Leader of the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra, IPOB, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, has commended Gov. Willie Obiano of Anambra State; his Enugu State counterpart, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi; Gov. Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia State, and Gov. Dave Umahi of Ebonyi State for taking some proactive actions in memory of the Biafra Day celebration.
Kanu had ordered a sit-at-home to mark this year’s Biafra Day and in honour of all those killed in the struggle for Biafra independence since 1976.
Kanu in a live broadcast Monday morning via Facebook and other social media platforms, hailed the courage of Gov. Obiano in building a cenotaph in memory of fallen Biafra heroes.
He also commended Gov. Ugwuanyi for releasing members of Zionist Biafra group crammed into detention for some months now.
The IPOB Leader also saluted the boldness of Gov. Ikpeazu in “speaking truth to power” when he declared on Sunday night that Abia traders would not be forced to open their shops today (Monday) if they chose not to do so.
Similarly, Kanu grudgingly commended the decision of Umahi to rescind his earlier threat to seize the shop of any trader in Ebonyi that closed shop because of the sit-at-home order.
Kanu said that “for the first time” the governors had behaved in a manner that won his admiration.
“Maybe they are beginning to repent but I don’t want to be quick in saying they have repented until I’m sure they have. If they have repented, that will be nice for us all”.
Kanu called for unity among Ndigbo and other indigenous tribes that make up Biafra republic, saying that unity of the people is Nigeria’s greatest nightmare.
“Yes. I played a prominent role in Biafra for the unity of the country in order to restore peace and bring about unity of the country. That’s the role I played. I advised Ojukwu. I said well look, you have declared secession. What we should do is to get the elder statesmen and women of the nation to reconcile you and Gowon.
I said by declaring secession, you get so many people who do not believe you to remain there. You see all of us were interned. As we were interned then, we couldn’t express our own views as we see it because, he made Decree Number 5 which vested absolute powers in himself and if you were against his views, it then constituted an act of subversion and the penalty was death by shooting. Well, it was a war-time measure and that is understandable. So, I advised him. I said go to the conference table and iron out your differences. Allow elder statesmen and elder stateswomen to bring the two of you to the conference table and settle this matter so that there will no more be civil war and the country may be united. He agreed. But Gowon was advised by the Ministry of External Affairs to insist on pre-conditions. That is that before he could negotiate with the secessionists, that they must accept certain terms; accept the 12-state structure and all. So, it was quite obvious that the Federal Government wanted Biafra to come to the conference table with their hands tied and their feet tied. But they won’t be free agents. That was the diplomatic mistake on the part of the Federal Government. So, when they did that, then Lt- Col. Ojukwu told me, “How can I go to the conference table based on these ultimatums?”
Still I advised Ojukwu to go to the OAU and ask them to use their good offices to settle the dispute and that we should avoid loss of lives. He accepted my advice in good faith. Then he said, ‘Now, you have some heads of state in Africa who are your friends, would you mind going to appeal to them to use their good offices so that the Nigerian civil war could be an item on the agenda for OAU summit in Kinshasa?’ I said I would gladly go. So he sent me to Monrovia as a peace envoy. I went there and met my friend, President Tubman. Tubman expressed his willingness to use his good offices. He told me he would see another mutual friend, the late Haile Sellassie, Emperor of Ethiopia, and both of them would see that the civil war was placed as first item on the agenda of the OAU Summit in Kinshasa. I returned and broke the news to Ojukwu. He was very pleased.
Then, when the OAU summit opened, Chief Awolowo, as Vice-Chairman of the Federal Executive Council and Commissioner for Finance, led a strong Nigerian delegation to Kinshasa and raised a very strong objective on the Nigerian civil war being placed as an item on the agenda on the grounds that according to the OAU Charter, this was a domestic affairs and member states were precluded from interfering in the domestic affairs of each other, which was really sound according to international law. But we wanted to solve it in the African way, to use mediation and conciliation to bring two warring brothers together. The OAU accepted the submission of Chief Awolowo and so it was not put into the agenda. Well, history will show now between Chief Awolowo and myself, who actually accentuated the war. I was trying to get the OAU to settle the dispute so they could go to the conference table and he was thinking of legalism, that it would amount to interference in the domestic affairs of a member-state. But meanwhile here you have two brothers killing each other.
