By Douglas Anele
Now, northern hardliners led by Lt. Col. Murtala Ramat Mohammed wanted full-blown war as the “final solution” to teach the Igbo a brutal lesson and consolidate the north’s domination of federal power, whereas Gowon saw the looming confrontation as an opportunity to cut the “arrogant and ambitious” Ojukwu down to size.
Eastern leaders who mandated their military governor to secede at the earliest practicable opportunity were desperate and confused, and the easterners themselves whose kith and kin had been savagely brutalised and massacred by northerners were emotionally exhausted and disillusioned.
In such a psychologically charged atmosphere, with emotions dangerously approaching boiling point, it is not surprising that sincere desire to resolve the crisis peacefully gave way to tantalising but deadly war hysteria and cognitive dissonance such that anyone who questioned the retaliatory measures taken by Ojukwu in response to Gowon’s prevarications and provocations or expressed doubt concerning the propriety of secession without adequate preparation for war would be branded a spineless coward or saboteur. On the federal side, Gowon was overconfident that the Biafran “irritation” would be crushed within weeks. Gowon declared war on Biafra when Nigerian troops fired the first shots on July 6, 1967.
After about three years of fierce fighting, the nascent nation was defeated largely due to conspiracy against her by foreign countries, notably Britain, Russia, Egypt and the United States and Ojukwu’s gross underestimation of northerners’ determination not to part with the oil-rich region, which made him take certain rash decisions that ultimately undermined Biafra. But make no mistake about it, the claim by Gowon and other warmongers that the war was fought to “keep Nigeria one” is false and misleading.
On the contrary, prominent members of the ruling northern military cum civilian establishment wanted the eastern region to remain part of Nigeria in order to control the oil proceeds, knowing full well that if Biafra broke away from Nigeria and invested her petrodollars prudently, eastern region would be far ahead of the north in terms of economic development and industrialisation.
And because the north has always been educationally disadvantaged in comparison with southern Nigeria mainly because of myopic resistance by its leaders to the spread of western education during the colonial period, after independence prominent northern emirs and politicians realised that the best way to protect their interests is for northerners to dominate the federal government and the army. Thus, for them, to allow the upwardly mobile, highly educated and naturally well-endowed eastern region to secede would be tantamount to an invitation to commit economic suicide.
The most significant outcome of the civil war, aside from the destruction of Biafra, was almost complete exclusion of Ndigbo from the political and economic life of Nigeria at the federal level and further entrenchment of caliphate colonialism.
That said, despite the harsh measures targeted at easterners immediately afterwards and half-hearted implementation of the military government’s reconstruction programme of the eastern region, Gowon must be commended for his magnanimity, based on his “no victor, no vanquished” policy, in rejecting calls by Col. Joe Garba and other northern shylocks to take reprisal measures against Biafran soldiers. Yet, as an agent of northern political hegemony, Gowon’s “kitchen cabinet” and top echelons of power were dominated by northerners. For example, his Aid de Camp (ADC) was Col. William Walbe, the elite Brigade of Guards was commanded by Col. Joe Garba, whereas Brigadiers Murtala Ramat Mohammed, T.Y. Danjuma and several northern military officers who participated in the July 29, 1966 coup were rewarded with key positions at the federal and state levels.
Now, although northernisation of governance at the centre and deliberate exclusion of Ndigbo from key decision-making institutions in the country gathered momentum during Gown’s regime, the situation got worse when Brigadier (later General) Murtala Ramat Mohammed replaced Gowon after the military coup of July 29, 1975. Mohammed came from an influential family background in Kano, and was held in high esteem by northern soldiers. His cousin, Inuwa Wada, was defence minister in the First Republic.
A favourite son of the caliphate, Gen. Mohammed was a devout Muslim who believed in the Islamic theocratic vision of the old NPC as set forth by Sir Ahmadu Bello. Consequently, apart from appointing mostly Muslim northerners to key positions in the federal military government, including the Supreme Military Council (SMC), over seventy percent of governors in the twelve states were northerners as well.
