Igbo Coup, Biafra: Damola Awoyokun, Too Small To Be A Hercules(2)

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BY MAZI CHIKE CHIDOLUE
The last lines of part 1 of this article:

…You had to foist authorship of that highlife record, on Igbos to further criminalise and calumnise them. At that time, once a highlife record was released, whether by Bobby Benson, E.C.Arinze, Stephen Amechi. Victor Olaiya, Eddy Okonta, Chief Bill Friday, Roy Chicago, Victor Uwaifo, Agu Norris, Baby Face Paul, Ambrose Campbell and His West African Rhythm Brothers, Stephen Osadebe or any others, those of us in the know, would immediately and correctly name the author. May be, you were not in circulation then.

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To further put the Igbos in bad light,  you said “He (Achebe) claimed that they (the Igbos) were the dominant tribe, led the nation in virtually every sector – politics, education, commerce and the arts”. You agonizingly noted in your pathetic myopia “which included having two vice – chancellors in Yoruba land…”Your list is not exhaustive . At that time, Engr. Francis C.N.Agbasi was the first Nigerian Principal of Yaba College of Technology and Mr. Clement Odunukwe was the Senior Lecturer –in –charge (Principal) of Federal Emergency Science School, Onikan, Lagos. Also, Mr. F.C. Nwokedi, was the first Nigerian Federal Permanent Secretary to be appointed by the colonial masters. When Mr. P. G. Stallard was retiring, Mr. Nwokedi ought to have succeeded him as the first Nigerian Secretary to the Council of Ministers. But because he came from the ‘wrong’ tribe, he was skipped and Mr. S. O. Wey was given the post while Mr. Nwokedi became the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Modesty will not restrain me from expressing my joy, be it of local patriotism because, the last three gentlemen mentioned above, hailed from my home town, Nnewi, and Mr. Nwokedi was from my village, Edoji.
Since these institutions are in Yorubaland, you created the impression that the Yoruba benevolently allowed the Igbos to occupy those posts. You deliberately ignored the fact that they are Federal Government institutions and appointment into those positions followed very rigorous due process. I had described in a previous article how Professor Kenneth O. Dike was unanimously elected the Principal of the University College Ibadan, by the University College Council. It bears repeating for your benefit. The Chairman of the Council, Dr. Akanu Ibiam, went to London, and consulted Sir Charles Morris, Chairman of the Inter ‐ University College Council that found Principals and Vice Chancellors for colonial Universities. Sir. Morris said to Dr. Ibiam, ”Why do you come to us? You have your man there (Prof Kenneth Dike).You are lucky to have a ready – made man on the spot.”

In my second session as an undergraduate at Ibadan University in 1965/66, a Yoruba undergraduate wrote an article in which he said “If this university was situated east of the Niger, one would understand; but to hear people ‘keduing’ about all over the campus in a university founded in Yoruba land is unacceptable.” Kedu is the Igbo word for how do you do.

In that same year, some of us students were hanging around the Faculty of Science premises where Faculty Lecturers were reviewing the sessional results of students. We asked Dr. V.O. Olunloyo, Senior Lecturer in Mathematics who was the first lecturer to come out of the meeting, about the result of Mr ONWUCHEKWA, a final year Mathematics student. He said, second class upper.

We expressed our dismay, for we had expected Onwuchekwa to make a first class in the light of his brilliant records. Dr.Olunloyo remarked, “ You don’t expect Onwuchekwa to make a first class considering the high standard set by Kenku last year.” I am not aware that the record set by Prof Iya Abubakar in Mathematics has been equaled or broken ,yet Kenku made his first class without equaling Abubakar’s record. Instead of saying that Onwuchekwa did not meet the first class bar, he resorted to ethnic politics by comparing Onwuchekwa’s ( an Igbo) result with Kenku’s(a Yoruba) result .

