|Sunday, July 17, 2022|
Pontifical Urban University, Vatican City (Rome)
Continued from Part 1:
"A voice is heard in Ramah, lamenting and weeping bitterly:
They Use Blood of Igbos to 'Keep Nigeria One'
n Igbo proverb says, "Ukpana okpoko gburu, nti chiri ya" (a bird killed by a noisy animal is deaf, or stubborn). Again, the people say in Igbo, "Ahia akaraka adighi eli onye ngwuro" (a pre-announced war does not find a lame person unprepared).
The above biblical citation and Igbo wisdom sayings, introduces us to this Part 2 of our article. Our concern as in Part 1, of the article, is about saving lives and preventing further bloodshed and ethnic-cleansings in Nigeria. It is about preventing a repeat of the genocidal Nigeria-Biafra War of the 60s', in which an estimated 3.5 million Biafrans, mostly, Igbos were killed by the Nigerian federal government's troops and obnoxious anti-Biafra policies, from happening again in this 21st Century.
It is about challenging any of our highly gifted and well-positioned Christian religious leaders, with courage, determination and audacity, to rise up, to mitigate the ongoing calls for referendum for self-determination of those indigenous ethnic nationalities that want to opt out of the Nigerian State. This is a duty-call to save lives and to give life, 'life in abundance', to our endangered indigenous peoples and Christians, in the already failed Nigerian State.
That is, as a way of preventing a reoccurrence of genocide against the people of Igbo Nation in Nigeria, a second time. It is also a clarion call to other Christian religious leaders with same leadership qualities, of any other ethnic-nationalities in the country, which are experiencing similar threats as the Igbos, from the hands of the gatekeepers of the Nigerian State, today.
Today, it is obvious to whoever cares to know, that Nigeria is in total disarray, comparable to the heats before the Nigeria-Biafra War of the 60s'. This is why people should not ignore the warnings been given today by concerned and knowledgeable individuals. A stitch in time, they say, saves nine! This is because, similar warnings were issued before the execution of the first Igbo pogroms in Northern Nigeria, which took place on June 22nd, 1945 in Jos, perpetrated by Hausa-Fulani Muslims. Many people ignored that warning to their peril. The same thing happened also prior to the second Igbo pogroms in the same Northern Nigeria, which took place in Kano in 1953, in which hundreds of Igbo lives were lost. People ignored the warning to their peril. Similar pre-genocidal warnings preceded the notorious May 1966 and December 1967, third Igbo pogroms in the same Northern and parts of Southwestern Nigeria. The threats and warnings at the time were ignored both by the federal government and Eastern region. The rest is now history.
This is the reason why nobody should underestimate danger posed by the ongoing military siege in Igboland, or the state-sponsored killings of Igbo youths. That is, perpetrated by the terrorist-infiltrated Nigerian military and police officers, in their deceptive pretense of fighting members of the pro-Biafra youth movement of IPOB and Eastern Security Network, ESN.
The fact is that Nigeria government both at the federal and state levels, are not organized or prepared to prevent another genocidal violence against the Igbo in the country, should it happen again today. God forbid! Because, the Nigerian government, has always been the enabler and executor of state-sponsored violence and ethnic-cleansings against the Igbo in the country, as demonstrated above. Moreover, Nigerian government, as history shows, has never protected its citizens from previous genocidal butcheries. Today, it cannot learn to do it over night. We solicit for peace. However, prevention is better than cure! This is why we are calling on our highly gifted and well-positioned Christian Church leaders in the region, to follow the example of Bishop Carlos Belo of East Timor, and do something to help avert the looming danger in Biafranland of Southeastern Nigeria, a second time.
In the marbled words of South Africa's anti-apartheid icon and crusader, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, "If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor." According to the American Catholic 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."
In the words of Martin Luther King Jr., "The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at the times of challenge and controversy." Put in a different way, Professor Chinua Achebe, the doyen of African literature, reminds us that, "One of the truest tests of integrity is its blunt refusal to be compromised." In another context, Paplo Neruda said when he won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1971, that, "I belong to the people of Latin America, a little of whose soul I have tried to interpret."
The fact we are trying to emphasize is that, in our context today in Nigeria (in general and in Biafraland, Southeastern Nigeria, in particular), our highly placed and gifted Christian religious leaders should not shy away from getting involved in the ongoing struggle of their respective regions (or rather distinct ethnic-nations), who are clamoring for referendum for self-determination and independence. That is, whether as a group, or more so, as an individual, our highly gifted and well-positioned Christian Church (religious) leaders should begin to identify with the struggle of their people for survival, independence and self-rule, from the British colonial created contraption, called Nigeria.
