ur present article is in honor of this year’s Biafra Fallen Heroes & Heroines Remembrance Day, May 30, 2021. The article serves as part two of our last article titled, “Nigeria’s Continued Dangerous Response to Biafra Question (1).”
Former US President Richard Nixon, during his Presidential Campaign on September 9, 1968, made the following revealing truth about the atrocities of the Federal Government of Nigeria and its Armed Forces and foreign allies against the Igbo Biafrans during the Nigeria-Biafra War (1967-1970):
“Until now efforts to relieve the Biafran people have been thwarted by the desire of the central government of Nigeria to pursue total and unconditional victory and by the fear of the Ibo people that surrender means wholesale atrocities and genocide. But genocide is what is taking place right now – and starvation is the grim reaper. This is not the time to stand on ceremony, or to go through channels or to observe the diplomatic niceties. The destruction of an entire people is an immoral objective even in the most moral of wars. It can never be justified; it can never be condoned.” – President Richard Nixon, “Presidential campaign Speech, September 9, 1968.
In the same context, Wampeters and Granfalloons, two Western aid workers in Biafra in 1968, had the opportunity to interview the Biafran leader Chukwuemeka Odimmegwu Ojukwu and his second-in-command, Philip Effiong. In their memoir titled, “Biafra: A People Betrayed”, the two aid workers quoted Ojukwu as telling them, in the form of a joke: “If we go forward, we die; if we go backward, we die. So, we go forward.”
Continuing, Wampeters and Granfalloons, said:
“The jokes of Ojukwu and Effiong had to do with the crime for which the Biafrans were being punished so hideously by so many nations. The crime: They were attempting to become a nation themselves … The Biafrans kept telling the outside world that Nigeria wanted to kill them all, but the outside world was unimpressed.” – From Wampeters and Granfalloons, “Biafra: A People Betrayed”, 1979.
On January 12, 1970, General Philip Effiong, the second-in-command of Republic of Biafra, in his Biafra’s surrender speech before the international press, religious leaders and aid workers present, counseled General Yakubu Gowon’s military junta of the Federal Government of Nigeria at Lagos, in the following immortal words: “Treat the surviving Biafrans who are surrendering today, well, so that their children will not rise up tomorrow to fight Nigeria again.” – General Philip Effiong, Amichi (Nnewi), January 12, 1970.
It is now about fifty-four years since the end of the Nigeria-Biafra War (1967-1970), in which an estimated 3.5 million Biafrans, mostly Igbos were killed by the Nigerian federal troops, assisted by the British, USSR (Russia), and Arab Egyptian military mercenaries, pilots, rocket jets and other ammunitions. The two Cold-War enemies, British and USSR (Russia), united among themselves as friends, with their Arab Egypt ally to fight the Igbo Biafrans in Nigeria. They all joined and assisted the Nigerian military junta of Yakubu Gowon at Lagos, in executing the war against the Igbo Biafrans for three good years (1967-1970).
Unfortunately, instead of choosing dialogue with the Igbo people for justice, peace, and reconciliation, when the war ended in 1970, to resolve the key issues that caused the war in the first place, and rehabilitate the victims of the war, the leadership of successive Federal Governments of Nigeria opted, instead, for continued violence and subjugation of Igbos in the country. Immediately the war ended, the Federal Government of Nigeria began with a renewed systematic anti-Igbo state policy which has remained in place ever since till today. That anti-Igbo state policy is largely, what has emboldened the successive Nigerian governments and its security operatives to continue with business as usual in their oppressive and violence relationship with Igbo people, which today, is worse than ever.
Moreover, at the end of the war, Nigerian government placed a kind of anathema on the word ‘Biafra’, and on whoever would dare pronounce that word in public. There was also no attempt by the Nigerian government, be it at the federal level, or even within the states in Igboland (Biafraland), to institute a date for an annual commemoration and remembrance of the over 3.5 million Biafrans, mostly Igbos, killed during the genocidal Nigeria-Biafra War (1967-1970). Till date, there are no cenotaphs, epitaphs or monuments of any kind built in Igboland or anywhere in Nigeria to honor the over 3.5 million Biafrans killed during the war.
