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IT IS EITHER WE GET BIAFRA OR EVERYBODY WILL HAVE TO DIE – IT’S THAT SIMPLE
On the 30th of May, 1967, the Military Governor of the Eastern Region, Odumegwu Ojukwu declared the Republic of Biafra.
HIS EXCELLENCY ODUMEGWU OJUKWU – THE LION OF BIAFRA
“Having mandated me to proclaim on your behalf, and in your name, that Eastern Nigeria be a sovereign independent Republic, now, therefore I, Lieutenant Colonel Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, Military Governor of Eastern Nigeria, by virtue of the authority, and pursuant to the principles recited above, do hereby solemnly proclaim that the territory and region known as and called Eastern Nigeria together with her continental shelf and territorial waters, shall, henceforth, be an independent sovereign state of the name and title of The Republic of Biafra.”
Gowon was enraged. On the 6th of July, 1967, he declared war and launched an attack on Biafra. What would later follow is the source of regret to many Nigerians today. Political statements were banned and more powers were given to the Army and the Police. Four seaports (Port Harcourt, Degema, Calabar and Bonny were closed down indefinitely on the 30th of June). Leave for all military personnel was cancelled and Lagos, Western and Mid-Western States called for re-enlistment into the Nigerian Army.
“Those who know me know that I have always been on the side of peaceful resolution of all conflicts. If you will recall as Head of State, I did all that was possible to secure a peaceful resolution of the Nigeria crises in the 2nd half of 1960. Unfortunately because of circumstances beyond my control, I had to use force to preserve the unity of our nation.” -YAKUBU GOWON
MAJOR EVENTS DURING THE WAR
On the 1st of June, Gowon Gowon was promoted to the rank of a Major General while Colonel Robert Adebayo and Lt. Col David Ejoor were made Brigadiers. The same day, the Federal Military Government (FMG) ordered the closure of the Niger Bridge.
Biafraland was later blockaded by air, land and sea, and what followed was mass starvation.
January 4 and 5: Aburi Accord.
After the Aburi Accord, there were several efforts to stop the war. There was the Niamey Peace Conference in 1968 (under President Hammani Diori of Niger Republic) while Organization of African Unity (OAU, now African Union) made frantic attempts to prevent Nigeria from sliding of the precipice of a civil war, and sponsored the Addis Ababa Peace Conference in Ethiopia under Emperor Haile Selassie.
30 May, 1967, Ojukwu declares the Republic of Biafra.
3rd June: Gowon appoints 11 civilians from 11 out of the 12 states to the Federal Executive Council (FEC). By 14th July, federal troops had captured the University of Nigeria, Nsukka.
July 2, 19: Multiple explosions recorded in Lagos, people killed and many injured.
July 6, Nigeria invaded Biafra at the Battle of Nsukka.
July 14: The FG announces the death of Nzeogwu while he was fighting for Biafra.
July 25: Oil town of Bonny captured by federal forces after the Nigerian Navy bombardment ensued.
July 31: Gowon’s de facto deputy, Wey, promoted to a Rear Admiral of the Fleet, Nigerian Navy.
August 5: Helicopter crash claims the life of Colonel Joseph Ronald Akahan, the Chief of Staff of the Nigerian Army.
August 21, Biafra invaded Nigeria, but were intercepted by Nigerian troops, and were repelled back at the Battle of Ore. Biafra kept a stiff resistance until their capital was taken in October 1967 at the Fall of Enugu.
September 19: Benin City recaptured by Nigerian soldiers.
October 3: Agbor captured by Nigerian soldiers.
October 4, Enugu, the base of Biafra falls. The Biafran capital was moved to Umuahia where it stayed for another 2 years.
October 7: Nigerian Air Force shoot down Biafran aircraft in Lagos.
October 20: Calabar captured by federal forces.
November 11: Ken-Saro Wiwa appointed administrator for Bonny.
In early 1968 the Biafran army captured the city of Owerri at the Capture of Owerri. The Capture of Owerri gave the Biafrans hope for their cause. For months Nigeria and Biafra were in a stalemate.
January 3: New currency notes released.
January 17: More town captured around Onitsha
February 3: 23 white mercenaries killed in Calabar.
March 30: Ikot Ekpene captured.
April 21: Afikpo captured.
May 8: More peace talks in Uganda.
May 19: Port Harcourt falls, at the Capture of Port Harcourt by Nigerian general Benjamin Adekunle. After the Fall of Enugu and the relocation of Captial to Umuahia, Adekunle tried to take the Biafran capital of Umuahia and the 2 other Biafran strongholds of Owerri and Aba during Operation OAU. During Operation OAU, Adekunle gained control of Owerri and Aba but lost 21,500 men during the battles of OAU.
June 5: The Netherlands imposes an arms embargo on Nigeria. France would follow suit on the 12th and same with Belgium on the 5th of July.
June 26: Yenagoa falls to federal forces. The next day, two federal army officers were publicly executed for killing four Igbo civilians in Benin.