In 1998, Emeritus Professor Chike Obi solved the over 300 years old Mathematics puzzle – FERMAT’S LAST THEOREM, established in 1637 by a French Lawyer/Mathematician, Pierre Fermat. Chike Obi’s paper was accepted for publication and appeared in the USA – based Journal of Algebras, Groups and Geometries, Vol. 15 pp 289 – 299 (1998). Despite the fact that Chike Obi’s paper was published by a renowned and distinguished American Journal, Dr. Olunloyo and one Ogunsola, an actuary, openly disputed without any basis, the validity of Chike Obi’s proof.

To add to these polemics by some Yorubas, Damola Awoyokun accused the Igbos of boastfulness and excessive exhibitionalism, of their strenuous achievements, when it is known that potentials, abilities, competences and the like, are either God – given or acquired. The Igbos have not been known to be boastful for such attributes coming their way.

Achebe simply traced the Igbos’ ‘LONG WALK’ to acquire them, which made Damola furiously uncomfortable.Your mindless determination to tarnish the image of the colossus, Achebe has failed. The following is the view of a Yoruba man, Duro Onabule, on Achebe. “Whatever the bad feelings of his critics, Achebe’s reputation, unlike his contemporaries, is that of a straightforward man. He has never been known to be cowardly, neither does he cringe before nor collaborate with local or international establishment. Achebe’s character is definite as he does not charade in the day only to be settled at night…….

Even if Awolowo was not in the position to effect his belief in starvation as a weapon of war, the fact remains that he (Awolowo) publicly took that position and was widely reported in the media in Nigeria and abroad….Is Chinua Achebe fair to Awolowo in his criticisms? The appropriate preceding question is: was Awolowo fair to himself when he publicly upheld starvation as a legitimate weapon of war, more so during a civil war in which the outside world was disgusted with television visuals of thousands of starving malnourished innocent children? Achebe’s critics on his latest book, especially Yoruba, should objectively read “AWO”, Obafemi Awolowo’s autobiography, in which throughout , there is not a single sentence complimentary to Nnamdi Azikiwe, portrayed as an ethnic jingoist….Yet, Awolowo’s criticism of Azikiwe were never mischievously interpreted as hatred for Igbos. Nobody of Achebe’s status and with terrible experiences of the civil war could be expected to write his recollections without justifiable criticism of starvation as a weapon throughout the war. His critics just have to be realistic rather than being emotional.”

biafra-awo

Damola Awoyokun and Odia Ofeimun would want Achebe’s THERE WAS A COUNTRY: A PERSONAL HISTORY OF BIAFRA not only banned but all existing copies of the book burnt. Damola said ”Instead of writing the book as a writer who is Igbo, Achebe wrote the book as an Igbo writer ( I do not see any difference here except that an Igbo writer is one who writes in Igbo language.) …All the places that
should alarm the moral consciousness of any writer, Achebe is either indifferent or dismisses them outright because the victims are not his people. But in every encounter that shows the Igbo being killed or resented by Nigerians, or by the Yoruba in particular, Achebe intensifies the spotlight, deploying stratospheric rhetoric…Furthermore, not only does he take pride in ignoring the findings of common sense, he allocates primetime attention to fact – free rants just because they say his people are the most superior tribe in Nigeria. The book, to say the least, is a masterpiece of propaganda and sycophancy. It is not a writer’s business to be an accomplice to lies.”

Damola is guilty of the same charge for where Biafra or Igbos are the victims, he ignored it totally, as in this case where the American secret files say that “Mohammed the Second Division Commander was reported to have criticized Obasanjo thus: “We told you not to end the war the way you did so as to sort things out, you went on gaddamgaddam and finished it.” Damola ignored the fact that what Murtala Mohammed meant was that Obasanjo did not give him time to apply the FINAL SOLUTION TO THE IGBO PROBLEM! That is, to give him time to wipe out the Igbos from the surface of the earth. Next, I do not think that Damola Awoyokun has the competence, experience or stature to grade Achebe’s literary work.

