Former Presidential Adviser, Tanko Yakasai, believes the Igbo ethnic group has a chance to produce a Nigerian President if it gets the blessing of other parts of the country, especially the North.
Mr. Yakassai, 94, made the comment on Friday during an appearance on Channels TV’s Sunrise Daily.
“There is a good opportunity for Igbos to produce the president of Nigeria in the near future or later,” he said.
“The political arrangement in the country is such that you need correlation with some parts of the North and South. The Igbo can make a move of getting partners from other parts of the country, in particular the North.
“It is not just to complain; meaningful efforts should be made to reach out to get partners so that eventually they will realise their aspirations; and I think they can.”
The Igbo are one of the largest ethnic groups in Nigeria, occupying the country’s South-East region, but have not been able to produce a Nigerian President since the country’s return to democracy, adding to the group’s cries of marginalisation.
Mr Yakasai was speaking two days after the 50th anniversary of the end of Nigeria’s infamous civil war which was fought over Igbo secession.
Yakassai believes the war would not have happened if the leaders of the East and the rest of the country were different.
“There were personal differences” between Yakubu Gowon and Odumegwu Ojukwu, he said.
“I doubt if anybody, even the military, contemplated the magnitude of the human and material losses in the country,” Mr Yakasai added.
“People were killed on both sides. It was a huge loss to the country. Nobody can give a correct figure of the total number of people killed at that time and how much is from each side.”
It’s 50 years since the Nigerian civil war ended but the scars have endured. Here is a timeline of how the war started and major events since the shots were called off at Dodan Barracks.
January 15, 1966: A group of army majors, led by Kaduna Nzeogwu and Emmanuel Ifeajuna, execute Nigeria’s first military coup which ended the First Republic.
Most of the coup plotters were Igbo and a number of those killed – including Prime Minister Tafawa Balewa – were northerners.
The coup plotters attacked three cities – Lagos, Kaduna, and Ibadan – and said their stated objective was to cleanse the country of corruption.
January 16, 1966: Head of the Nigerian Army, Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi, is declared Head of State. Although Aguiyi-Ironsi had aided in coup suppression efforts, that he was Igbo stoked northern sentiments that the coup was intended to wipe out the North’s political powers.
January 17, 1966: Aguiyi-Ironsi appoints Colonel Odumegwu Ojukwu as Military Governor of the Eastern Region.
July 29, 1966: A few months after the first coup, northern soldiers stage a counter-coup, killing Aguiyi-Ironsi and many other high-ranking Eastern officers. Aguiyi-Ironsi’s death led to the emergence of Yakubu Gowon as Head of State.
September 29, 1966: The northern coup further inflamed anti-Igbo sentiments in the North. From May to September 1966, observers estimated that between 3,000 and 30,000 Igbos were slaughtered and another 150,000 – 300,000 fled to southern and eastern regions.
January 1967: Nigerian military leaders famously meet in Aburi, Ghana, to resolve the complications and disaffections created by the two coups.
May 27, 1967: Gowon declares the division of Nigeria in 12 states, which includes splitting the Eastern Region into three parts.
May 30, 1967: Ojukwu declared the independence of the Republic of Biafra, after an official vote of secession had taken place in the eastern region.
June 1967: After Ojukwu’s declaration, Nigeria’s military government places an embargo on the shipping of goods to and from Biafra, excluding oil tankers.
July 6, 1967: Five weeks after Ojukwu declared the Republic of Biafra as an independent state, the Nigerian-Biafra war begins.
The initial attack by the Nigerians included two advancing columns, one of which captured the Biafran town of Nsukka on July 14 and the other which took the Biafran town of Garkem on July 12. However, the Biafran retaliation was strong and moved rapidly across the Niger River, through Benin City, and to the town of Ore, 130 miles east of the Nigerian capital of Lagos. where they were eventually stopped on August 21.
January 1968: After nearly six months of war, the Nigerian military had surrounded Biafra and cut off the majority of their supply lines, but the Biafrans continued to resist surrender and kept on fighting.
January 29, 1968: Biafra introduces its first Biafran currency.
March 27, 1968: First airlift into the city of Port Harcourt, organised by Father Anthony Byrne, who also managed the Catholic relief operations in Biafra.