July 31: France voices support for Ojukwu. Aba falls on September 1 and Okigwe freed on the 30th.
September 13, 1968; With the confidence of a Hannibal and a Khalid ibn al-Walid, Major General Yakubu Gowon inside Dodan Barracks (then Aso Rock) gesticulates before a map of Nigeria and boasts to reporters during a press conference that the war will be over in just 4-8 weeks. It lasted for 30 months.
September 13, 1968; With the confidence of a Hannibal and all the tactical prowess of a Khalid ibn al-Walid, Major General Yakubu Gowon inside Dodan Barracks (Aso Rock of that time) gesticulates before a map of Nigeria and boasts to reporters during a press conference that the war will be over in just 4-8 weeks. It lasted for 30 months.
September 16, 1968: Nigerians supporting Gowon demonstrate outside the Embassy of France in Lagos. Placards express support for the federal troops and denounced Charles de Gaulle of France for being interested in Nigeria’s oil.
April 21: Umuahia freed.
May 22, 24: Secessionist planes raid Benin and Port Harcourt respectively.
June 14: Red Cross Chief Coordinator, Dr. Lindt and BBC Correspondent Peter Stewart expelled from Nigeria.
August 2: Pope Paul meets representatives of the two warring factions in Kampala, Uganda. The Pope heads to the Vatican City the next day after a fruitless talk.
August 7: Gowon visits Ghana and meets the Head of State, Brigadier Afrifas.
August 12: Gowon was in Cotonou, Benin Republic, meets with President Emile Zinsou.
August 18: Gowon with his wife and Azikiwe in Liberia with President William Tubman for peace talks. On the 20th, he warns the United Nations to hands off Nigeria’s internal conflict.
August 24: Spirited attempts by the Biafrans to retake Onitsha were defeated.
September 6: Gowon off to Addis Ababa for OAU summit, stops over in Kenya to see President Jomo Kenyatta. On the 8th, he met and had a deep discussion with President Julius Nyerere, one of the leaders supporting Ojukwu’s regime of Biafra.
September 10: OAU members vote for a ceasefire and peace talks in Nigeria. Five nations abstained from voting: Sierra Leone, Gabon, Tanzania, Zambia and Ivory Coast. Gowon back home. On the 23rd, Azikiwe was back in Onitsha.
October 15: Nigeria’s Chief of Air Staff, Colonel Shittu Akanji Alao dies in an air crash at Uzebba, about 50 miles northwest of Benin. He was aged 32 and he was alone in the plane. Two days later, in Lagos, he was buried with full military honours.
October 27: Gowon off to Congo-Kinshasa.
November 2: Ojukwu turns down peace moves saying he has no hope in the OAU.
November 8: Gowon off to Lome, Togo to meet President Gnassingbe Eyadema.
December 17: Ojukwu refused OAU’s terms for negotiation.
December 18: New Air Force chief announced in Lagos: Colonel Emmanuel Ebije Ikwue.
December 22: Azikiwe calls on France to stop supporting the rebels.
December 23: Nigeria invaded the Biafran capital of Umuahia.
December 24: Umuahia fell to Nigerian troops. The Biafran capital was then moved to Owerri.
December 31: Gowon talks of a quick end to the war in his New Year message.
January 7: The 3rd Marine Commando Division under Gen. Obasanjo, supported by the 1st Infantry Division to the north and the 2nd Infantry Division to the south, launched their final offensive. The Biafran S Division under Captain Azum Asoya was operating along the Port Harcourt – Elele road. The Division found itself cut off and disorganized due to a quick envelopment by the Nigerian 17th Brigade under Maj. Tomoye, the Nigerians now began making their advance on Owerri. On the outskirts of Owerri, Biafran Lt. Col. Lambert Ihenacho’s 63rd Brigade came under withering attack by Maj. Tomoye’s 17th Brigade, supported by 122 mm Soviet artillery. In less than a day of fighting the 63rd Brigade became overwhelmed by the Nigerian bombardment and were forced to surrender. While the Nigerians were preoccupied with attacking the 63rd Brigade, the Biafran leadership made their final meeting in which President Ojukwu announced his plans to go abroad “in search of peace”. Ojuwku handed over the Biafran presidency to his vice-president Philip Effiong and placed all remaining Biafran troops under the command of Maj. Joseph Achuzie.
January 9: Maj. Timothy Onwuatuegwu escorted Ojuwku to the Uli airstrip where he boarded a jet to the Ivory Coast. Immediately after Ojukwu’s departure President Effiong called for a ceasefire to discuss the details of surrender.
January 10: Ohafia, Arochukwu and Utoru falls. UN Secretary General blasts Ojukwu in Ghana.
January 11: Ojukwu escapes from a rebel enclave at dawn, and resurface in Ivory Coast. Gowon calls on rebel troops to surrender. Ojukwu left to Ivory Coast “in search of peace”, arriving into the waiting hands of President Boigny.
