THE MEETING OF THE SUPREME MILITARY COUNCIL
ABURI ACCRA GHANA
4-5 JANUARY 1967
PRINTED BY THE GOVERNMENT PRINTER – ENUGU
I Introduction … … … … … … 1
II The Aburi Meeting … … … … … 4
III Implementation of Aburi Agreements … 8
IV Bad Faith of Lt.-Col. Gowon … … .. 16
I ,,Official Minutes of the Supreme Military Council
– held in Ghana on 4th and 5th January, 1967 … 19
Annexure A: Agenda … … … … … 28
Annexure B: Declaration on Use of Force .29
Annexure C: Statement on the Supreme Military
Council … … … … … … 30
Annexure D: Communique … … … 31
Annexure E: Second and Final Communique … 32
II Address by the Military Governor of Eastern Nigeria, His Excellency Lt.-Col. C. Odumegwu Ojukwu at a Press Conference held on Friday, 6th January,
1967 … … … … … … 33
III Report of the Meeting of the Law Officers of the
Federation held in the office of the Solicitor-
General, Mid-Western Nigeria, Benin City, on
Saturday and Sunday the 14th and 15th January,
1967 … …- … … … . 37
IV “Comments on the ‘Accra decisions’ of the Meeting of the Supreme Military Council” by the Permanent Secretaries of the Lagos Government ..
THE MEETING OF THE SUPREME MILITARY COUNCIL
AT ABURI, GHANA, JANUARY, 1967
ON 17 JANUARY, 1966, the former civilian Federal Government of Nigeria handed over power to the Armed Forces. Major-General J. T. U. Aguiyi-Ironsi as the General Officer Commanding the Nigerian Army assumed the headship of the Federal Military Government and established the Supreme Military Council. Subsequently, on 24 May, 1966, he promulgated the Decree No. 34 putting into effect the decisions of the Supreme Military Council to establish a centralized administration for the country. Six days later widespread violence and riots broke out in Northern Nigeria. Thousands of Easterners were massacred.
2. On 29 July, 1966, a group of Northern Nigerian Army personnel kidnapped and, as was later revealed, murdered Major-General J. T. U. Aguiyi-Ironsi, the Supreme Commander and Head of the Federal Military Government. At the same time they attempted to annihilate all Eastern Nigerian Army Officers and men at Ibadan, Abeokuta and Ikeja in Western Nigeria and at Kaduna, Zaria and Kano in Northern Nigeria. Nearly 200 officers and men of Eastern Nigeria origin were slaughtered. Those who escaped but later returned to their posts following assurances of safety were also murdered. The pogrom was soon extended to Eastern Nigerian civilians resident in Northern Nigeria, Lagos and the West; and by September, 1966, the killings and molestations carried out by the combined forces of Northern Nigerian soldiers and civilians had assumed such large proportions that Easterners everywhere outside the East sought protection within their home Region.
3. All these massacres, which claimed the lives of over 30,000 Easterners, jolted the conscience and aroused the indignation of the world. They were also fraught with tragic consequences for the country. The bond of comradeship which had previously held the Nigerian Army together completely severed. Mutual fear, suspicion and hatred have prevailed to such an extent that Army Officers and men Eastern Nigeria origin cannot now co-exist with those of Northern Nigeria origin. The massive movement of population which has resulted from these tragic events has also posed serious economic and social problems.
4.The fleeing Easterners had abandoned their homes, businesses for and employments and swelled the population of Eastern Nigeria by den nearly two million. As they returned a potentially explosive situation arose in the East and in consequence the Government of Eastern Nigeria was obliged to ask non-Easterners residing in the East to leave to the Region in the interest of their own safety. The flight of Easterners has also radically altered the machinery and structure of the Federal Government, for Easterners have been forcibly excluded from participating in the Federal Government, Federal Statutory Corporations and the other Federal Organizations outside the Eastern Region.
5.The disintegration of the Army and the mass movement of population, coupled with the necessary measures taken to prevent further friction, conflict and killing, have intensified Regional loyalties and made it impossible today for any one person to command the loyalty of all sections of the country.
6. It has been the view of the Government and people of the East
that a solution can and must be found quickly to the country’s present problems and in doing so full cognizance must be taken of the stark realities of the present in order to avoid future conflict and bloodshed. The East has accordingly co-operated with the rest of the country in efforts to find a realistic solution. But progress in this direction has been frustrated by incessant exhibition of bad faith on the part of the Military Leaders in Lagos and the North. A few examples will serve to illustrate this.
7. The disappearance of the Supreme Commander on 29 July, 1966, demanded that the next senior Military Officer should temporarily assume command of the Army and the headship of the Federal Military Government until the Supreme Military Council should determine the leadership of the Army and the country. But on 1 August, 1966, Lt.-Col. Yakubu Gowon, Chief of Staff, Army Headquarters, announced that he had assumed the Offices of Supreme Commander and Head of the Federal Military Government, although there were at least half-a- dozen Military Officers who were senior to him. The Military Government of Eastern Nigeria found it impossible to recognize this seizure of power; nevertheless it was prepared to co-operate with Lt.-Col. Gowon in order to prevent further bloodshed.
8. On 9 August, a meeting of representatives of the Military -Governors of the East, Mid-West, West, North and Lt.-Col. Gowon met and unanimously reached agreement on five issues which were vital for reducing the tension then existing in the country. The first demonstration of bad faith on the part of Lt.-Col. Gowon was his non-implementation of a number of these agreements which concerned him, particularly the one stipulating that soldiers should be repatriated to their Regions of origin and confined to barracks. Lt.-Col. Gowon had also agreed with the Military Governor of Eastern Nigeria that soldiers returning to the North from the East and vice versa should carry their arms and some quantity of ammunition for self-defence but that these arms and ammunition should be returned to their original armoury immediately the soldiers had reached their destination. Eastern soldiers returning from the North were not even given arms and ammunition for self-protection as stipulated. Furthermore, when Northern soldiers arrived at their destination they failed to return the arms and ammunition given to them in the East.
9. Another agreement reached on 9 August, was that a conference of Regional delegations should be held to recommend in broad outline the future form of political association for Nigeria. The Ad Hoc Constitutional Conference duly met from 12 September to 3 October when it adjourned for three weeks. By the time it rose it had reached a measure of agreement on a number of issues. But while the Conference was still in session, Northern soldiers with the aid of civilians massacred thousands of Eastern Nigerians in the North and some even in Lagos, the venue of the Conference.
10. As the date of resumption of the Ad Hoc Constitutional Conference approached the question of the safety of Eastern delegates came to the fore. The Eastern Nigeria Military Government insisted on the immediate implementation of the agreement of 9 August whereby all military personnel were to be posted to barracks within their respective Regions of origin. The Eastern position was unanimously supported by the Leaders of Thought Conference of Western Nigeria. But the proposal was not acceptable to Lt.-Col. Gowon, and without further consultations with all the Military Governors he dismissed the Constitutional Conference on 30 November, 1966.
At the same time he declared that he was appointing a “drafting committee” to draw up a constitution on lines which would be suitable to him, and threatened to mobilize enough forces to deal with anyone who opposed his will.
11. The Military Government of Eastern Nigeria thought that Gowon events were taking a dangerous turn and that it was essential for the Supreme Military Council, which had not been convoked since 29 July,
to meet. Since the situation in the country made it impossible for the Military Governor of the East to attend a meeting in any area occupied by Northern troops, various suggestions of alternative venues were put forward by him. So anxious indeed was he to attend the meeting that he purchased an executive plane to facilitate his journey to any acceptable venue. For long, however, his suggestions were treated with levity by Lt.-Col. Gowon, but eventually it was unanimously agreed that the meeting should hold outside Nigeria.
THE ABURI MEETING
(a) resolve the question of leadership within the army, restore the chain of command which had become badly disrupted, and examine the crisis of confidence amongst the officers and soldiers which had rendered it impossible for them intermingle;
(b) evolve ways and means of carrying on the responsibility of administering the country until a new constitution had been determined; and
(c) tackle realistically the problems of displaced persons. These considerations were reflected in the agenda which was agreed upon by members of the Supreme Military Council (see Appendix I Annexure A).
13. 0n the first day of the meeting the Military Governor of the East put forward a resolution, which the meeting endorsed, calling -on the military leaders to renounce the use of force as a means of settling the Nigerian crisis. It was this resolution which was embodied in a communique issued by the Council at the end of the first day of the meeting (see Appendix I Annexure B).
14. After deliberating anxiously and seriously on the reorganization, administration and control of the Army the meeting reached aft agreements on the following lines (see Appendix I for the Official Minutes of the Conference):
“(a) Army to be governed by the Supreme Military Council under a chairman to be known as Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces and Head of the Federal Military Government.
“(b) Establishment of a Military Headquarters comprising equal representation from the Regions and headed by a Chief of Staff.
“(c) Creation of Area Commands corresponding to existing Regions and under the charge of Area Commanders.
“(d) Matters of policy, including appointments and promotions to top executive posts in the Armed Forces and the Police, to be dealt with by the Supreme Military Council.
“(e) During the period of the Military Government, Military Governors will have control over Area Commands for internal security.
“(f) Creation of a Lagos Garrison including Ikeja Barracks.”
