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Why Biafra Failed And Why Blame Yoruba?

It is a sad but instructive irony that Lt. Col. Odumegwu Ojukwn, one of Africa’s one-time most brilliant political promises, was the man who led his own people with such a lack of ingenuity into what was clearly a foreseeable disaster. This agonizing paradox is resolved only by an understanding of the man.

There are scholars who hold the view that the personality of Adolf Hitler was the factor, which, more than any other, determined the destiny of Second World War Germany, as much indeed, as they argue that Winston Churchill’s determined that of Great Britain. Leaning a little on the basic hypothesis of this school of thought, it can be said for the Nigerian Civil War that the personality of Odumegwu Ojukwu, more than any other single factor, determined much of the course and certainly the character of the end of the Biafran adventure.

Avid for power, he paid more attention to the politics of the war than to the one basic question of security. Biafra’s efforts were trimmed to his size and through much of the conflict reflected his own strength as well as his own weaknesses. This personification of the struggle and the lethal cloud of illusion, which it created around him, were to persist until the end. Thus on the same day as his more down-to-earth successor, General (Phillip) Effiong, signed the formal act of Biafra’s surrender, General Ojukwu was still declaring: “While I live, Biafra lives. If I am no more, it would be only a matter of time for the noble concept to be swept into oblivion.”

Ojukwu’s error, which proved fatal for millions of Ibos, was that he put the latter first. A good deal of the war effort was diverted into promoting Ojukwu and his leadership. Be it the question of starvation and relief or other vital matters affecting the population at large, propaganda considerations took precedence over cold realities. Calculation as a method was replaced by hopeful interpretations of ambitious wishes. Personal ambition thus adroitly grafted onto the genuine grievances of an injured people produced a mixture, which lacked the purity and sanity that the Ibos needed badly in so unequal a fight. The result was that in the end Biafrans secured an undisputed head but not the body of their state

On Yoruba Role:

At the beginning of the struggle, the Ibos had a very good chance, if not of winning against the authorities in Lagos, certainly of avoiding a humiliating defeat. Politically, Ojukwu inherited considerable assets. The political alignment in Nigeria just before the introduction of military rule was by no means unfavourable. Up until the eve of the civil war, Nigerian politics were dominated by the three big tribes: the Hausa-Fulani of the North, the Ibos of the East and the Yorubas of the West. In this triangular fight, the key to victory was the combination of any two sides. It did not matter which two.

The seeds of Biafra’s failure took root from this point. Eastern Nigeria’s leadership failed to appreciate what Gowon saw so clearly – the vital necessity of securing the alliance of Chief Awolowo and the Western Region. Was General Ojukwu simply and innocently overconfident? Or, too anxious for his own position, did he feel that an alliance with Chief Awolowo, already a towering national figure, would dwarf his own fledgling personality and jeopardize his chances for supreme leadership? The fact remains that too little or nothing was done to woo Chief Awolowo. When on 7th May 1967 the Yoruba leader came to Enugu at the head of a reconciliation committee, Ojukwu had a handsome opportunity to play his card. He missed. Dr. Michael Okpara who still enjoyed popular support in Eastern Nigeria and whose friendship with Chief Awolowo had sustained the UPGA alliance was not even invited to meet Chief Awolowo. After a hurried reception, Chief Awolowo’s delegation left Eastern Nigeria. Ojukwu saw fit to describe the mission as an “ill-conceived child.”

General Gowon sensed this mood and acted swiftly. Not only did he release Chief Awolowo immediately from prison, he wooed him with the unprecedented flattery of welcoming him, with a guard of honour, at Ikeja airport. Gowon’s clever release of Chief Awolowo had the effect of reducing but not eliminating Yoruba dislike for the North. This fact soon became evident. In March 1967, Chief Awolowo, now free and still the undisputed leader of the Yorubas, made a public statement, which reflected very clearly his sympathy for Col. Ojukwu’s Eastern Region. In an open letter to the government, he demanded that the two battalions of northern troops stationed in the West should be withdrawn from that region which, according to him, was being treated by the northerners as an occupied territory.

