been emasculated and rendered irrelevant in the nation's socio-economic power structure. A census of Nigerian heads of government illustrates this obvious historical fact.The indigenization programme that was executed after the war when Igbos had no financial muscle is a case in point. The policy to pay every Igbo twenty pounds irrespective of the amount he had in the bank before the war was a further demonstration of a policy to impoverish them.
Since the end of the war, there has been deliberate effort to exclude the Igbos from the commanding heights of the military, police, other para-military outfits, politics and the economy. Because of the war, there has been a conspiracy to deny the Igbos the presidency of Nigeria.
The Nigerian nation, which won the war, has not amply demonstrated equity and fairness in dealing with the various components that make up Nigeria, including those of the breakaway Biafra. Though, Nigeria won the battle, but the situation on the ground shows that it has not won the peace. The ghost of Biafra is still hovering over Nigeria. Forty long years after the war, the problems that led to the war are still extant and even multiplying with each passing day. Non-resolution of these problems have led to tension, militancy and restiveness in the polity. The frequent ethno-religious crises in Northern Nigeria and the militancy in the Niger Delta are veritable signposts and signals that all is not well with the entity called Nigeria. The existence of more separatist agitations are indications that our nationhood is daily being questioned.
It is now clear that the 1914 Lugardian experiment of founding a nation from many diverse and unwilling tribes has not been very successful. Its first baptism of fire was the Biafran war, which came barely six years after independence. So far, the nation has been faltering from one drift to another as exemplified by its absurdist power and revenue sharing formulae.
We cannot continue in this drift. The Nigerian nation should be conscious of the fact that no nation ever survives two civil wars. It is high time it started addressing all the issues that led to the Biafran war. The issues should never be overlooked. These include domination, marginalization, state and local government creation, religious fundamentalism, citizenship question, power sharing, resource control and true federalism. Glossing over them is like postponing the doomsday.
It is lamentable that Nigeria has not learnt any lessons from the war. We have not learnt enough lessons from the horrors of war and human losses. We lack fellow feeling and a sense of nationhood, and still operate from ethnic and religious prisms. It seems that our government does not value human lives, hence, frequent killings of Nigerians by fellow Nigerians in certain parts of Northern Nigeria under the guise of religion. Protection of lives has not become a priority. Our humanity is still under siege as lives and property remain insecure. Nigeria is behaving as if Biafra never existed. Continued silence on Biafra by subsequent Nigerian regimes does not help matters. The existence of the Movement for the Actualization of Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) indicates that there are still hangovers of the war. Nigerian children should be taught about the war. They need to know what caused it and what the government is doing to prevent another one.
It is unfortunate that Nigeria failed to tap the Biafran technological ingenuity that helped its resistance for three gruesome years of fratricidal war without external assistance. At the heat of the war, Biafrans invented weapons of mass destruction like Ogbunigwe and refined their own petroleum in make-shift refineries, among other innovative achievements. They built their own airport and radio communication systems.
No doubt, the remote cause of the war was economic. Without the prospect of oil in commercial quantity, the war would not have assumed the horrendous dimension it did. Forty years after the war, the oil bearing region is restive with militant agitations that border on resource control and self-determination. The oil factor is still a source of friction and doom to the nation. The way the Nigerian government prosecuted the war is part of our problem today as more power and resources are controlled by the highly unitarized federal government. The revenue sharing formula concentrates much revenue in the federal purse. All regimes since Gowon followed that pattern. It is still the same divide and rule tactics of yore that is in vogue. Yesterday, it was the Igbo; today it is the Niger Delta. Tomorrow, it might be another zone.
Since revenue sharing formula is at the root of our problem, it is high time this core issue was addressed. One way to do this is to go back to true federalism. We must free our federal system from unitary contagion inflicted upon it by the military. All indices point out that ours is not yet a nation. As we lament our failed hopes and squandered opportunities, we can still overcome these problems if we operate a truly federal system and allow each federating unit to control its resources and develop at its own pace. The new Nigeria of our dream must be built on justice and equity. Let us strive to do those things that can make us a real nation where patriotism reigns.
Source: Sun, 25th January 2010.
39-year secret: Untold story of Biafran chief pilot
BY LEO ALIGWO
Capt. August Okpe (rtd) is the ex-Biafran Chief Pilot. He also served the liquidated Nigeria Airways as Chief Pilot and later retired from active service as director Air Accident Investigation, Federal Ministry of Aviation. In this interview with Assistant Business Editor, LEO ALIGWO, Capt. Okpe takes a hard look at the events of the Nigeria/Biafra civil war. This is even as he prepares to launch his graphically illustrated 600-page book titled: The Last Flight My name is Captain August Okpe (rtd). I was born in Port Harcourt, I am from Imo State and I schooled at the Government College, Umuahia and several other institutions overseas, professional and academic. I am a widower and I have four grown-up children.
A Pilot Remembers the Air Force and the Biafran Air Attacks" thus focusing on the Nigeria/Biafra war. Please could you tell us what informed your decision to write this book at this particular time?
and some other contributions by very able writers, but the Nigeria/Biafra air war has not been covered and of course people like me that were involved in military aviation have to do something; and I finally wrote it.
How many pages does the book consist of and how long did it take you to write this?
It is difficult to give you an exact period as to how long it took me to write this 600-page book, but the important thing is that it is necessary to get it written. It is for posterity; what happened in the air war aspect of the conflict must not be forgotten, from the historical perspective and every other thing considered. People are still writing about the Second World War uptil now. At times people just wake up and remember some controversial aspects of the Second World War. That is over 60 years after the war, people are still writing about it. How about the Nigeria/Biafra war? Never mind it was a sub-regional war, but it was quite intensive, and devastating; even it affected every part of the world. The whole world was somehow directly or indirectly involved in the war. The freedom fighters, the fortune seekers, those who have political interest, countries that wanted to get Nigeria to involve them in fighting for them or supply of weapons, materials and ordinance. So, it is important to put it in historical perspective, eventually posterity will want to know or hear about what happened in the air, how the airplanes were sourced, who were the end users, traditional and of course the pilots how they flew the aircraft and the maintenance, the Nigerian indigenous. Some of them were mercenaries amongst other things. Most of these were covered in this book.
What motivated you into joining the Nigerian Airforce as a pilot?
It was just interest. I like the military and I like flying, so why not the two of them for the price of one? When we were in Government College, Umuahia, we also had a cadet corps, we trained as cadets. Of course that gives you the best idea of the military as a strong force. A lot of my colleagues from Government College Umuahia ended up in the army. I was the only one in the Air Force. So, it was out of military and aviation professional interest.
Do you think the decision of the Biafran soldiers to confront the Federal troops in gun battle was justified?
It is difficult to talk about justification or no justification. The situation at that material time required certain response from either of the sides, and what took place probably was the answer, but I still believe what Wiston Churchill said that there is no such thing as inevitable war and if war comes, it is only as a failure of human judgement.
How did you feel following the devastating effect after each air battle by pilots on both Nigerian and Biafran sides?
s aggression in the air was quite minimal but we did our best. At least, it was kind of defensive in nature, there was a lot of devastation when you consider market places that were bombed and destroyed. Somehow it was felt that everywhere was a military target. So, there were no boundaries. The Biafran Air Force, as limited as it was in material things did its best, but it was still not enough. So, whenever I came back from each operation, normally I was always grateful, every soldier is always grateful to God because I have to be alive to be able to fly again the next day. Every soldier, after a battle, knows that he is safe and ready for another battle.
