Re: We Remember Differently By S.Kadiri

Whenever, Nigerians want to be
dishonest on any issue they resort
to circumvolution. In May 1962,
when the then Governor of Western
Region, Sir Adesoji Aderemi,
removed the Premier of the Region
from office after receiving sixty-five
signatures from members of the
House of Assembly stating that they
no longer supported the Premier,
Samuel Ladoke Akintola, the word,
*IF* in the then constitution of
Western Region became a very
gigantic English vocabulary which
neither Nigerian High Court nor
Supreme court of Nigeria could
interpret. The Constitution had
stated that the Governor could
remove the Premier from office if he
was convinced that the Premier no
longer had the support of the
majority of Assembly men.
When Akintola challenged the
decision of the Governor in the
court, both the High Court and the
Supreme Court resolved that the
word if meant a vote of no
confidence only in the floor of the
House. At that time the highest
court of appeal in Nigeria was Privy
Council in London and Adegbenro
appealed against the decision of the
Supreme Court of Nigeria. Towards
the end of 1963 the Privy Council
decided that the word *IF* had
nothing to do with how the
Governor became convinced that
the Premier no longer commanded
the support of majority member of
the House of Assembly and that the
signatures were sufficient enough
for the Governor to base his
decision upon. By the time the Privy
Council decision came, the Federal
Coalition Government of NCNC
(Igbo) and NPC (Hausa) had
reinstated Akintola as Premier of the
West and Nigeria had become a
Republic, which made the Supreme
Court of Nigeria the highest Court of
Appeal. The Federal Coalition
Government of NCNC (Igbo) and
NPC (Hausa) ignored the Privy
Council ruling on the *IF*
interpretation on the ground, as
they claim, that it had been
overtaken by events. So much
energy was dissipated to know what
the word *IF* in the constitution
meant by Nigeria’s over-educated
law men who converted the Nigerian
judiciary into cemetery where
Justice is buried!!
The circumvolutory Nigerians are
not only experts in twisting words
they are also very good in twisting
facts and figures. Thus, in the 1979
Presidential election in Nigeria, the
world was amused with another
mathematical way of approximating
a decimal point, 12. 6 to a whole
number when the Supreme Court of
Nigeria decided to approximate two-
third of nineteen to twelve and not
thirteen! That mathematical fraud
was committed so as to avoid
second running between the two
highest polling Presidential
candidates, NPN’s Shehu Shagari
and UPN’s Obafemi Awolowo. That
was when the Nigerian judiciary
descended into fertile soil where
injustice is nourished and nurtured
to fruition. When Nigerians want to
be unjust and defraud, they
remember the truth differently.
In her ‘We Remember Differently,’
Chimanmanda Ngozi Adichie,
quoted from Chinua Achebe’s recent
book, There Was a Country, as
follows: Awolowo support for the
blockade was ‘driven by an
overriding ambition for power for
himself in particular and for the
advancement of his Yoruba people
in general.’ Thereafter, Adichie
complained, “I have been startled
and saddened by the responses to
this excerpt. Many are blindly
ethnic, lacking in empathy, and
most disturbing of all, lacking in
knowledge. Awolowo, as de facto
‘number two man’ on the Nigerian
side, was a central architect of the
blockade on Biafra side. Without the
blockade, the massive starvation in
Biafra would not have occurred.
These are facts (facts really?).” Is
Achebe self not guilty of blind
ethnicity when he linked the
advancement of Yoruba people to
the overriding ambition of Awolowo
for power to rule Nigeria? The words,
‘blockade of Biafra’ have been used
frivolously to accuse Awolowo of
genocide, yet, Adichie and Achebe
who are so knowledgeable have not
been able to inform their readers
about which type of blockade
against Biafra he was a central
architect to. Was it naval blockade,
land blockade or air blockade?
Looking at the geography of Nigeria
the Igbo nation is bounded in the
South by the Ogoni, Kalabari and
Ijaw people; in the East by Ibibio
and Cross River People; in the West
by the Edo people and in the North
by Igala and Idoma. With this
geographical reality it can be said
that Igbo land is naturally
landlocked within Nigeria. Therefore,
the question of land blockade did
not arise. There was no need to talk
of naval blockade either as the sea
coast areas occupied by non Igbo
tribes had been liberated by the
Federal forces by May 1968. In the
Igbo heart land itself, Aba, Onitsha
and Enugu were securely in the
hands of Federal forces by mid-year
1968 and the only airport left in the
rebels’ area was Uli Ihiala air strip.
So the only possible blockade was
by air.
Later in the article, Adichie wrote,
“Some have blamed the Biafran
starvation on Ojukwu, Biafra’s
leader, because he rejected an offer
from the Nigerian government to
bring in food through a land
corridor.” And Adichie justified
Ojukwu’s stand with the following
reasons, “It was an ungenerous
offer, one easy to refuse. A land
corridor could also mean
advancement of Nigerian troops.
Ojukwu preferred airlifts, they were
tactically safer, more strategic, and
could bring in much-needed arms
as well.” Since Uli Ihiala airstrip, the
only airfield in the rebel’s enclave
was in use up to the end of the war,
the blockade which Adichie earlier
said, according to her opinion, was
inhumane, immoral and
unnecessary never existed in
reality. No one, except someone
who is suffering from hallucination,
would interpret the statement of
Awolowo that food should not be
sent to the opposing soldiers so that
they could fight harder, to mean the
blockade of Biafra by air. What
Ojukwu did in rejecting food to non
combatant in his enclave was
tantamount not only to hostage
taking of Igbo civilians but inciting
them to commit collective suicide.
The crime of Ojukwu, in that wise,
was far more greater than the one
committed by Benito Mussolini
against the Italian people between
1940 and 1945 but because Igbo
people of 1970 were not as civilised
as Italians of 1945, Ojukwu was able
to march triumphantly on the
skeletons of Igbo men, women and
children he starved to death when
he rejected relief supplies to
civilians through a land corridor.
