Biafra: The Voyage of Memory vs. Custodians of Stolen Legacy

When memory sails across history, to reclaim landscapes of her birth, or recover epistemic citadels hijacked by imperialisms of conquering narratives; custodians of stolen legacies, and other fences in crime, raise turbulent waves of dissimulation to delegitimize and cheapen those recoveries. They raise brackish waves of contrived amnesia to assail her bows. They convoke a confederacy, to frustrate her designs. Symphonies of orchestrated cacophony assail the airwaves, to drown out the ventilation of legitimate discontent, by those who have been wronged.

Those concerted attempts at frustration, unfortunately set the stage for a historical repeat of those crimes, which prompted the discontent. They frustrate every attempt to learn from history, and thus condemn us to repeat it, as George Santayana warned.

That is the state of the Nigerian debacle, vis a vis the Biafran debate raging on at the moment. One could see that in the debate set off by Dr. Jibrin Ibrahim; on the pages of the, where the learned doctor unfortunately spent the entire length of his article applauding his prejudices, and rehashing old hatreds, with an epistemic absolutism that makes a mincemeat of reason. All, in order to scaffold factually fraudulent stereotypes that was at the root of the genocide that has always massacred Ndiigbo in Northern Nigeria since 1953. Communities of concern waded into the debate, with Prof. Odinkalu rightly accusing Jibrin of a malicious peddling of fraudulent stereotypes. There were other reactions. But the fact remains that Jibrin’s claims to objectivity was a wooden apologetics, which his essay did not acquit. He ended up casting and portraying himself as possessing the mindset of every custodian, or profiteer that has been privileged by a stolen legacy.

Ojukwu image courtesy
Ojukwu image courtesy

Custodians of stolen legacy in every epoch are a fearful, savage bunch. They are children of fear. They were sired in the uneasy beds of iniquitous privilege conferred only by robbery. The fluids that mingled to create them were already haunted by the defiant silence and pregnant inaction of the victims staring defiantly into the souls of their rapists. The world surrounding their advent was eerie in the depths of its foreboding. Danger lurked in every corner. Every blade of grass harbored a sinister possibility. They were born prisoners of fear. Their shadows frighten them. When injustice is the air, fear rules the waves. They are afraid that those whose legacies were stolen and handed over to them, would rise someday to demand a full account of their stolen inheritance. To forestall this, they were bound to deploy every weapon of savage dissimulation in their arsenal, to forever keep their victims down.

We need not go into the fact that some have been tempted by prejudice, to label this and similar voyages of memory like that exemplified in the Biafra issue of today, as an undue allegiance to an expired heritage. Others entertain the luxuries of viewing it from the prisms of some prefabricated bias, in order to dismiss it as a nostalgic yearning for an Igbo supremacist renaissance. Some may even try to immunize their compromised consciences further, by labelling it as the angry rantings of Igbo Ideologues, even though the Biafra idea never left the Igbo mind or the Igbo streets. Some others may paint it with the dismissive brushes of an attempt to sculpt a supremacist ideology of Igbo origin. Every Igbo attempt at engaging the Nigerian public domain on its terms met some of these stereotypes. The most popular in the unfecund imagination of some feudal-minded Nigerians being those words of the Ahmadu Bello, which you could view here.

Such stances are ancient companions of every Igbo attempt to question the strongholds of oppression, dogging their march to liberty and development. They have encountered such stereotypes all steps of the way, whenever they attempted to raise the issue of their oppression, with other stakeholders in the Nigerian project. This stereotype has always being the basis for dismissing legitimate Igbo discontent, as unworthy of any attention. It led to a war. But the lessons remain largely unlearnt. Instead of positive action that would pave the way for harmony and mutual respect and peaceful co-existence, Ndiigbo are treated with the kind of disregard and injustice that has pushed many a people into rebellion or war.

Nigeria never fought a war of independence. But she fought a war to appease foreign interests, under the false banners of keeping Nigeria one.[i][ii] Many are want to think that that should be the last war for Nigeria because no country in history has ever survived two civil wars. But the internal tension actually predicated on primeval fault lines like religion and ethnicity, is most likely going to push Nigeria to the battlefields once again, if cool heads do not prevail to think out a widely acceptable terms for continued coexistence.

We are revisiting Igbo attempts at becoming of part of Nigeria, and all the failures that has attended that enterprise, in order to initiate a dialogue with posterity. We are not keeping quiet. The lava of dissensions and Igbo discontent is steadily rising. We are speaking out because of the fact that such cracks of discontent have led to the decline of empires and monolithic structures of injustice that refused across time, to reform itself to accommodate the legitimate aspirations of its constituent nationalities. In fact, history has shown that no structure that mismanages illusions endures. It fizzles out like the puffs of smoke it peddles as reality.

We must underline the fact that we are not afraid of the labels that our boldness invites. We are aware that whenever injustice is questioned, it always flies into the patronage of impious cant in order to discredit the questioner, and blunt the sharpness of the questions directed against its ontologically leprous core. Like Camara Helder once remarked: When he fed the poor, he was seen as a good Christian. But when he questioned why the poor have no food in the first place, he was instantly labelled a communist. To this end, some of the anticipated critiques above would naturally fall into this grand evasive blueprint held as an ace, by unjust structures and its beneficiaries across time and climes, since the history of man began.