June 26, 1968: The government of the Republic of Biafra releases a “Charge to Humanity” statement outlining the deteriorating situation in Biafra and calling for foreign support.
July 12, 1968: Biafran children appear on the cover of Life Magazine with headline “Starving Children of Biafra War”
May 1969: Biafrans commence land offensive reinforced by foreign mercenary pilots, attacking military airfields in Enugu, Port Harcourt, Ughelli, and Benin City.
June 5, 1969: A Red Cross plane is downed while delivering relief supplies to Biafra. As a result, the Red Cross ceases air deliveries of aid.
June 30, 1969: Nigeria bans International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) aid to Biafra; the American Jewish Emergency Effort for Biafran Relief has raised a total of $185,000.
January 7, 1970: Nigerian forces launch its offensive “Operation Tail-Wind,” which successfully conquers Owerri and Uli within 5 days.
January 15, 1970: Official surrender papers signed by Biafran General Philip Effiong, deputy to Ojukwu who had fled to the Ivory Coast a few days earlier.
July 1985: National War Museum is established in Umuahia, Nigeria.
1999: Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) is founded by Indian-trained lawyer, Ralph Uwazuruike.
September 2006: Chimamanda Adichie’s Half of a Yellow Sun is published.
November 26, 2011: Ojukwu dies in the United Kingdom after a brief illness, aged 78.
2012: The Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) is founded by Nnamdi Kanu. The group’s stated aim is to restore an independent state of Biafra through a referendum.
September 2017: A federal court in Abuja declares IPOB activities as ‘Acts of Terrorism’ just a week after the federal government declared the group as a militant terrorist organisation.
Some eminent Nigerians including Nobel Laureate Professor Wole Soyinka and Professor Pat Utomi on Monday gathered at the Muson Centre in Lagos to discuss the way forward, 50 years after the Nigerian civil war.
Tagged ‘Never Again’, the event is aimed at reminiscing on the woes of the war which ended in January 1970 and adjudged as one of the worst scenarios of civil rife across the world.
In his address, Prof Anya Anya, who is the chairman of the occasion believes violence cannot provide the solution to the problems facing the nation.
It was to try to break this cycle of ignorance that the Oyeyinka wrote the novel Stillborn – a historic epic about Nigeria from the days of British colonial rule from 1950 to 2010.
In it, the civil war is the pivotal event.
‘Our History, Our Conflict’
Unlike other famed Nigerian writers such as Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, with her novel Half Of A Yellow Sun, or Chinua Achebe’s memoir There Was A Country, Oyeyinka is one of the few non-Igbo writers to have dwelt on the conflict.
“An Igbo friend got angry at me and said ‘You can’t write about us, it’s our conflict’,” he recounted.
But Oyeyinka insists that all Nigerians need to be made aware of what happened.
“We need to address these traumas ourselves, as a country, otherwise we are a tinder box ready to explode.”
While in the rest of Africa’s most populous nation many know little about the history of Biafra, in the former capital of the self-proclaimed state at Enugu the memory of those years lives on.
Biafran flags — an iconic red, black and green with a rising golden sun — make appearances on the front of buildings and hardline separatists still demand independence.
The security forces — deployed heavily in the region — are quick to stamp out any clamour for a new Biafra.
At the end of the war in 1970, Nigeria’s war leader Yukubu Gowon famously declared there would be “no victor, no vanquished” as he sought to reunite his shattered country.
The leader of the breakaway Republic of Biafra, Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, went into exile for 13 years before being pardoned. He returned to Nigerian politics but was detained for 10 months in prison.
Leading Nigerian intellectual Pat Utomi says that many Igbos — the country’s third-biggest ethnic group after the Hausa and the Yoruba — still feel marginalised.
One key event was when current President Muhammadu Buhari — then a military chief — seized power in 1983, and stopped the only Igbo aspirant to get close to leading Nigeria since the war from becoming head of state.
“In the early 1980s, people had forgotten about the war, but this succession of poor leadership brought bitterness among the new generations,” Utomi said.
Nowadays any incident — from the closure of the only airport in the southeast last year to the sacking of Igbo shops by customs officials in economic hub Lagos — can cause grievances to flare.
