The Nigerian Civil War remains one of the darkest periods in our national history. Lives and properties were lost and destroyed fueled by myopia, delusion, intolerance, hubris and self aggrandisement. This memory was further made cruel by the echoes of the word ‘genocide’ often cited in narrations of the war. Incidentally, this narrative was promoted by the vanquished party (even though the victor declared a no victor, no vanquished stand, the facts are clear), turning the old saw about victors dictating the narratives of the prosecution of a war on its head.
The Britannica defined genocide as Genocide, the deliberate and systematic destruction of a group of people because of their ethnicity, nationality, religion, or race. This is a very serious matter! Such an event can leave very deep scars in the individual and collective psyche of the victims. The events of the Holocaust are still quite fresh in my memory based on the enduring legacy of Leon Uris, one of my childhood best friend. I had also learnt of the Rwandan genocide. Permit me to say, genocide is a serious word and its use should be taken with every sense of responsibility.
I grew up with a heavy heart regarding this matter. This was further exacerbated when, quite curiously, the history taught in our schools was more replete with tales of Mansa Musa, Oyo/Benin Empires and Timbuktu. We knew more about our ancient past than of our recent reality. Thus, many of my generation, the immediate past generation before mine and those who came after, were fed with skewed and very subjective verbal narratives. We all know that word of mouth narrations will ultimately suffer embellishments as the tales get recycled. Over a period of time, conjecture will begin to masquerade as facts. Sadly, life obliviously continues to pile on with its usual issues and obligations; the rat race becomes more challenging on a daily basis. After a while, education was sacrificed for survival. Thusly, the art of curiosity and objective analysis and review became burdens. People became too lazy to do basic research and generally have their opinions fed to them. This made many fertile grounds for manipulation and indoctrination.
So, I decided to delve into the dark underbelly of this momentous period in our national history. The more I dug in, the stranger the uncovered facts. The findings were rather appalling and blood curdling. I am afraid we have all, to a man, been sold a Mickey by astute psychological manipulators. Facts and history had been twisted and misshapen into weapons of puppeteering to influence and proliferate preferred narratives and control people’s emotions and feelings.
The facts of history are captured below.
The Nigerian State was created when the Northern and Southern Protectorates were amalgamated in 1914 (curiously, a year in history with marked and disturbing astrological permutations; strong and blessed, troubled and bloody. Little wonder the First World War (dubbed the War to End all Wars) commenced in the same year). The amalgamation marked the birth of a strange union and a uniquely blessed nation. Decades later, the entity called Nigeria sought independence from its colonial masters and issues of its identity and composition needed to be reviewed and resolved.
The Nigerian nation, comprising of the Northern and Southern Protectorates, sought emancipation from colonial rule and presented its case to its colonial masters. The core North (led and represented by the Sardauna (Sir) Ahmadu Bello, of the NPC) and the Western Region (led and represented by Chief Obafemi Awolowo, of the AG, dominated by the Yorubas) wanted a breakaway as independent nation states. They submitted their positions.
Chief Obafemi Awolowo famously said Nigeria is not a nation. It is a mere geographical expression. There are no ‘Nigerians’ in the same sense as there are ‘English,’ ‘Welsh,’ or ‘French.’ The word ‘Nigerian’ is merely a distinctive appellation to distinguish those who live within the boundaries of Nigeria and those who do not.
The Sardauna, Sir Ahmadu Bello, also famously said the mistake of 1914 which if allowed to remain will lead to unstoppable bloodshed and a failed country
This was echoed by other ethnic minorities such as the current Niger Delta nationalities. These would also like to have their independence and autonomy. However, the Eastern Region (led and represented by Nnamdi Azikiwe, of the NCNC dominated by the Igbos) insisted on one indivisible nation. Azikiwe famously said, the unity of Nigeria is not negotiable
These were the pre-independence positions of the principal actors. However, the colonial masters, for reasons that align with their own self-interest, sided with Azikiwe’s position. This disparity of positions almost led to an impasse. Eventually, to obtain independence, an agreement was reached on how the parties in the Nigeria entity would be governed. Chief Awolowo suggested a federation of independent, autonomous regions. This federation will be run under a parliamentary system of governance. This system was chosen because it was being practised and each region and people were familiar with it. This was the agreed constitutional basis of the new Nation, Nigeria.