Therefore, Adichie is partial and
dishonest when she asserted that,
“The policy of starving a civilian
population into surrender does not
merely go against the Geneva
Conventions…” Firstly there was no
policy of starving the civilian
population in the rebel held territory
as the offer of land corridor by the
Federal government to supply relief
materials to civilians according to
Geneva Conventions was shown to
have been rejected by the heartless
rebel leader. Secondly, it is a
deliberate misconception of facts to
say that the civilian population
could be starved to surrender since
they bore no weapons. Only soldiers
could be starved to surrender and
that brings us back again to the
simple common sense statement of
Awolowo that food should not be
sent to the opposing soldiers so that
they could fight harder, which those
suffering from acquired intelligence
deficiency syndrome have
interpreted to mean advocating the
blockade of Biafra. It is false and
untrue for anyone to claim that the
Federal Government of Nigeria
blockaded Uli Ihiala air strip which
was in use throughout the war. If Uli
Ihiala air strip had been blockaded,
Ojukwu would not have been able
to fly out from there when he
deserted his soldiers to escape into
I grew up, hearing from adults,
versions of Achebe’s words about
Awolowo, Adichie wrote. She
continued, “He (Awolowo) was the
one who prevented an Igbo man
from leading the Western House of
Assembly in the famous ‘carpet
crossing’ incident of 1952. He was
the one who betrayed Igbo people
when he failed on his alleged
promise to follow Biafra’s lead and
pull the Western Region out of
Nigeria.” Here again Adichie has
chosen to look at the history of
political developments in Nigeria
through the ethnic lenses of Achebe
and some adults from her Igbo
tribe. Having had her mind
poisoned by tribal bigots, Adichie
mentioned Awolowo’s name but not
the name of the Igbo man he
prevented from leading the Western
House of Assembly in 1952. She did
not tell her readers either who the
‘carpet crossers’ were and how
many they were. However, the fact
of history is that the election of
(actually) 1951 to the Western
House of Assembly was contested
not only by the NCNC led by Nnamdi
Azikiwe and the Action Group Party
(AG) led by Obafemi Awolowo but
multiples of small parties
representing towns and dialects
throughout the Region. At the end
of the election, AG had a very slight
lead over the NCNC. In ‘Selected
Speeches of Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe’
titled ZIK, the account of what
happened was rendered in this
manner, “A few months before the
elections the Committee was
announced as the Action Group…
Then the party with more
determination than had ever been
shown in Nigerian politics began to
publish policy papers and to gain
ground throughout the Western
Region. When the elections were
over it (AG) had won a slender
majority over the less-organized
mass movement of the NCNC: but in
less than forty-eight hours that
majority had been strengthened.
Comfortably, it (AG) established
itself as the Government of the
West… (see ZIK, pages326-327).”
What swelled the majority of the
Action Group was not as a result of
any ‘carpet crossing from the NCNC
to the AG but the declaration of
support by most of the small parties
for the AG. Even if he could not be
leader of Western House of
Assembly, Azikiwe was still a
member of the House by virtue of
the votes cast for him by Yoruba
people despite the fact that he was
an Igbo man. And very
characteristic of Azikiwe who never
loved to be in the opposition, he
deserted his electorates in the West
and returned to the East to chase
out and replace the non Igbo leader
of the Eastern House of Assembly,
Professor Eyo Ita. Azikiwe’s election
victory to the Western house of
Assembly in 1951 was a fairy tale
and remains so even today. On that
ground I challenge Achebe and
those Igbo adults referred to by
Adichie to publish the results of the
elections to the Western House of
Assembly in 1951 as related to all
the parties that participated in the
election. Even if Awolowo as a
Yoruba man had on the ground of
his ethnic belonging prevented
Azikwe, an Igbo man, from leading
the Western House of Assembly
would he (Awolowo) not have been
acting in conformity with Azikwe’s
tribal ideology? Let us read what
Azikiwe said while addressing the
Igbo State Assembly at Aba on
Saturday, June 25, 1949, “There are
twenty main dialectical regions in
the Ibo nation, which can be
conveniently departmentalized as
Provinces of an Ibo State, to wit:
Mbamili in the northwest, Aniocha in
the west, Anidinma and Ukwuani in
the southeast, Nsuka and Udi in the
north, Awgwu, Awka and Onitsha in
the centre, Ogbaru in the south,
Abakaliki and Afikpo in the
northwest, Okigwi, Orlu, Owerri and
Mbaise in the east, Ngwa, Bende,
Abiriba Ohafia and Etche in the
southwest (page 245, Zik – Selected
Speeches of Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe,
1961).” Then on page 246, Azikiwe
said, “The keynote in this address is
self determination for the Igbo. Let
us establish an Ibo State, based on
linguistic and ethnic factors,
enabling us to take our place side
by side with other linguistic and
ethnic groups which make up
Nigeria and the Cameroons.”If
Azikiwe could establish and lead Ibo
State, why should Awolowo not
establish and lead a Yoruba State of
Western Region?
Through the expression, ‘alleged
promise,’ Adichie has already
admitted that there was no
evidence written or verbal that
Awolowo ever promised any Igbo
leader to follow Biafra’s lead and
pull the Western Region out of
Nigeria. Therefore the accusation
against Awolowo of having betrayed
the Igbo people, in this wise,
becomes wicked and superfluous.
