Book Launch –“The Republic of Biafra: Once Upon a Time in Nigeria My Story of The Biafra-Nigerian Civil War – A Struggle For SURVIVAL (1967-1970”)Books & Magazines, Columnists, Headlines, Onyema Nkwocha Monday, September 26th, 2011
–“The Republic of Biafra: Once Upon A Time In Nigeria My Story Of The Biafra-Nigerian Civil War – A Struggle For SURVIVAL (1967-1970”)
Synopsis of the Book Product
Not quite four months after the Western Region’s election of October 10, 1965, did the localized mayhem in that Region find its way furiously into the center of the nation on January 15, 1966! It was like a whirl-wind of nothing but anarchy and lawlessness. The serious aftermath of the marred and rigged election was that it acted as the last straw that broke the Carmel’s back, providing immediate reason for the army to overthrow the government of Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe. Anarchy ensued; a counter coup led to the death of Major-General Ironsi. Callous barbarous massacre of thousands of easterners in the North followed. With their lives in jeopardy, easterners fled for safety to eastern region; refugee crisis followed. To guarantee their safety, easterners seceded from Nigeria and on May 30th 1967, formed an independent and sovereign nation of the Republic of Biafra. Determined to bring Easterners back, on July 6, 1967 Nigeria invaded Biafra; waged a gruesome thirty-month-civil war against Biafra. Nigeria blockaded Biafra on land, sea and air, to prevent food from entering Biafra. A malnutrition disease, Kwashiorkor that caused the deaths of thousands of Biafrans, followed. Nigeria bombed Biafran civilians, killing thousands. On January 12, 1970 the war ended leaving more than three million people dead in a war that was totally avoidable!
A Discourse and an Extended Description of the Book
Taking the readers’ mind back to the events of 1966, as already alluded to above, precipitated were earthquake-like events that provided the immediate reason for the Army to overthrow the government of Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe on January 15, 1966. From the localized events that took place in the Western Region immediately after the election of 1965 that slowly but surely gravitated toward the center, Lagos, it would seem as if the more the people expressed their yearnings and aspirations for a more practicable unified, democratic and peaceable sovereign nation free from corruption, marred and rigged elections and other vices and crimes, the more the country devolved and degenerated into self-implosive and destructive states. Metaphorically, William Butler Yeats’ poem of “Turning and turning in the widening gyre The falcon cannot hear the falconer...’stands to depict a Nigeria at the time where the young and brash breasted military personnel were fed up with the old and corrupt politicians and wanted to take charge of things by unleashing Armageddon – what venom they did on January 15, 1966 that ultimately led to the writing of My Story of the Biafra-Nigerian Civil War – A Struggle for Survival.
As this turbulent whirl wind continued to blow treacherously on the Nigerian political landscape, the nation was no longer at ease. Things came tumbling down and started falling apart that the center, Lagos, as we knew it could no longer hold, letting the old politicians give way, and in giving way, only to mere anarchy on the Nigerian streets with innocent blood of the Igbos and Easterners being spilled on the Northern and Western streets. As would be expected, angry mobs who executed the most heinous crimes were obviously lacking in conviction and thus reacted to the developments with the worst passionate intensity devoid of any moral and intellectual rationale. This was Butler Yeats’ imagery of the Second Coming revisited on Nigeria, when things fell apart and the center could no longer hold with nothing but mere anarchy unleashed upon the Biafran-Nigerian worlds as the innocent blood-dimmed tide of Biafrans was ruptured and let to run loose and gushing unceasingly on the streets and thoroughfares of Nigeria for 30 grueling, dark and deadly months!
Historically, on January 15, 1966, young Army officers led by Major Patrick Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu in a military coup D’état, overthrew Nigeria’s first democratic republic, citing a litany of anomalies and wrongdoings such as bribery and corruption, tribalism, and inefficiency among other ills, against the ruling political group. In that coup, Nigeria’s Prime Minister, Tafam Balewa, some premiers and ministers and several top Army officers of both the northern and western descent, were murdered. Consequently, series of earth-shattering riots ensued in Northern Nigeria, reaching to frenzy height of callous and barbarous massacre of tens of thousands of easterners, mostly the Igbos in northern Nigeria by their Northern Nigeria host friends and neighbors. By July of the same year, the bloodiest counter coup on the face of Africa that took the Easterners by surprise was carried out by the Northerners in collaboration with Western Nigeria.
During this coup, the Military Head of Nigeria, Major-General Aguiyi Ironsi, an Igbo man was assassinated in Ibadan along with his host, Lt. Col Adekunle Fajuyi, the Governor of the West. Thousands of Igbos – mostly top ranking military officers and civilians were killed in this coup. The killings and ethnic cleansing and pogroms of the Easterners, particularly the Igbos continued unchecked and uninterrupted in Northern Nigeria well into a year. With their lives, safety and overall security in jeopardy throughout Northern and Western Nigeria, and not being able to move freely in these regions as free citizens of Nigeria without being hacked to death, the easterners fled for their dear lives into the eastern region. The aftermath was massive refugees throughout Eastern Region. To protect their lives, properties and secure their continued freedom and ensure their security, the easterners seceded from the rest of Nigeria and on May 30th, 1967, formed an independent and sovereign nation of the Republic of Biafra, hence once upon a time in Nigeria, there was the Republic of Biafra!
Once inside Igboland, now the Republic of Biafra, without further provocations, and bent on unifying Nigeria at all costs and by any means necessary, on July 6, 1967 (barely two months after the declaration of Biafra’s independence) Nigeria invaded Biafra and from there, waged a gruesome, brutal, callous and barbaric thirty-month-civil war against Biafra. In the early outbreaks of the war, Nigeria imposed a policy of “starvation as an instrument of war” by blockading Biafra on land, sea and air with the intent of preventing food and military weapons from entering Biafra to force starvation and early surrender of Biafra. The blockade prevented food from coming into Biafra, thus leading to a massive malnutrition-oriented disease called Kwashiokor that led to the deaths of thousands of starving children, young, men, women, pregnant mothers and elderly Biafrans. Not content with the ravages of landlocked blockade on Biafra, Nigeria unleashed her fleet of war planes flown by Russian and Egyptian pilots that harassed and carried out hundreds of air raids on both Biafran civilians and military locations. The air raids resulted in the deaths of thousands of innocent Biafrans – men, women, children and the elderly – none was spared! All said and done, on February 12, 1970, the war came to a screeching halt, having ended with more than three million people dead in a war that was totally avoidable with the aftermath slogan of No Conqueror, No Vanquished!
As a young boy of 10 years at the start of the fracas, the above are what I can recollect that happened in the days and events leading to the birth of Biafra beginning with the January 15, 1966 events through the war and right after the Biafra-Nigerian civil war (1966-1970) on February 12, 1970 and the sorry re-integration of the Igbos into the Nigerian fold afterwards by Yakubu Gowon’s regime.
Dr. Onyema G. Nkwocha
About the Author
Dr. Onyema G. Nkwocha authored Democracy in Nigeria: The Birth of A New Nation-State in the 2000 Era. His literary works, center on Nigeria and Africa’s unity, democracy, and development. Nkwocha has authored several articles along these lines published in Nigeria and United States. Nkwocha believes that with proper education, effective leadership and enlightened citizenry, it would be a matter of time before Nigeria’s history is re-written for the better. He believes Nigeria’s glorious days are ahead of us. Nkwocha is a Nigerian patriot and lives in the United States of America.
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