Also, the Northern and Western Regions, as well as other minorities, requested for a secession clause to be included in the constitution in a conference held in London in 1954. This was to make an allowance in the event that one or more of the participants in the Nigerian union wishes to opt out for independence and autonomy at a later date. Eastern Region’s representative, the NCNC, resisted and rejected this inclusion. As the most widely travelled and commerce driven of the 3 principal ethnicities, such a break away would severely constrain and limit their activities; essentially, properties and businesses set up all over the country might become forfeited, trading will become more cumbersome and the immediate market shrunken.
It is an amusing irony that agitations for secession is now loudest from that particular region and ethnicity.
Further, the Western Region held some suspicion towards the Eastern Region, particularly from the dominant ethnicity of the region, the Igbos, after an attempt to declare Lagos ‘no man’s land’, was championed by the NCNC. The excuse provided was that Lagos, being the Federal Capital Territory, should belong to all Nigerians. The Western Region/Yoruba, led by the AG political party rejected this proposition and demanded that Lagos should be recognized as a part of the Western Region’s territory; essentially, as a part of the Yoruba people’s heritage. Otherwise, the party would push for a secession of the entire Yoruba Nation from the Nigeria project.
Agitations between the Northern–Southern parts of the country was first recorded in the 1945 Jos Riot in which at least 300 Igbo people reportedly died and again on 1 May 1953, when fighting broke out in the Northern city of Kano. Unfortunately, the political parties tended to focus on building power in their own regions, resulting in an incoherent and dis-unified dynamic in the federal government. This is one of the issues still plaguing us, in 2021, as a Nation.
In 1946, the British divided the Southern Region into the Western Region and the Eastern Region. Each Regional government was entitled to collect royalties from resources extracted within its area/territory. This subtle act by the colonial masters entrenched the divide-and-rule strategy by encouraging secessionist thoughts in southern Nigeria (if they cannot agree, they cannot unite) whilst solidifying autocratic rule in northern Nigeria based on their shared religious beliefs as a nexus.
It is important to also highlight some political intrigues in the emergence of the nation state, Nigeria, during this period. Awolowo approached Azikiwe to present a united southern front in the upcoming elections. Azikiwe however choose to negotiate with the Northern Region so he can claim the position of President by leveraging their homogeneity. In some quarters, it is believed the action was taken because Azikiwe was wary of the intellectual sagacity of the Awolowo led AG but felt more comfortable with the perceived relatively under exposed North. The Sardauna presented Tafawa Balewa as the Prime Ministerial candidate of the NPC. Awolowo became the leader of the opposition in the federal parliament.
As with all such nascent developments, there were disagreements, skirmishes and kerfuffles. It was reasonably, and largely, expected. A child suddenly afforded the freedom of a university campus without the ‘overbearing’ supervision of its parents is likely to indulge in youthful exuberance in the journey of self-discovery.
Then tragedy struck.
A military coup was orchestrated on January 15, 1966. The coup was led by a group of young Nigerian officers claiming corruption and mismanagement (our now very familiar woes) as the deluded inspiring reason.
The coup was believed to have been spearheaded by young officers of Igbo extraction.
There were murmurs of marginalisation around this period even then, as there are now. This led to the author’s review of the composition of the cabinet, government and other key influential over the period. Interestingly, under the stewardship of Tafawa Balewa as Prime Minister (1957-1966), the Eastern Region, enjoyed fair representation. However, for a region with more diverse and distinct ethnicities than the other regions, the Igbos enjoyed majority representation. This is not to imply that the appointments were unjustified. It is to expose the fact that mischief makers will always try to misrepresent issues, promote a siege/victim mentality and advance divisive narratives to push their selfish ambitions and agendas. It is the people’s responsibility and obligation to ensure they aren’t fooled by such antics. If any group of people become actively swayed by these narratives and agendas, it would raise the suspicion that the whole affair is collective resolution or disposition.
