Dear fellow Biafrans,
I found the below article which have generated a fair amount of debate on the website of Thisday Newspaper and have copied most of it here to start the debate here in the forum.
The core of the article is:
(1) Will the YES carry the day in a Biafran referendum.
(2) If the No carries the day, what effect will it have on Nigerian unity.
Please read and join the debate.



Apparently the ghost of Biafra has not been laid to rest. I should know. I got so carried away about the late Benjamin Adekunle and Alabi Isama’s book on the Nigeria civil war; that I completely forgot myself and failed to dutifully reflect the most pertinent question of the war in my column last week titled Adekunle; Obasanjo and the Civil War – the justification and the meaning. I was given a rude awakening to this lapse by letters pointedly calling to question the propriety of celebrating distinguished combatants of the war as national heroes.

In all honesty, I cannot find fault with this sentiment and would even go further to suggest that on further reflection, proposing a minute silence in Adekunle’s memory at the National Assembly was in error. I think this syndrome of passive insensitivity has gone on for too long. I also see no basis for the comparison with Emeka Ojukwu. The symbolism of Ojukwu for Nigeria is far greater than that of Adekunle. The former was the embodiment of Biafra while the latter was no more than a relatively successful war commander — there is no equivalence between the two.

The logic of the proclamation of no victor no vanquished by General Yakubu Gowon transcends the act of magnanimity and represents the central truism of the war — it was not a war between good and evil, not a contest between right and wrong. The war, for instance, has no correlation to the America civil war fought to overcome a secessionist bid that was predicated on the categorical moral evil of slavery. This (the American precedent) was a just war and it is correct to celebrate its outcome as the victory of good over evil.

I do not subscribe to a similar characterisation and criminalisation of Biafra — to do so will amount to consecrating the motto of the victorious federal government as ‘might is right’-emptied of moral content. Nigeria has been living a lie and the sooner we begin calling a lie by its name the better for us all. A more careful reading and less received wisdom on the civil war raises the issue of the proper place of a historical personality like General JTU Aguiyi in the history of Nigeria. I think it was fairly certain he was not part of the January 1966 coup and that he was a victim of circumstances.

The irony here is that from all the accounts of the coup and counter coup of 1966, he died on account of a stubborn commitment to the unity and integration of Nigeria — the antithesis of secession. This was what Decree 34 was all about — the abolition of the regions and their rearrangement into group of provinces; and the posting of military governors to administer provinces other than their own.

Bereft of guilt conscience and in supreme demonstration of good faith, he practically entrusted his life to a Hausa-Fulani officer, Sani Bello, whom he appointed ADC. For that matter if Ironsi could be linked, no matter how tenuous the linkage, on account of ethnic consanguinity to the January 15th coup, why was it equally necessary to kill his host in Ibadan, Governor Adekunle Fajuyi?
The nationalist predilection of Ironsi is seldom highlighted and completely glossed over because it does not suit the narrative of fostering defensive mentality of aggrandising secessionist aggressors on the Igbo.

Far it be from me to seek to exonerate any guilty party (as the coup plotters of January 1966) of any culpability in the series of mishaps that exploded into the civil war but the idea of constructing a nationalist ideology on the criminalisation of Biafra is at the root of a hypocritical national behavioural pattern that robs Nigeria of authenticity and obstructs development-oriented identification and solidarity by citizens.

Presented with an unambiguous colour projection, Nigerians are apt to choose that moment to be colour-blind. Personally I am beginning to think that maybe it is not too late in the day to convene a truth and reconciliation commission (even if it is at the symbolic level) on the most significant aspect of post independent Nigeria’s history.

I find it most curious and disheartening that the late Chief Ojukwu failed to give us what would have been the most comprehensive account of Biafra. And the more worrisome in all this is that the omission was deliberate; there could be no any other explanation than that, for whatever reason, Ojukwu just did not want to do it. He was adequately equipped to write, write and write.

He had in abundance, what, in another context, Thurston Veblen called the leisure of the theory class. He had no financial constraints; he studied history at Oxford University and had all the time in the world to mentally exert himself in whatever direction and on whatever cause he chose. He served as military officer in both the Nigeria and Biafra armies; he was intellectually rigorous.

The sad conclusion here is that there is no inference we can make from this abstention that can be interpreted positively for Nigeria. At best, the attitude bespeaks of stoic indifference to the destiny of Nigeria and at worst an anticipation that the country is ultimately fated to doom and disintegration.