This is the case before the present generation of pro-Biafra youth movement IPOB, led by Nnamdi Kanu, few years ago, decided to say, ‘enough is enough!’ ‘We must choose a day, in a year, to remember and honor the 3.5 million Biafrans killed during the Nigeria-Biafra War.’ The Federal Government of Nigeria already, on January 15, every year, honors and remembers its own officers of the federal troop killed during the war as they were sent into Biafraland to kill Biafran Igbos. But the real victims of the genocidal war, Igbo Biafrans are not remembered or honored anywhere in the land by their own people or by anybody for that matter?
Which means, that aspect of our African and Christian tradition and beliefs, the commemoration of the dead and communion with the ancestors, is yet to be respected with regard to the 3.5 million Biafrans killed during the Nigeria-Biafra War. Without sounding superstitious, could this not be one of the reasons everything seems to be in disarray in the country, and especially, in Igboland, today? As the South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the anti-apartheid crusader icon, once said, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” In the words of the American Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, “The refusal to take sides on great moral issues is itself a decision. It is a silence acquiescence to evil. The tragedy of our time is that those who still believe in honesty lack fire and conviction, while those who believe in dishonesty are full of passionate conviction.”
The Significance of May 30, Biafra Remembrance Day
The whole idea of annual Biafra Remembrance Day on May 30, is something recent. It came about, thanks to the pro-Biafra youth group IPOB led by Nnamdi Kanu. The group, in particular, instituted the May 30 as the Biafra Fallen Heroes & Heroines Remembrance Day, to be observed every year by Biafrans all over the world. In fact, Nnamdi Kanu’s IPOB began to mark the event in a very grand style, beginning from 2013. The pro-Biafra group popularized it and helped to make its significance sink into the mind and conscience of the people, especially, among Igbo Biafrans and other Easterners, who today, have come to embrace it as something worthwhile. Although, Nigerian central government and elected governors and political class in Igboland, have continued to frown at the whole idea, for no just cause!
At least, for one thing, May 30, is very significant for all Biafrans, because that was the day Emeka Odimmegwu-Ojukwu, governor of former Eastern Nigeria, proclaimed the ‘Republic of Biafra.’ The decision to have Biafra Republic as an independent state and to separate from Nigeria, was taken on May 27, 1967 at the Consultative Assembly of all Representatives of the defunct Eastern Region at Enugu. The Assembly gave Ojukwu the mandate to proclaim an independent state of Biafra.
It all happened at that most crucial and trying time, people of the Eastern region were being massacred in large numbers on daily basis, in Northern Nigeria and across the country by the Northern Nigeria led federal armed forces and ordinary citizens of Hausa-Fulani stock. In order to provide security and succor, and a place to call a home of their own, for Biafrans fleeing from the pogroms against them in Northern Nigeria and other parts of the country in 1966, an Independent State of Biafra was a necessary option. This was why Ojukwu proclaimed the Independence of Biafra Republic at Enugu, on May 30, 1967.
Fast forward: The sit-at-home order in Biafraland, issued by Nnamdi Kanu’s IPOB for May 30, 2017 to mark 50 years of the declaration of Biafra Independence by Ojukwu, and to honor all those killed during the Biafra War, was successfully, observed across Igboland and other parts of Eastern Nigeria that year. Surprisingly, this did not go well with Buhari regime. The regime mobilized against members of IPOB, other pro-Biafra campaigners and Igbo nation in general. The Nigerian Federal Government of Maj. Gen. Buhari went through the back door, and worked with AREWA North youth extremist radical wing, to issue one month quit notice to all Igbos living in the North.
As if that was not enough, the Nigerian military on September 14, 2017, launched the infamous Operation Python Dance II Military killings in the South-East, targeting Nnamdi Kanu and his IPOB members. Many members of IPOB were extra-judicially killed by the Nigerian military. Nnamdi Kanu’s ancestral home at Afara-Ukwu, Umuahia was invaded and attacked by the military, in a desperate attempt to assassinate Nnamdi Kanu, himself. Luckily, Nnamdi Kanu escape unharmed. Since then, he has been living in exile in Europe. Many members of his IPOB pro-Biafra group were killed, some wounded and others imprisoned by the Nigerian security operatives that year as in previous years since Buhari came to power in 2015.
