Genocide is Totally Indefensible

By Herbert Ekwe-Ekwe

The Igbo and the east had already made a quasi-strategic withdrawal from the all-Nigeria mission they embarked upon in the 1940s/early 1950s as a result of the series of British counter-measures of the subsequent years, including especially London’s decision to hand over supreme political power to its anti-Nigerian liberation-client north region. The Igbo had spearheaded the liberation of Nigeria from formal British rule. The east was a booming economy, enjoying Africa’s highest growth rate. It was educationally and economically much more advanced than any other part of Nigeria. The east was on course to developing into a leading economic and industrial power in another decade, fulfilling a comprehensive socioecconomic transformation goal it had launched in 1954.

By Herbert Ekwe-Ekwe

It is important to note the striking disclaimer that Max Siollun makes right from the outset in his article on the Igbo genocide (“The Northern Counter-Coup Of 1966: The Full Story”) published in Interestingly, Siollun is not prepared to take personal responsibility for his article but instead invites his readers to “consult” his “cited” sources to authenticate the veracity or otherwise of his supposedly “Full Story”. Siollun is undoubtedly aware of the immense gravity of his subject matter, the 1966-1970 genocide against the Igbo during which 3.1 million of these people were murdered – hence, his presumed caution. But this is not good enough. You do not merely lodge a personal disclaimer whilst writing about genocide, this heinous crime against humanity. You condemn genocide – and condemn it unreservedly. You also insist on the punishment of its perpetrator(s). Siollun has done none of these. His recourse to discredited and opportunistic “sources” including some in academia and media such as Robin Luckham and Lindsay Barrett (both of whom have enjoyed lucrative careers in the past three decades, “rationalising”/denying the Igbo genocide) to tell his “Full Story” cannot therefore obviate the saliency and urgency of personal responsibility on this score.

Patrick Wilmot has argued that the sociopolitical leadership in north Nigeria has “no tradition for managing social change. The only answer to dissent or rebellion is the massacre.” Yet, to offer some rational explanation for a reason or reasons for a specific act of massacre of the Igbo carried out by this leadership since 1945, at the apogee of the British occupation of Nigeria, is fraught with difficulties. For instance, when in November 2002 it ordered the murder of hundreds of Igbo immigrants in north Nigeria over the staging, in Nigeria, of the Miss World beauty competition (organised, not by any Igbo business interests, but by a London-based business conglomerate), it would have been most intriguing for any observer to discern the “Igbo connection” that elicited this monstrous act. Similarly, an observer would be hard pressed to locate the “Igbo connection” to astronomy as yet another gruesome example of an ordered Igbo pogrom in the north illustrates. In January 2001, hundreds of Igbo residents in the north city of Maiduguri were murdered by rampaging youths soon after a lunar eclipse was in progress. The émigrés’ homes and business properties worth million of dollars were looted or destroyed during the carnage. For the north leadership, which has since 1945 regarded the Igbo émigrés in its region as a “targeted population” or “hostage population” to attack at will in furtherance of its myriad sociopolitical positions and objectives, “dissent” or “rebellion” or indeed any other factors need not be necessarily associated or referenced to the Igbo directly for it to execute its deadly mission on the latter. We should therefore surmise, following from this, that for 1966, one factor may have prompted the carefully planned genocide of Igbo immigrants in the north. This concerned the outcome of the official inquiry ordered by General Johnson Aguyi-Ironsi, the military head of state, into the failed January (1966) coup led by Major Chukwuma Nzeogwu. As part of his continuing disposition to assure north Nigeria of his regime’s “goodwill” to the region, Aguyi-Ironsi insisted that the 3-person board of investigators to the failed coup be made up exclusively of north officers: M.D. Yusuf, head of the country’s special branch, who came from a prominent Hausa-Fulani family; Colonel Yakubu Gowon, who Aguyi-Ironsi had just appointed chief of army staff, and who would play a key role in the Igbo genocide and the murder of Aguyi-Ironsi himself; Captain Baba Usman, military intelligence.

