Why I write on the civil war, by Monye
Although it happened 41 years ago, the horrendous civil war that rocked the nation for 30 months six years after independence has continued to generate intense literary interest.
ONE such addition to the body of literary works concerning the war is Tony Monye’s Between a Valley & a Plain (Oracle Books, Lagos; 2011). Although his first work, Monye’s novel shows remarkable maturity in its execution. Yet to be born when the war ravaged the South-Eastern part of the country like Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (author of Half of a Yellow Sun, also about that war), Monye, a banker, largely sourced his raw materials from listening to stories told about the war by his elders.
From such intimate tales told by those who witnessed the war, Monye gleamed an undying passion behind the nation’s darkest period. As he confesses, “I am certain you’d be surprised when I say the inspiration came from one of the characters in the book – The Great Lion. Monye was once here on earth and it is the reason why I chose to leave his name unchanged. He was someone I heard his story during growing up years from my father and many uncles.
“Yes, Monye was the biggest inspiration behind the story. Apart from him, I also would say the environment and the many stories surrounding the darkest period of our national life – the Nigerian Civil War – spurred me. I just brought fictional characters like Chibia and the rest to make up a whole story. I have heard from readers who told me that I have chronicled their experiences during the war without realising it.
“However, I must say this – the book is not necessarily about the civil war. Unfortunately, over the years, we tend to know or care less about our country – its histories, important dates and events. The lessons from these events are yet to sink in as a result, and we repeat these mistakes all over”.
Interestingly, war and love have always been intertwining issues in literature over the ages. Monye’s story isn’t devoid of these conjoined extreme emotions as they play out in the lives of the protagonist in the work. For Monye, therefore, “These two ends always evoke strong emotions in man and I think to some extent it was some sort of struggle because I wanted the lines and the expressions of both emotions to come out quite well… So, when I talked about love, I put myself in the moods of lovers and when it was time for war, I imagine man at his worst emotions…
“The shared love between Chibia and Ijeoma; the affection between Ikenna and Kechi and the one even between Grandma and her grandson, Chibia. I guess the Civil War still evokes strong emotions in our country. I really think we, as a nation and as a group of people brought together by God, should move on. Let me make some confession; it wasn’t an easy swing journeying both ends. I tried hard to get the language right… It wasn’t that easy but I think I managed well”.
Writing, like every other art form, has long been established as a talent inherent in every individual, and therefore waiting to be brought to public light. Although a banker, Monye has managed to juggle the two, and the result is the manifestation of an explosive talent for writing, and which makes for a remarkable read: He enthuses, “It is the passion for writing. I always love to write. The desire to write Between a Valley & a Plain’ came out at the best moment. I never set out to do a huge book. I found myself punching the keyboard of my laptop… one page, the next and then another page. And, before I knew it, I thought I had something I could call a book.
“At first, I had many doubts but as the pages turned, belief began to set in. After a time, I just knew there was no going back. And, I am happy it paid off. But I always remind myself that I am an economist by training and God gave me the ability to string words together to form a sentence… and then, a book. On the other hand, I work in a bank. Writing and working in a bank are jobs I enjoy. I dreamt of being a banker as a child because I loved their smart dress code and here I am. I also dreamt of writing for the fun of it and here I am. See!
“The love of them drives the two of them. Combining both only meant that there would be many trade-offs – yes there were many. I let go social engagements and obligations. I angered friends and hurt family members – people I love most. I am hardly ever seen at such gatherings. Now, permit me to use this medium to apologise to friends, family and relatives… I fell short here for them. They happen to be my bedrocks. For they have consistently supported me… the sales so far have come from them. A friend buys a copy, he reads and buys for his own friends or he recommends it to another. It is just the same, too, with family members – they have been some huge form of support”.
Although Monye argues that he didn’t set out to teach any moral lessons, he nonetheless concedes, “If the essence of the book is brought out, anyone striving to move up the valley definitely has some tales to tell – the traumas, the pains, the agonies and the challenges of life of being at the bottom of the pyramid, the sacrifice and on the positive side, the determination, the denials, the discipline, the celebrations of little daily achievements and, above all, the support, goodwill and love of others”.
The banker and new author cannot fully express his pain at the sad turn of events regarding the flagging reading habits of Nigerians, which make writers endangered species. He, however, counts the passion associated with writing too strong a force to resist in spite of how gloomy the situation may be, saying, “Reading is not one of our favourite pastimes in this part of the world (anymore). It leaves a pain in the heart and a hole in my being. For me, reading is the best human activity second to none. President Goodluck Jonathan and the likes of Wole Soyinka are trying to get the nation to read again. I hope they succeed. I just wanted to write, and that’s all.
“For me, passion is one of the greatest drivers of most human achievements. So, I will say that the passion fed well into the drive and something good came forth. I took very conscious steps into the world of writers and creative writing not for pecuniary objective or motive but for self-fulfillment. But more strongly, I had a tale to tell…”.
Group agitates for actualisation of Biafra
Emeka Ihiegbulem, Orlu
Apparently displeased with the Nigerian polity especially as it concerns equitable distribution of power and amenities, a pressure group, Biafran Zionist Movement (BZM) has agitated for the actualization of the sovereignty of the Biafran State.
The group recently matched around the streets of Owerri the Imo state capital with Biafran, United States of America, Israeli and France flags among others in demonstration, making a case for their course.
Speaking to Saturday Champion, the Leader of the group, Mr. Bejamin Igwe Onwuka stated that the essence of the demonstration was to tell Nigerians and other nations of the world that it is right time for a Biafran State to be carved out from the present Nigerian State.
Onwuka, who expressed that the demonstration was simultaneously carried out in other states of Nigeria and beyond, contended that the much-coveted independence of Biafra has not worked for 45 years since the quest for it commenced.
He said that they were carrying the flags of other nations because they strongly support the independence of Biafra and that they(nations) have all it takes to make the quest a reality.
Earlier, Onwuka had regretted that the governance in Nigeria and the marginalization of the Igbos in the political scheme of things is synonymous with what is seen in Southern Sudan and said that it is high time an end is put to it.