15. It was further agreed by the Supreme Military Council that a Military Committee comprising representatives of the Regions should meet within two weeks from the date of receiving instructions to prepare statistics which would show:
“(a) Present strength of Nigerian Army;
“(b) Deficiency in each sector of each unit;
“(c) The size appropriate for the country and each Area Command;
“(d) Additional requirement for the country and each Area Command.”
Pending the completion of the work of the Committee, it was agreed by the Council that further recruitment of soldiers throughout the country should cease.
16. On the implementation of the agreement reached by representatives of the Military Leaders on 9 August, 1966, the Council reaffirmed the principle that Army personnel of Northern origin should return to the North from the West. In order to meet the security needs of the West it was agreed that a crash programme of recruitment and training was necessary but that the details should be examined after the Military Committee had finished its work.
17. It was in the course of discussing the reorganization of the Army that the crucial issue of the assumption by Lt.-Col. Cowon of the offices of Supreme Commander and Head of the Federal Military Government arose. The Governor of the East, in explaining why it was impossible for him to recognize Lt.-Col. Gowon as Supreme Commander, pointed out that the fate of Major-General Aguiyi-Ironsi, the legitimate Supreme Commander, was yet unknown and so no one could succeed him; that in the absence of Major-General Aguiyi-Ironsi whoever was the next senior officer in rank should manage the affairs of the country; and that the East was never party to any decision to appoint Lt.-Col. Gowon Supreme Commander. Subsequently, Lt.-Col. Gowon volunteered information regarding the murder of the Major General and his host, Lt.-Col. Adekunle Fajuyi, on 29 July, 1966. The Supreme Military Council decided to accord the late military leaders the full honours due to them.
18. The Supreme Military Council recognized that with the demise of Major-General Aguiyi-Ironsi no other Military Leader could command the support of the entire Nigerian Army and that a new arrangement was necessary for an effective administration of the whole country. The Council also took cognizance of the fact that extreme centralization had been the bane of the Military Regime in the past and that it was essential to re-define the powers of the Federal Military Government vis-a-vis the Regional Military Governments in order to ensure public confidence and co-operation.
19. When the Supreme Military Council resumed its deliberations at Aburi on 5 January, after members had spent the night at their various posts with their advisers, it proceeded to discuss the powers of the Federal Military Government vis-a-vis the Regional Governments. -The upshot was that the Council re-affirmed its previous decisions on the reorganization of the Army and also took the following additional decisions: –
“(ii) On appointments to certain posts.
The following appointments must be approved by the Supreme Military Council:
(a) Diplomatic and Consular posts.
(b) Senior posts in the Armed Forces and the Police.
(c) Super-scale Federal Civil Service and Federal Corporation posts.
“(iii) On the functioning of the Supreme Military Council Any decisions affecting the whole country must be determined by the Supreme Military Council. Where a meeting is not possible such a matter must be referred to Military Governors for comment and concurrence.
“(iv) That all the Law Officers of the Federation should meet in Benin on the 14 January and list all the Decrees and provisions of Decrees concerned so that they may be repealed not later than 21 January, if possible.
“(v) That for at least the next six months, there should be purely a Military Government, having nothing to do whatsoever with politicians.”
20. The next item discussed was the Ad Hoc Constitutional Conference which Lt.-Col. Gowon had unilaterally dissolved on 30 November, 1966. The Council agreed that the Conference should resume sitting as soon as practicable to continue from where it left off, and that the question of implementing the unanimous recommendations of the Conference in September, 1966 should be considered at a later meeting of the Supreme Military Council.
21. Finally, on the problem of displaced persons, the relevant section of the Official Minutes of the Council reads as follows:
“(a) on rehabilitation, that Finance Permanent Secretaries should resume their meeting within two weeks and submit recommendations and that each Region should send three representatives to the meeting;
“(b) on employment and recovery of property, that civil servants and Corporation staff (including daily paid employees) who have not been absorbed should continue to be paid their full salaries until 31 March, 1967 provided they have not got alternative employment, and that the Military Governors of the East, West and Mid-West should send representatives (Police Commissioners) to meet and discuss the problem of recovery of property left behind by displaced persons.”
22. On his return from the Aburi meeting the Military Governor of the East held a press conference to reassure Easterners who had considerable apprehension about the meeting and its outcome. (For the full text of the Military Governor’s press statement see Appendix 2.) He emphasized at this conference that the Aburi meeting had been worthwhile and gave the assurance that provided the agreements reached were ~implemented much progress would have been made towards relieving tension and banishing fear within the country.
IMPLEMENTATION OF ABURI AGREEMENTS
23. The Military Government of Eastern Nigeria was represented at the meeting of the Solicitors-General held in Benin on 14 and 15 January. (For the Report of the Law Officers see Appendix III). The Eastern delegation received full briefing in the light of the Aburi decisions to which its views strictly adhered. Since some other delegations had not been fully briefed it became necessary to refer a number of issues back to the Supreme Military Council. One of the most important was section 69 of the Nigerian Constitution in respect of which the Report of the Law Officers’ meeting reads—
“As regards the powers of the Federal Military Government vis-a-vis the Regional Government, all the Law Officers, excepting those from the East, are of the view that effect would be fully given to the Accra decision in this regard by repealing section 3 of Decree No. 1 and restoring the provisions of the suspended section 69 with necessary modifications whereby the Federal Military Government will now have power to make Decrees to the following extent:
(a) With respect to the Federal Territory of Lagos, on any matter whatever;
(b) With respect to the whole of Nigeria, or any part thereof (other than Lagos), on
matters included in the Exclusive Legislative List and the Concurrent Legislative List; provided that where there is an inconsistency between a Federal Decree on a Concurrent matter and a Regional Edict on the same matter, the Federal Decree will prevail.
“Under this arrangement the Military Governors will have no power to make Edicts on matters on the Exclusive Legislative List but will have powers to make Edicts on matters in the Concurrent Legislative List and on residual matters.”
“The view of the Eastern Law Officers is that the introduction of the element of Regional consent in Federal legislation must necessarily modify the position as it was before 17 January in the sense that there will be a lacuna in the legislative activities of both the Supreme Military Council and the Regions where consent is not given. It appears, therefore, to be the intention of the Accra decision that such a lacuna should be filled by the Regions. With respect to matters on the Concurrent Legislative List, it is their view that the Regions can legislate in relation to Federal Law.”
24. The views of the Eastern Nigerian Law Officers quoted above from the Solicitors-General Report clearly reflect the spirit and letter of the Aburi decision on this matter. One of the main areas of friction between the Regions and the Central Government during the last civilian regime concerns the exercise of powers over matters on the Concurrent List. The controversial issue was the provision whereby a law passed by the Federal Government superseded any other law passed by a Regional Government on the same subject. This problem was fully recognized by most delegations to the meeting of the Ad Hoc Constitutional Conference in Lagos in September, 1966. It was the objective of the Aburi meeting to eliminate such sources of friction, hence the decision that “the legislative and executive authority of the Federal Military Government should remain in the Supreme Military Council (not in one man) to which any decision affecting the whole country (whether on the Exclusive or Concurrent List) shall be referred for determination provided that where it is not possible for a meeting to be held the matter requiring determination must be referred to Military Governors for their comment and concurrence.” There can be no doubt that this modified the position before 17 January, 1966, when the Military Regime took over, and that it provides a new governmental arrangement needed for Nigeria “in view of what the country has experienced in the past year (1966).”
25. Since the receipt of the Report of the Law Officers by the members of the Supreme Military Council, the Military Governor of Western Nigeria has vindicated the stand of the Eastern Nigerian Law Officers as regards section 69. He commented—
“In the light of what has been stated at pages two to three of the Report, it is considered that only the Supreme Military Council should have power to make laws on matters on the Exclusive Legislative List. As regards matters on the Concurrent Legislative List, it is felt that the exercise of powers concurrently by the Supreme Military Council and the Military Governors of the Regions with respect to the same subjects could lead to conflict or friction of a type which ought to be avoided under the present Military Regime. It seems that one sure way to avoid such conflict or friction would be by making new provisions whereby the Supreme Military Council will have power to make laws on matters on the Concurrent Legislative List in respect of Lagos only whilst the Military Governors will have power to make laws by Edict on those matters in respect of their Regions.”
26. The Law Officers held divergent views on such questions as the machinery for the meetings of the Supreme Military Council and the manner in which the concurrence of the Military Governors, as members of the Council, should be signified in the making of Decrees. On these questions the Military Governor, West, has again vindicated the stand of the East when he commented as follows:
“…a meeting of the Supreme Military Council will be properly
constituted and can properly be held if any Military Governor is absent, but as agreed at Accra, any Military Governor not present will be given the opportunity to express his comments on, and concurrence with, the decisions taken in his absence before they are implemented.
“(b) Where all the Military Governors are present at a meeting of the Supreme Military Council decisions should now be taken only with the concurrence or unanimity of all the Military Governors. Decisions by majority would have been the best thing in ordinary circumstances but in the present situation in the country, one has to admit that such a rule could lead to open disagreements and conflicts and so to the revival of tension which everything must be done now to reduce.”
27.Again, the Eastern Military Government readily sent representatives to the meeting of the Committee of Army Officers at Benin which, as was agreed at Aburi, would discuss matters relating to the quantity of arms and ammunition available in each Unit of the Army in each Region and in the unallocated stores, as well as the sharing out of such arms equitably to the various Commands. The Committee – -could not progress with its work for lack of co-operation from the representatives of Lt.-Col.Gowon.