Well, Ojukwu told me, I have done my best. You see, Nigeria was relying on law and we are relying on humanity. What’s next? I said why not try other heads of states and see what could be done to bring about peace? He then said he left the initiative with me. I suggested going to some heads of state and see what can be done. But his advisers led by Dr. Nwakama Okoro suggested recognition. That if we can get other states to recognize Biafra, maybe the hands of Nigeria may be forced to go to the conference table. Well, I thought that was a sound idea and I placed my services at their disposal so as to meet my friends. We had in mind President Senghor of Senegal, President Houphouet Boigny of Ivory Coast, President Julius Nyerere of Tanzania, President Milton Obote of Uganda, President Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia and of course Francois Bongo, he is now Omar. He now has become a Muslim. He was then a Christian. The long and short of it all was that I and these great African statesmen agreed that if Gowon persisted with pre-conditions, then they would accord recognition to force the hands of Gowon to go to the conference table and bring about peace. That was one.
Two, Gowon had already predicted that the war would end on March 31 and as far as these African statesmen were concerned, these killings and atrocities did not do any credit to the image of Africa and as such what should be done was to stop it as soon as possible. Therefore if the war didn’t end by March 31, then the propaganda of ‘Biafra’ that it was an act of genocide would be justified. And they didn’t want to accept that. I went on this mission and succeeded in persuading these heads of state to agree to give recognition just to force the hands of Nigeria, diplomatically speaking, to the conference table.
President Senghor said he couldn’t because the majority of his supporters were Muslims and rightly or wrongly they felt it was a religious war. And he said well, if he granted recognition, then his government would fall. But he supported the idea of forcing the hands of Nigeria to the conference table. Houphouet Boigny was prepared, provided his people backed him. Ditto for the others except Milton Obote who told us that Prince Mutesa and the Bagandans wanted to secede and he couldn’t support secession when his own state was confronted with similar problems. It left four of them. That is, President Nyerere, Houphouet Boigny, Kaunda and Bongo. They agreed on the understanding that the war did not end by March 31, 1968 and pre-conditions would be removed to make it easy for both Ojukwu and Gowon to go to conference table.
So they granted recognition and it worked like magic because immediately after this, Dr. Okoi Arikpo, who must be presumed to be responsible for this diplomatic blunder (he was the Commissioner for External Affairs]—a good man no doubt, but he is a very poor diplomat in my own humble opinion – announced to the outside world that Nigeria would no longer insist on pre-conditions and that he was prepared for conference table but the war did not end on March 31 and so, they left the impression, you see, that Nigeria wanted to annihilate the Ibos. You noticed the Soviets gave Nigeria more arms and Nigeria used those arms to destroy the secessionists. Here, I came in again and I advised Ojukwu. I said look since Gowon has withdrawn the pre-conditions, go to the conference table and argue the points so as to pave way for a peace conference. It was agreed that they should meet in Niamey. I advised Ojukwu to go. Again Gowon was ill-advised so he couldn’t come.
At Niamey here was Ojukwu. I was on his side. Gowon wasn’t there but Haile Sellassie, Hamani Diori, Tubman and General Akran were there representing OAU. So, I told Ojukwu, I said now you have an upper hand. These respected leaders of the OAU were there. I had briefed Ojukwu. I said ‘look your line of approach is to express appreciation for what the OAU was doing in order to maintain peace in Africa but you were prepared to co-operate and you are leaving the whole matter in the hands of the OAU to see what could be done to bring an earlier cessation of hostilities. I said just say that and thank them and sit down. Now Gowon didn’t attend. He sent a junior man, I think Alhaji Femi Okunnu or so, to represent him. And they didn’t even attend this conference at which the four heads of state presided. It was only the Biafran side. So Ojukwu won a diplomatic victory and you know Ojukwu is a very good speaker if you give him all the facts. He was a good public relations expert and he won. He said, ‘well if Gowon was sincere why did he spite such great men and didn’t attend?’ That worked.
