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PROCLAMATION OF THE REPUBLIC OF BIAFRA
IT IS RIGHT and just that we of this generation of Eastern Nigerians, should record for the benefit of posterity, some of the reasons for the momentous decision we have taken at this crucial time in the history of our people.
The Military Government of Eastern Nigeria has, in a series of publications, traced the evils and injustices of the Nigerian political association through the decades, stating also the case and standpoint of Eastern Nigeria in the recent crisis.
Throughout the period of Nigeria’s precarious, existence as a single political entity Eastern Nigerians have always believed in fundamental human rights and principles as they are accepted and enjoyed in civilized communities. Impelled by their belief in these rights arid principles and in their common citizenship with other Nigerians after Amalgamation, Eastern Nigerians employed their ideas and skills, their resourcefulness and dynamism in the development of areas of Nigeria outside the East. Eastern Nigerians opened up avenues of trade and industry throughout the country; overlooked the neglect of their homeland in the disposition of national institutions, projects and utilities; made available their own natural resources to the rest of the country; and confidently invested in the general economic and social development of Nigeria. Politically Eastern Nigerians advocated a strong, united Nigeria; for ONE COUNTRY, ONE CONSTITUTION, ONE DESTINY. Eastern Nigerians were in the vanguard of the struggle for national independence and made sacrifices and concessions for the cause of national unity. . They conceded the inauguration of a Federal instead of a Unitary system of Government in Nigeria.
Leaders of Northern Nigeria have told us several times that what our former colonial masters made into “NIGERIA” consisted of an agglomeration of peoples, distinct in ‘every way except in the colour of their skins, and organized as a unit for their own commercial interests” and administrative convenience.. The name “Nigeria”. was regarded by many as a mere “geographical expression”.
In course of time, the peoples of the other parts of Southern Nigeria found that they possessed many things in common with those of Eastern Nigeria, and while the colonial master made adjustments to accommodate these common ties between the Southern inhabitants, the peoples of the North insisted on maintaining their separateness.
On October 1, 1960, independence was granted to the peoples of Nigeria in a form of “federation”, based on artificially made units. The Nigerian Constitution installed the North in, perpetual dominance over Nigeria The Federation was predicated on the perpetual rule by One unit over the others. The Constitution itself contained provisions which negatived the fundamental human freedoms which it purported to guarantee for the citizens.
Thus were sown, by design or by default, the seeds of factionalism and hate, of struggle for power at the Centre, and of the worst types of political chicanery and abuse of power. .One of two situations was bound to result from that arrangement either perpetual domination of the rest of the country by the North, not by consent, but by force and fraud, or a dissolution of the federating bond. National independence was followed by successive crises each leading to near disintegration of the country. Some of the major events which are directly attributable to the defective and inadequate Constitution may here be mentioned.
In 1962, an emergency was imposed on Western Nigeria Jurists agree that the imposition was unconstitutional; it was a ruse to remove certain elements in Western Nigeria known to have taken a firm stand against the misuse of political, power. A puppet of the North was manoeuvred into power in Western Nigeria.
Also in 1962, and again in 1963, Nigerians tried for the first time to count themselves. What should ordinarily be a statistical and dull exercise was, because of the nature of the Constitution, turned into a fierce political struggle. The official figures established by these censuses have been discredited.
Federal elections followed in December, 1964—elections which have been described as the most farcical in our history. Candidates were either kidnapped, killed or forced to withdraw from the elections. Results announced were in direct opposition to the actual facts. The Southern parties had boycotted the election, and the deadlock which followed brought the country near to dissolution. The situation was patched up; the conflagration was brought under control, but its embers lay smouldering.
ON October 11, 1965, elections were held to the Western House of Assembly. The puppet Government of that Region existed, not by the will of the people of Western Nigeria, but because of the combined power of the Federal Government and the Northern Nigeria Government which installed it. The electorate of Western Nigeria was not permitted to declare its will in the elections. Fraud, foul play and murder were committed with impunity. The smouldering embers of the recent past erupted with unquenchable virulence. The irate electorate showed its resentment in its own way. Complete disorder followed. Yet, the Federal Government dominated by the North fiddled with the issue and even refused to recognize what the whole world had known, namely, that Nigeria was on the brink of disaster.