28. While the Military Government of Eastern Nigeria has been making a determined and sincere effort to act according to the spirit and decisions of Aburi, Lt.-Col. Gowon has deliberately set out to ignore both.
Ten days after the Aburi meeting the Gowon Government issued a booklet, entitled Nigeria 1966, parts of which attacked and libelled the Military Governor of the East. The booklet also contained tendentious statements the sole aim of which could only be to inflame passions and cause disaffection within the country. This booklet was launched in New York, London and other capitals of the world.
29. Worse still, three weeks after the meeting, at a press conference which he held on 26 January, 1967, Lt.-Col. Gowon reproduced a truncated and distorted version of the agreements reached at Aburi. The source of Lt.-Col. Gowon’s statement was not the official minutes of the meeting, which had been prepared by his own officials, but a hostile commentary on the Aburi decisions prepared afterwards by people with vested interests in Lagos—men who were neither members of the Supreme Military Council nor were present at the meeting. These people were in a position to advise Lt.-Col. Gowon before the meeting since the agenda for the Aburi meeting were agreed to well beforehand. Furthermore, most of the major decisions at Aburi were taken on the second day of the meeting after members had spent the night at their respective stations, consulting with their advisers.
30. A few days after Aburi some Permanent Secretaries in Lagos met to criticize the decisions reached by the Supreme Military Council, the highest authority in the land. With regard to the reorganization of the Army they objected to the new title of “Commander-in-Chief” on the grounds that—
“(1) it would be a subtle way of either abolishing the post of Supreme Commander or declaring it vacant to be filled by unanimous decision of the Supreme
Military Council… and
(2) The Accra decision transfers the Executive Authority of the Federal Military Government from the Head of the Federal Military Government and Supreme Commander (in accordance with Decree No.1) to the Supreme Military Council. The implication of this is that the Commander-in-Chief would have no power of control or dismissal over the Regional Governors…”
On the establishment of Military Headquarters, the Permanent Secretaries stated that “the establishment of Military Headquarters with equal representatives from the Regions headed by a Chief of Staff amounts to confederation”. They made no effort to define what they meant by a “confederation”. As regards the creation of Area Commands the Permanent Secretaries took exception to what they considered to be “dividing up the Nigerian Army into Regional ones, without links with or effective unifying control over the Army by the ‘Supreme Commander’.” This advice, which was clearly motivated by selfish interests, ignored the anxiety of the Nigerian public for a workable and effective settlement of the crisis and a quick return to normal conditions. In strict compliance with this advice, however, Lt.-Col. Gowon, true to his well-known characteristic of ignoring solemn agreements, made a volte-face at his press conference. On the issue of the reorganization of the Army he declared—
“We reviewed the situation in- the Nigerian Army and we all
agreed that there should be one Nigerian Army under a unified command as at present. We recognized that in the context of the events of 1966, the most practical way of achieving this aim is to organize the Army into area commands. The preponderance of T the army personnel in each command will be drawn from the re indigenes of that area. Each area command will be under an P Area Commander who will take operational instructions from the Military Headquarters which will be directly under me as the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces. Under the proposal, the Military Governors can use the area command for internal security purposes but this will normally be done with the express permission of the Head of the Federal Military Government. We definitely decided tit against Regional armies.”
As could be seen from the Minutes of the Aburi Conference, no decision was taken that the Area Commands should be directly under Lt.-Col. Gowon “as the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces” nor that the Military Governors should obtain his permission to use the Area Commands for internal security.
31. Again, instead of emphasizing that the Supreme Military Council, in recognition of the fact that no single government in the Federation has its writ running throughout the country, has introduced the element of Regional consent into the process of reaching its decisions, Lt.-Col. Gowon merely stated—
“We, however, agreed to return to the status quo ante 17 January, 1966, and this is in keeping with my earlier public pronouncements that Decrees or parts of Decrees which tended towards over- centralization should be repealed. We will continue to operate the existing Federal Constitution and the Federal system of government until a new Constitution is drawn up. A decree is now under preparation which will give effect to the decision to return to the Constitutional position before 17 January, 1966…”
32. Turning to the problem of displaced persons the Permanent Secretaries suggested:
“(a) when the meeting of Permanent Secretaries of the Ministries of Finance resumes, the principle of revenue allocation should not be discussed as it was not mentioned in the minutes of the Accra meeting.
“(b) the decision to continue to pay salaries till the end of March, 1967, does not take into consideration economic factors which are linked with it . . . Secondly, it does not make sense to include daily paid workers among those whose salaries should continue to be paid. The decision should therefore be reconsidered.”
The insistence of the Permanent Secretaries that “the principle of revenue allocation should not be discussed” at any future meetings of Permanent Secretaries, Finance, is clear evidence that they intend to strangle the East economically since they are well aware of the mass return of nearly two million Easterners to the Region, the loss of £20,000,000 in property by refugees from the North and the forcible exclusion of Easterners from the Federal Civil Service, the Federal Statutory Corporations, the Foreign Service and other Federal institutions. – Surely they cannot expect the East to survive economically in these circumstances under the existing system of revenue allocation. Moreover, whatever economic factors are linked with the Supreme Military Council’s- decisions on this matter it is patent that the displaced employees are in no way responsible for their present plight. And the inequitable treatment suggested by the Permanent Secretaries in respect of daily paid workers can only remind the country of the industrial strife which such an application of double standards caused in the days of the former civilian regime.
33. In spite of all these Lt.-Col. Gowon in his press conference defers to the recommendations of the Permanent Secretaries on this head. Although the decision at Aburi was that the salaries of all displaced persons who had not obtained alternative employment should, without qualification, be paid until 31 March, 1967, Lt.-Col. Gowon stated that “each case is to be considered on its merit” and that Federal Corporations would find it “very difficult” to continue to pay their displaced employees.
34. With respect to appointments to certain posts in the Federal Public Service, the Permanent Secretaries commented as follows:
“(a) whichever category of officer is meant, the effect of this decision will tend to paralyse the functions of the Federal Public and the Police Service Commissions;
“(b) if Regional Governors have power to appointments, the loyalty of Federal Officers would be to their regions of origin—meaning in effect that there will be no Federal Civil Service;
“(c)the acceptance of this decision would also require, as the law officers have reported, amendments to those sections in the Constitution dealing with appointment to Nigeria Police, Federal Public Service Commission and sections of various acts dealing with appointment in Federal Statutory
(d) furthermore, it is observed that while Military Governors will have power to appoint, or approve appointments of Federal Government Servants, there is no corresponding power of the Supreme Military Council to even influence the appointments to senior posts in the Regional Public Services. This clearly makes the Federal Military Government.”
Obviously the Permanent Secretaries are not concerned with the peace, stability and even the survival of Nigeria; their sole interest is to maintain the status quo because any attempt at a fair distribution of posts -in the Federal Civil Service, the Federal Corporations, the Foreign Service and other Federal institutions would mean a diminution of the powers they now enjoy. The East must remain permanently excluded from these services and institutions for the selfish ends of Federal Permanent Secretaries. The East must be relegated to obscure embassies abroad where they will- be ineffective and unheard. In his press statement Lt.-Col. Gowon, in his attempt to keep to the advice of the Permanent Secretaries, was caught up in contradictions. In one and the same breath he said that these appointments should be approved by the Supreme Military Council and that the Federal public Service and Police Commissions should retain their present functions. His exact words were-
“There have been some speculations about the effect of our decisions on senior appointments and – promotions in the Federal Public Service. It was agreed that top posts such as Permanent Secretaries and Ambassadors will have to be approved by the I ship Supreme Military Council. I would like to explain that the Armey Federal Public Service Commission as well as the Police Commission and i will continue to function as at present.”
35. Finally, on the Ad Hoc Constitutional Conference the Permanent Secretaries stated that it was rather advisable for Gowon stick to their previous recommendations and advice, namely:
“(a) that the Ad Hoc Constitutional Conference should stand adjourned indefinitely;
“(b) that the immediate political programme announced to the nation on 30 November, 1966, by the ‘Supreme Commander’ should be implemented and the country must be so informed.”
The Permanent Secretaries have here revealed that the origin of Lt.Col. Gowon’s “political programme” of 30 November, 1966, was “the recommendations and advice” given to him by these Permanent Secretaries. In accordance with this advice, however, Lt.-Col. Gowon, while not appearing to re-affirm “that the Ad Hoc Constitutional Conference should stand adjourned indefinitely”, said— “So far I have not set up the Drafting Committee and the Constituent Assembly promised in my broadcast (of 30 November, 1966) because it was the intention that normal conditions should be fully restored before they begin to function… I am carrying… on the necessary consultations with all sections of the Nigerian – community and when eventually the names we are screening are announced the general public will be satisfied.”
In this context, the indications are that Lt.-Col. Gowon would rather take steps to implement his pet programme than facilitate the resumption of the Ad Hoc Constitutional Conference as decided at Aburi. This is borne out by the draft Decree which he produced after Aburi.
