To bring this about, they hatched a plot to kidnap him off the streets of London. Nigerian intelligence services and undercover agents (with the help of several Israelis who were alleged to be members of Israel’s intelligence agency, Mossad) tracked Dikko to a house in west London. After placing the house under surveillance, the agents decided to strike on 5 July, 1984.
Moments after Dikko emerged from the house, two men burst out from a van parked outside the house. They grabbed Dikko and bundled him into the back of the van. The team inside the van included a doctor who injected Dikko to render him unconscious.
Dikko’s kidnappers locked him in a large crate labelled “diplomatic baggage” and addressed to the Nigerian Ministry of External Affairs in the then capital city, Lagos. They claimed diplomatic immunity for the crate’s contents, and drove him to Stansted airport to place him on a waiting Nigerian cargo plane.
Unbeknown to the kidnappers, Dikko’s secretary had glanced out of her window just in time to see her boss being bundled into the van outside his house, and she dialled 999.
The kidnap was initially thought to be the work of criminals and was referred to Scotland Yard’s anti-terrorist squad. The Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was also informed.
The British government ordered customs officials at airports, ports and border crossings to be vigilant when inspecting Nigeria-bound vessels. One customs officer at Stansted airport was especially vigilant. Although the Nigerian cargo plane was minutes from taking off with Dikko on board, he ordered the crate to be opened. Nigerian intelligence officials and diplomatic staff protested that the crate could not be opened as it was protected by diplomatic immunity.
The customs officer called anti-terrorist police. They cordoned off the area and evacuated airport staff. Customs then opened the crate with armed police watching. Inside the crate, they found Dikko unconscious, next to the doctor who had injected him. The doctor had accompanied Dikko in the box to top up his anaesthetics and ensure he did not die during transit.
Armed police surrounded the Nigerian cargo plane on the runway, arrested its crew and refused to allow the plane to take off. They also arrested the Nigerian officials and Israelis who drove the crate to Stansted, and several members of Nigeria’s High Commission in London.
The Nigerian and Israeli governments always denied any involvement in the affair. Foreign intelligence involvement became apparent only when the sophistication and daring of the Dikko kidnap was revealed.
The kidnap caused one of the worst-ever diplomatic crises between Britain and Nigeria. The Nigerian High Commissioner was declared persona non grata in London, and the head of Nigeria Airways narrowly escaped being arrested by British police. Diplomatic relations between Nigeria and Britain were suspended for two years. The controversy also weakened Nigeria’s war on corruption, as Britain rejected a subsequent formal request from Nigeria to extradite Dikko and other Nigerian politicians in the UK who were wanted in Nigeria on charges of corruption.
Four men were convicted of kidnapping Dikko (three Israelis and a Nigerian) in a trial at the Old Bailey, and were jailed. All were released and returned to their countries after serving their sentences. After regaining consciousness in hospital, Dikko remained in Britain for over a decade.]]>
Ethnicity of Recruits
Mainly Kanuris from northern Nigeria
Mainly Acholi from northern Uganda
Children and women
Children and women
Over 250 schoolgirls
Max Siollun (maxsiollun) on Twitter]]>
1) Boko Haram is here to stay. Those who keep asking why the army is not able to “finish off” Boko Haram overnight do not understand that terrorism is a decades long problem. This is real life, not a Rambo or
Chuck Norris film. Look at the history of other violent militia around the world and you will discover that it takes a very long time to pacify them. From the IRA, ETA, PKK, LRA, to the Tamil Tigers. Even the might of the United States and Israeli armies have not been able to eliminate Al-Qaeda, Hamas,or Islamic Jihad. We are goingto have to
deal with exploding markets and exploding cars for quite some time.
2) Southerners – stop kidding yourselves that Boko Haram is an anti-southern movement. Boko Haram has killed far more northerners and Muslims than southerners. So far Boko Haram has not attacked Lagos, Ibadan, Benin, Enugu, or Port Harcourt. Not because it cannot; but because it does not want to. If anyone should be terrified by Boko Haram it is northerners, not southerners. Specifically – the northern ELITE. When gunmen are trying drive by shootings on an esteemed symbol of northern traditional authority like the Emir of Kano, you know there is something seriously wrong in the north.