The inquiry’s terms of reference were comprehensive – to uncover the motives, the intentions, and the long-term objectives of the January majors’ failed coup. It took three months to complete its work. About two hundred officers and other personnel in the military, including the principal leaders of the event, were interrogated. Important coup documents retrieved from Lagos, Ibadan, Abeokuta, Kaduna, Zaria and elsewhere, were exhaustively evaluated. The report on the outcome of the inquiry showed that the plans to overthrow the Balewa government were restricted strictly to the military; there was no involvement by members of the civilian population. While the majority of officers involved in the action were mainly from the south, and particularly Igbo, there was no evidence whatsoever to suggest or indicate that the coup was a south or indeed some Igbo conspiracy to seize and control the country. Nzeogwu and his group acted alone. In May (1966), the board submitted its report to the government. But while the government studied it, prior to publication, Colonel Gowon (board member and army chief of staff, who also worked for British intelligence in Nigeria since his recruitment to this service whilst at the Sandhurst military academy in England in the 1950s) leaked its main conclusions to the British diplomatic mission in Lagos and a number of politicians and local government leaders in the north. Gowon’s motive was essentially to coalesce the activities of the anti-Aguyi-Ironsi forces, whose interests he shared, into some form of revolt. The north leaders were extremely disappointed with the findings of the investigation, despite the fact that it was carried out by well-known and respected north security officers. The leaders had felt, all along, that the south, especially the Igbo, would be found culpable in the failed coup. They expressed their disappointment in a series of memoranda and other representations made on the subject to both the central government and the north region’s military administration in Kaduna. They specifically called on Aguyi-Ironsi not to publish the commission’s report. Pointedly, even General Olusegun Obasanjo’s 1987 study on the failed coup (21 years after the event!) comes to the same conclusion as the Yusuf-Gowon-Usman investigating board: namely, that Nzeogwu and his group’s action was not an Igbo plot to seize power. This is despite the fact that Obasanjo participated in the second phase of the Igbo genocide (July 1967-January 1970), commanding a notorious brigade at the time, which destroyed hundreds of Igbo villages and towns, murdering thousands of people in the process. There is thus no love lost between him and the Igbo.

Yoruba Project
Given the matrix of the evaluative characterisation, interests, and ambitions of the constituent nations in Nigeria of 1966 (Igbo, Urhobo, Ijo, Hausa-Fulani, Tiv, Yoruba, etc., etc), the January majors’ failed coup was effectively a pro-Yoruba project, aimed at achieving the following goals: (a) end the state of insurgency in Yorubaland that had gone on for 3-4 years; (b) ensure the return and rehabilitation of the mass of displaced Yoruba on exile, especially the thousands in the neighbouring Dahomey (now Benin Republic); (c) release Obafemi Awolowo, the incarcerated Yoruba leader, who had been imprisoned by the erstwhile Hausa-Fulani-dominated central government in Lagos; (d) appoint Awolowo the prime minister in a provisional military-civilian diarchal government.

The Igbo and the east had already made a quasi-strategic withdrawal from the all-Nigeria mission they embarked upon in the 1940s/early 1950s as a result of the series of British counter-measures of the subsequent years, including especially London’s decision to hand over supreme political power to its anti-Nigerian liberation-client north region. The Igbo had spearheaded the liberation of Nigeria from formal British rule. The east was a booming economy, enjoying Africa’s highest growth rate. It was educationally and economically much more advanced than any other part of Nigeria. The east was on course to developing into a leading economic and industrial power in another decade, fulfilling a comprehensive socioecconomic transformation goal it had launched in 1954.