I don’t know whether there is in existence a ‘Reader’ on the Nigeria civil war, in the manner that we have a ‘Reader’ on Nigeria federalism (a publication comprising papers contributed by scholars and experts) neither am I aware that a colloquium convened on the specific subject of the Nigeria civil war has been called.

The reason the book (There Was A Country) by the intellectual giant and greatest Africa story teller, Chinua Achebe, provoked so much controversy, was that it seemed more like an afterthought; an incomplete and unnecessarily sensational work, rushed, perhaps in anticipation of death knocking at the door, to fill a vacuum left by the prima donna, Ojukwu. It is striking that the most celebrated effort yet at telling the Biafra story, with the empathy that nobody outside the Biafra mental space can muster, was undertaken by a lady born after the civil war.

My combustible friend (I won’t mention his name) called, in bated breath, the night before the referendum in Scotland, to sound me out on the likely reverberation on Nigeria — were the ayes to carry the day. My thinking was that it would have resonated a lot more were the National Conference delegates to be in session.

Asked a similar question afterwards — what the lessons were. I surmised there are two interrelated take-away (again I say this with the due apologies to Lagos State Governor Babatunde Fashola). One is that it is better to jaw-jaw than to war-war and it is ultimately profitable to subscribe to the principle of voluntary citizenship, because in reality, though it can be delayed but nobody can stop an idea whose time has come.

Why don’t we, for instance, call the bluff of those who say they want to leave Nigeria and call a referendum on the proposal? The presumption that the call for secession if subjected to popular vote will carry the day is mostly not true. If it is put to vote and it is defeated, as it is often the case, you would have achieved a better settled and more resilient society.

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Such positive outcome however is contingent upon the willingness to grant more local (regional) autonomy — understood as the moderate version and reconcilable response to agitations for separation. The pledge by Prime Minister David Cameron to support more devolution to the comprising four nationalities of United Kingdom, UK, was the deal that finally sealed the Yes vote.

From Commenter: Jon West. 

It appears every ThisDay Backpage columnist ,once in a while, has an epiphany moment, like Saul on the road to Damascus in the Bible. Akin Osuntokun is having his own epiphany today and just about time. After writing the insensitive and self-deprecating article on the unmourned Nigerian Nazi mass murderer, Benjamin Adekunle in this column, this redemption article is perhaps some sort of penance. I have always said that what Nigeria needs is the truth ,and nothing but the Truth about its very terrible history. This country was built and maintained on a tissue of blatant lies, from population,ethnicity , history and sociology. We lie to each other and believe same to be the truth. However, when the inevitable disastrous consequences of our lies confront us , we resort to hypocrisy and sophistry to explain them away.

What happened to the Igbo people and some of their Eastern minority allies in 1956, 1966-1970 to date is the reason why Nigeria is treading water as a nation: a lot of motion but no progress. A young Femi Fani-Kayode, while at private school in the UK was snubbed by his classmates and one pointedly told him that ” Nigeria is a toilet of a country, where evil bestrides the land”. The young man watched the starvation of Biafran children on television, and was filled with revulsion about the people who will let that happen to its citizens. However, in Nigeria non-Igbos cheered that evil and today are paying the price without knowing, having forgotten the evil history of this country, thanks to the banning of the teaching of history by the perpetrators of this crime, including Benjamin Adenkunle, who is currently in hell with Abacha, Hassan katsina , Ibrahim Taiwo, Murtala Mohammed, Muhammed Shuwa and Shehu Musa Yardua etc.

It is quite interesting that you have decided to finally confront the evil done to the memory of the great Nigerian patriot , the real General(not the “Generals” genuflexing before a major and begging for mercy ) Thomas Umunnakwe “Ironsides” Aguiyi-Ironsi by the 419 “heroes” of Nigerian history. Yakubu Giwon, who Ojukwu famously described in 1977, as “being capable of making a mess of the simple act of eating a boiled egg” is the biggest joker in Nigerian history. Having been used to try to destroy the meritocracy in the Nigerian Army and later to destroy the beneficiaries of this meritocracy, he is today going around the country like an aged minstrel, praying for forgiveness for his crimes and at the same time denying those crimes. The Go On With One Nigeria exponent, dares not go home to his native Plateau State today, because his former AREWA and “another Northerner” colleagues are now transfigured to Boko Haram and “Fulani Herdsmen”, and are wrecking havoc of a divine nature on his opportunistic peoples of the Middle Belt. God is indeed a Nigerian.

Ironsi’s place in genuine patriotic Nigerian history is safe and secure and will surely trump that of the Obasanjo’s, Adekumles, Gowon’s, Murtala Mohammed’s , Abachas, Babagindas and Buhari’s etc, like the former “rebel leader” Ojukwu is the first man of that generation of the Nigerian Army to have a real State funeral. What an irony?

