Biafra: Why we lost the war – Prof. Nwala …says separate nations can only be brought together as a state through the principle of self-determination
Biafra: Why we lost the war – Prof. Nwala
…says separate nations can only be brought together as a state through the principle of self-determination
April 16, 2019
By Chukwuemeka Chimerue
ENUGU— PRESIDENT of a prominent pan-Igbo group, Alaigbo Development Foundation (ADF), Prof. Uzodinma Nwala has stated that he felt disappointed with the current state of affairs in the Nigerian state, especially as it concerns the place of the Igbos in the present configuration, lamenting that unless the people came together to take their destiny in their hands, the future looked very bleak.
While appraising the position of the Igbo in the Nigeria entity and the reasons the Biafra nation fell in 1967, the former university lecturer cum activist revealed that contrary to his earlier perception, “Biafra lost the war, not because God wanted us to remain in Nigeria, but because we didn’t understand the dynamics of world politics.”
He further stressed that prior to the war, his intention was to join other well-meaning nationalists in building a Nigerian nation that would emerge as the pride of the black race and Africans in general but soon realized that there exist many irreconcilable differences between the myriads of nations/tribes that constituted the Nigerian state, adding that only through the principle of self-determination can separate nations come together to form a political union.
According to Prof. Nwala, “I’m disappointed because I’m truly and generally aware that things are not moving in the right direction, particularly as they concern our people Ndigbo. I was one of those who were brought up in an environment where we believed that Nigeria was a genuine nation state that was being built up to be the pride of the black man and the pride of Africans. In the hay days of pan-Africanism, Nigeria was being built as a nation that will bring together all the blacks. While we were studying in the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, the spirit and air of Nigerian nationalism was oozing all over the whole place. I was the Chairman of Awolowo Hall in Nsukka. You also had Bello Hall, Isa Kaita Hall. All those ones were named after genuine actors in the process of building a great African nation and we were great Zikists, great nationalists until something happened; there was a coup of 1966. But before that coup, we witnessed the census crisis, we witnessed the election crisis, with NCNC boycotting the elections and later rejoining. We witnessed the Midwest crisis and all the killings and so on, we witnessed all the wars of attrition, killing of the Igbo. Some of us went to Enugu and saw headless bodies and bodies of pregnant women and we started asking ourselves whether we were really building a nation of the dream of Zik and others. While we were reading Zik, we were also reading Kwame Nkrumah, Nasa, Jomo Kenyata, and others. We were great pan-Africanists who believed that we should build a great nation that will supplant the colonialist traps.
“But from that civil war, we saw all the horrors and it dawned on us that something was wrong; there were differences, not only in tongue and culture but in totality of what you call nations. We remembered what Aminu Kano was fighting in the North. Aminu Kano was not a mad man, but he woke up to fight for the interests of what he called Talakawas, meaning the Hausas, who were already being usurped by the Fulani hegemony. We also knew about Tarka trying to fight for the liberation of the Tiv nation. Boro was with us at Nsukka. But during the crisis, he went back to his place and realised that what was more fundamental was not Eastern Nigeria or Nigeria, but the interest of the Ogoni people and the Ijaw nation. So, it was there that we started realising that something was wrong. We took part in the war that was fought for the Igbo to come back home and rebuild ourselves since they didn’t want us to be here. But the war was unleashed on the Igbo with conspiracy by the international community. I was one of those that said okay, we’ve lost the war and I read religious meaning into it, but I found out that it was a wrong religious meaning. I said to myself that we lost the war maybe because God wanted us to remain in Nigeria and I took part in trying to see whether we can build a new nation.