The exemplary role in that regard, played by Bishop Carlos Filipe Ximenes Belo for his people of East Timor, remains a challenge to our Christian religious leaders in Igboland, Biafra; and other Christian religious leaders from those other indigenous ethnic nationalities experiencing similar threats of extermination from the hands of the gatekeepers of the Nigerian State, as the Igbo Nation.
The priority today in Nigeria, is how to save lives of the endangered indigenous peoples of different ethnic-nationalities and Christians from Southern and Middle-Belt regions, and the Minority Ethnic Groups in the Northern Nigeria Sharia States, from the Fulani-controlled Nigerian government-sponsored Islamist terrorist groups and herdsmen terrorism. As well as from the terrorist-infiltrated security operatives, military, police, DSS, and all the paramilitaries operating in the country today, under the same Fulani-controlled Nigerian Federal Government.
In other words, the independence of Biafra, as a sovereign nation-state, is the solution to Nigeria's problem of insecurity and political instability. The same applies to granting independence to other ethnic-nationalities that want seriously, to exit from Nigeria through referendum for self-determination, as Biafrans have been clamoring. Already, all experts on African Affairs and Studies, foreign and local, have confirmed that Nigeria, as a nation-state, has been a failure from the beginning. Nigeria, from the beginning has never functioned as a peaceful, united, one country. Rather, the country has remained a 'pressure cooker of violence, Islamists and herdsmen terrorism.'
The history of the Nigerian State has been that of bloodshed and ethnic-cleansings. Each time the British and its backed-Nigerian government try to make Nigeria look like one, united nation-state, the more innocent people, especially, Igbo Biafrans, would be killed by the Nigerian State, military, police and through government obnoxious policies, which often target the Igbos.
This has been the case, prior, and especially, since the end of the war in 1970, to the present-day. Today, the situation is even worse. Unfortunately, hardly are the plights of Igbo Biafrans reported in both the National and International Media. It is as if is a taboo for the media in Nigeria and at the international arena, to report on anything about Biafra and the plight of Igbos in Nigeria, in a balanced way, without bias or government intimidation. This is how bad the issue of "Biafra Question" has become today. The situation has emboldened the successive Federal Governments of Nigeria to continue with business as usual in its oppressive relationship and treatment of Ndigbo and the "Biafra Question." It is now about fifty-five years since the end of the Nigeria-Biafra War (1967-1970), and yet nothing as such has changed. The conditions of the Igbos in Nigeria are as worse today as ever.
Post-war Obnoxious Policies of Nigeria against the Igbo
The Nigerian Federal Government introduced the policy of blockade and starvation against the people in the Biafra enclave. As a result, many Biafra children died of kwashiorkor caused by the blockade and starvation policy. It is said that more people died during the war in Biafra from starvation than from the bullets of the enemy.
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 to the present-day. 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). To the present-day, 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. Which means, that aspect of our African and Christian tradition and beliefs, respect to our beloved dead ones, that is, commemoration of the dead and communion with the ancestors, is yet to be accorded to the over 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 also in Igboland, today?
Most painfully, at the end of the war in 1970, instead of seeking restitution and working for full-integration of the Igbo into the mainstream of Nigeria, the federal government of Nigeria began a new agenda of economic impoverishment and pauperization of Igbo people. The property of the Igbos, which they had left behind in other parts of the country because of the war, were confiscated and declared abandoned property, especially, in the Old Rivers State, after the war. In addition, the federal government frozen all bank accounts of the Igbos, allowing them, each, to collect only a mere £20 (twenty pounds), no matter what one had deposited in the bank.
Nigeria is yet to make restitution for these most inexplicable crimes against humanity committed against Igbo people. No nation can move forward without making restitution in all its ramifications for crimes of this magnitude. To date, Nigerian state and government have not acknowledged those atrocities committed against Igbo people, nor have they made any restitution for the wrong done to the Igbos. This is still the fate of the Igbo in Nigeria today. Since after the war, Igboland has been under military and police occupation, economic stagnation and political exclusion of the people from the Nigerian socio-political and economic leadership echelon. Added here is the ongoing military siege and the rampaging government-sponsored Fulani Herdsmen militia terrorism that have taken over almost every nook and corner of Igboland. Some, have rightly or wrongly, called all these, a new face of the Biafra pogroms.