He went further to threaten that if “the Eastern Region was pushed out of the federation, Western Nigeria would quit the federation as well.” Faced with this threat of an alliance between the Yoruba West and the Ibo East, the Northern controlled Federal Military Government became visibly alarmed.

General Gowon sensed this mood, studiously drew Chief Awolowo closer to himself. He offered him the highest civilian post in the Federal Military Government – the vice-presidency of the Federal Executive Council – with the unspoken understanding that Nigeria was his as soon as the war was over and the army withdrew.

By this act, the East-West alliance foreshadowed by UPGA was destroyed and a new North-West axis was born.

From this moment on, Ojukwu’s Eastern Nigeria was isolated and when war broke out she had to fight it alone. Eastern Nigeria’s political choice of secession completed the region’s isolation. The struggle was no longer between the so-called Christian East and Moslem North. That decision united all shades of opinion in Nigeria, giving to them a sense of oneness – and to the Northern-dominated Federal Government an invaluable instrument-in the common fight to defend Nigeria’s unity.

http://www.sunnewsonline.com/webpages/news/national/2009/oct/24/national-24-10-2009-002.html

Based on this fact from President General of Pan Igbo social group (Ohanaeze) why should any sensible and intelligent Ibo be putting blame of Biafra downfall and Ibo misfortunes in Nigeria politics on Yoruba people/nation? Why calling Yoruba names i.e. btrayers and cowards on what we did not have hands in, why? why? What did Yoruba do to the Ibos to warrant being hate by many ignorant Ibos?

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12 answers

@Edruezzi, Thanks for your frank appraisal. I do doubt though that you are Igbo since you used the phrase 'you igbos' in one of your entries. Anyway, lets leave that aside. You have mentioned that the clamour over tribes is simply due to the traditionalist mentality of Nigeria and you mentioned how some countries with a single language have had wars - well consider this:

There are many reasons why people will disagree, however close they are, even nuclear families have fights and wranglings. There will always be fights among people especially where an outside participant is concerned (the case of Korea, divided between the Soviet Union and the Britian and America after WWII - the North became communist and the south democratic). However, there is only one bond that may make a people actually work together and prosper and that is a single unit of communication which represents a common understanding of attitudes and history (I am not talking about simply learning a foreign language as in colonial Nigeria) I mean a shared sense of value and history. It is one thing to fight; fights end. It is another - and this is more challenging - to actually work progressively together.

You mentioned Spain had a war - they did but Spain's separatist ETA are basque which is not the same language as spanish and the ETA are still actively opposed to the Spanish government to this day. The Irish were for 750 years colonised to adopt English practically as a first language but they were still oppressed by the 'real' English and fought a bloody war in 1921 for independence. The Irish Republican Army were still actively opposed to England until a few years ago.

My point is a Yoruba nation may have had internal squabbles, so might the Igbos and the Hausa/Fulani but the common language these groups share along with a shared sense of value and history would have made them work together to build powerful nations much faster than the patchwork as we now have can.

It doesn't matter that the Igbos only knew they were a people in the 1930's; they had never had to. They were busy building a robust economy within their various communities. The blunder by the British in bringing different peoples and kingdoms together into one nation forced them to identify as one people as a matter of survival.

Bottom line is Nigeria can only really progress in a full confederation or by a shedding of all our previous ethnic and tribal identities - wihich will take generations - and speak one language, intermingle so completely that we become one people. This is what happened with the Norman conquerors of Britain who mixed with the native celts so completely over generations, forming the current crop of British people. As long as we retain different identities, no progress is possible, I am afraid.

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the biafran war was certainly lost by the igbo not just by the inactions of the yorubas but also that of all other ethnic groups who aided and abetted the moronic hausa fulanic who for sure couldnt stand up alone to igbo might. Today we are all witness to the backwardness,destruction and denigration which the continued unity of this bloody entity of aa country we are all living in.lets break up for christ sake.or do wait for some aliens to help us out of this alience with these godless morons.

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This is one mis directed history distorting thread, thanks to the guys for setting the records staright,so many powers and import being allocated to those who never played any part,the poster must a tribalist with a lot of issues. The memory of Our departed ones deserve better than this post.