Apart from this, Awolowo was
released from prison, where he had
been confined for almost four years
by the NCNC/NPC regime, on August
2, 1966. On August 9, 1966, the
military leaders agreed that all
troops should be relocated to their
regions of origin. As there were
almost no foot soldiers but few
Yoruba officers in the army, Western
Region had no troops to be
stationed in the West while the
North, East and Mid-West had
soldiers of their own to man their
Region. Thus Western Region was
manned by Northern Soldiers until
May 25, 1967 when it had managed
to recruit some soldiers. With that
military situation it is only a fool that
would assume or expect Awolowo to
have promised any Igbo leader of
collaborative pull out of Western
Region from Nigeria. Nevertheless, it
is on record that at the Western
‘Leaders of Thought’ meeting in
Ibadan on May 1, 1967, Awolowo
said, “If the Eastern Region is
allowed, by acts of omission, or
commission, to secede from or opt
out of Nigeria… then the Federation
should be considered to be at an
end, and the Western Region…
should also opt out of it.” Awolowo’s
statement made a month before
Biafra officially pronounced
secession from Nigeria can never be
interpreted as a promise to Igbo
people that if they seceded the
Yoruba People would do the same
thing. Moreover, Awolowo was not
addressing an Igbo congregation
but a Yoruba one at Ibadan. At best
the statement was directed to the
Federal government implying that if
it allowed the East to go the West
also would go and otherwise the
West would stay. Simple logic,
Adichie, isn’t it?
Adichie continued on Awolowo, “He
was the man who, in the words of
my uncle, ‘made Igbo people poor
because he never liked us.’ At the
end of the war, every Igbo person
who had a bank account in Nigeria
was given twenty pounds, no
matter how much they had in their
accounts before the war.” She
buttressed this by making reference
to a nameless and imaginary Igbo
man that worked in a multinational
company in Lagos in 1965. The
fictitious Igbo man was said to have
had thousands of pounds in his
bank account before he was forced
to leave Lagos suddenly to Biafra
but had his bank account reduced
to twenty pounds after the war. The
banking system in Nigeria in the
‘60’s was not as developed as it is
today and in fact many Nigerians
(including the Igbo) had their
savings under the pillow. Banking
institutions in Nigeria at that time
were National Bank of Nigeria
Limited founded by Dr Akinola Maja
and co, The Nigerian Farmers and
Commercial bank Limited founded
by A.S. O Coker, The Agbon-Magbe
Bank Limited founded by M. A.
Okupe, The African Continental
Bank Limited founded by Dr Nnamdi
Azikiwe, Bank of the North owned by
the Northern Government, The
Barclays Bank and The Bank of
British West Africa (both owned by
Britain). For understandable reasons
most Igbo people patronized the
African Continental Bank owned by
Azikiwe. It was this bank that
Awolowo said he did everything
possible to prevent it from going
bankrupt during the war because he
understood its value to Igbo traders.
Was Awolowo’s protection of the
African Continental Bank against
liquidation an act of hatred for the
Igbo people? If Achebe himself had
gotten his savings in the bank
reduced to twenty pounds after the
war would he not have informed
Adichie or the rest of the world
through his ‘There Was a Country?
And if Achebe as a senior executive
officer at that time did not have any
savings in the bank when he left
Lagos for Biafra, what then is the
probability that other Igbo people of
his rank left money in the bank, in
Lagos, while fleeing eastward? Any
Igbo man who, claims that he/she
had several thousand pounds in any
bank before the war, should be able
to produce a bank account book or
last statements of account from his/
her bank for verification after the
war. Awolowo had explained that
the twenty pounds was a welfare
package for people coming out of
war since Biafra’s currency was
illegal and valueless in Nigeria.
Instead of appreciating the socialist
nature in Awolowo and the life more
abundant to all Nigerians ideology
in him, some Igbo reactionaries and
chronic fraudsters continued to
claim without any verifiable
evidence that they had thousands
of pounds in the bank before the
war but had it reduced to twenty
pounds by Awolowo after the war.
Once again I challenge Achebe and
Adichie to publish the names of all
Igbo bank depositors before the
war, with verifiable documents from
their banks, and we patriotic
Nigerians will approach human
rights lawyers in Nigeria to help us
file cases of illegal confiscation of
our fellow citizens’ monies and for
the immediate refund of such
monies to depositors or their
Adichie clamoured over the so called
*indigenization decree of the early
70’s which she believed to have
moved industrial and corporate
power from foreign to Nigerian
hands thereby making some
Nigerians wealthy to the exclusion
of Igbo people who could not
participate in the exercise because
they were just coming out of a war
penny-less. If wealth is the reward
for industry, creativity, investment
and management, there are no real
wealthy people in Nigeria. The
palatial mansions the so called
wealthy Nigerians acquire at home
and abroad, the jet aircrafts, the
expensive cars and gadgets they
buy up are products of Euro-
American cum Asian people’s
imagination, creativity, energy and
high discipline in industrial
enterprise. It is either ignorance or
self-delusion to claim that Nigerians
are in control of industrial and
corporate power in Nigeria since
70’s when today they cannot refine
oil, generate electricity, mine iron
ore and produce steel, produce
portable water, build schools,
hospitals and roads. The streets in
the towns and cities of Nigeria’s
wealthy corporate and industrial
powers are refuse-clogged and
stench-beset. All over the country
one finds open gutters running with
stagnant water, fetid, brackish and
algae infested that have become
mosquitoes’ parliament where bills
of malaria fever are constantly
passed for the citizens. As for
indigenization and for a very long
time, Nigerians have been
bamboozled with inarticulate
economic jargons and
contradictions invented by foreign
exploiters of our country and
parroted by Nigerian non-problem
solving academics. Indigenization in
practice actually empowered foreign
companies to select among
Nigerians willing Esau who could sell
the national birthrights for a pot of
pottage. Such Nigerian Esau who
did not need to have any capital
investment but serve as contract
receiver from the government could
be found in all tribes of Nigeria.
Thus contracts to build schools,
hospitals, Industries, revamp
agriculture and infrastructures and
even oil blocks explorations were
awarded to Nigerians in partnership
with foreign companies. The
contracts were never executed after
money for the contracts have been
collected and shared. Igbo people,
like all other tribes in Nigeria, have
been participating in this type of
indigenization business in Nigeria
since 70’s and that explains why
there are as many illegitimate and
dubious millionaires and billionaires
today among Igbo people as well as
among other tribes in Nigeria.