Did you at any point in time feel like withdrawing from the battle and quitting the Airforce because of the limited resources at the disposal of the Biafran troops and shedding of innocent blood?
s speech; stating in part that in the name of humanity Gowon should urge his troops to halt because everybody was worried that if we were surrendering, we were going to usher in large scale bloodletting. Most of the times, most of us were not thinking of giving up because doing so would mean total annihilation. Not that we were fighting just to wear Nigeria down but we were only hoping that some day somehow some body would say enough is enough. For some reason, that was what really happened after three years, we then gave up because there was no point continuing. By that time Nigeria itself was really happy that we gave up.Their happiness was not room had been created for them to come and overrun us and kill us, but they were happy that we had more or less given a reasonable account of ourselves in our struggle. We must consider that the federal troops were good sportsmen to recognize that we had given a good account of ourselves as good fighters. The least they could do is to let us be.
Considering the lean resources at the disposal of the Biafran troops, was there any external assistance or donation in terms of equipment that enabled you and your colleagues sustain the fighting for the three years the war lasted?
I am restricting myself to the air aspect of it, in terms of procurement, from the source to the end users, amongst other things. Definitely, the French Government helped in procuring things in a covert manner. There were also some well wishers and organizations, not necessarily countries, the Portuguese helped. The Portuguese enhanced and facilitated assistance to the Biafran side in this direction. A lot of this is covered in the book. So when you read the book, you find it. There is a chapter on the Portuguese influence, the other one about the procurement of the mini-guns from Sweden and others.
at the end of the war? Did you feel like going back to the aircraft cock pit?
But Biafra capitulated. The issue of continuing the war was out of the question. Gowon made that statement when he was addressing Nigerians and ex-Biafrans; that nobody should go bluffing and beating his chest to the effect that he has defeated the other person and that no person must not go with head bowed in shame that he lost the war. The important thing is that brothers were fighting brothers, and when they ended their conflict, they are friends and get back home as siblings as one should normally do. That is it.
was a message, clear-cut, unambiguous to all and sundry that nobody went taking advantage of the other party.
s decision to fly out of the country to Ivory Coast at the end of war as an act of cowardice?
t know. But his decision to leave the country was in the best interest of the people. I think so.
Generally, Ojukwu is a man you know very well. How would you describe him as a person and a soldier?
Well, he was my former Commander-in-Chief and he persevered in the war. He did his best. Every good leader has his good deeds and misdeeds. Some of them, it is only left for posterity to judge, some of his actions helped. He was quite tenacious. He had warned right from the beginning that it was not going to be easy.
t the case. The council of the elders, women societies, the whole lot of them, all moved in favour of secession and Ojukwu warned that the consequences were going to be dire.
t getting any cooperation from Lagos and they (Lagos) were reneging on all agreements.)
I am surprised that people said that Ojukwu talked us into the war. He was reluctant to set up Biafra the way he was directed, and he persevered even on personal issues and other things. He denied all sorts of stories and gossip about any Head of State, but we are not here to talk about that. You must also consider that at times, some of his town people tried to take advantage of him,some of which he resisted and some of which he unfortunately conceded to.
Do you think that the major purpose of the war was achieved, because Gowon said the war was fought to keep the nation one, but the prevailing peace and unity is still debatable?
t it? Nigeria is one. That was the purpose. It has been achieved.
But certain factors such as politics, ethnicity and religion have continued to divide us, hence people seem to have lost faith in the federal character. In other words, people are still saying we are not united.
t even believe that it is happening in your own country. Right now, I cannot tell you what will be the end result, but I think these things can be procedurally sorted out by the Federal Government in good time. It should try to sort out the differences so that people might not turn around and say I told you so, now look at what is happening.
As an experienced aircraft pilot and a veteran air accident investigator, do you think the problems posed by the agitations of the various ethnic militias could be solved through the use of arms?
t want breakfast last night, not several hours ago.
s problems and forget their own individual returns. They should not think of how it affects their own region but how it affects Nigeria. Just like late U.S. President John F. Kennedy who said "it is not what the country can do for you but what you can do for the country."
The Federal Government had in a bid to save lives and reward excellence and meritorious service, granted amnesty to ex-Biafran soldiers. Are you among the lucky beneficiaries?
After the war, the former armed forces personnel who participated in the war were incarcerated and then they had to get processed. There was a military tribunal after which some of us got various terms of imprisonment, some were recalled, some were either discharged or dismissed outright. So, virtually everybody has now received presidential pardon and were given a back pay i.e. right from 1970, and we are back on pension.
Presently, I hold a Nigerian Airforce identity card as a pensioner. I now receive monthly pension stipend from the Nigerian Airforce. So, we are happy about it.
What would you regard as your saddest period during the civil war?
t remember; every time it was sad anyway. There is no war that is a happy war.
What would you like to be remembered for, having served Nigeria in various capacities and retired from active service?
I would like to be remembered as a good officer of the Airforce, good pilot from both the Air Force, civil aviation point of view and a very good accident investigator, who investigated accidents for the Nigeria Airforce and the civil aviation during my tenure.
In your view as a veteran safety personnel and experienced air accident investigator, do you think that some of the accidents or air mishaps that occurred in the past in which you were involved in the investigation could have been prevented?
Most accidents are preventable. When you go through the accident investigation reports, you find that either it is human factor, environmental factor or the equipment factor that was responsible for the accident. These three headings are normally responsible for the accident. Quite a lot of them including the type of environment or a combination of a lot of them gave rise to most of the accidents. Environment, i.e. the type of communications equipment that are ground-based and also the human factor, i.e. where the pilot decides against all odds to press on with the flight when he should not do. These are some of the reasons. But we should be more cautious. It is not a very good thing for us to have so many accidents before we become more careful.
Do you think that Nigerian is now better positioned in the area of installation of flight safety equipment in her operational airports?
s airports to secure lives and property and the results are evident.
t turn your back on a course because, when something goes wrong, it could be your father or your uncle that may be badly affected. When an accident happens in a community like ours, Nigeria is just one little community, everybody is affected. So why can we not worry about it?
As a professional who has seen it all, how would you compare the military and Civil aviation?
t see how you can compare the military aviation complex with a civil aviation organization. So, there is no comparison.
Why do you say there is no comparison, having retired from the Airforce and crossed over to Nigeria Airways to pilot civil airplanes?
The commonality is that both the military passenger, troop carriers, jets, helicopters and other equipment available, where do you compare a fighter jet with a civil aircraft? There is no basis at all. But the important thing there is the need for safety. Since both use the airspace on a joint user programme. Most of our airports are joint user like Markurdi and, joint user airplanes and so, both parties must relate to each other in manner to ensure the safe and expeditious flow of air traffic and safety most importantly. We are not comparing them because they function differently. The airforce is for the military while the civil aviation is for passenger load carrying, hiring and reward and other things in contrast to military aviation. You have fighter jets and bombers and other aircraft types in the Airforce fleet of aircraft. They carry bombs, and other weapons. But in terms of administration both sides are corporate, whether it is uniformed organization or the other. They are run in the same manner except with different methodology and philosophy.
Considering your experience in Nigeria Airways, do you think the government has any business running an airline?
t really do too well because of the bureaucracy and many other things involved. It is just that government does not bribe; it does not give incentives, and it does not give bonus. Government is immovable. It has no face. It is just a system. Nigeria Airways cannot give unnecessary bonus to Travel Agents like the privately owned airlines. It is not a good thing because government cannot perform market economy.
