The purpose of this Press Release is to extend a hand of compatriot comfort to all Biafrans and friends of Biafra everywhere in the world still in grief over the Nigerian army genocide in Asaba 50 years ago. Today, IPOB says to all Biafrans: ‘Ndonu’. And to each and every Biafran fallen in that tragic genocide, we say ‘rest well, your blood will not be in vain’. We are all joined by blood to stand for something, to stand against man’s inhumanity to man, to stand for freedom through Biafra.
Remembering Asaba would not be complete if we don’t go beyond Asaba and say more. So, we will use the opportunity of this very sad commemoration to remember all the other massacres of Biafrans that have occurred in the past and then persisted and heightened in this era.
You will recall that in 1966, soon after the world commemorated the 21st anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz and made the customary solemn declaration of ‘Never, Never Again’, Nigeria defiled that season of reflection, commiseration and hope. Its military officers (assisted by civilians) planned and executed the Biafran genocide – the foundational genocide of post-European conquest of Africa. This is also Africa’s most devastating genocide of the 20th century. A total of 3.1 million Biafrans (mostly of Igbo stock) were murdered between 29th May, 1966 and 12th January, 1970.
Most Biafrans were slaughtered in their homes, offices, businesses, schools, colleges, hospitals, markets, churches, farmlands, factories, industrial enterprises, children’s playground, town halls, refugee centres, cars, lorries, and at bus stations, railway stations, airports, etc. In the end, the Biafran genocide was enforced by Nigeria’s simultaneously pursued land, aerial and naval blockade and bombardment of Biafra, Africa’s highest population density region outside the Nile Delta. In other words, even in their own heartland where they had taken refuge, they were pursued and killed in cold blood. The excuse then, as it were, was that Nigeria was prosecuting a war of ‘reunification’. On the contrary, there is quantum evidence that the war was provoked in order to accomplish the genocide that had begun in earnest across Northern Nigeria. The difference this time was to take it to the Biafran homeland where the victims had fled and taken refuge.
The following excerpt from recently declassified US Embassy diplomatic dispatches of the era on the pogroms and the war is illustrative, and we Quote:
“The North was minded to use the war as a tool to reassert its dominance of national affairs. Mallam Kagu Damboa, Regional Editor of the Morning Post, told the American consul in Kaduna: “No one should kid himself that this is a fight between the East and the rest of Nigeria. It is a fight between the North and the Ibo”.
On the prelude to the Asaba Massacre, the US diplomatic dispatch continued thus:
“Ten trucks of Nigerien soldiers were seen being transported for service in the Nigerian Army from Gusau to Kaduna and over 2,000 more waiting on Niger-Nigeria border for transportation to Kaduna. 1,000 Chadian soldiers passed through Maiduguri en route Kaduna. These mercenary soldiers constituted the “Sweepers”. The captured American teachers aptly observed that there were soldiers regarded as fighting soldiers and there were other units that came behind to conduct mass exterminations. Major Alani, it was understood, was trying to get as many civilians as possible into the bush before the sweepers could arrive. There were too many civilians to be executed that Captain Paul Ogbebor and his men were asked to get rid of a group of several hundred Asaba citizens rounded up on 7 October. Not wanting to risk insubordination, he marched the contingent into the bush, told the people to run and had his men fire harmlessly into the ground. Eyewitness accounts confirmed that he performed the same life-saving deception in Ogwashi-Uku. However, other civilian contingents the sweepers rounded up were shot behind the Catholic Mission and their bodies thrown into the Niger River. This incident and many others were reported to Colonel Arthur Halligan, the US military attaché in Nigeria at that time.” Unquote.
Today, as we mourn Asaba, we salute and say ‘thank you’ to Major Alani and Captain Ogbebor. Out of that whole cesspool of killers, you two distinguished yourselves as the best exemplars of the human essence, best exemplars of the Nigeria that our forefathers imagined but which never came to pass.
Against above backdrop, we have noted the propaganda that the current Biafran struggle for self-determination is an ethnic backlash against President Buhari just because he is an Hausa-Fulani Muslim. We state unequivocally that this is false. How can this be true when the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Radio Biafra, and the phenomenon of Nnamdi Kanu, all pre-dated the election of Buhari in 2015. That the struggle seemed not very intense during the Jonathan administration was simply because Jonathan appeared sincere to have taken some bankable measures at protecting Biafran lives as well as addressing some of the injustices that were driving the neo-Biafra push-back as led by IPOB/Nnamdi Kanu. To be sure, it is the notorious Nigerian proclivity to kill Biafrans at will that constitutes the major motivation for the agitation to separate Biafra from Nigeria. So, that such killings virtually stopped during the Jonathan administration was what contributed most to the seeming but temporary lessening of the intensity of the agitation during that era. This is also true of the Yar’Adua era, even as short-lived as it was. Yet, Yar’Adua, like Buhari, was an Hausa/Fulani Muslim.