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Much ado about the past. I can't stay on this thread any longer, i'm heading for the future. Lol

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The Awolowo angle in the war is severely overrated. The war was propagated by military men and Awo was a bloody civilian who was just coming from a period of incarceration

Besides, in 1966 Awo could hardly be called the leader of the Yoruba. His party the Action Group did not secure victory in the western region. He and his lackeys like Bola Ige and Anthony Enahoro were jailed for attempting to overthrow the government.

What I am driving at is that awo did not have much of a say in the western region at the time. The man running the show was SL Akintola. However he was butchered to death in the '66 coup. coming up to the civil war, some sections of the Yoruba fiefdom were deeply dubious of Awo as he was seen as the beneficiary of the Akintola's death. Some even suspected him of complicity.

in so saying, Awo could not have even influenced Ikenne in joining or not joining the Biafra war, talkless of the whole Yoruba.

God bless his soul. Awo the over estimated

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An average Yoruba man doesn't want the progress of an Igbo man. Most of us had already removed that stereotype against the Yorubas. A good example is the recent super falcons victory in SA, some folks said that, the team was made up of Igbo women but forgetting that the region were at best with female soccer because of the secular nature of the region. Coach Yemi Tella of blessed memory won the under 17 world cup without any Igbo in his first team, none of us complained, rather we cheered the team to victory. Yoruba man will always criticise the achievements of Igbo people in there fields of endeavour. Make una give us some breathing space bikonu.

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pls read this tread, the truth is revealed

http://www.nairaland.com/nigeria/topic-552824.64.html#msg7170661

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Biafra did not fail because of the Yoruba. Next time you Igbo guys want to fight a war make sure you’ve got plenty of weapons and artillery and food. Come to think of it, if Gowon, or maybe Ironsi, had created the twelve states in 1966 or even early 1967 that war wouldn’t have happened. The records show that Gowon’s creation of twelve states scared ojukwu witless. He had to act quickly before his power would start to ebb, so he declared his unarmed little republic independent three days later. The rest, as they say, was history.

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This myth refuses to die and has become one of the great myths the Igbo use to justify their suicidal war. a man of ojukwu’s intelligence and who knew the Nigerian military intimately. Having made a career there, would have know that awolowo was not the person to go to for the securing of a deal to get the west to secede along with the east. For that he would have gone to the military rulers of the west. If you wanted Anambra state to secede during the Babangida regime would you got to Jim Nwobodo or to the current military leader? At any rate when awolow arrived in Enugu in July 1967 for peace talks he and his delegation spent an entire working day talking to ojukwu and his aides. at the end of the day, late at night ojukwu personally went to awolowo’s hotel suite and told him that the east had made up its mind to secede and that there was no going back. Read Soyinka’s You Must Set Forth At Dawn for the documentations of that.

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Thanks your stars that u were ignored by d tribalists on nl,else u wld have been torn into peices

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Awolowo could not give what he did not possess. Like the rest of the country Western Nigeria was under military rule by then and Awolowo had been in prison since 1962. Therefore the idea that ojukwu could have gone to him to get the west to secede is a myth.

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I must note that I’m of Igbo descent, for those of you who will scream that I’m a tribalist.

Get a life, people. Biafra failed because it had no weapons, no modern arms industry, and no food, and because the Igbo ethnic area, which contained the only people willing to die for it, is landlocked. Most Biafra soldiers fought with rifles of World War I vintage, that is, for the inevitably historically illiterate readers I’m dealing with, rifles from 1914. To have been able to win the war, Biafra would have had to be as technologically advanced as a European country, with the ability to make every type of weapon. The Igbo, who did not see the wheel until the 1870s, are not that kind of culture. Isaac Newton and Thomas Edison weren’t Igbo.

Meanwhile, nobody supports secession because every country in this world has ethnic minorities or a region that would like to secede from it. If the country supports secession overseas it will appear hypocritical to its local secessionists.

This nonsense about tribe reflects Nigeria’s traditionalist mentality more than anything else. Countries where everybody speaks the same language have also fought civil wars: The United States, Spain, Korea, Vietnam. Nigerians should advance beyond tribalism. We are more similar than we are different. The Igbos didn’t even know they were one people until the 1930s. Igbo nationalism is therefore a recent, manufactured concept.

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