– The Igbos formed the majority of the officers of the Nigerian Military Forces/ Nigerian Army within this period. This meant they held most of the senior positions in the Military at the time (the equivalents of today’s highest-ranking military positions)
– The Igbos also enjoyed key Ministerial positions such as Transportation, Commerce, Education, Foreign Affairs, Trade, Communications during this period. After independence, the President of the parliament was also from the ethnic group
– The VCs of UNILAG and UI, two of the premier universities, were Igbos.
It is important to note that the other ethnic groups, major and minor, did not raise a ruckus about marginalisation; by and large, everyone just wanted a working, progressive country wherein competence outranks bigotry.
The coup executioners claimed they wanted a better-run country. However, there was the rather testy matter of implementation, of how to achieve this utopian status. It became a case study of the classic saying, who pounded yam for you that made you feel making soup is an easy task?
As the dust of the coup cleared, a couple of realities became obvious. Whilst the coup executioners had claimed that the ‘entire’ political class was corrupt, the SE didn’t not suffer any fatality of its major political figures and leaders unlike the other ethnic groups who had significant losses at very senior, strategic levels. In an absurd twist of coincidence, most of the Igbo leaders seem to have magically had foreknowledge of the event and were tucked away in safety. On the other hand, the Western Region (Yorubas) and the North suffered huge losses. The North in particular had a leading figure snuffed out at the prime of his life. As influential as Awolowo was, he pales in terms of influence and veneration when compared with the Sardauna, a spiritual, intellectual and political leader. I’m sure the Yoruba ethnic group would have been lost if Awolowo had been killed even though it had more depth in outstanding figures. Now imagine the toll of this monumental loss on the North.
Major General Johnson Aguiyi Ironsi became the Military Head of State. He disbanded the parliament and, in a rich sense of retrospective irony, established a unitary system of government scrapping the previously agreed federating system of government through Decree 34. He was supported by the mostly Igbo led NCNC party (recall that most of the Igbo principals of this party, ‘escaped’ the full brunt of the coup)
Please note, an Igbo man dismantled the federating system (an agreed consensus) and plunged the nation into the current ‘strong center’ governance structure we have and largely complain about.
Ben Nwabueze, also an Igbo man, wrote the guidelines for this unitary system of government. A certain Colonel Ojukwu played a major role in the quick quelling of the first coup.
It may interest the reader to know that the coup was largely supported by the people, irrespective of tribe. However, a sore point was that there was a clamour for the trial and execution of the coup principals. This singular action could have quelled simmering sentiments of nepotism and ethnic agenda. The discontent became even louder as the new head of state was unfavourably perceived as being partial because the plotters/executioners were of the same ethnicity as himself. The new Decree seemed to stir the fears of other major ethnicities that the Igbos were trying to take over all structures of military and political power in the country. This was not kindly perceived and, to those who had lost leadership, family and friends, it felt like a rubbing of salt into an open wound.
The plot thickens…
On February 23, 1966, barely a month after the coup d’état, an Army officer of Ijaw descent (hails from Kaima in present day Bayelsa), Isaac Adaka Boro, declared the Niger Delta Republic. This was in direct violation of the non-secession agreement between all the regions. Major General Johnson Aguiyi Ironsi, in keeping with the law he swore to uphold, quickly deployed Colonel Odumegwu Ojukwu to suppress the insurrectionists and apprehend the principals if possible. This duty was executed ruthless dispatch by the Colonel. In fact, not only was Adaka Boro suppressed and his men (150) killed in a one-sided 12-day battle, the man was publicly humiliated. He was stripped and paraded, taken in shackles and transported to the Military High Command in Lagos. There, he was summarily sentenced to death. His execution was fixed for December of the same year.
What was Isaac Adaka Boro’s agitation? In his defense, he rose up in protest against the perceived high-handedness, overbearing attitude and overwhelming marginalisation of his people by the Igbos of the Eastern Region (recall, the Igbos were the major tribe within the region).
