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US Department Of States Releases Declassified Documents On Murtala Muhammed |The Republican News

Briefing Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs (Reinhardt) to Secretary of State Kissinger

Gen. Murtala Muhammed

Washington, August 18, 1975

Nigeria After the Coup of July 28

This memorandum is presented in response to your request of August 14. It is concerned with the nature of the new government, its prospects, and continuing American interests.

The New Leadership

The leader of the coup against General Yakubu Gowon is an erratic, vainglorious, impetuous, corrupt, vindictive, intelligent, articulate, daring Hausa. Brigadier Murtala Muhammed was a prime force in the Nigerian coup of July, 1966, which brought Gowon to power, and is one of the two principal plotters against Gowon for the past two years. He commanded a division during the Nigerian civil war, was involved in the only documented cases of genocide, won one important battle, and thereafter coasted for upwards of two years until Gowon finally removed him from command and placed him in charge of Army signals, a position which he held until last month, though he combined his military role with the civilian position of Commissioner (Minister) of Communications from July, 1973, until the coup.

Muhammed inherits from Gowon vast petroleum resources (potentially 3–3.5 million BPD, based on known reserves), considerable but neglected agricultural wealth, tremendous but untapped natural gas reserves, other minerals (coal, tin, columbite, uranium), by African standards an excellently trained civil service, and the dubious asset of eighty million people.

To match his assets, Muhammed also inherits—and has contributed to—a tradition of corrupt civilian and military officials, urban problems second only to those of Calcutta, drift and inepitude in development, insoluble but containable ethnic problems, and a national temperament which combines pride, aggressiveness, arrogance and patriotism into a brand of xenophobia best labeled Nigerianism.

Prospects for Survival

Almost six years after the civil war, Muhammed is probably ushering in a period of coups. As a corrupt Hausa, he automatically attracts Ibo and Yoruba enmity, which he knows and has attempted to reduce by early appointments. As a Northerner and a Muslem, he will be expected to consolidate once and for all the leadership role which his fifty million brothers are certain is theirs. Muhammed will agree, of course, but will seem to the Hausas to vacillate as he sings “One Nigeria.”

While there is no reason to believe that he can approach Gowon’s success in accommodating ethnic rivalries, there is also no reason to think that he will be any more successful in rapidly developing the country, and rapidity is the great need if he is to avoid Gowon’s political problems stemming from stymied development. Money is obviously plentiful, but absorptive capacity is low (corruption, unrealistic planning, confused priorities, and a demonstrated reluctance to turn to the outside).

Finally, Muhammed and his co-plotter and now deputy, Brigadier Olusegun Obasanjo, are the most militant of Nigerian military leaders on the Southern African question. Gowon and his principal lieutenants burned with the rage of all Africans when considering this issue, but they were realistic. Muhammed and Obasanjo are advocates of a NATO-type military command within the OAU having the avowed objective of strengthening liberation movements. More responsibility may bring more realism. On the other hand, formidable ethnic and developmental problems could convince the new leadership that they should deal repressively with the domestic scene while joining militant [Page 3]Arabs and Africans in organizing a Pan African jihad for liberation. (A large Libyan delegation visited Lagos last week.) Muhammed and Obasanjo are unlikely to bring any more inspiration to this enterprise than Nkrumah and Amin. At any rate they do not enhance their prospects for survival by any launchings on this uncharted course. Yorubas and Ibos, at least, will be disinclined to travel with them.

Nature of American Interests

An early but undocumented and probably inaccurate assessment is that certainly Muhammed and perhaps Obasanjo are anti-American. I believe that this initial reaction is based on no more than an unfortunate U.S. visa restriction entered in Muhammed’s passport and Obasanjo’s impulsive move to evict our Embassy from prime Lagos property. Nigerian leadership is far more pro-Nigerian than anti-any cause or country, which is the essence of Nigerianism.

Still, we can probably do little or no political business with the new regime, which of course does not distinguish it from the old. We are simply too far apart on the political issues which they exalt, mainly Southern Africa and the whole range of UN controversies. (The Communist countries have no better political opportunities, unless they foment and become involved in the jihad scheme, which I believe to be as imprudent for them as for us.)

It is in the economic-commercial area that the USG will have greatest opportunities. Even in this area it is the private sector, motivated by the USG, which is in the best position to advance our interests. And it is in this area that Muhammed has demonstrated some responsiveness.

