Chinua Achebe's recent book has revived fierce discussions about the Biafra genocide, the darkest chapter in Nigerian history. The country is still divided over the issue and 'Biafrans' want out of Nigeria
After Chinua Achebe published his new book - 'There was a country: A personal history of Biafra', Nigerian politicians, and intellectuals assailed his account of events accusing him of propaganda and creating the impression that what he wrote was some sort of fabrication. They went further to attack his person and impugn his reputation as one of Africa's greatest novelists. It has therefore become necessary to put together a sample of narratives from international observers, reporters, and writers articulated during or immediately after the events of 1966 -1970 and after.
People need to know what events preceded and precipitated the January 15, 1966 coup; what happened as the conflict escalated culminating in the slaughter of tens of thousands of Igbo and other Easterners; what brought about the secession of Biafra from Nigeria; and how Nigeria conducted the war and committed the worst genocide in Africa in the 20th century. This information is important because young people need to be able to look at contemporary Nigeria in the light of her history so they can appreciate the present mess the country is currently in and be able to judge for themselves the future of the fiction called 'One Nigeria.'
The January 15, 1966 coup was conceived and planned by Majors Chukwuma Nzeogwu, Emmanuel Ifeajuna and Ademola Ademoyega. 'Why We Struck: The story of the first Nigerian Coup' published by Evans Brothers, Ltd Ibadan, 1981, is the original work of the only surviving member of the trio that conceived and planned the coup. Here is the background to the January 15 coup given by Major Ademoyega. 'By November 1965, the people (of Western Nigeria) had started to fight the unpopular Akintola government. They sang war songs and fought on the streets. They invented the 'wetie' (meaning soak him up), a practice in which a political opponent and his house or property were sprayed with petrol and set ablaze. Somehow, in 'wetie' only the intended victim suffered. By December 1965, there had been a total breakdown of law and order in Western Nigeria. The lawlessness had gone beyond the control of the mobile (anti-riot) police and the Akintola government was seen to be tottering to its collapse... .. This was the appropriate time for a state of emergency to be declared in the West and for a caretaker government to be set up, pending the conduct of a free and fair election. However the Balewa government was more anxious to preserve Akintola (whose political party NNDP was in alliance with Balewa and Sarduana's party, NPC, to form the NNA led by Alhaji Ahmadu Bello, Sarduana of Sokoto; the NCNC, AG, and UMBC were also in alliance as the UPGA led by Dr. M. I. Okpara) as the premier of the region than to restore law and order. Therefore Balewa announced that the situation in the West was normal and that everything was under control.'p.22.
'I met Chief H O Davis, who was then a Federal Minister in the Balewa government, who had come to spend the New Year holidays at his retreat just behind the Army Chalet at Taqua Bay. I greeted him and asked if he was Chief Davis and he said 'Yes'. I soon got into deep conversation with him on the political situation in the country. I was particularly interested to know what the Federal Government's view was, apart from Balewa's public statements. Chief Davis made it clear to me that the Federal Government had no solution to the political crisis. He said that everybody was just waiting to see what would happen next and that nobody knew exactly what that would be; but surely something was bound to happen. I left Chief Davis feeling that the Balewa Government had something up its sleeve. Otherwise the minister would not be so emphatic that something was bound to happen. When I returned to the Officers' Mess, Apapa, on January 3, 1966, I went to work with Ifeajuna. After extensive prodding, we discovered that the Balewa Government had a terrible plan to bring the army fully to operate in the West for the purpose of eliminating the elites of that region, especially the intellectuals who were believed to be behind the intransigence of the people against the Akintola Government. It was for this reason that the government had attacked the intellectuals of the Region, especially those at Ife, intimidating and victimizing them for their refusal to support it. People like Tai Solarin of Mayflower School, Ikenne, were among those marked down. It was also intended that if the plan succeeded in the West, the next target would be the East. The Federal Government was to use loyal troops for this purpose and the 4th Battalion in Ibadan commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Largema and the 2nd Battalion in Ikeja temporarily commanded by Major Igboba, but soon to be taken over by Lieutenant-Colonel Gowon, were designated for this assignment. The operation was fixed for the third week of January 1966, when the Sarduana would have returned from his pilgrimage and Lieutenant-Colonel Gowon would have completed his takeover of the Ikeja Battalion. In preparation for this horrible move by the Federal Government, the high echelons of the Army and the Police were being reshuffled. Major-General Ironsi was ordered to proceed on leave from mid-January. He was to be relieved by Brigadier Maimalari, over the head of Brigadier Ademulegun. Lieutenant-Colonel Njoku was to temporarily command 2nd Brigade HQ at Apapa. In the Police Force Inspector-General Edet was sent on leave from December 20, 1965. The officer closest to him was retired and the third officer Alhaji Kam Salem was brought in as the new Inspector-General. The stage was thus set for the proper walloping of the UPGA 'rioters' of the West. From our own stance, this proposed 'whipping of the West' was a most dastardly plan. Anuforo, Onwuatuegwu and I had each in turn commanded the troops in Makurdi against the Tiv rioters who were opposed to the high-handedness and oppression of the Sarduana Government of the North.' pp 66-70.