He equally divulged that BZM was launched on September 18, 2010 at Michael Okpara Square, Enugu adding that the group is known to the Nigeria government and also has its international affiliations.
He finally stated that on or before the end of 2011, the independent State of Biafra will be actualized.
Eme: The Road To Biafra
By Kelechi Eme,ﾠThe Guardian
Re: The Road to Biafra – A rejoinder
EDWIN CLARK, DELTA STATE
SIR: My attention has been drawn to a provocative, misguided, inciting and misdirected piece written by one Kelechi Eme (a mischievous and unpatriotic Ibo man) which was published inThe Guardian newspaper of Sunday July 10, 2011 who perhaps was too young or was not even born when the Civil War ended about 41 years ago. It is indeed most unfortunate and embarrassing despite my intimacy, friendship and closeness to most Ibo leaders both in politics and social life of the generality of Ibos including my old students from the famous Queen’s School, Enugu with whom I have associated since 1970, that I have to be made to justify myself to every important young man who claims to be speaking on behalf of Ndigbo stated by this mischief monger.
“The harsh post-war economic policy immediately converted Igbo businessmen into street hustlers. Those in the corporate world lost their positions and had to begin new professional careers. Importation of stock fish was banned to deny Igbos their only means of protein after the war. (Remember that most livestock were lost during the war). This was followed by the problem of abandoned property implemented mainly by the old Rivers State.”
I feel very hurt and offended that this young man digressed from his thesis to add gratuitously that “The distinguished President of the Senate, David Bonaventure Mark actually chaired and rationalised the properties of Igbos in the Old Rivers State. A “Statesman” like Chief Edwin Clarke was a major beneficiary of the abandoned property.”
This statement is a blatant falsehood deliberately calculated to tarnish my reputation and to incite my very good friends of the land to hate me. I categorically wish to state that I did not acquire any abandoned property in Port Harcourt. In fact, I do not own even a kitchen or any property in Port Harcourt at anytime before or after the Civil War to this day. It is indeed, a deliberate falsehood and malicious assassination of my character.
It would also be recalled, that on the eve of President Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan’s presidential election, a group of disgruntled Ibo politicians most of whom were in collaboration with Adamu Ciroma’s Northern Political Forum (NPF) under the name of Ibo Political Forum (IPF), decided to incite the generality of Ibos against me, calling on all Ibo voters not to vote for President Dr. Goodluck Jonathan in the presidential election, on the grounds that I, Edwin Kiagbodo Clark hated the Ibos as a result of a remark I allegedly made a decade ago against the Ibos and therefore advised all Ibos not to vote for Dr. Goodluck Jonathan because he is my son. This allegation was made both in the Internet and in some Nigerian newspapers including The Guardian newspaper of Sunday July 10, 2011 at page 62.
However, the generality of the Ibos including political leaders, women and youths turned out massively to cast their votes for President Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan. Nigerians have since then put behind them these political shenanigans. We must all unite together to build and transform Nigeria into a virile and an enviable country where all Nigerians are equal and can aspire to the highest position of the land.
Edwin Clark, Delta State.
The Road To Biafra
Written by Kelechi Eme
The title of this piece is an adaptation of an article I read over fifteen years ago. The article was written by the erudite Adebayo Williams in one of the national news magazines. It was captioned “The Road to Kigali” and illustrated succinctly, the consequence of inactions on the part of policy makers and individuals. He aptly drew a parallel on the activities of two distinguished Nigerians on the political terrain after exiting public service at an unusual young age. This was during the turbulent military regime of the 90s that emboldened all manner of pro-democracy agitators (including nation wreckers and ethnic bigots who masqueraded as liberators of the masses). The country was at a dangerous curve and the possibility of full blown ethnic war loomed larger since the end of the Biafran war.
The objects of the writer were the late Gen. Shehu Musa Yar’Adua and Gen. T. Y. Danjuma that retired with the first coming of Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo on October 1st, 1979. He praised the former for abandoning his comfort zone in pursuit of better governance for Nigerians and castigated the later for his aloofness on good governance and human right matters. His conclusion was that silence in the face of injustice and atrocities breeds radicalism, extremism, ethnic cleansing and call to arms (emphasis mine). The reluctance to speak up was what led to the genocide in Rwanda. This he aptly captured as “The Road to Kigali” in his piece. In the past one year we have witnessed the elevation of terrorism as a means of fighting social and economic injustice by MEND and Boko Haram. These are horrible crimes that every well-meaning Nigerian must condemn. Our collective failures as citizens of Nigeria bred the terrorist groups we appear unable to confront today. Did we tackle the residual issues that threw these monsters at us? This is the question our leaders and policy makers must answer.
It is on this premise that I have decided to bring the ticking time bomb in the South East before Nigerians. The present state of the region is a clear manifestation of man’s inhumanity to man. You will wonder if you were in a different republic. Yes, it is part of Nigeria. Yes, the people are Nigerians. However, the bitter truth is that of a zone systematically neglected and wickedly destroyed for reasons that are ingloriously archaic, incurable hatred and misplaced fears by the ruling class. I have in earlier notes expressed my disgust on the actions of a section of Igbo leaders, but the problem is purely beyond them. Some Nigerians might live under the illusion that the South East problem is not theirs, yet history has shown that ambivalence over the agony of your neighbour might consume you. Two recent developments in our national psyche thoroughly brought this assertion into perspective. The first was the activities of MEND and other Niger Delta groups that were active within their geographical location. Bombs exploded in Warri, Yenogoa, etc without any iota of concern by non-Niger Deltans. The failure to immediately seek for a holistic solution to the decadence in oil producing areas brought the bombs to Lagos (NNPC facility) and Abuja(Independence day bombings). Boko Haram then took the center stage. Their religious agenda which tilted towards social issues were well known and nothing was done to nip it in the bud. I do not really understand what they are demanding in a multi ethnic and religious society. It was a case of misguided elements that were misrepresenting Islam by indoctrinating young and vulnerable youths to batter modernization for medieval existence. They recorded significant success because the youths were disgruntled and unemployed. They killed hundreds in Maiduguri and we pretended nothing was happening. Now we have a national emergency on our hands because they arrived Abuja and targeted the flagship of our civilian protection.
