By Ori Martins
The fall of Biafra and the eventual surrender of the People’s Republic by Philip Effiong, Biafra’s deputy head of state, to the federal troops led by Lt. Col. Olusegun Obasanjo, after the Commander of the ill fated republic had gone to Cote d’Ivoire to ‘seek for peace’ in January 1970, is still being regarded as a gross miscalculation and unacceptable even by people who either were not yet born at the time or were toddlers when the 30-month-old tragic war took place.
Forty three years on and after most of the major actors have died – Ojukwu himself gave up the ghost more than one year ago – a new pro- Biafra group, Biafra Zionist Movement (BZM), has given indications that a new Biafra would be inaugurated on February 20, 2013.
The president of the new Biafran group, B.I. Onwuka told Daily Sun his association had noted the mistakes that truncated the first attempt for the emergence of Biafra even as he insisted that BZM was determined to succeed in its latest bid for the creation of a sovereign entity to be called Biafra!
In the beginning On May 30, 1967 the Eastern Consultative Assembly led by Dr Alvan Ikoku mandated His Excellency General Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu to declare the then Eastern Nigeria, the Republic of Biafra. Ojukwu took up the challenge and declared Biafra a republic as directed by the Eastern Assembly. On July 6, 1967, Nigeria declared war on Biafra and some of its senior military officers like Usman Katsina boasted that Biafra would be crushed in a matter of days. As it turned out to be, 24 hours later became three long years!
At the end of the tragic episode in 1970, over two million Biafrans had paid the supreme sacrifice in defence of their well cherished country and freedom. This is not a history of Biafra as it were but an attempt to really provide insights into what happened in Nigeria between 1967 and 1970. The new Biafra and BZM On November 5, 2012, at Coal Camp Enugu, the Biafra Zionist Movement (BZM) decided to, once again, renew the May 30 1967 mandate and re-declare the independence and sovereignty of the Republic of Biafra. Our movement revisited the gross injustice, crime, pogrom and deprivation that prompted our late leader Odumegwu Ojukwu to declare the Eastern Region an independent state and we are of the view that the situation today in the East is still what it was in 1967.
In 1967 Easterners suffered pogrom, today we are victims of organized killings and mass murder. In 1967 we suffered starvation, today we are being deprived of our rights. In 1967 the East was target of discrimination, today we are marked out for marginalization. I make bold to state that the South East has the least number of states; least number of council areas; least number of National Assembly members even as we do not have any Federal Government’s presence as all the federal roads in the region have completely broken down.
The South has never produced Minister of Works and we can go on and on. Surprisingly, this is a country our fore fathers contributed more than 65 per cent to establish.
The South East has sacrificed more than any other geo political zone for the unity of Nigeria yet, no recognition or respect is accorded to us. It is a national fact that without the Great Zik there would not have been anything today called Nigeria. We have it on Chief Obafemi Awolowo remarked that Nigeria was a mere geographical expression. It was only Zik that said, Nigeria belonged to all of us, let us make it great.
Again, General Ironsi died fighting to uphold national unity yet he was demonized and recklessly assassinated. Which shall we highlight and which one shall we leave behind? Nigeria achieves a consensus only when it gathers to discuss anti-Igbo agenda. We have therefore looked at Nigeria and are well convinced that it cannot fend for the interest of the South East, hence, our people called on us to look for survival elsewhere.
This was the enormous responsibility saddled on us and I can tell you that the BZM as a body can now boast to have reclaimed the independence of Biafra on two grounds namely; there was a heavy presence of the international community as the flags of USA, France and Israel were flying colourfully all over the landscape of Enugu on November 5, 2012. Indeed, the world woke up to behold the expected re-birth of the Federal Republic of Biafra.
We embarked on this project because it has become abundantly clear that the security of life and property of our people can no longer be guaranteed in the geographical entity called Nigeria. We are also convinced that the people’s rights to freely worship God according to their Christian faith is no longer guaranteed in Nigeria. In view of these factors I have highlighted, the people of Biafra resolved to opt out of Nigeria in order to seek co-operation under the United Nations Convention on freedom of worship and association.