3) The government should be worried. For the first time in a long time Nigerians are speaking with one voice and holding their government accountable. Nigerians have taken out their bitterness at the impunity of Boko Haram attacks on the government. The sympathy engendered by the specter of young schoolgirls being kidnapped and taken to a forest hideout by armed religious extremists, and the government’s failure to bring the girls back, has created an emotional wave of soul searching and finger pointing at the government. Nigerians have emotionally
“adopted” the faceless and nameless schoolgirls and their plight as their own. This led to spontaneous mass action campaigns such as the march in Abuja, marches by Nigerians in Diaspora to Nigeria’s foreign embassies, and the #BringBackOurGirls campaigns on social media.
4) Nigeria’s security sector requires reform. Boko Haram are fighters, not an “army” with uniforms, an identifiable battle doctrine or modus operandi of combat. The Nigerian army is trained to fight other armies. The army has to make a doctrinal shift and prepare to do battle with irregular armed militia. Army cadets at the Nigerian
Defence Academy receive counter terrorism and counter-insurgency training in their final year. The training takes place at the Center for Counter Insurgency at the Nigeria Army School of Infantry in Jaji. Over 900 soldiers completed the course at the center earlier this year. This is a good start. However the army’s combat doctrine needs
to be re-oriented even further in the direction of counter-insurgency. This can be done by creating autonomous special forces or paramilitary units for internal security. At some stage Nigeria may need an entire
counter-insurgency trained army division.
5) For those of you southerners who keep dreaming of getting the “parasitic north” out of Nigeria, Boko Haram may be carrying out your fantasies for you. Boko Haram has done a fantastic job of alienating the north from the south, and of making southerners even more convinced that they do not want anything to do with the north. Strangely southerners have been more outspoken about a northern based insurgency than northerners who live in the affected areas. Perhaps many northerners have been silent for reasons of self preservation.
Redirecting you to
Although the war ended 44 years ago, wounds from it still fester. Many eastern Nigerians still wonder and ask what would have happened had Biafra succeeded. What if the federal government had agreed to “let Biafra go?” Or if Biafra had hung on long enough for a United Nations resolution calling for the establishment of a new independent state in eastern Nigeria?
Ostensibly, Biafra had the ingredients to succeed and become a successful nation. It had an educated and skilled workforce, a charismatic head of state, a citizenry with a messianic zeal for their country to succeed, natural resources, a coastline, and perhaps most crucially of all – billions of dollars worth of crude oil flowing underneath its soil.
BIAFRA – A WORLD SUPERPOWER?
With oil wealth and a vibrant citizenry, Biafra could have become Africa’s first world superpower. With citizens of the caliber of Nnamdi Azikiwe, Sir Louis Mbafeno, Matthew Mbu, Chike Obi, Chukwuemeka Ojukwu, Christopher Okigbo, and Michael Okpara, it had men of foresight, intellect, and vision to rival any nation in Africa. Academics, civil servants, diplomats, doctors, judges, mathematicians, professors, scientists, soldiers…Biafra had them all. When Biafra seceded, it took not only a portion of Nigerian territory with it, but also a massive part of Nigeria’s brainpower, army officers corps, and wealth.
The remarkable ingenuity of Biafra’s engineers during the war proved the old adage that “necessity is the mother of all invention”. Had the short-term technical ingenuity which led Biafra to refine fuel, manufacture everything from armoured vehicles to soap, and land mines encased in milk churns, been allowed to continue long term; it may have led to an industrial and technological revolution in west Africa. A country full of people that could create, invent, lead, teach, think, and fight. Surely nothing could stop such a country. The sky was the limit for a country blessed with so much talent, motivation, and patriotic intensity to succeed. Biafra could have been Africa’s answer to Israel; the little country that punches above its weight and refuses to give in.
THE “JEWS OF AFRICA”
However as well as emulating Israel’s benefits, Biafra may also have mimicked Israel’s problems. Igbos are often called “The Jews of Africa”. The title is not fanciful. Had Biafra succeeded, it would have had similar demographic and geographic challenges to the world’s only Jewish state. It would have been surrounded by hostile nations, while simultaneously facing an armed insurrection within its borders by its own citizens.