Odia Ofeimun said” I believe he (Achebe)got it very wrong in that book and therefore, since I believe that we must allow generations coming after us to live by the spacious and opportunistic views that our fathers had, we must contest all the lies, we must ensure that their wrong views of the way the world works get corrected…… Achebe says that Igbo people are individualistic and that was what
helped them to acquire western education, catch up with the Yoruba and then took over all the jobs.

It is a very wrong description of what actually happened. What happened is that before independence, the NPC and the NCNC reached an agreement to run Nigeria together. Nnamdi Azikiwe refused to form a coalition with the AG because the Yoruba were educated and would be competing with the Igbo people for the jobs. Therefore they wanted a coalition.( with the NPC) Because that coalition was a very conservative one, they wanted to go with the Hausa-Fulani, who did not have enough people to take over the jobs that the Europeans were exiting from nor did they have any to deal with the new jobs that would be created by independence. So, the Yoruba leader was jailed and the Yoruba who could have looked for jobs were shunted aside. So, the NCNC, though they have a strong following in the Western Region, arranged for the jobs to be taken over by their primary constitutuencies. That was it.

The above statement constrains me to define a lie and an incorrect statement. One tells a lie when one knows the truth but proceeds deliberately to tell the opposite. An incorrect statement is one that is generally limited by inappropriate or incomplete knowledge. It is not a deliberate act. Ofeimun has deliberately told a bundle of lies. What Achebe said was “ The Igbo culture being receptive to change, individualistic and highly competitive, gave the Igbo man an unquestioned advantage over his compatriots in securing credentials for advancement in Nigerian colonial society. Unlike the Hausa/Fulani he was unhindered by a wary religion and unlike the Yoruba unhampered by traditional hierarchies. This kind of creature, fearing no God or man, was custom – made to grasp the opportunities; such as they were, of the white man’s dispensation. And the Igbo did so with both hands.

Although the Yoruba had a huge historical and geographical head-start, the Igbo wiped out their handicap in one fantastic burst of energy in the twenty years between 1930 and 1950…. The rise of the Igbo in Nigerian affairs was due to the self-confidence engendered by their open society and their belief that one man is as good as another, that no condition is permanent. It was not due, as non-Igbo
observers imagined, to tribal mutual aid societies. The “Town Union” phenomenon, which has often been written about, was in reality an extension of the Igbo individualistic ethic.” Achebe never said that” the Igbo took over all the jobs.”

Zik decided never to ally with Awolowo after the carpet-crossing incident of 1951 in the Western House of Assembly at Ibadan, which prevented the NCNC from forming the government in spite of the fact that the NCNC was declared the winner of that election or as Achebe would put it “Chief Awolowo ‘stole ‘ the Government from him (ZIK) in broad daylight.” Job opportunity or who would take over from the departing British was never part of the issue at all. During the colonial era and immediately after, the Igbo relied on merit and competence for advancement and securing appointments in the public service .

It is worth mentioning here again, that the first Nigerian to be appointed a Federal Permanent Secretary by the British was Mr. F.C. Nwokedi an Igboman! This achievement of Mr. Nwokedi had nothing to do with the NCNC – NPC COALITION. With such men as Chiefs T.O.S. Benson, Adeniran Ogunsanya, Kolawole Balogun, Adegoke Adelabu and many others of timbre and caliber it was impossible that “the Yoruba who could have looked for jobs were shunted aside.”, because their leader was jailed! By the way, it was a Yoruba judge, Justice Sowemimo who sent Awolowo to jail. It is very surprising that Ofeimun left the stark naked facts and decided to dish out outlandish fiction and lies to the public ;just to ridicule and defame Achebe.On the Twenty Pounds Policy, Damola, you deliberately avoided the main issue .We are saying that all the bank accounts opened in Nigeria by Igbos, but operated in Biafra, were reduced to TWENTY POUNDS no matter the size of the account! We are not complaining about the exchange value of the Biafran currency. As the victor, Nigeria was free to pay twenty pounds or nothing for the Biafran money in spite of the NO VICTOR NO VANQUISHED bogey. Your reference to Zik’s statements condemning Ojukwu, Igbos and Biafra is in bad taste and very poor logic. Zik, having abandoned Biafra and the Igbos in particular, in their darkest hour, had to make himself amenable for pardon by Nigeria! Therefore Zik’s statement on Biafra, were not objective, credible or valid because of the above handicap.

