Tuesday, 21 May 2013
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 exile.
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 inheritors.
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 MAJORS – COUP D’ÉTAT OF 15TH JANUARY 1966, FIRST INSIDE 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 says, ÀGBÉ NI O DÍJÀ SI’LÉ OWUN NI OJÉ KI OMORÍ ODÓ NA ÌYÁ RÈ NI 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 FOR HAND BACK NA GROUND 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 Nigerians.