I raised the issue of systematic “decapitation” of the Igbos because there are facts to support that. I am concerned because I have seen the frustration on the faces of young Igbos who have almost lost hope on the Nigerian enterprise. The leaders and policy makers should remember the saying that “he that is down need fear no fall.” The first aberration was committed by the policy of 20pounds handed out to Igbos irrespective of the amount previously deposited in the bank. Even this paltry amount was handed out under the condition that the account was not operated during the war. The economic team of the federal government went a step further to indigenize foreign corporations like UAC, Lever Brothers, Cadbury, PZ, SCOA, the banks, etc. The Igbos had no money to buy shares in these companies and this led to a section of the country having absolute control over the nation’s corporate world. Yet, some Nigerians flaunt hard work before the Igbos. I must commend Gen. Ibrahim Babangida for introducing NERFUND which at least ameliorated the pains of the Igbos. It was through this agency that a company like Emzor Pharmaceutical was established. The harsh post war economic policy immediately converted Igbo businessmen into street hustlers. Those in the corporate world lost their positions and had to begin new professional careers. Importation of stock fish was banned to deny Igbos their only means of protein after the war (Remember that most livestock were lost during the war). This was followed by the problem of abandoned property implemented mainly by the old Rivers state. Nigerians must be reminded that The Distinguished President of the Senate, David Bonaventure Mark actually chaired and rationalized the properties of Igbos in the old Rivers state. A “statesman” like Chief Edwin Clarke was a major beneficiary of the abandoned property.
While the two issues above could be set aside as a watershed in our national evolution, how can one describe the neglect of educational institutions since the end of the civil war? The scare of the war is written all over the institutions. The example of Okigwe Grammar school is a typical example. To make matters worse, The South East was not considered for a new university during the boom of the 70s that led to the proliferation of conventional universities in Nigeria. The situation remained the same until the establishment of Federal universities of technology by the Shagari administration. This resulted in South East students “forcefully” seeking university education outside their homeland. This syndrome contributed to the increased migration of young Igbo intellectuals outside their home states. Prior to the creation of Abia state, the old Imo state accounted for 25% of JAMB applicants. How many of them were admitted considering the presence of only two federal universities in the zone (FUTO had very low admission capacity at the time) and the catchment area policy of JAMB and National Universities Commission)?
The greatest problem is the zero economic activity in the south east. This is occasioned by the preponderance of zero businesses infrastructure in the zone. All the federal roads are in bad shape and there is not a single strategic national asset located in the region. How many Nigerians still remember that the garden city of Port Harcourt use to be under Owerri province? The city of Port Harcourt deserves more than its present stage of development, why is Owerri stagnant? The systematic neglect has even been extended to harm the economic interest of our dear country Nigeria. Why is the huge Hydro carbon in the South East designated as strategic reserve while oil in other zones is being exploited? The exploitation of this huge resource will create jobs for the teeming youths who might be used by the lunatic fringe elements in the society to ferment trouble. One of the largest Natural Gas reserve in the world is under the belly of Atani-Osamala-Ozubulu corridor and extends to Oguta. There is also the huge oil reserve along the Ohi-Ubomiri-Mbieri-Iho corridor. This oil reserve is under “locks and keys” for reasons known only to the federal government. What about the Aguleri-Umuleri deposit? A situation in which Akwa Ibom received N204.5billion in 2008 from the federation account (largely due to derivation) and the entire south eastern states got N176.2billion justifies the urgent need to commence the Hydro Carbon exploitation of the zone. The need for development of the region is so overwhelming that delay will not be in Nigeria’s interest. The migration of young Igbo men and women can only be curtailed through economic development of the zone.
I want to conclude with the quote by Dr. Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, the Governor, Central bank of Nigeria: “Having said that, this nation must realise that Igbos have more than paid for their foolishness. They have been defeated in war, rendered paupers by monetary policy fiat, their properties declared abandoned and confiscated, kept out of strategic public sector appointments and deprived of public services. The rest of the country forced them to remain in Nigeria and has continued to deny them equity.
The Northern Bourgeoisie and the Yoruba Bourgeoisie have conspired to keep the Igbo out of the scheme of things. In the recent transition when the Igbo solidly supported the PDP in the hope of an Ekwueme presidency, the North and South-West treated this as a Biafra agenda. Every rule set for the primaries, every gentlemańs agreement was set aside to ensure that Obasanjo, not Ekwueme emerged as the candidate. Things went as far as getting the Federal Government to hurriedly gazette a pardon. Now, with this government, the marginalistion of the Igbo is more complete than ever before. The Igbos have taken all these quietly because, they reason, they brought it upon themselves. But the nation is sitting on a time-bomb.
After the First World War, the victors treated Germany with the same contempt Nigeria is treating Igbos. Two decades later, there was a Second World War, far costlier than the first. Germany was again defeated, but this time, they won a more honourable peace. Our present political leaders have no sense of History. There is a new Igbo man, who was not born in 1966 and neither knows nor cares about Nzeogwu and Ojukwu. There are Igbo men on the street who were never Biafrans. They were born Nigerians, are Nigerians, but suffer because of actions of earlier generations. They will soon decide that it is better to fight their own war, and may be find an honourable peace, than to remain in this contemptible state in perpetuity.”
We have uprising in Niger Delta and the Boko Haram challenge to deal with. These challenges are all pointing to “THE ROAD TO BIAFRA”. A proactive approach to the problem of the South East will make this road a closed alley. A replication of the activities of the two aforementioned groups in any part of the country might unwittingly take us to that road to Biafra. “The Road to Biafra” is a metaphor for agitation for self-determination by any section of the country. This is the time for nationalist to rise and put all hands on deck in steering our country out of this dangerous slide.
•Igboeli Arinze, a public affairs analyst writing from Awka, Anambra State is of the opinion that the post civil war issues are far from settled...
