Story IN BRIEF
On May 30,1996, Odumegwu Ojukwugare a memorable speech insisting that the spirit of the aggreement reached by the warring parties be obeyed.
Anybody who was present at the Aburi meeting or has read the minutes, the communiqués, statements, and verbatim reports would be surprised that a person who calls himself a head of state could so deliberately mislead accredited representatives of foreign governments by saying that the implementation of each item of the conclusions required prior detailed examination by the administrative and professional experts in the various fields.
The conclusions in Aburi were no proposals but decisions taken by the highest authority in the land.
What happened in fact was that specific matters, namely, the decrees and sections of decrees to be repealed, the mechanics of army reorganization, and the question of rehabilitation of refugees, were referred to experts. The meeting of the financial experts to consider the question of rehabilitation of displaced persons has not been held because the Ministry of Finance does not think that such that such a meeting would serve any useful purpose. The army experts met and reached agreements, but these were rejected.
Lieutenant-Colonel Yakubu Gowon told the Heads of Missions that the agreement about returning the regions to the positions before January 17 also meant in effect that the federal government in Lagos would continue to carry on its functions as before. He failed to inform the world that the decisions taken at Aburi, the federal government meant no more than the Supreme Military Council. No one of course who knows the sort of advice Lieutenant-Colonel Gowon is receiving in Lagos would be surprised by this suppression and distortion of the truth.
The actual Aburi decisions read as follows:
Members agree that the legislative and executive authority of the Federal Military Government should remain in the Supreme Military Council, to which any decision affecting the whole country shall be referred for determination provided that where it is possible for a meeting to be held the matter requiring determination must be referred to military governors for their comment and concurrence.
Specifically, the council agreed that appointments to senior ranks in the police, diplomatic, and consular services as well as appointment to superscale posts in the federal civil service and the equivalent posts in the statutory corporation must be approved by the Supreme Military Council.
The regional members felt that all the decrees passed since January 15, 1966, and which detracted from previous powers and positions of regional governments, should be repealed if mutual confidence is to be restored.
It is difficult to understand the introduction of the word “veto” into the matter. The Aburi Agreement was that any decision which affected the whole country must receive the concurrence of all the military governors because of their special responsibilities in their different area of authority and so to the country as a corporate whole.
On the reorganization of the army, it is for Lieutenant-Colonel Gowon to explain to the world what he means by the “army continuing to be under one command,” when in the very next sentence of his statement he also speaks of an agreement to establish area commands corresponding with the existing regional boundaries. This contradiction in itself tells the truth, and one does does not need to belabor the point.
The actual decision of the Supreme Military Council as recorded in the official minutes reads as follows:
The Council decides that:
(i) on reorganization of the army:
(a) Army to be governed by the Supreme Military Council under a chairman to be known Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces and Head of the Federal Military Government.
(b) Establishment of a military headquarters comprising equal representation from the regions and headed by a Chief of Staff.
(c) Creation of area commands corresponding to existing regions and under the charge of area commander.
(d) Matters of policy, including appointments and promotions to top executive posts in the armed forces and the police, to be dealt with by the Supreme Military Council.
(e) During the period of the military government, military governors will have control over area commands for internal security.
(f) Creation of a Lagos garrison, including Ikeja barracks.
It is clear from the Aburi decisions that what was envisaged was a loosely knit army administered by a representative military headquarters under the charge of a Chief of Staff and commanded by the Supreme Military Council, not by Lieutenant-Colonel Yakubu Gowon as he claimed in his present statement to the diplomats.
According to the Aburi Agreements “the following appointments must be approved by the Supreme Military Council; (a) diplomatic and consular posts; (b) senior posts in the armed forces and the police; (c) superscale federal civil service and federal corporation posts.”
Everyone with even the most superficial acquaintance with the Nigerian civil service knows what those expressions mean and connote.
To confuse issue, Lieutenant-Colonel Gowon gave the impression that the main difference between him and me on this particular decision was that I insisted on canceling the appointments of existing civil servants. I can think of nothing more slanderous.
It is clear from Gowon’s statement in question that he is prepared to distort the verbatim reports of the Aburi meeting. To keep the public informed, the Eastern Nigerian Broadcasting Service will be playing the tape records of the proceedings live at scheduled times…. Arrangement have been completed to transform those tape recordings to long-playing gramophone records … We are also going ahead to print and publish the documents and records of Aburi meeting. We in the East are anxious to see that our difficulties are resolved by peaceful means and that Nigeria is preserved as a unit, but it is doubtful, and the world must judge whether Lieutenant-Colonel Gowon’s attitudes and other exhibitions of his insincerity are something which can lead to a return of normalcy and confidence in the country.
I must warn all Easterners once again to remain vigilant. The East will never be intimidated, nor will she acquiesce to any form of dictation. It is not our intention to play the aggressor. Nonetheless, it is not our intention to be slaughtered in our beds, We are ready to defend our homeland.
Fellow countrymen and women, on Aburi We Stand. There will be no compromise. God grant peace in our time.
Being speech by Ojukwu restating commitment to Aburi Accord on May 30 1969