In fact, government does not necessarily make profit, or must not be seen trying to do every thing it can to make profit, but it regulates things and gets the system working. It is the industrial complex in its system that feeds the government. You run an airline, you are busy making money and some permanent secretaries in the ministries are calling for that aircraft to be used for some thing else, and then you abandon the passengers. Do you think you want to go back to that airline at the end of the day? So there are so many reasons why government cannot easily run an airline. It is not easy, it is not fluent. Airlines now are so competitive, the worst is that the September 11, 2001 disaster in the U.S. had made things so expensive. For example, look at British Airways, the airline is doing remarkably well since it went private, it started to make profit, and I believe most of these private airlines make profit as well.
But Nigeria Airways was all the time going down. May be it was justified. Government can only create avenues and enhanced resources for the airlines to grow so that it will at the end benefit from it, just like government keeps the roads going. If government does not maintain the roads, the private vehicles will be spoilt and it goes back to the government because individuals are spending more money to import spare parts and other items. So the very thing government is avoiding is what it gains in not spending money to build the roads is more than lost in the revenue that comes from users. This is what we must look at.
Nigeria is 49. Do you think that in the area of aviation the government has done well?
s necessary because of the spate of accidents that were happening. It was so embarrassing and aviation accidents are so painful and expensive in human resources and material. The sooner we stopped it, the better for us. It even does damage to visitors, tourists and our travelers.
Even if they come in and the big jets are flying, they would rather prefer to go by road to the provinces. I am glad that it is now something of the past. So, on the safety aspect so far, I am happy because I am a safety expert.
Source: Daily Champion, 3rd October 2009.
NIGERIA'S POST-CIVIL WAR RECONCILIATION
Imagine if the Israeli Prime Minister hired a former PLO fighter as his personal pilot. Or if the president of the United States allowed a Russian to be his personal chauffeur at the height of the Cold War. Sounds surreal? Yet that is precisely what happened in Nigeria several decades ago when then head of state General Gowon hired an Igbo air force officer who formerly fought for Biafra as one of his presidential pilots.
Nigerians are an opinionated and self-critical bunch. Dinner and beer parlour conversations among Nigerians almost inevitably turn to the country's underwhelming accomplishments and disastrous mismanagement. Self-flagellation is a national obsession. Despite our penchant for voicing our opinion when it comes to national failures, we suddenly become reticent when it comes to recognizing our national accomplishments. This is puzzling as one of our most impressive accomplishments is a reconciliation that is unprecedented in modern history.
THE BROTHERS' WAR
Thursday January 15, 2009 marked the 39th anniversary of the end of the Nigerian civil war. *On that day in Dodan Barracks, a brutal 920-day civil war ended as former colleagues and combatants who had engaged each other in bitter warfare for over two and a half years embraced each other with unprecedented speech and warmth. They ended a war wracked by famine, starving children, one million corpses, and violence and suffering of such an intensely grotesque magnitude that the words "pogrom" and "Kwashiorkor" were introduced into the standard Nigerian vocabulary.
NO NUREMBERG TRIALS, NO MEDALS
wholesale massacre. However the leader of the victorious army refused to proclaim victory, declared a general amnesty for all those who fought against him, invited members of the defeated side to join his administration, refused to conduct trials of, or execute the defeated, and refused to award medals to his own soldiers who had fought the war for years. He even allowed some members of the enemy's army to join his own army. For their part, Igbos quietly accepted their new fate in a united Nigeria, went back to their farms and businesses, and rebuilt their destroyed homes without any thoughts of sabotage or guerilla warfare. All this happened without a United Nations resolution or peacekeeping force, international peace plans and conferences, or the protracted years long negotiations that it normally takes to resolve modern conflicts. Nigerians decided for themselves that they had seen enough bloodshed and that they wanted a war free future for their children.
When the war ended, the Igbos grimly expected that their defeat would be followed by their
The war also ironically dissolved some of the negative stereotypes the combatants held about each other, and enhanced their mutual respect for each other. Igbos won admiration from the federal side for the tenacity, iron will, and incredible improvisation with which they fought the war. The federal side won the Igbos' respect for their magnanimity in victory. Although pockets of bitterness remain (particularly over the emotional issue of properties abandoned by Igbos who fled for their safety, but which were illegally appropriated by other communities), it is undoubted that Nigeria's remarkable reconciliation is rivaled in the modern era only by black South Africans' forgiveness of their former oppressors.
AN ACHIEVEMENT MATCHED BY FEW OTHERS
42 years after United Nations resolutions called for them to cease hostilities, the Israelis and Arabs are still at each other's throats. 14 years after the Rwandan civil war, the government is still carrying out war crimes trials. However, a remarkably sober pragmatism rose from the blood, fire and ashes of the Nigerian civil war. It taught the combatants an unforgettable lesson in the evils of ethnic rivalry. The bitter memory of the war means that Nigeria stumbles through and survives the sorts of crises that cause war and disintegration in other countries, such as June 12, Sharia, military coups, ethnic violence, and resource control.
When an election was annulled in Algeria in 1991, it plunged Algeria into a decade long civil war in which up to 200,000 people died and terrorism linked to the event was exported to France. When an election was annulled in Nigeria two years later, the winner of the election said he abhorred violence and urged the public to protest peacefully. The former combatants now live, work, and intermarry with each other as if the war never happened. Yet the civil war literature rarely discusses this most remarkable and impressive aspect of the war: the humanity with which Nigerians and Biafrans forgave each other, laid down their arms and got on with their lives. Why was this remarkable reconciliation possible?
GENERAL GOWON: THE HEALER OF NIGERIAN WOUNDS
defeated foes. He did so against the urgings of his own colleagues who wanted brutal punishment to be meted out to Igbos. Even as the war raged, Gowon repeatedly declared that "We do not take the Igbos as our enemies; they are our brothers."
This reconciliation was possible due largely to one pivotal figure: the then Nigerian head of state Yakubu "Jack" Gowon. It was he who insisted that Igbos should be treated as prodigal sons, rather than
When he became head of state after the two bloody military coups of 1966, he initially seemed totally unsuitable for the job of ruling one of the most unruly populations on Earth. He did not have the oratorical gifts of Ojukwu, the erudition of Awolowo, the stature of the Sardauna, or the imposing physicality of Aguiyi-Ironsi. Yet he remained the only officer acceptable to the majority of the population and army. Why?
"JACK THE BOY SCOUT"
Gowon was a humble, soft-spoken infantry soldier who trained at the world's most elite military academy, yet had an oxymoronic distaste for unnecessary bloodshed. It was as if his background and origin were deliberately woven from Nigeria's intricate ethnic matrix to ensure balance between the north and south. Gowon was that rarest of Nigerians: acceptable to the north and south. Gowon was from the north, yet practised the religion of the south. He was a Nigerian PR man's dream. His surname was even used as an acronym calling for Nigerian unity: "Go On With One Nigeria". The bachelor son of a Methodist minister, he did not drink, smoke or curse. He seemed so impossibly innocent and naïve that some foreign correspondents nicknamed him "Jack the Boy Scout". The name was not fanciful. On one occasion he apologised to reporters for using the word "hell".