Only the Armed Forces remained politically uncommitted and non-partisan. Some of their officers and men revolted against the injustices which were perpetrated before their very eyes and attempted to overthrow .The. Federal Government and Regional Governments. In desperation; the Ministers of the Federal Government handed over power to the Armed Forces under the Supreme command of Major-General J. T. U. Aguiyi-Ironsi.
The Military administration under Major-General Aguiyi-Ironsi made the first real attempt to unite the country and its peoples. The Northerners saw in his efforts the possibility of losing their control of the affairs of the country. So while its leaders paid lip service to unity, they laid plans for making sure that it could never be achieved. Major-General Aguiyi-Ironsi was, of course, an Easterner, but the majority of the individuals at the head of affairs were not. At no time under the civilian rule did Eastern Nigerians hold a dominating position in the government of the Federation.
On May 24, 1966, the Military Government issued a. decree designed to provide a more unified administration in keeping with the military command. The people of Northern Nigeria protested against the decree and on May 29,1966, thousands of Easterners residing in the North, were massacred by Northern civilians They looted their property The Supreme Military Council set up a tribunal to look into the causes of these unprovoked acts at murder and pillage and determine what compensations might be paid to the victims. The Northern Emirs declared their intention to pull Northern Nigeria out of the Federation rather than face the tribunal . But the Supreme Military Council justly decided that the tribunal must do its duty.
Then on July 29, 1966, two months after the May murders and despoliation, and four days before the tribunal was due to commence its sitting, the real pogrom against Eastern Nigerians residing in the Federation began. Major-General Aguiyi-Ironsi and his host, Lt-Col. Francis Fajuyi, were kidnapped at Ibadan and murdered. This time Northern soldiers acted in concert with Northern civilians. Defenceless men, women, and children were shot down or hacked to death; some were burnt, and some buried alive. Women and young girls were ravished with unprecedented bestiality; unborn children were torn out of the womb of their mothers.
Again on September 29, 1966, the pogrom was resumed Thirty thousand Eastern Nigerians are known to have been killed by Northerners. They were killed in the North, in Western Nigeria, in Lagos; some Eastern soldiers detention at Benin were forcibly removed from prison by Northern soldiers and murdered.
At the time of the incident, millions of Eastern Nigerians resided outside the East and persons from other parts of the country lived in this Region . While Eastern Nigerians who assembled at Northern airports, railway stations and motor parks, were set upon by Northern soldiers and civilians armed with machine guns, rifles, daggers and poisoned arrows, the Army and Police in the East were specifically instructed to shoot at sight any Eastern Nigerian found molesting non-Easterners living in the Region. By early October, the sight of mutilated refugees, orphaned children, widowed mothers and decapitated corpses of Eastern Nigerians arriving at our airports and railway stations inflamed passions to such an extent that it was found necessary to ask all non-Easterners to leave the region in their own interest. Since the events of July, 1966, there has been a mass movement of population in this country. Nigerian society has undergone a fundamental change; it is no longer possible for Eastern Nigerians to live outside the Region without fear of loss of life or of property.
Two facts emerge from the events described above. The widespread nature of the massacre and its periodicity—29th May, 29th July, and 29th September—show firstly, that they were premeditated and planned, and secondly, that Eastern Nigerians are no longer wanted as equal partners in the Federation of Nigeria. It must be recalled that this was the fourth in a series of massacres of Eastern Nigerians in the last two decades.
At the early stages of the crisis, the world was told that it was a conflict between the North and the East. That pretence collapsed when it became clear that Northern soldiers moved into Western Nigeria and Lagos as another step in Northern Nigeria’s bid to continue her so-called conquest to the sea. Belatedly, it was generally accepted that the fundamental issue was not a struggle between the East and the North, but one involving the very existence of Nigeria as one political entity. Throughout the Nigerian crises, some of the indigenous judges have been found quite unequal to their calling by reason of their involvement in partisan politics. People soon lost faith in them, and would not go to their courts for redress. In some measure, they were responsible for the collapse of the rule of law in certain parts of Nigeria. Providence has spared us in the East from this terrible calamity.