This is the problem. How can we pretend to continue as one nation state under such suppressed and unacknowledged injustice done to a particular ethnic because of their ethnicity and religion as Igbos? The fact is that a lot of innocent blood of the Igbos have been shed by the Nigerian State, that there is no way the country can move forward without addressing the 'Biafra Question and Genocide committed against the Igbo.
In an earlier article, entitled, "U.N. Must Take a Decision on Biafra (Part 2)", which I published few months ago, I made a review of the article of Robert Platt on Dan Jacobs' Bestseller book on Biafra, "The Brutality of Nations" (1987). Dan Jacobs' book "The Brutality of Nations", revealed the failures of the International Community, the U.N., U.S, U.K., and other world powers, to prevent the loss of lives of millions that occurred during the Biafra War (1967-1970):
"We tend to remember Vietnam as the defining event of the late 60's and early 70's, but Biafra was and is ultimately more heartbreaking to contemplate, because it is nearly forgotten, even though millions died. Jacobs tells a story of valor and treachery, of relief pilots and aid workers who risked death everyday so that they could bring medicine and food into the oil-rich Biafran separatist enclave, which was completely surrounded by a huge and vengeful, British-backed Nigerian military machine bent on the Biafrans' extinction."
Continuing, Platt adds:
"We follow along as an ethnic pogrom festers into a civil war, and ultimately a holocaust. Along the way, all the vaunted fail-safes of our modern world, from the U.N., to the Red Cross, to the liberal governments of the U.S and the U.K., actually aid and abet the Nigerians, and exacerbate the Biafrans' plight and prolong their agony. The U.S.S.R., long falsely seen as an anti-imperialist engine for African liberation, cynically plays its hand as cruelly as anyone else, providing military and technical assistance to the Federal Government of Nigeria whenever the West loses their stomach for it." - Dan Jacobs' book, "The Brutality of Nations" (Knopf, New York 1987). Reviewed by Robert Platt, in the United States, with the title, "Gripping and Heartbreaking", December 5, 1999 (Emphasis mine).
Dan Jacobs' "The Brutality of Nations", uncovered a provocative paragraph from an editorial in the "Washington Post" of July 2, 1969, which stated as follows: "One word now describes the policy of the Nigerian military government towards secessionist Biafra: genocide. It is ugly and extreme but it is the only word, which fits Nigeria's decision to stop the International Committee of the Red Cross, and other relief agencies, from flying food to Biafra." (Dan Jacobs, "The Brutality of Nations." Cited also in Chinua Achebe's "There Was A Country: A Personal History of Biafra", The Penguin Press, New York 2012, p.230).
In a special way, Jacobs, ultimately, castigates the British for supporting Nigerian Government policies of blockade and starvation against the Biafrans. The author of the book, "The Brutality of Nations", alleges a cover-up of Western complicity in obstructing food aid to Biafra enclave. He charges that supplies for the starving Biafran refugees during the Nigeria-Biafra War of the late 1960s, were impeded by major nations, notably Britain, U.S., U.S.S.R (Russia), among others.
Herbert Ekwe Ekwe, professor of history and politics and an expert on genocide, chronicled a number of actual series of atrocities, real crimes against humanity, that occurred on the battlefield and as a result of the policies of the federal government of Nigeria. Ekwe Ekwe contends that the International Committee in the Investigation of Crimes of Genocide carried out exhaustive investigation of the evidence, 'interviewing 1082 people representing all the actors in the dispute (the two sides of the civil war and international collaborators).' After a thorough painstaking research, the Commission concludes, through its Investigator (Dr. Mensah of Ghana):
"Finally, I am of the opinion that in many of the cases cited to me hatred of the Biafrans (mainly Igbos) and a wish to exterminate them was a foremost motivational factor." [Emphasis in original.] - (Herbert Ekwe Ekwe, "The Biafra War: Nigeria and the Aftermath", Edwin Mellen Press, Lampeter, Ceredigion, U.K. 1991). As quoted in Chinua Achebe, "There Was A Country", p. 230).
Arthur M. Schlesinger, a distinguished American historian, social critic, and political insider has this to say on the dire situation in Biafra:
"The terrible tragedy of the people of Biafra has now assumed a catastrophic dimension. Starvation is daily claiming the lives of an estimated 6,000 Igbo tribesmen, most of them children. If adequate food is not delivered to the people in the immediate future hundreds of thousands of human beings will die of hunger." - (Arthur Meier Schlesinger, "Dynamics of World Power: A Documentary History of U.S. Foreign Policy, 1945-1973, Volume 1", Chelsea House, New York 1983.)