Former Biafran officer Ben Gbulie admitted that Gowon's forgiveness would probably not have been reciprocated had Biafra won the war. Gbulie said "Probably if we had won the war, we would have shot him." Scant attention has been paid to why Gowon chose this remarkable path of reconciliation. Many factors were at play. As a minister's son, he was a genuine Christian, and his humane approach to Igbos may also have been borne of the fact that at the time the crisis erupted, Gowon had an Igbo girlfriend named Edith Ike, whom he expected to marry (he eventually married a nurse named Victoria Zakari). Gowon's mistake was that at the war's end, he did not realise that his job was done. Had he stepped down at the end of the war, he would have maintained his prestige as Nigeria's Lincoln.
Commenting on Nigeria's reconciliation, a European observed that:
"when history takes a longer view of Nigeria's war it will be shown that while the black man has little to teach us about making war he has a real contribution to offer in making peace." (St Jorre – The Brothers' War)
*The official members of the Biafran and federal delegations who attended the formal war ending ceremony at Dodan Barracks on January 15, 1970 were:
- Major-General Phillip Effiong – Officer Administering the Republic of Biafra
- Sir Louis Mbafeno – Chief Justice of Biafra
- Matthew Mbu – Biafran Foreign Minister
- Brigadier Patrick Amadi – Biafran Army
- Colonel Patrick Anwunah – Chief of Logistics and Principal Staff Officer to Ojukwu
- Colonel David Ogunewe – Military Adviser to Ojukwu
- Patrick Okeke – Inspector-General of Biafran Police
Federal Military Government Delegation:-
- Major-General Yakubu Gowon – Nigerian Head of State
- Obafemi Awolowo – Deputy Chairman, Supreme Military Council
- Brigadier Emmanuel Ekpo – Chief of Staff, Supreme Headquarters
- Brigadier Hassan Katsina – Chief of Staff, Nigerian Army
- Brigadier Emmanuel Ikwue – Chief of Air Staff
- Rear-Admiral Joseph Wey – Chief of Naval Staff
- Dr Taslim Elias – Attorney-General
- H.E.A. Ejueyitchie – Secretary to the Federal Military Government
- Anthony Enahoro – Commissioner for Information
- The Military Governors of the 12 states: , Ukpabi Asika, Audu Bako, David Bamigboye, Alfred Diete-Spiff, Jacob Esuene, Usman Faruk, Joseph Gomwalk, Mobolaji Johnson, Abba Kyari, Samuel Ogbemudia, Oluwole Rotimi, Musa Usman.
How Civil War lessons can benefit all Nigerians,
by Ralph Uwechue
Chief Ralph Uwechue, then only 33 years old, had just been posted as Nigerian envoy to France when the 1966 coup took place. When the Civil War started, he hooked up with the Biafran side only to shift to the Federal side because of his strong belief in Nigeria's unity. Currently the President-General-elect of the apex Igbo socio-cultural organization, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Uwechue who attended the famous St. John's College, Kaduna, Major Kaduna Nzeogwu's alma mater, said as a Nigerian patriot, he only joined to the rebel cause because of the need for Igbo to protect themselves within Nigeria but backed out when he realised that Ojukwu wanted full independence. He spoke to HENDRIX OLIOMOGBE in Ogwashi-Ukwu, Delta State. Excerpts:
THIRTY-NINE years after the Nigerian civil war, what do you have to say about the conflict?
I was already in France, Paris when the war started. I opened our Embassy there. Nigeria and France had problems in 1960 when we had our independence over the testing of Atomic Bomb in what was then known as the Algerian Sahara. Nigeria didn't like the idea and so we broke off diplomatic relations. Then French President Charles de Gaulle didn't like the way we treated him. For nearly six years, there was no relation between Nigeria and France. When the matter was settled in 1966, I was the one sent to go and open our Embassy there. I was just 33 at the time.
You were close to Major Kaduna Nzeogwu, the main plotter of the January 1966 coup. How did you receive the news of the coup?
Most Nigerians just like me heard it on the radio. Coups are plotted by very few persons. One of Nzeogwu's closest friends, Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo, the former President, was not even aware though he was outside the country when it happened. We received it as something new. That was the first coup in Nigeria. We have had coups elsewhere. In Pakistan, Gen. Ayub Khan took over and Abdel Nasser, in Egypt.
They were idealistic young men who thought that they could do certain things and change the image of our country. Unfortunately, the coup was not bloodless. That was an aspect that complicated matters. It brought the complications that eventually led to the revenge killings. The January coup was on the 15 and six months later, there was another coup.
Gen. Aguiyi Ironsi who was the Head of the Army was invited by the remnant of Prime Minister Tafawa Balewa administration to help steady the nation. He was not part of the coup but was officially invited to take over government as Head of State. It was Ironsi who helped to put down the coup because senior officers were not involved. Ojukwu was in Kano commanding the Fourth Battalion. He didn't join the coup. So also was Col. Arthur Unegbe, the Quarter Master General who was in charge of the armoury. When they came to ask for the keys to the armoury so that they could arm their boys, he refused and was shot dead in Lagos. They were denied access to the armoury and therefore the means of executing the coup in the supremely strategic Lagos. If you have not taken the capital of a country, you have not succeeded. The following day, Ironsi had access to the armoury and armed his boys to ensure that the coup failed. It was Igbo officers who actually stopped the coup.
The problems that led to the coup are still there...
The truth of the matter is that the development of any nation is evolutionary. The boys had their own ideas. Eventually, confusion came and we had the threats of secession from Biafra and the civil war. Luckily, Nigeria remained intact but at a very heavy cost to lives. Some two million people mainly Biafran children died. It is a lesson that we have learnt. Nobody will wish another such fracas for Nigeria.
However, on the problems that the young men saw and thought that they could resolve through military intervention, some of them have over time been tackled. Obviously many of such problems remain. This is natural. As a country evolves, people come up with ideas to help solve the problems they meet. Some are solved but not all of them unless the country is not evolving and growing.
Comment on the view that Igbo officers from the East conspired to torpedo the putsch because Nzeogwu was an Igbo man from the West.
It is not a question of Igbo from across the Niger and Nzeogwu being from the other side. There were non-Igbo who participated in the coup. It was the middle ranking officers who carried out the coup. The senior ones stopped it. Col. Conrad Nwawo is from Onicha-Olona, Delta State. It was he who was sent to Kaduna to go and bring Nzeogwu down to Lagos. They were against the coup. He is not from across the Niger. It has nothing to do with which side of the river the Igbo belonged to. It was a question of young idealistic officers versus the older ones who had other views.
Though Nzeogwu was buried with full military honours but some believe that as a patriot, he has not been fully honoured...
The fact that Gen. Yakubu Gowon who was the Head of State then decided to bury him with full military honours, is already a recognition that this gentleman was a Nigerian and a great nationalist. That in itself is an acknowledgement of the fact that Nzeogwu was a true Nigerian and a nationalist.
What kind of a man was Nzeogwu?
I was with him in college. We were students together for four years and I taught in that school for another two years, so I was with him for six years before he left and joined the army.
Nzeogwu was an idealist, a very intelligent young man at the time. If you use the word 'pure' in terms of attachment to principles, he was one such person. They were in the mould of people like Nasser who were idealistic and pan-African and wanted to bring about change through military means, the same changes that politicians wanted but through other means. He was somebody that those who knew him respected. Obasanjo said that much in his writings. When his mother died a few years ago, as President, he came all the way to Okpanam for the burial.
During the war, you were Nigeria Ambassador to France. You joined Biafra and later back-pedaled to the Federal side. Why the changes?