Neither this enterprising economy, which was in no way linked to the Nigerian military establishment (apart from a small army garrison in Enugwu – the east capital – the British had effectively cut the east off from the country’s military bases and allied infrastructure located in the north and Lagos/west regions), nor the Igbo’s famed (some would say ultra-) republican society as a whole therefore stood to benefit whatsoever from a coup d’état in Lagos or elsewhere in Nigeria. The Igbo officers involved in both the putsch attempt and also in suppressing it, had no political nor popular constituency anywhere in Igboland. The military presence in the east was minimal (just a small army garrison in Enugwu, usually staffed by predominantly north and Yoruba personnel), a feature that had been the case right from British times. This was part of the occupation’s long established anti-Igbo programme to install military bases away from the region – preferring, instead, to site these in its favoured north, and in the west incorporating the Lagos-Ibadan-Abeokuta district. As a result, the Igbo officers in the military lived most of their lives outside Igboland and those especially in the west region developed life-long friendships with the Yoruba, particularly members of the intelligentsia in civil society (including, notably, Wole Soyinka, the playwright, and Bola Ige, the politician) and the military (including Colonel Victor Banjo, Major Ademoyega and Captain Gani Adeleke). They were therefore more likely to be in tune and responsive to local politics and development (i.e. west/Yoruba) than occurrences in Igboland/east. These Igbo officers were professionals, technocrats, who acted on their own as the Yusuf-Gowon-Baba investigating panel and the Obasanjo study have, correctly, stated. The presence of these excellent officers, the cream of the indigenous Nigerian military officers on the eve of the (problematic) restoration of independence, in the January 1966 events (pro- and anti-) was essentially attributable to the high-level humanpower development that the east had made across the board (academia, research, production, economy, etc.) as a result of its 20-year societal transformation programme.

Contours of Genocide
In the end, the only outstanding subject in Nigerian politics that was really of concern to the Igbo, particularly in the 1964-1966 period, was the fate of their 1.5 million immigrants in the north, many of whom ran successful commercial, medical, educational and leisure enterprises. These émigrés were often seen by the north leadership as a telling symbol of Igbo “extra-territorial” ambitions and versatility, a discomforting reminder of the Igbo lead-role in the liberation of Nigeria, and their audacious 1940s/early 1950s’ all-Nigeria transformation project. As a result, measures against the émigrés usually featured very highly on the set of policy options “available” to the north leadership, whilst reacting to an astronomical phenomenon such as an eclipse or responding to periods of acute sociopolitical development or controversy in the country (as seen, for instance, in the leadership’s ordering and organisation of pogroms against this Igbo population during the 1945 labour strikes/the NCNC pan-African freedom party campaigns for the country’s liberation, and the 1953 debates on dates for the termination of the British occupation) or indeed in respect to international politics. On the latter, to refer to a more recent example (February 2006 – forty years after 1966!), the fundamentals remain tragically the same: the north’s leadership ordered the murder of scores of Igbo immigrants across north Nigerian cities, towns and villages over cartoons published in Danish newspapers, 4000 miles away, purportedly critical of the muslim religion. No Igbo artists were the authors of these cartoons, as the world knows; no Igbo newspapers or newsmagazines reproduced these cartoons; the Igbo, who are Africans, are not in any way related to the Danes, who are a European people. Some of those Igbo murdered in their homes, schools, businesses or places of worship, were probably never aware of the existence of these cartoons, let alone the controversy surrounding the drawings before they met their untimely deaths. Yet, the north leadership’s choice of the Igbo for “retaliation” over the cartoons, instead of venting their anger on the Dane (who are visibly resident in capital Abuja where they have their embassy) or in fact on any of the nationals from the other European Union member states in Nigeria, underscores the point of the haunting historical vulnerability of this immigrant population. It was of course the 1966-1970 Igbo genocide, which pointedly began with attacks on these émigrés in May-October 1966 and the incorporation of the Igbo military personnel in the savagery (during July-August 1966), that demonstrated the latter’s vulnerability most profoundly, and the depravity of the north-leadership organisers, most chillingly.