'Events moved very fast that month. By January 10, I was again in Kaduna. Through some senior civil servants I telephoned, I was able to confirm that Umra Hadj group led by the Sarduana would be back in Kaduna on January 12 and 13. It has been confirmed in Lagos that the Commonwealth Prime Ministers Conference was due to end on the 12th and that most of the delegates would leave Lagos almost immediately. Therefore Nzeogwu and I fixed the D-Day for Saturday January 15. Late on the 14th news reached us that the Sarduana had been having a meeting in Kaduna on that day with Chief Akintola of the West, and that both Brigadier Ademulegun and Lieutenant-Colonel Largema were in attendance. It was obvious to us that they might be putting final touches to their planned 'walloping of the West'. But we felt confident that we were already one step ahead.' P.70.
'Contrary to the load of wicked propaganda that had since been heaped upon us, there was no decision at our meetings to single out any particular ethnic group for elimination or destruction. Our intentions were honourable, our views were national and our goals were idealistic.'P.60. Ideologically, 'We also believed in the immediate release of political prisoners of those days, namely Chief Awolowo, Jakande, Anthony Enahoro, Onitiri, Omisade and so on. As we saw it, these actions would bring immediate relief to the suffering masses of the West and North and would generate peace and concord throughout the Federation.' P. 33.
Note that the three people who conceived and planned the January 15, 1966 coup were by the account of the only surviving member of the trio, Major Adewale Ademoyega, a Yoruba, two Igbo officers and himself, a Yoruba. Note also that the primary goal of the coup was to save Western Nigeria from being 'walloped' by the Army as planned by Sarduana, Abubakar and other Northern leaders in collaboration with S. L. Akintola, Fani- Kayode and others from Western Nigeria. Saving the East from similar 'walloping' and giving justice to the Tiv were secondary goals. Releasing Awolowo, Enahoro, Jakande, Onitiri, Omisade and other political prisoners from prison were also secondary goals. Recall that the crisis in 1965 was centred in Western Nigeria where the Western Regional election held in October had been brazenly rigged by the Ahmadu Bello/Tafawa Balewa/Samuel Akintola/Fanni- Kayode clique (NNA). With Chief Awolowo in prison and Dr. M. I. Okpara as leader of the NCNC/AG/UMBC alliance (UPGA), Okpara had the unenviable task of defending the expressed choice of the people of Western Nigeria against the scheme of imposing an illegal government on the West hatched by the Bello/Balewa/Akintola/Fanni-Kayode clique. Maazi Ukonu a very popular entertainer in Enugu and an Igbo man broadcast the authentic results of the Western election from under the table in Chief Awolowo's library in Ikenne. He was aided by Wole Soyinka who could confirm this story. How can anyone reconcile this with the falsehood being peddled that the coup was an Igbo coup to install Igbo hegemony?
With the people of Eastern Nigeria constantly confronting and challenging the North's blatant imposition of illegalities on the rest of the country, it is easy to see why Bello/Balewa and the entire Northern feudal oligarchy would want to physically destroy the people of Eastern Region, especially the Igbo. The declaration of Biafra presented such opportunity and with the help of the West and the Middle Belt they set out decimating the people of Eastern Region. Their first weapon of genocide was STARVATION. Here is a sample of the statements made by leaders of the Nigerian Government.
General Yakubu Gowon, Head of State: In an interview with Tom Burns a journalist stated: 'Food is the means to resistance: It is ammunition in this sense and the mercy flights into rebel territory are looked upon as tantamount to gun running' [Tablet, London, December 7, 1968; Spectator, December 27, 1968.]
Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Finance Minister and Vice-Chairman of the Federal Executive Council in the Nigerian Government stated: 'All is fair in war, and starvation is one of the weapons of war. I do not see why we should feed our enemies fat in order for them to fight us harder' [Financial Times, London, June 26, 1969; Daily Telegraph, London, June 27, 1969]
Chief Anthony Enahoro, Federal Commissioner for Labor and Information stated: 'There are various ways of fighting a war. You might starve your enemy into submission, or you might kill him on the battlefield.' [Daily Mirror, London, June 13, 1968.]
Brigadier Hassan Usman Katsina, Chief of Staff of the Nigerian Army stated: 'Personally I would not feed somebody I am fighting' [Times, London, June 28, 1969.]
Brigadier Benjamin Adekunle, Commander of the Third Marine Commando, stated: 'In the sector which is under my command - and that covers the entire southern front, from Lagos to the frontier of Cameroon- I want to see no Red Cross, no World Council of Churches, no Pope, no Missionary, and no UN delegation. ... ... You have a keen intellect my friend. That's exactly what I mean ... .Until the entire population capitulates I want to prevent even one Ibo having one piece of food to eat' [Stern Magazine, Germany, August 18, 1968] Both the German and the English translation of the full interview can be made available.
Col. Shittu Alao, Commander of the Nigerian Air Force, stated: 'As far as we are concerned we are hitting at everything flying into Biafra, Red Cross of not.' [Washington Post June 7, 1969.]
International journalists and experts reported on the implementation of this starvation policy. E. R. J. (Dick) Hayward, an Australian and UNICEF's deputy director, was deeply troubled about the children in Biafra and Biafran territory occupied by Nigeria. Reports coming to him from the UNICEF representative in Lagos (this one from an African, who therefore could not be accused of racism) stated as follows: 'It must be stated at once, and quite categorically, that one cannot escape the conclusion that the government and various tribal groups have indicated, both by word and action, their complete displeasure at providing any assistance for men, women, and children of the Ibo tribe. Among the large majority hailing from that tribe (Yoruba?) who are more vocal in inciting the complete extermination of the Ibos, I often heard remarks that all Nigeria's ills will be cured once the Ibos have been removed.' [The Brutality of Nations, P. 42.]
But the starvation policy was not directed at the Igbo only. Around Calabar and in areas inhabited by the Ibibio and Annang ethnic groups, the Red Cross estimated some 750, 000 refugees in the areas controlled by the Nigerian Federal troops. Reports of how the Nigerian Army confiscated the food meant for these refugees abound. 'The worst cases of starving children required special formula, food, and medicines as well as medical care. Most supplies sent in from Lagos had lacked proper documentation, so the Nigerian army had claimed the supplies as their own.' Continuing, Labouisse and Marks (relief workers) travelled about the area separately, but they saw many of the same sights. Labouisse came upon one make shift village of 5,000 refugees, mostly children and elderly, with few males. Louis Gendron, UNICEF official accompanying Lebouisse, kept notes on what they encountered. 'All were in the very last stages of starvation. Children and elders were prostrated and crouched on the earth -ready to die. ... . In one hut which had only a roof and no walls there was the desiccated body of a child possibly two years old. Next to him but not protected by the roof while the rain started falling was another boy of the same age, also crouched on the ground entirely naked - probably alive, but not for long, who did not even stir when the rain started. Between the huts, in fact in the middle of the path, were numerous graves. We were told that there were ten to fifteen deaths every day, and we have sufficient evidence to believe that this figure is probably not exaggerated.' [The Brutality of Nations, p. 72.]
'In Ikot Ekpene, a major town, the prison was used to house a thousand people mostly children. There was a long line of children and mothers, most of them stark naked and all of them in terrible condition of starvation' '... ..Labouisse and Gendron were experienced relief officials but these were the worst conditions they had ever seen. Back in Lagos, Labouisse described to various government ministers what he had seen, not in Biafra but in their own Nigeria-controlled areas. The ministers expressed disbelief and said they did not have information about such conditions' [The Brutality of Nations,p73]
An equally chilling report was made by another journalist. 'The Biafran advances have firmly recaptured Ikot Ekpene. Yesterday, three Biafran soldiers broke open the prison there. Almost 1,000 Annang civilians emerged who had been imprisoned for four months since the Nigerians took Ikot Ekpene last April. The Annangs are a minority people of one million population who live in the Ikot Ekpene area. Most of the released prisoners were women and children. In the last two days they have slowly moved away on the roads towards the Biafran towns of Aba and Umuahia. Children can be seen walking with canes, and many thin women with swollen legs are sitting or lying on the roads. In Ikot Ekpene prison today, almost every cell has one dead body. A few women and children remain, begging for food and too weak to move away.' [The Financial Times, August 15, 1968].