It is not a question of going to the Biafra side and back. I opened the Nigerian Embassy in Paris. The difficulties that arose which later led to the Civil War occurred. I personally felt that the Federal Government at the time under Gowon-I do not hold the government responsible for what happened that provoked the war- did not do enough to reassure Igbo people about their safety and security in Nigeria after the successive massacres of Ndigbo in the North and a tearful exodus of Igbo men and women with children on their backs running. Many people felt that the Federal Government should have come in and admit that something has gone wrong. The government should have taken over to see how it could repair it. That did not happen, I remember that Yoruba Obas came to Enugu. Some of them were crying at the airport when they saw what happened. They parted with the little money they had. The Federal Government did not do enough to reassure the survivors that it was taking enough to see their welfare was protected.
Like Nzeogwu, I am pan - Nigerian and African. What happened in Paris was that why the Igbo were under attack I felt that they needed support and defence to save the lives of those who were alive. I joined Ojukwu in helping to organise support for them but I made it clear from the word go that I did not believe in secession as the answer to the problems facing Igbo in Nigeria just like Nzeogwu who died at Nsukka on the Biafran side but he was a pan- Nigerian. That was why Gowon did what he did for Nzeogwu. I never believed in the Biafran cause but if you are being killed, you will be forced to fight and nobody should have any apology for that. The important thing is that people like us did not believe in secession and that was made clear to Ojukwu.
I met Ojukwu for the first time in 1976, six years after the civil war at Charles de Gaulle Airport. He came from Ivory Coast and I happened to be at the airport at the time. He was shopping but I recognised him from his pictures. Immediately I shouted "Emeka", he asked who I was. I told him I was Raph and we embraced and went out to a restaurant for lunch. What happened in Paris was that I felt that Igbo needed to defend themselves from attack. My support was conditional: 'within Nigeria, yes, secession no.'
We should use the experience of the civil war to readjust the Nigerian Constitution. What we got at independence was something arranged by the British. Our people took over the Nigerian structure from the British and the founding fathers were specific on what they wanted: a federation. When you talk of a federation it means that the corporate units constitute the base that then concede to the apex what they want it to do. The base of the federation is the unit that makes it up. That was what was agreed.
Since then other things had happened because of military intervention and socialization. In my book, Reflections on the Nigerian Civil War, in 1968 I recommended for Nigeria what I called an elastic federal union of six states, 24 years ahead of the concept of six geopolitical zones. In fact, the states coincided largely with the six zones. I mentioned North-West, North-East, North-Central, South-West, South-East and South-Central. What I called South-Central is South-South.
From your account, you got disillusioned with the Biafran Cause and so crossed over to the Federal side...
What happened is simple. Basically, I do not believe in secession. I had to help because the Igbo were under attack. The condition was that we should settle within Nigeria. We had a chain of peace talks. When they were collapsing, some of us knew that Ojukwu was insisting too much on sovereignty, we believe that what the Igbo was lacking in Nigeria was not sovereignty but security. Any arrangement that gave them and other ethnic groups security was good enough. I specifically mentioned the agreement we reached at Aburi in Ghana, which gave autonomy to the various regions. I felt that it was good enough as it will keep Nigeria together.
Now does the Igbo man have the security that he needs in Nigeria especially in the North where there are regular religious crises?
When there is crisis, a lot of people suffer. Those in the theatre of crisis always pay a price. There are more Igbo in other parts of Nigeria than other ethnic groups in Igbo land. That is a fact. So, when there is an explosion, it is those in the vicinity of the explosion that suffer. What we are saying really is that security in Nigeria should be for every Nigerian and not just for Igbo people alone. There is no reason to start slaughtering your neighbours if there is a minor disagreement. The government should come in and ensure that no one takes law into his hands especially taking peoples' lives whether it is over religious or political disagreement.
How do you view a conspiracy theory that holds that Ojukwu deliberately set up Nzeogwu at the war front because he saw him as a traitor?
I don't think so. You don't have people in any family or group having an identical view on every issue. Each person, military or otherwise has his or her own view. There are other people like Col. Banjo and co who had problems with Ojukwu and paid with their lives.
As an Igbo man who grew up in the North, how did you feel about the mass killing of your kinsmen in the North during the 1966 pogrom?
Wherever you find crisis involving the killing of human beings, any normal person will feel distressed. We are going through the process of nation building; different ethnic groups with different traditions, different ways of thinking. These groups are being fused together and in the process of fusion, you have friction, some of which become violent. We hope that with time we all will be learning from each mistake that has occurred in the process of nation building.
Nigeria is still in the process of nation building and we hope that with time as we learn progressively from experiences and mistakes that we have made, we will continue to move closer and closer to what will be a save and prosperous country for everybody. Igbo as a nation, Yoruba as a nation, Ijaw as a nation, Hausa/Fulani as a nation: every Nigerian should feel happy and save within the Nigerian union. That should be the ultimate objective. We talk a lot about Nigeria unity, that is important but the easiest way to guarantee unity is to carry out programmes and policies that encourage people to feel happy that they are part of the group. Unity becomes automatic when people feel happy to associate and belong. Government at any giving time must ensure that every ethnic unit in Nigeria has cause to feel happy within the Federal union.
That takes us to the agitation by the Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign States of Biafra (MASSOB)...
MASSOB is like Chief Ganiyu Adams-led Oodua People's Congress (OPC). When the people have a problem confronting them, different members of that community have different views on how to solve the problem. In the case of MASSOB, if they break the law of the land, then obviously they are wrong but if they have views that will not coincide with other peoples' views but are not violent and do not carry arms to cause confusion, what you do is to note what they are saying.
What they are trying to achieve for Igbo can be achieved without breaking away from Nigeria. You have to balance the need for government to be in control with the need for individuals to have enough freedom to express their views as long as they do not express these views with violence and the expression of these views does not break any known law of the land. You must balance the need to keep Nigeria together and have peace with the need to allow people free expression. If they have taken no step to break the laws of the land, then, you must respect their views. It is where they take up arms that you take up arms to stop them. They are free to think the way they want to think and that is what freedom is all about.
What do you think is the problem confronting Ndigbo in Nigeria today?
The problem confronting Ndigbo as a unit is like the problem confronting other units in Nigeria because most groups keep talking of marginalisation. What the Igbo require is to identify what their needs are and to walk together in harmony with other ethnic units to achieve what is good for Ndigbo. Fusion is taking place and it is important that all the various units respect the rights of the other units. Igbo need to identify their interests just like any other ethnic nationality need to do the same. They should negotiate and move together to ensure that what is best for each unit is achieved.
Yesterday, January 15 was the anniversary of the end of the Nigeria Civil War. Have the issues surrounding the war been resolved?
Civil war is not a good experience in the life of any nation. One of the causes was the question of emancipation of slaves, President Abraham Lincoln said 'stop this thing' but the Southerners said 'no.' It was one of the major planks on which the American civil war was based. But today, a black, an African-American, Barrack Obama is the President-elect of the United States of America. What we must do is to know that the civil war is one of the processes- a bad experience for Nigeria of course-of fusing people who have different views and tradition just like in America. With time, we are going to have more understanding.
One of the things that impressed me the other day when I was going through statistics is the level of inter-ethnic marriage. A lot of people marry across ethnic lines. With time, our people will be half-Yoruba/half-Igbo, half-Hausa/ half -Yoruba, half-Igbo/half-Urhobo, etc. The biggest fusion is in this kind of process. In a history book, you read something in two sentences but that something you read in two sentences took about fifty years to happen. It is natural to be impatient with the slow progress being made towards nation building but the end result will justify the time it took to consolidate the Nigerian nation.