When the corrupt Muhammed succeeded the more corrupt J. S. Tarka as Commissioner of Communications, he immediately perceived that at least the telephones must operate properly if his fate were to be any different from Tarka’s. American businessmen, in extended conversations with me, described Muhammed as being un-Nigerian in his acceptance of their proposals. Specifically GTE and ITT were close to multi-million dollar contracts when [Page 4]Muhammed turned from communications to plotting. (These deals have all the earmarks of Ashland and Mobil Oil arrangements, which is another problem. The point is that they are deals in a country where Americans have not enjoyed much success outside the petroleum sector.)

Muhammed is intelligent enough to realize that he cannot survive unless he can convert oil revenues into tangible development. Among his considerable faults is not Idi Arminian stupidity. His questionable maneuverings as Commissioner reveal a respect for American technology and a realization that capital markets do not begin and end in London. (British and Canadian communications interests have absorbed Nigerian revenues for years without producing a workable system. Other fields point up similar examples, as USG policy has deferred to a British sphere of influence.)

What we badly need, to put it bluntly, is focused American investment and economic penetration of Nigeria. The planes between New York and Lagos are filled with American businessmen, most of whom return frustrated because their proposals are a part of no plan other than their own. Our AID program, even when it received substantial appropriations, demonstrated the same shortcoming.

It ought not be beyond USG ingenuity to organize appropriate sectors of American private industry to spend Nigerian money to gain perceptible development in response to Nigeria’s economic and Muhammed’s political (survival) needs. Emphasis is on the U.S. private sector: (1) USG foreign assistance funds cannot be appropriated and are not needed; (2) USG political closeness to the Muhammed regime is probably unobtainable and undesirable.

RECOMMENDATIONS

1. Determine critical Nigerian development areas in which American private industry can make unique and mutually advantageous contributions. Organize a high level economic-commercial mission with demonstrated technological skills in these areas, and send this mission to Nigeria, after proper advance preparations here and there.

2. Avoid even semblances of close political ties to the incumbent Nigerian leadership, until and unless it proves more durable than now seems likely.

3. Gradually phase small AID mission into Embassy Economic Section, which should be staffed with carefully selected State/AID personnel competent to foster and continue objective of Recommendation 1.

4. Maintain discreet, friendly State ties with Gowon, though avoiding commitments. After another coup or two, probably bloody, Gowon may seem more and more to be the indispensable military leader, or at least the only acceptable one.

  1. Source: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box CL 202, Geopolitical Files, Nigeria, January-August 75. Secret. Drafted by Reinhardt without clearances
  2. Reinhardt evaluated Nigeria’s new leader, Murtala Muhammed, following a July 28 coup. He recommended avoiding close ties to the new regime but sending an economic/commercial mission to Nigeria.

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The Igbo People Of Nigeria: Jews Of West Africa, Victims Of Numerous State-sponsored Massacres

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Igbo Jews reading  from the holy scroll during worship

by Dr Leonard Madu:

In a White House memo dated Tuesday, January 28, 1969 to President Nixon, former Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger describes the Igbos as “the wandering Jews of West Africa-gifted, aggressive, westernized, at best envied and resented, but mostly despised by Nigerian neighbours in the Federation”(foreign relations document, volume E-5, documents on Africa 1969-1972).

Kissinger’s description aptly portrays the Christian Igbos and their experience in Nigeria. Over the years, the Igbos have been the victims of numerous massacres, that they have lost count. Most of the violence directed against the Igbos have been state-sponsored. One can say that the Igbos knew how to spell “state sponsored terrorism” before the rest of the world did. The state sponsored terrorism directed against the Igbos in 1966, led to the declaration of the Republic of Biafra by the Igbos and subsequent civil war. Over two million Igbos died in the civil war, primarily by starvation. One will not be wrong if they call the Igbos the “Tutsis” of Nigeria. Today, an Islamic terrorist Conglomerate led by the dreaded Boko Haram are still slaughtering Igbos and other Christians in Northen Nigeria. Igbos have always seen themselves as a bulwark against the spread of Islam to Southern Nigeria, and as a result, a perennial target of Islamic zealots.

However, the Igbos are one of the largest and most distinctive of all African ethnic groups. Predominantly found in Southeastern Nigeria, they number about 40 million worldwide, with about 30 million in Nigeria. They constitute about 18% of Nigeria’s population, with significant Igbo populations in Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon and the Ivory Coast. Igbos predominate in five states in Nigeria-Imo, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu and Abia. In three other states- Rivers, Lagos and Delta, they constitute almost 25% of the population.