“We thought that the defeat of Biafra was God telling us no, you don’t need Biafra; you need Nigeria. But that was a wrong meaning to what happened. We lost the war, not because God wanted us to go back to Nigeria. We lost the war for obvious reasons, which I found when I went to New York in 1973 for my post-graduate work. I spent days and time at the United Nations and I was searching for an answer to the question, why Biafra fell. At the end of those days of working in the United Nations and other places, I found an answer. It was not because God hated us or because he wanted us to go back to Nigeria. It was because politically, we did not understand the dynamics of world politics at the time. Ojukwu didn’t understand. A bit of the lesson on the dynamics of world politics was being imparted to him by Zik, but Ojukwu didn’t understand. He was a young man, very committed to Biafra, an Igbo patriot, but he had limited knowledge. When you move out of Biafra and then into other nations that had the same problem at the same time, first of all during the war, the Soviet Union sought to help us, I don’t know if you heard the story. They offered to help Biafra because most of the socialist leaders in Nigeria, most of the Marxist leaders in Nigeria were Igbo, the likes of O. C. Ememe, Ikenna, were great socialists. They were close to the Soviet Union and the Soviet Union wanted to come and help us. But Ojukwu said no. Nwajekwu said no because they felt doing that would mean we would now become communists and we would socialize property. That’s why they rejected the Soviet offer for help. What did the Soviet Union do? They can’t force themselves on Biafra. They didn’t want to be isolated from that momentous developing world history of events in Nigeria at the time. Therefore, they had to fall back to the United Nations principle of respect for the territorial integrity of nations. That was why they now went and supported Nigeria since we rejected their help. But compare us with other nations, people that were fighting the same battle of liberation at the time. Take Mozambique, take Namibia, take South Africa and take Cuba. All those countries, because they knew they were fighting against forces within what we call the world capitalist system, they had to seek help from the socialist world and they succeeded. The most spectacular was Cuba. Fidel Castro was not a socialist when he attempted to dethrone Batista. In 1956 he failed; 1959 he succeeded. When they took over Cuba, he was not a socialist. It’s when the American forces now came to flush them out and they knew they were in a battle to save the soul of their nation, therefore, they must seek help from where they can sustain their battle. They had to go to the Soviet Union to get help and the Soviet Union guaranteed the success of Cuba. The lesson Ojukwu failed to understand is that at that time in the world, the world was split into two. I’m sure you heard of what was cold war, East and West. You are either here or you are there. You can’t be here and there. But Ojukwu wanted to be here and there. If you remember the popular slogan at the time, they would say Biafra for the free world is a task that must be done. Who are the free world? It’s the capitalist countries, Britain, France and so on and these are the countries that didn’t want Nigeria to be divided because Nigeria was their marketplace and we are seeking help from them to destroy their market place. That is the height of contradiction. That is the levity of Ojukwu at the time.
“The key problem of the Igbo is the same old problem. Ndigbo is a nation, a people with one language, one culture, like France in Europe, like Germany in Europe, like Spain in Europe, like Portugal in Europe, like the English in Europe. Don’t mind the hot porgy called Britain. Britain is a collection of nations, English, Welsh, Scotland, and Northern Ireland and you know they have been struggling to be on their own. In the world arena of soccer, each of them has its own team, not the English team. That shows you they are nations of their own. They are only trying gradually to see how they can free themselves and become autonomous nations. Some time ago, Europe was being ruled by empires that connected many of these nations together, but those empires have crumbled and they have come to be nations of their own. If you read Obafemi Awolowo, you will get the point that Nigeria is an artificial creation. It’s the bringing together of separate nations against their will. The old concept of tribe is ancient European ideological concept. There is nothing like tribe. What you have are nations – the Igbo nation, Yoruba nation, Benin nation, Tiv nation, Ijaw, Efik, Fulani, Hausa. All these are nations of their own that were brought together against their will. That is the problem you and I have today until we realize that separate nations can only be brought together in a political nation-state through the principle of self-determination.
“It’s about renegotiation of how separate nations can live together. Restructuring is a very vague, misleading and treacherous concept. When you talk of restructuring, you are begging a superpower, the Federal Government to please reorganize the whole thing. Give us more power. That’s what you mean by restructuring. But that’s not the issue now. The issue now is sitting down and renegotiating how we go forward. We tried to do it in the 2014 National Conference. That Conference went very far, but not as far as it should. When the Fulani saw that that conference was going to lead to the liberation of the separate nations, they stepped forward and said no war. They put their feet down and canceled that conference.
