IPOB And Why We Celebrate May 30th By All Biafrans Home & Abroad

May Month

THERE WAS A COUNTRY

INTRODUCTION

An Igbo proverb tells us that a man who does not know where the rain began to beat him cannot say where he dried his body. The rain that beat Africa began four to five hundred years ago, from the “discovery” of Africa by Europe, through the transatlantic slave trade, to the Berlin Conference of 1885. That controversial gathering of the world’s leading European powers precipitated what we now call the Scramble for Africa, which created new boundaries that did violence to Africa’s ancient societies and resulted in tension-prone modern states. It took place without African consultation or representation, to say the least.

Great Britain was handed the area of West Africa that would later become Nigeria, like a piece of chocolate cake at a birthday party. It was one of the most populous regions on the African continent, with over 250 ethnic groups and distinct languages. The northern part of the country was the seat of several ancient kingdoms, such as the Kanem-Bornu—which Shehu Usman dan Fodio and his jihadists absorbed into the Muslim Fulani Empire. The Middle Belt of Nigeria was the locus of the glorious Nok Kingdom and its world-renowned terra-cotta sculptures. The southern protectorate was home to some of the region’s most sophisticated civilizations.

In the west, the Oyo and Ife kingdoms once strode majestically, and in the Midwest the incomparable Benin Kingdom elevated artistic distinction to a new level. Across the Niger River in the East, the Calabar and the Nri kingdoms flourished. If the Berlin Conference sealed her fate, then the amalgamation of the southern and northern protectorates inextricably complicated Nigeria’s destiny. Animists, Muslims, and Christians alike were held together by a delicate, some say artificial, lattice. Britain’s indirect rule was a great success in northern and western Nigeria, where affairs of state within this new dispensation continued as had been the case for centuries, with one exception—there was a new sovereign, Great.

Britain, to whom all vassals pledged fealty and into whose coffers all taxes were paid. Indirect rule in Igbo land proved far more challenging to implement. Colonial rule functioned through a newly created and incongruous establishment of “warrant chiefs”—a deeply flawed arrangement that effectively confused and corrupted the Igbo democratic spirit. Africa’s postcolonial disposition is the result of a people who have lost the habit of ruling themselves. We have also had difficulty running the new systems foisted upon us at the dawn of independence by our “colonial masters.” Because the West has had a long but uneven engagement with the continent, it is imperative that it understand what happened to Africa. It must also play a part in the solution. A meaningful solution will require the goodwill and concerted efforts on the part of all those who share the weight of Africa’s historical burden.

Most members of my generation, who were born before Nigeria’s independence, remember a time when things were very different. Nigeria was once a land of great hope and progress, a nation with immense resources at its disposal—natural resources, yes, but even more so, human resources. But the Biafran war changed the course of Nigeria. Nigeria is recolonized indirectly by the imperialists in other to maintain the fraud arrangement by the colonial masters instead of allowing indigenous people to emerge as a nation. In my view it was a cataclysmic experience that changed the history of Africa.

INDIGENOUS PEOPLE Of BIAFRA

The Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) is a group that leads the calls for Biafrans freedom from Nigeria. Its main aim is to restore an independent state of Biafra for the people of old Eastern Region of Nigeria through a referendum. The group was founded in 2012 by Nnamdi Kanu, who has resurfaced the issue of independence of the Indigenous Biafran population from Nigeria. They have issued calls for a peaceful settlement of their grievances through a referendum in the Nigerian states that were part of the old Eastern Region.

Supporters of Biafran independence are from the Igbo, Anang, Igbanke, Igala, Idoma and other ethnic groups within the map of defunct Biafran state. IPOB claims that Biafrans are marginalized by the government in Abuja through a lack of equitable resource distribution, poor investment, and an unfair heavily militarized presence in their region. The IPOB rose to prominence after previous Biafran independence organizations got weakened. The Nigerian government has been cracking down on IPOB members who peacefully protested due to Kanu's arrest and incarceration despite various court’s rulings for his release.

Today, IPOB has metamorphosed from a group to a movement of the Indigenous Biafran population who are fed up with the Nigerian depleting state. Biafrans all over the world have identified with the movement, thereby making IPOB to be a face of Biafra restoration movement.

 

THIS DAY IN HISTORY 1967 May 30

REPUBLIC OF BIAFRA PROCLAIMED

After suffering through years of suppression under Nigeria’s military government, the breakaway state of Biafra proclaims its independence from Nigeria.