36. This draft Decree, which has been circulated to the Regional Military Governors by Lt.-Col. Gowon, accordingly by-passes or ignores all the major decisions taken at Aburi. It seeks to return Nigeria to the constitutional position before 17 January, 1966, while in fact the decisions of the Supreme Military Council were on specific issues and were not limited by dates. In the draft Decree the title of “Supreme Commander” is still retained contrary to the decision at Aburi to alter it to “Commander-in-Chief”. The draft Decree also retains the word “President” instead of “Chairman of the Supreme Military Council” as was agreed at Aburi. Again it enlarges the membership of the Supreme Military Council to include “Head of the Nigerian Army (a non-existent post), the “Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces” and the “Chief of Staff of the Nigerian Army”. No such decisions were taken at Aburi. It was merely agreed that there should be one Chief of Staff at Headquarters.
37. In addition, contrary to the Aburi accord, the draft Decree vests executive and legislative powers either in the Federal Military Government or in the Federal Executive Council. But the Aburi meeting clearly decided that the legislative and executive authority of the Federal Military Government should devolve on the Supreme Military Council to which any matter affecting the whole country should be referred for determination.
38. The draft Decree also completely ignores the decision at Aburi that appointments and promotions within the upper hierarchy of the Army, Police, the Public Service and Corporations must be approved by the Supreme Military Council.
39. Lastly, the draft Decree proceeds to restore sections 70, 71 and 86 of the old Constitution, which had been suspended, without also restoring the safeguards provided in that Constitution. By this action Lt.-Col. Gowon, contrary to the spirit and letter of the Aburi agreements, arrogates to himself the power to declare a state of emergency anywhere in Nigeria.
BAD FAITH OF LT.-COL. GOWON
40. The failure of Lt.-Col. Gowon to adhere to the decisions unanimously reached at Aburi is only the latest evidence of his bad faith, inconsistency and lack of realism.
41. On the first day of his seizure of power he had pleaded for co-operation from the East Military Government, and had promised to retain power only temporarily in order to normalise the extraordinary conditions created by himself and his fellow Northerners, military and civilian. Thereafter the Military leaders were to meet and decide on the leadership. Lt.-Col. Gowon has never fulfilled that promise. The breach of his promise to see to the return of arms and ammunition by Northern soldiers evacuated from the East has already been mentioned in paragraph 8 above. Lt.-Col. Gowon also assured the Military Government of the East in August, 1966 that he would stop the killings in the country, but these killings subsequently increased in organization and ferocity until they reached the proportions of a pogrom. He moreover promised that the inquiry set up by Major-General Aguiyi Ironsi into the May massacres of Easterners in Northern Nigeria would “certainly go on as scheduled”. Nothing has been heard again about this inquiry ever since. So also most of the difficulties preventing the return to normal conditions in the country have stemmed from Lt.-Col. Gowon’s bad faith in not implementing the unanimous decisions reached by the representatives of the military leaders at their meeting in Lagos on 9 August.
42.Early in September 1966, armed soldiers of Northern origin from Ibadan raided Benin Prison and removed soldiers who had been detained as a result of their
alleged involvement in the attempted coup of
15 January. The Northerners among the detainees were set free and repatriated to the North; the remainder, mainly Easterners, were murdered under brutal circumstances. And although Lt.-Col. Gowon gave assurances that the murderers would be brought to justice, so far the perpetrators of the atrocities have gone unpunished.
43. It was exactly this same sort of bad faith that Lt.-Col. Gowon exhibited in September, 1966. In his opening address to the Ad Hoc Constitutional Conference, he had himself instructed the delegates to choose one of the following alternatives in formulating a new Constitution for Nigeria:
“(a) A Federal system with a strong Central Government;
“(b) A Federal system with a weak Central Government;
“(c) A Confederation ;or
“(d) An entirely new arrangement which may be peculiar to Nigeria.”
At the same time Gowon disavowed any intention of dictating to the country a particular constitution. When, however, he saw that the delegations were veering towards the second or third alternative, he adjourned the conference indefinitely. He thereupon announced that “the idea of a temporary confederation is unworkable” and that he was appointing “a drafting committee” to prepare a constitution which “will reflect the generally expressed desire for a stable federation”. it will be recalled, however, that the delegations to the Ad Hoc Conference went to Lagos in September, 1966, after extensive consultations among the people in each Region. Thus each delegation went with a mandate representing the “expressed desire” of its people. But, true to type, Lt.-Col. Gowon placed a dubious construction on the submissions of the delegations to suit his purpose and that of his advisers.
44. Contrary to the decisions at Aburi recruitment into the Army has continued in different parts of the country except the East; contrary to these agreements, Lt.-Col. Gowon has proceeded to appoint Ambassadors without reference to the Supreme Military Council; contrary to the agreements, purchase and importation of arms have continued. Lt.-Col. Gowon unilaterally postponed the meeting of Military officers to discuss the reorganization of the Army as agreed at Aburi. The proposed meeting of Finance officials on the problem of rehabilitation of displaced persons has not even been held because Lt.-Col. Gowon’s Finance Permanent Secretary does not think that such a meeting will serve any useful purpose. –
45. In the light of the foregoing and since there is clearly no hope of a change of attitude on the part of Lt.-Col. Gowon, the East Military Government considers that the time has come when it must take a final stand against a regime which cannot abide by agreements voluntarily arrived at. The Military Government of the East is irrevocably committed to the task of ameliorating the suffering of its struggling people and providing them with the peace, order and good government which are their overriding needs. To this end the Government will publish shortly its future policy towards the implementation of the Aburi agreements.
ON ABURI WE STAND
ONCE UPON A TIME, Arthur Agwuncha Nwankwo and Samuel Udechukwu Ifejika wrote a book entitled, Biafra: The Making of a Nation. In the book, Nwankwo was the idealist who lamented the failed Biafran revolution and the unsuccessful liberation war. Now, three decades later, Nwankwo has written another book. This time, the book is entitled The Igbo Nation and the Nigerian State. In this book, Nwankwo recalled the Igbos unending tragedy in BiafraNigeria. Since these two publications and other books related to the pogrom, growing animus toward Igbos and the question of Igbo assimilation, Nwankwo has written numerous essays and commentaries on Igbos arguing that other Nigerians should accept the Igbos as equals.
But, Arthur Nwankwo is a man of ironies and multiple loyalties. From his recent writing on the pogrom, the quest for Biafran sovereignty, Igbo reintegration and equality in the Nigerian state, and the many contradictions in those writings, one must now conclude that Arthur Nwankwo is a man who has lots of explaining to do considering that Nwankwo’s flirtations with arch enemies of Nd’Igbo persist in the face of the sad state of Igbos in Nigeria today and the continuing display of hatred for Nd’Igbo by the people with whom Nwankwo has crawled into bed. It is in that context that one encounters Nwankwo’s more recent effusions as they expose his blind eagerness to cuddle the enemies of the Igbo Nation.
Let’s not be confused here. The contents of the two books Biafra: “The Making of a Nation” and “The Igbo Nation and the Nigerian State” differ significantly. With hardly any parallel for one to draw between the two books, one wonders if the same man authored both books. Biafra: The Making of a Nation is an insightful book. Surely not just one of the better books about the Yakubu Gowon-led genocidal campaign against the Igbo Nation, but also one of the better accounts of the pogrom, the Nigerian renegades at Aburi, Ghana, and the Nigeria-Biafra War. That the book is out of print so soon is a sad commentary on our current literary and historical situation. Even though The Igbo Nation and the Nigerian State proffers a little splendor and sorrow, it did not come close to Nankwo’s first work.
In narrating the mass killing, rape, and the destruction of Igbo property in Nigeria, which began in the North, Nwankwo and Ifejika’s book is like no other survival account I know of from that period. It was essentially written during the pogrom and Civil War, unlike most survivor accounts, which are memoirs after the fact.
Nwankwo was born in 1942 in what was then Awka Province in the colonial era. When British mandate made its prescription for a nation state for what Obafemi Awolowo later referred to as a “mere geographical expression,” Awka, an Igbo town, came under the Eastern Region in post-independence Nigeria. A whole lot of points make Biafra: The Making of a Nation a well written book, including the circumstance in which the book was written as Nwankwo and Ifejike acknowledged:
“Writing under the strains and stresses of the Nigeria-Biafra War, amidst the rattle and rumble of machine guns and shells, the whizzing and roaring of Nigerian jet bombers and fighters—pouring down demolition and incendiary bombs, and spouting and spraying canon bullets on Biafran civilian populations—the staccato of defiant Biafran anti-aircraft guns, the authors have not found the production of this book an easy task. Often without scripts under our arms, we have had to dive for cover from raids from the Anglo-Soviet supported Nigerian Air Force. On one occasion, cannon bullets have whistled into our study; shattering window-panes and missing us by inches. Naturally the speed of our work fluctuated with every turn of the war…”
The position of Igbos during the pogrom and civil war was unique: Despite the fact the book gave a detailed account of a world without conscience—the mutinies in the garrisons, the brutal assassination of Major-General Johnson Thomas Aguiyi-Ironsi and annihilation of civilians, references can be found on a suffering people in its postscript. Nwankwo-Ifejika’s work portray a supreme example of a tragedy allowed to take place while the world watched. Regardless of his pains toward the atrocities against the Igbos—the mowing down of “two hundred military officers of Eastern Nigerian origin” of which most of them, if not all, were Igbos; the “systematic massacre of 30,000 Igbos” and Gowon’s failure to honor the Aburi Accord, which supposedly should have offered real hope, Nwankwo and Ifejika described the emergence of a new nation born out of sufferings and a struggle against hatred. Nwankwo’s sensibility in the postscript (pp265-294) was clear in as he narrated a telling and chilling tale where every Biafran and sympathizer of Biafra who reflected on the economic blockade suffered “insomnia” caused by the presence of death in their thoughts and the thoughts of everyone around them:
“I have seen things in Biafra this week, which no man should have to see. Sights to scorch the mind and sicken the conscience. I have seen children roasted alive, young girls turn in two by shrapnel, pregnant women eviscerated, and old men blown to fragments. I have seen this things and I have seen their cause: high-flying Russian Ilyusin jets operated by federal Nigeria, dropping their bombs on civilian centers through out Biafra.”