Events rolled on as thus, the declaration of a state of emergency in the Western Region; A trumped up coup plot charge; Massively rigged elections; A state of tension then compromise; The “Wetie” crisis; The coup by the January boys; Ironsi foils the coup accepts power by the rump of the civilian authorities then; Ironsi makes attempts to unify the country; A counter coup by the July boys; The senseless slaughter of Igbo officers and then civilians; Colonel Ojukwu refuses on principle to recognize Colonel Jack Gowon; Colonel Jack Gowon begins a drifter’s leadership of our nation juggles with secession “Araba”(the Hausa term for secession), then a confederation and finally the same unitary system he and his northern goons kicked against; Another massacre, while the likes of Major Hassan Kastina and Colonel Jack Gowon looked the other way; Aburi our last beacon of hope for peace; Gowon reneges on agreements at Aburi, creates twelve states; Unjustly treated and humiliated, the Consultative Assembly of the Eastern Region gives Ojukwu mandate to declare an Independent State at the earliest practicable date; May 30th, Colonel Ojukwu declares the former Eastern Region and its continental shelf as the Republic of Biafra.
Gowon bloodthirsty as ever orders police action; Okoi Arikpo boasts that Biafra will collapse under three months; Three years on the Republic of Biafra with sheer determination and convinced in the justice of their cause producing military miracles in spite of the absence of a just international opinion and the immoral backing of the British and Soviet Union Governments; Biafra collapses like historical Carthage having fought hard but against the heaviest of odds to give the people of the Eastern region and NdiIgbo a right to life, peace and progress.
It doesn’t end here; Gen Gowon announces “No Victor No Vanquished” but Gowon is no Lincoln as such a declaration is only a sleight of hand, for it only marks the beginning of an era of marginalization of the Igbo man; 20 pounds for every Igbo man even if he was worth more, properties worth millions being confisticated under the term abandoned property, talk of legalized stealing. Government comes, government goes and there seems no respite for the Igbo man. Crisis after Crisis and he is gunned after, even when he has no business with the Genesis, Psalms nor Revelation of such a crisis. This single largest ethnic group in Nigeria has surely had it rough in this contraption called Nigeria, yet it is left with five states and a sum total of 95 local governments whereas a state like Kano bandies 44 local governments alone nearly half the five states in the Southeast region, perhaps you can get an impression of this state of injustice we live with.
41 years after, we still seek a new song against the bureaucratic and political conspiracies engendered against our sons and daughters by the hegemonic establishment. A list of its victims run plenty Alex Ekwueme, Commodore Ebitu Ukiwe, Anyim Pius Anyim, Dr. Chris Ngige, Professor Charles Chukwuma Soludo, Ibeto etc. We still seek a new song against the nonattendance of quality infrastructure in the South East as seen in the poor roads and linkages within and outside the South East. We seek a new song against the obnoxious economic policies initiated to keep the Igbo man under.
But who is to blame for the Igbo man’s calamity? Whose finger is behind the political and economic lashes handed out at our backsides? I have searched this out and apprehended two principal culprits. The first culprit is the Nigerian nation, ever divisive and continually in a state of national flux, which has seen the Ijaw pitched against the Itsekiri, Birom & Angas vs Fulani, Ibibio vs Annang, Shuwa vs Kanuri, Tiv vs the tag team of Idoma and Jukun, Yoruba vs Hausa, Egba vs Ijebu, Owo vs Akoko etc a consequence of our faulty road to nation hood and a blind refusal by our elite to realize that a forced unity may suit their selfish needs but falls short of helping our path to greatness. For where there is no sense of belonging within any nation state, any demand for robust nationalism of these people cannot be more than wishful thinking. That is a forum for discussion another day. Yet the Nation becomes united when the Igbo man is in competition, there appears to be an unconscious agreement between them, on how to deal with this ambitious and proud stock of people resident on both sides of the Niger. To the rest of the Nigerian nation, pre and antebellum there exists an imaginary plot by the Igbo people to dominate all other ethnic groups in Nigeria, yet there is no justification for such, shockingly such ethnic groups have applauded the very real culprits of such an attempt to dominate others. Yet the Igbo man wears that toga and is viewed with suspicion and resentment everywhere he goes.
Sometime back I happened to come across a kiddies educative programme, and as these kids played out a drama sketch with the theme based on Nigeria’s unity, progress and greatness, you could imagine my shock and indignation when one line of the drama ran as thus “Igbo man your own is too much ( The Nigerian symbol at this point in time crashes) apparently blaming the Igbo lad and the Igbo in context for the woes of the nation, kiddies drama right but may I state that at that point in time a seed was sown into the psyche of those children and other children viewing that programme, sprouting trees of hatred and antipathy. Thus I may disagree a bit with those persons who describe our alleged cries of marginalization as a hoax; it is like Mr.
Ahamadinejad, the political leader of Iran deploring the holocaust as a myth.
The second culprit is the Igbo man himself, yes, that hardworking, republican in nature fellow has a huge stock for the blames too, which is two pronged. The first is our penchant for what I will call short term politics and the second a naivety syndrome that sits pretty well with our leaders and people as well. The Igbo political stock of past and present has exhibited actions that betrayed him as a short term minded fellow, never prospective. Examples abound, the great Zik struggled for independence as our nation’s foremost nationalist and battled the British in wits and grits yet when leadership beckoned on him he chose to be a representative of the system he loathed without any pretence to authority. Today such short term politics is no longer premised on principle as supporters of Zik might claim, our leaders have suddenly become Cash and carry politicians and no matter how odious a job might seem to be, our politicians seem to be more the ready to be its hatchet men.