The genocide was organised and coordinated by a coterie of north politicians and local government officials, muslim clerics, as well as academics and students of the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. The ABU, a public-funded university, acquired the unenviable “accolade” as the first institution of higher learning in post-conquest Africa which was the nerve-centre for the planning and execution of the crime of genocide. The north operatives received full cooperation and coordination from the British diplomatic mission in Lagos right from the beginning, and also liaised closely with Gowon. Several British nationals including academics at the ABU and those who worked in the north civil service in Kaduna and elsewhere in the region played varying crucial roles in the genocide. These included intelligence work, incitement, propaganda and distribution of material, financing, and the provision, especially by some of the British academics who taught at the ABU, of personal transport to facilitate the movement of rampaging north students and others across towns and cities on their way to murder the Igbo and loot their property. Besides being generally unhappy with what they felt was the gradual “displacement” of the north from the apex of control of Nigeria, which the British occupation had enthroned, the British, particularly those resident in the north region, were riled by Aguyi-Ironsi’s so-called “unification” decree no. 34 of April 1966. These Britons felt that it would jeopardise their heavily entrenched interests in the north. Britons had in the previous six years particularly (i.e. since the so-called restoration of independence) turned the north into the consummate haven to continue to work and live with all the imperious privileges of the era of the occupation, unperturbed by the energised Africanisation of personnel in all works of life in the east and west of the country. The north government had effectively guaranteed the indefinite provision of this haven for Britons (and other favoured foreigners) with its late-1950s’ “northernisation” legislation, which barred south Nigerians from working in the north’s civil service and schools/allied institutions. These Britons therefore supported and participated in the Igbo genocide because they were not prepared to contend with the inevitable competition that their exalted positions and life styles would face from especially the teeming numbers of highly qualified Igbo and others from the south graduating from the universities of Nsukka, Ibadan and Lagos, and from overseas (Britain, United States, Federal Republic of Germany, Soviet Union, German Democratic Republic, etc.), now that exclusivist regional labour services in Nigeria had been abolished by the “unification decree”. The following north and west Nigerian cities and towns, where 100,000 Igbo were murdered so gruesomely between May-October 1966, bear the stamp of perpetual shame as dominant sites of the perpetration of this crime against humanity: Sokoto, Katsina, Zaria, Kaduna, Kano, Kaura-Namoda, Nguru, Bauchi, Gombe, Saminaka, Yola, Kafanchan, Damaturu, Ningi, Darazo, Gusau, Birnin-Kebbi, Bukuru, Numan, Jos, Yola, Keffi, Wase, Langtang, Takum, Mangu, Shandam, Kantangora, Minna, Gudi, Mada, Mokwa, Ayaragu, Wukari, Makurdi, Ilorin, Zungeru, Otukpo, Gboko, Ilorin, Lafia, Tanglawaja, Lagos (especially Ikeja suburb), Ibadan, Abeokuta, Osogbo and Oyo.

Nigeria launched the second phase of its campaign of genocide on the Igbo by directly attacking the Igbo homeland, Biafra, on 6 July 1967. Yakubu Gowon, who had now assumed the position of head of state, after murdering Aguyi-Ironsi, his commander-in-chief, received full backing from the British government which pledged its unflinching military and diplomatic support throughout the campaign. The Gowonist forces envisaged a very short campaign – “48 hours,” according to Colonel Hassan Katsina, the chief of army staff to direct the operation. The Nigerian objective was to simultaneously overrun three strategic Biafran towns, all positioned within a 50-mile arc from the southern fringes of Nigerian territory: Nsukka, the university town, Enugwu, the capital, and Abakaliki, the headquarters of the rich agricultural province of the Ebonyi and Asu valleys. Nigeria’s confidence of a swift victory over Biafra was based on the fact that it had not only “inherited” the entire Nigerian military assets including seven-eights of the combatant personnel prior to the beginning of the genocide in 1966, but it had been involved lately, particularly since October 1966, in the massive importation of arms. It would also count on British support, an important consideration given London’s role as the leading global power in Africa of the mid-1960s.

The core units Gowon assigned to spearhead the invasion of Biafra were the very ones that led the genocidal attacks on Igbo population centres across the north and elsewhere in the country during the previous year. The Kaduna radio and television services of the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation, assisted by the New Nigerian daily and Gaskiya Ta Fi Kwabo weekly, went into a sustained bout of racist, vitriolic broadcast and publicity to mobilise and recruit for the campaign in Igboland. Such was the utter virulence of the anti-Igbo propaganda material on these media services that they constituted the most effective “recruiting sergeant” for the tens of thousands of young men across Nigeria and the neighbouring states of Chad (the notorious gwodogwodo operatives), Niger, and north Cameroon who Nigeria and Britain would train and deploy across Igboland to murder, rape, burn, loot, and waste during three long years of genocide, not seen in Africa since Belgian King Leopold II’s ravages of the countries of the Congo basin during the 19th century.