Prior to this, in 2015, the regime had abducted and incarcerated Nnamdi Kanu for almost three years, first in DSS dungeons, and then, in Kuje prisons Abuja. He was on bail, preparing for his court case in October 2017, when the Nigerian military invaded his house at Umuahia, in a desperate attempt to kill him. During his incarceration in DSS dungeon and later in Kuje prison, peaceful protests of IPOB members erupted throughout South-East and other parts of the Old Eastern region. In many occasions, during these peaceful protests of unarmed and defenseless pro-Biafra youth campaigners, Nigerian security operatives would invade the arena, shoot and kill scores of IPOB members.
For instance, during their peaceful prayer meeting at National Secondary School Aba, to mark the Biafra Remembrance Day in 2015, IPOB members were sporadically, attacked and killed by the Nigerian military and police. According to the Amnesty International, over 150 members of IPOB were killed by the Nigerian security forces at Aba that day. In the following year, May 30th, 2016 at Nkpor and Onitsha in Anambra State, during the Biafra Day celebration and gathering at St. Edmund’s Catholic Church Nkpor, Nigerian security operatives descended once again on members of the pro-Biafra youth movement who arrived the venue on the eve of the celebration from far and wide for the grand occasion. A good number of them were massacred by the security personnel.
In each of these instances, IPOB leadership, some Civil Societies and Rights’ Organizations have alleged to have discovered mass graves of members of IPOB killed by Nigerian soldiers in different locations in the South-East. This is in addition to the ongoing “operation shoot-at-site order” of the security operatives in the South-East and South-South. In other words, members of pro-Biafra group IPOB and other pro-Biafra campaigners have not been finding it easy with the Nigerian government and security operatives.
Profile of the Killings of Igbos in Nigeria
Igbo people, as an ethnic-group, have been experiencing both structural and cultural violence in Nigeria right from the colonial time, when the British amalgamated Southern and Northern Protectorates of Nigeria in 1914, to the present-day. This has helped to sustain the Nigerian state-sponsored killings and persecution of indigenes of the ethnic-group, Igbo in the country.
In general, however, experts use the expressions, “structural” and “cultural” violence to describe what the Igbos as an ethnic-group have been passing through in Nigeria. Simply put, “structural violence”, according to Human Rights lawyer Emeka Umeagbalasi (of ‘International Society for Civil Liberties & Rule of Law (Inter-Society); “is a kind of violence that is built in societal structure or age long inequalities in societal structures. It also develops as a result of sustained policy of asymmetry or power imbalances including political exclusion and segregation; gross lopsidedness in allocation of national human and material resources as well as demographic injustice, ethno-religious cleansing and gross lopsided spread in public offices appointments.”
Furthermore, by “cultural violence”, also, is meant, “an act of promoting and sustaining violent campaigns and heightened intolerance by the state and its coercive agents and hired others against ideological, religious and linguistic beliefs and their symbols; of asymmetric or minority ethnic and religious groups. It also involves use of genocidal and murderous jargons and other derogatory languages against minority or asymmetric populations by government and its agents, or hired others. The description of Tutsis in Rwanda by Hutu extremists as “cockroaches” during the Rwandan genocide; the labelling of Igbo people as “Nyamiri” and Christians in Nigeria as “Infidels” by Hausa-Fulani Muslims; leading to countless hate killing of Igbo people and other Christian population in Nigeria are all clear cases in point.” – (See, Emeka Umeagbalasi (of Inter-Society), “Nigeria: How The Igbo Lost 3.5 Million People And $50 Billion Since 1945”, The Trent Online.com, May 31, 2017).