The Igbos were oppressing and marginalising ethnic groups? Fascinating.
On July 29, 1966, a counter coup d’état was executed. This one was led by young Northern soldiers, claiming the same thing the previous coup plotters had espoused. Lt. Colonel Yakubu Gowon became military head of state by sheer coincidence of fate.
A bit of context is required here.
Subsequent to the first coup d’état, the general populace was in shock. Death had come knocking too close to home and the high and mighty were killed. Some regions had lost more than others and suspicion took on ethnic colorations. This was further exacerbated with the largely uninformed public using it as points of pride saying that their region now ‘owns’ or ‘rules’ Nigeria. One can only imagine the angst, anger, outrage and frustration of the perceived victim ethnicity(s). There is nothing worse than taunting a wounded animal, it’s reaction would far exceed any jocular attempt to engage. The previous alliance between the North and the Igbos of the Eastern Region was severely and irreparably damaged. To the Northerners, it appeared the coup was a deliberate attempt by the Igbos to decimate the other region’s/ethnicities leadership and seize power exclusively. This is most likely exaggeration driven by paranoia but some previous unguarded statements gave some disturbing substance to this narrative. The tension was palpable nationwide; there were bloody clashes along ethnic lines particularly in the North against the Igbos. It was a sad inevitability that there would be pockets of chaos. Alarmingly, the spectre of Civil War loomed large over the horizon. This development was poorly handled by all the leadership structures, both military and civilian. Below are some of the statements from leading members of the Igbo extraction that lent some dubious credence to the fears of an Igbo takeover:
From all indications, the God of us Igbos has destined us to rule the whole of Africa – Nnamdi Azikiwe (1945)
It is getting clearer each day that Igbo domination of Nigeria is just a question of time – Oscar Onyeamma (1949)
There were attempts to quell the situation but they few inconsistent, did not seem transparent and ineffectual. By this point, ego had also taken center stage. It is believed that Colonel Ojukwu felt he was better qualified than Lt Colonel Yakubu Gowon for the premier position despite being given the administrative rights over the Eastern Region. This discontent meant that all attempts at reconciliation were exercises in futility.
Notable amongst these attempts was the Aburi Accord of January 5 and 6 of 1967. This was seen as the last chance to prevent an all-out war. Participants included representatives of the Supreme Military Council and delegates from the Southern Eastern region (a recent subdivision of the old Eastern Region). At the end of the meeting, it was believed that matters had been resolved and war averted. Essentially, there was an air of appeasement towards the SE; it was basically resolved that virtually all the recommendations submitted by Ojukwu (leading the South Eastern Region delegation) were adopted. Videos of the event appeared to have captured that Ojukwu did not share in the mirth and relief of the moment. Worrying.
Part of the resolution was that the federal government would not deploy its military might to the South Eastern region and the region would also quell secessionist intents. However, clauses were added that should such a development occur, a state of emergency will be declared and the powers of the Governor of the region suspended. This is standard practice in cases where a state of emergency is declared. Unfortunately, Ojukwu felt personally attacked. He felt he was being undermined and his power base could be taken from him at any time.
The Supreme Military Council had ratified the accord, to be passed as Decree 8. Before the Decree No.8 could finally be issued on March 17, 1967, it had to be passed by the Supreme Military Council meeting which sat in Benin on March 10. But Ojukwu did not attend that meeting because he had earlier rejected a draft of the decree (not the final) which he felt, rather insecurely, made a mockery of his person and the Aburi resolutions.
It would be disingenuous and hypocritical to deny the pogroms that reportedly took the lives of over 30,000 Igbos during this period of unrest. The recent events of the coup had sown such deep bitterness and hatred that the largely illiterate public got involved in the madness. The military government was not seen to be doing enough to arrest the situation hence the propaganda that the Hausas Muslims were trying to eliminate all the Igbos with the backing of the Federal Government became a twisted Gospel. This is despite the fact that Gowon was neither Hausa, Fulani or Muslim. This falsehood and sensationalised narration spread panic and fear and caused a massive return of the Igbos to their ancestral lands.