Chemical Poisoning: But starvation was not the only weapon that the Nigeria Government used to exterminate Biafrans. The other instrument of genocide was the use of chemical poisoning. Foreign correspondents in Biafra, '... ..provide detailed cogent evidence that foodstuffs reaching Biafra from Nigeria have in the past been treated with Arsenic, Cyanide, and other poisons.' [Daily Telegraph, July 8, 1968.] 'Later, outside experts, a team headed by U.S Senator Charles Goodell and the nutritionist Jean Mayer would confirm that food brought into Biafra through Nigerian territory had, in fact, been poisoned.' [The Brutality of Nations p. 33]
Nigeria's third weapon of genocide was targeted bombing of civilian populations and non-military targets. Here are a few examples.
Targeted Bombing: Bruce Loudon in a BBC interview broadcast in February 1968 described the bombing of Itu Hospital established by the Presbyterian Church sixty-three years earlier. 'Dr. Philip painted two huge red crosses against a white background and outside he erected a flag pole and raised an enormous Red Cross flag. The other day the Migs came in and swooped overhead. The Migs bombed and bombed and bombed again, all direct hits. Within seconds, the Mission was reduced to a contorted mass of burning hot iron and whimpering patients. Dr. Duncan, who was on the opposite hill at the time saw the Migs turn again and come in low over what was once the hospital, this time strengthened by machine guns. With Dr. Duncan's aid, Dr. Philip began to pull out dead and wounded. Even the blue ambulance was of no use for that had been shot at, its tires burnt and its windows smashed.'
In a report by Lloyd Garrison in the New York Times of December 31, 1968 and in International Herald Tribune of January 1, 1969, member of the US House of Representative from Ohio Donald E. Lukens reported that he experienced four bombings while in Biafra: '... not one of them was a military target, with the possible exception of Uli Airport which takes both relief and arms flights. The first raid was over Umuahia when I was sitting in the house of the Chief Justice. A rocket slammed into the clinic next-door killing three children. In two days more than four hundred were killed in Umuahia and twice that number maimed and wounded. Most were women and children who didn't know where to run. Many were strafed in the market place. Not one was a military casualty. Of all the targets in Biafra, the ones most often hit are child-feeding centers and crowded open markets.'
'A protest against air attacks on civilians in Biafra, alleged by a Red Cross observer to be deliberate, is to be lodged with the Nigerian Federal Government tomorrow by M. Jean Pierroz, the newly arrived International Red Cross delegate in Lagos. The protest is understood to arise from a report to Geneva by M. Jaggi, the Red Cross observer in Biafra, that several hundred civilians were killed or wounded in an air raid on Awgu market on February 17, 1968. Federal aircraft using rockets and cannons, M. Jaggi reported also raided Aba and Port Harcourt hitting targets of no military significance. He regarded these raids as deliberate attacks on civilian population , particularly those on Awgu where he had checked casualties personally.' [William Norris, Sunday Times, London, February 26, 1968.]
'I have seen things in Biafra this week that no man should have to see. Sights to scorch the mind and sicken the conscience. I have seen children roasted alive, young girls torn in two by shrapnel, pregnant women eviscerated, and old men blown to fragments. I have seen these things and I have seen their cause: High flying Ilyushin Jets operated by Federal Nigeria, dropping their bombs on civilian centers throughout Biafra.' [William Norris, Sunday Times, London, April 28, 1968] Caption: Nightmare in Biafra.
John Hogan in an article in the Irish Times, March 12, 1968, stated as follows: 'Slowly but effectively, a reign of terror has been created. The ruins of the Mary Slessor Memorial Hospital at Itu, of the hospital at Itigidi, and of the Cheshire Home at Port Harcourt stand as a kind of grisly memorial to something that must be if words are to retain any meaning. It is certainly not war. It is genocide.'
Walter Partington reported in the Daily Express, London, April 23, 1968, 'But today I saw that things aer different in the air. A Nigerian bomber, believed to be a Russian-built Ilyushin, killed more than seventy Biafrans in a hit-and-run attack on a busy town forty miles from Port Harcourt.'
President Houphet-Boigny of Ivory Coast described Nigerian pilots thus: '... ... outstanding heroes more redoubtable from the fact that they do not meet any obstacle (fighter planes, rockets, DCA shots) in their dirty duty of massive destruction and systematic extermination of a people without defense.'