It is now, necessary to summarise the attempts of the Government and people of Eastern Nigeria to solve the crisis, and of the bad faith with which these attempts have been received.
On August 9, 1966, representatives of the Military Governors meeting in Lagos made decisions for restoring peace and for clearing the way for constitutional talks notably the decision that troops be all repatriated to their region of origin. These decisions were not fully implemented.
On September 12, the Ad Hoc Constitutional Conference consisting of delegates representing all the Governments of the Federation met in Lagos, and for three weeks sought to discover a form of association best suited to Nigeria having regard to the prevailing circumstances and their causes, and future possibilities. This Conference was unilaterally dismissed by Lt.-Col. Gowon, the Head of the Lagos Government.
It had become then impossible for the Supreme Military Council, the highest governing body in the Federation, to meet on Nigerian soil. As long as Northern troops were in Lagos and the West, no venue could be found acceptable to all the Military Governors for a meeting of the Supreme Military Council in Nigeria. It met at Aburi in Ghana on 4th and 5th January, 1967, on the basis of an agenda previously determined by the official of the Governments of the country and adopted by the Supreme Military Council. Decisions reached at the meeting were ignored by .Lt.-Col.. Gowon ,and .the North. In the interest of this Region and of the whole Country the East stood firmly by those decisions, and, warned that they would be applied to Eastern Nigeria if steps were not taken by the Lagos Government to apply them generally. The East rejected all measures which did not reflect the decisions at Aburi.
The Aburi accord was not implemented by the Lagos Government. All the meetings of Military Leaders held since Aburi were held without the East. All the decisions taken by Lagos were taken without comment and concurrence from the East.
It became evident that each time Nigerians came close to a realistic solution to the current crisis by moving towards a loose form of association or confederation, Lt-Col. Gowon unilaterally frustrated their efforts . When the representatives of the Military Governors decided on August 9 that troops be repatriated to their Regions of origin, and it appeared to him that this would, lead to confederation, he unilaterally refused to fully implement that decision. When in September the Ad HOC Constitutional Conference appeared near agreement an a loose Federation, he unilaterally dismissed them indefinitely. When in January 1967, the Military Leaders agreed at Aburi on what the Federal Permanent Secretaries correctly interpreted as confederation he unilaterally rejected the Agreement to Which he had, voluntarily subscribed. When in May, 1967, all the Southern Military Governors and the Leaders of Thought of their Regions spoke out in favour of Confederation, he dismissed the Supreme Military Council and proclaimed himself the dictator of Nigeria—an act which, to say the least, is treasonable.
Following the pogrom of 1966, some two million Eastern Nigerians have returned from other Regions, refugees in their own Country. Money was needed to care for them—not to give them mere relief but to rehabilitate them and, in time, restore their outraged feelings. The Lagos Government was urged to give the Eastern Nigeria Government its share of the statutory revenues. Lt.-Col. Gowon refused to do so in the hope that the weight of the burden would lead to the economic collapse of Eastern Nigeria.
Ultimately, and beginning from April 1, 1967, steps were taken to recover what was due to Eastern Nigeria and to enable this Region and her people to survive. These are the “Survival Edicts”: The Revenue Collection Edict, the Legal Education (Eastern Nigeria) Edict, the Statutory Bodies Edict and the Court of Appeal Edict.
At each stage during the crisis, in accordance with the democratic and republican spirit of Eastern Nigerians, the people were fully consulted for their advice and guidance.
On August 31, 1966, the First Consultative Assembly and the Advisory Committee of Chiefs and Elders consisting of four representatives from each administrative division and other interests were summoned and the facts relating to the crisis put before them. Their advice was as follows:
“Be it resolved as follows:—
1. We, the representatives of the various communities in Eastern Nigeria gathered in this Consultative Assembly, hereby declare our implicit confidence in the Military Governor for Eastern Nigeria, Lt.-Col. Odumegwu Ojukwu, in all the actions he has so far taken to deal with the situation which has arisen in Nigeria since May 29, 1966.