Since the anti-intellectual opium that has made most non-Igbo Nigerians to hold Igbos responsible for the first coup, is still prevalent, I need to bring in Ademoyega again where as part of the FIVE MAJORS’ prescriptions for clearing the Nigerian Augean stable, said, “Tax and trade laws would be such that it would be unnecessary for any individual to accumulate unspent money in local and foreign banks, while millions of Nigerians have little or nothing to survive on. It should be impracticable for a single man to spend two million naira to build himself a personal house, while a very large number of Nigerians in the same community dwell in hovels, and sleep in gutters and under bridges.

The Government would not cater for the interest of a few people, while denying the majority of Nigerians
their rights and privileges as happened with the Obasanjo Government. That Government helped a few Nigerians to make easy millions of naira through oil distributorship, while denying the majority of Nigerians their rights to obtain loans to buy motor cars, on the selfish declaration that “it is not the intention of Government that every Tom, Dick and Harry should own a car”. Such a comment constituted
a most diabolical comment on the good intentions of the January 15 revolutionaries, who removed the evil politicians with the purpose of instituting a corrective and revolutionary military era.

“Educationally, we had agreed that there was only one answer to the mass illiteracy that troubled Nigeria in 1965, namely, mass education – both formal and informal……..Moreover, the people, especially in the North, had been exploited for a long time and had become inured to suffering, blaming their man – inflicted wounds on the will of Allah, whereas Allah was totally opposed to such human wickedness…”

Ademoyega went on to say, “Today, if one were to ask “when did the preparation for the revolution really begin?” the most accurate answer would be, “from 1961”, because the three of us who formed the nucleus of the revolutionary group had met in that year. Although we had not there and then planned a revolution, we had seen eye to eye and we knew that we had a common cause. It was as if he seed was sown at that time and only needed time to germinate, grow and bear fruit” Damola, was it the Igbos that synthesized this climate of patriotic spontaneous disposition to rescue Nigeria from further decay? Ademoyega continued, “But these meetings were between Ifeajuna and me on the one hand and between Nzeogwu and me on the other….Moreover, active efforts were made to get in touch with more officers of the Army so as to ascertain their inclinations and loyalty. These contacts were made most quietly and surreptitiously. A coup d’etat is not a conventional operation of the Army. Preparations for it could not at any time be done in the open or in plain language. Therefore when we discussed with officers, unless an officer showed serious interest, we always sounded casual and the matter was always left unspecified and inconclusive.”

The other aspect of the coup which could not have been handled by Ndigbo is illustrated here by Ademoyega. “The Battle Group Course went on without a hitch in Abeokuta until the first week of December 1965. There were twenty student officers on the Course, all Captains. I indoctrinated and orientated them towards the revolutionary thought – concept. I also held personal interviews with all of them. I took the whole group on an official reconnaissance of all the strategic locations in Lagos and I taught them how important positions could be held or defended in time of war or other military actions.

This was acknowledged as a very successful exercise and student officers were particularly happy that they were being introduced to the practical aspect of their defensive duties. If the coup took place before the course ended, many of the officers would have carried out any duties allotted to them without looking back, and our Lagos operation would have been as successful as the Kaduna operation came to be.”Damola, perhaps, this military exercise was also sponsored by The Igbo State Union.

Before the coup, the whole country was in distress; but the West was the most distressed, with the widespread riot, killings and their leader, Awolowo, in prison. The West was therefore, the tribe in greatest need for a coup to change the Federal Government, and restore their liberty, not the Igbos.