They agreed that Nigeria could be contacted so that we have a peace conference in Addis Ababa. It was a diplomatic victory for Biafra and so we returned to Biafra highly elated. And Ojukwu insisted that I should accompany him to Addis Ababa. Then something happened. Some of his advisers felt that I was becoming a victim of compromise and that I was a bad influence. That all I was trying to do was to make Biafra impotent. They told Ojukwu that Biafra was holding its own militarily. And why should we want a peace conference? That he should be very, very careful with me, especially as an Onitsha man because they thought that I was using him as a means to give publicity for myself internationally and that time will come when people will look more to me than to himself.
Well, as a young man, human, he fell for such flattery. I don’t want to mention all the names, but particularly influential in swinging his opinion at that material time was Mr. C. C. Mojekwu, who was based in Lisbon. Then Mr. Matthew Mbu was our Commissioner for External Affairs and he himself did as much as possible, but then he realized that he was having someone who has power of life and death over everybody. So, we went to Addis Ababa and on the night before the conference, Matthew came to my bedroom at about 10 in the night. He said, “Do you know that all we have done, this man is going to undo them tomorrow?’ I said ‘No’. Then he brought out a printed version of a long speech. The world press said it lasted for 90 minutes.
He [Ojukwu] went back on everything we discussed. He attacked the United Kingdom, the United States, the Soviet Union – all the nations of the world and the OAU, and said that they were misleading us and that the sovereignty of ‘Biafra’ was not negotiable. We went to the conference. I sat next to him. I thought that he was going to speak in accordance with the spirit of Niamey. But he spoke for 90 minutes and he just got the whole place upside down. Naturally Tony Enahoro – he led the Nigerian delegation – replied in kind and so we were back to square one. So, when we returned, I advised him. I told him that I was surprised at what he did but it was not late. He said, ‘The sovereignty of Biafra is not negotiable and if anybody should try to compromise that sovereignty, then it will be an act of subversion.’ Well, that was quite clear to me so I said, ‘Your Excellency, you still have Port Harcourt and you can still bargain from position of strength – after all, the main issue in the civil war is oil and they say that in international politics, oil is combustible and as you have a combustible situation you can begin from the position of strength’. He said, ‘No, Port Harcourt is impregnable.’ ‘Very well, Your Excellency,’ I said. I went back to Nekede where I had been in protective custody since February, 1968.
Two weeks later, Port Harcourt fell. He sent for me. I said, ‘Well, Your Excellency, I did warn you. You cannot now negotiate from a position of strength but having received recognition from four states, we can still use them to see what we can do to appeal to the outside world.’ He said, ‘Very well, I think you should go to the United Nations to seek for recognition.’ I said, ‘Your Excellency, let us wait until after OAU summit in Algiers and find out what Africa thinks.’ In the meantime, I went to Tunisia to see my friend Habeeb Bourguiba of Tunisia. He wasn’t quite well, so we moved from Carthage to Hermit where he stayed. Ojukwu had always said the civil war would be won on the battlefield and not on the conference table, and Bourguiba didn’t take kindly to that. He said don’t you people advise this young man? I explained to him that I have done everything I could to advise him, but he insists on going to the battle field. So we crossed our fingers awaiting the verdict of Algiers. You know it was decided by 33 to 4 in favour of Nigeria. I advised Ojukwu that to go to the United Nations to seek recognition would be unrealistic since Africa had decided by 33 to 4 in favour of Nigeria. I said Nigerian envoys, the Nigerian delegations, would just percolate the membership of the United Nations and they would frown at the whole thing. He insisted. I was then in Paris. I wrote him a letter. I said, ‘Since you refuse to go to the conference table to negotiate for peace, since you prefer that the civil war should end on the battle field and not on the conference table; since you said that the sovereignty of Biafra is not negotiable, I am afraid I cannot continue as a peace envoy because you have destroyed all the vestiges of any optimism for peace. Therefore I am relieving myself of my services as a peace envoy. I cannot continue as a peace envoy. I cannot continue as a peace envoy because you have let me down. You left me under the impression that if I succeeded in getting recognition you will go to the conference table. You got four recognitions; you did not go to the conference table.