Obnoxious and odious leaders cut
across all tribes in Nigeria. Adichie
and Achebe would appear to have
embraced the creed that wealth is
the essence of life, no-matter how
odious the mode of its
accumulation. That is pitiful.
Adichie expressed the view that
many Igbo today feel marginalized
in Nigeria. On the contrary, I think
that the Nigerian masses are
alienated and impoverished by the
ruling elites from all tribes in
Nigeria. It is fraudulent to maintain
that individual officials hold their
appointments on behalf of their
tribes when emoluments and fringe
benefits accruing out of the
appointments are never submitted
to the entire tribe of the office
holders for sharing. For instance, it
is not the tribe of the Minister of
works that matters if all tribes are
dying of accidents in pot holes
ridden roads.
Regarding the military coup of 15th
January 1966, Adichie wrote, ”Many
believed it to be an Igbo coup…
Except for Adewale Ademoyega, a
Yoruba, who has argued that it was
not an ethnic coup (d’état). I don’t
believe it was.” There has never
been any doubt about the patriotic
and nationalistic qualities in the
persons of Chukwuma Nzeogwu,
Emmanuel Ifeajuna and Adewale
Ademoyega. They had good
intentions in planning the coup and
knew quiet well that it had to be
bloody. Unfortunately, they were
infiltrated by people with tribal
inclinations who were not prepared
to kill their own tribes’ men, civilians
or military. Ademoyega did not need
to argue that the coup was not
ethnic, just as Adichie did not need
to believe it was not, since the tribe
of the killers and the killed have
been known for a long time. It is
only when one allows blind ethnic
fanaticism to influence ones sense
of judgement that one would start
remembering the truth about the
coup of January 1966 differently. No
matter how one tries to twist the
truth, the fact remains that those
killed in the first coup (civilians and
military officers), except one, were
non Igbo and their killers were all
Igbo. The beneficiary of the coup
was also an Igbo man who led a
military government that
subsequently emerged. In his book
on Nzeogwu published in 1987,
Olusegun Obasanjo wrote on page
100 as follows, “All sorts of
postulations have been made on
the failure of the coup…. but to my
mind, the coup was heavily tribally
biased in its execution in the South,
and that nailed its coffin.” On Major-
General Aguyi-Ironsi complicity in
the coup, Obasanjo stated, “It was
alleged that some of the
participants tipped off Major-General
Aguyi-Ironsi and that Lieutenant Orji
who was detailed to take care of
him, saw him on the Carter Bridge
and after they exchanged words in
their local dialect, Orji had a change
of heart… The pattern of casualties
(killings) was seen on reflection by
well-meaning Nigerians as not only
uneven, but also a sudden change
in the political equation.” In Captain
Ben Gbulie’s book: NIGERIA’S FIVE
ACCOUNT, there are incontrovertible
evidences that some Igbo
participants in the coup, for
instance, Major Chude Sokei,
Lieutenanant Jerome Oguchi, Major
Don Okafor, Major John Obienu, and
Captain Ogbo Oji, were not willing to
shed the blood of their fellow Igbo
and moreover they leaked the coup
plan to Ironsi their kinsman.
Having denied, without evidence,
that the coup of January 1966 was
tribally motivated and executed,
Adichie lamented, “But the truth
that glares above all else is that the
thousands of Igbo people murdered
in their homes and in the streets
had nothing to do with the coup.”
Riots in the North against the coup
of January 1966 that precipitated
the killing of non-Igbo politicians
and military officers, and which
subsequently propelled Major-
General Johnson Thompson
Umunakwe Aguyi Ironsi into power,
began on the 29th of May 1966.
While Northerners were in deep
sorrow over the murder of their
political leaders and military officers
that paved the way for the Igbo
Major-General to seize Government
power, the Igbo people in the North
were actually jubilant over what
they regarded as Igbo power which
was why they were selling post
cards featuring the picture of the
dead Premier of the North laying on
his back with a crowing cock (Cock
was the NCNC party symbol) on his
chest. If Achebe could associate the
political action of Awolowo with the
Yoruba people, why should he
understand it differently when
Northerners associated Igbo people
with Ironsi military seizure of
government power and the cold
murder of Northern politicians and
military officers? When the riots
subsided around the middle of June
1966, Ironsi set up a Commission of
enquiry with the sole purpose of
compensating victims of the riots in
the North financially while he kept
mute over murderers and the
murdered in the January coup.
Although the political situation in
the North was tense, riot did not
break out until after July 29, 1966
coup that toppled Ironsi and
escalated when Radio Cotonou in
Dahomey (the present day Republic
of Benin) relayed the news
monitored and re-broadcast by
Radio Kaduna that Northerners
living in the East had been
massacred in thousands. The
pogrom perpetrated in the North
against the Igbo attracted Wole
Soyinka’s anger and protest against
Gowon’s regime. For that reason
Wole Soyinka was arrested and
detained in prison for twenty-two
months! Regardless of whose ox is
gored Nigerians should learn to be
firm, resolute and aware- some in
telling the truth and not seeing or
remembering the truth differently.
Since truth is straight, constant and
not bendable it remains a fact that if
the five Majors of January 15, 1966,
were not infiltrated, betrayed and
sabotaged by tribal traitors there
would not have been pogrom in the
North and there would not have
been civil war.
Since Adichie was born after the
war, she has to acquire the
knowledge of Nigerian civil war
either by reading books or listening
to those who witnessed it.
