The rise of creating a country against an existing country

October 25, 2016 OPINION/NEWS




Ogunniyi Abayomi

I was dispatched to Imo state, Nigeria in the month of October 2015 by the National Youth Service Corp (NYSC) for a year orientation service and programme. Nigeria had just sworn in  General Muhammadu Buhari as the newly elected president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and everything was new within the cabinet of ministers who were implementing new government policy by the newly elected political leaders.

Aspirations were high over the change mantra the administration envisioned during its political campaign. Moreover, expectations placed by them to the electorate gauged an aura of hope towards building a sane and developed society within four years of their administration.

This period and time I departed Lagos to this state, situated in the south east territorial zone of the country predominantly occupied by the Igbo indigene, like every stranger I had no clue of their language or culture which I consider totally different from mine.

The journey was the beginning of a new adventure clamoured with the rigours and anxiety of living in an obscure environment far away from town. I was away from home struggling to adapt to a new way of life when I heard about the arrest of the IPOB (Indigenous People of Biafra) leader, Nnamdi Kanu and former National Security Advisor Sambo Dasuki by the Department of State Security Service with an exclusion of autonomy by the president who ordered them to be remanded in custody, despite a court order for their release as they had met the bail conditions of the court.

The quest began, I was inquisitive to know the reason for agitation for a nation known as Biafra, despite the turbulent condition that enraged the country. In the midst of this curiosity I began to read books and journals, the most notable I could remember was the autobiography ‘There Was a Country’ written by the late Professor Chinua Achebe that explicitly viewed the scenes of the first civil war and the pogrom it orchestrated within the south eastern zone of the country, which created a distorted identity of grief saddled with the torture and dictatorial attitude of the military regime.

I wasn’t yet born nor could I affirm my existence during the first civil war that began in 1967 and lasted until 1970 under the regime of General Yakubu Gowon. The agitation began after a controversial coup d’état on the 15 of January 1966 that led to the death of the Sardauna of Sokoto,  Alhaji Ahmadu Bello, First Prime Minister, Alhaji Tafawa Balewa and the Premier of the western region of Nigeria, Samuel Ladoke Akintola from which emerged General Aguiyi Ironsi as the military head of state .

There was uproar and ethnic violence across the country when the military personnel overtook the unstable political regime in Nigeria. An era that brought about much damage over a tribe observed to be industrious with hard working individuals and an amazing determination to survive no matter the rigours affected by society.

The controversial coup was connived by junior officer of the military led by Major Kaduna Chukwuma Nzeogwu who hailed from Kaduna, a northern state in Nigeria. Major Chukwuma Nzeogwu was born and raised in the north and spoke Hausa fluently but his military colleagues misinterpreted this coup as the orchestration of the Igbo tribe and began to implement a massive pogrom which affected life and property across the region.

A propelling reaction led to the death of Major General Aguiyi Ironsi via a countercoup within a few months of his emergence into power in 1966. On July 29, 1966, the country encountered yet another coup that determined the fate of a country be ruled by guns and enforcement of order by weapons, a torture against human rights. The death of Ironsi and the massive killings of indigenous people across the south and eastern zone were raging and catastrophic.

General Yakubu Gowon was announced as the head of state after the counter coup plotted along with General Murtala Ramat Mohammed, Theophilus Danjuma, Captain Abdul D.S Wya, Lieutenant Ibrahim Bako, Lieutenant Williams Walbe, Yakubu Dambo, Sani Abacha, Mohammed Balarabe, Buka Suka Dimka and Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida to retaliate against the killing of Northern soldiers and civilians that died in the January Coup d état in Nigeria.

The atmosphere in society was chaotic and raging, the eastern tribe angry over the killing of their fellow indigene, the people at this moment returning to their village and towns in the eastern territorial zone of Nigeria. The movement for a new country had been stated after the declaration and order of the eastern governor, Major General Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu to easterners to return home while in the midst of this pogrom.

The Aburi Conference of January 1967 in Ghana was the birth of a confederation known as Biafra, the Land of Rising Sun. There was a gathering of influential men from different sectors of society to ensure the vision succeeded in Nigeria. Major General Yakubu Gowon was fighting against the idea that engaged in a turmoil of crises and egoistic battles among both parties. Despite being young men neither party came to a compromise over a resolution to the demands and never sought for possible solutions.

Despite various negotiations and talks over the anticipated rise, war unfolded after the declaration on the 30th May, 1967. The events that unfolded after negotiations had failed could only be described as an act of barbaric theatrics over the agenda for a new nation outside the existing powers that ruled the land.

In this war I remember Christopher Ifekandu Okigbo, a poet and literary enigma who died at the warfront defending his people. The Asaba massacre in 1967, likewise the Calabar massacre in 1968, along with other major events clearly spelt how destabilized society across the east was at this time.

The agenda is likewise on hold and it seems will never be forgotten, especially in the minds of the older generation. The quest is still on, the memory is fresh in their minds, would history repeat itself like 1967 or will society move on if things are properly structured?

It is not my question, rather the answer would only come in what we want and the quest we know we can benefit from.





Ogunniyi Abayomi

Ogunniyi Abayomi was born July 11, 1991 in the city of Lagos, where he resides. A poet and essayist whose works have been published in various journals.


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