Schlesinger went further to cite the most compelling powerful statement of the era on Biafra tragedy from the U.S. President Richard Nixon's campaign speech on September 10, 1968:
"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 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 (cited in Arthur Meier Schlesinger, "Dynamics of World Power.")
Monsignor Georges (sent down on a fact-finding mission by His Holiness, Pope Paul VI), reports as follows: "There has been genocide, for example on the occasion of the 1966 massacres… Two areas have suffered badly [from the fighting]. Firstly, the region between the towns of Benin and Asaba where widows and orphans remain, federal Troops having for unknown reasons massacred all the men. According to eyewitness of that massacre the commander ordered the execution of every Ibo male over the age of ten years." - ("Le Monde" (French Evening newspaper) April 5, 1968).
In fact, the author Dan Jacobs, cited before, revealed how the world powers failed to heed to the lamentations of Pope Paul VI over what may befall Biafrans should the world powers themselves allow the victory of arms to prevail in the Conflict between Nigeria and Biafra. "The war seemed to be reaching its conclusion, with terror of possible reprisals and massacres against a defenseless people worn out by deprivations, by hunger and by the loss of all they possess. The news this morning is very alarming. … One fear torments public opinion. The fear that victory of arms may carry with it the killing of numberless people. There are those who actually fear a kind of genocide." - (Pope Paul VI, cited in Dan Jacobs, "The Brutality of Nations", Knopf, New York 1987 (Emphasis mine).
The observations of Pope Paul VI confirms what we all know already, namely, that genocide was committed during the war against Biafrans. The Pope also was worried about what might await Biafrans in Nigeria at the end of the war should the wishes of the aggressor be allowed to prevail. That is, without the Biafrans achieving their self-determination for which the war was fought.
This is the point. The plight of Igbo Biafrans in the postwar Nigeria, since 1970 to the present day, has been nothing short of silent war of subjugation and ethnic-cleansings of Ndigbo by the successive Nigerian governments. The most painful of it all, is that even at the end of the war in 1970, the world body, U.N., instead of mitigating the fragile end of the war armistice reached between Nigeria and Biafra, for the rehabilitation and reintegration of the war victims, the U.N decided instead, to leave the Biafrans at the mercy of their former aggressors. This is the crux of the matter!
The attention of the U.N and other world powers were drawn to the plights of Biafrans during and after the war. Especially, by some conscientious individuals, aid workers, church organizations, journalists, and so forth. Unfortunately, they were simply, ignored. So, it is not a question of ignorance, but lack of good will, on the part of the U.N and other world powers, towards the Biafrans.
Frederick Forsyth, foremost author on Biafra, has the best description of what the Biafran people went through during the war. Writing from Umuahia, Biafra, in January 1969, Forsyth, said:
"… 650 refugee camps… contained about 700,000 haggard bundles of human flotsam waiting hopelessly for a meal, outside the camps… was the reminder of an estimated four and a half to five million persons… the Kwashiorkor scourge… a million and half children… suffer[ed] from it during January; that put the forecast death toll at another 300,000 children… More than the pogroms of 1966, more than the war casualties, more than the terror bombings, it was the experience of watching helplessly their children waste away and die that gave birth to… a deep and unrelenting loathing… It is a feeling that will one day reap a bitter harvest unless…" - (Frederick Forsyth, "Biafra: Fighting a War Without Guns", BBC Documentary (1995). See also Ralph Uwechie, "Reflections on the Nigerian Civil War: facing the Future", Trafford Publishers, Bloomington, Indiana 2004.)
Mind you, none of those who participated in committing the war crime against the Biafrans had been charged, or prosecuted, fifty-five years since the end of the war in 1970. Moreover, all these atrocities happened in the name of "Keeping Nigeria One" - the Nigerian military federal government's war slogan against Biafra, "To Keep Nigeria One is a Task that Must be Done."
Is this not one of the major reasons, why the state-sponsored Igbo persecution and marginalization, have continued unabated in Nigeria? Is it not for the same reason that the state-sponsored killings, ethnic-cleansings, and bloodbath have, instead of decreasing, continued to increase terribly in the country, and is today, extended to other indigenous ethnic-groups and Christians in Nigeria?
In the name of keeping Nigeria one, genocides and ethnic-cleansings against the indigenous ethnic populations, especially, against the Igbo Nation, have become the driving force of the Nigerian State! This is the problem which our gifted and well-positioned, courageous Christian Church leaders in Southeastern Nigeria, are challenged to do something about, before another genocide against the Igbo nation or any other indigenous ethnic nationality, happens in Nigeria!
A Stitch in Time Saves Nine!
TO BE CONTINUED