Therefore, it is fallacious to say that this epic Biafran struggle as led by Nnamdi Kanu is directed personally at the election of President Buhari. If at all, it’s only because Buhari has proven to be the first post-Civil War Nigerian President that has made genocide against Biafrans a state policy. The highest point now is Buhari’s new state policy of ordering soldiers to hunt down the leader of IPOB, Nnamdi Kanu, which culminated in the mid-September 2017 military invasions of Kanu’s homestead at Umuahia, where many civilian Biafrans were killed. As you are reading this, the manhunt is continues under the guise of the ‘Operation Python Dance’ Buhari foisted on the five States of the Southeast of Nigeria.
One common theme in all of these since time is that Biafran life is not sacred in Nigeria; almost nobody is ever brought to book for taking of innocent Biafran lives. Murderers of Biafrans operate with impunity and seemingly enjoy tacit support of the Nigerian government, especially of the present era. And to further justify such killings and more, Buhari has swiftly procured a highly questionable declaration of IPOB as a terrorist organization, thus putting millions of IPOB members at the risk of being shot at sight.
As all can see, it has now gotten to the point where the world can no longer afford to be silent. As the renowned English philosopher Edmund Burke said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing”. We live in a world plagued by real terrorism. That evil terror appears to have infiltrated the psyche of some officials in the Nigerian government and Biafrans are their primary targets. It is time for well-meaning Nigerians to speak out and for the international community to put a halt to it. This is especially urgent, as the present Nigerian government is clearly complicit in this terror. Buhari has even made deals with the Boko Haram and actually offered amnesty to its implicated members. He has proved dodgy and profoundly lenient while his kinsmen are threatening to forcibly expel Biafrans from Northern Nigeria. He saw nothing wrong in Fulani herdsmen killing Biafrans in their heartland, in their farms and their homes, yet he is obsessed with stigmatizing a universally nonviolent Biafrans as ‘terrorists’, thereby baying their blood as they could be shot at sight, even when unarmed.
As we remember Asaba, let us also remember the following massacres that have occurred recently in Northern Nigeria. They are: Kano 1980, Maiduguri 1982, Jimeta 1984, Gombe 1985, Zaria 1987, Kaduna & Kafanchan 1991, Bauchi & Katsina 1991, Kano 1991, Zangon-Kataf 1992, Funtua 1993, Kano 1994, Kaduna 2000, Kaduna 2001, Maiduguri 2001, Kaduna 2002, Beheading of Gideon Akaluka in December 1996 in Kano, Jos Christmas Eve 2010, Madalla Christmas day 2011, Mubi January 6 2012, Abia and Onitsha 2016, Afara-Ukwu, Umuahia September 2017; and still counting to what may as yet emanate from the ‘Python Dance’ that has dug-in and doing scotched-earth in Southeast. Against this backdrop, Genocide Watch has stated “that future genocidal massacres are likely, based on religious and ethnic identity. Nigeria is at stage 6 (Preparation) of Genocide Watch’s 8 stages of genocide.” Now, are we supposed to just be silent whilst the next slaughter looms?
No! We will NEVER keep silent. Instead, we will continue to agitate and seek solutions – fair solutions, permanent solutions – Biafra. Biafra means different things to different people. To much of the ruling elite, it means a plan to deny them free-will access to the vast hydrocarbon wealth of Eastern Nigeria. But to Biafrans, and as encapsulated by IPOB/Nnamdi Kanu, it simply means a right to self-determination, self-preservation; and ultimately a right to a referendum on Biafra either becoming an independent nation or not – on terms of a free plebiscite decided by the Biafrans themselves. Further, Biafra does not mean a war of attrition or hate-mongering against our compatriot Nigerians, nor will Biafra be forced on any Biafran that does not desire it.
At this juncture and despite provocations and lethal persecutions, let it be clear that IPOB still aligns itself with its famed nonviolent approach and rejects any government antics geared to drawing Biafrans to another war. If truth be told, societies progress when among competing ideas or options, they choose the most progressive of the lot. This is even more so when such societies have the benefit of hindsight which – in the case of Nigeria – lies in the Civl War and its aftermaths. To this end, IPOB, as led by Nnamdi Kanu has advisedly called for a peaceful solution that lies only in a referendum to FINALLY decide the Biafran question. We did so in all consciousness of the truism that an armed conflict will do nobody any good, not Nigeria, not Biafra.
Presently, hardly a week passes without one hearing calls for “True Federalism” or “Sovereign National Conference” or “Restructuring”. These hackneyed calls are even quite unrealistic in a country where twelve states have already adopted Sharia as State religion, which denies non-adherents of that religion certain freedoms guaranteed by the Nigerian Constitution. Come to think of it, was it not a true federal arrangement (or true federalism) that Nigeria had at independence that could not survive more than six years? That era has passed and its failure as an era of ‘true federalism’ speaks for itself. Yet, all hope is not lost. That hope lies in present-day Nigeria. All that is needed is a compatriot realism that will open minds and hearts to embrace new solutions, sustainable solution, just and fair solutions. These solutions lie in a ‘Referendum On Self-Determination’ for Biafrans. Any other solution short of this would be duplicitous, futile and unsustainable.
Directorate of State of the Indigenous People of Biafra (DOS)