We are equally aware that such critiques are products of the indissoluble marriage between greed and fear. Greed essays to feed off the backs of all, for the sole benefit of its narrow, parochial and concentric insularity. This disposition automatically marries it to a perpetual fear that the oppressed on whose back it battens, would one day rise to question their situation. Many of these anticipated critiques emanate from this region. We expect it to be so because this piece is designed to question the fundaments of the monumental injustice against Ndiigbo in Nigeria. It is interesting to note that in history, those who have ever attempted to question injustice have all earned the unrighteous opprobrium and murderous venom of those who profit from the structures of oppression and unjust status quo.

Interestingly in our case, as contemporary events in Nigeria have continued to attest, these fears and criticisms though anticipated and welcomed have all being rendered redundant by the contemporary upsurge in the number of voices calling for a review of the structure of the Nigerian federation, which has overreached itself in smothering the aspirations of Ndiigbo and other constituent nationalities.

Today, the active struggle against the bonds of oppression as   made manifest in MASSOB (The movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra); OPC (Odua People’s Congress); MOSOP (Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People, and other ethnic movements lend concrete credence to our submission. Nigeria is not a nation: It is a construct of federated grievances that needs urgent geopolitical surgery with the scalpels of justice and right, if we are not to go to the battle fields once more.

We are here to tell the truth of our convictions. In the process, we would naturally be doing violence to the false histories being peddled by certain cults of mediocrity, and other pockets of established greed, whose existence are dependent on a Nigeria enslaved to their avaricious interests. We would go behind the veils to seek out the truths. This is because true history will never lie to protect the strong. Neither will it doctor the facts in solidarity to the groans of the weak and the oppressed. It remains an incorruptible umpire in the affairs of tides and times, climes and lands, men and kings, peoples and nations.

This history is a stubborn reality with an infinite propensity to embarrass. Most times, this history does not require an archaeological excavation of its sacred or sacrosanct sites to yield its secrets. It requires in certain instances, a simple clinical incision at the right junctures, with the scalpel of inquiry, for it to purge its innards, throwing up facts that may prove a point, indict a criminal, exonerate an accused, straighten a confusion, condemn an action, decry a wrong, dissipate a fear, remedy or redress an injury; as the circumstance commands. It is in the light of this that tyrants have always had history as their waterloo. Oppressors of all ages and climes are equally not exempt from the embarrassments of history. Nero and Caligula testify to this.

Those who believe that victors are authors of history are really mistaken. Their contention naturally flows from various historical attempts to invent memories and reconstruct history to suit certain conceptual schemes. But even in the midst of these attempts to manufacture consent or fabricate facts, truth has remained such an obstinate reality, which no amount of historical distortions, tides or debris can ever succeed in defacing. This same truth would never pander forever to the caprices of the oppressed, in order to doctor, tailor or distort the facts that played itself out under history’s watchful gaze. To this end, any man or woman, regardless of stand or status, can only doctor history at his own peril. The unfunny thing about it all is that history must not only record whatever it witnessed. It does it with a mathematical precision and exactitude. It also records any attempt to doctor her records by anybody, with the same promptitude. In this regard, the army of Nigerian historical revisionists massed on the borders of contemporary Nigeria-Igbo history, with the singular intent of defacing history, redacting and distorting it to suit their mission of embezzling the facts, in obedience to their distorted vision of future power equations, are already assured of their failure.

It is on history’s pages that successive Nigerian governments marked Ndiigbo out for selective emasculation. This is a truth that no Nigerian historical revisionist can refute with success. That Igbo country is the least patronized in terms of infrastructural investments, industrialization etc., is a fact that has remained a placard of Nigeria’s collective callousness and continued war of attrition against Ndiigbo. That the federal roads that transverse Igbo country are nothing but truncated death traps generously strewn with erosion sites, and pockmarked with potholes is there for the whole world to see.[iii] That Ndiigbo are subliminally discriminated against in their fatherland is a truth that no amount of verbal denial can erase. That Ndiigbo have contributed more than any other ethnic nationality to this project that is Nigeria is a fact that even a blind man can see. That Ndiigbo have adequately paid more than their dues in Nigeria with a greater promptitude than other stakeholders in Nigeria is a truth whose majesty stands. That Ndiigbo have the best interest of Nigeria, which transcends the parochial insularities and confines of tribe, has never been in doubt.

If all these historical facts add up to be true, what prevents sons of this nation marked for the slaughter slab, raising their voices to protest this sentence, which was handed down with a high degree of xenophobia, injustice, and unemotional economy? Would a son of this race marked for death, ever be justified in keeping silent in the face of this monstrous ogre that seeks his eternal subjugation and the annihilation of his race? Would he ever gain back his roots, if he conspired with his silence to auction it off to an establishment of congenitally deluded feudal lords, or a cabal of avaricious elites, who feel that it is their birth right to rule Nigeria ad infinitum? Should he not like the proverbial Sheep take up the challenge, on being forcefully confronted with an alien dance in his father’s homestead? Is he not obliged to take it in his stride, even if it means taking to arrhythmical jumps, instead of throwing in the towel in grovelling cowardice? Should he not fight and claw to get in his word? Is he not obliged, at least, to do his esteem the favour of telling his story himself? Why hide in cowardice while others hawk the untrue in the courts of credulity?