In 1960, Nigeria gained independence from Britain. Six years later, the Muslim Hausas in northern Nigeria began massacring the Christian Igbos in the region, prompting tens of thousands of Igbos to flee to the east, where their people were the dominant ethnic group. The Igbos doubted that Nigeria’s oppressive military government would allow them to develop, or even survive, so on May 30, 1967, Lieutenant Colonel Odumegwu Ojukwu and other non-Igbo representatives of the area established the Republic of Biafra, comprising several states of Nigeria

After diplomatic efforts by Nigeria failed to reunite the country, war between Nigeria and Biafra broke out in July 1967. Ojukwu’s forces made some initial advances, but Nigeria’s superior military strength gradually reduced Biafran territory. The state lost its oil fields–its main source of revenue–and without the funds to import food, an estimated one million of its civilians died as a result of severe malnutrition. On January 11, 1970, Nigerian forces captured the provincial capital of Owerri, one of the last Biafran strongholds, and Ojukwu was forced to flee to the Ivory Coast. Four days later, Biafra surrendered to Nigeria.

HISTORICAL BACKGROUND

Biafra, officially the Republic of Biafra, was a state in West Africa that existed from May 1967 to January 1970. It was made up of the states in the Eastern Region of Nigeria.

Biafra's declaration of independence from Nigeria resulted in civil war between Biafra and Nigeria. Biafra was formally recognised by Gabon, Haiti, Ivory Coast, Tanzania and Zambia. Other nations, which did not give official recognition but provided support and assistance to Biafra, included Israel, France, Spain, Portugal, Norway, Rhodesia, South Africa and Vatican City. A Biafra received aid from non-state actors, including Joint Church Aid, Holy Ghost Fathers of Ireland, and under their direction Caritas International, [2] and U.S. Catholic Relief Services. Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) also originated in response to the suffering.

Its inhabitants were mostly Igbo, who led the independence movement due to economic, ethnic, cultural and religious tensions among the various peoples of Nigeria. Other ethnic groups included the Efik, Ibibio, Annang, Ejagham, Eket, Ibeno and the Ijaw.

After two-and-a-half years of war, during which almost two million Biafran civilians (3/4 of them small children) died from starvation caused by the total blockade of the region by the Nigerian government, Biafran forces under Nigeria's motto of "No-victor, No-vanquished" surrendered to the Nigerian Federal Military Government (FMG). The surrender was facilitated by the Biafran Vice President and Chief of General Staff, Major General Philip Effiong, who assumed leadership of the Republic of Biafra after the original President, Colonel Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, fled to Ivory Coast. After the surrender of Biafra, some Igbos who had fled the conflict returned to their properties but were unable to claim them back from new occupants. This became law in the Abandoned Properties Act (28 September 1979). It was purported that at the start of the civil war, Igbos withdrew their funds from Nigerian banks and converted it to the Biafran currency. After the war, bank accounts owned by Biafrans were seized and a Nigerian panel resolved to give every Igbo person with an account only 20 pounds. Today, Federal projects in Biafra were also greatly reduced compared to other parts of Nigeria. In an Intersociety study it was found that Nigerian security forces also extorted approximately $100 million per year from illegal roadblocks and other methods from Igboland - a cultural sub-region of Biafra in what is now southern Nigeria, causing greater mistrust of the Igbo citizenry towards the Nigerian security forces.

Early modern maps of Africa from the 15th to the 19th centuries, drawn from accounts written by explorers and travellers, show references to Biafra, Biafara, [10][11] and Biafares[12]. In his personal writings from his travels, a Rev. Charles W. Thomas defined the locations of islands in the Bight of Biafra as "between the parallels of longitude 5° and 9° East and latitude 4° North and 2° South".[13] People in the region have described Biafra as the land directly adjacent to the Bight of Biafra and also an indigenous state, existing before European colonialism created such entities as Nigeria.

Events leading to war

In 1960, Nigeria became independent of the United Kingdom. As with many other new African states, the borders of the country did not reflect earlier ethnic, cultural, religious, or political boundaries. Thus, the northern region of the country has a Muslim majority, being primarily made up of territory of the indigenous Sokoto Caliphate. The southern population is predominantly Christian, being primarily made up of territory of the indigenous Yoruba and Biafra kingdoms in the West and East respectively. Following independence, Nigeria was demarcated primarily along ethnic lines: Hausa and Fulani majority in the north, Yoruba majority in the West and Igbo majority in the East.

Ethnic tension had simmered in Nigeria during discussions of independence, but in the mid-twentieth century, ethnic and religious riots began to occur. In 1945 an ethnic riot flared up in Jos in which Hausa-Fulani people targeted Igbo people and left many dead and wounded. Police and Army units from Kaduna had to be brought in to restore order.

A newspaper article describes the event: 
At Jos in 1945, a sudden and savage attack by Northerners took the Easterners completely by surprise, and before the situation could be brought under control, the bodies of Eastern women, men, and children littered the streets and their property worth thousands of pounds reduced to shambles.