2. In view of the grave threat to our survival as ‘a unit in the Republic of Nigeria, we. hereby urge and empower/advise him to take all such actions that might be necessary to protect the integrity of Eastern Nigeria and the lives and property of its inhabitants.
3. We advise constant consultation by His Excellency with the Consultative Assembly.
4. In view of the gravity of the present situation we affirm complete faith in and urge the need for solidarity of Eastern Nigeria as a unit.
5. In view of the present situation of things no delegates be sent to Lagos for any constitutional talks unless the safety of the delegates is guaranteed.”
After the adjournment of the Ad Hoc Constitutional Conference, these bodies, now enlarged to consist of ten representatives from each administrative division in Eastern Nigeria and other sectors of the community were summoned. The delegates to the Ad Hoc Constitutional Conference placed a full report before them, and by a resolution dated October 7, 1966, the Consultative, Assembly and the Advisory Committee of Chiefs and Elders advised as follows:
1. PLACES on – record its. deep gratitude to, the Eastern Nigeria Delegation to the Constitutional Conference in Lagos for the diligent and faithful way in which, under conditions of severe strain, tension and fear, they carried out the mandate given to them by the Consultative Assembly and the, Chiefs and Elders of Eastern Nigeria.
2. ENDORSES the stand of the Eastern Delegation it the Lagos Constitutional Conference.
3 URGES that as an interim measure, a beginning be made to implement those aspects of the recommendations as relate to the Armed Forces at least to the extent of returning to their Regions of origin and vesting the operational control of the regional contingents in the respective Military Governors.
4 RE-AFFIRMS its acceptance of the Report of the Committee on the Pattern of Constitution for Eastern Nigeria within the Federation of Nigeria and the additional suggestions proposed by the Graham -Douglas Constitutional Committee regarding the legislative and executive functions to be devolved upon the Provincial Units and urges that the Constitutional Committee should forthwith study the details of the scheme with particular reference to the number and size of provinces, the distribution of functions between the Provinces and the Regional Government financial arrangements and the method and tuning of implementation.
5 ENDORSES both the principle of the creation of more states in Nigeria and the statement of the Eastern Delegation to the Lagos Constitutional Conference to the effect that the splitting up of the country at this stage is not what is needed to normalize the conditions of life in the country and provide a sense of security for its inhabitants, that immediate constitutional arrangements for the country as a whole should be made on the basis of the existing Regions in order to save the country from impending disintegration
6 SINCE the issue of the creation of more states is a vital and inevitable item on the Agenda of the Lagos Constitutional Conference, RECOMMENDS the following as the conditions upon which , the creation of states should proceed:-
(a) The basis for the creation of states must be mutually agreed upon beforehand and must be uniformly and consistently applied throughout the country.
(b) The creation of states must take place simultaneously throughout the country.
(c) The creation of any new state must be based upon the consent of the people of the area which is to be included in the proposed state and where two or more distinct tribal groupings are comprised within such area the wishes of each such grouping must be separately ascertained and respected.
(d) The population, area and economic resources of any new state which it is proposed to create must be reasonably commensurate to the enormous functions which the states will be expected to perform under the new constitutional arrangements envisaged for Nigeria.
7. IN VIEW of the fact that the desire on the part of the minority groups for self-determination is the active force behind the demand for the creation of more states and since in the context of present-day Nigeria minorities are defined by reference to tribe, AFFIRMS its belief that the best hope for a satisfactory solution to the problems of Nigeria lies in the recognition and preservation of the separate identity of the various tribal or linguistic groupings and their right to develop each along its own line and at its own pace accordingly
RECOMMENDS that the creation of states throughout Nigeria should be on the basis of tribal or linguistic groupings or mutual consent between the linguistic groupings.
8. ADVISES that, until the agreements, reached by the personal representatives of the Military Governors on August 8 and 9 are fully implemented, and until immediate compensation is paid by the Federal Military Government for the lives and property of Easterners lost in the disturbed areas of Nigeria, the Eastern Nigeria Delegation should no longer participate in future Constitutional Conference.