Officially and formally, the inauguration of the government of Biafra is slated for February 20, 2013. Countries that broke away The history of the world is replete with an avalanche of countries that started as one sovereign state but are today broken into two or more independent countries. Here in Africa, Eritrea used to be a part of Ethiopia.
The former sought to stay alone as a sovereign nation out of the latter. There was a civil war just like the Nigeria, Biafra case and eventually it succeeded. Today, there is Ethiopia, there is Eritrea. About two years ago, we all witnessed how the Southern Province of Sudan pulled out of the country and it is an independent state on its own.
In Asia, East Timor is no longer a part of Malaysia. Even in more organized Europe, the former almighty USSR has been dismantled and so many countries emerged out it. It is the same case in the former Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia that have produced about five countries between them.
It is also on record that all the countries mentioned above have similarities with the Nigerian situation even as it stands today and that is ethnic strife and incompatibility. As Ojukwu put it in Ghana, ‘It will be better for us to shift backward and live than to stay together and suffocate’.
If we shift backward, quote me, militancy will stop, Boko Haram will be a thing of the post and ethno- political tension will cease. But, if what is happening now is anything to forecast tomorrow, then we can say even without any power of clairvoyance that, the best for us, especially as Ndigbo, is not to stay together. If other countries that are suffering the same fate with Nigeria in terms of political tension can dissolve their union for good, why can’t Nigeria do the same? Inside Biafra The land and people of Biafra are blessed with natural and human resources. Even during the tragic civil war, our people, despite suffering from genocide, advanced technologically, scientifically and economically without external assistance.
Biafran engineers fabricated war weapons like the Ojukwu bucket, ogbunigbe; built airport at Uli and piloted its own aircrafts; constructed refineries and maintained them without shortage of petroleum products all through the war period; set up Radio Biafra that was received worldwide and so on and so forth.
After the war, Nigeria never cared to absorb the men and women that led these technological and scientific innovations into the system and this tells you the avid hatred the country has for the Igbo nation. It was General Yakubu Gowon himself who said the war ended in a draw as he declared the ‘No victor, No vanquished’ slogan but went ahead to adopt a cruel economic policy of giving any Igbo who had money in the vault, no matter how much, just 20 pounds. It therefore means that the Igbo people started life with only 20 pounds. Gowon also constituted a post war reconciliatory move by instituting the Three Rs – Reconciliation, Rehabilitation and Reconstruction.
We make bold to say that Gowon and Olusegun Obasanjo who was then National Commissioner of Works cannot point to anything or person that was either rehabilitated or reconstructed. Igbo nation still suffers from the civil war devastation and there is hopelessness, depression, disgust and despair all over the land. Our promise is that the new Biafran government will bring hope and guarantee security and a world of opportunity and prosperity.
We shall empower free market based on positive capitalism. We shall support individual enterprise and work hard to attract foreign investors to create jobs for the youths and working adult population. The days when our graduates will only hope to be keke napep drivers and okada riders are over.
This government will not depend 100 per cent on oil it has been the case with Nigeria since 1970. The Biafran Government will restore the following industries – cash crop, palm oil, cashew and others that the Nigerian Government abandoned for oil. Also, the Abakaliki rice base will be developed to feed Africa; the Avutu poultry will be revived to produce chickens for West Africa; the breweries in Umuahia will be upgraded to compete favourably with multi- national ones like Guinness while the coal in Enugu will be modernized.
Indeed, massive industrialization is our key the same way security of lives and property of all who live in Biafra will be adequately guaranteed. Of course, our goal will be to make Biafra the pride of our people and friends and the envy of our foes. To this end, education will not be taken for granted, the health sector will get government’s attention just as rural and urban development will be given adequate consideration.
We shall also protect the rights of all irrespective of creed, gender or origin. Constitution and constitutionalism will be promoted and equality before the Law will be our guiding principle. We encourage freedom of speech, freedom of association, freedom of worship and press freedom shall flourish. This is Biafra’s marshal plan! We shall not fail because we looked at the issues that made the first attempt at Biafra not to go through and took care of them. We as a people are determined to succeed more than ever before.