As the President-General Elect of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, what do you have in stock for Ndigbo?
You cannot be a good member of your town if you are a bad son or daughter of your family. If your are a thief and a liar within the family you won't be a good member of the town and if you are not a good member of your town you cannot be a good member of your ethnic group, if you are not a good member of your ethnic group, you cannot be a good Nigerian. The same goes with being a good African and charity begins at home, if at the source we are able to develop an ethos that produces good citizens automatically; we are helping to build Nigeria and Africa.
My hope is that with the cooperation of everybody, we will be able to help Ndigbo revive their cultural heritage. Ohanaeze is not a political organization. It is a socio-cultural organization and we intend to invest our time and effort in helping to revive the Igbo language, which some people are losing now because of where children are being brought up outside Igbo land. We will dig into our culture and revive it.
Obviously, Ndigbo besides serving their tradition and culture are part of the world and have economic and political interests. Where we notice that there is need to give out rice, we will encourage Ndigbo who are involved in economic and political activities to be good citizens of their country. Ohanaeze cannot be partisan in terms of politics, you have people belonging to the various political parties, and they all have the responsibility of Ohanaeze. We do not tell people what party to join and so fort, but we are interested in every Igbo person that is doing the right thing. If they go into politics or business, they should not go in there as thieves and be a disgrace to the community, both to the Igbo nation and to Nigeria in this case. So, our job will be to help revive and improve upon whatever successes that have been achieved by our predecessors in the traditional and cultural fields of Ndigbo. You know Prof. Chinua Achebe will be honoured soon; all these have to do with getting our people to know the achievements of their sons and daughters. We intend to encourage more of that especially the young ones to be better citizens of the Igbo nation and of their country Nigeria.
Some Igbo in Rivers State and the Anioma area of Delta State believe that they are not benefiting much from the Igbo union. How do you intend to come into this issue?
First of all, the very fact that somebody from Anioma which is the Igbo speaking part of Delta state has been elected by the entire Igbo nation to lead the Ohanaeze Ndigbo organisation should put paid to any thinking that the Igbo across the Niger have anything against us on this side participating in their activities. You cannot be against a people and you ask them to come and lead you. We have been told, you know my election stems from a slot given to Anioma people, Ndigbo decided that this time the President-General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo must come from Anioma and Anioma people came together and asked me to be the candidate and I was elected by all Ndigbo. So, my feeling is that whoever has that kind of view that the others across the river didn't pay us enough attention should now realise that if that didn't happen in the past, that today attention is being paid particularly in the choice of Anioma to produce the leadership of the apex Igbo organization world-wide.
How do you see the present state of affairs in the country with President Yar'Adua at the helm of affairs?
President Yar'Adua has just been confirmed by the Supreme Court as duly elected President. He has had about a year and half in power and he has taken certain steps to put his stamp on the governance of Nigeria. The first major reshuffle he did is only a matter of weeks ago and if you look at the caliber of people he has put in there, you feel that he is trying to bring about improvement. So, I think we need to give him time to organise himself and his government.
I do not believe in secession. I had to help because the Igbo were under attack. The condition was that we should settle within Nigeria. We had a chain of peace talks. When they were collapsing, some of us knew that Ojukwu was insisting too much on sovereignty, we believe that what the Igbo was lacking in Nigeria was not sovereignty but security. Any arrangement that gave them and other ethnic groups security was good enough. I specifically mentioned the agreement we reached at Aburi in Ghana, which gave autonomy to the various regions. I felt that it was good enough as it will keep Nigeria together.
Source: The Guardian, 16th January 2009.
MASSOB calls for release of members
Abakaliki—Mr Alphonsus Ajuka, Regional Administrator, Movement for Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB), wants the Federal Government to release 2,000 of its members currently in prison custody.
Ajuka further appealed to the international community to put pressure on the government to ensure their release.
He made the appeal at Onueke, Ezza South Local Government Area of Ebonyi while addressing MASSOB members.
Ajuka regretted that in spite of the non-violent posture of MASSOB, its members were being persecuted by agents of the government.
The administrator said that MASSOB was floated in 1999 to start a non-violent protest to bring to the attention of the international community the deprivation of the people of the former Eastern Region.
Source: Vanguard, 13th June 2008.
Uwazurike has betrayed MASSOB — MacDavies
Written by Vincent Ujumadu
AWKA— A MAJOR crisis appears to have engulfed the Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB), with the erstwhile director of information of the Movement, Comrade David Mac Davies alleging yesterday that MASSOB leader, Chief Ralph Uwazurike has betrayed the struggle.
Davies, who announced his resignation from the Movement, accused Uwazurike of having been compromised by the Federal Government, which, he said, made the leader to abandon about 130 members of MASSOB currently languishing in detention.
It was however gathered that Davies stand might not be unconnected with the recent reorganisation in the Movement which led to the dropping of many former officials, including provincial administrators.
According to Davies, it was due to the ugly development in the Movement that contributed to non observance of the Biafra Day on May 30 this year which, he noted, was the first time such a thing happened since the Aba declaration many years ago.
"I am no longer part of what Uwazurike is doing. I have resigned from the Movement and asked our former members to stop associating with the group. He compromised this struggle by telling the Federal Government that he was going to bury his mother and since then, he has been enjoying himself at home while over 130 of our members are still in detention. How can we continue with the struggle when our leader has compromised?"
According to him, the 78 members of MASSOB who are facing trial in an Enugu court for alleged treason should have realised that the dance steps have changed, adding that they ought to have remained at home on May 30.
He recalled that about 2000 people have lost their lives since the struggle began, noting that from what is happening, it would appear that they died for nothing.
But the new administrator of MASSOB for Onitsha, Mrs. Uba Ezeonu said she was not aware of any betrayal by Uwazurike, regretting a situation whereby some people were going about vilifying the MASSOB leader.
She explained that she is in constant contact with the MASSOB, insisting that the struggle is still on course.
Source: Vanguard, 6th June 2008.
Rumble in MASSOB
From GEOFFREY ANYANWU, Awka
Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) suffered a major setback on Thursday when its acting Director of Information, David Mac Davis, announced his resignation and membership of the organization.
Mac Davis said he was resigning because MASSOB leader, Chief Ralph Uwazuruike, compromised the struggle and betrayed the group.
He specifically accused Uwazuruike of fraternizing with the Federal Government, which enabled him to get bail, while abandoning over 130 members of the group being detained by the law enforcement agencies.
Mac Davis told newsmen that the 78 members of MASSOB, who were charged in Enugu with treason, should not have participated in the rally, in the first instance, because he had earlier directed that everyone sat back in their homes and steered clear of MASSOB activities.
He said: "I am no longer part of what Uwazuruike is doing. I have resigned and I have asked members to lay low for now until further notice.
I am now the former director of information. He compromised the struggle by telling the Federal Government of Nigeria that he was going to bury his mother. Now he has gone home to enjoy himself, while over 130 of us are still in detention. My boss, the former director of information, Uchenna Madu, is still in police custody and the man (Uwazuruike) doesn't care about that. How do you expect us to continue when our leader has compromised?
"Those who are being charged with treason in Enugu shouldn't have embarked on any rally or meeting, because I had earlier directed that they should stay in their homes and forget about the anniversary. Though it is an unfortunate development, I must once again state that Chief Uwazuruike has abandoned us and betrayed the struggle.
"I wish to recall those who lost their lives, about 2,000 people and those who are languishing in prison custody. But the man is at home enjoying himself. I will not make any move at ensuring their release because he could not release those that were in jail with him."
