Biafra: Does It Still Exist?

And I would like therefore to take this opportunity to say that: I, Major-General Philip Effiong, Officer of Peace Administering the Government of the Republic of Biafra, now wish to make the following declaration:

That we affirm we are loyal Nigerian citizens and accept the authority of the Federal Military Government of Nigeria.

That we accept the existing administrative and political structure of the Federation of Nigeria.

That any future constitutional arrangement will be worked out by representatives of the people of Nigeria.

That the Republic of Biafra hereby ceases to exist.”- Philip Effiong, former Biafran General, Dodan Barracks, Lagos, January 15, 1970.

I am Emeka Odimegwu Ojukwu. I was sometime general of the People’s Army, the leader of Biafra during the Nigerian Civil War in the years 1967 to 1970. In all of all the world wars, the most cruel is the civil war. The Biafrans fought with everything they had. They were out-manned, out-gunned, out-everything. But they stood; held up, shoulders back, chest out and they stayed properly, classically British. We could not understand the British Government could even fail to see the justice of our position; we could not understand even, that the world, seeing injustice could just stand…by and ehm, when we cried out in pain over the suffering of the children with extended stomachs, kwashiorkor and all these things, we…we cried out. We felt actually the world owed us understanding and that was the one thing the world never gave us. Our people suffered greatly. They were deprived, they were bombarded, and ehm…..they were totally rendered totally destitute in the period.

You might also ask me immediately then, ‘why continue the war?’ Because we the Biafrans saw ourselves throughout the entire period under the threat of genocide. And even when we couldn’t fight anymore and moved forward into surrender, we surrendered practically in the belief that this was the end.”-Emeka Ojukwu speaking to the British Broadcasting Corporation after the war.

From these two speeches, we possibly will quickly conclude that Biafra went into extinction after the civil war ended in 1970. But last year, events in the country worried an average Nigerian, especially, the agitation of some groups in the South-East anticipating the breakup of the country. Those who experienced, fought and survived the civil war agreed that it was a cruel period that resulted in deaths of innocent citizens and prayed for such not to happen again.

Amid the Igbo, Biafra continues to be a subject that readily elicits profound emotions despite the fact that the Civil War ended 48 years ago. On one end of the scale, there are those that are willing to bet their lives on the fact that Biafra lives and offers a clear path to their redemption while on the other end, some operate with the mindset that Biafra belongs to history. Middle of the scale is occupied by those who feel that, somehow, Biafra is in comatose; kept alive on a life support system that ought to be maintained till she rise again.

Truth be told, this is not the nation our founding fathers fought for but our generation can make it better. Nigeria is basically a tripartite nation (Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba) and any attempt to expel one part could lead to a total degeneration of the country.

Today, January 15, 1970, marked the official surrender of Biafran forces to the Nigerian military thereby effectively terminating the existence of the Republic of Biafra which was proclaimed 30 months earlier in 1967. Why then do we still hear a part of the country chant the name “Biafra” if Biafra does not exist anymore?

Amid the Igbo, Biafra continues to be a subject that readily elicits profound emotions despite the fact that the Civil War ended 48 years ago. On one end of the scale, there are those that are willing to bet their lives on the fact that Biafra lives and offers a clear path to their redemption while on the other end, some operate with the mindset that Biafra belongs to history. Middle of the scale is occupied by those who feel that, somehow, Biafra is in comatose; kept alive on a life support system that ought to be maintained till she rise again.

In light of these specifics, what an average Igbo must know is that, the then Eastern region that constituted Biafra are now states with their governors firmly in control of their own affairs. Also, the minorities who fought with them during the civil war are not ready to return to “Egypt”. The Biafra we knew was a single territory governed by one man. Today’s Biafra is ten states governed by ten men.

The Igbo have also vowed that Nigeria’s next President must come from the Southeast zone. How credible is this assertion when some of them (the Igbo) are agitating for Biafra?

Above and beyond the Igbo presidency, there are some serious issues that confront the Ndiigbo today which can only be effectively addressed if there is a clear focus and unity of purpose among them and chief among them are:

  1. Flood erosion, in recent decades, has devastated land and water communications infrastructure and scarified the landscape with gaping gullies that gulp huge chunks of Igbo-land with each rainy season.
  2. Urban settlements in the Southeast are choking with mountains of garbage and trash while ill maintained roadways and streets are filled with open sewer. Industrial manufacturing is fundamental while millions of Igbo youths are made to eke out their living by hawking cheap goods or operate motorcycle taxis, sometimes, after acquiring their educational qualifications.
  3. Igbo politicians have shown little or no interest in galvanising local manpower resources and channelling them toward upgrading the many sociocultural, economic and environmental problems that negate the survival struggles of their own people.
  4. The “one-Nigerianist” Abuja politicians readily blame marginalisation by the occupant of Aso Rock while the pro-Biafran agitators peddle the new Biafra panacea as a cure-all for the bewildered Igbo. The Igbo intellectual and political elite engage in long-winded arguments, on the Internet and elsewhere, about whom or what else to blame for the diminishing lot of Ndiigbo in current scheme of things.

In light of these specifics, what an average Igbo must know is that, the then Eastern region that constituted Biafra are now states with their governors firmly in control of their own affairs. Also, the minorities who fought with them during the civil war are not ready to return to “Egypt”. The Biafra we knew was a single territory governed by one man. Today’s Biafra is ten states governed by ten men.

Image of Biafran protesters
Biafran Protesters in South-East Nigeria.

The Igbo have had four Senate presidents, two Central Bank governors, two Inspectors General of Police, two Chiefs of Army Staff, a Vice President, a Head of State and a President even if it was ceremonial. What remains is a seat at the Aso Villa.

According to Ojukwu, the Biafra of 1967 was about injustice and a threat to genocide. But what about the Biafra of today that festers the hatred of “One Nigeria” in some minds in Igboland? The Rising Sun of Biafra had set in 1970 never to rise again. The earlier we realize this, the better for us all. And if Biafra does exist, it is only in the minds of some who don’t know that the nation, Nigeria, needs them to be great.

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Ayomide Akinbode

Ayomide Akinbode holds a degree in Chemistry but has a passion for History and Classics. When he is not writing, he’s either sleeping or playing Scrabble.

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