It behoves us to tell our story ourselves, even if others consider it a heresy to their structured ignorance. It behoves us to unseat those canons of rogue orthodoxy, with the authentic narratives issuing from the facts and truths that risk being embezzled.

Achebe told the whole world, the African story from the African perspective. He told the world that contrary to the false and racist propaganda of   many Western authors, that Africa was never a land peopled by savages, waiting for the “salvific” exploitation, and the civilizing savagery, of a buccaneering Europe. Achebe perforated the Whiteman’s lies on many fronts. They considered him a heretic. To this end, this tallest African in House of literature was shut off from the Nobel Prize. Since no establishment ever canonizes a heretic; so the Western establishment cannot canonize a literary heretic in Achebe, who like Martin Luther pitched his tent on some truths and refused to budge. Though he remained Africa’s greatest. The enslaving establishment sees him as a monumental embarrassment to their prejudicial presumptions.

We are ready to tow Achebe’s line not minding the consequences. We must lay out the facts to give the common patrons of reason, some anti-thesis upon which to reconstruct their dialectics of rational decisions. We give them a basis for comparison between revisionism and truth, between facts and propaganda.

Today, the undeclared war against Ndiigbo is our subject. Wole Soyinka; while speaking out against similar situations against the same people that are now my subject, captures better the reasons why we have decided to speak out. He recognised the fact that,

If these and like crimes were complete in themselves, if they ended in their own occurrence and had no implications for the future beyond the unpleasant memory, we would be content to bury our dead, console the maimed and proceed with a calmed will into the future. But with the certain knowledge that such events are unresolved, and that their lack of resolution promotes their own kind a hundred-thousand fold, with increasing sophisticated machinery of outrage and camouflage, in increased boldness and cynicism which only pauses when a people’s will is wholly dominated, one recognizes the sanctimonious opiate inherent in popular slogans like “bygones is bygones”.[iv]

The quasi-institutionalized crimes against Ndiigbo, instead of abetting have been improving in recklessness and sophistication. It would be a gross and unforgivable betrayal of our conscience and calling, to look the other way like the Levite and priest of the Good Samaritan parable, while our people are being progressively decimated. To keep quiet in the face of such brazen exploitation would make us unwitting accomplices to the crimes against our people.

Our facts dare the revisionists to refute any of the counts we are pleading in the courts of human conscience. If Nigeria can successfully exonerate herself from the guilt of these crimes, then truth must have been crucified in between a gang of brigands.

One of those truths can be categorically stated. Britain massacred over I million Igbo men, women, and children to protect her oil interests in Nigeria, using the Nigerian government of Yakubu Gowon, with the active collaboration of her Egyptian, and Russian cronies. The Nigerian war over Biafra was at best a genocidal pogrom designed to deal an eternal blow on these enterprising people; and protect British/Shell BP’s oil interests in Nigeria.[v]

The war was equally unleashed on Ndigbo as a final solution to the Igbo problem. Proofs to this fact are everywhere in Nigeria. Achebe in chapter 9 of his work; The Trouble with Nigeria, titled “The Igbo Problem”, recounted that a distinguished political scientist from a “minority” area of the south pronounced some years ago that Nigeria has an Igbo problem.[vi] Achebe continued:

Every ethnic group is of course something of a problem for Nigeria’s easy achievement of cohesive nationhood. But the learned professor saw the Igbo as a particular irritant, a special thorn in the flesh of the Nigerian body politic.[vii]

Achebe further consolidated the point he was making by stating a truth, which is obvious, but which many hawks duplicitously deny. He has witnessed to the fact that:

Nigerians of all other ethnic groups will probably achieve consensus on no other matter than their common resentment of the Igbo. They would all describe them as aggressive, arrogant and clannish. Many would add grasping and greedy (although the performance of the Yoruba since the end of the Civil War has tended to put the prize for greed in some doubt)[viii]

Why was Achebe saying this? Why dedicate a chapter to Ndiigbo without offering the same opportunity of full exploration to other constituent nationalities of the Nigerian nation, especially those termed the “major ones”? Is it just to pay some obeisance to his heritage? Achebe been a master of his art, anticipated this question and put paid to it in the very next paragraph before it could be muted or entertained. Achebe made the foregoing submissions because in fact;

Modern Nigerian history has been marked by sporadic eruptions of anti-Igbo feeling of more or less serious import; but it was not until 1966-67 when it swept through Northern Nigeria like “a flood of deadly hate” that the Igbo first questioned the concept of Nigeria which they had embraced with much greater fervour than the Yoruba or the Hausa/Fulani.[ix]

At face value, the war was inflicted on the Igbo as a repayment for their purported active plan to kill off the crème la crème of northern Nigerian elite and leadership in 1966. But the truth remains that the war was fought to assuage and give full ventilation to the bottled anger of some sections of Nigeria against what is perceived as the enterprising market dominance of the Igbo almost all over Nigeria.[x] Lending credence to this, Achebe wrote:

