If you don’t learn from history, you are heading for perdition”. I have read books on incidents that led to the Biafra war and those about the Biafra war. Truth is the only thing that can heal wounds and no matter who it hurts, we must tell it. After cross checking facts with interviews, excerpts and videos, I chose these books as my references; Why we struck by Major Wale Ademoyega, The tragedy of victory by General Alabi Isama (widely accepted by soldiers who fought on both sides as one of the most accurate story of the war), Nigeria by Peter Obe, The Biafra story by Frederick Forsyth and the real story of Nigeria on youtube.
The January 15 1966 coup can be properly labeled as the genesis of the political strife in Nigeria. The coup was actually planned by eight Majors as against five that was generally believed; (Col Ben Gbulie author of Five Majors and Wale Ademoyega buttressed this in their books) Majors Kaduna Nzeogwu the leader, Chris Anuforo, Emmanuel Ifeajuna, Timothy Onwuatuegwu, Adewale Ademoyega, Humphrey Chukwuma, Capt Emmanuel Nwobosi and Don Okafor. It important to note that Nnamdi Azikiwe was President of Nigeria then, Nwafor Orizu was senate President and had the powers of the President when Zik was not around while Aguyi Ironsi was head of the army. Aguyi Ironsi forced other politicians to resign after the coup to pave way for the then senate president; Nwafor Orizu and he in turn manipulated Orizu to “invite” the military to govern.
Casualties of the coup were Tafawa Balewa the Prime Minister, Ahmadu Bello the Sadauna of Sokoto, Samuel Ladoke Akintola the premier of the west, sir Okotie Eboh, senior military officers killed include Brig. General Samuel Ademulegun and civilian wife, brig. General Shodeinde, K Mohammed, Mai Malari, Unegbe, Pam, Largema. No Igbo was killed in the coup despite having them in politics and the army; one of the main reasons why the coup was termed Igbo coup. After the coup, Igbos in the north which were more of the elites were rubbing the salt in on the northerners by openly carrying despicable pictures of the Sardauna; the Premier of Northern Nigeria.
On assumption of power, although Aguyi Ironsi arrested some of the coup plotters, no severe judgment was meted out on them except they went sent to prison. On the contrary, some officers were promoted with Igbos more in number. There was uneasy calm but nobody knew when the counter coup will come. When it did came, Ironsi was killed in Ibadan alongside Adekunle Fajuyi. Contrary to belief, T Y Danjuma did not want them to be killed but the soldiers he commanded went against his instructions. Pogrom against Igbos and south minorities started in the north in retaliation against the civil populace where many lives was lost.
Brig General Shodeinde was the most senior military officer but the northern soldiers refused to take orders from him which made him to flee and Col Gowon became the head of state. Ojukwu was not happy with the arrangement because he was senior to Gowon himself. Biafra was declared and the war began. Some people rightly advised Ojukwu against secession including Yoruba officers who fought on the Biafra side but he didn’t see reasons with them, people like General Philip Effiong, Fola Oyewole (Reluctant rebel), Ademoyega, Njoku and Adeleke. Their reasons were that apart from the fact that they were ill equipped for war, they believed secession was not the best response to the problem.
Chief Obafemi Awolowo’s role in the war; his motive was for the war to stop! He was on the federal side and you do everything needed to win the war to your side. He advised the then Federal Government not to allow food materials get to southeast to force the war to a quick end by hunger. If you are relying on your enemies for food, what kind of sovereignty are you anyway? Awolowo was the first non Igbo that Ojukwu told of the war and he advised him against it because it was ill timed and will be dangerous to prosecute it. It is worthy to note that in the condolence register on behalf of Awolowo, Ojukwu wrote “the President we never had”. Awolowo was not power drunk as touted, because he resigned from Gowon’s cabinet when he reneged on relinquishing power to civilians.
The non speaking Igbo minority tribes were badly treated by the Biafran soldiers which made them to later switch allegiance to the Federal side. Propaganda was a major instrument the Igbos employed during the war, and one of their claims was genocide against Igbos. This claim was not truly verified as there were casualties on both sides. But because the war was fought more in Igboland, their casualty level was more than the federal side. Ojukwu should take the blame for people’s death just like present agitators who send less informed people to their untimely death.
By and large, years after the war, Ojukwu declared Biafra dead. What have we learnt?
The Igbos real enemy is from within. The cry of marginalization is false. What has their leaders been doing to better the lot of the common man? The truth of the matter is all the tribes in Nigeria has been marginalized at some point in time by the elite. During the six year reign of Goodluck Jonathan, while Igbos had good appointments that didn’t translate to regional development, Yorubas were marginalized but they never clamor for secession. They put their house in order and went for alliance which paid off for them.
The Igbos have not mastered the art of Nigerian politics yet. It is a game of numbers still. Twice one of their own contested for Vice President and they didn’t vote them. Even Ojukwu lost gallantly in igboland. Most appalling was a statement made about a candidate in the last general elections that “although he is the best candidate but he is from a wrong part”.
What does the Igbos stand to gain from Biafra that they can’t gain from Nigeria? Considering the fact that most of their businesses has to do with importation, how will they get their goods to Biafra? What is the IGR of the five eastern states put together? They are not in the first five while Lagos’ IGR alone equals that of thirty-two states. What becomes of the lot of Igbo elites who has big businesses in Lagos, Abuja and Port Harcourt? Sincerely they stand to gain far less. Imagine the thought of collecting visa before visiting other part of the nation or been seen as a second citizen in other part of the nation. The voices of few extremists must not be confused for the desire of the larger populace. Self determination that will only serve to massage the ego of irrational beings should not be encouraged.
However, there are better ways to go about it if any section of the country wants to go which must not obstruct the right of another citizen who does not support secession. Trading blames, falsehoods, threats, name calling, outright act of lawlessness will gather more enemies than friend for the course.
In conclusion, smaller countries have insignificant relevance in world politics. The reason why Nigeria is still reckoned with in the world is due to her human resources from a large population. United States of America, china, India, Malaysia, Korea etc are all taking full advantage of their population to maintain world relevance. We all stand to gain more as a nation than fragments of irrelevant nations.