Thursday 26 June 2014

The Biafran Quest and the Akwa Ibom Question BY AKANIMO KINGSLEY

A certain ideology holds thus: 'if you cannot beat them, join them'. It has been proven right from time that those of the Southern region of Nigeria especially the Igbos, Ibibios, Ijaws etc are naturally decisive, tough and proud. Infact, this explains why the Igbos knew no king and the Ibibios had no clearly organized leadership until the late 19th century when both ethnic groups were forced to answer to one man in their various communities. The British masters dealt a blow on them when they introduced the warrant chieftaincy system into Ibibio and Igbo land, since they could not easily capture the people as they did in the North. It was the toughness and pride of Ibibios that warranted the late Chief Udo Umana of Aka Offot to refuse bowing to British troops which consequently saw to his death at the hands of Major Brooks (of which Brooks street in Uyo is named after). 

In a more recent occasion, the height of decisiveness and toughness, caused the Igbos to lead other southerners in a civil war against the Federal Republic of Nigeria in 1967 (Biafran/Nigerian war). The war, the aftermath and recent developments, are what inspires this piece.

In a bid to tell an objective story, the late literary gem, Chinua Achebe published a book on Biafran history some months before he died. Achebe took time to explain the causes of the Nigerian Civil War and more importantly, why the republic of Biafra deserved to be. Unfortunately, with all the genuine reasons, Gen. Yakubu Gowon had a filled day when he finally thwarted all attempts to successfully secede from the Federal Republic of Nigeria. However, the Republic of Biafra did not totally succeed.

It must be known that some people of Akwa Ibom (Ibibio origin were also an integral part of Col. Chukwuemeka Ojukwu's Biafran quest. In virtually all aspects of the Biafran struggle, at least one or two Ibibio man could be found. From the Biafran military to the Biafran diplomatic mission, the federal government of Biafra, especially in the Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC) of the Republic of Biafra; there were Ibibios who stood as key players.

Two sensitive questions would then be asked; what was the relationship between Akwa Ibom (Ibibio) as a part, and the then Biafran Republic as a whole? Again, what is/would be the stand of Akwa Ibom State presently in the unending-looking quest for a new country. As insignificant as it may sound, the unnoticed smoke of the Biafran group, MASSOB and other minor groups have given rise to a developing threat to Nigeria's sovereignty in the South Eastern States. With the wake of Radio Biafra, London (RBL) and Radio Biafra, Enugu, the position of Nigeria Communication Commission (NCC) on the latter is unclear. Regarding the question of Biafra – Akwa Ibom relation before and during the war, no record acknowledges that either Ibibio Union or the then Cross River State, hand outrightly sent or permitted anybody from the region to represent its interest in any capacity in the Biafran government. However, the Ibibios in the Biafran military were partly converts from the Nigerian military and partly inexperienced civilians who were forced to serve the secessionists army. Others in the Biafran agencies found themselves there following their connections with the Igbos before the crisis. 

In this wise, it is fair to hold that there was no official or political relationship between Ibibios and Biafra, hence, betrayal was imminent.

On the second question, the national conference had first given a clue by striking out the issue of Nigeria's breakup, upholding the 1914 Lugard pact. On the contrary, Biafran crusaders are not discouraged by the confab veto, but moved ahead. On Thursday last week, a Biafran group attempted to take over a media outfit owned by the Nigerian government and such seems to be getting close to the verge, an unlikely act of Biafran ancestors. One major cause of Nigeria-Biafran crisis was the Alo Ibiri crude oil in Delta State. Col. Ojukwu and company probably hoped to divide and rule so as to reap the benefit of oil business and that was another platform of relationship between Igbos and non Igbo Biafrans in oil producing Delta and other States.

Officially, the Akwa Ibom State Government is not presently part of the Biafran quest, but one Nigeria. Governor Akpabio made it clear months back during the remembrance event of departed heroes of the civil war. This disclaimer could be a bid to drive away the Igbo States. But like it happened in the land of the rising sun (as Biafra is informally known), there was no official representative sent for the interest of the Ibibios, yet some Ibibios were part of the fight against the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Infact, it could be said that a good number of Ibibios whose names are inscribed on the cenotaph at the Ibom Hall ground, were Biafran agents.