The origin of the national resentment of the Igbo is as old as Nigeria and quite as complicated. But it can be summarized thus: The Igbo culture being receptive to change, individualistic and highly competitive, gave the Igbo man an unquestioned advantage over his compatriots in securing credentials or advancement in Nigerian colonial society. Unlike the Hausa-Fulani, he was unhindered by a wary religion and unlike the Yoruba unhampered by traditional hierarchies. This kind of creature fearing neither God nor man was custom-made to grasp the opportunities, such as they were, of the white man’s dispensation. And the Igbo did with both hands. Although the Yoruba had a huge historical and geographical head-start, the Igbo wiped out their handicap in one fantastic burst of energy in the twenty years between 1930 and 1950.[xi]

To that end, it is not suprising that;

The Civil War gave Nigeria a perfect and legitimate excuse to cast the Igbo in the role of treasonable felon, a wrecker of the nation.[xii]

The British supported the genocide because it fills the ancient craving of Whitehall to deal with this enterprising group that dared challenge the decadent core of its imperialistic interests in Nigeria. Bello Osagie captured the metaphysic informing British support of Nigeria thus:

Thanks to the work of the missionaries-Southern Nigeria came into contact with Western education much earlier than other parts of the country. The British soon began to see these newly educated Southerners as a thorn in their flesh because, unlike their counterparts elsewhere, the conquest of the country did not make them pliable. On the contrary, access to Western education made them more confident and reluctant to submit to colonial rule. The British painted a negative picture of the Southerners as belligerent, corrupt and audacious. They were considered capable of contaminating the Northerners, whose traditional rulers the British had already subordinated and co-opted into their sphere of influence. Together with the traditional Hausa-Fulani rulers the British formed a pact, whose influence would continue to be felt well beyond the period of colonial rule.[xiii]

This prejudice was consolidated by the fact that almost all pre-independence agitations that tried to force the British to leave Nigeria had some link with the Igbo; championed in one way or the other by the Igbo, or inspired by them. The 1929 Aba women riot, The 1949 Enugu Coal Miner’s revolt, and the actions of the Zikist movement are all cases in point here. Nnamdi Azikiwe “Zik”; an Igbo, was equally a thorn in the colonial master flesh, that they did everything to set him up, diminish his influence and scheme him and whatever he represents out of any position, where he would shape post independent Nigeria with his vision.[xiv]

The booty that was Southern-eastern Nigerian oil fields and unrestrained access thereto was equally the attraction for many of the vultures fighting on the Nigerian side. The geopolitical calculus was that a pliable government in Lagos, peopled by puerile and strategic unintelligent management as that of Gowon and his team, would be better controlled than the fiery intelligence and the courage of an Odumegwu Ojukwu in the East. Mark Curtis pieced information from Released Secret Documents of the British Government together. He contended as follows in “Nigeria’s war over Biafra

What is crystal clear is that the wishes of the Biafrans were never a major concern of British planners; what they wanted, or what Nigerians elsewhere in the federation wanted, was simply not an issue for Whitehall. There is simply no reference in the government files that I have seen, to this being a consideration. The priorities for London were maintaining the unity of Nigeria for geo-political interests and protecting British oil interests. This meant that Gowon’s FMG (Federal Military Government) was backed right from the start. But the files also reveal astonishing levels of connivance with the FMG’s aggression.

British interests are very clearly revealed in the declassified files. ‘Our direct interests are trade and investment, including an important stake by Shell/BP in the eastern Region. There are nearly 20,000 British nationals in Nigeria, for whose welfare we are of course specially [sic] concerned’, the Foreign Office noted a few days before the outbreak of the war. Shell/BP’s investments amounted to around £200 million, with other British investment in Nigeria accounting for a further £90 million. It was then partly owned by the British government, and the largest producer of oil which provided most of Nigeria’s export earnings. Most of this oil was in the eastern region.

Commonwealth Minister George Thomas wrote in August 1967 that: ‘The sole immediate British interest in Nigeria is that the Nigerian economy should be brought back to a condition in which our substantial trade and investment in the country can be further developed, and particularly so we can regain access to important oil installations’.

Thomas further outlined the primary reason why Britain was so keen to preserve Nigerian unity, noting that ‘our only direct interest in the maintenance of the federation is that Nigeria has been developed as an economic unit and any disruption of this would have adverse effects on trade and development’. If Nigeria were to break up, he added: ‘We cannot expect that economic cooperation between the component parts of what was Nigeria, particularly between the East and the West, will necessarily enable development and trade to proceed at the same level as they would have done in a unified Nigeria; nor can we now count on the Shell/BP oil concession being regained on the same terms as in the past if the East and the mid-West assume full control of their own economies’.

Ojukwu initially tried to get Shell/BP to pay royalties to the Biafran government rather than the FMG. The oil companies, after giving the Biafrans a small token payment, eventually refused and Ojuwku responded by sequestering Shell’s property and installations, forbidding Shell to do any further business and ordering all its staff out. They ‘have much to lose if the FMG do not achieve the expected victory’, George Thomas noted in August 1967. A key British aim throughout the war was to secure the lifting of the blockade which Gowon imposed on the east and which stopped oil exports.