It has become necessary to ask, why has the North always succeeded in first, allying with the East(Azikiwe) to deal with the West and finally with the West(Awolowo) to destroy the East (Igbos)? Zik returned from America with the noble ambition to found a ‘BIG’ One Nigeria, which was not a bad idea.

But the foundation for that size of Nigeria was lacking. The summary of the feasibility report on the One Nigeria Project said – NOT FEASIBLE, NOT VIABLE AND NOT PROFITABLE! Awolowo saw this and wisely decided to concentrate his efforts in working for the Yorubas .Similarly, Sardauna, in answer to a question by a journalist, said, “I am first and foremost a moslem, secondly a Northerner, I am yet to be a Nigerian!” Why Zik could not come to the same conclusion as Awolowo and Sardauna remains a puzzle. My great and near fanatical admiration for Awolowo has been based on this self evident fact that Awolowo served and sacrificed everything he had for his Yoruba people .The Igbos were not that lucky with Zik.

Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe and Alhaji Ahmadu Bello

Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe and Alhaji Ahmadu Bello

After the Awolowo constitutionally insinuated carpet crossing of 1951 in the Western House of Assembly, at Ibadan, ZIK decided not to ever have anything to do with Awolowo in politics, which was a most imprudent decision. For it is said that in politics, there is no permanent enemy, only permanent interests! Also, Chairman Mao Tse Tung said “There is a time to ally with the enemy, but more
important is to know when to break with the enemy! It is true that the Federal Government of NPC and Zik’s NCNC sent Awolowo to jail, for which he was entitled to be bitter, it is also equally true that the Igbo led NCNC under Dr. M.I. Okpara formed the United Progressive Grand Alliance UPGA, with the Adegbenro led Action Group and other progressives, to oppose the Nigerian National Alliance NNA.

Arising from this alliance , Dr M.I. Okpara(M.I. POWER) informed Akintola that he would be visiting Ibadan. Akintola told him not to come, that he would not be in . Okpara said he would at least sign the Visitors Book in his absence. Okpara visited Ibadan as a show of solidarity to Adegbenro and the Yorubas. Okpara and his team were treated to a very rousing and enthusiastic reception by the students of Ibadan University, which was chaired by Prof. Hezekiah Oluwasanmi. I was an undergraduate at Ibadan University then. During the last election to the Western House of Assembly before the coup, Okpara on behalf of the Igbos, sent Mazi Ukonu of Eastern Nigerian Broadcasting Service to Ibadan, as a continued show of solidarity with the Yorubas, where he stayed at Awolowo’s house at Oke Ado to announce the correct version of the election results. All these should not have been lost on Awolowo when he decided to support Gowon to crush the Igbos during the war, more especially with his inhuman strategy of ‘STARVATION IS A LEGITIMATE WEAPON OF WAR!’

As regards the fate of the soldiers and politicians arrested in Lagos, the failure of the coup there, threw the revolutionaries into a quandary. Probably, in the ensuing confusion and tension, the arrested politicians and soldiers became a heavy load and were unfortunately shot.

Your recourse to 21,000 pages of American secret files was most unnecessary when you could have benefitted immensely from Major Adewale Ademoyega’s 194 pages book, WHY WE STRUCK .

While you relied entirely on the American secret files which are not only a reported speech, but one doctored to suit some entrenched partisan interest, my own account is based solely on what came out of the horse’s mouth.

Damola, I had expected the same logic and reasoning you displayed in your masterpiece of an article –
EINSTEIN AND THE EXPRESSWAY CHURCHES to be once more evident.

By confronting Emeritus Professor Chinua Achebe, Ndigbo and Biafra the way you did , you failed to meet the mark of adequate intellectual depth and strength and exposed your smallness in grappling with such a LABOUR OF HERCULES.

Concluded.

Read part 1 of this article: Igbo Coup, Biafra:  Damola Awoyokun, Too Small To Be A Hercules

MAZI CHIKE CHIDOLUE , was  former Officer, 12 Commando Brigade Biafra Army.

 

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