Sanni Bello’s case is quite interesting. He was a Colonel in 1966/67 as Ironsi’s ADC, and retired in the 1980s, still a Colonel, after more than 20 years. His crime was that , as a Fulani ADC to the Nyamiri General, he actually fought the coup plotters who took his boss’s life, putting his own like on the line and getting wounded in the process. Do you know this aspect of Nigerian history Mr Osuntokun? Please compare Fajuyi’s death in solidarity with his guest Ironsi , with Obasanjo’s betrayal of Abiola. The Yorubas were not always opportunists as the later day “heroes” made them out to be. In Igboland today, the name of Fajuyi is revered as much as Ojukwu, Okpara, Zik, Ibiam and Achebe. That is why Igbos find it extremely difficult to hate Yorubas ,in spite of their treacherous activities in 1966-1970 till date.

For those who do not know Nigerian history, we had our own “Scottish Independence” referendum in 1967 in the Ghanain town of ABURI, where Nigerian leaders from all parts of the country, agreed to a confederal arrangement , as the way forward for the political future of the country. Almost immediately, the ABURI ACCORD was scuttled by the “wise men” of Nigeria after convincing the quisling Gowon, that it was better for him to be the “king” of One Nigeria, where they could exploit his naivity to feed off other peoples resources, than to have a confederal and sustainable political structure. Today the same people are asking for confederation and true Federalism and shamelessly laying claims to the invention of that quintessential Ojukwu and Eastern Nigerian idea, which they opportunistically scuttled in a previous incarnation.

Good Morning and welcome to the reality of Nigeria Mr Osuntokun and fellow travelers. Like Ojukwu told the late Ogoni opportunist, Ken Saro Wiwa, who ran with the hares and hunted with the hounds of Nigeria, just before his death at the hands of his former friend Sanni Abacha, “please join us in the crusade for a fair and sustainable Nigerian nation”. It is never too late to do the right thing. You can ask De Klerk in South Africa and Gorbachev in Russia. The truth shall set you free, but first it will make you angry.

Finally, yes, Achebe’s last work was a potentially divisive and perhaps unnecessary and ill-timed book, but the truth knows no political correctness. The book was obviously written in a hurry and badly edited, but he had to write it, knowing that Ojukwu, the consummate politician, would deliberately not write his Biafran memoirs, in order to protect his beloved peoples of Eastern Nigeria, from the potential backlash from a hypocritical Nigeria. Achebe knew that he was about to die and did not want to go out without telling the truth about the role of certain ethnicities and individuals in the Biafran genocide. The backlash was as expected and like Chimmanda Adichie stated at that time, “we all remember differently”. However, it is quite ironic, enlightening and spiritually uplifting , to see the havoc of Boko Haram and it’s intended and unintended consequences on the area of the country that has shed so much Eastern Nigerian blood for nothing. Their “hero” and perennial Presidential candidate Muhammadu Buhari, has owned up to a million of these deaths but was hypocritically careful not to state the ethnicities of the victims and their traducers. Fortunately The God , who is a Nigerian, is currently taking his divine vengeance on these killing machines, many of whom were also Christians in 1966-1970. Let the mayhem and death reign in that area as a lesson to the other” wise guys”. Nobody will escape divine judgement in this country. More is coming. Again Good Morning Mr Osuntokun. It’s Morning Yet on God’s Vengeance’s Day!!

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From Commenter Thompson Iyeye

Jon West’s cooking is good, but he serves his soup too hot. My apology, I am borrowing from Michael Kadiri’s expression; these were not his exact words, though.

It is no surprise there are hardly upvotes for this masterpiece. Some of us have to get accustomed with his style, else we miss the essence of his thoughts.

Great piece, told with brutal frankness.

From commenter: Adrian Kapoor:

This is shooting straight at the hip; a commentary written with an angry but frank tone; a masterpiece in erudition by all standards…a diligent chronology of some of the key but sometimes forgotten historical tidbits that dot our collective landscape as a people. I enjoyed every bit of what you wrote Mr Jon West…especially the urgency in your style and the tone which which you delved into our many failed attempts at nation building in the past. Thank you for this grave reminder of where we have come from and of what we need to do to get to where we want to be as a nation. It tells me that nation building is neither for neophites, cowboys or gamblers nor for thieving politicians, militicians and ethnic jingoists. It is a noble enterprise reserved only for those who dare to embody the totality of a peoples’ collective dreams. Thank you once again!