I am therefore going to London on exile.’ I went to London in voluntary exile and the British government granted me asylum. I do not see how anybody could say that I ran away from my country. I crossed the Atlantic 46 times, trying to negotiate with various heads of state so that they could grant recognition or make OAU to settle the dispute. How could the head of state turn round now and accuse all those who were politicians in pre-1966 and post-1966 as being responsible for the downfall of the republic? I did my best to preserve the unity of Nigeria and also to preserve the lives of old men, able-bodied men and women and children but I failed. What could I do? I went on free exile and they keep saying that I was among those responsible for the downfall of the republic. I plead not guilty”.
(Excerpts from the interview Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe granted to New Nigerian Newspapers, 1979, as Presidential aspirant under the platform of Nigerian People’s Party.
One of the greatest fallacies in Nigerian history is that only northerners slaughtered the Igbo. This is false. We ALL did.
It was not the northern leaders that told the world that “starvation was a legitimate weapon of war” and that commiting the greatest genocide in African history against innocent women and children was acceptable in an armed conflict, it was South Western and Mid- Western leaders that did that.
It was not a northerner that travelled to the United Nations during the war and tried to defend and justify our heinous and barbaric war crimes, it was a great son of the Mid-West that did that.
The blame for what was done to the civilians of Biafra and the attempt to rationalise and defend it goes to us all.
We must ALL ask God for forgiveness for what we did and we must all take our fair share of the blame for what was done to the Biafran civilians during that war.
History is an intellectual exercise and there can be no room for subjectivity or emotions in it. Historical facts are sacred and historical opinion is cheap. Again history is not for the unduly emotional because it is not a respecter of persons. We must always strive to speak the truth and bring to the fore all the facts when we are discussing it. Nothing ought to be hidden.
In our history there are no angels. Every single one of our notable leaders, both military and civilian, during the course of our civil war has innocent blood on their hands and we cannot shy away from it. We must accept our fair share of the blame for what was done to those innocent women and children and to those defenceless civilians.
Until this is done and there is true repentance and reconciliation I do not believe Nigeria can make any meaningful progress or move forward.
Until this is done the cycle of genocide, ethnic cleansing, mass murder, terrorism, violence and divine retribution that we have witnessed all over our country over the last 50 years and even more so over the last five years, will not stop.
This is because the innocent blood that we collectively shed during the civil war is calling to the God of Heaven for the blood of our own innocents in revenge.
Is it by accident that the two most deadly terrorist organisations in the world today, Boko Haram and the Herdsmen, together with ISWA are now freely operating in Nigeria killing hundreds of thousands of innocent Nigerians over the last few years?
Why have we been afflicted with this evil and why has it not affected our neighbouring countries in a similar manner? The answer is obvious and it is essentially a spiritual affliction.
It is time for us to come clean, own up to our faults, confess our sins, make the necessary reparations and thereby put a stop to this evil cycle of fratricidal butchery, bloodshed and violence.
Where we get it wrong and when we have joined hands with others to commit crimes against humanity we must be courageous and gracious enough to accept it, take responsibility for it and own it and we must be ready to display a reasonable level of remorse and compassion and do justice to those that were our victims. As they say, where there is no justice there can be no peace.
What we did to the Biafran civilian population between 1967 and 1970 cannot be swept under the carpet or forgotten. We can ignore it for as long as we like and pretend that it doesn’t matter but as long as we do so the ghosts of the 1 million children and 2 million innocent civilans that we butchered and slaughtered in the most cruel and heartless manner will continue to plague and haunt our nation for many more years to come.