The naivety syndrome again is another disease affecting the Igbo man, the Igbo political class to our dismay, have shown signs of this again and again, more like symptoms to our detriment and downfall. When we think we have learnt better, then we repeat the same blunders but this time with a greater amount of clumsiness. Zik and General Ironsi betrayed this flaw resulting to the former’s diminishing political relevance and the latter‘s overthrow and death. The rest is history for the decline of the Igbo nation in Nigeria began shortly after Ironsi’s death. Again in 2011, in the build up to the general elections, the five governors of the South East region and our so called political leaders rejected the opportunity of producing a Vice president for a candidature that has refused to stick his neck out for the position of speaker even when the odds favour us, while others extracted promises and concords, our leaders blindly supported and rigged themselves into derision, (any one who believes those presidential results from the southeast needs his head examined) today we are the laughing stock of the nation.
Finally my generation of Igbo youths believe in one Nigeria, one nation, united and destined for greatness, but my generation must realize that we cannot be Nigeria’s expendable ethnic group and that until we build the Igbo nation on a value system and politics that recognizes our vast contribution to the Nigerian nation not as beggars nor as second class citizens but as equals. Then and only then can we being to sing a new song.
THE 30TH OF MAY
By Osita Ebiem, MG,
In few weeks it will be another anniversary of the day that the Biafrans declared their independence as a sovereign state borne out of necessity. The declaration of 30th May 1967 was not just an option open to the people at the time and now but it was and still is the only thing to do by a people who were threatened to be wiped out of the face of the earth by another group of human beings. The people were in danger of imminent destruction. What they did was in self defense. A frantic and desperate move to salvage and secure what was left of their broken and battered lives and property. All the Biafrans resident in every part of Nigeria were being tortured, killed, burned alive, beheaded, lynched, thrown into wet and dry wells and every imaginable form of inhuman treatment you can think of was dished out to their women, children, fetuses, men, the old and the infirm. It was a Nigerian state sponsored project. The Gowon government planned and systemically executed the project to kill every Igbo and, all other people of Biafran extraction. The then head of state of Nigeria Aguiyi Ironsi of Igbo extraction before Gowon had been tortured to death by his killers who tied him alive under an army Land Rover truck, with his head and torso dragging on the ground along the road.
It was a state organized genocide and Biafrans, the ones that returned and those back home out of desperation frantically drew a line and asked to be left alone as a people. It was not an aggressive declaration but a defensive declaration by a people that begged to let be since they had been declared by the Nigerian state as an unwanted people. But the aggressor, Nigeria would not leave them be and took the killing to the Biafran homeland and mustered the most fiendish force of men and equipment and carried out one of the worst destruction of life and property that has been witnessed by the world in modern time. While the genocide and mass murder were going on against Biafrans and Biafra, the rest of the world watched. Indeed some cheered and actively took part in the killing spree, some watched in consternation and batted breathe while just a few others raised their voice in condemnation of the gargantuan crime against humanity that was being executed on a defenseless people.
At the conclusion of the genocide the victors and their allies divided the spoil and have ever since been feeding sumptuously on the carcasses of the vanquished, Biafra and the Biafrans. I am embarking on the writing of this article with the hope that somehow it will be able to arouse the conscience of the world from their more than forty years stupor. Reflecting on the terrible experiences of the Igbolis (this is of course another way of addressing the people which I think is a lot more convenient and appropriate) and the rest of the Southeasterners who fought and lost in their bid for self determination as a sovereign state of Biafra some forty years back creates an agonizing perplexity. This is a very sober issue that should be occupying every waking moment of all the people concerned. Unfortunately that is not the case and of course the world will be eager to forget since they are not being reminded by the victims. The victims have gone about their business almost like nothing has happened and is still happening. It has remained like the case of irresponsible children who have gone about toasting and feasting with the murderers of their father while the corpse is still on the bed unburied. These children would have been forgiven maybe, if they were ignorant that those that killed their father are the same people they are wining and dining. Now the Igbolis have a saying that you do not go avenging your fatheŕs murder when you are at your weakest or you will most likely fall victim to the same killer. That is an age-old time-tested wise counsel which the oppressed for the sake of his continuous survival should always heed.
That accepted (But is it true that the Igbolis are not yet men enough today to demand for justice for the murder of their father?) let us consider some other ramifications of this saying; it does not prohibit you from avenging your fatheŕs murder, it tells you to do it only when you are sure you have all what it will take to obtain justice for your fatheŕs murder. In the same vein it does not council you to party and feast with these murderers while you are awaiting justice and especially while the dead is still to be buried. In all decency it will be the height of irresponsibility on the side of these children to do so. In world politics you must engage both your friends and enemies but the engagement does not call for you to go cavorting with the enemy with reckless abandon rather it is supposed to be a diplomatic engagement the focus of which is on righting the wrongs that have been done. But if on the contrary you are all over the place cheering and cleaning up the acts of the murderers for them then every right-thinking observer will unmistakably see a people that are either retarded or irresponsible and have nothing to live for. For any people to earn the respect of others they must have what they stand for, the reason for their being. (Please forgive my language).
So far, to any objective observer it will appear that the victims of this heinous crime are subsisting at a very low bestial level who are incapable of feeling pain and injustice and completely bereft of any pride or human dignity. When we consider the fact that to this present time over 3.1 million Biafrans have paid the supreme price just because they were born Biafrans then one wonders what the present Biafrans are doing to obtain justice for these fallen heroes? If the present Biafrans can afford to live the way they are living today then the question is, does it mean that these heroes, men, women and children who died that we may live have died for nothing? No life is worth living if it is not lived for the good of others. But every subsequent generation must always be willing to gladly show gratitude for the legacies of the last one. Today we look back at these men, women and children and we eulogize them as the heroes they were because they fought to the end and gave their lives. They led a dignified life and died a noble death all for our sake. Tomorrow how will the next generation look back at us? Who will they see when they look back at our generation? What have we given for the sake of the coming generation? Will our own children look back and shake their head in shame at a generation that lived their lives selfishly and for little comfort and never thought about the pride of their children?
