The Oasis Reporters
June 4, 2021
By Sir Don Ubani; KSC, JP
Okwubunka of Asa.
Moments of serious crisis actually expose the depth of a leader’s intelligence and wisdom.
Two similar crisis situations could arise but the handling of such similar situations may considerably differ in handling by two different leaders.
The war that was fought in Nigeria between a combination of all other ethnic nationalities in Nigeria on one side and the Igbo Nation on the other side, from 1967 to 1970, should have been avoidable if the burning issues of that period had been handled with wisdom.
Some unconscionable writers had tended to portray the Igbo as Secessionists in their jaundiced historical perspectives on the Nigeria/Biafra War.
Such presentations negate the truth inherent in the Biafran Narratives. The Igbo had contributed immensely in developing Nigeria and, so, could not have wished to exit from the country in such an unceremonious and inglorious manner, with pains brutally inflicted on them.
What happened was that the Military Coup d’etat of 15th January, 1966 wrongly called ‘Igbo Military Officers’ Coup’ was purely an action taken by some radical or misguided Nigerian Military Officers. Their composition cut across other ethnic groups. Major Adewale Ademoyega and Captain John Atom Kpera were involved in the Coup. Yet they were not Igbo.
The Coup of January 15, 1966 which unjustifiably witnessed the death of top leaders of the Northern and Western Regions was quelled by the duo of Major-General Aguiyi Ironsi and Lt Col Chukwuemeka Odimegwu Ojukwu, both top Igbo Officers of the Nigerian Army. Neither of them was in support of the Coup.
Northern Military Officers successfully staged a counter military coup on 28th July, 1966. They killed more than three hundred Igbo Military Officers.
Under normal circumstances, a revenge coup that had consumed more than Three Hundred Military Officers of Igbo extraction, should have been assumed to have leveled scores.
Inexplicably, the brutality was extended to Igbo Civilians in the North and other parts of Nigeria. The Igbo, including pregnant women and children, were consistently slaughtered in their thousands.
In his bid to stop the genocide that was taking place in Nigeria, the Military Head of State of neighbouring Ghana, General Joseph Ankara, brotherly waved an olive branch to both Lt-Col Yakubu Gowon who had become Nigeria’s Military Head of State following the assassination of General Aguiyi Ironsi in the counter coup of July 1966 and Lt-Col Chukwuemeka Odimegwu Ojukwu being Military Governor of Eastern Region. Both the Federal and Eastern Regional Authorities accepted the invitation and, therefore, made their way to Aburi in Ghana.
At Aburi, both Parties sincerely or so to say analyzed the fundamental problems that confronted the country. They unanimously came up with a document generally referred to as Aburi Accord.
On return to Nigeria, General Gowon was told that the Aburi Accord was tantamount to a Confederation. The British Government which had always seen the North as a subservient group that would readily dance to its tune, as against the Igbo it had always perceived as too independent-minded, diplomatically urged the Gowon Administration to jettison the Accord.
Meanwhile, massacre of the Igbo and other Easterners was escalating in the North and other parts of Nigeria. It was in the face of this unprecedented heartless pogrom that Lt-Col Chukwuemeka Odimegwu Ojukwu was compelled to invite Leaders of Thought in Eastern Region and demanded to be advised on the way forward.
As would be expected from a people who, despite being pushed to the wall, had made every effort to bring about an amicable and enduring truce in their circumstance of extreme human carnage without not only success but also hope, the spontaneity of their view was to stay on their own since they were not wanted in the Nigerian Federation, a country they had painstakingly laboured to secure her political independence and also uniquely develop.
On 30th May, 1967 and sequel to the resolution of the Eastern Regional Consultative Assembly, Lt-Col Chukwuemeka Odimegwu Ojukwu announced the birth of The Peoples’ Republic of Biafra.
Extremely ironical, the Federal Government of Nigeria, led by Lt-Col Yakubu Gowon, instantly declared war on Biafra. A People you have decimated through orchestrated genocide! A People you do not want their presence in your midst!! Why should you declare war on them since their only option is for those who managed to return home to join their People and stay on their own?
As at 30th May, 1967, the Eastern Region was the least prepared for a war. There was no preparation, whatsoever.