In the run-up to Gowon’s declaration of war, Britain had made it clear to the FMG that it completely supported Nigerian unity. George Thomas had told the Nigerian High Commissioner in London at the end of April 1967, for example, that ‘the Federal government had our sympathy and our full support’ but said that he hoped the use of force against the east could be avoided. On 28 May Gowon, having just declared a state of emergency, explicitly told Britain’s Defence Attache that the FMG was likely to ‘mount an invasion from the north’. Gowon asked whether Britain would provide fighter cover for the attack and naval support to reinforce the blockade of Eastern ports; the Defence Attache replied that both were out of the question.

By the time Gowon ordered military action in early July, therefore, Britain had refused Nigerian requests to be militarily involved and had urged Gowon to seek a ‘peaceful’ solution. However, the Wilson government had also assured Gowon of British support for Nigerian unity at a time when military preparations were taking place. And Britain had also made no signs that it might cut off, or reduce, arms supplies if a military campaign were launched.

In lieu of that, making the conservative element victorious would require them conceding some patronage in appreciation to the mercenaries that armed and helped them to victory. This targeted patronage is unrestricted access to the Nigerian Bonny-Light Sweet crude oil wells; lying wholly and totally within Biafra.

To prove the point that some sections of Nigeria craved a final solution to what they perceived as the Igbo problem, is the fact that when Biafra was defeated, the war did not end with the signing of the surrender documents, as is the case in all warfare. Listen to Achebe as he published a fact that was never refuted by the actors while they lived. I crave to repeat earlier cited sections for literal fluidity.

The Civil War gave Nigeria a perfect and legitimate excuse to cast the Igbo in the role of treasonable felon, a wrecker of the nation. But thanks to Gowon’s moderating influence, overt vengeance was not visited on them when their Secessionist State of Biafra was defeated in Jaunary 1970. But there were hard-liners in Gowon’s cabinet who wanted their pound of flesh, the most powerful among them being Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Federal Commissioner for Finance. Under his guidance a banking policy was evolved which nullified any bank account which had been operated during the Civil War. This had the immediate result of pauperizing the Igbo middle class and earning a profit of 4 million Pounds for the Federal Government Treasury.[xv]

It did not end there.

The indigenization Decree which followed soon afterwards completed the routing of the Igbo from the commanding heights of the Nigerian economy to everyone’s apparent satisfaction.[xvi]

To this end, we dare these actors and their army of revisionists to refute the fact that Ndigbo have been badly bruised, battered, and decimated by the collective deceit, criminal negligence and conspiratorial highhandedness of successive Nigerian governments.

biafraFurther to this, the reactions here are “the beatings of that generous heart, which is always stirred to anger and action by spectacles of aggression and oppression by the strong against the weak”.[xvii] It is equally a prophetic call to all that view Ndiigbo as a threat that the bests of this people are not enemies, but partners in our common project of leaving Nigerian better than we found it for our children, and posterity to come.

Ndiigbo are one of the most travelled groups in Africa. Their migratory experiences remain an interface for the intercultural dialogue, exchange, and tolerance, which has been the basis of every great civilization. Nigeria and Africa will continue to ignore this fact to their loss and detriment. If Nigeria continues to deny Ndiigbo their rightful opportunity of contributing their own quota in this nation, and/or developing at their own pace, Nigeria will continue to grope in the dark grottos of poverty and underdevelopment. If that persists, Africa should bid prosperity a very sad farewell. Injustice has never led to the portals of peaceful and sustainable development anywhere. Besides injustice anywhere remains injustice everywhere.

We equally wish to underline the fact that today; there has been a concerted wave of efforts and attempts to embezzle the significance of Biafra on all fronts. The Obasanjo’s government shot itself in the foot, in an attempt to wipe out MASSOB as well as devastate Anambra State in a gangland-like war sponsored by his presidency; using Chris Ubah as his hatchet man. Wale Adebanwi recognized this, and brilliantly proffered reasons for this culture of denials, when he wrote as follows:

There has been a terribly regrettable, if not shameful culture of “avoiding Biafra”, particularly among the power elite of other ethnic nationalities, but also among some Igbo leaders. The Yoruba power elite have been careful not to acknowledge the display of superior technical competence and resilience that marked the “Biafran enterprise”, while the Hausa-Fulani power elite have made deliberate efforts to efface the very notion of Biafra, let alone accept the dynamics of the attempt to build a putative Black power nation, which memory will continually shame this cabal in terms of how its actions squandered the Nigerian Possibility-represented in the failed separatist enclave. And some Igbo fear the political backlash that may come with the invocation of a “dead” enterprise-Biafra. This represents one extreme among contemporary Igbo politician, the “Biafra-phobic” elements, who see their future in politics as tied to the denial of their Igbo-ness. The other extreme are the “Biafra-philic” elements, who see a conspiracy against Ndiigbo at every turn and permanently overlooks their own complicity in the fate that has befallen a proud people.[xviii]

But the fact remains that no matter the amount of simulations invested in the inglorious enterprise of effacing history, failure is ontologically engineered to attend its end. The Biafran truth may be buried for millennia like the Egyptian Pharonic tombs of antiquity. It may be submerged under intractable layers of manufactured debris and invented lies. But like the calabash of wisdom brilliantly articulated in the words of Ovarenmwen Nogbaisi, the tragic hero of Ola Rotimi’s play, as he addressed the assembled Benin Court, while passing judgement on two felons, that “no matter how long and stout the human neck; on top of it must always sit a head”.