In other words, since 1945 to the present-day, the Igbo ethnic nationality has been witnessing, in one form or the other, pogroms/ethnic-cleansings in Nigeria. In fact, the first pogrom against the Igbos took place on June 22nd 1945 in Jos. It was perpetrated by Hausa-Fulani Muslims and an estimated number of 200 Igbo citizens were massacred; with the British colonial authorities doing nothing. The second Igbo massacre took place in Kano in 1953, in which hundreds of Igbo lives were lost.
In particular, prior to the event that led to the Nigeria-Biafra War (1967-1970), between May and October 1966, intensive and extensive Igbo pogroms were carried out in various parts of the North, resulting to the death of over 30,000 Igbo citizens. From October 1966 to May 1967 alone, the butcheries intensified; with more thousands of deaths recorded; forcing Col Chukwuemeka Odimmegwu-Ojukwu to opt for secession from Nigeria, for which the gate-keepers of the Nigerian state and their foreign allies, decided to declare war on Igbo Biafrans, resulting to Nigeria-Biafra genocidal War of 1967-70.
There was also Asaba Igbo massacre of early October 1967, perpetrated by Hausa-Fulani Muslim led Nigerian troops in which more than 700 men and boys were killed, some as young as 12 years old, in addition to many more killed in the preceding days. Other Igbo killings or pogroms that had taken place in Nigeria or any part thereof are those of Kano 1980, Maiduguri 1982, Jimeta 1984, Gombe 1985, Zaria 1987, Kaduna and Kafanchan 1991, Bauchi and Katsina 1991, Kano 1991, Zango-Kataf 1992, Funtua 1993, Kano 1994, Kaduna 2001, Maiduguri 2001,
Others include, those of Jos September 2001, Kaduna 2002, Kaduna’s Miss World Riot of November 2002, and Prophet Mohammed Cartoons Riot of February 2006 (Maiduguri), the Apo-Abuja Six killing by the Nigeria Police Force of (six young Igbo traders) of June 2005. Others include, the November 2008 Jos LGA Poll Riot/killings, the Jos 2010 Christmas Eve bombings, the Madalla Igbo Catholic Church bombings of 2011, the 2011 post general elections’ riots/killings that led to killing of 10 Igbo NYSC members and several other Igbo people in the North, the Mubi Igbo killings of 2012 and Nyanya Bombing of April 2014.
In addition, over 4000 defenseless Igbo people residing in the North were also butchered by Northern Muslim Islamic Boko Haram terrorists between 2009 and 2014. Since 2015 till today, the government security forces including the Nigerian Army and Police under the present central government of Buhari has shot and killed over 400 defenseless and unarmed Igbo people who non-violently agitate for regional autonomy. The killings took place between July/August 2015 and January 2017 in the South-East and South-South of Nigeria. Since 2015, the terrorist Fulani killer-herdsmen have slaughtered over 200 rural Igbo citizens.
Self-determination of indigenous people is internationally, recognized in all the known laws. Painfully, between 400 and 500 young Igbo citizens agitating or supporting the non-violent pro-Biafra campaigns for self-determination and Biafra independence were also shot and terminally wounded, with severally of them crippled for life. There have been also several cases of secret arrests, torture, disappearances or secret killings carried out by Nigerian military and police targeted at key figures in the non-violent pro-Biafra campaigns.
According to some human rights and societies’ organizations in Nigeria, over 140 innocent bloods of unarmed and defenseless Igbo youths, members of IPOB pro-Biafra group were massacred by the Nigerian security personnel at Nkpor and Onitsha during the 2016 anniversary of the epochal event, May 30 Biafra Remembrance Day. These “unarmed and defenseless pro-Biafra campaigners of Igbo stock on May 29 and 30, 2016 gathered to honor the Igbo or Biafra fallen heroes and heroines; during which many as 110 Igbo citizens were massacred at Nkpor and Onitsha and over 30 massacred or killed in Asaba. More than 130 others were terminally maimed, with some, if not many of them crippled for life.” (See, Inter-Society, “Nigeria: How The Igbo Lost 3.5 Million People And $50 Billion Since 1945”, ibid).