In a swift reaction to Mac Davis's allegation, the MASSOB Administrator in Onitsha, Mrs. Uba Ezeonu, said neither her nor her people were aware of any betrayal by Uwazuruike whom, she said, remained the great leader for the group.
Mrs. Ezeonu berated those she described as paid agents who went about peddling rumours of alleged betrayal by the MASSOB leader, stressing, "no matter how hard they try, the struggle will continue."
She said, "I am not aware of any betrayal by Uwazuruike. What Mac Davis is saying is not true. There are some opposition people who are being paid to run the movement down. Some people have been going about peddling rumours of crisis and betrayal. I have just finished speaking with Uwazuruike and the MASSOB struggle is still on course. Presently, I am in the hospital with my husband who has been ill for some time now."
Source: Sun, 6th June 2008.
MASSOB Releases List of Slain Members
From Charles Onyekamuo in Onitsha
Movement for Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB), yesterday in Onitsha, Anambra State, made public, its list of about 2,020 members killed by agents of the state between 1999 and 2008, for agitating for actualisation of Biafra.
In a joint press conference addressed by Comrade Edison Samuel, MASSOB's Regional Administrator for Awka, and Onitsha, and Nze Christian Umeaka, its regional administrator for Nnewi, all in Anambra State, MASSOB said the compendium of the dead in which the names, addresses, date and year of death of each member was compiled showed that in Okigwe Zone, Imo State, 263 people were killed, while the casualties in Aba/owerri, Enugu/Abakaliki axis of the South-east stood at 448 and 198 respectively.
The organisation said it lost 1044 members in the "Onitsha Massacre of 2006/2007," while 67 others were killed in different communities in Abia north during the period under review.
MASSOB said most of these killings were extra-judicial, while the massacre and detention of its members across the country have continued unabated.
The group plans a peaceful demonstration march, which will begin from Okigwe through Enugu down to Onitsha between May 22 and 30, 2008, in commemoration of the 41st anniversary of the declaration of the defunct Republic of Biafra.
Source: This Day, 13th May 2008.
MASSOB decries persecution of members
Written by Enyim Enyim
Ebonyi— The Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) yesterday called for the release of its members in prisons across the country.
Leaders of the organisation made the call at a news conference at Onueke, Ezza South Local Government Area of Ebonyi, alleging that their members were being discriminated against in various parts of Nigeria.
Mr Chuks Eze, Ezikwo Regional Information Director of the organisation, who spoke on behalf of others, alleged that more than 1,000 MASSOB members were languishing in prisons.
Eze said the hardship inflicted on its members would not deter the organisation from pursuing "a noble cause".
He said MASSOB planned to hold a peaceful protest march that would start at Okwe, Okigwe, in Imo and cover major cities in the South-East region to draw attention to the maltreatment of its members.
Source: Vanguard, 13th May 2008.
Settling questions in Nigerian history
By Edwin Madunagu
NOWADAYS, almost each time I read a commentary by a Nigerian media commentator on an aspect of Nigerian history, I become depressed. Before now, I used to be merely irritated. But now the irritation has transformed into depression. The source of my irritation used to be the confusion of names, places and dates, and, of course, sequence of events. This I used to attribute to impatience, carelessness or laziness on the part of new-generation commentators and analysts. The explanation may be correct. But how do I explain this strong feeling that, going by media commentaries, no question in Nigeria's recent history appears to be settled - in terms of facts. Interpretations can last forever.
True, history is not mathematics where, once a matter is settled by proof (step-by-step logical argument erected on a small number of axioms), it is settled forever. Questions in history, society and law are often settled on the basis of "balance of evidence". The unstated assumption here is that the settled questions may be overturned in the future. Even then, history would be meaningless if at no point in time can we say that certain major questions have been settled, transformed, or reduced to simpler questions. More concretely, it would be unfortunate if, for instance, key questions on the events of (1966-1970) are still being formulated the same way they were formulated in the early 1970s - the passage of time, testimonies of direct partisans, expansion of knowledge and the appearance of hundreds of books and tonnnes of publications notwithstanding.
My thesis here is that most of the key questions still being asked on the (1966-1970) crisis have either been answered completely, or transformed, or reduced to simpler questions. The questions include: Was the January 1966 coup an Igbo coup? Who was the leader of the January coup? Was the July 1966 coup a revenge coup? Was General Aguiyi-Ironsi involved in the January coup? Was Colonel Victor Banjo involved in the January coup? Why was Banjo arrested and detained by Ironsi? Was General Yakubu Gowon involved in the July coup? Were the leaders of the January coup in support of Biafra's secession? Was there a plot to overthrow the Biafran regime in September 1967?
I would like to state that what follows is not an account of the Nigerian crisis (1966-1970). I am also not making any evaluation, or taking positions. This is simple an attempt to answer the questions raised above or reduce them to simpler questions. Let us begin by settling a rather simple question: Should the (1967-1970) armed conflict be called the Nigerian Civil War or the Nigeria-Biafra War? To answer this question you may adopt the legal perspective, or the historical perspective. For the legal perspective: A delegation of the Biafran regime, led by Major-General Phillip Effiong, surrendered to General Gowon in Dodan Barracks, Lagos, on January 15, 1970. The officers asked for "deployment". This was a clear statement that the conflict was a rebellion, a civil war. From here it follows, for instance, that Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu was a dismissed Lieutenant Colonel of the Nigerian Army until this dismissal was converted to retirement.
If the historical perspective is adopted, the following facts come out and become prominent: The Eastern Region of Nigeria was declared the Republic of Biafra on May 30, 1967 on the basis of the resolution passed by the joint meeting of the Consultative Assembly and Leaders of Thought on May 26, 1967. At the point of that declaration, the regime in Eastern Region was in total control of the region. Subsequently, Biafra was recognised by four independent countries - all members of the United Nations. Biafra fought a war with Nigeria for 30 months before the former collapsed. During that war, the Biafran leader, Chukwuemeka Ojukwu, was made a four-star general by the Executive Council of the Republic of Biafra. He retained that title till the end of the conflict, until Biafra ceased to exist. Ojukwu was therefore a General of the Biafran Army. Nothing can wipe out these historical facts.
January 1966 coup: The following points have been established: The core of the plotters was made up almost exclusively of Igbo-speaking army officers. The geopolitical coverage of the operations and the pattern of casualties suggest that the coup had Igbo ethnic motivations. But the coup leaders denied ethnic motivation and argued that the operation assumed those patterns because of mistakes committed by other leaders. Only an open trial could have begun the process of resolving the matter. But there was no trial. General Ironsi was not part of the plan, but as head of the army, he "collected" power from the confusion that characterised the execution of the coup. Colonel Victor Banjo was not part of the coup. But he was not trusted by Ironsi and the army officers close to him. On account of pressures and counter-pressure to which he was subjected, Ironsi could not put the coup plotters on trial, or otherwise punish them beyond putting them in detention.
Accounts of the January 1966 coup so far published implicitly identified Major Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu as the leader. But in one of the newspaper interviews he granted several years ago (and I think in his book, Because I am involved), Ojukwu insisted that Major Ifeajuna was the leader: Nzeogwu took over from Kaduna when he saw that the operation was failing, or had failed, in Lagos. Ifeajuna wrote a long account of the operation, but this has never been published in book form. The coup leaders, in their accounts, maintained that they intended to restructure the country and end corruption, tribalism and nepotism. At least one of them said in an interview that they intended to release Chief Obafemi Awolowo from prison and make him Head of State. It is clear that most of them did not support secession; and when war broke out and they were released from prison, they planned to complete the project they started on January 15, 1966. They failed again.