No matter how long and deep the layers of misinformation and conscious denial of Biafra extends, it will always sit in the tribunes of our socio-political discourse, as an un-propitiated ghost, that haunts all our attempts to deny it.

Today more than ever, the injustice of Biafra screams for attention. This becomes more urgent, when one reviews the issues that led to the birth of Biafra in the first instance, against the backdrops of the goings-on today. On the first of June, 1969, the then General Odumegwu Ojuwku, in the Ahiara declaration, laid down these issues as the primeval broth, out of which emerged the Biafran resistance. Those words of the Ahiara declaration, which was hewn out of a people’s exasperation, resound today like deja vu. Thus spake Ojukwu some moons ago:

Nigeria committed many crimes against her nationals, which in the end made complete nonsense of her claim to unity. Nigeria persecuted and slaughtered her minorities; Nigerian justice was a farce, her elections, her politics, her everything was corrupt. Qualification, merit and experience were dislocated in public service. In one area of Nigeria, for instance, they preferred to turn a nurse who has worked for five years into a doctor, rather than employ a qualified doctor from another part of Nigeria. Barely literate clerks were made Permanent Secretaries. A university Vice Chancellor was sacked because he belonged to the wrong tribe. Bribery, corruption and nepotism were so widespread that people began to wonder openly whether any country in the world could compare with Nigeria in corruption and abuse of power.[xix]

If the above were all there was to it, it could have been tolerable. But to all these, continued Ojukwu, was the added fact that;

All the modern institutions; the legislature, the civil service, the army, the police, the judiciary, the universities, the trade unions and the organs of mass information were devalued and made tools of corrupt political power. There was complete neglect and impoverishment of the people. Whatever prosperity there was was deceptive. ..There were crime waves and people lived in fear of their lives. Business speculation, rack-renting, worship of money and share practices left a few people extremely rich at the expense of the many, and those few flaunted their wealth before the many and talked about sharing the national cake.[xx]

This instructive thesis was only of introductory import, when compared with the facts immediately following it. We crave Ojukwu’s indulgence once more:

Then worst of all, came genocide in which over 50,000 of our kith and kin were slaughtered in cold blood all over Nigeria and nobody asked questions; nobody showed regret; nobody showed remorse. Thus, Nigeria had become a jungle with no safety, no justice, and no hope for our people. We decided then to found a new place, a human habitation away from the Nigerian jungle. That was the origin of our revolution.[xxi]

What Ojukwu fingered as the network of premeditated commissions, designed omissions; structured and planned mistakes, which all stewed to enslave Nigeria to the whims of Igbophobic elements, and provided the rotten humus for the germination of Biafra thirty six years ago, has bounced back with more urgency, and more sophisticated devilry today. A little foray into the heart of today’s Nigeria will unravel this intersection between the dark ominous rains of the civil war and the portentous signs of today, home to all of us.

The injustice of Biafra must be redressed. The desecrated land must be propitiated. The innocents massacred must be atoned for. The ghost of Biafra must be confronted and adequately appeased, before Nigeria could ever dream of development, progress or peace. The more this is postponed, the more Nigeria will continue to consume herself, and feed on her citizens. One act of un-atoned injustice against a part today will grow in concentric ripples to visit other parts with the same dose of unfairness tomorrow. Yesterday, it was Biafra. Today it is the Niger Delta. Every part of Nigeria will taste it and have its turn until Biafra and the injustice meted out on Ndiigbo are honestly ventilated, redressed and atoned for. And as my young friend Mitterand Okorie would have it;

“Nigeria must be prepared to come to terms of what happened in 1967 in Asaba, where as Emma Okocha wrote in his book Blood on the Niger: The first black in black genocide(2006, TriAtlantic Books), defenseless women and children were rounded up and slaughtered for being Igbo. There must be admittance for this criminal conduct and sufficient reparation must be awarded for the affected people to begin to heal”

Nigeria will always hover at the brink of implosion. She actually runs the risk of really imploding, if the ghosts of Biafra are not exhumed and given a justifiable audience, propitiation and atonement. Ohaneze Ndiigbo captured the reasons for this so very well that we cannot resist the temptation of making it speak for itself. Ohaneze observed:

History is replete with the lessons that marginalization of people in the final analysis is UNSUSTAINABLE; for marginalization, if allowed to foster, is capable of eventually unleashing explosive reactions. Slavery could not endure beyond a certain point. The vast colonial empires of the European powers had had to be liquidated. The problems of the minorities in the United States of America are eventually being addressed through “affirmative action”. The Jewish holocaust continues to stain the presence of the German race and haunt her future. Ian Smith’s Rhodesia yielded place to present-day Zimbabwe. Apartheid collapsed under the weight of suppressed tensions.[xxii]

With this as preamble to their conclusions, they rightly submitted that:

Marginalization of Ndiigbo if allowed to fester in Nigeria, will resolve itself autonomously in the fullness of time, but not without untold bloodshed and social disruption. For ignoring these lessons of history, Yugoslavia, Somalia, Sudan and Burundi are, today, paying dearly with the blood of their citizens. The prospects of such a catastrophe are not farfetched for a country like Nigeria whose volatility has already been underscored by a civil war.[xxiii]