However, as a people known for their ingenuity, determination and courage, there was nothing else they could have done in their very abnormal circumstance other than to put up resistance.
Even when Lt-Col Hassan Katsina had boasted that Biafra would be crushed in a space of Two Weeks, that War, despite unprecedented blockades mounted against Biafra, lasted from 1967 to 1970. Almost all the Ammunition and arms used during that Holocaust was manufactured by the Biafran Army Corps of Engineers.
The truth, therefore, remains that any person that says that the Igbo wanted to secede from Nigeria is either ignorant of the facts of history or is just being mischievous. The Igbo, as at that time, never wanted to pull out of Nigeria. Secession was only forced on them and they just had to fight a War of Survival against the Oppressive Federal Government of Nigeria.
If a wise patriotic visionary Leader had been on the side of the Federal Government as at the time the Aburi Conference took place, the country would have been saved from the horror that took place from 1967 to 1970.
It is laughable that Forty-Four Years after the Aburi Accord was reneged on by the Gowon Administration, Majority Opinion on Nigeria’s Problems still tilts towards the Accord.
True Leadership is a manifestation of Knowledge, Wisdom, Courage and what could be called Native Intelligence.
There are many persons occupying prominent positions who, by virtue of such positions, should ordinarily be considered as Leaders. But many of them are simply not Leaders. They are not Leaders because in them, there is no manifestation of the above attributes of a Leader.
No Leader worth his salt should ever open his mouth to say, because a group of people in his country did not vote for him, he will not extend government patronage to that group. It does not depict wisdom. That utterance by President Buhari and its practical application have been the Crux of all the misconception about his government by the people of the South-East of Nigeria.
As former President Olusegun Obasanjo pointed out recently on Channels Television Programme, though his Yoruba people did not vote for him in 1999, he handled the development with maturity and patriotism. As a Statesman, he did not make any such statement as President Buhari made.
The Leader of the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra, IPOB, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, issued a Sit-at-home order that the Igbo should not leave their homes on Monday 31st May, 2021, as a mark of honour for those who lost their lives in the war of genocide waged against the Igbo by the Nigerian Government from 1966 to 1970.
That order generated avoidable controversy. Many people viewed it from different perspectives. Governors like Dave Umahi and Hope Uzodinma of Ebonyi and Imo States, respectively, had threatened that any person that complied with that order in their States would be dealt with. Such reaction was capable of heightening tension in the polity.
In his own approach, Governor Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia State, a very urbane Scholar in governance, speaking on a Channels Television Programme on Monday 31st May, 2021, said he would not ask Any Person in his State to Open his Shop. He simply meant that his people were at liberty to exercise their fundamental human rights. Again, he stated that ‘an individual could be proscribed, a group could be proscribed, an organization could be proscribed but that an Ideology can not be proscrived’. This pronouncement has a lot of philosophical undertone. The unintelligent may not be able to decipher this statement. But certainly, it is a guide for the Wise.
Governor Okezie Ikpeazu offered a piece of advice, even Pro Bono, that the situation of unrest in the South-East should be addressed through dialogue.
Governor Ikpeazu’s attitude towards and advice on the problem of Insecurity bedeviling the South-East of Nigeria, a region hitherto known for peace and calmness, can only emanate from a Leader that has a very high degree of civility, vision and knowledge.
This strange insecurity in the South-East can only be solved through dialogue. It is beyond what Arms and Ammunition can address.
What is happening in the South-East today can not be resolved through constitutional amendment(s). In the first instance, the 1999 Constitution is a Huge Fraud. It was not made by the Peoples of Nigeria but was unlawfully and unacceptably imposed on the Peoples of Nigeria by General Abdulsalami Abubakar for the benefit of the North. As long as the Constitution remains, Nigeria will continue to to be a false entity.
The solution lies in the advice of Governor Okezie Ikpeazu, Governors of the South of Nigeria, Ohaneze Nd’Igbo, Afenifere, PANDEF, Middle-Belt Forum and lately even the Arewa Consultative Forum.
Let all hands be on deck to save Nigeria. The inclination towards subduing the Igbo by mere force of arms will surely be counter-productive. That concept can only be derived from primitivity and thoughtlessness. Let there be Dialogue!