Biafra faced many challenges within; including a Game of Thrones style cocktail of conspiracies, internal rivalries, politics, and in-fighting. Not all eastern Nigerians approved of secession. The Efiks, Annangs, Ibibios, and Ijaws within Biafra were not enthusiastic about swapping a Nigerian passport under a Hausa-Fulani led government, with a Biafran passport where they would be led by an Igbo government. How would the ethnic groups on Biafra’s southern coast react to being minority citizens of a country where most of the wealth is obtained from their land, but where they did not have economic and political leadership? Probably in the way they reacted when the same circumstances arose in Nigeria; MEND, Niger Delta People’s Volunteer Force et al. The armed campaign of kidnapping and violence which Niger Delta militants waged against the Nigerian federal government would instead have been waged within Biafra’s borders – against the Biafran government. Isaac Idaka Boro’s short-lived Niger Delta Peoples Republic (and the fact that Boro fought for the Nigerian federal army against Biafra) was a demonstration that Niger Delta militants would have turned their guns on Biafra before long.
How would Biafra have related to its neighbours? To its northern border would have been one or two landlocked northern republics awash with trained combatant soldiers and guns. These landlocked countries would need would need deals with Biafra to gain access to the sea. If Biafra refused or negotiations got difficult, their demands for access to the sea may have turned violent. Would these northern republics quietly tolerate the noisy, rich, and successful little nation to their south without envy or rivalry? Unlikely.
To Biafra’s western border would have been a diverse country of Edos, Esans, Isokos, Itsekiris, Urhobos, Ika-Igbos and others (modern day Delta and Edo States). Would Biafra have closed its borders to its Igbo brothers living in the state next door? Two options were open to Biafra. It could have encouraged the Igbos living to its west to migrate to Biafra by granting them automatic Biafran citizenship under an Israel style “law of return”. That of course would have presented its own problems by inferring that Biafra was an Igbo ethnic theocracy. It would also have fuelled fears among non-Igbo Biafrans that Biafra was an Igbo project.
The other option would have been to enlarge Biafra’s territory by extending its borders westward into Igbo speaking areas west of the River Niger such as Asaba. Non-Igbos living in such areas were unlikely to accept such territorial encroachment peacefully. Any Biafran attempt to annex territory west of the Niger would have been violently resisted. Even if successful, Biafran soldiers would have been viewed as an army of occupation in the manner of British soldiers in Northern Ireland and Israeli soldiers in the Gaza Strip and West Bank.
FORGIVENESS AND BEYOND
Nigeria’s existence today owes much to the “No Victor, No Vanquished” policy of Nigeria’s leader General Gowon after the war. Had Gowon not declared a blanket amnesty for all combatants and reintegrated some Biafran soldiers back into the Nigerian army, there would likely have been a Biafran resistance army in existence for several decades. Conversely, had Biafra won the war; the bitterness caused by the 1966 pogroms and slaughter of Igbos would have made it impossible to treat defeated Nigerians leniently. Biafran officer Colonel Ben Gbulie admitted that Gowon would not have lived to tell the tale of a Biafran victory. Gbulie said “Probably if we had won the war, we would have shot him.” Biafran ‘pound of flesh’ reprisals against those who so badly wounded it in 1966 would have led to a decades long tit-fot-tat war to rival the Israelis and Arabs.
Biafra’s army would have been kept very busy. It would simultaneously have to defend itself from two potentially hostile northern republics (one of which was likely to be Islamic), fight resentful neighbours to its west and/or maintain an occupying army outside its borders to its west, and simultaneously try to suppress an armed rebellion within its borders by Niger Delta militants. The military strain may have compelled Biafra to introduce compulsory military service for all adults, and would require it to spend a sizeable chunk of its budget on defence and military expenditure.
WOULD OJUKWU HAVE BECOME A DICTATOR?
Biafra’s leader Ojukwu was every inch the revolutionary leader: charismatic, iconic, and intelligent. He even wore the revolutionary’s trademark green fatigues and intense beard. He was almost Fidel Castro-esque or Yassir Arafat-esque in that regard. However would Ojukwu’s strong leadership have been able to resist a slide into a personality cult or tyranny?