Nigeria can never escape from poverty and lack of direction, until the progressive elements, abundantly represented in the Igbo spirit and their kindred spirits in all Nigerian ethnic nationalities take some time at the helm of affairs to lead her out of the woods. The detractors know this. They are afraid of a race that in three years of miniature independence became the most technologically advanced nation in black Africa. To this end, if our reactions here are harsh in tone or tincture, it was prompted by the brazen nature of the assault on these people, and the persistence of their oppressors in their avowed goal of emasculating Ndiigbo. Our effort here, is equally to arouse in Ndiigbo themselves and other such oppressed folks in Nigeria, a disdain for the corporate insult being handed down to them in Nigeria. We must come to realize that to go through life swallowing real insults, is to compromise one’s self respect,[xxiv] and that in any people that submit willingly to the ‘daily humiliation of fear, the man dies.[xxv]

We must rise up to demand for what is rightly ours in Nigeria. Those who profit from this unsustainable status quo should get the memo. Their fangs should get out of our profusely bleeding flesh. Liberty is never a gift from the oppressor. It is purchased with the struggles of those who can no longer bear oppression quietly. The Biafra of today transcends Ndiigbo, to embosom all ordinary Nigerians that are selfishly exploited by the looting elites and faceless cabal holding Nigeria to a ransom.

History is replete with examples, which are pointers to the fact that no oppressor has ever won a prize for benevolence, and that oppressors never yield their conveniences purchased at others’ supreme inconvenience without a fight. Pharoanic Egypt would not let the Jews go, until a medley of punishments broke their feudalistic resolve. Once it seemed that the plague was abating and there existed the possibility of their losing their Jewish slaves and the inglorious services, and cheap, disposable labour accruing therefrom; they gave chase to the fleeing motley crowd of pilgrims; even to the thresholds of a divided Sea of Reeds. There, their feudalistic avarice for dominion suffered a fatal defeat.

Rome never gave up her tyrannical dominance over the then known world until the horde of barbarians from the north forced her hand, and sent her to an irredeemable decline. The colonial imperialists never gave Africa political independence until the agitations by the colonised peoples made the situation so uncomfortable for them that leaving the colonies became the only sane option.

America wouldn’t have left Vietnam save for the bloody nose she received there. Neither would the French have left Algeria and French North Africa, save for the heat generated by the freedom fighters, which rendered further stay there a suicidal option. Apartheid would still be holding sway in South Africa, if Mandela, Walter Sisulu and other freedom fighters folded their arms in inaction or crawled on their knees begging the white segregationists for clemency and integration.

India will always bow in humble gratefulness to the dogged persistence of the Great Mahatma Mohandas Karachi Gandhi. The American Blacks have the sacrifice, fight and doggedness of Martin Luther King Jr. to thank for the freedoms and respect they now enjoy. Slavery would still have been a lucrative business in human merchandise, had Wilberforce and others done nothing to get it abolished. Europe today and the rest of the world would still have been grovelling under Hitler’s millennialist jackboots and megalomanic vision of a Third Reich, if Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin and their allies, did not mobilize their men and materials to fight this grossly perverted vision of social engineering personified in Hitler. Six million Jews were reduced to cinders because they were persecuted into doing nothing in the face of a monumental evil. Many of them left their defence in the hands of their God, who is the shepherd of Israel. Since God according to Sophocles, could never help those who would never act, He looked while they were gassed and cremated for good measure. This was because they were subdued or tricked into abandoning the principal duty and responsibility which nature imposed on every living being, namely, self-preservation.[xxvi]

We took pains to situate this in its historical context because heaven would not help the Igbo nation if Ndiigbo and every other oppressed Nigerian continue to maintain the kind of postural inaction and lackadaisical unconcern that they now adopt as an attitude in Nigeria, while the Oligarchic hegemony continues its rampaging onslaught on the commonweal. They should not be begged to grant us what is rightly ours; which is to make Nigeria better for all of us. We must demand for it giving no quarters and being ready to receive none, like Mandela did, until our rights to be equal, free and accepted as such in Nigeria is realised to its last microscopic detail. We all must hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal. The Orwellian doctrine of some animals being more equal than others, should not be allowed a foothold in Nigeria.

Once again it is liberty and justice that we should pursue. Secession should only be considered as a last resort. We can reform Nigeria, and reform the current State of black humanity, if we can get out of the narrow insularities of prebendal politics, to see the major issues at stake. Forces of history and conquest brought us together. It is not a perfect union. We were never consulted on whether we desired that union. But we can make that union work by sitting down to dialogue out the issues in a clear manner, which would include everyone. Posterity would demand an account of what we did with today. The torch has been passed to a new generation of Nigerians; although the old guard are posing a nelson’s eye to the reality unfolding daily across the Nigerian Streets and social media. And if we let the opportunity pass by without utilising it, then we shall bid our tomorrow a very sad goodbye. If that ever happens, then our existence would have been a vegetative insult to our maker; a disgrace to our ancestors and an unforgivable affront to liberty.

This we should never allow.