January 12: Philip Effiong, Joseph Achuzie, Ogbugo Kalu, and other Biafran officers made their way to Amichi and later Owerri to broadcast their final surrender to Col. Obasanjo. All rebel troops surrender. Effiong renounces succession. Gowon orders federal forces to protect all surrendering rebels. Sir Louis Mbanefo, the former Chief Justice of the Eastern Region, Effiong and five other officers of the Biafran Army off to Lagos to meet with Gowon. Gowon declares a ‘general amnesty for all those misled into Ojukwu’s rebellion’ and said there would be no second-class citizen in Nigeria. Nigeria turns down offers of relief from France, South Africa, Rhodesia, Portugal, Caritas (a Roman Catholic agency), Joint Church Aid and other bodies that had supported the Biafran cause and remained hostile to federal troops during the war.
January 16: Enahoro tells a world press conference in Lagos that there would be no peace talks over the Biafran surrender. The next day, the UN Secretary General U Thant arrives in Lagos and expressed his joy at a dinner party in Dodan Barracks.
January 24: The government of President Félix Houphouët-Boigny grants Ojukwu political asylum in Ivory Coast.
DURATION OF THE WAR – 2 YEARS, 6 MONTHS, ONE WEEK AND 2 DAYS.
After 13 years in exile, the Federal Government of Nigeria under President Shehu Aliyu Usman Shagari granted an official pardon to Odumegwu-Ojukwu and opened the road for a triumphant return in 1982. He would later return to a triumphant entry and welcome. The people of Nnewi gave him the now very famous chieftaincy title of Ikemba (Strength of the Nation, while the entire Igbo nation took to calling him Dikedioramma (“beloved hero of the masses”).
Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, the Ikemba of Nnewi and the Eze Ndi Igbo Gbaa Gburu Gburu, leader of the Biafra Republic. He died on the 26th of November, 2011 at the age of 78, in the United Kingdom after a brief illness.
He was buried with full military honours and his burial remains one of the most elaborate of any Nigerian. A man widely loved and respected by his people, he remains one of the most revered figures in the country. He was a very intelligent and articulate man.
Those who gave active support to Gowon’s Nigeria during the Civil War included:
-EGYPT (under Gamal Abdel Nasser)
-UNION OF SOCIALIST SOVIET REPUBLICS (USSR)
-KINGDOM OF SAUDI ARABIA
The Ojukwu’s Biafrans were supported by:
-RHODESIA (now Zimbabwe)
-GABON (under President Omar Bongo)
-ZAMBIA (under President Kenneth Kaunda)
-COTE D’IVOIRE (Ivory Coast) (under President Félix Houphouët-Boigny)
-HAITI (under Dr. Francois (Papa Doc) Duvalier)
-TANZANIA (under Dr. Mwalimu Julius Kambarage Nyerere)
Biafra also received aid from non-state actors,
including Joint Church Aid, Holy Ghost Fathers of Ireland,
Caritas International, MarkPress and U.S. Catholic Relief Services
The Biafran state was formally recognised by:
After two-and-a-half years of war, during which millions of civilians died in fighting and from famine. Biafran forces agreed to a ceasefire with the Nigerian Federal Military Government (FMG), and Biafra was reintegrated into Nigeria.
Biafra was reabsorbed into Nigeria on 15 January 1970, though the southeasterners are still striving to regain the biafra republic.
General Ojukwu and his gallantry Biafran forces prepares to meet Federal Nigerian soldiers
After the Biafran surrender, General Gowon shakes hands with General Effiong, Biafra’s second head of state at the Dodan Barracks, Lagos.
*The official members of the Biafran and federal delegations who attended the formal war ending ceremony at Dodan Barracks on January 15, 1970 were:
Major-General Phillip Effiong – Officer Administering the Republic of Biafra (After Ojukwu’s Departure to Ivory Coast).
Sir Louis Mbafeno – Chief Justice of Biafra
Matthew Mbu – Biafran Foreign Minister
Brigadier Patrick Amadi – Biafran Army
Colonel Patrick Anwunah – Chief of Logistics and Principal Staff Officer to Ojukwu
Colonel David Ogunewe – Military Adviser to Ojukwu
Patrick Okeke – Inspector-General of Biafran Police
Federal Military Government Delegation:-
Major-General Yakubu Gowon – Nigerian Head of State
Obafemi Awolowo – Deputy Chairman, Supreme Military Council
Brigadier Emmanuel Ekpo – Chief of Staff, Supreme Headquarters
Brigadier Hassan Katsina – Chief of Staff, Nigerian Army
Brigadier Emmanuel Ikwue – Chief of Air Staff
Rear-Admiral Joseph Wey – Chief of Naval Staff
Dr Taslim Elias – Attorney-General
H.E.A. Ejueyitchie – Secretary to the Federal Military Government
Anthony Enahoro – Commissioner for Information
The Military Governors of the 12 states: , Ukpabi Asika, Audu Bako, David Bamigboye, Alfred Diete-Spiff, Jacob Esuene, Usman Faruk, Joseph Gomwalk, Mobolaji Johnson, Abba Kyari, Samuel Ogbemudia, Oluwole Rotimi, Musa Usman