We must lay a large slice of blame on the Gowon administration. The matter could have been arrested, with civil order restored, if the right proactive steps had been taken. The country was still suffering the trauma of two bloody coups in quick succession; nerves and sensibilities were very frail and fragile. The people were familiar with public riots and civil unrest but these were mostly arrested by the police. This was the country’s first taste of the famed military single-mindedness. Lives were lost without noise or fanfare all with a ruthless efficiency that hypnotized the imagination. The people We’re stuck with equal measures of fear and awe. Unfortunately, stupidity took over reason and erstwhile peaceful neighbors, friends and acquaintances became sworn enemies.
In all good faith, I must draw a parallel between the previously highlighted developments and the ongoing events in the country. The situations are repeated and mirrored to a to a tee (even if the actors had assumed different character roles), with the full complement of political intrigues and shenanigans. One would pray that the incumbent would realise that a failure to take proactive steps in the direction that would popularly be seen and accepted as Justice served was the criminal oversight of the Gowon administration. It would be the utmost foolishness to allow this tragedy to repeat itself.
Before we proceed, let us do a quick review of the preceding facts. Firstly, the war was unnecessary and not in all sense of sincerity a true agitation for self-determination. It was more a crisis of ego and poor communication on steroids. There were attempts to pacify all parties. These, though inadequate, could reasonably have been built on. Secondly, it is becoming clear that the leadership of the SE/Igbos encouraged a perceived arrogant, siege attitude towards the other federating units. An arrogance that is sadly, unjustified as we are truly stronger and better together. Thirdly, most of the issues being complained about today in the country had their roots in the mismanagement of the political terrain (unitary government, first coup, rejection of a secession clause etc.). The aforementioned are seen to have been driven by the leadership of the SE/Igbos.
It would appear that the chicken has come home to roost as these very things manipulated to favor the ethnicity have now come to be seen as shackles by the same ethnicity.
All the foregoing history serve to establish that the SE/Igbo leadership, past and present, and by manipulation, the Igbo nation, are very much a part of the ongoing Nigerian problem. They, as with other ethnicities, are as complicit as the others, in the mess we find ourselves in today. Thus, the path and responsibility towards reconciliation, redemption and integration must be equally shared and borne by all. There have been mistakes in the past, we need not build on them, not relive them.
On May 30, 1967, Ojukwu declared the Republic of Biafra. This singular action plunged the country into further unnecessary bloodshed and loss of lives but this time on a grander scale. It may interest the reader to learn that subsequent to declaring Biafra, the forces of the Biafran state marched upon the minorites around them and subdued them with force. They raped and killed without regard simply because they were the stronger group. Further, they marched upon Lagos and the SW to take over the region in preemptive strikes. These are not the actions of a people seeking self-determination. These are the actions of a warlord and his ambitious acolytes hell bent on conquest.
Earlier, in the month of May, Gowon had carved out states from the old regions (as stated earlier) in an attempt to forestall and isolate secessionist voices whilst also granting many minority groups a sense of autonomy and identity in the Nigeria State (recall the classic divide-and-rule strategy?). One of the developments arising from this is that the new South Eastern territory carved out became landlocked and other ethnic minorities could separate themselves from any secessionist agenda.
The Midwest Invasion of 1967 (August 9 – September 20, 1967) codenamed Operation Torch was launched by the Biafran Army. This was a Military invasion into the Old Western Region. It began on August 9 when 3,000 Biafran soldiers led by General Victor Banjo crossed the River Niger Bridge into Asaba. Upon reaching Agbor, the Biafrans split up. With the 12th Battalion moving west capturing Benin City and Ore, the 18th Battalion swung south, taking Warri, Sapele and Ughelli, while the 13th Battalion headed north for Auchi, Agenebode and Okene. Simultaneously, a plot to capture Mid-Western Governor David Ejoor at his home in Benin failed. Nevertheless, the Biafrans, meeting virtually no resistance, had seized the entire Mid-Western Region in less than 12 hours. Basically, the Biafrans started the war.