The 30th of May is the most solemn day in our modern history. It is the day that we as a people chose to live a dignified and free life instead of a life of shame and subjugation. It is the day that we chose to design our destiny ourselves and chart the way to our destination though replete with thorns and many defeats but full with pride, dignity and honor. Because we believe in this destiny we gave our lives for it. We staked our pride on this belief and gave it all we have got. This date is the essence of our being, the definition of who we are. If we gave up this date then we would have given up who we are and sold the pride and honor of our fathers and purchased with the proceeds emptiness and a seared future, filled with shame and filthiness. If we today should think that we have the right to renegotiate this mandate committed into our hands by our fathers then we are mistaken. Why? The reason is simple; the 3.1 million heroes who gave their lives did not give them for anything short of independence and freedom, a homeland where they can live in peace and safety and raise their children as honorable and responsible members of the human race.
If today we think we can in cowardice or for whatever reason compromise and obtain for them anything less then the question is with what sort of face are we going to meet with them when we would have concluded our lifés journey and go to give them the account of how we handled the fire they left for us to tend? It is too late now for us to continue to deceive ourselves into erroneously thinking that we have the liberty to manipulate and alter the terms we bring to the negotiating table as it will suite us because we are only delegates who are armed with a mandate that is written in blood. The blood of 3.1 million people. We are merely their emissaries and the terms with which we negotiate are the final writ dripping of their most sacred blood and we cannot go to them now to rewrite these things. The truth is that we have limited options and for us to be able to answer the true children of our fathers we have to honor them by obtaining for them what they sort for and gave their lives in the process. 30th May is a day of reassessment of our stewardship, rededication, recommitment, renewal and determination. It is the day of sober reflection, how have we fared as a people? Where are we headed? Are we on the right road? What is the state of the fire left for us to tend? Have we been religiously stoking this sacred fire and making it burn brighter or is the wind about to blow away the last embers and ashes into the cauldron of history? Brothers and sisters that is the meaning of the 30th May. These questions must be answered on the 30th of May or we are doomed as a people. Finding answers to these questions is a collective as well as an individuaĺs responsibility of every Biafran. As a person, a human being, what have you done in the past one year to pacify the ghosts of these 3.1 million heroes in winning for them a befitting final rite?
The genocide was declared to have been stopped forty years ago but we are all witnesses to the truth that it has not abated at all. For all these while many people have said and written much on the issue but definitely not enough. How could anybody think that enough has been said or written when the matter is so enormous and so has been hardly scratched? Both the victims and the world have not made any conscious effort to positively address the issue. Wrong has been done and still is continuing and nobody has come out boldly to find a way to stop, condemn it and execute justice for the evils already committed. Because of this the oppressor has been emboldened to continue with impunity to destroy his victim. After all nobody is complaining, not even his victim.
The law of outward projection has always worked because people find it easy to blame others other than themselves for their problems. The Biafrans fought and failed once but it is not any excuse at all to believe that they can now throw up their hands and let anyone, be it Islamic fanatics or anybody in any gab to continue to subjugate their women and children and let them become fodders to these foraging beasts whose culture is murder, darkness and enslavement. The die is indeed cast and the Biafrans of today will either take it upon themselves to liberate themselves, their women, children and men and their homeland or continue to be raped and desecrated without end. 30th May is our Day of Atonement and redemption.
MONUMENTS MEMORIES AND BIAFRA
By Osita Ebiem
The importance of monuments, memorials and anniversaries cannot be over emphasized for a society or people such as Igbo/Biafrans. These people passed through a genocidal war that claimed a total of 3.1 million of their population between the years of 1966 and 1970. The pogrom was organized and executed against them by the Nigerian state and its people. It is a sad but very significant period in Igbo/Biafran people's history. If it had been just one individual Igbo/Biafran that was murdered in the manner in which these many millions had been, such a person must be collectively memorialized and monuments raised to commemorate them and show the world how no human person should die. Every death in the Igbo/Biafran Genocide was and is still unjust and a most undignified way for a human being to die. And today there is a strident call for memorials and monuments on every inch of Igbo/Biafran soil to honor these dead heroes. That is how to be a grateful people and responsible society. This is what the Igbo/Biafran people mean when they say; echezona: Injustice must not be overlooked while the rest people are standing by. Igbo/Biafran society abhors ime mpu.
The study of the collection of a people's monuments, memorials and commemorations gives you windows into the inner workings of such people. They give the researcher or visitor an insight into what the people consider as important to them. From the collection of a people's symbols, memorials and celebrations one can deduce that particular society's values and aspirations. Therefore every society or people must be careful in selecting the monuments they erect, the memorials they project and the people and events in their history that they venerate and celebrate.
Monuments, memorials and commemorations tell the story and philosophy of a people. They depict what the people live for and what they will be prepared to die for. Furthermore, memorials, monuments and festivals help posterity to think about and take conscious steps to avoid a repeat of the past that is being memorialized and symbolized when such experience had been sad and painful as in the case of Igbo/Biafran Genocide. As much as it is a classical truth that all positive gains have their cause from pain and, many times the more the pain the greater the value of the gain, but it is natural for a people to do everything in their power to avoid sources of pain.
Though, it is right to avoid the causes of pains, but not by some kind of escapism, such as trying to avoid discussions of and reflections on painful subjects and anniversaries or current events that are still inflicting pain. The people, Igbo/Biafran people must find a way to commemorate discomforting events of their past and boldly face the intimidating monster. They must carefully analyze its ramification and effectively resolve it. When the present generation of Igbo/Biafran people says never again or enough is enough, they must do something to back up with action these words. A people must have what is driving them; what they are living for and what they are prepared to die for. And in the case of Igbo/Biafran people it is freedom; freedom and separation from the Nigerian state.
Memorials, monuments and anniversaries are selfless acts of those who by fortuitous acts and events had escaped from being sucked in as direct victims of the atrocity being memorialized, symbolized and commemorated. Some other people suffered either to keep them, the erectors of monuments from suffering the pain that the victims endured. When that happens like in Igbo/Biafra Land, then one befitting way the beneficiaries can hope to pay back to their heroes would be to raise monuments to serve as physical reminders, always in focus and in so doing they will maintain an evergreen memory of the people that suffered and the events in which the suffering occurred.