The Sunday Times (London), April 28, 1968
The sight that met my eyes gave me a feeling of nausea. Sprawled along the street was a rippling sea of violently writhing bodies. Chilling means charged the hot noon. At my feet, on the steps, the mangled body of the ten-year-old boy with the starry eyes lay in a poll of his own blood. Instantly I stooped and felt his pulse. His body was still warm but the boy was certainly dead. Just then his mother rushed out, saw her dead son and fell on him, wailing piteously.
Every time I read this passage I ask myself why the world stood and watched and did nothing as a people marked for genocide were slaughtered. Why was it just fine for others to suffer even after they had managed through their leader to communicate their condition to the world? That takes one back to the Aburi Accord in which Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu presented himself well on behalf of the suffering Biafran children who were mercilessly and callously murdered by the vandals who killed on the orders of Gowon. So, instead of threatening war and secession, considering the senseless killing of Igbo and the looting of Igbo property, Ojukwu and the Biafran delegation to Aburi , well prepared, focused on the possibility of improving relations with the Nigerian vandals who later made up their mind that Aburi was not the solution and Aburi’s prescription to avoid the war of genocide was to be negated. The Nigerians opted for a genocidal invasion of Biafra.
The monstrous merger of the Hausa-Fulani vandals and bloodthirsty Yoruba tribesmen led to more pogrom and the worst case of human tragedy in that era. The Aburi communiqué, was unanimously adopted by both the Biafran delegation led by General Ojukwu and by Gowon’s assassins and mutineers. The Aburi Accord was backed by African nations and some countries in the West. At the prompting of Yoruba arch-tribalist, Awolowo, and his British handlers, the agreement was in a sudden about-face reneged upon by the Nigerians on the pretext that it was just a group of individuals led by Murtala Mohammed and his fellow mutineers attempting to usurp or undermine the legal authority of the country at in international stage.
Nor was it a meeting of a group of individual Biafrans or Nd’Igbo with no power to commit the state of Biafra or its government. Later, it became clear that the Nigerian vandals were only in Aburi to study the willingness of the Biafran delegation to give up its aspirations for safety within Nigeria or surrender any aspirations for Biafran statehood should safety in Nigeria prove elusive.
Aburi was well organized with a genuine mandate to resolve what had been seen as tearing the country apart. It had delegates appropriately and adequately representative of the populations in the country tasked to reach an agreement for the time being until a permanent solution was sought based on upholding and respecting the decisions. The Aburi paper was designed to avoid any further internal strife, and had the guidelines to propel the country to the forefront without bloodshed. The Aburi document was not designed for Mohammed and his mutineers to carry out a genocidal campaign against Biafra in order to keep Nigeria one. The Aburi paper was not designed to send innocent children, men and women of Biafra to their graves. The Aburi paper was not a Gowon-Obafemi Awolowo-Anthony Enahoro’s own personal document, sealed to plunder and demolish the Igbo Nation and the Biafran Republic. The Aburi paper was not Western/vandals propaganda to make a justifiable war in retaliation to a previous attack or invasion. The meeting at Aburi, Ghana, was resolved on consensus toward peace not genocide, period!
But the irony here is, even as one has become weary of pointing out a great number of Nigerian apologists, Igbos in particular, and most of them lacking perspective and knowledge of historical facts, have succumbed to the brazen Enahoro propaganda that the Aburi Accord was a product of military despots and that the document is inadequate for a democratic settingc. Here is what a friend said to me while discussing Aburi: “The Aburi Accord is a military document. We need a sovereign national conference whereby each community and ethnic group is duly represented to decide on the best possible way to govern the country.” I have equally argued on this very subject time without number that even though there happens to be a gathering of these “sovereign nationalists” that the subject matter is bound to fail on the same premise that these “sovereign nationalists” have attacked the Aburi Accord.
And, probably, what that suggests is “Aburi Accord is a military document” and in that context justifies Gowon’s genocidal campaign against the Igbo Nation. It also suggests accordingly that the Awolowo-Enahoro’s initiatives that disregarded the decisions reached at Aburi and carried out a full blown genocidal assault on the Igbo Nation and the Children of Biafra. Some Nigerian sadists have even said that the genocide against Biafra was a due and normal step to bring about the anticipated peace reached at Aburi. However, the failure to respect the decisions reached at Aburi signaled the beginning of a country that would never live in harmony in decades that would follow. The bastardized country has never been the same again, and history has proven the refusal to implement the Aburi Accord to be a fatal blow to the country.
The ultimate reason a meeting was scheduled in Aburi, Ghana, between the Gowon-led vandals and Ojukwu’s delegates was to put an end to an on-going carnage pre-planned and well-orchestrated by the bloodthirsty Hausa-Fulani and their Yoruba hoodlum and nihilistic allies. Ironically, too, the Aburi meeting was senseless because Gowon’s vandals had already made up their minds to start what would be the most murderous campaign in African history. Too often, it is asked why compare the talks at Aburi created out of the confusion which erupted when the military juntas took laws into their hands with to a more consensual dialogue with the people’s mandate, the so-called SNC or the conference of ethnic nationalities as some have preferred to call it.
Nevertheless, if Gowon and his fellow vandals were not so bloodthirsty, the decisions at Aburi would have been substantially upheld. And, had the decisions at the meeting been respected, the war would not have been necessary and no further blood would have been shed. Had Gowon and his vandals followed what was required after the Aburi Accord, the desperate starvation of innocent Biafran children on Awolowo and his cohorts’ initiatives would not have occurred. So what mistakes were made over the Aburi that prevented the Accord from averting war? And what were the options available to the country in the aftermath of the pogrom and Gowon’s vandals’ premeditated and diabolical acts that made the Aburi dialoge necessary?
I have read the Aburi Accord over and over again, and found no flaws that justify the disregard by the Gowon-led vandals. In particular, the inexplicable and tragic events of July 29, 1966 in which Ironsi was flogged, tied to a moving jeep, dragged, and murdered mandated that the Aburi Accord be repected. Noteworthy is Nwankwo-Ifejika’s argument that Gowon’s “dismissal of the AD Hoc Constitutional conference and assumption of dictatorial powers” killed any hope for peace. But never minding Gowon’s dictatorial powers, the idea to carry out a full-blown assault on the Igbo Nation and Children of Biafra took wings.
In the poisoned minds of the vandals, especially Mohammed, Theophilus Yakubu Danjuma, Mohammed Shuwa, Benjamin Adekunle, Obasanjo, David Ejoor, Samuel Ogbemudia, Ibrahim Alfa, Zamani Lekwot, Joe Akahan, Nuhu, Muhammadu Buhari, Michael Adelenwa, Augustus Aikhomu, Ibrahim Babangida, Mobolaji Johnson, Joseph Garba, Ike Nwachukwu, I.D. Bisalla, Domkat Bali, Oladipo Diya and the rest, predisposed of the view that Igbo wanted to take over all aspects of the country’s polity embellished to include the claim that during the first coup of January 15, 1966, Igbo dignitaries and eminent politicians were warned in advance of the bloody coup which was about to take place leaving them with the opportunity to survive the “putsch” by either traveling out or going into hiding until the execution of the so-called Igbo coup.
In his book “Why We Struck,” Adewale Ademoyega noted the “January Boys Coup” was never an Igbo revolution as claimed by the bloodlust vandals who had used the term “Igbo coup” to successfully employ its gruesome acts of unnatural taste: the pogrom. That the coup, according to Ben Gbulie who testified at the Oputa human rights commission, was organized and launched to install Awolowo as president for his “vision” and ambition. In this view, as in that of Ademoyega and other sincere observers who know what truth is, the January coup, however, was not an Igbo coup; and was not the beginning of Nigeria disunity. And a greater Nigeria did not emerge, either, after the Chukwuma “kaduna” Nzeogwu-led coup and the one that followed six months later which erupted the pogrom and civil war leaving the Children of Biafra with no other option than secession, and the events from which so many of today’s problems emerged. An accord like the one at Aburi, which is now an oft-told tale of a superb document had never been put together before. Most people who read it subscribe that it should be reexamined carefully again, if the country really wants to take care of its troubled past and the pervasive present tension.
On that point, the Aburi Accord made progress until the civil-military dysfunction of Awolowo-Enahoro-Gowon-led vandals—along with the obvious bloodsucking Hausa-Fulanis—decided it was irrelevant, yearning for the destruction of the Igbo Nation and the Children of Biafra. Having decided to renege on the decisions reached at Aburi, the Nigerian vandals further singled out and murdered rank and file Igbo military officers in the barracks, and in the horrific war that followed, drowned, shot, tortured, and massacre male Biafran citizens at Asaba. That a people should be marked for destruction because of the acts of some individuals is still beyond my comprehension—yes, still beyond my comprehension. No one embodied this atrocity more than Murtala Mohammed, the drug addicted, mentally unstable, notorious bank armed robber, was allowed to die and go to hell without apologizing for his cold-bloodedness.