Nigeria inaugurated another maleficent “first” in Africa of the epoch, to be copied with devastating consequences 40 years later by genocidist broadcasters in Sierra Leone, Rwanda and Congo Democratic Republic, when the Kaduna public-funded radio and television campaigned openly in their broadcast outputs for the Nigerian military and other recruits to march to Igboland and embark on the mass murder of Igbo people, the rape of Igbo womanhood, the looting and vandalisation of Igbo property. These radio and television stations aired the following fiendish jingles in Hausa (with spot advertisements or editorial comments on the theme regularly reproduced in both New Nigerian and Gaskiya Ta Fi Kwabo during the period) before and after the broadcast of each news bulletin and other current affairs programmes throughout the course of the second phase of the genocide – July 1966-January 1970:

Mu je mu kashe nyamiri
Mu kashe maza su da yan maza su
Mu chi mata su da yan mata su
Mu kwashe kaya su

English Translation

Let’s go kill the damned Igbo
Kill off their men and boys
Rape their wives and daughters
Cart off their property
Fully armed and reinforced continuously by Britain, which also had a contingent of advisors and instructors on the ground, the Nigerian forces descended on Biafra with unimaginable ferocity, turning the country, Africa’s most densely-populated area outside the Nile valley, into an extensive crime scene as the Radio Kaduna jingles indeed beckoned. The Nigerians began to murder, rape, burn and loot as they were unmistakably expected to perform. The hallowed justice of the world must urgently investigate this crime thoroughly. No doubt, Igbo and other human rights prosecutors from elsewhere now have a pressing task to accomplish for humanity. Thankfully, the lead organisers and perpetrators of the Igbo genocide such as Generals Gowon, Obasanjo, Abubakar, Babangida, Buhari, Haruna, Akinrinade, Brigadier Adekunle, Captain King and Messrs Enaharo, Ayida and Aminu are still alive, including those on Siollun’s “disclaimer” article. Many of these genocidist generals and others are more likely to be seen today strutting across the world’s capitals as dubious democrats and statespersons instead of being sequestrated at The Hague International Criminal Court house to answer charges against Africa’s post-conquest foundational genocide. It mustn’t be forgotten that 40 years before its routine operationalisation in Rwanda, the Nigerians established on the ground of Biafra, in 1967-1970, the use of rape and the public executions of men and boys as pivotal instruments in waging a war of genocide in Africa. Every Igbo town or village overrun by the Nigerians became a haunting milestone in an inexorable march of rape, death, and destruction: Obollo Afo ... Obollo Eke ... Enugwu-Ezike ... Opi ... Ukehe ... Nkalagu ... Owgwu ... Abakaliki … Eha Amufu ... Nsukka ... Enugwu ... Agbaani ... Asaba ... Ogwashi-Ukwu ... Isele-Ukwu ... Umunede ... Onicha ... Oka ... Aba ... Udi ... Evugbo ... Evugbo Road ... Okigwe ... Umuahia ... Owere ... Abagana ... Ugwuocha/Port Harcourt ... Ahaoda ... Obiigbo ... Azumini ... Umu Ubani/Bonny ... Opobo ... Ugwuta ... Amasiri ... Akaeze ... Uzuakoli ...

One of the tragic features of the Igbo genocide, was the lack of concerted effort from the rest of the world, including governments and peoples in Africa, to stop the Nigerian state’s meticulously organised murders, rapes, lootings and destruction of Igbo lives and property that went on from May 1966 to January 1970. The world could have stopped this genocide, should have stopped this genocide, if it had really endeavoured to do so. In Nigeria, itself, there was a palpable lack of concern shown to the victims by most Nigerians elsewhere, particularly in the west region, a situation which has led Okwudiba Nnoli to observe that, “[a]t that time, Nigeria seemed morally anesthesized.” In what was clearly an obscene postscript to the first phase of the genocide in October 1966, a group of Yoruba obas (kings) toured north Nigeria, soon after these horrific events, to “thank” local community leaders and authorities there for “offering protection” to the Yoruba domiciled in the region during the genocide from being murdered. It of course needs no reminder that the north leaders and authorities being praised by the Yoruba obas were the same who had played an instrumental role, on the ground, in spearheading the Igbo genocide up and down their communities during the May-October 1966 phase. The logistics entailed in ensuring the very “success” of this “protection” enterprise for the Yoruba during a time frame of five months as 100,000 Igbo were being murdered across north Nigeria, a land space that is about one-half of the entire west Europe, once again underlines the premeditated and rigorous planning in the execution of this crime.