When the right monuments and memorials are erected the present generation of Igbo/Biafran people would be telling the dead that they had neither believed in nor suffered for nothing. The living will be saying to all those who are watching that it is honorable to live for ideals, live by faith rather than living just for temporal power and fleeting material things. They will be encouraging heroic acts and what is supposed to be a higher level of human evolutionary attainment; the veneration of selfless acts. They will be letting the people know that in reality there are things that are and should be valued above just the immediate and temporary safeties and comforts of the moment.
Today's generation will be acknowledging the sacrifices of those past with gratitude knowing that they can enjoy present pleasures because someone or some people in time past worked not just for their immediate needs and comfort but acted with posterity and future in their view. Has the reader ever tried to imagine how today's world would be if past generations of human beings had remained as hunters and food gatherers? Igbo/Biafrans must realize that they have nothing in common with the rest of Nigeria and must separate themselves from them. Their kith and kin had been murdered by Nigeria and the best tribute, monuments and memorials they can offer these heroes is a separate and free state of Biafra for which the people died.
Just recently Nigeria held a presidential election and there was a post-election violence which claimed the lives and means of livelihood of hundreds of Igbo/Biafran people not because of their political affiliations but because of their ethnicity and religious/cultural beliefs. Starting from 1945 to 2011, 66 years now, no single year has passed by without Nigerians killing hundreds and thousands of Igbo/Biafrans for who they were rather than for the crimes they had committed. Therefore the most befitting monuments, memorials and anniversaries for the 3.1 million Igbo/Biafran heroes who paid the ultimate price in one of the most gruesome kind of genocidal pogroms of all time, orchestrated by the Nigerian state, is the erection of sovereign and independent boundaries of the Biafran state free from oppression and Nigeria.
As we have already noted, monuments, memorials and anniversaries are important aspect of every society and people. So a people or society like Igbo/Biafrans must find ways to immortalize events and heroes in their past. These will help to preserve and always keep in constant memory and view the works and sacrifices of these people gone by. The erection of the right kind of monuments and memorials must be encouraged and actively pursued as a part of a people's collective program. A people or society can only be said to be heading towards doom when they neglect or in some cases consciously work hard trying to erase pointers and rudiments that remind them of their history.
All Igbo/Biafrans everywhere are being called upon today to individually and collectively work to erect monuments, memorials and commemorations in their hearts, at village squares, in their homes, at street corners, on their shirts. Fly Biafra's flag wherever you live, in your cars, in your offices and at the entrance to your homes. To identify yourself as a Biafran, let Biafra's flag adorn your front lawn, let it flap in the wind at the entrance to your house. In this way you will be honoring the 3.1 million heroes of Biafra who were murdered for no crime that they committed but for just being who they were. Go to your local office of Division of Motor Vehicle (DMV) and pay for special license plates that memorialize and immortalize Biafra and Biafrans. This is the right thing to do. This is the way to show the world that you care.
Being ashamed or negligent of doing these little acts in honor and memory of the 3.1 million heroes reduces the prestige of every living Igbo/Biafran as a human being rather than dignify them. Are you being conscious of what your Yoruba or Hausa friends will say? Now let me ask you, do you think that if the positions were reversed that these other ethnic groups would have been conscious of your feelings when they are memorializing their past heroes? Try to think it through as this is the most important aspect of our collective existence as a people and society. Should you therefore let shame or fear to rob you of the privilege of memorializing and immortalizing your past heroes? Supposing the position were reversed would you be happy with the survivors who do not care or are negligent of the sacrifices you had made on their behalf?
All Igbo/Biafrans everywhere must make effort to find organizations and programs that are working on Biafran projects and start donating money and materials to help facilitate their activities. You can start organizing, mobilizing and doing some good work for Biafra and her people today. It is right. This is how to erect befitting memorials and monuments for the past heroes. At the end of every day you should ask yourself, what have I done today that honored and promoted the dignity and memory of Igbo/Biafran past heroes?
We need to make it clear that all efforts and utterances at actualizing a sovereign and independent state of Biafra with clear and definitive boundary between her and Nigeria is not borne out of hatred for Igbo/Biafrans neighbors such as Hausa, Yoruba and the others. This is true even when these people hate Igbo/Biafrans with a passion. The aim is just to establish a society for the coming generation of Igbo/Biafrans where they are safe and treated with dignity, away from Nigeria and Nigerians. Igbo/Biafrans must realize that aiming for, donating to and working for the realization of the Biafran state, separate and different from Nigeria does not make them small or shrink their conception of the one world society or brotherhood of man. It just shows that they want to maintain their unique identity while remaining in good relationship with their neighbors.
Igbo/Biafrans, do not let anyone make you feel ashamed or appear small because you are trying to maintain your uniqueness in the world. You are just as good to be here on this planet, different and distinct, like the next person. And never let any person tell you that there is strength in unity as in the sense of One-nigeria and use that to deceive you. There is only hatred, death, lack of trust and exploitation for the Igbo/Biafrans in such unity as conceived in the concept of One-nigeria. You should be proud of the sacrifices of Igbo/Biafran past heroes because they did not die for any crime they committed but for being humans and believing, worshiping, thinking, talking and dressing differently. Those surely are no good reasons for a people to die.
NIGERIA SEEKING TO DISPLAY ANOTHER MONUMENTAL SHAME IN BIAFRA
By Osita Ebiem
On the 12th of April 2011 The Nation an online news magazine came out with an editorial titled Worthy Monument. http://thenationonlineng.net/web3/editorial/33520.html It has to do with Nigeria government's proposal to appropriate a private residence of the Atuchukwus in Amichi in Biafraland for an inordinate use. They propose to call the place Peace and Reconciliation Building because they claim that Republic of Biafra and Nigeria's murderous squad negotiated the terms of ending the Biafra War within the chambers of the Atuchukwus' family house in the mid-January of 1970. At the said meeting Biafra's team was led by General Philip Effiong and there were very specific terms reached in the signed documents upon which both parties agreed to a ceasefire.