The Chief of Army Staff, Commissioner for Defence, Commander Nigerian Army Armoured Corps, and Inspector General of Police were northerners. Nine years after the January 1966 coup, Gen. Murtala Mohammed and his cohorts still bore a grudge against Igbo soldiers to the extent that none of them was appointed a military governor, and only one naval officer, Lt. Com. Ndubuisi Kanu, made it into the SMC.
It is true that during the haphazard mass purge of the federal civil service in 1975, chairman Federal Public Service Commission, Alhaji Sule Katagum, a northerner, was dismissed and Prof. Okoronkwo Kesandu Ogan, an Igbo, replaced him.
But whatever concessions Mohammed’s military government gave to southerners, the north was more privileged to access political power than the south. To further ensure the above, the federal military government proposed relocating the federal capital from Lagos to Abuja in the north, a strategic move by caliphate colonialists perhaps to ensure that if Nigeria disintegrated someday, the Islamic Republic of Northern Nigeria would not be required to build a new capital city from scratch using her own resources.
It is interesting to note that Justice Akinola Aguda, a Yoruba, headed the panel that recommended Abuja as the new capital. This is not surprising: caliphate colonialists sometimes use politically naïve and overly idealistic southerners to execute their plans.
One of the reasons for selecting Abuja was that it is located approximately at the geographical centre of Nigeria. But Justice Aguda eventually recognised his error many years afterwards when he remarked that “Those of us who are still alive will continue to take the blame for recommending the relocation of the federal capital from Lagos to a virgin land which we thought would be a blessing but has now turned to be the tragedy of Abuja.”
After Gen. Murtala Mohammed was assassinated on February 13, 1976, Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo reluctantly succeeded him. Obasanjo’s regime was basically a continuation of the government of his immediate predecessor; consequently, the ground gained in the entrenchment of caliphate colonialism remained intact.
Like what happened in the First Republic when the British handed power to a less qualified northerner, Obasanjo relinquished power to Alhaji Shehu Shagari, a humble and decent man without the impressive intellectual resumé of Dr. Azikiwe and Chief Awolowo. Of course, Shagari belonged to the caliphate, but his capacity to go beyond what had already been achieved for it by the Murtala-Obasanjo regime was whittled down mainly by the checks and balances of democratic governance.
When Major-General Muhammadu Buhari succeeded Shagari after a bloodless coup, he used the usual excuse employed by previous coup plotters to justify it. Buhari claimed, just like Nzeogwu and Murtala Mohammed, that his regime was a corrective one meant to stamp out the rampaging corruption of the previous government. Superficially, Buhari’s claim seemed to be true. However, Chinweizu, citing a newspaper interview of Dr. Alex Ekwueme, presents a more plausible explanation. Umaru Dikko, Shagari’s outspoken minister of transport, alleged that the main reason for Shagari’s removal was to prevent the presidency from rotating to the south, specifically to Dr. Ekwueme, after Shagari had completed his second term of office in 1987. The northern-dominated military decided that it was better to interrupt the process early rather than wait till close to 1987 when the real reason for the coup would become too obvious. This is in line with the caliphate’s Machiavellian modus operandi of using and dumping non-caliphate leaders and parties to achieve its objectives. Buhari continued the policy of caliphate domination of key positions in the country.
For example, about seventy percent of his SMC and the General Officers Commanding (GOCs) were northerners. After less than two years in office, he was overthrown and Maj. Gen Ibrahim Babangida who later promoted himself to General and assumed the title of “President,” took over. Babangida tried to create the image of a detribalised leader who came to heal the wounds inflicted on Nigerians by Buhari’s draconian rule.
Nevertheless, he was squarely in the gravitational field of the caliphate. In addition to what had been achieved by his northern predecessors for the caliphate, Babangida dragged Nigeria to the meetings by the Organisation of Islamic Countries (OIC).
In 1992, Alhaji Maitama Sule, one of the spokespersons for the caliphate, justified the north’s stranglehold on power with the patently bizarre claim that Allah endowed northerners with leadership qualities, implying that they are divinely ordained to rule and members of other ethnic groups should allow the will of God to stand. To be continued.