On the evening of Saturday 22nd August 2015, the Punch Newspaper Online carried the news that Radio Biafra was back on air. It was announced that the station is transmitting on 104.7FM band, in south-east Nigeria. Punch described the station as a ‘pirate channel’ and they wondered how it could be transmitting after the Federal government claimed to have jammed its signal.
What may be more worrying to the federal mandarins, the media, and the general public, outside the Igboland, is how the rogue station can have such traction and attraction in a supposedly modern Nigeria. There is a reason or rather reasons why Radio Biafra, and more fundamentally, Biafra will not go away. To understand why, we have to go back.
PRE-INDEPENDENCE: In the pre-independent Nigeria, the colonialist created 3 regions that were anchored by the majority ethnic groups of these regions (Yoruba-western region, Hausa-Fulani – northern region, and Igbo – eastern region)
1951: In the first election for ‘limited self – government’ in 1951, it was only in the eastern region, the Igbo heartland, that a minority became head of government. It was Mr Eyo Ita, an Ibibio who became the first head of government in Eastern region. This was in a region where Igbos are the overwhelming majority.
For perspective, in the west, the NCNC and its allied parties (eg, the Ibadan peoples party, Ondo improvement league, Otu Edo, etc) won a total of 51 seats, while the Action group won 29 seats. But on the floor of the parliament where the government would be formed, several members of the allied parties cross-carpeted to AG, raising the AG majority to 45 and NCNC led by Azikiwe was forced into opposition. This may have happened out of fear that the majority Yoruba would not lead the government in western region, if NCNC formed the government.
In the north, it was the Fulani prince – Ahmadu Bello, who took the reins with implicit backing of Sir Sharwood Smith. So from the onset, unlike the twisted opinions of being paraded, Ndi Igbo were their brother’s keeper and had a liberalised attitude to governance based on merit rather than ethnicity.
To further buttress this fact, in 1952, a Fulani man, Mallam Umaru Altine was elected mayor in Enugu, the capital of Eastern region, the Igbo heartland.
He was the first mayor of Enugu, and he held this position till 1958. Imagine an Igbo man being mayor of Kaduna in 2015, talk less of 1952. Ndi igbo believed in the Nigerian project more than any other group, before the advent of industrial-scale killing of Igbos.
1954: A hardly discussed part of Nigerian history is the 1954 election outcome. The NCNC won the majority in Western and Eastern regions, which implies they won the south. By the constitutional provisions of the election, the NCNC was to nominate 6 out of the 9 federal ministers. (Each region was to provide 3 federal ministers, from the winning party).This led the NPC, AG, and the British Colonial government to plot and collude, with a view to prevent the NCNC and NEPU alliance from forming the government at the Center.
According to Yusuf Bala Usman, the acclaimed northern Nigeria historian, a secret correspondence to the Colonial Office No. 26, dated 28th November 1954, outlined the plans and measures used to force NCNC to ‘surrender’ its rightful claim to leading the government, and facilitated the emergence of Abubakar Tafawa Belewa as the Prime Minister.
Equally swept under the proverbial carpet, is the fact that in the 1959 election, which ushered in the independent government, the NCNC won the majority of the votes cast! NCNC got 2,592,629 votes while the NPC got 2,027,194 and AG received 1,980,839 votes. The system had already been rigged by the British Colonialists, with fervent spurring by Sir Sharwood Smith, the Governor of Northern region. The system was designed to give NPC the most seats, to prevent the progressive and ‘radical’ eastern region from gaining power at the Center.
These are some of the well concealed facts of pre-independence politics.
1ST COUP: Nigeria had her first military coup on January 15, 1966. It was led by five Majors, of whom the most popular is Major Nzeogwu. The coup has been maliciously labelled the “Igbo coup”. This was because most of the leaders of that coup came from Eastern region. However, of the 5 Majors, one was Yoruba, and one from Mid-west. In other words, almost half of the coup leaders did not come from Igbo heartland.
The fact that the coup was foiled mainly by Igbo officers is also largely and intentionally obscured. In Lagos, Lt Col. Unegbu, who was then the quarter master general of the Nigerian army and in charge of the ammunition store at Ikeja barracks, was shot dead. His crime was refusing to hand over or provide access to the ammunition.
This singular heroic act fundamentally wrecked the coup plan in Lagos, as the plotters could not muster the hardware to complete the take-over in Lagos. Yet it was an ‘Igbo coup’.
Obasanjo, in his book ‘Nzeogwu’, wrote that one Lieutenant Ude was sent to kill Ojukwu in Kano, for not supporting the coup. But his plan was thwarted. Indeed, it was Ojukwu’s refusal to join the coup and his securing of Kano using the 5th battalion that scuttled the coup in Northern region. Yet it is an ‘Igbo coup’.
Another little discussed perspective on the first and second (revenge) coups is the casualty figures. The total casualty of the first coup or ‘Igbo coup’, was 15 people. But in the revenge coup organised by the Northern officers, a total of 214 persons were killed! In other words, it was a cold-blooded retributive massacre.
It is also often mentioned that the January 1966 coup succeeded in Kaduna completely, partially in Lagos and failed completely in Enugu, because it was an ‘igbo coup’. But nobody remembers that it also failed completely in Kano and Benin despite plans to strike in these cosmopolitan cities.
The other important fact that the northern and military establishment concealed was the intention of the Jan ’66 coup plotters. It was their intention to release Chief Obafemi Awolowo from prison and install him as prime minister. So much for the igbo coup theorem. This intention has been revealed by several high profile stake holders in the Nigeria project, intentionally or unintentionally.
Odia Ofeimun, Awolowo’s private secretary of several years and acclaimed poet, wrote on the 21 oct 2012 in a Sahara Reporters article that the Jan ’66 coup plotters planned to hand over political power to Awolowo.
This was according to the IFEAJUNA MANUSCRIPT which the fed govt have contrived to keep secret. Likewise a former Federal Commisioner for Youths and Sports under Gowon, Maj. Gen Olufemi Olutoye stated same in his biography of Awolowo.
It is obvious that ndi igbo were intentionally maligned, using the first coup as a faux reason. Mr F. Fani-Kayode pushed this calumnious misinformation to a hysterical decibel in recent memory. Unfortunately, Ndi igbo remembers. And these serial and horrific injustices make Biafra a romantic nirvana to the typical igbo person, wherever she may be.
Culled from the Internet
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