By Dr. Dons Eze
Truth is always bitter and very difficult to swallow. The old saying enjoins us to always “say the truth and damn the consequences”, while the Holy Book categorically tells us that “we shall know the truth and the truth shall set us free”.
In the journey of life, we are guided by experiences. History is a good teacher to those who want to learn. We learn from our past mistakes and from the mistakes of others. In the words of our elders: “what an old man had seen while sitting down, a child can never see it even if he climbs on top of a mountain”.
For the former Eastern Region and her people, the period preceding 1966 were their years of glorious ascendance. The economy was booming. In fact, the Eastern Region was said to be the fastest growing economy in the whole of Africa. Everything was going on well, both for the government, and for those who came from the region.
Out there, in the country, many indigenes of Eastern Nigeria had held their heads high in every situation. A good number of them were proud beneficiaries of the Nigerian enterprise. The President of Nigeria was from the East (Nnamdi Azikiwe); the Senate President was from the East (Akwaeke Nwafor Orizu); the Supreme Commander of the Nigerian Army was from the East (JTU Aguiyi-Ironsi); the Inspector General of Police was also from the East (Louis Edet), etc.
There were also many Easterners holding strategic positions in government – Ministers, Permanent Secretaries, Ambassadors, etc. The first Vice Chancellor of the University College, Ibadan (Kenneth Dike), was an Igbo; the first Vice Chancellor of the University of Lagos (Eni Njoku), was an Igbo. There were also several Igbo heads of federal parastatals and agencies, while a sizeable percentage of them were in the federal civil service.
Now, came the January 1966 military coup, which a good number of Igbo military officers spearheaded, and they tagged it an “Igbo Coup”. This had resulted to the “revenge coup” of July 1966, and the orgy of massacre of thousands of Igbo people living in different parts of Nigeria, the declaration of Republic of Biafra, and the consequent civil war, which consumed over one million Igbo.
By the time the war ended in 1970, the Igbo had returned to ground zero. Millions of them had died. Those who survived the war came out penniless, their land devastated, houses and property destroyed. The Igbo had lost everything, their enviable positions in both in government and in the federal public service. Worse still, they no longer have a voice in a country which they were forced to accept as their own.
What, if those idealistic Igbo military officers did not involve themselves in the January 1966 coup? (After all, the Eastern Region was not beleaguered at that time. It was the Western Region that was at war because of a failed election, which necessitated the military coup). What if the Igbo did not fight the war, wouldn’t the people have continued to maintain their lead and enviable positions in government? The coup and the war came and destroyed everything, and reduced the Igbo to almost nothing in Nigeria. What an unfortunate situation.
Now, they have started beating the drums of war again. They are calling for self-determination for the Igbo, which we totally endorse. We hate or depricate the current state of affair in Nigeria, where the Igbo are reduced to almost second class citizens. In fact, the Nigerian environment is suffocating and needs urgent and serious tinkering. We therefore advocate for a place where the Igbo would be free to order their living without let or hinderance.
However, we are not in support with the way and manner some of the Igbo are going about this self-actualization. With bare hands, they want us to start fighting the enemy who is fully loaded with arms. They want to bring us back to the 1970 era, when the Igbo were reduce to nothing. In their wishful thinking, they believe that once the war starts, the world powers, specifically the United States of America, Israel and Christian Europe, would come to fight with us. What an idle thought.
None of these countries will be prepared to fight on the side of Biafra when the chips are down. They will only make some empty noises and start looking for how they would sell their weapons to the two sides fighting themselves.
Remember what happened during Nigeria’s genocidal war against Biafra, when the US Republican Party of President Richard Nixton, while claiming to have adopted the policy of “neutrality” in the conflict, watched and did nothing while millions of Biafran non-combatants – the aged, women and children – were being straffed to death by Russian and Egyptian piloted Nigerian air Force bombers.
Again, before the 2019 Nigerian general elections, both the United States of America and the countries of European Union, had barked that if the elections fell short of democratic norms, they would rain down fire from heaven. At the end, what did they do? Nothing, even when everybody knew that what happened in 2019 was not an election, but military imposition of leaders. This is just to tell us that we should never take these white people serious. They are only after their economic interest.
Our prayer is that in pursuing the Biafra of our dream, we should not let youthful exuberance plunge us into another war, because “oji oso agbakwu ogu amaro n’ogu bu onwu”. We have had enough of war, which we are yet to recover from.