Therefore, apart from the 3.5 million Igbo Biafrans killed during the war (1967-1970), over one million other Igbo lives have been butchered since 1945, that is, in the past 76 years alone. While several thousand others died untimely as a result of successive and present central governments’ hash policies against Igbo people, including massacre of their bread winners and charismatic leaders.
All this is to help us appreciate why the massive heeding and participation by the Igbo people in general, in those voluntary appeals by the leadership of IPOB and other pro-Biafra groups for “sit-at-home” in honor of fallen Biafra heroes and heroines of Biafra War (1967-1970). And why despite battalions of soldiers, police personnel and other security operatives with truckloads of arms and ammunition moved to South-East and parts of South-South, the Igbo people have continuously defied them and exercised their inalienable right to freedom of assembly, expression, and agitation for self-determination, in a grand style.
The Igbo fate in Nigeria today
When the Nigeria-Biafra War ended in January 1970, everyone had thought that the UN and other world powers could have come in to avert the continued subjugation of Igbo Biafrans by the Nigerian Federal Government. But this was not the case at all. In fact, the UN and other world powers never cared to know about the fate of Biafrans immediately the war ended. They simply ignored the Biafrans who were the victims of the war. The UN, and the rest of the International community and world powers, looked elsewhere. They left the surviving victims of the Biafran war, Ndigbo, at the mercy of their former perpetrators of the war crimes, Gowon military junta and anti-Igbo Nigerian environment. Not even the “UN Disengagement Observer”, as they did between the Israelis and Palestinians at the end of 1967 Yom Kupur War, was contemplated for the Biafran War victims. There was also no ‘Truth, Peace, Justice and Reconciliation Commission’ put in place by the UN and International Community at the end of Nigeria-Biafra War in 1970. That is, the type we saw in South Africa after the demise of Apartheid Regime, and in Rwanda at the end of the Rwandan Genocide of 1994, among others.
The UN and International Community did not even remember to suggest ‘unity power-sharing government’ between Nigerian military junta and the surrendering Biafra Republic. That is, the type of power-sharing government, the UN put in place in South Sudan at the end of the hostilities between Khartoum and people of South Sudan. In the Nigerian case, one would have expected the UN and International Community to compel the Federal Government of Nigeria at Lagos, to accept a kind of power-sharing formula with the Biafran “Second-in-Command”, General Philip Effiong, who negotiated the cease-fire on behalf of Biafrans. After all, General Effiong, himself, was an Ibibio Biafran, and not an Igbo. How the UN and International Community decided to abandon the Igbo people and other Biafrans, victims of the war, and to hand them over to their former war adversaries at Lagos, just like that, is still a mystery to many. But in a world controlled by diabolic forces of those who control the world centers of power, what can one expect.
However, today, the chicken has come back to roost. Neither, the British continued shielding and protection of the Nigerian war atrocities against Biafran Igbos, nor the British and UN complicity, had been able to bury the truth about Biafra. The bitter truth about the ‘Biafran Question’ has come back today again, and in full force, to haunt Nigeria, forever.
Today, more than ever, the question on the lips of many, is, ‘has the Nigeria-Biafra War really ended?’ Because, even though the Nigeria-Biafra War (open combatant), was said to have ended in 1970, however, since then, Igboland, the epic entre of the three-year (1967-1970) war bombardments and killings of innocent people, has remained under military siege (militarization), of the officers of the Fulani Muslims’ led Nigerian Armed Forces and Police.
In addition to the heavy militarization of the region, Igboland had been subjected for long, to various forms of discrimination by the Nigerian State. That is, the successive Nigerian Federal Governments’ state policy of political exclusion and economic stagnation of the region. Moreover, with the present administration of Maj. Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, a Muslim Fulani from Northern Nigeria, the regime has not hidden its distaste, hatred and resentment of anything Igbo, when Buhari himself referred to Igbo people of Eastern Nigeria as five-percenters (5%), after he won the 2015 Presidential election. Buhari regime, more than any other Federal Governments before it since 1970, decided to make an open discrimination and persecution of the Igbo, as number one state policy of his administration.
