It is often said, that war doesn't determine who is right but who is left. The Biafran civil war has been regarded by human rights activists as a genocidal attempt, by the then-commanders of the nation. There would have been fewer casualties if only the major key players in the nation, had stayed put at the time. If there is one thing we have learnt - it is that history does repeat itself.
The proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra, popularly known as IPOB led by Nnamdi Kanu, has continued the struggle for the recognition of Biafra - following the foot steps of the late warlord, Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu.
It's rumored that Nnamdi Kanu was once an accomplice of Ojukwu; serving as a radio presenter for Radio Biafra.
Since the formation of IPOB a pro-Biafra group in 2012, there have been mixed feelings and reactions towards the group. Many have died believing the vision of the group. But we can always take cue from history to plot the progress graph of our decisions.
Every arm of this secessionist group has been greatly rebuffed by the government, including the recent Eastern Security Network created by Nnamdi Kanu.
Every resistance IPOB is facing at the moment from the government, points to one thing - an imminent failure. Ojukwu failed not because his course was wrong, but because he lacked the necessary support to actualize the 'Biafran dream', as many popularly referred to it during it's 30 months existence.
A ride down the memory lane will help point out to us the futility of the Biafran agitation.
Six years after gaining independence, war became inevitable after there was an alleged massacre of over 20,000 Christian Ibos in the Northern parts of the nation.
Despite all efforts by the then-head of state Yakubu Gowon to keep Nigeria as one, war erupted on July 06, 1967, after Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu declared the Eastern region independent of Nigeria's rule.
[Pictures used are for illustrative purposes]Photo: Yakubu Gowon (left) and Chukwuemeka Ojukwu(right)
Ojukwu announced the formation of Biafra at exactly 3 am on May 30th, 1967 on a radio station. There was an official ceremony to commemorate the birth of a nation - including a 42 gun salute.
From the onset of the war, Ojukwu, and his Biafra army knew they would need a miracle if they were to win the war; because the Nigerian army outnumbered them 4 to 1.
Matters got worse when the British Government began supplying the Nigerian army ammunition and, Egypt fighter jets - making the odds of winning slimmer.
It was clear from the beginning that many nations didn't buy the idea of an independent Biafra; as only 5 nations (Ivory Coast, Tanzania, Haiti, Gabon, and Zambia) ever recognized Biafra as an independent nation. This was one of the reason Biafra was short-lived(30 months).
The Biafra army was ill-equipped against the Nigerian Army. Although they were quite astute and diplomatic in their approach towards the war.
In war, the story is never the same when facing heavy rounds of ammunition, and constant bombarding by aircraft. Egyptian mercenaries also helped carried out series of bombarding within the Eastern region.
In the course of the war, Biafra also had the support of war veterans like Rolf Steiner and Lynn Garrison - who advised its army on military matters and also served as commanders.
Things were in favour of the Biafran army, until Bonny, Port Harcourt, Enugu, and Calabar were captured, then every hope of victory and an independent Biafra began to elude the Biafran army.
Ojukwu was known to execute his leaders frequently, most especially the Igbo officers who defected from the Nigerian army. Each time a battle was lost, he would make an example of his leaders by executing the commanding officer. It was insinuated that these acts weakened the morale of the Biafran Army greatly.
According to Karl Jaggi head of the Red Cross in the 60s, stated that an estimated 1 million children died of hunger during the war.
The world council of churches donated funds to send food relief to Biafrans. They bought an aircraft to that effect. Several Scandinavian pilots volunteered to fly the plane for free, as part of their aid to Biafrans. These supplies were able to preserve the lives of over 500,000 people.
Many wondered why most countries never supported Biafra secession. Well, it was for several reasons; here are some of them.
1. Economic Interest
Both Britain and U.S. declared neutrality at the onset of the war but changed their stance later on. It was reported that they both had investments in Nigeria, which they perceived could be lost in the course of the war if they didn't intervene. Shell-BP which was partly owned by the British government had control over 84% of crude oil exports. The US on the other hand had US $800 million worth of private investments.
2. Fear Of A Revolt In Other African Nations
Egypt and Ethiopia supported the Nigerian government for the fear of an uprising in their nations, due to the emergence of Biafra. President of Egypt, Gamal Abdel Nassar, quickly dispatched several Egyptian air force officers with fighter jets at the onset of the war; in a bid to aid Nigeria in containing Biafra.
3. Political Reasons
The Soviet Union supported the Nigerian government by selling 17 MIG-17 fighter jets; because it didn't want a repetition of the Congo crisis. Israel also supported the Nigerian government; because it saw her as a major player in West African politics - seeing a need for an alliance.
Biafra wasn't left out in terms of international aid, but none of the world powers diplomatically declared their support for Biafra. France, Portugal, West Germany, and China were amongst the countries alleged to have supported Biafra.
Some of the commanders of the then Nigerian army were Olusegun Obasanjo, Muhammadu Buhari, Murtala Mohammed, Shehu Musa Yar'Adua, Sani Abacha, Ibrahim Babaginda, Yakubu Gowon, Benjamin Adekunle. For the Biafran army Ojukwu Odumegwu, Phillip Effiong, Taffy Williams, Lynn Garrison, Rolf Steiner, and Victor Banjo.
How IPOB And Nnmadi Kanu Can Learn From The Past
Those who fought during the Civil War have been presidents and heads of state for the past 5 decades. Their lack of recognition of MASSOB and IPOB is not a coincidence. until now, no world power has openly backed IPOB. Just like Ojukwu lacked the necessary support for his Biafra and failed utterly, Nnamdi Kanu may also fail woefully in his quest.
Since the launch of ESN the security outfit of IPOB, it has been alleged that death toll in Orlu, Imo State has tripled. This is no coincidence. In every struggle for secession, people end up paying dearly with their lives.
In terms of Economic interest, Nigeria has more prospects than any secessionist movement. As history has shown us, other sovereign states we back Nigeria over IPOB. The governors and rulers of the Eastern region know this truth, and that is why they pledge their allegiance to 'One Nigeria' over IPOB.
The political atmosphere doesn't favour the pursuit of IPOB. There have been several agitations for secession all across Europe, and not a single one of those nations has been given a hearing. So, why do we think the IPOB will be different? History tells already that the agitation for IPOB is a lost one.
It will be wise for members of the ESN and IPOB to abandon their pursuits, and channel that energy into developing Nigeria.
This was a grandmother's perspective of the war, you can watch the video.
We don't hope to have a replay of history, and as such, it would be deemed appropriate for secessionists to have the welfare of the people at heart always.
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