Nnanna Ochereome: Biafra – Revisiting the unjust war

by Ochereome Nnanna

occupy again

Among these were cold-blooded murderers who killed innocent civilians during the pogroms in Northern and Western Nigeria; war lords who rounded up and hacked innocent and defenceless civilians to death in Asaba…

On Thursday July 18th 2013, the cream of generals and political/bureaucratic czars that worked for the federal side during the Nigerian civil war gathered in Lagos.

They were at the Nigerian Institute for International Affairs (NIIA) to honour retired General Godwin Isama-Alabi, who presented his memoirs. Late reggae singer, Peter Tosh, once sang: “any time I see these men, my blood runs cold”.

Among these were cold-blooded murderers who killed innocent civilians during the pogroms in Northern and Western Nigeria; war lords who rounded up and hacked innocent and defenceless civilians to death in Asaba and other fallen theatres of the civil war; people who, in their youth, took great pleasure in operating the policy of hunger as a legitimate weapon of war and sent thousands of children to their untimely graves through starvation.

Among these were people who betrayed and butchered their boss in Ibadan and also killed an honourable man, Military Governor Adekunle Fajuyi, for being a true African who would rather die than collude in harming his visitor, boss and head of state, General Aguiyi-Ironsi.

These were the men who promised reconstruction, rehabilitation and reconciliation after the war but proceeded to wage more than forty years of marginalisation against the former Biafrans after forcefully bringing them  back to “One Nigeria”.

These were the people who pounced on the oil wealth of the former Eastern Region (now Niger Delta) and ravaged the land and its people in the name of being civil war winners; people who took away the powers of the Nigerian people and concentrated them in the Federal Government, thus reducing every federating unit to parasites that rush to Abuja every month to collect federal allocation.

To be fair, among these were also the men who, in their youth, were genuinely committed to Nigeria, a supposed jewel of the Black race, staying united to fulfill its destiny as Africa’s gift to the world; people who are now dismayed that their patriotic vision for putting their lives on the line was thwarted by the hidden enemies among them in collaboration with former colonial masters, Britain.

Forty three years after the civil war, one after the other, these war generals lamented that injustice still pervades the system. And I laugh. I have a question: was the civil war a campaign against injustice? You answer the question by asking two more questions: (a) what led to the war? And (b) when the “war of unity” was won, what steps were taken to ensure justice for all in Nigeria, including those defeated in war?

I answer these questions based on my understanding of our history. The immediate causes of the war were (a) the coup of the five majors in which leaders of the North (both in the army and the political arena) were killed in a manner suggestive of ethnic cleansing. It sparked the pogroms in the North and West and pushed the East towards secession.

And (b): the Military Governor of the Eastern Region, Col. Emeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, who yielded to pressure and declared the secession of the region from Nigeria in 1967.

There were remote factors involved. These included ethnic and regional rivalries which the Igbos mismanaged to their own detriment. Before the colonialists came, the North and Yoruba land were already distinct political entities.

In the East, there were also distinguished entities along the coasts, such as Calabar, Bonny, Kalabari and other kingdoms. In other words, the Minorities along the coast were more firmly established than their neighbouring Igbo groups who remained scattered in their disparate republican hamlets.

Colonialism which brought Western education became the single most important factor to launch the groups later identified as the Igbos into limelight.

As Chinua Achebe correctly points in his various works, the Igbo people took only thirty years of exposure to Western education and civilisation to burst onto the arena, sweeping the Eastern Minorities into the shade and becoming the regional overlords, much to the resentment of the latter.

They also, by the middle 1960s had become so dominant in the system that even the Yoruba, who had a much longer access to Western education and civilisation, began complaining of “Igbo domination” in their homeland. The North not only complained but had to create the Northernisation Policy to prevent the South, particularly the Igbos, from taking over when the British colonial masters were gone.

The Igbos became arrogant and loud and before long, created anti-Igbo feelings not only among the Minorities in their home region but also among their majority rivals at the national level. These, combining with the anti-Igbo decolonisation disposition of the British, laid the gunpowder that exploded against the interests of Igbo people during the events of 1966 to 1970.

The so-called “Igbo coup” of January 15th 1966 followed a year later by the declaration of Biafra took the anti-Igbo sentiments beyond mere complaints, as a broad national and international consensus converged to ship the Igbo people out of political relevance through the “war of unity”. With the Igbos out of the way, a big reward awaited those who were in the coalition (the Minorities, North, West and Britain). They would have unfettered access to the surging oilfields of Eastern Nigeria!

Amaechi’s lovers and deceivers

FOLLOWING the crisis in the Rivers State House of Assembly, Governor Chibuike Amaechi has been playing host to governors loyal to his faction in the Governors’ Forum. First batch to arrive in Port Harcourt were the “PDP renegades” from Arewa: Govs Babangida Aliyu (Niger), Sule Lamido (Jigawa), Rabiu Kwankwaso (Kano) and Murtala Nyako (Adamawa). Next came the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) governors of the South West with some deputy governors from All Progressive Congress (APC) states in the North.

They were tagged “solidarity visits”. It would have been so harmlessly if not for the undisguised motives of using Amaechi to undo President Goodluck Jonathan and the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in the run-up to 2015.

Whether these people are lovers or deceivers of the Governor, only one person will wear the pinching shoe in the end. And that is Chibuike Amaechi.

To be warned is to be armed.


Read this article on the Vanguard Newspapers


Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.

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