Unfortunately it would appear she
has listened mostly to people like
Achebe who remembers history
differently from what actually
happened. The first air strike in the
Nigerian civil war was carried out by
Biafra in August 1967 when the
Biafran B-26 bomber bombed a
market and a Cinema (civilian
targets), at Yaba, in Lagos. Ibadan,
Kaduna and Kano were later to have
a taste of Biafra’s B-26 bomber on
civilian targets. Nevertheless, the
Federal government concentrated
on ground forces and by the middle
of 1968, Biafra’s State had become
a very small enclave making the
moderates (led by Gowon) in the
Federal government to believe that
it was a question of time before
Ojukwu surrendered. In spite of the
Federal government’s declaration of
air blockade of Biafra, planes were
flying in and out of Uli Ihiala air strip
at will and convenience without
government’s reprisal. Throughout
1968, Carl Gustav Von Rosen, a
Swede, was a pilot for the
Scandinavian Churches, (NORD
CHURCH AID) flying relief materials
to Biafra. Suddenly, towards the end
of May 1969, Von Rosen flew into
Nigeria in a rocket equipped Mini-
Counter-Insurgency plane
(MINICOIN) and bombed Port
Harcourt. That was rapidly followed
by the bombing of Benin, Enugu
and Ughelli that were in Federal
forces’ hands. The eyes of the
moderates in the Federal
government turned red having been
shocked by the fact that they have
all along been toying with un-
beheaded venomous serpent.
Consequently, the Federal
government formally banned all
unauthorised night flying through
Nigeria’s air space. Early in June
1969, a Swedish Red Cross DC-7
was heading towards Uli Ihiala air
strip before midnight and the
Nigerian Air Force ordered the plane
to alter course and land at the
Federal held airport in Port Harcourt
for inspection before proceeding
further. In spite of repeated orders,
the pilot of the Swedish Red Cross
DC-7 refused to comply, and NAF
fired at the DC-7 causing it to
explode in the air and killing all its
crews. The forest around were
littered with debris of weapons from
the DC-7. The federal government
confirmed later that the DC-7
marked Swedish Red Cross was
carrying arms and ammunition and
not relief materials to Biafra which
explained why the pilot refused to
land for inspection at Port Harcourt.
The reputation of the International
Committee of the Red Cross was
damaged and its mandate to co-
ordinate relief operation in Nigeria
was taken over by the Nigerian Red
Cross. In an interview in the London
newspaper, Observer of 6 July 1969,
Carl Gustav Von Rosen said that at
Christmas in Biafra in 1968, “I soon
realised that every priest, every
doctor, every black and white man
in Biafra was praying for arms and
ammunitions before food…” The
truth that we cannot and should not
remember differently in the case
narrated above is that Nigeria shot
down arms and ammunition
smuggling DC-7 air craft disguised
as a Swedish Red Cross relief supply
plane to Biafra in June 1969. That is
a true history, Adichie.
It would appear as if Adichie is
convinced that all other tribes in
Nigeria are against Igbo people for
no just reason other than they are
Igbo. Thus she wrote, “Like Achebe,
the Vice-Chancellor of the University
of Lagos was forced to leave. So was
the Vice-Chancellor of the University
of Ibadan because they were Igbo.
For Achebe, all this was deeply
personal, deeply painful. His house
was bombed, his office was
destroyed.” To begin with, the Vice-
Chancellor of University of Lagos
during the second coup of July 29,
1966, was Professor Saburi Biobaku,
a Yoruba man while Professor
Kenneth Dike, an Igbo man was the
Vice-Chancellor of University of
Ibadan. If Achebe and Dike were
forced to leave Lagos and Ibadan for
East after July coup because they
were Igbo, the question one must
ask is who or what forced them to
vacate their place of abode? The
military operation in Ibadan which
resulted in the abduction of Major-
General Ironsi and his host Lt.
Colonel Fajuyi was limited and
restricted to the military and no
civilians were involved. In the
absence of any word from Professor
Dike himself it will be reasonable to
assume that he evacuated himself
voluntarily to the East since Dr.
Anthony Ukpabi Asika, an Igbo and
a senior lecturer at the same
University of Ibadan, remained there
until he was appointed by the
Federal government as the civilian
administrator of East Central State
after the liberation of Enugu from
the secessionists in October 1967.
As for Achebe, the feeling of
insecurity in Lagos might have
partly been due to his background
as one of the beneficiaries of the
NCNC/NPC coalition government
since 1960 up to July 1966 coup
and partly because of the role he
played in the Nigerian Broadcasting
Corporation to cast the news in
favour of Aguyi-Ironsi against Major
Chukwuma Nzeogwu during the
January 1966 coup. Truly and
factually, it should be remembered
that at twelve noon on Saturday 15,
1966, Nzeogwu broadcast over
Radio Kaduna in the name of what
he called *the Supreme Council of
the Revolution of the Nigerian
Armed Forces.* At 14:30:00 hours
the same day, the Nigerian
Broadcasting corporation in Lagos
contradicted Nzeogwu that a
revolution had not taken place in
Nigeria. Therefore Radio Nigeria in
Lagos announced, “In the early
hours of this morning, 15th January
1966, a dissident section of the
Nigerian Army kidnapped the Prime
Minister and the Minister of Finance
and took them to an unknown
destination. The General Officer
Commanding the Nigeria Army
(Ironsi) and the vast majority of the
army remained completely loyal to
the Federal Government and are
already taking appropriate measure
to bring the situation under
control.” But Ironsi was not loyal to
the Federal Government as he
eventually seized power through the
help of the acting President, Nwafor
Orizu, and the Nigerian
Broadcasting Corporation where
Achebe was employed. Achebe
must have done something overtly,
known to the executors of July 29,
1966 coup, in support of the
January 1966 coup which made him
fear for reprisal after the revenge
coup. Otherwise the execution of
the second coup in Lagos was
strictly limited to the army, in which
the Northern forces confronted the
Eastern forces. Adichie has
treacherously given false impression
to her readers that the people of
Lagos and Ibadan (Yoruba People)
forced Achebe and Professor Dike to
flee to Biafra in 1966. There was no
Yoruba uprising, military or civil,
against any tribe, including the Igbo
in 1966. If Yoruba people were to
think like Achebe and his acolytes,
they would have blamed all Igbo
and Hausa people for the
declaration of a state of emergency
in the Western Region in May 1962
by the Federal Coalition
Government of the NCNC Party led
Michael Ihenokura Okpara and the
NPC Party led by Ahmadu Bello. The
signing into law of all the thirteen
emergency Acts by the Governor-
General, Benjamin Nnamdi Azikiwe,
which facilitated the overthrow of
the Action Group government of the
Western Region and the
imprisonment of the Party leader in
1963, would have been blamed on
all Igbo. But when the Yoruba
people were reacting against the
overthrow of the Action Group and
subsequent election theft in what
was popularly known as
*OPERATION WET EH* that action
was directed and limited only to the
supporters of Akintola and his NNDP
Party. As Yoruba peoples’ adage
GBANGBA, literarily translated, ‘It is
the fault of the farmer that produces
yam if not the pestle will not be
hitting the mortar publicly.’