Ironically, Mohammed who took his Igbo blood stained hands to his grave, was canonized by his sluggish crony and murderous Igbo-hater, Obasanjo, who succeeded him and worked hard to maintain the pace of anti-Igbo bigotry and hatred. But the plan to run over Igbos in a matter of days was wrong and miscalculated. Biafra fought the vandals and did what it viewed was essential to its survival, resisting in a heroic effort against a long bloody war waged by British-Russian backed vandals. Regardless, the Gowon-led vandals never took its foreign backed advantage into anything resembling military effectiveness. When war did come, and in what had been envisioned to end in a couple of months, Gowon’s bloodlust vandals found out Biafrans were singularly ready.
Isolated and with limited or no resources , Biafran scientists went to work. They produced the Ogbunigwe which in its capacity matched the “sophisticated” foreign weaponry of the vandals. They had the best propaganda machine and resisted the invasion of the vandals to run over Biafra in a couple of months as predicted. The statehood of Biafra was recognized by many nations and organizations. Among them: Ivory Coast and Tanzania for its strength to sustain her existence despite not firing the first shot, and not initiating secession.
The vandals had earlier called for breaking away from the country and leaving alone a people they saw as a “sorry lot” insisting their survival was wanting out. Were the vandals allowed say goodbye to a “sorry lot” and specifically had the Aburi decisions been respected and upheld, the consequences would not have been ominous in its aftermath. Gowon, who would later be humiliated in the course of the country’s history when declared wanted for masterminding the assassination of the hoodlum Murtala Mohammed on February 13, 1976, had this to say when the civil military tension of 1967 reached crisis proportion, dismissing the articulated Ad Hoc Constitutional Committee:
“The day we say confederation, it would be goodbye to Nigeria since confederation meant a willing grouping together of independent sovereign states.”
The above comment ultimately sealed the fate of the Aburi Accord. Surprisingly “sovereign nationalists” who now tells us an SNC would address the ills of the country fail to indicate when their thinking changed from the sentiments that Gowon expressed above, the same sentiments for which many in the SNC Now bunch followed Gowon to a genocidal war. When I hear things like that I shudder at the shallowness of some of those calling for an SNC. I shudder partly because such self-important positions seem weightless and implausible coming out of the mouths of people for whom “history” is whatever happened during the Sani Abacha terror years. Thus, the sudden call for SNC was initiated in the Abacha years by the same people who would assure us in their next breath that a call for SNC is unconstitutional, if the call were made to stop atrocities in Biafra or Igboland. They would argue that there is an existing workable and integral legislature formed through a democratic fabric and based on the rule of law, and that there should be no SNC since it would create tension, breaking up the country, and realizing Gowon’s fears. That Nigeria is for all of us, and that we should stay together and work things out. Imagine that. We should stay together amid chaos.
Nwankwo’s book nearly three decades after his first has what might be described as a proposal for a change of strategy in Igbos road to assimilation into mainstream Nigeria. In Igbo Nation and the Nigerian State, there were some things in common with what Nwankwo narrated in his earlier book during the pogrom. There is also much difference between the present book and the earlier book. But, there is indication that hard economic times had pushed Arthur Nwankwo into loyalties to enemies of Nd’Igbo, betrayal of principles, all eviles that Nwankwo attempts to mask as a new strategy and an effort to reach out to non-Igbos. This new pattern of betrayal of Nd’Igbo by one of their own masked as an outreach effort should be cause for concern, especially when the self-delusion is perpetrated by one who has in the past pretended to champion justice for the Igbo Nation.
The case of Aburi was the last straw for a peace path in what degenerated and tore the country apart. Compounding the peril after Aburi has the fact that Gowon’s vandals and the Hausa-Fulani Igbo haters came to a conclusion that upholding the decisions at Aburi would amount to the entire country being locked in a conflict over the oil-rich Biafra region and likely would seal the fate of Nigeria economically. Ojukwu made it clear on the plebiscite for peace (Biafra, 1969) with regards to the “oil-rich” Biafra that the Eastern ethnic minorities by all accounts based on the principles of self-reliance, should be free to agitate for her own freedom. To complete the picture, the Gowon-Enahoro-Awolowo team was desperately concerned about controlling the resources from the region without caring for the plight of the Children of Biafra. Using every weapon, weapons of mass destruction (WMD) supplied by Russia and Britain, Enahoro, Awo, and Gowon set out to achieve their desired goals of wiping out the Igbo Nation from the face of this planet.
As it happened, in exchange for territorial control and in agreement with Russia and Britain, Gowon and his vandals paid for the conquest of Biafra by barter. That illicit trade resulted in the loss of the Bakassi Peninsula to Cameroon.The deal allowed the Nigerians to carry out full blown genocide and assault in a conflict that left tens of thousands of infants and children dreadfully starved to death and tens of thousands of civilians outnumbered and massacred in the most horrible way.
Naturally, then, in searching for the “root cause” of an anti-Igbo hatred so deep that it led to a pogrom, the jealousy of other Nigerians over Igbo prosperity in BiafraNigeria must not be overlooked. But Nd’Igbo, it should be clear, should not assume blame themselves for being successful when the environment permitted competition. They Igbo were republican in orientation and would mingle with anyone even when not accepted. They meant well to a collective national state regardless of the varied ethnicities. They were in for a one united Nigeria. Alas! They were not wanted. The hatred was ingrained and not much could be done. The most dramatic of this hate was exposed during the civil war when Benjamin Adekunle admitted shooting at every creature that moved in Biafra. The graphic scenery was applauded. Adekunle in his own words:
“I want to see no Red Cross, no caritas, no World Council of Churches, no pope, no missionary and no UN (United Nations) delegation. I want to prevent even one Igbo from having even one piece to eat before their capitulation. We shoot at everything that moves and when our troops march into the center of Ibo territory, we shoot at everything even at things that do not move.”
In violation of the rules of war and the Geneva Convention, the vandals assaulted children, scorched churches, raped Igbo women, killed infants for no reason, then plundered the Igbo Nation in the name of keeping Nigeria one. As the assault continued apace, the vandals gained their way, declaring the Aburi Accord null and void, justifying the pogrom and starting anew Igbo killings wherever they could lay their hands on an Igbo man, woman, or child. Whatever the shortcomings of these approaches may be, I firmly believe the cause of the “disease” was envy and hatred, and the only way to cure it was if only Igbo didn’t exist.
The Yorubas made it clear and were more vocal in proclamation to “cure all Nigeria’s ills” by wiping out the Igbo Nation from the map. (1967). The satanic and Hutu-style Radio Kaduna filled with hate and bigotry could not hide its feelings when it aired loud and clear its own theme:
“Let us go and crush them. We will pillage them, their property, rape their womenfolk, kill off their menfolk and leave them uselessly weeping. We will complete the pogrom of 1966.”
No less revealing is what might be called “tongue tying” by the world when the Hausa-Fulanis refused to abandon its genocidal ambitions encouraging their allies to help eliminate the Igbo Nation.
Internationally, these poisoned minds and haters of the Igbo enjoyed the tacit support of the impotent Organization of African Unity, OAU, which failed to impose sanctions on Gowon’s genocidal vandals. With the OAU looking the other way, Gowon assembled vicious Hausa-Fulani Islamic Jihadists and bloodthirsty Tiv, Juku, Idoma, and Igala, and Yoruba tribesmen to launch a war of genocide. The weak OAU and its Secretary-General Diallo Telli who witnessed the mayhem committed by the vandals against Biafran Children practically and morally did nothing when the Soviet Union was providing technicians, high-flying jets, and key components of strategic facilities to the vandals in order to decimate the entire Igbo Nation.
All the same, one thing that must be borne in mind is that “Nigeria” as a country is nothing but fiction. We all know that. There is in reality no nation called Nigeria. Thus, the imperialists who were only interested in coercion and theft, did not envision a morally, politically, culturally, intellectually, corrupt and chaotic country in its aftermath. In fact, it wasn’t just too long after the carving in the so-called amalgamation of northern and southern Nigeria that its troubles of ethnic and political disputes erupted making it clear that there was nothing upon which to build a nation. Indeed, the different nations that came together to make Nigeria were better off on their own before the uniting took place.
Inasmuch as the carving was designed to benefit the Imperialists, as fair-minded as ever, Nd’Igbo saw nothing that should stop them from coexisting with a bunch of other nationalities that later turned out to be haters and bigots with whom the Igbo Nation had nothing in common. The problem, however, rested on the “Founding Fathers” who were either anxious or in a hurry, hence having to do with being left with one of two choices—“get the damn independence under our prescription” or stay right where you are and better not complain again. Somehow, it sounds likely the founding fathers succumbed to the British gimmicks ignoring the fact that an independent national state of different ethnicities would result in total chaos and would leave the fabricated country permanently in a comma.