“It’s important to deal with history, to write it down. In Nigeria, we try to cover it up,” Utomi said.
“We are more divided today than we’ve ever been before the civil war. We learnt nothing from it.”
In order to try to heal the rifts, Utomi helped organise a “Never Again” conference aiming to bring together key cultural and political figures to discuss the lessons of the Biafra war half a century after it ended.
He is also a patron of the “Centre for Memories” in Enugu, a combination of a museum and library where visitors can come and “dig into history”.
‘History Is Essential’
History itself has been absent from Nigerian schools.
The current government reintroduced it only from the last term as an obligatory subject for pupils aged 10 to 13, after more than a decade off the curriculum.
“Teaching history is essential to build our identity as a country, and defend our patriotic values,” said Sonny Echono, permanent secretary at the education ministry.
But schools still remain woefully short of qualified history teachers and there is no unified narrative about the civil war which does not figure in the lessons.
“We need to teach the war in our schools,” said Egodi Uchendu, a history professor at the University of Nsukka, in the former Biafra territory.
“Eastern Nigeria is completely different from how it was experienced in other parts of the country. We need to bring in the different angles to it.”
Chika Oduah, a Nigerian-American journalist, has crossed the country to collect hundreds of testimonies of the victims and combatants of the Biafra conflict which she publishes on her website Biafran War Memories.
She says that for many of those she interviewed it was the first time they had retold the horrors of the period.
“A 70-something former soldier… broke down crying, when he told me how he lost his brother during the war,” she said.
She herself only learnt at the age of 17 that her mother as a child spent two years in a camp for displaced people.
“Our parents wanted to move on, not look at the past,” Oduah insisted.
“But we need to talk about it, otherwise we won’t heal”.
Some protesting members of the outlawed Independent Peoples Of Biafra (IPOB) have been arrested by the police in Enugu State.
The Commissioner of Police in Enugu State, Danmallam Mohammed, who confirmed the arrest told Channels Television that the IPOB members, numbering 21 were arrested while protesting in front of the Government House in the state capital.
“My attention was called that there were some group of people in front of the government office wearing IPOB and Biafra movement flag. I moved into action with some of my officers and we arrested them,” he said.
Abia State Police Command has arrested some suspected members of the proscribed Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB) caught with Biafra currency in the state.
The Commissioner of Police in the state, Mr Anthony Ogbizi, disclosed this to reporters on Saturday while parading the purported IPOB members along with other suspects at the Police Officers’ Mess in Umuahia, the state capital.
“These IPOB members were arrested with Biafra currency, so when we say that IPOB has gone beyond a particular stage, the public may seem to disbelieve us because of their propaganda,” he said.
“Gradually you are seeing it, these three IPOB members were caught with the Biafra currency”.
Ogbizi said the arrest was made as a result of the level of professionalism and respect for diversity deployed by men of the Police Command.
He said the suspects would be made to face the full wrath of the law to serve as a deterrent to others.
Others paraded alongside the supposed IPOB members include suspected murderers, kidnappers, armed robbers and child traffickers among others.
Items recovered from them are 10 bags of suspected cannabis, Biafra currency, a pump action gun and phones among others.
Although the suspected murderers and kidnappers made attempts to deny their involvement in crime, Ogbizi insisted that their outcry cannot change the evidence before them.
The Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) has advised youths in Nigeria’s South-east region to always resort to non-violent means in the course of their agitation.
This advice came from the Abia Central Zone MASSOB-BIM Zonal Information Director, Anselm Ogbonna, who insisted that nothing good on earth can be achieved through violence.
Ogbonna stated this on Wednesday during an event held at Umuezeoke Ngwu autonomous community in Bende Local Government Area of Abia State.
He, however, maintained that Biafra, as it stands, is a divine agenda which would be actualised at the appropriate time.
He said, “We will not separate violently because we will need Nigeria and Nigeria will need us. So even if we are going, the relationship will remain.”
“I am using this opportunity to advise youths to always use non-violent agitation in their pursuit of Biafra struggle because nothing good on earth is achieved through violence,” he added.
The director also reminded the youths that Dr Ralph Uwazuruike, the chief crusader of Biafra struggle, resurrected the campaign in September 1999 through non-violence and also vowed to actualise Biafra non-violently.
A judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Binta Nyako has ordered all sureties to the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu, including the Senator representing Abia South Senatorial District, Enyinaya Abaribe, to appear before the court.
She asked that they explain why the IPOB leader failed to appear in court today.
When Justice Nyako earlier asked Mr. Ejiofor, counsel to Nnamdi Kanu, for the whereabouts of his client.
He replied that his client was willing and ready to appear before this court.
According to Mr. Ejiofor, since the invasion of his house by the Nigerian Army on the orders of the Federal Government, I don’t know where my client is.
“I cannot tell you if he is dead or alive, “What I am saying is that the soldiers, that went in his house will be in a position to tell you”
Justice Binta replied by asking for the sureties to appear before the court during the next hearing which is November 20, 2017.
The Commissioner of Police in Abia State, Mr Anthony Ogbizi, has said that weapons, including petrol bombs and one double-barrel gun, were recovered during the raid carried out on the residence of the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu.
Speaking on Thursday during an interactive session held at the officer’s mess in Umuahia, Ogbizi said that the raid was carried out based on an intelligence report and joint effort with the military and they will not hesitate to revisit the home of IPOB leader if there is a new evidence.
“We have an intelligence report that an uncompleted building is being used for training Biafra secret service and we have confirmed it, so my question is, are we not supposed to go there to verify the evidence?
“We recovered many of Biafra’s insignia, the staff of office and some of those items are being analysed,” Ogbizi said.
He said that the petrol bombs were found in buckets and incriminating documents and letters, concerning IPOB’s activities and plans, were also recovered during the raid on Nnamdi Kanu’s house.
Ogbizi also disclosed that a member of the IPOB involved in burning down vehicle and committing homicide has been arrested. He called on parents to keep watch on their children so they will not be misinformed to become hoodlums.
“As I am talking with you, one of the IPOB members who burned down a vehicle and killed somebody has been arrested.
“They should not be allowed to continue and get all the uninformed youths and put them in front to cause mayhem.”
Ogbizi charged the youths to seek other ways to channel their grievances which do not involve violence because the police would not relent in their duty to apprehend defaulters in its bid to maintain peace.
He, however, did not parade the weapons and items recovered but said, “We are analysing the documents and the items we recovered with a view to determining the next line of action.”
The Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr Femi Adesina, says he is unaware of whether President Muhammadu Buhari okayed the declaration of the Indigenous People of Biafra as a terrorist organisation.
Mr Adesina said this in response to questions he was asked during an interview on Channels Television’s Politics Today on Tuesday.
Secessionist group IPOB had been declared a terrorist group by the Nigerian military on Friday. Hours later, governors of the South-East proscribed the activities of the group.
The development which came amid increased tension in the South East and in some parts of the North has generated a debate. While some have defended the decision of the governors and the declaration by the military some others have criticised.
Among the critics are Senate President Bukola Saraki who declared the declaration and ban unconstitutional in a statement on Monday.
As the debate raged questions emerged about the role of President Buhari in the decision by the military with some reports suggesting he endorsed it. Asked whether the President endorsed the proscription, Mr Adesina said he had read reports online but could not confirm it.
“I read the report also online today, but it is not something I have discussed with him. So, I can’t confirm or deny whether that actually came up before he left the country,” Adesina who appeared on the programme via Skype said.
The Presidential aide is, however, certain that Nigeria would continue its push for the repatriation of funds stolen from Nigeria and a seat at the UN Security Council at the ongoing UN General Assembly.
President Muhammadu Buhari did not focus on both issues in his speech to the General Assembly, but Adesina believes that doesn’t mean there won’t be talk about them.
On Nigeria’s push for a permanent seat on the Security Council, he said, “There is a bilateral meeting tomorrow (Wednesday) where that will also come up. Last year, it was in the speech of the President. He does not need to repeat himself year after year. That can be done at a smaller forum and it’s going to come up.”
He expects the same thing to happen with the country’s quest for the repatriation of stolen funds.
“It (talk about repatriation of funds) had come up in one meeting yesterday and it will still come up. Tomorrow, he (President Buhari) is going to hold a bilateral meeting with the United Nations Secretary-General, you can be sure that is going to be part of what will be discussed,” Adesina said.