Therefore, the Yoruba people
blamed and held Akintola
responsible for the political
brigandage jointly perpetrated by
Ahmadu Bello, Michael Okpara,
Nnamdi Azikiwe and Tafawa Balewa
in the Western Region. As a result of
that way of thinking, the Yoruba
refrained from visiting the political
crime of Ahmadu Bello, Okpara,
Azikiwe and Balewa against the
Yoruba people on millions of Igbo
and Hausa people living in their
midst in the Western Region.
Achebe has his pains of the civil war
that had its origin in the political
brigandage of the NCNC/NPC Federal
Coalition Government in the
Western Region on May 29, 1962,
but when viewed from the social
structure of extended families and
non-availability of social insurance in
Nigeria, the pains of many
Nigerians, as a result of lost of bread
winners, quadruple that of Achebe.
On January 17, 1966 when Achebe,
as a result of his position at the
Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation,
was aware of the military and
civilian casualties of the army
putsch of 15 January 1966,
Lieutenant Colonel Victor
Adebukunola Banjo was arrested
and dumped into prison on the
order of Major-General Aguyi Ironsi.
His crime was that he had told Ironsi
that every military officer from Lt-
Colonel above should step down for
the Majors to complete their
revolution otherwise he warned the
General that he was sitting on
explosives that could detonate
anytime. For being blunt, he was
detained in prison at Enugu on a
trump up accusation that he wanted
to kill Ironsi. After the second coup
Ojukwu released him together with
some of the Majors that partook in
the January 15, 1966 coup. Nothing
was heard of him until August 9,
1967, when, in the company of
Major Emmanuel Ifeajuna, Phillip
Alale and Sam Agbamuche, he led
the invasion of the Mid-West. On the
same day Banjo broadcast on the
Mid-West Radio and he seized the
opportunity to deny that he
attempted to kill Ironsi in January
1966. He said that the Mid-West
would be independent of both Biafra
and Nigeria and his next step was to
liberate Western Region and Lagos
from the control of Northern
feudalist. Banjo declared, “I am a
Nigerian. I believe in the Nigerian
Nation and I am fighting for a
Nigeria in which no people will be
dominated by any other.”
Devastated Ojukwu recalled Banjo
to Enugu immediately where he
(Banjo) was instructed that after the
conquest of Lagos he should not
issue any policy statement without
approval from Enugu. Before Banjo
was sent back to Mid-West, Ojukwu
had appointed an Igbo man, Major
Albert Okonkwo, as the Governor of
the Region to replace Lt. Colonel
David Ejoor, an Urhobo man.
Around September 20, 1967, the
Federal forces had recaptured the
entire Mid-West after trouncing the
Biafran forces at Ore. Ojukwu had
Victor Banjo, Emmanuel Ifeajuna,
Phillip Alale and Sam Agbamuche
arrested and tried for treason
because they did not believe in
Biafra but total liberation of Nigeria
from feudal reactionaries. On
September 25, 1967, the four
accused of treason were found
guilty and executed in Enugu. The
dead cannot have pains but the
agonies and pains of families of
Ifeajuna, Alale, Agbamuche and in
particular Banjo must have been
enormous and unquantifiable when
compared with Achebe’s experience
of the war.
Adichie had been saddened by what
she considered to be lack of
empathy on the part of people
responding to Achebe’s diatribe on
Awolowo, yet, there is no known
published empathy from Achebe
with regards to the military officers
that were killed in the 15th January
1966 coup. Writing on the profiles
of some of the army officers killed in
January 1966, Ben Gbulie, one of
the coup plotters wrote about one of
the officers killed on page 53 of his
*Nigeria’s Five Majors,* “Brigadier
Samuel Adesujo Ademulegun was a
top Yoruba army officer and
Commander of No 1 Brigade. A first-
class soldier, immensely talented
and versed in military strategy and
tactics, he was however, every inch
a tribalist, as well as overly
ambitious and vindictive.” It is
strange that Ademulegun was
described as a top Yoruba army
officers and not a top Nigerian army
officer by an Igbo writer, Captain
Ben Gbulie. Because of his Yoruba
origin Ademulegun was
automatically branded a tribalist by
this Igbo writer and it did not matter
if he was a first-class soldier,
immensely talented and versed in
military strategy and tactics, he had
to be killed. Thus after midnight on
Saturday, 15 January 1966, an Igbo
officer Major Tim Onwuatuegwu
burst into Brigadier Ademulegun’s
bedroom, gunned him down and
ripped open the abdomen of his
pregnant wife with bullets. In
comparison with Ademulegun,
Captain Gbulie wrote the profile of
Ironsi in this manner, “Major-
General Johnson Thompson
Umunakwe Aguiyi Ironsi was the
General Officer Commanding the
Nigerian Army. A hard-drinking,
slow-speaking introvert who had
risen from the ranks, and had been
trained at Eaton Hall and Camberley
Staff College, he was however,
considered both inept and
inefficient – hardly the calibre of
officer to command an army. In fact
the coup planners considered him
unfit to command even a funeral
detail.” Yet, Ironsi was not
earmarked for killing, why? Gbulie
explained on pages 125 – 126 as
follows, “But by far the thickest
wedge cast between the coup
executors and success was the ugly
element of treachery that
manifested itself in the course of
nocturnal operation. To begin with
both Major Don Okafor and Captain
Ogbo Oji had taken a stand against
any step that might embody the
killing of Ironsi …” But Okafor and
Oji were at the Ikoyi residence of
Brigadier Zakariya Maimalari in the
night of the coup with the aim of
killing him and even though he was
nowhere to be found, Ifeajuna later
intercepted and killed him. Just as
Ademulegun was murdered because
he was a Yoruba, so were the other
innocent seven military officers,
except one, murdered because they
were non-Igbo. These are facts and
facts, as Aldous Huxley postulated,
do not cease to exist because they
are disregarded.