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Cross section of Igbo Chiefs, Nze and other titled personalities

During the slave trade, Igbo slaves were known to be the most rebellious. Most of the slave rebellions in the United States, Haiti, Jamaica, Belize, Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados and Guyana were led by Igbo slaves. In South Carolina, Igbo slaves were reported to have drowned themselves, rather than be kept as slaves. Today that place is called Ebo Island in commemoration of the slaves who died there. The Gullahs are Igbo. Igbos were one of the 13 African ethnic groups that provided the bulk of the slaves who were brought to the Americas. The majority of the slaves who ended up in Virginia, Alabama, Tennessee, Maryland, Arkansas, Mississippi, South and North Carolina and Georgia were Igbo. An Igbo museum has been built in Virginia to honour the contribution of Igbo slaves to the state. One of the Igbo slaves who were sent to Liberia by the American Colonization Society-Edward Roye- became the fourth president of Liberia. Another Igbo slave, Olaudah Equiano wrote the famous slave chronicles.

During the colonial period, the British disliked the Igbos, because of their supposedly uppitiness and argumentativeness. During military service in Burma and India, the pride of Igbo soldiers amongst other African soldiers was proverbial. In the company offices and orderly rooms, the first few words from the White officer speaking to an Igbo soldier was followed by “don’t argue, you! Or “you want to be too clever”, and similar expressions. Their expressive and aggressive mentality which they enjoy in their culture at home does not always allow them to accept false charges or accusations without responding. The late famous writer, Langston Hughes, observed “the Igbo looks proud because he is bred in a free atmosphere where everyone is equal. He hates to depend on anyone for his life’s need. He does not mind if others look proud. He has much to be proud of in his land. Nature has provided for him. He is strong and able to work or fight. He is well formed. He is generally happy in his society where no ruler overrides his conscience. He likes to advance and he is quick to learn. He likes to give rather than take”.

Culturally, the Igbos are a very diverse group with different clans, families, subcultures, and subgroups. However, the customs are similar to local varieties. Although there are disagreements about the origins of the Igbos, there is a consensus that they originated from Nri in the Anambra State of Nigeria. The language of the Igbos is Igbo or Ibo. It is one of the largest spoken languages in Africa, with Hausa and Yoruba. Igbo speaking people are divided into five geographically based subcultures-Northern Igbo, Western Igbo, Southern Igbo, Eastern Igbo and Northeastern Igbo. Not as urbanized as the Yoruba, they live in multitudinous villages, fragmented into small family groups. They do not have hereditary chiefs like the Yoruba or Hausa/Fulani. Every Igbo more or less is his or her own master. The Igbos operate the “Umunna System”, which emphasizes the patrilineal heritage, rather than the matrilineal. Some of the important Igbo cities include Onitsha, Enugu, Umuahia, Aba, Asaba, Abakaliki, Owerri, Nsukka.

In commerce, the Igbos are a mobile, vividly industrious people who have spread all over Nigeria and Africa as traders and small merchants. In countries like Gabon, Ivory Coast, Equatorial Guinea, Sierra Leone, Togo, and Gambia, Igbo traders predominate in retail trade. Most Igbos are clannish, despite their individualism and hold closely together in non-Igbo communities. They are often very unpopular in the communities they live in because they push very hard to make money and often dominate the retail business in alien communities. In his book, the Brutality of Nations, Dan Jacobs describes the Igbos “as ambitious, dynamic and progressive people whose education and abilities did not endear them to those among whom they lived. Even during British rule, there were massacres of Igbos in Northern Nigeria-in Jos in 1945 and in Kano in 1953. The Igbos have acquired the sobriquet, Jews of Africa”.
Education is highly emphasized and given priority in Igboland. Converted to Christianity by Catholic, Anglican and Presbyterian missionaries, they took up self-improvement with such enthusiasm, that by the 1960’s, the Igbos had the highest percentage of doctors, lawyers, engineers, physicists, and teachers than any other ethnic group in Africa. Because of the abundant educational talent in Igboland, many newly independent African nations recruited them to fill vacancies in their civil service. The first American style university built in Africa was in the Igboland-the University of Nigeria at Nsukka. Its founder, Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe was a graduate of Lincoln University in Pennsylvania. The Igbos and the Yorubas are the most educated ethnic group in Africa.