“When you talk of Biafra, they mean a nation-state comprising Ndigbo, the Efik, the Ijaw. That’s what they call Biafra. But that Biafra can only come when the forces controlling Efik come forward and say we want to be part of it, the forces controlling Ijaw say we want to be part of it. When everybody say they want to be part of it, we sit down and work out the modalities for running that multi-nation state. That’s what Biafra is. We can’t assume that all of them are part of it. We will only be working towards a point where all of them will come and say we are part of this nation. Unless they say so, you can’t rope them into a nation-state they have not decided to be part of.
“The way to favour everybody is the way to make Ndigbo fully in control of their affairs. Let me give you some little practical examples, which some of you ignore. Let’s take elections, which is one of the instruments they use in enslaving you and me. I don’t know if you know one election in America involving El-Gore and George Bush. What held it back was the Florida election if you remember. Where was the final decision? The Court of Florida and not of America. So, a situation where the Hausa-Fulani controlled judiciary decides who becomes your governor is anomalous. So, when you are talking of renegotiation, that’s part of the things you have to renegotiate and say we are an autonomous region, we want to control our judiciary. Let us even take education; in America, which is a super federation, there is nothing like one institution of the American state controlling all the universities in America. There is nothing like one institution in America controlling admission into universities in America. If you want to go to an American university, if you are a graduate, you take what is called GRE. If you are an undergraduate, you take what is called TOEFL. If you pass TOEFL, you take your result to any university you are seeking for admission and they admit you. You are a graduate who wants to go to America to do graduate programme, once you pass the examination, you take your result to Harvard, New York, anywhere and they give you admission. That examination does not decide where you go. They don’t give any quota limits.”
When asked of his opinion concerning the visible divide of some prominent Igbo leaders clamouring for restructuring while some are yearning for the Igbo to emerge as Nigeria’s present, the Igbo leader said, “many of you talk about restructuring without understanding what it is. I’m giving you the nitty-gritty of it. It is not something the Federal Government can give you. It’s something that the nations of Nigeria will come together to sit down and say let us rebuild this through a political conference. That political conference will decide a political arrangement for the nation and all legislative body will affirm it. You don’t have the right to alter it. There was a time this battle was very strong in those days when they were talking about national conference. That is the issue today.
“Who are the Igbo leaders talking about president? An Igbo President under the present condition will keep us where we are. Igbo President that will be produced by the present INEC without reorganizing it as a new institution will be meaningless. Can Orji Kalu become President without the Hausa-Fulanis endorsing him? As things are now, who pulls the political strings in the North? It’s the Fulanis. Do you know that in the North, most of the governors are Fulani governors? Most of the Senators are Fulani Senators. Most of the House of Reps members are mostly Fulani. The Fulani through a historical process is in charge of the North. INEC, by its very nature, is not capable of giving you and I the kind of democratic election, the kind of free and fair election that you and I need in a federal union. It’s controlled by outside forces.
“You and I have a duty to our people. If we really mean business, we have to tell ourselves our problems. We mean well for our people. Most of the chaps elected into positions, some of them are well-meaning, but they don’t understand the dynamics of the power struggle in Nigeria and this is where you and I can come in to educate them, to direct them. That’s the duty you and I owe them. It is not a question of Orji Uzor Kalu wanting to be Deputy Senate President. Can he be and who will anoint him under the present circumstances? If he becomes, he will owe his allegiance to them to be able to sustain his position. That is the reality of it. We want a situation whereby an Orji Uzo Kalu, a very vibrant young man will get in there as an Igbo man and not waiting to be anointed, knowing full well that if he becomes a hero, he can only be a meaningful hero of an Igbo son, not a Fulani son or surrogate. At the end of the day, he knows what bothers the people, all these killings, all these overtaking of our territories, he will stand firm as an Igbo and say no, we can’t have it. He should defend our fatherland.
“Without proper negotiation on our terms and conditions of co-existence, the only future the Igbo have is as slaves. They have no future of freedom. If things remain as they are, you cannot produce your governor, you cannot produce your legislator and be sure it’s your legislator. I’ve told you the example of America. There shouldn’t be any super electoral body for the whole country. They will knock him out through INEC and through the judiciary which they now control. The highpoint of it was the removal of Onnoghen, because they were afraid Onnoghen will upset the applecart.”