If they had stayed within their region and defended themselves against Nigeria’s invasion of their territory, perhaps the ruse of self-determination would have stood. This conquest agenda however suggests they were the first aggressors and that the secessionist agenda was fuelled by ambition. Why would someone who claim to be fighting for self-determination and freedom from the shackles of a perceived oppressor North (in those days, the North was generally termed as Hausas) want to subjugate and take away the rights and lands of others? This runs against all grains of logic.
Let me continue my tale.
Plans were drawn for the 12th Battalion to continue its advance towards Lagos and Ibadan. However, it was cripplingly delayed due to arguments between Ojukwu and Victor Banjo on whom to appoint as governor of the Mid-West, giving Gowon enough time to assemble a defensive line in the west. Also, during the occupation there was widespread hostility between native Urhobo-Isoko, Ijoid and Itsekiri people against the occupying Igbo soldiers. Igbo and native militia groups launched hit and run and reprisal raids against each other. In an attempt to ease tension, Ojukwu proclaimed the Republic of Benin (1967) under governor Albert Okonkwo on September 19, only for Nigerian troops to enter Benin the next day on the 20th, ending the new republic’s 24-hour span.
The Biafran situation rapidly deteriorated following a Nigerian attack by Murtala Muhammed’s 2nd Division at Ore, forcing the Biafrans to immediately retreat. In a large pincer movement, another Nigerian force headed south from Auchi towards Benin, as Benjamin Adekunle’s 3rd Marine Commando division landed at Warri and promptly took Ughelli and Sapele. Benin was liberated in a three-pronged attack from North, West and South which met little resistance. Biafran troops that were able to retreat fled across the Niger River Bridge into Biafra, destroying it afterwards. Those that were cut off abandoned their weaponry and uniforms and blended into the civilian population until it was safe to return east.
The Biafran retreat from Ore is considered the turning point of the war. Another interesting development was that whilst the state-run propaganda was that the Hausas wanted to exterminate the Igbos, the rank and files of the Nigerian Army was filled ethnic minorities in support of the Nigerian state. They were not coerced (unlike the Biafrans who coerced and forced even young children to bear arms, oftentimes with little or no training). In fact, these minority ethnicities were compelled by self-preservation and survival to join. Their immediate and past memories of the oppressive disposition of the Igbos towards them made a compelling case for their decision. They were wedded to Nigeria but Ojukwu and Biafra wanted to forcefully have their way.
For all intents and purposes, the Biafrans had lost the war at this point. It was not a fatal blow however; it was strategic enough for any General to have foreseen the incumbent loss of access to the waterways and being landlocked as a suicidal stand. It was significant enough that the Nigerian Army didn’t have to be brilliant; the age-old siege and blockade strategy was offered on a platter of gold. One would have expected that a General who cares for his people, and is supposedly fighting for their survival as an ethnic group, would see the handwriting on the wall and surrender. He should know that the war had shifted beyond the theater of military style battle-engagement. In this new scenario, civilians will die and those who would be most exposed and vulnerable are children, women and the aged. Rather than taking the honourable route, innocent lives were sacrificed to grandstanding, hate mongering, propaganda and personal ambition. The principal actors committed a triple jeopardy; they failed to own up to their failure, exposed innocent lives to hardship and death but worse still, poisoned the minds of the people and future generations. This was practically a Biafran sanctioned death penalty on its own people, kith and kin and the venom was transferred from generation to generation.
Now, about a genocide…
Was there a genocide? In the classic cases often quoted, the victims were not militarised. That is a fundamental difference. You cannot declare a secession, a position that you had previously actively condemned and punished another individual for, that the said perpetrator was sentenced to death for and not realise it is a declaration of war against the state. You also cannot in good conscience militarise such a position and seek to forcefully annex and subjugate other minorities and ethnicities. That is not self-determination or an attempt at liberation, that is an agenda of ambition to seize power.