In appreciation of the north leaders’ success in safeguarding the lives of thousands of Yoruba émigrés in the north during the Igbo slaughter, the obas supported the rest of the Yoruba leadership, principally Obafemi Awolowo (who Gowon had released from prison and appointed his deputy), to send the Yoruba military to participate in the expanded phase of the genocide in Biafra when it began in July 1967. Awolowo, a rabid Yoruba exclusivist, thought that he now had an opportunity that he had sought frantically for 15 years to “offset” his punishing electoral “humiliation” brought about by his election defeat in his Yoruba/west region homestead (in 1951) by Nnamdi Azikiwe and the NCNC all-Nigeria liberation party. Awolowo always believed that the enterprising and seemingly irreverent Igbo were the victor in the 30-year-old (1935-1965) classic Igbo-Yoruba competition/rivalry that dominated the history of economic, political and cultural transformation in south Nigeria during this epoch. He felt that this outcome had placed the Igbo at the position where it had developed a variegated high-level humanpower and regional economic base from which to “dominate” socioeconomics relations in post-conquest Nigeria. For Awolowo, the May-October first phase of the Igbo genocide was a “shattering blow” to Igbo historic fortunes and it was in the national interest of the Yoruba to lend its support to the north in the latter’s expanded attack on the Igbo. In gratitude, the north assigned the entire south Biafra to the Yoruba military, led initially by Brigadier Adekunle and later Colonel Obasanjo, to ravage. In the meantime, the Yoruba began to fill the plum positions in academia, the bureaucracy, business, industry, military, police, etc., etc., across Nigeria “vacated” by the ubiquitous Igbo who had either been murdered during the earlier phase of the genocide, or were awaiting the new onslaught in their homeland launched in July 1967. The Yoruba also seized, as had been the case in the north, “abandoned” Igbo businesses and property in Lagos and the west some of which were established 50 years earlier. The apparent “Yoruba Age” in Nigeria had, at last, dawned but on sheer greed and opportunism.

Chester Crocker points to the fundamental problem of the state in Africa. It is “not the absence of nations; it is the absence of states with the legitimacy and authority to manage their affairs … As such, they have always derived a major, if not dominant, share of their legitimacy from the international system rather than from domestic society.” It is this question of alienability that is at the crux of this grave crisis. Crocker may have had the Igbo experience especially in mind as he wrote those lines. In Nigeria, on 29 May 1966, this form of state, supported fully by Britain, which created it in 1900, turned on its Igbo population in north Nigeria murdering, raping, burning, pillaging. By 1970, this genocide had claimed 3.1 million Igbo lives, the worst in Africa for a century. Soon, the killing fields from Igboland expanded almost inexorably across Africa as the following sites of slaughter during the epoch illustrate: Congo Republic, Zaire/Congo Democratic Republic, Rwanda, Burundi, Central Africa Empire/Central Africa Republic, Uganda, Ethiopia, Somalia, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea-Bissau, southern Guinea, Cote d’Ivoire, Sudan. Twelve million have been killed in these 14 countries. Added to the 3.1 million Igbo dead, Africa has had the monstrous tally of 15 million murdered by its genocide states in the past 41 years.