July 1966 coup: General Yakubu Gowon was not part of the plan or execution. As Chief of Army Staff under General Ironsi, he learnt of the operation when it had already started. Presented with a fait accompli, he pleaded that the operation should be bloodless. He reminded the coup operators that too much blood had already been shed in the country. Like General Ironsi, General Gowon "collected" power from the confusion that characterised the operation in which General Danjuma played a decisive role. Danjuma arrested Ironsi, neutralised his regime, charged him, and dismissed his plea of innocence. In his February 2008 interview in The Guardian, Danjuma confirmed that the July 1966 coup was a "revenge" coup. General Adeyinka Adebayo's attempt to dispute this characterisation is, at best, irritating. The man who arrested and charged Ironsi - an act which according to Lindsay Barrett, signaled the completion of the coup - says it was a revenge coup. And the man who was not even around at the time says it was not!
Treason trial in Biafra: As I said earlier, Victor Banjo was not part of the January 1966 coup. But he was nonetheless arrested and detained with the coup leaders. In September 1967, as Nigerian troops advanced on Enugu, capital of Biafra, Victor Banjo, a Brigadier in the Biafran army and Commander of the Biafran expeditionary force that invaded and briefly held the Mid-West Region, was put on trial for treason. He was the first accused. His three co-accused were Emmanuel Ifeajuna, colonel in the Biafran army; Phillip Alale, a Marxist labour leader; and Sam Agbam, a civil servant. They were accused of plotting to overthrow the Biafran regime. They were tried by a three-member special tribunal. They were found guilty and sentenced to death by firing squad. Ojukwu, as Head of State, confirmed the sentences. The sentences were carried out at Enugu on September 24, 1967.
References: Of the books written by combatants and published in the late 1970s and early 1980s I single out the following as references for the conclusions stated above: Nigeria's five majors, by Ben Gbulie; Why we struck, by Wale Ademoyega; Reluctant Rebel, by Fola Oyewole; Requiem Biafra, By J. O. G. Achuzia; No place to hide (Crisis and Conflicts inside Biafra) by Bernard Odogwu; The Nigerian Revolution and the Biafran War, by Joe Garba; Danjuma: The making of a general (written by Lindsay Barrett, but based on extensive interviews with the subject, a combatant).
To this list I add the following accounts by non-combatant: Let the truth be told (the coups d'etat of 1966), by D. J. M. Muffett; Perspectives on the Nigerian Civil War, by Siyan Oyeweso (editor); The Man Died and You must go forth at dawn, by Wole Soyinka. I also
add the recent two-part interview which The Guardian newspaper conducted with General Theophilus Danjuma and the reaction of General Adebayo, also published by the same newspaper. Finally, I refer readers to Rebel against rebels written by Nelson Ottah. The book is an account of the treason trial in Biafra. It is based on the verbatim record of the proceedings of the special tribunal. Those who are impressed by the brilliance of Victor Banjo as shown in his recently published prison writings need to read Rebels against rebels to confirm their impression.
Source: Guardian, 10th April 2008.
Biafra and its discontents
BY SAM OMATSEYE
The fury is so hot and full of molten magma that it can burn a whole race of people if they stood in its way. That was the impression that I got from the barrage of text messages and phone calls in the light of my articles on the Nigerian crisis in the 1960's.
You would think I have been declared enemy number one of the Igbos. But this comes from a wicked misreading of my prose, which was simple enough. I was only articulating a view that I thought was not only objective but based on facts. For some people to think that I am anti-Igbo is not only mischievous but wicked. Some of my best friends are from the east. I was there a few months ago and enjoyed the sights and sounds and the warmth of the people.
In fact, one caller wanted to know the origin of my hatred for the Igbos, and I said that was unfounded. If I say that a group of people was misled by their leaders, that does not mean the people are bad. I cannot say, for instance, that the Americans are a bunch of evil people because George W. Bush and his monstrous cabinet led the country into a disastrous war. In fact, I got about the same grief I am getting from some Igbos when I was teaching at an American university. Before the Iraq war, I told them that the United States President had not been sincere with the people about the so-called weapons of mass destruction. I thought his claims were apocryphal and tendentious. I wanted to take my students along with me on the path of reason and conscience, but some thought I was a mere immigrant ingrate who was deploying the didactic platform of a classroom to denigrate the hallowed institution of the American presidency and the American people.
A year after the war, one of the students accosted me on the streets and apologised for misjudging me. Americans now give Bush a lot of indignant scorn for his addle-brained rush to the battlefield.
That was the kind of point I made about Biafra. I thought Ojukwu was selfish and egomaniacal to focus more on mundane issues like military hierarchy. --+He should have focused on the higher points of reconciliation. Was it more important that he was superior to Gowon in the army? Even others in the Supreme Miliatry Council were ready to work with him. He would not blanch. I maintain that he conned the majority of the Igbos into a meaningless war. He should have bargained for more concessions for the Igbo. The Aburi Accord provided enough independence for the Igbos and if every Igbo man wanted to live in the eastern region that would have been worked out. But that was not the right thing at the time. What we needed was a way to move forward, reconcile and heal the wounds of the pogrom.
But emotions were high in the east. Many people were being killed like dogs. Whole families suffered bestial lynching, especially in the north. I cannot even claim to be able to empathise with the Igbosover the grisly barbarism unleashed on them. I have always wondered what it would have been to be an Igbo man when the killings raged. It was awful. My point, though, was that if ten thousands died, should we not have done something to avoid two million from going the same way, especially if it was avoidable. And it was. That's why I think Ojukwu was a disaster for the Igbos. I think a leader should pause and think before embarking on a war. It was not as though he had the wherewithal to confront the federal might, neither the international clout. He did not count the cost. That's why some of his generals did not see eye-to-eye with him during the war. He was also a hopeless general who did no know how to strategise for victory.
If his aim was just Biafra, why did he go on expansionist missions? People should understand Ojukwu for who he is, a selfish man who lost an opportunity to be a head of state for too long. My view on Ojukwu should not be expanded to mean condemnation of the Igbo. That would be a wicked and mischievous reading of my position. People always need good leaders, men of wisdom and courage. Men who can chasten his people when they err and derail. If the Igbo intelligentsia forced Ojukwu, then he was not a man of his mind. Such men can't and shouldn't be leaders. But Ojukwu was pursuing a selfish ambition which coincided with the agitations of the intelligentsia. That's what Americans call double whammy! It was also a double jeopardy.I always wondered how many great talents dissolved in the flames of that war on both sides. I have always contemplated poet Christopher Okigbo, perhaps the best poet this country has ever produced. He fell in that meaningless war. If the thunder of the war did not peal and consume, shall we be celebrating two Nobel laureates in Nigeria today?
I also noted from the responses that many were just emoting, few dwelled on facts and clear logic. One of them said he did not believe I was born during the crisis because my picture gives me away as a child of the 1970's. A few snapped and growled at me.
What I would like to read is THE BOOK, which Ojukwu has promised to write for almost forty years. Maybe if he spends more time on it rather acting like a leader that he is not, then we can really debate the issues from his point of view. But the records on those years are clear. Maybe that is why he has not published. I hope, though, Bianca's lovely presence is not distracting him. Ojukwu, tell us your tortoise story.
Source: The Nation, 23rd July 2007.