Presently, the security crisis in Nigeria which is almost an exact replica of Nigeria under Yakubu Gowon, has given room for sentiments to thrive. This could be seen in accusations and counter accusations and in the management of the crisis. Often times, some Igbo people would first consider the number of dead victims of bomb blast who are of Igbo origin. On the other hand, some northerners would make inciting statements seemingly against the south and this keeps fuelling the quest for the division of the country. As earlier noted, Igbos are proud set of people who value their unity and sustainability than other things. It is on this ground that the Biafran crusaders seek a country pride and otherwise. But in as much as the crude oil sentiment and trade relation is also imbibed by many, the link between Akwa Ibom and the agitating Biafra, might never be cut out. Here, wisdom has to be applied.

On the whole, while it is near impossibility to achieve a one-ethnic-group country, it is obvious that Akwa Ibom's stand on Nigeria's secession will have effect on the Biafran quest. Moreso, the growing sentiment of a new country could as well affect Ibibio's relation with their Igbo neighbours, when considering diversity in interest. To this end, peace should be the watchword among all groups, since the primary aim of the struggle is about having a peaceful environment.

Also in the course of the struggle, let Ojukwu's mistakes not be repeated, especially acts against each other (Akwa Ibom and Igbo). But the choice of either Nigeria or Biafra must be carefully handled, so to avert a second civil war. God bless Nigeria!


  1. Brother Akanimo, you know Biafrans to be peace loving and our leaders Ojukwu and Effiong advised us before they left we should seek Biafra through the United Nations, Charter Framework. This is exactly what we are doing hence no country that has granted Biafra recognition has withdrawn it and the Organization of African Union Assembly has granted Biafra limited recognition. It may interest you to note that Biafra outpaced Nigeria in Academia and in the Profession in the civilized world. A dimension of this intellectual superiority is in the field of medicine, Biafra has more female medical doctors in the civilized world than the rest of Nigeria put together. Also, be rest assured that if Southern Sudan with 5% literacy and numeracy rate can assert their right to self determinism using the instrumentality of the United Nations Charter that Biafra with 62% should otherwise our higher literacy rate has no human organization relevance.

  2. How can you say
    One major cause of Nigeria- Biafran crisis was the Alo Ibiri crude oil in Delta State. Col. Ojukwu and company probably hoped to divide and rule
    failed to mention pogrom & killing of easterners in north & west
    Wat about aburi accord ghana that nigeria gov. failed to held to the agreement
    wat about resource control that Ojukwu fought for??
    now who own the oil well in so called south south??
    Is Hausa/Fulani & yoruba that own them
    retarded continue fighting igbos
    Hausa/Fulani & yoruba continue drilling to develop their country


  3. The Biafra quest? I would tag it different. I would address it as the Biafra problem. Most folks agitating for the state know not its history and the consequence resulting from the ambition of the lt col.
    To fully understand this problem, a map of Nigeria must be inspected. Then and now. The ethnicity of the agitators must be examined, then and now.
    Lt col. Chukwuemeka Odemegwu Ojukwu is described by Adewale Ademoyega as crafty and selfish and an opportunist in his book - why we struck. In the first revolution, the colonel who was in charge of a garrison clearly danced on the fence sharing his loyalties between Major Chukwuemeka Nzeokwu and Ironsi to see which side was strongest. he finally picked and supported Ironsi.
    the purpose of the aforementioned is to highlight why Ojukwu was given the eastern region to govern. the same region which he later seceded as the Republic of Biafra.
    for whatever motives, the riots in the north presumed a catalyst, the east became assumed a sovereign state under the title Biafra. Do understand Biafra was never a coalition 0f like minded or politically bonding units, in fact it became a tribal state where any other tribe outside 'ndigbo' was considered inferior. In that debacle of lost lives and dreams, many served from other tribes Brigadier Victor Banjo was one of but a few whom were misled.
    Today the cry for Biafra still remains. It should be seen for what it is, a cry for an independent 'Ndigbo 'state. Marginalization is a fabled excuse, in the spirit of fairness, since it is the igbos who want an identity, and should get one, it might be pertinent to examine a map.

    Abia, Imo, Anambra, Enugu, and ebonyi are recognised Igbo states in the current map. Should they insist on autonomy, they and ( they only ) would form another one of a short list of countries existing within the boundaries of others. They would lack independent boundaries.
    As for the question of Akwa Ibom and Cross River joining an ibo tribal state, it's a definite no, should Nigeria split, the ibibios and efiks would form their own republic than re-subject themselves to any form of colonialism.
    A sound advise is to "look, before you leap".