Between May and August 1968, Nigerian Air Force planes killed over two thousand civilians, miles away from the fronts or any military targets. Of the 112 targets hit (many more than once) which can be picked from the diary of the Nigerian air raids, the breakdown shows the following pattern: Civilian residential areas (46); Markets (14); Schools (13); Hospitals (9); Churches (5); Farms (8); Others (17). Enugu, Owerri, Aba, Port Harcourt, Umuahia, Abakaliki, Uyo, Afikpo were some of the main towns hit with the worst casualties. At Aba (279) killed, Umuahia (214) killed, Owerri (146) killed by the end of April 1968. About 50 villages had also been raided in this period with Awgu market (165) killed and Nomeh market (85) killed.
This will really blow your mind. 'Clyde Ferguson and American Ambassador Walter Annenberg met with British Prime Minister Harold Wilson. In the course of their discussion, Harold Wilson, the British Prime Minister, remarked that if a million Ibos had to die to preserve the unity of Nigeria, well, that was not too high a price to pay.' [The Brutality of Nations, p. 261] . Can you believe this? The British Prime Minister stated that it is okay to murder one million Igbo just to keep Nigeria one. Now, you can imagine what he told Yakubu Gowon in private. Are you still surprised that Gowon and his clique murdered three million Igbo and other Easterners without batting an eye-lid? Note that throughout the war, "British involvement with the Nigerian Government was an incestuous relationship. It would be impossible to sort out where decisions were made, or by whom - in Lagos or London, by this Nigerian official or this British diplomat' [The Brutality of Nations, p. 31]
The British Government of Harold Wilson had not only supplied Nigeria with armoured cars, bombs, and other heavy artillery, but also hundreds of military personnel (NCO's and high ranking officers) to man those weapons and command Nigerian troops. More than half of them were killed by Biafran forces. In exasperation, the Manchester Guardian of June 3, 1968 complained: '... ... .. Nor has there been enough explanation of the role of individual British officers. Naval officers on training assignments with the Nigerian Navy, are known to have played active operational roles, and the same appears to be true of some Army officers'. 'Britain practically gave away to Nigeria 150 armored cars, Saladins and Ferrets for a token payment of $1,200 each as against the actual cost of $60,000 each. Britain also supplied aerial bombs which were used by Nigeria for slaughtering civilians in markets, refugee camps, churched and hospitals.' [Daily Telegraph, London, January 3, 1968.]
The Spectator in a front page article on May 31st 1968 lamented: 'For the first time in our history, Britain has become an active accomplice in the deliberate slaughter of hundreds of thousands of men, women, and children whose only crime is that of belonging to a proscribed nation: in short an accomplice in genocide. And the British people together with a supine opposition have averted their eyes and let the Government pursue its shameful way without hindrance.'
Why did the world and the United Nations fold their arms and watch as Nigeria and Britain organized and perpetrated genocide on Biafrans? Was 'internal matter of a sovereign nation; as United Nations Secretary General U Thant, said time and time again, an excuse for allowing the Holocaust to take place? No one should have known it better than the Secretary General. This was the very question that the United Nations had dealt with, unanimously and effectively in the aftershock of the Nazis' 'final solution of the Jewish problem.' Raphael Lemkin one of those in the forefront of the efforts to prevent a recurrence of such mass murder, put it at the time, 'The question arose whether sovereignty goes so far that a government can destroy with impunity its own citizens and whether such acts of destruction are domestic affairs or matters of international concern.' Twice the United Nations had decided, unanimously in the negative, and created new international law converting the moral right of humanitarian intervention into a legal right - The Convention for the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide. Could it have been invoked in the Nigerian situation? Was Nigeria deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part?' The answer of course is 'Yes'. [The Brutality of Nations, p. 7].
Then why was it not done? The answer can be found in this conversation. 'After the war ended, I began to talk to officials of governments and international relief agencies and to gather documents. As I pieced them together, trying to learn what had actually happened, an unexpected level of the archaeological dig emerged. I went to a National Security Council staff man and said, 'The British did this.' 'Oh, of course', he responded. 'The British orchestrated the whole thing.' 'The British Government had not covered up the fact that the Nigerians were starving the Biafrans - and killing them by every other means they could such as bombing crowded market places.' [The Brutality of Nations, p. 5].