This editorial in discussion further demonstrates how some people without any moral standards can descend so low in their eagerness to please and curry favor even at the expense of condoning and approving of the unjust murder of their own parents and entire family members. Because a bully is very clever at the sleigh of his hand, so powerful and successful at intimidating the victim and, can act with some devilish impunity, will never justify his murderous acts of Genocide and disgusting antics. Even the editorial accepted the fact that there are neither any access roads nor other modern amenities around the neighborhood of the said Atuchukwus' home. This lack of basic amenities within the environ of the said house tells the true story, this is after forty years of the so-called cessation of hostilities. The reader will begin to appreciate the situation when it is understood that the house was originally built within a developed urban area in the 1960s with access roads. But the Nigerian government deliberately and by official policies neglected every infrastructure within the Biafran territory to punish Biafra and Biafrans.
The editorial that made it a point to praise this move of mockery by the Nigerian state should have been honest enough to tell the readers some of the details of the terms on which the Biafran War ended at the time? Do some of the conditions not include reconstruction, rehabilitation and reconciliation of the Biafran areas that Nigeria had wantonly destroyed in their insane moment of unprovoked rage and ethnic hatred? After forty years and the multiple hundreds of billions of dollars stolen from the Biafran territory in oil and gas revenues, has any slightest effort been made by the Nigerian side to honor any part of that agreement reached within the chambers of that house?
The answer to all this nonsense still lies in the fact that this is the era of Self-Determination when all peoples everywhere are taking their collective destinies in their own hands. Starting from February 1st 1960 when a group of four African American college students staged a nonviolent sit-in protest in a segregated lunch counter in Greensboro North Carolina all peoples everywhere have always chosen to be free rather than acquiesce to the bully's oppressive intimidations. In as much as the future belongs to the youth so also does the present. Today's youth must consciously and actively do something that will bring about a free and prosperous future for their benefit like those four youths of Greensboro did some fifty years ago.
Biafran people of today can still take a cue from the Southern Sudanese who through the legal instrument of a referendum are choosing to be free, independent and sovereign rather than remain subjugated and marginalized. They know what is good for them as a people and are bold to go for it. They are not letting somebody else to think for them and tell them that what they need is a “free, fair and credible elections” in order to become a free people who can live their lives on their own terms. Or they can go the way of Kosovo that approached the issue through the legal means of Unilateral Declaration of Independence. Another way can even be a plea for self-defense whereby a threatened people should legally take up arms in defense of themselves, family and property (territory). This has always been a natural thing to do, right and legal, in the presence of real and imminent danger such as the Nigerian state poses to Biafrans today.
Memorials and monuments are built over terraces of justice and fairness rather than on simmering heaps of ethnic hatred, group marginalization, bigotry, arrogance and phobias. Peace in any society usually results from moral foundations laid in social justice and never by any government's fiats or decreed forced subjugation. And how about reconciliation; for any genuine reconciliation to take place in any society it must be preceded by acts of truth and honesty.
Nigeria can go ahead and raise monuments after monuments over the heaps of the skulls of the murdered Biafrans whom they deliberately killed in one of the worst kinds of genocidal pogroms of all time but that in itself will not save Nigeria from its inevitable and imminent demise; either peaceful or violent disintegration. The Nigerian state shall be consumed in the heat of its ethnic hatred and cultural/religious intolerance.
Between 1966 and 1970 Nigeria with all its citizens remorselessly murdered 3.1 million defenseless Biafran people. So it becomes amazing how people can today write newspaper editorials promoting lies and deceits and support for not just murder but GENOCIDE. Shamefacedly, people put out to an entire world stories about the Biafra War without stating the unsettling and searing fact that 3.1 million defenseless people were killed in an unprovoked acts of violence borne out of pure ethnic hatred and Biafraphobia. Why is that? Where has the conscience of these individuals or organizations gone to? Is the art of journalism not supposed to be sacred and serve to promote facts rather than playing to the gallery and promoting falsehood in an eagerness to please or maintain “a badly patched up peace?”
The question still remains, has Nigeria at any time demonstrated any willingness to execute any form of social justice for the peoples of the South-South and Southeast? So why would anyone sing the praises of a remorseless country in a shameless eagerness to forget and sweep under the carpet a great injustice and act of premeditated Genocide. In the real world peace can only stand propped up by the bulwarks of social justice, while reconciliation goes hand in hand with truth and the willingness by the people to live by its tenets. The editorial in its shameless display of moral depravity went further to ask the Atuchukwus' family to demand for adequate compensation from Nigeria when they take over the house from them. What a pity, has it ever occurred to the writers of this editorial that the Atuchukwus will only be dealing in blood money and actively support the erection of shame and demeaning statue over the grave of the 3.1 million fellow Biafrans who perished for the mere reason of who they were rather than for any crime that they committed?
In the end we believe that the Atuchukwus will never sell their honor for any reason and will throw this ill-conceived insult back in the face of these impenitent murderers and ask them to find somewhere else to put up their unworthy monumental display of shame. The Atuchukwus' patriarch's property is a hallowed ground and must not be converted to any profane use.
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.
Technological Path for Nigeria from the
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 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.
44 Years after Ironsi, Igbo Named Army Chief
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.
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
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.
Remembering Biafra veterans
LAST week, the Biafra war veterans at Oji River, Enugu State, had reasons to smile.
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.
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).
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."
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.
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.
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.
40 years after
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.
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.
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.
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”.
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.
After the war
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.
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.
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...
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...
What kind of a man was Nzeogwu?
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?
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...
Now does the Igbo man have the security that he needs in Nigeria especially in the North where there are regular religious crises?
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?
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?
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)...
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?
Yesterday, January 15 was the anniversary of the end of the Nigeria Civil War. Have the issues surrounding the war been resolved?
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?
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?
How do you see the present state of affairs in the country with President Yar'Adua at the helm of affairs?
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.
Uwazurike has betrayed MASSOB — MacDavies
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.
“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.
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.
Rumble in MASSOB
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.
MASSOB Releases List of Slain Members
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.
MASSOB decries persecution of members
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".
Settling questions in Nigerian history
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.
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.