TITLE: BIAFRA’S STRUGGLE FOR SURVIVAL.
AUTHOR: His Royal Highness, KING, Christopher Chukwuemeka Ejiofor, Army Aide-de-Camp (ADC) to General Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, Head of State of the Republic of Biafra.
PUBLISHER: CIDJAP Press, 1-3 Ikwuato Street, Uwani, Enugu.
YEAR OF PUBLICATION: 2012.
REVIEWER: Uchennia Akahalu – a PhD candidate in International Relations in UK whose research interests include International Political Economy (IPE), Human, Energy, Food and Environmental Security and Conflict Resolutions. [email protected]
aradoxically Captain Ejiofor, the Army Aide-de-Camp (ADC) to General Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, in his book, ‘Biafra’s Struggle for Survival’ published in 2012 by CIDJAP Press of 1-3 Ikwuato Street, Uwani, Enugu argues that General Yakubu Gowon under whose leadership the counter coup d’état of July 1966 ensured that countless Nigerian soldiers and officers of Igbo extraction were hunted down as rabbits and mercilessly slaughtered in a well strategized and orchestrated pogrom should to be given credit for ending the war with the declaration of “no victors, no vanquished”. Even though, His Royal Highness, King, Christopher Chukwuemeka Ejiofor, the Biafran Army Captain was fully aware that the pogrom made sure that Igbo civilians including pregnant women and children domiciled in the Northern geopolitical zone of Nigeria were massacred in their droves, coupled with General Gowon’s blatant blockade of Biafran sea ports which nearly whipped off the remaining population through starvation. The ADC writes that the ‘no victor, no vanquished’ declaration disabused the fears of the Biafran people that Gowon would embark on another genocidal execution of the Igbos and others in Biafra after the war. Had this been done, invariably, it would have deepened the acrimony, rancour and discord amongst the populace. Though this was not eventually done, but all the soldiers involved in the January 1966 coup and officers of the Mid-Western Command that fought on the Biafran side were clamped into detention till the end of 1974 (Ejiofor, 2012).
Irrespective of the terrible loss of properties and governmental positions, the Igbos were further impoverished by the imposition of an inimical economic sanction that allowed every Igbo person without consideration for his or her financial status to be given only £20 after the ‘no victor, no vanquished’ declaration at the end of the war. Captain Ejiofor wondered that if the ‘no victor, no vanquished’ declaration was in effect, why was it that the officers who massacred Igbo officers, civilians including pregnant women, nursing mothers, children and the elderly during the counter coup of July 1966 were not brought to book? King Ejiofor noted that it is blatantly hypocritical that while the no victor, no vanquished led to the January 1966 coup officers were treated as criminals, disgraced and dismissed from the armed forces without any military benefits, the July 1966 coup officer of which Gowon was amongst were treated as heroes and were rewarded with promotions and various political appointments.
However, Captain Ejiofor revealed the real truth surrounding the January 1966 coup d’état which Generals Yakubu Gowon and Muritala Mohammed countered. The coup wrongly tagged ‘Igbo coup’ was actually planned and executed by Nigerian soldiers of Yoruba extraction. The coup plotters, Captain Ejiofor argues, wanted to release Chief Obafemi Awolowo who was in prison for treason and install him as the Prime Minister of Nigeria and diffuse the political turmoil in their native region. This was on the heels of the deadly and murderous politicking between the Nigerian National Democratic Party (NNDP) led by Chief Akintola and the United Progressive Grand Alliance (UPGA) now led by Chief Adegbenro in the absence of Chief Awolowo in Western Nigeria.
The UPGA not satisfied with the conduct of the first national elections of December 1964, denounced the elected government of the NNDP. On the heels of this political imbroglio the Right Hon. Dr. Nnamdi Azikwe, the President of Nigeria requested the outgoing Prime Minister, Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa to form a new government in preparatory to conducting a new election on 11th October, 1965. Invariably, the rancour and acrimony arising from this election was worse than that of the 1964. Opinions were divided with regards to who won due to massive rigging. Akintola’s Nigeria National Democratic Party (NNDP) was believed in some quarters to have won while equally another quarter favoured UPGA as the winner. Following this development, UPGA declared it had actually won the election and its leader, Alhaji Adegbenro announced his intention to form his own government leading to his arrest. This sparked series of violent conflicts, killings, lootings and arson in the West. The eventual formation of the regional government by chief Akintola’s NNDP worsened the situation as he was generally perceived as the betrayer of the region’s imprisoned popular leader, Chief Obafemi Awolowo (Ejiofor, 2012).