Furthermore, following the ongoing renewed military offensive of the Nigerian armed forces in the South-East and some parts of South-South, by hindsight, it is obvious, the present Federal Government of Nigeria has declared “Biafra War II” against Igbo people and other Easterners (Biafraland). Accept or deny it, this is the present situation of things in Nigeria today, with regard to Igbo nation!
Therefore, considering the renewed agitation for Biafra self-determination, the clamor for Biafra independence through the legal means of referendum, and the Federal Government’s continued response to that demand, through military offensive against the Igbo people, one thing is certain. Today, more than ever, Nigeria as a nation state, is once again, in the state of war against the Biafran Igbos. This is evidence from the renewed militarization of Igboland – the moving of heavy military weaponry from different parts of the country to the South-East (Igboland) zone by the Nigerian Armed Forces and Police. All these are coming on the heels of the on-going extra-judicial killing, abduction and daily disappearance of Igbo youths at the hands of Nigerian Armed Forces and Police. All in the deceptive pretense of clamping down on members of the pro-Biafra youth movement IPOB and ESN officials.
Nigerian Armed Forces and Police that have never for once, arrested, prosecuted or imprisoned any of the Fulani killer-herdsmen or Boko Haram-ISWAP terrorists, operating from the 12 Sharia States of Northern Nigeria, are busy arresting, abducting and killing Igbo youths of pro-Biafra movements. Why? The IPOB members, who have never for once, killed anybody, and the ESN officials, who operate only in the forests in Igboland to protect natives from being killed by the dreaded marauding Fulani killer-herdsmen, are the ones Nigerian Armed Forces and Police and their so-called ‘unknown gunmen’, are haunting down, arresting and killing extra-judicially? Which people can fold their hands and watch this evil envelope their people and ancestral land, without doing something? Only stupid and ignorant people!
In effect, what all this means is that the present Federal Government is indeed, abetting and sponsoring the Fulani herdsmen terrorism and Boko Haram-ISWAP insurgency in Nigeria. The government is equal responsible for the present state of insecurity and killings of Igbo youths in the South-East and parts of South-South. Otherwise, why is it that both the Aso Rock Presidency and Nigerian security Forces are not after the terrorists killer-herdsmen but rather after the ESN officials who are protecting the forests and natives from the killer-herdsmen attacks? The Nigerian Armed Forces and Police personnel, who have never for once, responded to distress-calls from natives of indigenous ethnic-communities when the people are attacked by the killer-herdsmen, are busy arresting and killing Igbo youths of IPOB and ESN?
The military and police are quick to rush to protect, and provide safe-haven for the killer-herdsmen, to prevent a reprisal attacks on them from the villagers after the herdsmen might have finished causing mayhem in the community. These double-standard of the Federal Government and its security operatives, have forced many citizens of different constituent units – indigenous ethnic-nationalities in the Middle Belt and Southern States, to be begin to say, “enough is enough.”
The issue is that if the on-going clarion call for self-determination through the legal means of referendum, of indigenous ethnic-nationalities in the country is not heeded, Nigeria is headed for a very dangerous end. If that happens, it will be the first time Nigeria will experience a real civil war, in the true sense of the word. Because the one it waged before against Biafra (between 1967 and 1970), was not a civil war in the real sense of it. Rather, it was a war of genocide against a targeted ethnic-group, Ndigbo, executed on behalf of Nigeria by the two world powers, British and Russia, and their Arab allies, represented by Egypt. It was a kind of a “World War III” of Nigeria and the world powers against Igbo Biafrans.
In the light of all these, methinks that only referendum for self-determination of various federating indigenous ethnic-nationalities that makeup the Nigerian state, is the thing that can stop the carnage and hostilities going on in Nigeria today. Neither restructuring, nor rotational-presidency, not even Constitutional Amendment can save Nigeria from the looming total collapse and unforeseen catastrophe that may not spear anybody or ethnic-nationality in the country, if we continue to delay.
A Stitch in Time Saves Nine.
Francis Anekwe Oborji is a Roman Catholic Priest. He lives in Rome where he is a Professor of missiology (mission theology) in a Pontifical University. He runs a column on The Trent. He can be reached by email HERE.
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.