For all his articulation and intelligence, Ojukwu was no democrat. He himself admitted that leaders do not voluntary surrender power. Instead power must be wrestled from their hands. The execution of Alale, Banjo, and Ifeajuna demonstrated that Ojukwu was not safe from his own people, and the lengths he would go to in order to remain in power. He also fired, then arrested and detained, his army commander Brigadier Hilary Njoku (who had disagreed with him and questioned the wisdom if fighting a war against an army with vast superiority in manpower and weaponry).
Biafra had several officers who were senior to, or had equal seniority with, Ojukwu in the pre-war Nigerian army. Many of these officers did not enjoy Ojukwu’s arrogance or having to serve under a junior officer. Ojukwu would eventually have faced a coup or assassination. Even if he somehow managed to faced down coups or escape the assassin’s bullet, it would have come at a price. Biafra’s paranoid “Sabo” mentality would have led him to establish a KGB or Orwellian-like secret police to keep continual watch on his population and potential enemies within. Biafra would not have been an oasis of freedom.
The defection of Ijaw air force officer George Kurubo demonstrated that some non-Igbo ethnic groups did not have their hearts entirely in Biafra. Several other non-Igbo officers were also likely to defect. The suspicion with which Igbos regarded their ethnic neighbours such as the Efik, Ibibio, and Ogoni was likely to have led to racial profiling of these ethnic groups by Biafran intelligence services (further increasing their hostility to the Igbo leadership).
Biafra was not immune from corruption either. If some Biafrans could sell weapons to an enemy that was resolutely determined to bomb them into the stone age, and which continually bombed women and starving children in hospitals and markets, could embezzle funds meant for the welfare of Biafran troops and the purchase of weapons, imagine what heights corruption could have reached in peacetime in a country awash with oil money…
Biafra may have been Nigeria in a microcosm.
Ojukwu is a man that evokes conflicting emotions. To some he is a born leader and a hero. To others he is an ambitious man that tried to break up his country. Where Ojukwu is concerned, no one is a neutral. The conflicting opinions on him are emblematic of his inconsistent personality and history. Ojukwu is an educated man that entered a profession that many Nigerians regarded at the time as a profession for the uneducated. He is a southerner born in the north who fought a three year long war against the north. He is a man who once led an attempt to secede from Nigeria, but later ran for President of Nigeria.
A leader must be judged by what benefits or misfortune he has brought to his people. Has Ojukwu brought anything positive to his people? His record is grim. The “accomplishments” Ojukwu has brought his people include:
• Leading them in a brutal civil war they had no chance of winning, and which resulted in a million of them dying.
• Even when it became clear that his people were starving to death in massive numbers, he continued the war which was doomed from the start.
• He fled and left his people after the war.
• The civil war caused his people to be stereotyped as disloyal and led to an unwritten discrimination against them.
Yet he is still revered. Ojukwu’s first official involvement in politics came after a group of young army Majors overthrew the democratic government in January 1966. Contrary to what has been written in some quarters, Ojukwu refused to cooperate with the Majors – including Major Nzeogwu. Ojukwu was appointed the Military Governor of the Eastern Region after the coup. This appointment was ironic as he had spent very little of his life in the east. Ojukwu was the most politically active of the four military governors. By mid-1966 the army was imploding and another army coup was staged by northern soldiers during which hundreds of Igbo soldiers (including Ironsi) were killed. A central plank of this coup was the elimination of Ojukwu. The ‘pointman’ who was to execute the coup in the eastern region was a young Lieutenant named Shehu Musa Yar’Adua (the older brother of Nigeria’s former President).
Aburi – Ojukwu’s Finest Hour
After being dragged to the brink of an abyss by two military coups in 1966, and pogroms which followed them, Ojukwu had refused to attend any meetings of the Supreme Military Council until the Ghanaian leader Lt-General Joseph Ankrah brokered a meeting in the neutral territory of Aburi in Ghana in January 1967. This was Ojukwu’s finest hour. Ojukwu prepared thoroughly and came armed with notes and secretaries. He managed to secure an agreement to devolve power from the federal government to the regions. This turned Nigeria into a confederation. In the words of one writer Ojukwu “secured the signatures of the SMC to documents which would have had the effect of turning Nigeria into little more than a customs union”.