From Commenter: Mentalk

This is shooting straight at the hip; a commentary written with an angry but frank tone; a masterpiece in erudition by all standards…a diligent chronology of some of the key but sometimes forgotten historical tidbits that dot our collective landscape as a people. I enjoyed every bit of what you wrote Mr Jon West…especially the urgency in your style and the tone which which you delved into our many failed attempts at nation building in the past. Thank you for this grave reminder of where we have come from and of what we need to do to get to where we want to be as a nation. It tells me that nation building is neither for neophites, cowboys or gamblers nor for thieving politicians, militicians and ethnic jingoists. It is a noble enterprise reserved only for those who dare to embody the totality of a peoples’ collective dreams. Thank you once again!

From commenter: Jon West

Real men tell the truth without sugar- coating it. I am on the same page with Akin. He was gracious enough to realise his mistake in suggesting that any heroes came out of the Biafran genocide, like suggesting that there were heroes among the Nazis at Nuremberg. My dear man, read my post again, before you comment. I did not eulogise any ethnic group. There were victims of that tragedy that we always like to sweep under the table , and for which the country keeps going round and round in circles. I never advocated Biafra in my post, instead I harked back to Aburi and it’s current adoption by those who scuppered it in 1967, by a “wisdom” that has turned out to be self-serving opportunism. This opportunism is behind the formation of APC, because the leopard cannot change its spots. My friend, history is a great teacher, but in these parts , we refuse to learn anything, not even from the recent past. Enough said!!

From commenter Toby: 

The Almighty raises prophets in different forms, shapes, times and with specific messages. Only a God inspired can pen this master piece. It confirms my earlier suspicion. You are a blessed prophet.

From gamma energy:

Nigerians stand to benefit from staying together to reap the benefit of size and variety. There are not many countries in the world that have the size and variety in population and resources that Nigeria has. Ironsi was wrong to promulgate Decree 34. His sin was not as terrible as it was painted, however, because the regions still had their autonomy. The greater damage, and in fact, final blow, was the unnecessary splitting of the regions into states by Gowon, and the consequent removal of regional autonomy – and concentration of power at the center that was bereft of the required skills to manage a complex society like Nigeria. Decree 34 did not victimize any section of the country. On the other hand, state creation was intended to punish Igbos, and, in fact, left them no other option than to seek safety in their region. Given a choice between a regional Nigeria and Biafra, the Igbo option was the former. Biafra was necessitated because the former option was removed. Today’s events show the wisdom of rejecting the state structure.
Any attempt to move Nigeria forward again must start with regional autonomy of some sort. The absence of regional autonomy is a recipe for continued centrifugal tendencies like MASSOB, MEND, Boko Haram, and OPC.
Despite my preference for One Nigeria, I don’t share the writer’s optimism on the survival of the union if it was subjected to a referendum today. With so much power concentrated at the center and all the rob-Peter-to-pay-Paul policies in place, I can bet my two pennies that SE and SW will elect to opt out if no substantial autonomy was granted to the zones. It is unlikely that the SS will willingly continue to fund the Northern zones. It will eventually boil down to substantial devolution of power to the zones to keep the country intact; the very same home truth that Great Britain will now face. Spain, Belgium and Canada will have to cede more powers to their regions to continue to stay intact. Opponents of devolution of power in Nigeria are only postponing the final moment of truth. Sooner or later, the country will wake up from slumber and do the right thing by devolving power and move forward or risk eventual implosion.

From kevin Onyekanankeya:

This is why
I follow this guy’s column. He always
stands on the side of truth no matter whose ox is gored. His
contributions are not only scholarly but lucidly stimulating and invariably
couched in polished language, free of hate and bigotry. Unlike, the trash of
half-truths, propaganda, and jaundiced pontifications regurgitated by ethnic
jingoist and parochial spin-doctors and hirelings parading as columnists or
public affairs analysts. Akin, Femi Aribisala, Femi Adesina and Ocherome Nnanna
are breath of fresh air from the crap commentary taking precious space in our

From gamma energy:

His weekly essays enrich my Fridays and actually sustain my weekends. This is more so given the intellectual anemia we have in our print media today. Agree or disagree with his ideology, if you appreciate the Queen’s language, this Osuntokun dude will always entertain you. Bless him! As a fresh secondary school graduate, I used to look forward to the writings of Dele Giwa, Ray Ekpu, Duro Onabule, Yakubu Mohammed, Edwin Madunagu, and Chuka Momah among others of the 1980s. The present generation of columnists is woeful in comparison. It is, sadly, a reflection of the country’s state of education.

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