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Minorities In Nigeria Were Greatest Victims Of Biafra Republic Declared By Late Ojukwu – US-based Professor, Akpan

November 26, 2022

Biafra, officially the Republic of Biafra, was a partially recognised secessionist state in West Africa that declared independence from Nigeria and existed from 1967 until 1970.

New York Times bestselling author and Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Florida, Uwem Akpan, has described the ill-fated Biafra Republic declared by late Colonel Odumegwu Ojukwu in 1967 as the greatest evil that beset the minorities of Niger Delta.

Biafra, officially the Republic of Biafra, was a partially recognised secessionist state in West Africa that declared independence from Nigeria and existed from 1967 until 1970.

Its territory consisted of the predominantly Igbo-populated then Eastern Region of Nigeria which is now divided into the South-East and South-South regions of Nigeria.

Biafra was established on 30 May 1967 by Ojukwu under his leadership as the governor of the then Eastern region of Nigeria, following a series of ethnic tensions and military coups after Nigerian independence in 1960 that culminated in the 1966 massacres of Igbo people and other Eastern ethnic groups living in northern Nigeria.

The military of Nigeria proceeded to invade Biafra shortly after its secession, resulting in the start of the Nigerian Civil War.

During an interview with Rudolf Okonkwo in 90MinutesAfrica, Professor Akpan argued that the Biafra narrative shaped by most Igbo writers over time was one-sided because it painted the Igbos as innocent victims of the civil war.

He insisted that the minorities were the biggest victims of the crisis as they suffered the brunt from both Nigeria and Biafra.

“In the riots that engulfed the north, at least a third of those killed were minorities. No one tells that story. It is always the Igbos who were killed in the north. The question now is: if both the Igbos and minorities were killed in the north, why were they not able to come back and form Biafra together? This is simply because even before the genocide in the north, the Igbos and the minorities were never together. Though they were all in the Eastern Region, the minorities always feel cheated," Professor Akpan reiterated.

The award-winning author further stated that "the minorities did not want Biafra. The Igbos under Ojukwu went out of their way to block the creation of minority states. They imposed Biafra on minorities. The Ibos were thus engaged in two wars – fighting against big-time Nigeria and fighting against small-time minorities. The minorities were massacred by the Biafrans. A place in Sagbama in Ijaw land even has a festival celebrating the fact that they survived Biafra, and there are few other places like that in minority lands.” 

When the interviewer drew the attention of the Professor to the fact that some minorities supported the Biafra Republic, he acknowledged that there would always be individuals within the "colonised" who accept and are part of any "colonisation project".

"Today, almost all Igbos say they want Biafra but have you heard the minorities say they want Biafra? You can mention individuals in the minority who would support Biafra, but there is no groundswell of support like you have in Igbo land. The minorities have not forgotten how they were massacred in Biafra.

"The Western press did not cover the minority villages. In any case, there was some sort of understanding that if the Western press exposed what the Biafran soldiers were doing, Biafra would lose the little support it had," he said.

"In researching for my book, I spoke to a lot of former Biafran soldiers, and they spoke about what they were told to do in minority lands. It was a mess. Biafra was a terrorist state, especially in minority land," the author emphasised.