Friday, March 3, 2017


Here we go again. I do not know what Kayode J. Fakindele knows about the issue, but the declaration of "No victor, no Vanquished" was not made as an act of political charity, in as much as that fiction has been routinely retailed. It came from pragmatic politics, and the result of the series of back channel negotiations from late 1969 leading to the strategic collapse of the fronts in 1970 to allow for the end of conflicts. The Biafrans were not defeated in war, and did not go to Lagos to surrender without precondition as was made clear by the real leader of its delegation, Sir Louis Nwachukwu Mbanefo. The Biafrans had established the mechanism to enter the second stage of the war - the guerrilla phase- should the agreements fail. I should leave the details alone for the moment, but it is important that folks like Fakindele, who may not have all the facts, or may not have taken into account that the narrative of the civil war - the Biafra War - from my own end, is not a single story, to know in truth that the greatest blunder of the post civil war era was to break all the guarantees that assured the former Biafrans of full, unconditional re-integration. No sooner had they dismantled their defences than the Federal government carry out a triumphalist sweeping purge of the Igbo from the top of the civil and military service; impose a quiet containment policy that aimed at the economic strangulation of the Igbo areas of the old East, and create conditions that progressed, and by 1984, with the rise of the alliance of the young field officers of that war from mostly the North and West, led by Buhari, who took over power by a coup, further alienated the Igbo, wiping off whatever political gains they made in the four year break of civilian rule between 1979 and the end of 1983.

The roots of the current agitation for the restoration f Biafra can be traced to the military coup of 1984. From 1984 to 1999, the Igbo were in a political wilderness in Nigeria, and far more than any other era, saw themselves increasingly "marginalized" from nation. When Chuba Okadigbo first used that term in 1990 to describe the Igbo condition in Nigeria, that reality had become routine, and a new generation was paying attention, and living the reality of political and economic exclusion. They could see it all around: they would graduate top of their classes in the universities, and see their classmates get safe corridors to the cushiest jobs, while they either made do with the crumbs or had no crumbs at all. Of all parts of Nigeria, only the East, particularly the Igbo, had what may actually be the presence of "citizen soldiers" in good number: that is a large army of civilians with military training and with combat experience, who had circulated into civil life as teachers, doctors, university professors, traders, and so on. As they were aging out, they were also teaching their children, not only the art of war, but also the story of the last war. So, although the story of the Nigerian/Biafran civil war is not taught in Nigerian schools, Igbo children know their story. Igbo writers have documented the war very elaborately. Igbo have documents of their last meetings about that war. And because that war is, quite remarkably, the first war covered in the modern era on TV, footages exist; documents and accounts by international observers and reporters exist, and it is futile to revise it, or teach lies  as history, and I hope J. Fakindele would not teach his children historical lies because that would be terrible.

The Nigerian civil war began thus: the counter coup of July 1966 had started a pogrom from the military barracks that targeted the Igbo, and spilled unto the streets with the killings of Igbo civilians in the North and the West; the Igbo fled Eastwards for protection, and sought guarantees for their own safety from the Nigerian government which was not forthcoming. Odumegwu-Ojukwu sought political solutions, and this culminated in the meetings and the agreements at Aburi to create a confederal union as a means of easing the pressures. The agreements which were reached at Aburi were quickly reneged as soon as Gowon arrived Lagos, and a new set of policies imposed, which isolated the East. The last straw was the break up of the East with no input at all from the leadership of the East, and the subsequent mandate given by the Eastern Consultative Assembly to Ojukwu to declare an independent and sovereign state of Biafra. The result was that on July 6, with a two-pronged attack, Lagos began the war by attacking the East in what the Federal administration termed "a police action." By September 1966, in its own counter measure, Enugu "captured" the Midwest, and was on its way to capturing Lagos and Ibadan, and decisively ending the war, when Brigadier Banjo, the Commander of the Biafran forces leading the campaign subverted the campaign in the Midwest, and the Biafrans thereafter, lost the initiative, and from then engaged in defensive warfare given the limitations of arms. The formal collapse of the "war fronts" was preludes to asymmetrical warfare had the agreements in Lagos brokered largely by Nnamdi Azikiwe's forceful backdoor diplomacy internationally from 1969 failed in Lagos which involved something of a "palace coup" in Biafra that quietly eased Ojukwu "out of the scene" in 1970. It would have moved the Biafran strategy from the Montgomerry methods of formal fronts to Mao's method of shifting frontiers. BOFF and the S Brigade were already prepared, and were the lynchpins of that phase of the war. So, the Biafrans were still at the trigger in 1970, and the mistake of Nigeria was to think that it defeated the Igbo in war, and therefore could isolate and marginalize them as second-lass citizens in Nigeria. One generation could take it, but the next would not. It would be  wise for the likes of J. Fakindele to look a bit more closely before they make wild leaps about "No victor, No Vanquished."

Obi Nwakanma

From: <> on behalf of Kayode J. Fakinlede <>
Sent: Friday, March 3, 2017 2:25 AM
To: USA Africa Dialogue Series

'No victor, no vanquished."

This pronuncement, to me, is the greatest blunder of our civil war. I can almost say that it is at the bottom of the continued aspiration by a segment of our society for secession.

Of course, one could not have blamed the government of young Ganeral Gowon. It was reasoned then that in declaring that neither side won or lost the war, everyone would have learned his lesson and our nation would be at peace forever more.

What we see now is a blantant misplacement of historical facts and grotesque caricatures being made of those whose intentions were noble. But more importantly, we are seeing agitations where none should have arisen and from the side that was vanqished in the war. The factual victors, having remained silent for so long, are now being painted as carnivores and murderers.  

Anyone who was an adult during the civil war will definitely not wish another one on Nigeria. Lessons have been learned and honestly, not too many of these people agitate for secession or any form of upheaval, regardless of his tribal origin. It is those who were yet unborn or too young to experience the realities of war that would think it is child's play.

But the truth is that they do not know better. They receive information, not history, from their parents. In most instances, while the intenions of the older ones may not be for agitation, a vanquished people will always tell a story of their mistreatment and their heroism in the face of all odds.

A factual history of the civil war must be taught in all our schools to all our children. This is not to put any segment of our nation down. It is reasonable because this event marks the singular greatest period when, but for providence sake, Nigeria would have disintegrated. Moreover, people badly informed of the mistreatment of their forebears are bound to react negatively to their perceived malefactors.   

This subject needs not be given a name that would be derogatory to any side. It can just be called 'The Nigerian Civil War'. Therein all our young ones will learn as a subject matter: the events that led to the war; attempts to resolve the issues so war could be averted; who were the initial aggressors; who took part militarily in the war; who were the heroes; the parts played by our own leaders either in preventing or agitating for war; the parts played by others in trying to prevent war; how the war was prosecuted; how the war was brought to an end; life after the war; attempts to rebuild; the lingering issues arising from the war; the effects of the war on our present political life; important dates in the process; etc.

There is so much to teach our children and they should be properly and factually taught. Some smart person once said that whoever forgets the past is bound to repeat it, or something of that nature.

I rest my case

Fakinlede K

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