Some people were quibbling about the number of people dying from starvation in Biafra. Dr. Clyde Shepherd summarized the enormity of this genocide thus: 'People wonder about the statistics of the dying people in Biafra. For some months now I have personally been involved with the chief delegate of the Red Cross in Biafra in working out the statistics of the dead. The figures we have produced are obtained from samples of death rates in villages, refugee camps, and hospitals from every province in Biafra. By the end of July, six thousand deaths a day from malnutrition and starvation only was the figure we arrived at. Recently, last month (October) the Red Cross published a figure of eight thousand to ten thousand deaths daily from starvation. Knowing how this figure was reached, I will agree with it as being reasonably accurate. But all our figures, I would remind you are likely to be on the conservative side.' [The Brutality of Nations, p. 108].
'More people had already starved than were estimated to have died up to that time in the Vietnam War over the previous ten years. More were starving each week than had died under the first atomic bomb at Hiroshima or were killed in all four Arab- Israeli Wars up to that time. With the death rate continuing at the rate of ten to twelve thousand a day during September and October more would die of starvation those next two months than were killed during the entire Spanish Civil War.' [The Brutality of Nations, p. 108].
This was the situation in 1969 as the war was winding down. So what happened about distribution of relief materials and starvation as the shooting war ended in January, 1970? Immediately after the war the United States as well as many countries of Europe wanted to flood Nigeria with food to help alleviate the starvation and death in the former Biafran territory. But the Nigerian Government in collaboration with the British Government refused to allow the food to get to Biafra. Finally, the President of the United States, Richard Nixon confronted Harold Wilson, the Prime Minister of Britain and asked him what he was going to do about Biafra. Wilson went into a tirade about how history will blame Ojukwu for the starvation of Biafrans. When he finished, President Nixon looked him in the eye and said, 'Look Harold, two months from now, all those people are going to be dead, and no one is going to blame Ojukwu - they are going to blame you'. [The Brutality of Nations, p 280.]
While the Nigerian Government was proclaiming to the world that it was pursuing a policy of 'Reconciliation, Reconstruction and Rehabilitation' in Biafra, in practice it was continuing the policy of extermination of Biafrans by starvation. Jacobs, 1987 articulated what actually happened after the declared end of the war: 'Numerous efforts to move food within the country were resisted by Nigerian authorities. UNICEF chartered two DC-6's in Europe and tried to get them accepted for food distribution inside Nigeria. The Nigerian Government refused and they had to cancel the charter. The United States sought to persuade the Nigerian Government to accept planes or helicopters, even offering to turn the C-97's over to the Nigerians themselves to operate but the Nigerian Government refused.' [The Brutality of Nations, p.285]. 'Medical teams had come to Lagos from Red Cross Societies in Australia, Austria, Japan, and Switzerland. But the Nigerian Government would not let them go to former Biafran territory to help the sick and dying. Even the Nigerian Red Cross in the document "New Cases of Severe and Moderate Malnutrition' had to protest to the Nigerian Government that 'That there was a sharp rise (500 percent) in malnutrition and starvation during the four weeks following the end of the war ... ... ' [The Brutality of Nations, p. 287].
Anyone can speculate about the motivation of the leadership of the Nigerian Government in continuing the policy of starving Biafrans after the war had ended, what is not in question is the outcome - the death by starvation of hundreds of thousands of Biafran babies, children, mothers, old women and old men months after the war had ended.
Survivors will also testify that several weeks after the war ended soldiers of the Third Marine Commando led by General Olusegun Obasanjo slaughtered thousands of Biafran men in several communities in Aba, Ukwa, Umuahia, Ngwa and surrounding communities. They also embarked in a systematic orgy of raping Igbo women and girls whom they had taken hostage and converted into sex slaves. Many of the women were so distraught that they committed suicide. Survivors of these atrocities are still alive and will testify.
World Report on Nigeria's Genocide in Biafra 1966-1970: 'In some areas outside the East, Ibos were killed by local people with at least the acquiescence of the federal forces ... . 1,000 Ibo civilians perished in Benin in this way' [New York Review, December 21, 1967] '... ... ..after the Federal take over of Benin ... troops killed about 500 Ibo civilians after a house-to-house search.' [Morning Post, September 27, 1967]
'Federal troops killed or stood by while mobs killed more than 5,000 Ibo in Warri, Sapele, Agbor, ... ' [New York Times, January 10, 1968]
'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.' [Le Monde, April 5, 1968].