Finally, wars are not prosecuted with kid’s gloves. The intention of each party is to suppress the other by any means necessary. As sad as it is, a blockade is a legitimate tool of prosecuting wars. Much like in combat sports, there is an opportunity to tap out in admittance of having lost. Ojukwu and his cohorts stretched a war that should have ended within 10 (ten) months to a 30 (thirty) months nightmare. Rather than eating humble pie, he chose to weaponise the deaths and misery of his people to seek political pity and sow a misplaced victim mentality into a proud ethnicity; the world did not need to see the deaths of innocent children or be guilt tripped (tricked?) into compassion. Circa 100,000 combatants are reported to have died during the Civil War. Alarmingly is the 500,000-2,000,000 people, women and children, non-combatants who also died needlessly. They died from starvation arising from the blockade against the secessionist region. They died from air raids and bomb drops designed to cower into submission. They died from extensive psychological trauma arising from such close encounters with deep tragedy. As previously observed, there is nothing wrong with a blockade or siege during a war. However, there is everything wrong with playing to the gallery, playing the victim and trying to guilt trip the world when you could have swallowed your pride, surrendered and saved lives. I am sure Ojukwu and the other protagonists weren’t starving during the war. Neither were their friends and loved ones. But they delighted in sharing pictures of starving children and shedding crocodile tears. The war should have ended much earlier but hubris and arrogance kept the flames alive. And killed innocent lives unnecessarily.
If there was a genocide, it was not by the Nigerian state, it was by the SE/Biafran leaders who refused to tell themselves and their people the truth. They chose to play the ostrich and poisoned the minds of the people. This poisoning has been allowed to fester and ferment for decades. This has led to an inbred perpetual anger and skewed victim mentality in coming generations. This calamity was born out irresponsibility and hubris. If there was genocide, it is that of the poisoning of the collective thinking of an ethnic group to make them into victims and weaklings who are hell bent on aggression when negotiation is an option.
After the bloodshed of the war, Ojukwu escaped and General Phillip Effiong surrendered to the Nigerian Army on January 15, 1970 (coincidentally or by design, the same date as the first coup d’état). He would later return from exile to a hero’s welcome. The seeds of hate for the other regions he had sown had become full blown bigotry in an ethnic group. Phillip Effiong who saved lives is remembered with ignominy. Ojukwu would later have his full rank restored and pensions restituted and continued. In a macabre twist of fate, Ojukwu would form APGA, vie for presidency of the Nigeria State democratically and lose spectacularly. In fact, his region was divided in their support for him as the god of the belly made a very compelling counter case. Notably however, Ojukwu denounced calls for secession till the day of his death.
On a side note, the current administration that is often presented as nepotistic with a northern agenda paid the pensions of erstwhile Biafran soldiers…
Unfortunately, it would appear that this genocide of reasoning has become a thriving, malignant cancer. It has become a generational malaise wherein the lies, skewed and false narratives, hatred and bigotry are regurgitated to the next generation. This is as revealed by the headless chicken following of a certain Nnamdi Kanu who is safely ensconced in London, living la vida loca, whilst he encourages the Ndigbo he loves so much to get themselves killed. He is championing a dream that the original Joseph had debunked and abandoned. He manipulates them with lies, ridiculous fables and the inbred hate and bigotry just gobbles up the foolishness. Why is this so? How can such a shallow charlatan so easily manipulate a highly intelligent people? One begins to suspect that the years of false indoctrination and stewing hatred and bigotry had found a mouthpiece for expression.
This probably explains why the false massacre calls during the regime change attempt masquerading as #ENDSARS protest was easily believable despite evidences to the contrary. What patriots did was to rally and fight the false narratives and lies of the promoters and their stooges to forestall a total breakdown of law and order. Despite the valiant efforts, quite a lot was still lost. This debunking of false narratives, as was done during the #ENDSARS saga, needs must apply to the misleading ‘genocidal’ narrative. It is not a denial of the happenings; lives were needlessly lost; the war was a colossal mistake of egos and ambitions on overdrive. I weep for the losses. Igboland must not be turned into a war zone again. Every Nigerian life matters. Never again should we allow shallow men of desperate constitution lead our people down the path of death and destruction. Never again. In any part of the country, irrespective of the hue or religion, never again!