 

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Igbo Jews reading Torah during prayers

 

Politically, the Igbos are very effervescent and volatile. According to author Dan Jacobs “for Britain and for the British civil servants who continued to work in the Northern Region, the Igbos have always been a troublesome element in the federation, a people with a democratic tradition who are not easily controlled. Many British were glad to see them out of a central position in the federation, as were those who had driven them back to their homeland and those who now held the civil service and other jobs they had left”. The Igbos had been the most ardent advocates of a united Nigeria. Upon independence in 1960, an Igbo, Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe-American educated- became the first President and Governor General, while another Igbo, Aguiyi Ironsi became the first indigenous military chief. The leadership of most of the elite universities in Nigeria were also occupied by the Igbos.

Following the military coup of January 1966, which the Igbos were accused of initiating, Aguiyi Ironsi, an Igbo, became President and Supreme Commander of the armed forces. Tensions rose very high in the country resulting in the massacre of Igbos in May 1966. In July 1966, a Hausa/Fulani/Tiv inspired military coup overthrew Ironsi’s regime and a terrible massacre of the Igbos began in earnest. This led to the secession of the former Eastern Nigeria and the declaration of the Republic of Biafra.
This eventually led to the civil war. According to George Orick, an American businessman and consultant to UNICEF who was in Nigeria at the time, one million Igbos were to be killed in order to avenge the death of a man called Ahmadu Bello, who was the Sardauna of Sokoto-Prince of the Islamic Sokoto Caliphate. He reported that “one could hear on Northern Nigerian radio the reading of long lists of Igbos who were targeted for extinction”.-see Goddell team report, Congressional Record of February 15, 1969, pp51976-7. The Igbos believe, and rightfully so, that had they did not fight back, their fate would have been worse than that of the Tutsis in Rwanda. The same way Northern Nigerian radio was exhorting the Hausa/Fulanis to kill the Igbos, was the same way Radio Milles Collines was exhorting the Hutus to slaughter the Tutsis in Rwanda.

Similarly, Heinrich Jiggs, a Swiss businessman in Nigeria who later became the chief Red Cross delegate in Biafra, reports seeing one of the circular letters in Northern Nigeria which stated that every Igbo down to the age of six would be killed. A Canadian Journalist, Alan Grossman, who had been West African Bureau Chief of Time Life News Service in Lagos from May 1966 to June 1968, testified before the External Affairs Committee of the Canadian House of Commons on what he saw. He told the committee “many thousands of Igbos were slaughtered in towns and villages across the north, and hundreds of thousands of others were blinded, crippled or maimed or in the majority of cases, simply left destitute as they attempted to flee to the Igbo homeland in Eastern Nigeria. Some of the fleeing refugees did not make it home.
On one train that arrived in the East, there was the corpse of a male passenger whose head had been chopped off somewhere along the line. Another group of Igbo refugees men, women and children whom I happened to see-I would say 100 or more of them were waiting at the railway station in the city of Kano, the largest city in Northern Nigeria, for about three days, with no security guards, for the arrival of a refugee train, and a land rover full of government soldiers came and mowed them down with automatic weapons. Igbo shops and Igbo hotels were ransacked and looted, while blocks of non-Igbo businesses were carefully left untouched”. (see minutes of Canadian House of Commons proceeding, external Affairs Ref. 7 pp. 239-40).

In the final analysis, Dan Jacobs, in the Brutality of Nations, summarizes the plight of the Igbos in the following way, “to the other Nigerians, the Igbos were not only leaving Nigeria, they were departing with the oil under the lands with which they are seceding. Here lay the explanation of the paradox that the Nigerians had driven the Biafrans out, yet seemed to be fighting to keep them in the Federation. What they actually wanted was the land the Igbos were on and what lay under it-without the Igbos”.

 

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Igbo Jews during prayer session in the synagogue

 

Some internationally recognized Igbo personalities include former president Nnamdi Azikiwe, former military ruler Aguiyi Ironsi, writer Chinua Achebe, former Biafran leader Odumegwu Ojukwu, former justice at the World Court Daddy Onyeama, former Commonwealth secretary general Emeka Anyoku, former middleweight and light-heavyweight champion of the world Dick Tiger and Cardinal Francis Arinze-Pope in waiting… Some African Americans of Igbo ancestry include evangelist T.D. Jakes, actor, scholar and athlete Paul Robeson, actors Forrest Whitaker and Blair Underwood.

(Dr. Leonard Madu is President of the African Caribbean Institute and African Chamber of Commerce in Nashville, Tennessee.)

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