'In Calabar, Federal forces shot at least 1,000 and perhaps 2,000 Ibos most of them civilians.' [New York Times, January 18, 1968]
'Bestialities and indignities of all kinds were visited on Biafrans in 1966. In Ikeja Barracks, Biafrans were forcibly fed on a mixture of human urine and feaces. In Northern Nigeria numerous Biafran housewives and nursing mothers were raped before their husbands and children. Young girls were abducted from their homes, working places and schools and forced into sexual intercourse with sick, demented and leprous men.' [Mr. Eric Spiff, eyewitness, 1966]
'There has been genocide for example on the occasion of the 1966 massacres... . Two areas have suffered badly (from the fighting)... . firstly the region between the towns of Benin and Asaba where only widows and orphans remain, Federal troops having for unknown reasons massacred all the men. According to eyewitnesses of that massacre the Nigerian commander ordered the execution of every Ibo male over the age of ten years..' [Monsignor Georges, sent on a fact finding mission by His Holiness, Pope Paul VI, [Le Monde, April 5, 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 a half to five million displaces persons ... the 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 the pogroms of 1966, more than the war casualties, more than the terror bombings. It was the experience of watching helplessly their children waste away and die that gave birth to ... . a deep and unrelenting loathing ... it is a feeling that will one day reap a bitter harvest unless ... .' [Fredrick Forsyth, Umuahia, Biafra, January 1969]
'I saw several hundreds of Zombie-like creatures - men, women and children lying, sitting, or squatting in the midst of others who were dead. The living ones were completely reduced to skeletons and could not talk. Frankly, I took fright ... . I believe that any foreign troops from anywhere in the world, occupying Ikot Ekpene or any other town in Biafra would have shown much more sympathy ... ' [General Alexander Madiebo, Ikot Ekpene, July 1968.]
'One word now describes the policy of the Nigerian Military Government towards secessionist Biafra, "genocide". It is ugly and extreme but it is the only word which fits Nigeria's decision to stop the International Committee of the Red Cross, and other relief agencies from flying food to Biafra' [Washington Post (editorial) July2, 1969]
'The record shows that on advances on Benin, Warri, Ughelli, Abakaliki, Calabar, Ikot Ekpene, and Port Harcourt, thousands of male Ibo civilians were sought out and slaughtered, and that widespread looting and burning are also evident. With the war now almost fifteen months old, it is often forgotten that some 30,000 people from what is now Biafra were massacred in the Northern Region in 1966 and that not one Northern Nigerian soldier or civilian who took part in this pogrom was punished by the Gowon regime' [Lloyd Garrison, New York Times, September 8, 1968]
'The loss of life from starvation continues at more than 10,000 persons per day - over 1,000,000 lives in recent months. Without emergency measures now, the number will climb to 25,000 per day within a month - and some 2,000,000 deaths by the end of the year. The new year will only bring greater disaster to a people caught in the passion of fratricidal war.' [Senator Edward Kennedy, appealing to American Leaders for greater humanitarian aid to Biafra and efforts to end the civil war. Sunday, November 17, 1968]
'... . The war aim and (final) solution properly speaking of the entire problem is to discriminate against the Ibos and in their own interest. Such discrimination would include above all the detachment of those oil-rich territories in the Eastern Region ... in addition the Ibos' freedom of movement would be restricted, to prevent their renewed penetration into other parts ... . leaving any access to the sea to the Ibos is quite out of the question ... .' [Federal Nigerian Minister to E. C. Schwarzenbach, Swiss Review of Africa, February, 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 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.' [Mr Richard Nixon, September 9, 1968; during the presidential election campaign.]
'It is relevant however that not only the Ibos, but all Easterners - including the Minority Peoples, Ibibio, Efik, Ijaw etc were victims of Northern massacres and expulsions. According to refugees, the only non-Northerners generally spared in those events were those who wore the dress or bore the distinctive face markings of the Yoruba tribe of the West.' ["A Condemned People", Conor Cruise O'Brien, The New York Review of Books, December 21, 1967]
'Nigerian soldiers have massacred more than 500 Biafran civilians in the town of Urua Inyang on the southern war front. Most of the townspeople are members of a minority tribe, Annang ... Most of the refugees were Annang, Ibibio, Efik, and Ogoni.' [Charles Taylor, Toronto Globe and Mail, October, 10, 1968.]
'The Associated Press reported yesterday from Umuahia that 500 persons died Saturday night in the shelling of a Biafran town and refugee camp at Urua Inyang south of Aba. Refugees from the camp said Nigerian troops entered the town yesterday morning.' [Toronto Globe and Mail, October 7, 1968].