Tribal democracy or Federal
Character as practised in Nigeria
gives birth to a government in
which the ruling elites (politicians,
civil servants, armed forces,
religious and traditional rulers),
merely use their offices to share
power and resources of Nigeria while
at the same time diverting the
allegiance of their tribes’ men to
themselves instead of to the
country. This is possible because
Awolowo’s warning in 1947 that a
microscopic literate class should not
be allowed to become the exploiters
of majority illiterate Nigerians at
Independence has not been
heeded. Education which is being
able to read, write and speak the
English language in Nigeria
amounts to nothing but ego
boosting chauvinism where the
educated elites work for self-
progress and not collective progress
of the tribe, religion or nation. Thus,
the masses of illiterates in Nigeria
cannot discern the hollowness in the
tribal politics played by the likes of
Chinua Achebe, a well-read hustler
who has shrunk into a glorified light
weight opportunist. When Party
politics was allowed in 1979 and the
soldiers returned to the barracks
Achebe joined the Peoples’
Redemption Party, led by Aminu
Kano. It did not matter to Achebe
that Aminu Kano was from the same
North where he (Achebe) professed
that thirty-thousand Igbo, starting
from May 1966 when Awolowo was
still in prison, were massacred in
1966. At that moment and indeed
hitherto, Achebe chose to remember
history differently, that it was in
Kano the home-city of Aminu Kano,
a Moslem (or was he a Jihadist?)
that Igbo were massacred without
the concerned glance of Aminu
Kano. For Achebe, ethnicity and
religion are weapons of mass
deception which he decided to use,
though unintelligently, against
Awolowo. In 1979 Chukwu Emeka
Ojukwu was still in exile in the
Republic of Ivory Coast where he
fled after failing to de-Nigerianize
the Igbo people and severe total
links with Nigeria. Surprisingly in
1979, Ojukwu submitted his
nomination papers to Federal
Electoral Commission (FEDECO) on
form E. C. 4D in which he declared
that he was a citizen of Nigeria and
therefore qualified for election to the
Nigerian House of Representatives
on the Ticket of the Great Nigeria
People’s Party ( GNPP)and in Nnewi
(Ojukwu’s hometown in Anambra
State) Federal Constituency.
Although FEDECO rejected his
application on the ground that he
was dismissed from the Nigerian
Army with ignominy in accordance
with the provision of section 73 sub-
section (1) (9) (ii) of the Electoral
decree which disqualifies from
contesting elections, any public
officer (including military personnel)
who had been dismissed from office
on any ground, the choice of
political party on which he wanted
to contest election demonstrated
crass opportunism and lack of
principle. GNPP was the Party led by
Alhaji Waziri Ibrahim, a Northerner
and indigene of present day Bornu
State. The massacre of Igbo in the
North by the Islamic Jihadist which
Ojukwu claimed to be the reason for
declaring a Sovereign State of
Republic of Biafra had vanished or
perhaps remembered differently.
However, Ojukwu was finally
pardoned by President Shehu
Shagari (another Jihadist) in 1982,
and Ojukwu returned to Nigeria not
to join the GNPP but the National
Party of Nigeria and of course the
ruling party at the centre. He
engaged the law chamber of Rotimi
Williams and Akintola Williams’ firm
of accountant to sort out things
about his father’s properties in
Lagos and he recovered them
without any problem. Until he died,
Ojukwu never complained that his
father’s bank accounts in Nigeria
were reduced to twenty pounds by
Awolowo. Another important figure
in the political game of always put
your mouth where there is food was
Nnamdi Azikiwe the person who was
alleged to have composed the
National Anthem of Biafra in 1967.
On the 7th of September 1968 he
led a Biafran delegation to Paris to
solicit for more weapons and
financial assistance but he was
unsuccessful in his mission. He
seized the opportunity to abandon
his delegate in Paris and sneaked
into London as a refugee. By mid-
August 1969, Azikiwe suddenly
showed up at Ikeja Air Port, the
present day Murtala Mohamed
airport, where he met General
Yakubu Gowon who gave him
assurances of his personal safety
and invited him to come back and
tour the Federation. Azikiwe
returned to London and called a
press conference to express full
support for one Nigeria and called
upon the Igbos to renounce Ojukwu.
Thereafter, Azikiwe returned to
Nigeria at the beginning of
September 1969 and travelled all
over the country to propagate one
Nigeria. Towards the end of
September 1969, Azikiwe
accompanied Gowon to the OAU
meeting in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
and returned to Lagos to gain
access to his properties and most
importantly the African Continental
Bank in Lagos with branches in
Ibadan. Awolowo had not only
prevented the liquidation of African
Continental Bank but also saw to it
that rents collected from Azikiwe’s
housing estate at Ikeja, near Lagos
were put in escrow for Azikiwe just
as he did for other Igbos in similar
situation in Lagos and Western
Region. Did Azikiwe ever tell Achebe
that the worth of his account and
accumulated rents from his estates
were reduced to mere twenty
pounds? Why is Achebe so adamant
in peddling malicious fairy tales
about Awolowo? A simple answer to
the last question is that Achebe and
his acolytes are accusing Awolowo of
what they would have done if they
have been in his position and have
experienced what he had
undergone in the hands of Azikwe.