Three hundred Igbo people died in the Jos riot. In 1953 a similar riot occurred in Kano. A decade later in 1964 and during the Western political crisis divided the Western Region as Ladoke Akintola clashed with Obafemi Awolowo. Widespread reports of fraud tarnished the election's legitimacy. Westerners especially resented the political domination of the Northern People's Congress, many of whose candidates ran unopposed in the election. Violence spread throughout the country and some began to flee the North and West, some to Dahomey. The apparent domination of the political system by the North, and the chaos breaking out across the country, motivated elements within the military to consider decisive action. The federal government, dominated by Northern Nigeria, allowed the crisis to unfold with the intention of declaring a state of emergency and placing the Western Region under martial law. This administration of the Nigerian federal government was widely perceived to be corrupt. In January 1966, the situation reached a breaking point. A military coup occurred during which a mixed but predominantly Igbo group of army officers assassinated 30 political leaders including Nigeria's Prime Minister, Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, and the Northern premier, Sir Ahmadu Bello. The four most senior officers of Northern origin were also killed. Nnamdi Azikiwe, the President, of Igbo extraction, and the favoured Western Region politician Obafemi Awolowo were not killed. The commander of the army, General Aguiyi Ironsi seized power to maintain order.

In July 1966 northern officers and army units staged a counter-coup. Muslim officers named a General from a small ethnic group (the Angas) in central Nigeria, General Yakubu "Jack" Gowon, as the head of the Federal Military Government (FMG). The two coups deepened Nigeria's ethnic tensions. In September 1966, approximately 30,000 Igbo were killed in the north, and some Northerners were killed in backlashes in eastern cities.

In January 1967, the military leaders Gowon, Chukwuemeka Ojukwu and senior police officials of each region met in Aburi, Ghana and agreed on a less centralized union of regions. The Northerners were at odds with this agreement that was known as the Aburi Accords; Obafemi Awolowo, the leader of the Western Region warned that if the Eastern Region seceded, the Western Region would also, which persuaded the northerners.

After returning to Nigeria, the federal government reneged on the agreement and unilaterally declared the creation of several new states including some that gerrymandered the Igbos in Biafra. On 26 May the Eastern Region voted to secede from Nigeria. Four days later, Ojukwu unilaterally declared the independence of the Republic of Biafra, citing the Easterners killed in the post-coup violence as reasons for the declaration of independence. It is believed this was one of the major factors that sparked the war. The large amount of oil in the region also created conflict, as oil was already becoming a major component of the Nigerian economy. Biafra was ill-equipped for war, with fewer army personnel and less equipment than the Nigerian military, but had advantages over the Nigerian state as they were fighting in their homeland and had the support of most Biafrans.

The FMG attacked Biafra on 6 July 1967. Nigeria's initial efforts were unsuccessful; the Biafrans successfully launched their own offensive, occupying areas in the mid-Western Region in August 1967. By October 1967, the FMG had regained the land after intense fighting. In September 1968, the federal army planned what Gowon described as the "final offensive". Initially, the final offensive was neutralised by Biafran troops. In the latter stages, a Southern FMG offensive managed to break through the fierce resistance.

The Republic of Biafra comprised over 29,848 square miles (77,310 km2) of land, with terrestrial borders shared with Nigeria to the north and west, and with Cameroon to the east. Its coast was on the Gulf of Guinea of the South Atlantic Ocean in the south. The country's northeast bordered the Benue Hills and mountains that lead to Cameroon. Three major rivers flow from Biafra into the Gulf of Guinea: the Imo River, the Cross River and the Niger River. The territory of the Republic of Biafra is covered nowadays by the reorganized Nigerian states of Cross River, Ebonyi, Enugu, Anambra, Imo, Bayelsa, Rivers, Abia, Delta and Akwa Ibom.

WHY DO IPOB OBSERVES THE ANNUAL SIT-AT-HOME ON 30TH OF MAY

The Indigenous People of Biafra often declared May 30 as the day all supporters of Biafra will sit at home without going anywhere or doing any work. This, it said, would be to use the day to honour the Biafrans who had lost their lives in sectarian killings in the country from 1945 to date. It enjoined the Biafrans and all those who believe in the Biafra ideology all over the country to shut down their businesses and stay at home.

IPOB members always hold prayers at designated places to mark the day. And this year 2020 according to the leader of IPOB Mazi Nnamdi Kanu there will be sit-at-home to remembers those who lost their live during the war in order for the present generations of Biafrans to live. There shall be three (3) days of prayer and fasting beginning from 27th of May through 29th and at midnight, there shall be candle night, the 30th May will be the sit-at-home.

Biafrans all over the land and every part of Nigeria where Biafrans resides, observe a total compliance of the order. Whereas we hope and trust God that Biafra shall come quickly and be restored in our own time. Whatever you are asked to do, please do.

God bless Mazi Nnamdi Kanu!

God bless Indigenous People of Biafra!!

God bless Biafra The Land of The Rising Sun!!!

Written by:

Pastor Jack

For: Lagos State Media

Published by:

Chibuike John Nebeokike

For: Lagos State Media

Refs:

1.            Prof. Chinua Achebe

2.            Encyclopaedia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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