Nwankwo, seemingly seriously “troubled” about the sorry state of the country since the “legacy of the Southern and Northern Protectorates of the British colonial empire” (Vanguard, December 29, 2003) joined together a people whose tradition, culture and language varied in many ways and with further trial of the process perhaps as a litmus test—all to an experiment that has left the country permanently paralyzed sought after ways and means to solve the country’s growing mess. For sure, it has not gotten any better. The total failure of the polity is a nightmare in Nwankwo’s own imagination. Nwankwo wondered if the failure of the “Nigerian experiment,” could be traced to the British and the way they originally designed it or if the blame should go to the so-called founding fathers for lack of vision in enforcing a contract fatal to the country’s interests.
Equally disturbing is Nwankwo’s multiple loyalties, “changing strategy,” subscribing to and compassionately wooing the unapologetic bigot, Enahoro, the former infamous information minister who considered “mass starvation” of infants and children “a legitimate weapon of war.” I can understand that politics oft-times makes strange bedfellows. But, I cannot think through Nwankwo dining comfortably with the devil and knowing without being told that dining with devils like Enahoro requires one using a very long spoon. It is a bad behavior. In The Igbo Nation and the Nigerian State, there was a Nwankwo contradicted the ambitious statement in his preface:
“Nigeria tragedy arises from the conspiracy of successive regimes to exclude the Igbo from occupying responsible positions in the armed forces: the army, navy, air force, and the intelligence services not because they are not qualified but because they are Igbo. Consequently the Igbos have been deliberately prevented from occupying leadership positions within the commanding heights of the economy. The fact that these attempts will fail is a foregone conclusion but what worries me is that the continuous pursuit of the ethnic formation inexorably leads to social and political upheavals.”
Also, while Nwankwo is at his incoherent game of visions of collectivity in a “Nigerian State,” and delusions that others would include Igbos in all aspects of what he calls “position within the commanding heights of the economy,” which is being denied now, one is compelled to take a look at the present political dispensation of the war criminal Obasanjo and his inept, corrupt administration. Of course, one could see Obasanjo’s appointment of ministers, a kitchen cabinet, service chiefs and manipulation of local government “bureau chiefs” whose ultimate goal has been to antagonize the Igbos. Even using this basic measure, was there fairness and were the said appointments proportionally distributed or based on merit?
Although I recognize Nwankwo’s previously expressed concerns and the plight of the Igbo Nation and their marginalization, I am worried about his flirtation with a personage like Enahoro who hates everything Igbo and does not want the Igbo Nation to survive Some of the passages in Nwankwo’s Biafra: The Making of a Nation, indicate that nothing justified meaningless killing of Igbos, and the terrible cost was highlighted in Nwankwo’s charge at the beginning of the “Igbo Nation and the Nigerian State” when he indicated that the Igbo Nation and her Eastern Minorities neighbors have suffered tremendously since the post-civil war era. This kind of situation illustrates the dangers involved when most likely money and favor changes hands and forces men to alter accounts of historical events. Obviously, I have a problem with Nwankwo’s thesis (pp15-16) adding up incidents like this when he writes:
“Relatedly, the Igbo and the rest of the Eastern minorities have been experiencing a sustained policy of institutional and structural marginalization since 1970, simply because they lost the civil war. The feeling of acute, social, political and economic alienation makes them one of the most aggrieved segment of the polity, to the extent that any dialogue or discussion about the restructuring of the Nigerian state on the basis of equity, fair play and social justice without them is bound to fail.”
As many political scientists and historians of Igbo extraction would agree, Nwankwo’s sympathy with “Eastern minorities” is severely flawed because it includes a call for the minorities to retain stolen Igbo property, which the minority thieves call “Abandoned Property.” The danger in Nwankwo’s view is mind-boggling, and Nwankwo knows that the minorities of the “East” did not suffer the boding evil cost of the pogrom and civil war, except to the extent that some of them were mistaken as Igbos. The case of Awolowo’s initiated reimbursement of twenty pounds to Igbos who left their life savings and fled did not affect the Eastern minorities. The wickedness of the economic blockade also initiated by Awolowo in his quest to starve his enemies to death did not affect the minorities either.
Nwankwo also delves into the drama of June 12, 1993 annulment where Moshood Abiola was said to have overwhelmingly won, insinuating Igbo patriotism toward a democratic state gave Abiola his presidential ticket for the still-borne Third Republic. Didn’t Abiola brag Igbo votes was not relevant for him to win overall, in an outrageous election savagely stricken by all sorts of malpractice in which he had been the ring leader? Is not a shame that Nwankwo is calling Nd’Igbo to die and perish when the Yoruba nation who could not and would not fight for Abiola’s mandate and right to form a government that suits them fled Nigeria en masse until saved by a stroke of luck: the death of the nasty dictator, Abacha.
Enter the three word cliché Sovereign National Conference-SNC, coined when Ernest Shonekan was compelled to abandon his responsibilities in the made-up Interim National Government and the conquered Yoruba nation came under Abacha. They could not, and would not fight for what they believed in: freedom, democracy, “the right to self-reliance” and the rule of law. Abiola also took to his heels showing up in the West where he made incoherent and unintelligible speeches.
My question here, before I proceed further: why did the SNC cry which threatened Obasanjo’s presidency in a hyped O’dua Peoples Congress-led media frenzy during the first few months of the bigot’s presidency fizzle out without much ado? And why has Nwankwo turned out to be a stand up guy for the Enahoro and NADECO “drivel” that the SNC call has become, especially since Enahoro was key in killing the Aburi Accord? And why are the dovish Igbo efulefu, the worthless and confused bunch so much concerned with an SNC with a Yoruba lot who are very likely to make a swift 180-degrees turn in the eleventh hour? And why is Nwankwo determined to be an errand boy to Enahoro, of all people?
Nwankwo needs to think over his courtship with a double-faced satanic personage like Enahoro if only for the fact that once a traitor would always be a traitor. Enahoro and his cohorts cannot be trusted. Even if Enahoro has repented for his sins, perhaps he did and only Nwankwo knows, upon what mandate does Nwankwo purport to speak for the Igbo in his slave service to Enahoro?
Somehow, a gathering of these “sovereign nationalists” has been seen as the last resort to the woes of this troubled country since its birth as an independent state.
As it also happened, however, and ironically, no call for a national conference was made during Gowon’s regime following a genocidal campaign against the Igbo Nation. The country was locked in a conflict between the military juntas and civilian “lootologists,” the Abiola types, over the control of the country’s economy.
Could it be that during the 1970 to 1993 military dictatorships save for 1979 to 1983 when Shehu Shagari’s inept and corrupt administration was briefly ushered in, the horde of sovereign nationalists did not know how to go about calling for a sovereign conference? Why did they wait until Abacha surfaced? Does this mean that Babangida who encouraged and promoted bribery and corruption to the highest level and drowned the country in its entirety had a sound, effective regime, which did not deserve to be disturbed by calls for national conference?
Why did the call for a conference not go out during Shagari’s era. Were the widespread scandals of looting the treasury one of the country’s better days which did not require calls for SNC? Were things really so good that the brutes Mohammed’s and Obasanjo’s and their military gangsterism did not need the interruption of an SNC call?
Does it mean that that Gowon’s administration, most corrupt and self-styled “Reconstruction Era,” or “post-Civil War era,” whatever that is, was not the appropriate time to assemble for SNC or “Conference of Ethnic Nationalities”? Or that the present crop of fraud in Obasanjo’s administration whose appointments and elections as ministers, advisers, “commissioners,” local government chiefs, legislators and governors were based on personal connections and political reliability rather than merit and dedication to service, would be patriotic enough, honest and truthful to make good judgments?
The idea that an endorsement of SNC would solve the country’s problems politically without defeating the root cause of the problems is ludicrous. letter. A humorless prank. For more than two years, the Oputa panel, the media and we, we who had relied on an independent commission of Oputa’s magnitude, were stuck with research work, reflections, witnesses, testimonies, material evidence, cross examinations, and seemingly endless discussion about what the human rights commission meant for our constitutional order, our political culture, and, inevitably the fate and survival of the Fourth Republic. The government’s deliberate obfuscation and erasure of the atrocities committed against the Igbo Nation and the collusion of the ngbati-ngbati press and the drugged public in forgetting or ignoring history’s abomination was zeroed and finally reduced by Oputa’s investigative commission, to a mere rhetorical balderdash.
So, and, who now cares for SNC when a rubber stamped confused bunch, the “Justice Oputa Human Rights Investigation Commission” sat for two years to study, investigate, deliberate and recommend only having its findings trashed? If Oputa’s panel at tax payers expense could not be allowed to work independently doing its job in point of fact and sufficiently recommending under due process that war criminals like Danjuma should be found liable on the circumstances behind Ironsi’s death, how then could SNC arrive with resolutions or conclusions on how the affairs of the country should be run with similar characters in session?
If the Oputa panel could not come up with evidence that Babangida was the brain behind the destruction of an entire generation and should be held responsible, locked up behind bars indefinitely until justice is done in so many of his cruelties, how then could SNC reach a consensus on a right constitutional order based on accumulated precedents? If the Oputa panel could not make recommendations that “Abandon Property,” an avalanche of insanity, was wrong, and that properties should be returned to the rightful owners, how then could SNC know what is right and wrong, again, when the same characters are in session?