We are equally writing for the liberation, true enfranchisement and empowerment of our people. We may not be some Moses or some Nelson Mandela, but we must speak out because the only basis for the triumph of evil is the conspiratorial or cowardly silence of good men. In relation to our stand and style, we have appropriated the philosophy, which informed William Lloyd Garrison’s resolute stand against slavery in all forms, especially as it appeared in the Negroes of the American plantations. In the first issue of his Newspaper-The Liberator-he announced to American slave drivers, as well as slave masters of all times and ages, as we have undertaken to announce to Nigerian slave drivers of our day:

I shall strenuously contend for the immediate enfranchisement of our slave population…On this subject I do not wish to think, or speak, or write, with moderation. I am in earnest- I will not equivocate – I will not excuse – I will not retreat a single inch – and I will be heard.[xxvii]

Ours may be an effusion of bottled anger and disappointment. Disappointed, that the problem has persisted in murderous dimensions, although many are very busy pretending as if nothing of consequence is happening. Disappointed, that the rape has continued unabated. Disappointed, that some of the victims have joined the choir singing kumbaya to the phallic prowess of the rapist. Disappointed, that some are very busy denying the rape happening in their presence. Disappointed, that a climate of moral lethargy and hypocrisy has made the perpetuation of the situation possible.

This piece therefore, is our own blow to the shackles and fetters manacling our flight to greatness. This is our own resolute stand against the forces of oppression. This is our stone cast at the great harlot of oppression. This will forever stand to harass the complacence of oppressed Nigerians into vigilance. It will equally embarrass the oppressive presumptions of our detractors.

In 1521, Martin Luther stood before Emperor Charles V at the Diet of Worms on trial for apostasy and heresy; and told him: Hier Stehe ich, Ich kann nicht anders, Gott hilfe mir!-Here I stand, I cannot change it, so help me God! This article you have in your hands will forever be on trial for apostasy against the gods of Nigerian oppressive illusions. It is heresy for the oppressors, but a battle cry for liberation. Luther’s words engendered a reformation that broke the Holy Roman Catholic Church into pieces. It even induced self-examination and a counter-reformation within the citadels of misguided deployment of religion represented by the Holy Roman Catholic Church of those times. This article would have achieved its aims, if it leads to a critical re-evaluation of the Nigerian state, with the aim of redressing the injustices that marginalizes large swathes of her population and cripples her march to greatness.

Here we stand! We do not have a choice! I fully make Edward R. Murrow’s words my own:

We will not walk in fear, one of another. We are not descended from fearful men, not from men who feared to write, to speak, to associate and to defend causes, which were for the moment unpopular. This is no time…to keep silent.[xxviii]

This is why we chose to write!


[1] See: Mark Curtis: Nigeria’s war over Biafra. Accessed on the 21st of January, 2010.

[1] Chris Ajero. Roads to Hell, art. in Newswatch Magazine of 20th December, 2009. accessed on the 20th of December, 2009

[1] Wole Soyinka, The Man Died, Ibadan, Spectrum Books, 1972, p. X

[1] Cf. Mark Curtis. Op. Cit.

[1] Chinua Achebe: The Trouble with Nigeria. Enugu, Fourth Dimension Publishers., 1983, p.56

[1] Loc.cit

[1] Loc. cit

[1] Achebe, loc.cit.

[1] Amy Chua captured well the fate that awaits market dominant minorities in her seminal work titled World on Fire; How Exporting Free market Democracy Breeds Ethnic Hatred and Global Instability, London, Arrow Books, 2003

[1] Achebe, op. cit. p.57-58

[1] Chinua Achebe: The Trouble With Nigeria, P. 57

[1] Bello Osagie: Crippled Giant: Nigeria since Independence (Hurst and Co. London.1998) p.5, cited in Matthew Hassan Kukah: Human Rights in Nigeria: Hopes and Hindrances, (Missio. Aachen. 2003) p.6

[1] See: Harold Smith. Op. cit.

[1] Achebe., op cit., p.57

[1] Ibid.

[1] Winston Churchill Speech to the House of Commons, April 17, 1945, at the death of Roosevelt, Great War Speeches, P.342

[1] Wale Adebanwi, Ohaneze and the “New Aburi Accord” Thisday Newspapers, Saturday, May 8, 2004 , p.2

[1] Odumegwu Ojukwu, The Ahiara Declaration, 1969, accessed on the 21st of December, 2004

[1] Ibid

[1] Ibid

[1] Ohaneze Ndigbo’s Petition to the Human Rights Violations Investigations Commission, head by Justice Chukwudifu Oputa, 2002, P. 58

[1] Ohaneze, Loc. Cit

[1] Achebe Chinua, “The African Writer and the Biafran Cause”, Essay in Morning Yet on Creation Day, London, Heinemann, 1975, p.78

[1] Soyinka, Op. Cit., P.15

[1] Baruch de Spinoza, the Jewish philosopher equally shares this view that “Conatus Essendi” or the drive to remain in being is the force propelling every living being.

[1] An Outline of American History, p.79

[1] Edward R. Murrow (1908-1965) an American Broadcaster and Journalist

Written by
Onyemaechi Ogbunwezeh
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  • Prof thanks for this beautiful articulated writer up of how Nigeria was, stand and future to go, You did a great work here. I learns alot out of it. Thanks once again.