The federal government attempted to implement the Aburi agreement in diluted form by enacting a modified Constitution (Suspension and Modification) Decree (Decree 8) which turned Nigeria into a de facto confederation, but which did not incorporate ALL of the agreements reached at Aburi. Federal civil servants argued that to implement all of the Aburi agreements would lead to the dissolution of the federation. Ojukwu declined to accept the initial draft of the Decree and insisted on a full and complete implementation of the Aburi accords.
As the weaker party, could Ojukwu still have showed greater pragmatism to spare further suffering for his people? Even with its flaws, Decree 8 gave him 90% of what he wanted. The U.S. State Department was “impressed by extent to which Decree 8 appears to meet many of East’s fundamental demands for much greater regional autonomy. While recognizing that it stops short of granting everything Ojukwu wants, Dept. considers Decree represents genuine effort by FMG and other Mil Govs to implement Aburi agreements and to retain Nigerian unity in form which least objectionable to East…..Consulate Enugu has reported that some prominent and moderate Easterners may incline toward above view”.
WINNER TAKES ALL – NIGERIA’S MALAISE
In the “winner takes all” mentality that is so symptomatic of Nigerian politics, Ojukwu unrealistically held out for 100% of his demands and in the end, received 0%. His refusal to be tactically flexible by considering options other than secession, placed him and his people in a worse position than they started in. Rather than turning Nigeria into a confederation (which is what Decree 8 did), Ojukwu’s give no inch stance gave the federal government an opportunity to overrun the Eastern Region, carve the country into several states and concentrate massive powers in the central government. Forty years later many Nigerians now call for the restructuring of Nigeria, and for devolution of power to its regions. The opportunity to achieve this was squandered 45 years ago at Aburi.
Could Ojukwu have achieved his objectives – albeit at a later date, had he been more patient? The old adage is that “the best comes to those who wait”. Could he have accepted confederation in the short-term, then waited patiently until such time that the Eastern Region had enough weapons and infrastructure to sustain a fully independent state in the future?
WAS SECESSION A MISTAKE?
When armed confrontation with the federal government was imminent, Ojukwu knew that the Eastern Region had absolutely no chance of victory in an armed conflict with the federal government. Where did he obtain the confidence to secede nonetheless? It certainly was not from international opinion. Western diplomats warned him that they would not recognize a new state of Biafra. In a telegram from the US Department of State to the US Embassy in Nigeria dated March 24, 1967, the U.S. warned:
“East making serious mistake if it under assumption that international recognition of independent East would be easily obtained; our info clearly to contrary”. This was the consistent US position as far back as July/August 1966. The US had previously noted that “Both US Ambassador Mathews and UKHICOM Cumming-Bruce have made strong representations in opposition to secession of any area of Nigeria. We consider such development would be major political and economic disaster for Nigerian people and severe setback to independent Africa.”
Yet he declared secession, knowing full well that powerful countries would not recognize his new state, and that federal troops would invade immediately after secession. Ojukwu doubtless possessed outstanding leadership and motivational skills which he used admirably to pull his people solidly behind the war effort. However, exactly how did he possibly believe that the Eastern Region (armed only with a few elderly World War 2 era rifles) could succeed against an enemy armed with limitless mortars, machine guns, tanks, armoured personnel carriers, trucks and air force jets. One does not have to be a military strategist to see the folly of this decision.
THE MID-WEST INVASION – A MISTAKE?
Under considerable military pressure from the federal army, in 1967 Ojukwu ordered Biafran soldiers to invade the Mid-West Region as a way to relieve military pressure on Biafra’s land, and to force the federal army onto the defensive. The invasion caught the federal government totally off guard and threatened a stunning military humiliation for it.
However, did the invasion of the Mid-West turn into a public relations disaster? The Military Governor of the Mid-West Lt-Colonel Ejoor had repeatedly stated that due to the multi-ethnic composition of his region, the “Mid-West will not be a battleground”. Ejoor had even refused to let federal troops cross through his territory. Hence it was regarded as neutral demilitarised territory. However the invasion forced Ejoor off the fence he had been sitting on. He fled to Lagos, now firmly opposed to Biafra. Ojukwu had alienated a potential figure of friendly neutrality. The Mid-West was neutral until that invasion and may not have joined the war but for it.