Nigeria’s lady of songs, activist journalist, Onyeka Onwenu has said the Igbo people will make no apologies for going to war with Nigeria, as according to her, the Biafra was a war brought on them and they had to fight in self defence.
Onwenu who spoke on Monday in Lagos at the ‘Never Again Conference’ organised by Nzuko Umunna, an Igbo sociocultural group, to mark 50 years since the end of the Biafra war in 1970, also recalled how her widowed mother’s property was seized in Port Harcourt, Rivers State after the war.
She said the Biafra is a very sensitive and painful matter that ought to be addressed.
“This is a subject matter that is very close to our hearts,” she said. “It’s very personal to very many of us, very sensitive matter; very painful matter indeed. And yes, some of us have lived with some bitterness. And we make no apologies about that. We were a people in war, led into war, not by our own wishes or design, but in self defence. No apologies Nigeria, no apologies to the world.
“But here we are. I was born and raised in Port Harcourt. My father, Dike Onwenu was the first Arondizuogu man in the federal house, and he was representing Port Harcourt constituency. He was the principal of Enitonna High School. He was a brilliant man. But he died too early. I’m from Abia State since I’m an Aro daughter. I’m from Imo State, Arondizuogu and I’m also from Anambra where my mother comes from. I can go there and live and nobody can stop me.
“I’m also from Lagos State. I married a Yoruba man. I have two Yoruba children.”
Onwenu said she fought the Biafra war and recalled many children and aged people dying in her care. She regretted that the war has not yet ended, and warned those still fighting the Igbo to be careful.
“I fought the war as a young girl between 14 and 17 years, and I lost many relatives. I carried babies who died in my arms. I treated old people who took days to die. People were dying of hunger, even our soldiers were dying out of hunger. But thank God we survived.
“When my father died at 40, he was a politician and also a principal. But he didn’t have much money. In those days, you had to keep your day job, even if you were a member of the House of Representatives. Yes, my mother, an Anambra woman, was a trader. She was richer than my dad, so my dad would borrow money from her to buy land and he never paid back. You know how it is with husband and wife.
“At the end of the war, I couldn’t go back to Port Harcourt. My home was abandoned property. Those of you who come from Port Harcourt know the story. The home that a widow, my father had only laid the foundation when he died in an accident; the building that a widow built was seized as an abandoned property.
“And living just adjacent to us on Hospital Road were the Ikokus. In fact, I thought we were related because every family in Port Harcourt was together. You didn’t care were anyone came from or who they were, whether you were from Port Harcourt or not. Every parent had the right to reprimand a child he/she saw misbehaving. Port Harcourt was a beautiful town, but we couldn’t get back to it.
“So, for me, the civil war never ended, it is still going on. My poor mother went back to Port Harcourt to claim her property and she was beaten into a coma by people whom she had helped all her life; people she had helped to send to school, because she is an Igbo woman and now Port Harcourt belonged to another group of people.
“They forgot the sacrifices that the Igbo made. It is still going on, no apologies have ever been made about that. The road that is now referred to as Harold Wilson Road used to be Dike Onwenu Road. That’s on account of the sacrifices that the Onwenus, the Ikokus, and the rest, made in building up Port Harcourt.
“Here I am. I travelled outside, thanks to my sister who was at Harvard at the time. But we all came back to develop Nigeria. I have tried with the little talent that God has given me, to use it to the betterment of my society and my country. But if I were a Yoruba or a Hausa woman, I would probably have had more patronage, more help and more support than I have got by my self-help effort to raise this country up.
“But I’m not asking anybody for anything. I put myself through school, my widowed mother did her best. I was working two jobs in America to put myself through school. I didn’t want to take the Nigerian scholarship because they were giving it to everybody, those who deserved it and those who didn’t. And many of them were not even in school.
“I’m angry at Nigeria, I’m angry at this government which seems to be letting us down. I’m angry at us as a people, I’m angry at my people, Ndigbo. Because he who is rejected doesn’t reject himself. Stop complaining and do it yourself. We have always been able to do that. How did we build Imo Airport? Nobody built for us. We spent many years raising money. I was travelling all over the country to do free concerts to raise money for Imo Airport. That’s who we have been. And I remember that in those days, if the Igbo State Union decides, that’s it, everybody follows the line and gets it done.