So the question remains, 'Did the federal government of Nigeria engage in the genocide of its Igbo citizens through their punitive policies, the most notorious being starvation as a legitimate weapon of war?' This question is now howling like hurricane wind. Everyone must keep asking this question until Nigeria and the world give us an answer. The calculated murder of one to three million Igbo children is a heinous crime against humanity. Every Igbo and indeed every Nigeria who has conscience must join in asking for a response to this question. Many of the people who orchestrated this genocide are still alive and must be held accountable. The collective voices of three million children are crying out for justice.
As you can see in this piece, there is almost nothing Chinua Achebe said in his work about the activities of Nigerian leaders during the Nigeria Biafra war that has not been said before and even in stronger language. So why have Nigerian leaders especially from the Western Region been attacking him so viciously and with such vituperative and acerbic venom? Why did they keep dragging Prof. Wole Soyinka (one of the foremost defenders of the rights of Biafrans) into this? Soyinka who was actually thrown in jail by Nigerian dictators for standing up for justice for Biafrans? Did they ever read his book 'The Man Died'?
After 30,000 -100,000 Easterners, men, women, and children were massacred by Northerners all over Northern Nigeria from May 29th to October 1966, what did Yoruba leaders do? Remember that the immediate goal of the coup of January 15th 1966 was to forestall the 'walloping of the West' according to Adewale Ademoyega, one of the key three planners of the coup. So what did Yoruba leaders do? They sent a delegation of Yoruba Obas (traditional rulers) to tour the North and to thank Northern Emirs and political leaders for not killing Yorubas during the pogrom [Ekwe-Ekwe]. They did not go there to say that the killing of Igbo and other Easterners was wrong or to demand that the wholesale slaughter of unarmed civilians must stop. No. They just thanked the Emirs for not killing Yoruba.
Which of the Nigerian Army officers that committed the mass murder of civilians, raping of defenseless women and girls at Benin, Warri, Sapele, Asaba, Onitsha, Aba, Umuahia, Port Harcourt, Ameke-Item, Ngwa, and Abakaliki etc were ever punished for their crimes?
Chinua Achebe and his family like thousands of other families from the Eastern Region were chased out of Western Region and Lagos in 1967 like thieves for no other reason than they were Igbo. I have never heard Achebe say that anyone called him this past forty years to apologize for treating him and his family like criminals. Note that thousands of Igbo residing all over Yoruba land and Lagos were not so lucky to escape to the East. They were killed by their Yoruba neighbors and co-workers and never lived to write about their experience or to tell their stories. Who knows what many of these people would have been. Some may have been as famous as Achebe or even more. But they never lived to be who God created them to be. If you are 43 years and older; lived in Eastern Region in 1966-70, and you are alive today, it is partly because of the valor of Biafran soldiers and the heroism of Biafran administrators as well as the magnanimity of God that you are alive today. As you can see from these accounts Nigeria never wanted you to live.
Nigerians have never told themselves the truth about what happened from 1966-1970 and immediately after. Nigerians have been lying to themselves and their children about their history, the absurdity of yoking together people who do not share much in common except that somebody roped their nations together and gave them a name and then told them that they must be one country. Since the amalgamation they have mindlessly slaughtered more than four million of themselves in the stupidity of remaining one unworkable country. Some groups have been forced to live with other groups that hate them with a passion. As the harvest of this hatred, the mindless slaughter of millions of innocent people piles up, the plutocrats pretending to run the government revel in their ability to loot every government treasury on which they can lay their hands. The result is degradation of the environment, decay of society and despair of the people culminating in chaos and unprecedented human suffering for our people. This is what Nigeria is today.
So what does the future hold for Nigeria? Anyone who says that Nigeria as a country and as it is today is working is delusional. No, Nigeria is not working and will not work. The different groups in Nigeria must sit down in an environment of total freedom and decide for themselves who wants to continue to be in One Nigeria and who wants out. Those who want out of Nigeria must be free to leave without conditions while those who want to remain in One Nigeria exercise their right to do so. Biafrans want out of Nigeria; I repeat, Biafrans want out of Nigeria. Until the Igbo and indeed other nations that make up Nigeria are free to express their choices without hindrance or let, the societal decay, personal desperation and attendant chaos will continue and get worse. History has taught us that no amount of force can stop a people indefinitely from demanding and exercising their freedom, liberty, and self determination. Nigerians have a choice - face this reality and deal with it or continue to live a lie.