A number of SNC apologists, and Nwankwo is one, have addressed this issue in a similarly one-sided manner by trying to demonstrate that the country will go down the hill if a conference is not held. Their central focus is the undoubted enmity between the military juntas begun in Babangida-Abacha era and the Yoruba-led National Democratic Coalition-NADECO, during the “June 12” nullification crisis.
They point to Abacha’s assumption to the throne, denying the Yoruba nation privilege to the presidency. But these apologists somehow miss the point. NADECO was borne out of singing the blues for what Babangida did in his infamous “Maradona politics” and what would later lead to Abacha’s “hammer time.” The Yoruba failed to imagined what goes around comes around when persecution and ethnic cleansing reappeared in Abacha’s government. In this respect, and if the pogrom was seen as necessary to keep Nigeria one negating the resolutions at Aburi, shouldn’t the ethnic cleansing by Abacha equally be seen the same way, thus there is need to avoid an SNC in order to keep Nigeria one?
Addressing this question is where I have a problem with Nwankwo’s multiple loyalties. I am Igbo and I do not hate the Yorubas or the Hausa Fulanis who slaughtered my kith and kin and yet have not shown remorse or offered apology. I am still wondering why the pogrom took place. I am having nightmares. I was just as amazed at Abacha’s reign of terror and ethnic cleansing. I believe it is only the truth that can set us free acknowledging nothing justified the pogrom and nothing by the same token justifies extermination of ethnic minorities and or ethnic cleansing. I proclaim that truth myself. I am pained by all the tragedies and atrocities incited on the country throughout the military regimes and civilian uprisings. I am also pained by the apologists that minimizes the injustice done by the Hausa-Fulanis and their Yoruba collaborators to Igbos in history, or seek to relegate it to oblivion.
Even as we pretend to be moving forward, it pains me that all we are doing is promote our own ideological agendas than in seeking the truth. There has not been an explanation why Igbo happened to be the country’s problems suffering more casualties than any in history. Even after the cycle of September-October 1966 pogrom—never minding the assassination of Ironsi and a host of high ranking Igbo military officers—the only Yoruba person to speak out was Wole Soyinka (later Nobel Laureate in Literature), whose protest cost him prison time, and whose book The Man Died was ultimately banned from the book shelves for what the military juntas claimed threatened national security.
This defense of the juntas, however, bent on mischief and covering the truth, fails to account for a number of important facts. It ignores the existence of a specifically Igbo hatred, shared in varying degrees by Yoruba and Hausa-Fulanis. It justifies the photographer Emmanuel Ogbonna who was abducted at Dugbe Market, Ibadan, tortured and murdered because he was Igbo. It makes valid the inexplicable and mysterious death of Chu-Chu Nzeribe in the hands of the mobs at Ikoyi Prison under Gowon’s dictatorship and genocidal campaign in opposition to the Igbo Nation. It justifies Hausa-Fulani nihilists who fatally stabbed a female teacher in a Minna elementary school classroom. And of course, Mohammed’s “bravery” was applauded by Gowon and his vandals for the greatest single massacre in Asaba.
Still, as the world heard, read, watched and commented on the carnage against the Igbos, the outcries were never designed to help the Igbos and Children of Biafra. Take for instance the following comments from a universal media:
“In some areas outside the East, the Ibos were killed by local people with at least the acquiescence of the federal forces… 1000 Ibo civilians perished in Benin in this way.”
(New York Review, December 21, 1967)
“After the federal takeover of Benin…troops killed about 500 Ibo civilians after a house-to-house search.”
(Washington Post, September 27, 1967)
“There has been genocide on the occasion of the 1966 massacres…the region between the towns of Benin and Asaba where only widows and orphans remain, federal troops having, for unknown reasons, massacred all the men. According to eye witness of that massacre the Nigerian commander ordered the execution of every Ibo male over the age of ten years.”
Le Monde April 5, 1968)
“A Red Cross official said Equatorial Guinea had given no explanation for her ban on the relief flights. He recalled, however, that the Nigerian government had announced last week that there were to be no more flights over its territory. It is possible he said the Equatorial Guinea had interpreted this as an immediate ban on relief shipments. (Economic blockade). The Red Cross announcement said that for every night the airlift did not operate, the 850,000 people who depended on it for their 70-gram-a-day subsistence ration would ‘have to go without even this meager allowance”
(New York Times, December 23, 1968)
“More than 60 civilians killed and about 300 injured during…during federal raids on Umuahia.”
(Washington Post, December 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 the 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.”
Richard Nixon, The Presidential Campaign, September 9, 1968)
“650 refugee camps…contained about 700,000 haggard bundles of human flotsam waiting hopelessly for a meal; outside the camps…was the remainder of an estimated four and half to five million displaced persons…kwashiorkor scourge… a million and half children. suffered from it during January; that put the forecast death toll at another 300,000 children…More than pogroms of 1966, more than the war casualties, more than 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, Ojukwu’s biographer, Umuahia.
Unfortunately, despite the extensive media coverage, including Time magazine, Newsweek, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, British Guardian, Midstream Magazine, Ghana Daily Graphic and Evening News, eyewitness accounts, and numerous other international publications, not only were the above citations belated with lost of thousands of Igbo lives, it was also inadequate to counter the continued assault on the Igbo Nation by Gowon’s vandals considering the widespread indifference to the fate of the Igbos. Given the view Igbo men were a target of extermination, comments from the above media reports, then, came far too late to be of any help to Igbos. In spite of the urging by the international community, including the media and Papal State to stop persecution and killing of Igbo children, men and women, Igbo hatred continued when the Hausa-Fulanis and some Igbo traitors had proclaimed that the sad lot of Igbos was the result of the cause that they had called down upon themselves when they murdered Ahmadu Bello and Tafawa Balewa.
Upon all this, and after three decades of assertions by other Nigerians that Igbos are not needed and are not part of the rest who saved Nigeria, and therefore that Igbos should be made to feed from the crumbs of the Northern caliphates, Yoruba bigots and war criminals, Nwankwo seeks a one-united Nigeria yet again on the back of the Igbos, asking Igbos to blind trust the Enahoros without seeking their apologies and return of the properties that they stole. Nwankwo writes:
It concludes that for Nigeria to make progress what should be urged is not the accentuation of the logic of Igbo isolation and exclusion but the principled and relentless participation of the Igbo in building a new democratic, just and genuinely federal Nigerian state.
I’m not sure why Nwankwo finds himself obsessed with a Nigerian state even at the cost of one million Igbo lives. Perhaps, Nwankwo knows what may have been beyond our reasoning and control, that Igbo persecution and marginalization was a normal process that we as a people should go through for assimilation into “Nigeria’s democratic culture.” Perhaps Nd’Igbo were a lot who enjoy sacrificing their lives as guinea pigs to keep a contraption of a country united.
Ever since he joined the bandwagon and became SNC’s public relations stuntman and right-hand man to Enahoro who knows every detail of the task of gathering and murdering ethnic nationalities, Nwankwo has written at length on this subject matter of trying to convince and persuade his audience that SNC may be the only remedy for a fractured and worn out country. Unfortunately, no conference will achieve any results if the participants are the same unrepentant instigators of genocide who destroyed the Aburi Accord. Put it simply, a conference of ethnic nationalities without reflections on the pogrom and Aburi Accord would be nothing but fiction.
To understand this requires a look back at the history of the country over the past forty years. The first post-independence election found the Yoruba nation overwhelmingly shattered when the drama within Action Group began to unfold. Realistically, the Western regional crisis, the starting point of the country’s troubles when Awo and his colleagues were indicted and slammed for treasonable felony was the genesis of the country’s continued predicament. Worst of all, is what followed, henceforth—January 15, 1966 through the Civil War. The end of the civil war found Igbos totally isolated, liquidated and marginalized. With the chant of “no victor no vanquished” as if Igbos reinstatement into government jobs and private corporations would be effected, Igbos were dealt another stunning blow. They were relegated and had to start all over again with a clean slate. The bigotry and hatred continued apace.
In this light, what would one make of the image of the beleaguered Igbo Nation surrounded by a sea of haters and bigots yearning for its ruin? Perhaps the Nwankwo-Enahoro team of SNC and other conference of ethnic nationalities advocates have figured out everything with efforts to resolve the country’s problems of constitutional crisis and lack of good governance. Perhaps, too, Nwankwo in his “right thinking mind” believes the SNC convention, like Aburi, and SNC convention in an existing legislative body of a democratic structure, unlike Aburi, could be expected to restore a sense of purpose to the country’s economic, socio-cultural, political and intellectual environment. And, perhaps, after SNC or conference of ethnic nationalities, dismantling the country and mandate for several republics would be very palpable and inevitable.
For Nd’Igbo, Biafra and the rest of Nigeria today, the Aburi Accord appears a far more a coherent initiative that should have provided the country with some approximation of peace, no doubt. And for the vandals, if they had respected and upheld the decisions at Aburi, their cause of commitment to destroy the Igbo Nation and Biafra would not havematerialized.
No peaceful solution and dialogue of a sovereign national conference has any chance unless every child in the country and Diaspora, every adult, every analyst in every news media and political forums knows and concurs that Aburi had no parallel on the way out for the country. And on that note, SNC endorsed and subscribed without specific reference to Aburi would spell another doom. Again, it’s time we dust off the Aburi Accord and take its lessons seriously.
We must not forget!
ON ABURI WE STAND!