The wartime video made by CBS News or any other third party should be more accurate about the tales of the war and the truth about events and the actual reasons behind the war. If one watches any from Nigeria, one could many a times see unbalanced narrative or even arrogant tone in the narrations. But this was perfect and attracted the attention of our reporters in The Republican News.
Despite already known and always recounted stories of massacre in the Northern Nigeria against the hapless women, children, unarmed men by mobs, and the lack of action by the federal government to stop such carnage on innocent Biafrans. A narrative that led to the Aburi conference in Ghana and concomitant Aburi Accord, which was agreed as palliation to the carnage and a better true federal structure of government in Nigeria.
This video was made two years into the war, by that period approximately 2 million of hapless children, women and young Biafrans have died through starvation, a ploy or scheme used by the federal government to win the war. A policy reportedly offered by Chief Obafemi Awolowo, finance minister of Nigeria, as a means to win the war against Biafra.
The Nigerian Army recorded a lot of casualties, both injured and dead, while starvation was the debilitating cause of death on the Biafran side.
Narration by Mike Wallace, William S. Brown, Harry Reasoner and Jeff Gralnick
Recently, President Buhari in his address in Katsina state erroneously said that the oil has not been discovered before the war. He said that it was not ought because of the oil but for the unity of Nigeria due to the fact that oil has then not been discovered. But historical facts are the best way to discredit or credit any assertion. In this documentary it was laid out apparently enough for anyone to comprehend it.
President Mohammadu Buhari assertion about the war was either intentional or his sense of such crucial part of national history eluded him. But as a man who fought in that war and as a commanding officer of the federal army and a person within the rank and files of the military then, it must be assumed that his distortion of facts was indeed intentional.
Nigerian oil was discovered under British colonial government in 1949 by the time of its independence in 1960 Nigeria already was earning $7 million annually from oil export. The presence of British Petroleum,(BP), GULF of the USA were already conspicuous within the shores of Nigeria before independence and prior to the war.
At the beginning of the war, Nigeria’s earning through oil moved from $14 million to 300 million during the war. Which oil then was exported if not the same oil we have now? It was evidently clear in history tales that the war was fought because of oil.
By the time of the war, Nigeria was already the 12th largest producer and exporter in the world and forecasted to be either the fifth or the sixth in the world soon after.
In the narration, Mike Wallace, the legendary CBN broadcaster and reporter clearly said that the federal government knew that they cannot do without the Biafrans because they need their talents.
The Nigerian government was afraid of an independent Biafra as a potential hostile neighbour state and expansionist unit. So, that fear was one of the reasons of not letting Biafra become a free state and a neighbour.
The reason, according to his discussions with Nigerian leaders, behind the lack of interest by the Nigerian government to engage in genocidal move to wipe the Biafrans out is because they need the talents of the Igbo and they want them back into Nigeria.
United States supported Nigerian government politically while they try to send aids to Biafrans, but they are not willing to step into the war. The narrative behind that is completely another thing.
While the Nigerian army had superior fire power, the sheer will of the Biafrans was overwhelmingly enough to keep the Nigerian soldiers fighting for three years. While Nigerian soldiers enlisted for the fat pay, the Biafrans enlisted for their strong will for freedom. Perhaps this was why the war lasted for three years.
Biafrans were high-spirited, hardworking and very well determined to fight and win their total freedom from Nigeria and maintain their free independent new state. If and when markets were bombed, which of course is a war crime because it is occupied by civilians and not military, the Biafrans moved their markets into bushes and business went on as if nothing has happened.
The politics of the war and the reluctant attitude of the world great powers to aid to stop the war or even prevent it from occurring is another narrative that raised several questions. The aiding of Nigeria for the war and the lack of interest from the United States to get involved in the war is why the war lasted so long and took so many lives.