An important point to note is that there is also a need for reconciliation as amongst brothers. Whilst the leadership of the SE/Igbos were mischievous, the people were largely innocent and misguided. They transitioned from anxious bystanders to eventual full-blown unwilling participants and casualties. Nigeria needs to apologise to the Igbo nation/people, sometimes there is more to life than being right. It must be sincere, it must be enduring, it must be demonstrated. This should not be misconstrued to mean guilt tripping or that manipulation has yielded dividends. No. It should be the handshake of reconciled brethren who wish to grow together in peace and progress. It is one of the reasons I applaud the efforts of the current administration, despite their many failings; the volume of projects during this period in the SE is unprecedented. Subsequent administrations should build on it even as our brothers from the South East abandon the inbred victim mentality and secessionist agenda which is apposite their proud nature and heritage
From the sequence of events highlighted throughout this article, it would appear that the Igbo nation/people also needs to take a critical look at itself. Beyond the rhetoric of those who only wish to use them for political gains, they need to seize the narrative on their collective destiny. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. If this is not corrected, any charlatan can control their minds by switching on this whole narrative again knowing it is a sore, sensitive memory. That is dangerous and would leave the entire ethnicity always at the mercy of a glib madman. These charlatans advertise sympathy and concern for the people but have failed to bring any meaningful development or change to the region. They say the people are poor and impoverished but have no qualms feeding off of them whilst pointing fingers at fictitious enemies. There is need for much soul searching by the people; healing is more within than without.
As a case in point, I’d like to submit the German people as an example. During the events that led up to the First World War, the Germans were a proud, aggressive race. The First World War led to a crushing defeat that crashed the German economy and broke German hearts. Their bruised ego meant they had latent anger and ego issues. It was therefore no surprise when Hitler turned up, he had a ready audience. The existential shame to the race meant that only retaliation and dominance could assuage the burning pain. In fact, in a interesting parallel, just as Hitler was not a German, Nnamdi Kanu shares dual citizenship with the UK. World War 2 brought an even more crushing defeat. But more than the defeat, the events exposed the German people to how easily they were manipulated into becoming vile caricatures of themselves. They proudly accommodated, justified and supported the evil actions of a few. When confronted with the reality of the what they had become as a people, the opportunity for healing was laid bare. Subsequently, the German people have adopted an inclusive and moderate world view on many issues. They have applied the famous German efficiency to becoming the leading figure in Europe, far ahead of the UK, in less than 100 years. This has led them to better apply themselves to their strengths and established them as an undisputed world leader.
This means that the Igbo agitation/ambition needs not be violent. There is a good chance of seizing power by democratic means if the people can apply their native intelligence and hard work to building bridges, properly integrating and fostering a sense of nationhood. As an example, a number of Nigerian banks and businesses are owned and run by Igbos; no one can deny they have held themselves with distinction within Nigeria’s system. We all admire their industry and achievements. I believe a shift from the secessionist agenda would afford the Igbo nation the opportunity to develop and achieve their true potentials.
History and logic have shown that the cry for Biafra is not only mischievous, it is an unsustainable and unrealistic dream. The people should properly apply themselves to excelling in the Nigeria context, as they’ve done severally in other areas. They need to jettison the hate and bigotry. They need to abandon the misplaced hubris and in humility, build their national standing, their cities and people. They need to lose the emotional and misleading genocidal narrative. Violence did not work the first time; it will not work now. However, the pain, loss and destruction will be recycled in even larger doses.
Indeed, you cannot wake a man who is pretending to sleep. One can only pray that those with common sense and a good sense of history amongst this highly intelligent and proud people will gain a following and nudge this great ethnicity in the right direction. Indeed, the Igbo nation is the victim, unfortunately, it is a victim of its own failed leadership with appalling character deficiencies. The proud Igbo nation is better than this.