9. SATISFIED that the interim report of the Constitutional Conference has been completely overtaken by the most recent events in the country, ADVISES that the only possible and logical solution to the problem of political association for Nigeria lies in the organization and running of common services.
DATED 7th October, 1966.
On November 23, 1966, they met again to consider the progress of the crisis. They resolved as follows:
RECALLING the atrocious murders of persons of Eastern Nigeria origin and other acts of barbarism and inhumanity committed ‘against us in other parts of Nigeria by fellow countrymen among whom they lawfully resided;
AWARE of the planned and determined effort to exclude Eastern Nigeria and her people from the public affairs and public offices of the Federal Republic of Nigeria;
CONSCIOUS of the attempt made and being made, by the Government and people of Eastern Nigeria, in spite of the wrongs done to Eastern Nigeria to promote peace and salvage what is left of Nigeria and her honour;
DETERMINED to protect and defend the integrity of Eastern Nigeria and the dignity of her people;
CONFIRMING the mandate given by us to our Delegates to the Ad hoc Constitutional Conference, and our confidence in them, and having noted with regret the indefinite adjournment of the meeting of the Ad Hoc Constitutional Conference by Lt -Col Yakubu Gowon for alleged inability to agree upon the venue of the meeting as well as according to him, because of other difficulties which he has not named;
OBSERVING that, even though the decision to appoint the Ad Hoc Constitutional Conference was a unanimous agreement of the Governments of the Federation, yet the adjournment was made without consultation with or consent by the Eastern Nigeria Government;
HAVING also noted the many acts of bad faith on the part of the Gowon Government and its inability to fulfil promises or implement agreements unanimously reached,
FINDING now that there is a plot hatched up by certain civil servants and other officials with the active involvement of Lt.-Col. Yakubu Gowon to impose a constitution and certain other measures on Nigeria;
RE-AFFIRMING the implicit ‘confidence of the people of Eastern Nigeria in His Excellency, Lt.-Col. Odumegwu Ojukwu and assuring him of the solidarity of Eastern Nigeria and their support and admiration for the way he has handled the present crisis facing Nigeria;
ALSO ASSURING His Excellency of the admiration of the people of Eastern Nigeria in the Military Government of Eastern Nigeria and their desire for its continued administration until it has achieved its objective of creating a new society in Eastern Nigeria;
WE DO HEREBY RESOLVE that our Military Governor be advised as follows:—
(1) To take any measures he considers appropriate for the defence and protection of the integrity of Eastern Nigeria, the lives and property of its inhabitants.
(2) To maintain utmost vigilance against subversion of the Government of Eastern Nigeria not only from outside the Region, but also from within and to deal ruthlessly with anybody, high or low, engaged in subversion.
(3) To resist the imposition on the people of Eastern Nigeria of any constitutional, administrative or legislative measures taken without prior consultation and agreement.
(4) To reject any solution which will undermine the economic and industrial progress and prosperity of Eastern Nigeria or which will tend to sow the seeds of future friction among the Regions of this Country.
(5) To continue with the good progress made so far in the rehabilitation of refugees.
(6) To speed up the implementation of Provincial Administration with legislative and executive powers, and the re-establishment of Customary Courts.
(7) To spare no efforts at the right time to purge former holders of public offices of corrupt practices so as to set a shining example for the youths of this Region, and inculcate into the people the spirit of honesty,. integrity, fair-play, mutual trust and a feeling of oneness which will provide the basis for our future progress.
(8) To continue Your Excellency’s efforts to bring about a meeting of Military Leaders and the reconvening of the Ad Hoc Constitutional Conference under conditions of adequate security satisfactory to Your Excellency.
(9) To ensure that only men and women of integrity and merit are appointed to public offices, in the Region and that a code of conduct for public officers be drawn up for Eastern Nigeria.
LASTLY, we assure Your Excellency that no Eastern Nigerian, whether living inside or outside this Region, has the mandate or support of the people of this Region to speak for or represent them UNLESS appointed with the recommendation and approval of Your Excellency.