Believing that military intervention as the public opinion then had shown would be the only saving grace for their embattled Western region, the young officers hatched a coup which either by happenstance or design had an Igbo officer, Major Ifeajuna whose undergraduate days at the University of Ibadan may have facilitated his closeness to the likes of Lt. Col. Victor Banjo, Majors Olufemi, Olutoye, Adewale Ademoyega and Oluwole Rotimi involved in the unfortunate macabre adventure. At this juncture, the officers struck to end the political thuggery, brigandage and murderous scrimmage in their native Western region of Nigeria that earned the region the sobriquet the wild, wild West. But has puzzled King Ejiofor and intrigues many of his readers is why the coup d’état that was planned and executed by officers and soldiers from the Western region to salvage their region would thrust Igbo officers such as Majors Ifeajuna and Kaduna Nzeogwu in its forefront? Whatever the explanation was, it wrongly led many to believe that the January 1966 coup was an Igbo expedition. In any case, the revelation that Major Ifeajuna and Lt. Col. Banjo were later implicated in another coup d’état in the Republic of Biafra is tantamount to a serious indication of the tight bond existing between the two men and the rest of their cohorts. It also goes beyond every shadow of doubt to indicate that the coup was actually a Western region officers planned and executed adventure but was unfortunately for an unfathomable and inexplicable reason involved some Igbo officers whose region was not involved in any known political impasse and would not benefit from the planned installation of Chief Obafemi Awolowo from the Western region as the Prime Minister. Another factor that is very indicative of the origin of the January 1966 coup was Lt. Col. Banjo’s defection to the Republic of Biafra which invariably was to repay the kindness of Majors Ifeajuna and Nzeogwu’s participation in their botched coup to make their brother, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, the Prime Minister of Nigeria. Additionally, the troops who were forbidden from discussing the dangerous political atmosphere in the country after the January coup argues Captain Ejiofor, still found it imperative to point accusing fingers at Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Chief Anthony Enahoro and others who were serving prison terms for treason against the political leadership of the nation as the brains behind the coup d’état. Equally important was the fact that Lt. Col Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu who was in charge of the 5th battalion headquarters in Kano foiled the coup efforts in Kano by refusing to co-operate with the coup executioners. Similarly, the Quartermaster General, Lt. Col. Unegbu paid with his life when he opposed the coup executioners by refusing to hand over the keys to the armoury in Lagos. If the coup was an Igbo affair, Lt. Cols. Unegbu and Ojukwu would have played along with the executioners.
However, after the Federal Ministers handed over power to Major General Aguiyi Ironsi on the 16th January 1966, Captain Ejiofor (2012) argues that, Brigadier Banjo from the Western region tried to complete the coup by overthrowing Major General Aguiyi Ironsi after it became apparent that Major Ifeajuna had fled. This was another concrete proof to the fact that the January 1966 coup was a Western region organised and executed venture. King Ejiofor observed that one week after the emergency associated with the military coup, all the ubiquitous symbols of demonstration against the Western region’s elections that gave birth to the military coup had been remarkably replaced with celebrations and jubilations in Lagos that was a few days previously engulfed in complete political cacophony. Seemingly, the jubilation was over the restoration of palpable peace in region through the coup which was in tandem with the aim of the coup plotters. This Captain Ejiofor asserted exacerbated the feeling that Awolowo’s men were probably behind the brains behind the coup.
His Royal Highness, King, Christopher Chukwuemeka Ejiofor (2012) claims that “Britain ditched Biafra to support Nigeria’s war efforts because its major desire was the maximum control of its oil economic interests”. According to Curtis M (2007) Britain argues “our direct interests are trade and investment including an important stake by Shell/BP in the Eastern Region of Nigeria (then Biafra) amounting to around £200 million with a further British investment in approximately £90 million with nearly 20,000 British nationals in Nigeria whose welfare are our concern”. Taking this further, the Commonwealth Minister, George Thomas (1967) argued that “the sole immediate British interest in Nigeria is that the Nigerian economy should be brought back to a condition in which our substantial trade and investment in the country can be further developed and particularly so we can regain access to important oil installations”. Subsequently shedding more light on why Britain prefers the preservation of Nigerian unity to the genocide against the people of Biafra, the Common- wealth Minister wrote “our only direct interest in the maintenance of the federation is that Nigeria has been developed as an economic unit and any disruption of this would have adverse effects on trade and development. If Nigeria were to break up, “we cannot expect that economic co-operation between the component parts of what was Nigeria, particularly between the East and the West, will necessarily enable development and trade to proceed at the same level as they would have done in a unified Nigeria; nor can we now count on the Shell/BP oil concession being regained on the same terms as in the past, if the East and the mid-West assume full control of their own economies” (Ejiofor, 2012).