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Biafra: Decision, a product of 12 Igbo leaders, Mbu reveals in his book

Says US, other world powers had sympathy for Biafra
How Ojukwu plotted my detention

By Soni Daniel, Northern Region Editor

ABUJA—Contrary to the generally held belief that the late Ikemba Nnewi, Odumegwu Ojukwu, single-handedly spearheaded the Biafran war, Nigeria’s first permanent representative to the United Nations, Ambassador Matthew Tawo Mbu, has revealed that the decision was a product of 12 top Igbo leaders, including Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, who was the Governor-General of Nigeria.

Others listed as supporters of the war in late Dr. Mbu’s autobiography, entitled “Dignity in Service,” which is to be launched tomorrow in Abuja, are: Dr. Michael Okpara, Sir Francis Ibiam, former Premier and Governor of Eastern Nigeria, respectively; and Supreme Court Justice, Sir Louis Mbanefo.


The same book also listed educationist such as Dr. Alvan Ikoku; First Republic minister, Mr. K. O. Mbadiwe; Mr. N. U. Akpan, Mr. Joseph Echeruo, Mr. Ekukinam Bassey, Chief Samuel Mbakwe, Chief Jerome Udoji, and Chief Margaret Ekpo.

“It is crucial to note that the decision of an entire people, the Igbo people to leave Nigeria, did not come from Ojukwu alone but was informed by the desire of the people and mandated by a body that contained some of the most distinguished Nigerians in history: Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Nigeria’s former Governor-General and first ceremonial President,’’ he said.

Mbu, who died in February 2012 and was a minister in Ojukwu’s cabinet, said he had pleaded with Ojukwu, whom he described as his friend, to avert the 30-month-old civil war but he did not heed his wise counsel because of the support he got from others that they would break out of Nigeria, if the Igbo declared the state of Biafra.

Mbu also recalled in the book that the late sage, Obafemi Awolowo, who later became a super minister under General Yakubu Gowon’s Federal Government, had assured Ojukwu that the West would declare the Republic of Oduduwa once Biafra state was declared but that the assurance was a mere ploy by Awo.

The former ambassador to the United States and United Kingdom, recalled:  “We had the support of keeping Nigeria as an entity, but we needed to stop the hostilities, and they  all agreed, let there be lesser friction at the centre.

First Biafran cabinet meeting

“The regions should have a little bit of autonomy that was the issue throughout those 30 terrible months of the civil war.  The first Biafran cabinet meeting was held and articulated in Enugu by our head of government, Col. Ojukwu, and after subsequent meetings in Umuahia and Owerri, he summoned leaders of thought and took a resolution.

US, other world powers had sympathy for Biafra

“The United States and other major powers had great sympathy for Biafra. One fear that haunted other African nations was that if Biafra breaks they would also break up. Their enormous sympathy for Biafra notwithstanding, they preferred the option of exploring a more flexible federation for Nigeria.

“Had the war lasted longer, there would have been a major intervention that would have changed the history of the civil war by the major powers. It was good it ended when it did. The suffering as being portrayed outside, the suffering of children on humanitarian ground was too compelling to ignore.

How Ojukwu plotted my detention because of Biafra

“We had the hawks and the doves, on the Biafra and the federal side that made the contest bloody. As the war progressed, I cautioned Ojukwu based on the realities that were obvious, especially the suffering of the civilian population. The hawks of the civil war were in their own world.

“They convinced Ojukwu to detain me because of my advice of caution. I remember when I once came in from a foreign trip, Chief M. D. Yusuf, my friend said: ‘Do you know how close you were to being detained? We were surprised you weren’t detained. Ojukwu was to detain you, your friend was to detain you, we knew he was going to detain you.’ I said, ‘Yes when I came back from my foreign missions, they saw me and they began to cry and said you are going to be detained, he is going to detain you’ because I told him the truth.

“My overriding interest was just to bring peace to the whole situation. That was how I led the Biafran diplomacy during the war and eventually signed the communiqué that ended the war. Some people who went on diplomatic mission never came back again. But I was going out and coming in frequently.”



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