In the mind of Achebe and
companies, Azikiwe did not only
sign Emergency Laws that
overthrew the government of Action
Group in the Western Region, the
Party of which Awolowo was the
leader, he was even sent to jail.
Since Azikiwe was an Igbo, Achebe
reasoned, Awolowo ought to avenge
the evil deeds of Azikiwe to him on
all Igbos. That is the logic of a fairy
tale teller which was not real in
Awolowo’s socialist world. Azikiwe
was the owner of the African
Continental Bank where many Igbos
had their savings before the war
and Azikiwe had repossessed the
Bank even before the end of the
war. Therefore, Igbo depositors
should have turned to Azikwe and
not Awolowo to reclaim their
deposits in ACB if they had any
documents to back up their claims.
Is that logical enough, Adichie?
The ruling elites in Nigeria have
always behaved as if Nigeria has no
history. Yet, it is universally believed
that a nation without history is a
nation without a past and a nation
without a past will neither have
present nor future. In accordance
with this universal belief, whenever
nations are confronted with political
and economic problems, history is
often consulted not only to look for
past identical situations and
solutions but to verify if current
problems have their origins in past
events. But the backward ever and
forward never Nigerian rulers hate
to be reminded of history which
they consider as distraction.
Thus, they swim along the same
stream that ended in the drowning
of their predecessors in power. If
Nigerians have learnt the proper
lessons of the events that led to the
civil war (1967-1970), today
Nigerians will not be regarding one
another as settlers and indigenes in
the same country. When the
military decided in 1979 that the
constituency of government leaders
should not be military barracks and
electorates should not be tanks and
machine guns many Nigerians
thought a new dawn for political and
economic development had
emerged. Five political parties were
registered for the elections of 1979
which were carried out in four
stages, first was Gubernatorial and
State House of Assemblies, followed
by the House of Representatives,
the Senate and finally Presidential.
The political parties were: Great
Nigeria People’s Party (GNPP), led
by Alhaji Waziri Ibrahim; National
Party of Nigeria (NPN), led by Alhaji
Shehu Shagari; Nigerian People’s
Party (NPP), led by Dr Nnamdi
Azikiwe; People’s Redemption Party
(PRP), led by Alhaji Aminu Kano;
Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN), led by
Chief Obafemi Awolowo. Results to
the House of Representatives
showed that, the GNPP won a total
seat of 43 consisting of 4 in the East
and 39 in the North; the NPN won a
total of 169 seats consisting of 37 in
the East, 121 in the North and 11 in
the West and Lagos; NPP won a total
seat of 78 consisting of 60 in the
East, 16 in the North and 2 in the
West and Lagos; PRP won a total
seat of 49 only in the North; and
NPN won a total seat of 111
consisting of 2 in the East, 13 in the
North and 96 in West and Lagos. As
for the Senate GNPP won two seats
in the East and six in the North; NPN
won a total seat of 36 consisting of
6 in the East, 29 in the North and 1
in West and Lagos; NPP won a total
seat of 16 consisting of 12 in the
East and 4 in the North; PRP won 7
seats all in the North and UPN won
28 seats consisting of 4 in the North
and 24 in West and Lagos. In the
Presidential election, the following
results were officially announced:
Alhaji Shehu Shagari, NPN,
5,688,857 votes; Chief Obafemi
Awolowo, UPN, 4,916,651 votes; Dr.
Nnamdi Azikiwe, NPP, 2,822,523
votes; Alhaji Aminu Kano, PRP,
1,732,113 votes; and Alhaji Waziri
Ibrahim, GNPP, 1,686,489 votes.
Thus Alhaji Shehu Shagari of the
NPN was declared the winner of the
Presidential election whereas his
party in the House of
Representatives and in the Senate
constituted a minority to the
combined opposition parties of UPN,
PRP, NPP, and GNPP. In a normal
world it was a perfect situation
where the legislative arm of the
Government would play important
and responsible role of checking
executive recklessness and making
good laws for the country, but in
Nigeria it was not so. Just as it was
in 1959, Nnamdi Azikiwe with his
NPP’s 78 members in the House of
Representatives and 16 Senators
sought alliance with the NPN
thereby turning the legislature into
an assemble of legislative rogues.
The political prostitution of MONEY
earned Ume Ezeoke, NPP, the
position of speaker of the House of
representative. And those who talk
about marginalization of Igbos in
Nigeria since the civil war should
remember not differently that the
Vice President of the first civilian
Government of Nigeria in 1979 was
Alex Ekweme (NPN) while Ume
Ezeoke (NPP) was the Speaker of the
House of Representative and the
President of the Senate was from
the Middle-belt. Awolowo was
invited by Shehu Shagari to
participate in what he termed
National Government but the
invitation was rejected. However,
the pack of Vultures that formed the
civilian government in 1979 with
the aid of Nnamdi Azikiwe’s Nigerian
Peoples’ Party, was later disbanded
in December 1983 by yet another
military regime that recycled itself
into a civilian regime 13 years ago.
Whatever kind of regimes Nigeria
had had since 1960, Igbo persons
(not Igbo people) have strongly
been involved in governance and
while appraising the actions and
inactions of those regimes it is
persons in government that should
be held responsible and not the
tribe they belong to.
When I read Dr Ozodi Thomas
Osuji’s False Sense of Victimization
in Achebe’s Worldview, I really pitied
Chinua Achebe. Dr. Osuji pointed
out that Okonkwo, the chief
character in Achebe’s Magnus Opus,
THINGS FALL APART, had the habit
of mercilessly beating his wife at
pleasure, he killed his child,
Ikemefuna in an effort to seem
tough and he persecuted the Osu’s
(the Igbo Outcast) indicating that he
is a mindless man who had no
sympathy for the oppressed of his
society. Thus, Dr Osuji diagnosed
Okonkwo as a neurotic paranoid
person. I see Okonkwo’s characters
in “There Was a Country” and my
appeal to Chinua Achebe at the age
of 82 is that he should stop
fomenting tribal hatred among

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