Additionally, the invasion gave the rest of Nigeria the mistaken impression that Biafra’s cause was not only about survival, but also about territorial conquest. It escalated the conflict and gave the federal army a free hand to start using heavy weapons, artillery and punishing air raids. Lt-Col Murtala Muhammed’s 2nd division of the Nigerian army carried out massive reprisals against Igbos and murdered several hundred as punishment.
FLIGHT TO IVORY COAST
During the war, there was a widely held belief (propagated by Ojukwu and other Biafran leaders) that defeat for Biafra would be met by mass genocidal massacres by the federal government. If Ojukwu believed this, then his escape at the end of the war is deplorable. After over a million Igbos were killed (90% of whom were civilians), Ojukwu fled in the last days of the war when his people were at their lowest ebb, despite repeatedly promising throughout the war that he would never leave them to the mercy of the federal troops. If he believed that all his people would be massacred, then his flight to a exile abroad and refusal to stand side by side with them to finish a war he led them into, cannot be applauded.
Ojukwu was and remains an iconic leader for his people. However, did his decisions cause them more harm than good? Was Ojukwu a hero or a disastrous strategist?
OLD WINE IN NEW BOTTLES
Before I get “flamed” for being so uncaring about the environment, please let me explain.….
Those of you that live in the UK, would you have taken the last elections seriously if had come out of retirement to challenge as ? What if the Labour Party had chosen Neil Kinnock as its new leader instead of Ed Milliband?
Those of you in America, what would you say if the Democrats had chosen Barack Obama? Sounds preposterous doesn’t it? Yet no matter how absurd it sounds, this is what Nigeria has been continually doing since independence in 1960. At every electoral and leadership cycle, Nigeria repeatedly turns to past leaders from decades back.as their presidential candidate instead of
The candidates who have so far declared their intention to contest the presidency in next year’s presidential election include two retired Generals, who ruled the country for nearly a decade between them, and who first entered Nigerian government in 1975. Although there is a case for experience, there has to be a sensible limit somewhere. When these men first entered Nigerian politics, Gerald Ford was President of the U.S., Johnny Nash and the Bay City Rollers were dominating music, and most of you reading this article had not even been born. Does that put things into perspective?
FEELS LIKE 1984 AGAIN
As for the “northern consensus candidate”….those of you with long memories should think back….way back to 26 years ago. Remember the “53 suitcases” scandal involving the Emir of Gwandu in 1984? Well, do you remember who the customs officer in charge of the Murtala Muhammed airport in Lagos was? Better still, can you remember who the was at the time of this scandal? ….
However, it would be unfair of me to single out this 2011 candidate group. They are not the only recycled Nigerian leaders in waiting. To understand how much Nigeria has been stuck in the past, and has been lumbered with essentially the same leadership since the 1960s, consider the following sobering fact. The late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua (who took office in 1997) was the first Nigerian leader who was not directly involved in the 1966 crisis and the ensuing civil war (even then – his older brother was directly involved in the crisis). It took Nigeria four decades to find a leader from a new generation.
Every single one of Nigeria’s prior leaders had links to, and was directly involved in politics since the 1960s. General Gowon was of course Nigeria’s war time leader. His successors Generals Muhammed, Obasanjo, Buhari, Babangida, Abacha and Abubakar were either involved in the July 1966 coup, or fought in the civil war that followed it. Apart from the fact that Obasanjo returned to rule Nigerian again 20 years after his first reign, even President Shagari was a minister in the cabinet of Nigeria’s first.
People keep wondering why Nigeria seems to keep coming full circle and seems to be perpetually stuck with the same problems. Is it because the leaders tasked with eliminating those problems have essentially been the same for the past 40+ years?
NIGERIAN ELECTIONS – FAME CONTESTS?
We can blame the leaders all we want, but this constant resort to old leaders also exposes the lack of political sophistication in the Nigerian electorate and political process. Parties choose “big names” from the past who are well known because Nigerian politics has not evolved beyond a glorified fame contest. People like Gani Fawehinmi and are popular among youths and educated liberals. However they could never win elections barring a miracle because they do not “belong” to the establishment political circles that the old leaders belong to.
Back during General Babangida’s ill fated 1990s transition programme, General Obasanjo (on learning of General Gowon’s intent to run again for the presidency) sarcastically asked ““What did he forget in thethat he is going back for?”
We might also ask the same question of the current incumbents….