Tectonic Rupture
While it is true that the Igbo independence from Nigeria was declared formally a year later on 30 May 1967 in Enugwu, it was in fact on that fateful May day in 1966, 29 May, that the Igbo ceased to be Nigerians forever. That resolve, that renunciation of Nigerian citizenship, was the permanent Igbo indictment of a state that had violated its most sacred tenet of responsibility to its citizens – provision of security. Instead of providing security to these citizens, the Nigerian state murdered 3.1 million of them. Nigeria’s 12 January 1970 so-called “truce” on this campaign of genocide did not therefore, in any way, alter the fundamentals of this Igbo resolve. The resolve is irreversible. The Igbo did not return to Nigeria on 12 January 1970. To suggest otherwise would be a contradiction in terms. There could be no question of the Igbo returning to Nigeria just as the African nations in this southeast part of west Africa that made up Nigeria, before 29 May 1966, could not return to the British conquest and occupation enforcement of the 1900-1960 epoch. What has happened in Igbo-Nigeria relations since 12 January 1970 has been a Nigerian state military, police and bureaucratic occupation of Igboland. As in all occupations in history, this too shall end. The current events on the ground in Igboland, particularly the politics of the de-Nigerianisation of Igbo social existence spearheaded by the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra, point to a much earlier termination of the occupation that only few scholars would have predicted with great certainty just a few years ago.

Pointedly, the Igbo created the state of Biafra on 29 May 1966 – right there on the ground of those death camps in the sabon gari residential districts and offices and railway stations and coach stations and airports and churches and schools and markets and hospitals across north Nigeria to protect the Igbo people from the genocide unleashed by the Nigerian state and its myriad of allies. In other words, the Igbo created Biafra, the first African peoples’-centred state on African soil since the 1885 formal loss of African sovereignty, to safeguard an African population subjected to genocide by the Nigerian state, actively propped up by its European originator and overlord as this appalling crime got underway. 29 May 1966 therefore emerges as a more historic date in the annals of African reckoning than the 1 October 1960 so-called restoration of independence in Nigeria or indeed the 1 January 1956 restoration date in the Sudan – often tagged the “post-occupation breakthrough” in Africa.

Biafra was tasked to provide security to the Igbo and prevent the Nigerian state, a genocide-state, from accomplishing its dreaded mission. And contrary to the British-inflected, Nigeria’s declaration of “no victor, no vanquished” on 12 January 1970, the Igbo were indeed the victor in this encounter. They survived. This was an extraordinary triumph of human will and tenacity. The Igbo overcame an amalgam of desperately brutish forces, some of whom were otherwise antagonists or nominal rivals in regional or the broader expanses of international politics in the post-World War II epoch: Hausa-Fulani, Britain, Yoruba/Oduduwa, Soviet Union, Tiv, Egypt, Berom, Yergam, Nupe, Ishan, the Sudan, Angas, Urhobo, Itsekiri, Igala, Bachama, Poland, Bini, Sura, Algeria, Jarawa (central Nigeria), Jukun, Saudi Arabia, Gwari, Guinea, Kanuri, Syria, Idoma, German Democratic Republic, Iraq, Chad/gwodogwodo.

The Nigerian state and its allies failed to accomplish their goal. This is why Olusegun Obasanjo, one of the most crudely loquacious of Nigeria’s league of genocidists, has in recent years not minced his words about the Nigerian state’s stated desire to complete its 1966 envisaged task on the Igbo people. But Obasanjo must now know that the Igbo will never go under. Ultimate Biafran liberation is evidently assured. Nothing can stop this realisation. The Igbo will resume the march, started in earnest in 1954, to transform their homeland into an advanced civilisation that will be a beacon to their long-cherished aspirations and those of the Africa World. For all intents and purposes, Nigeria collapsed as a functioning state with any serious prospects or possibilities on 29 May 1966 – in the wake of its launch of the Igbo genocide. Despite earning the gargantuan sum of US$650 billion in oil sales in the subsequent 40 years, an overwhelming proportion of this from occupied Igboland in its Delta, Rivers, Imo and Abia administrative regions, Nigeria has cascaded into a frighteningly degenerative slump politically, economically, intellectually, socially, morally and spiritually. And this terminal status, surely, remains Nigeria’s epitaph in history.

Herbert Ekwe-Ekwe is the author of Biafra Revisited (African Renaissance, 2006).



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