‘Civil War: Why Nigerian Army Wasn’t Hard On Biafrans – Buhari’: A Rejoinder
By IPOB Central Command of the Directorate of State
In the Vanguard newspaper published on June 4, 2018 and other media, it was widely reported how this version of ‘Buhari’ claimed that Nigerian soldiers were ‘soft’ on Biafrans during the Civil War. He further made claims that Gowon had issued the commanders general orders to be humane in the prosecution of the war. We, the Indigenous People of Biafra state categorically and without equivocation that Buhari’s claims are as false and as strange they come, especially in the face of quantum evidence to the contrary, chronicled by independent observes of the wartime atrocities committed by Nigerian forces against innocent Biafran civilians, including women and children. We doubt if it is the same Buhari that addressed Eastern Youth Corpers in 2016 in his country home in Daura Katsina State on the horrors, pains, misery and suffering of the war, that made this latest ‘soft’ on Biafrans statement. It couldn’t have come from the same person.
To better understand the Nigerian atrocities during the war, one needs to trace back to 1945 and then 1953 when the Hausa-Fulani political leadership in northern Nigeria planned and executed two premeditated pogroms on Biafran immigrant populations in Jos and Kano in an unpatriotic and envy driven opposition to the leading role Biafrans played in the struggle for Nigeria’s independence from Britain. Vast numbers of easterners not just Igbos, were murdered on those occasions and their properties looted or destroyed. Neither in Kano nor Jos did the colonial regime apprehend or prosecute anyone for these massacres and destruction, which expectedly and tragically emboldened the murderous northerners for the worst that was to come between 1966 -1970.
The perpetrators, whose scions like Buhari subsequently seized power in 1966 on the blood of their fellow officers of eastern extraction, continued their bloodletting that directly led to the war. And when the war came, Gowon deceptively labeled it a police action but what went on underneath was a genocide of epic proportions. There were extensive coverage of the genocide in the international media throughout its duration. According to accounts, the real Buhari committed grave genocidal atrocities of his own in the theaters where he participated or commanded, namely the battles for Nsukka, Abagana and Nkpor Junction, where Buhari had held command positions. This is subject of an ongoing suit filed at the ICC by IPOB.
During the battles for these sectors, Buhari’s officers and men torched entire villages and massacred the civilians that could not evacuate before the enemy arrived. These included children, the sick, infirm and elderly. At the conclusion of the massacres, the soldiers began their macabre dance of jubilation and Buhari was said to have told them that “Nnewi is next“. Yes – ‘next’ -as in the next massacre. It was on the heels and ashes of these genocide that the Gowon had, during the war, boasted publicly that his men had killed three million Biafrans. But given that the numerical strength of the entire Biafran armed forces hovered around 50,000 men, one can only concluded that the three million slaughtered were hapless Biafran civilians. Such atrocities is the reason why history of the Biafra-Nigeria was hurriedly removed from school curriculums.
In addition to Buhari, there were other self confessed butchers of Biafrans. One is Benjamin Adekunle, a notoriously gruesome commander of Nigerian forces who had no qualms in boasting about the goal of this horrendous mission o exterminate Biafrans. He stated at an August 1968 press conference, attended by journalists including those from the international media: ‘We shoot at everything that moves, and when our forces march into the centre of Igbo territory, we shoot at everything, even at things that do not move’. True to type, Adekunle duly carried through his threat with clinical precision both on his ‘everything that moves’ – targeting, especially southern Igboland where his forces slaughtered hundreds of thousands, and on the ‘things that do not move’-assault category. Adekunle’s infamous destruction of the famed Biafran economic and social infrastructure was indescribably barbaric.
In July 1968, the British mission in Nigeria estimated that 200-300 Biafrans were dying every day. However, these estimates were based on numbers reported by the Nigerian government, as the British did not have access to the Biafran enclaves. Two months later, during the height of the crisis, the International Committee of the Red Cross (which traversed Biafran during the war) estimated 8,000 and 10,000 deaths per day. It obtained these figures based on random samples of death rates in villages, refugee camps and hospitals across Biafra, and it cautioned that the estimates were likely to be conservative. Jean Mayer, Professor of Nutrition at Harvard’s School of Public Health, similarly argued that estimates of 10,000 deaths a day appeared to be accurate. We reckon that Buhari would rather wish all these away but it won’t work. It is a fact of history.
The Asaba Massacre is but another fact of history that clearly debunks Buhari’s junk narratives. According to credible reports, Nigerian troops entered Asaba and began ransacking houses and killing civilians, claiming they were Biafran sympathisers. Reports demonstrate that several hundreds were killed individually and in groups at various locations in the town. Later, community leaders summoned the townspeople to assemble on the morning of October 7, 1967 hoping to end the violence through a show of support for “One Nigeria.” Hundreds of men, women, and children, many wearing the ceremonial akwa ocha (white) attire paraded along the main street, singing, dancing, and chanting “One Nigeria.” At a junction, men and teenage boys were separated from women and young children, and gathered in an open square at Ogbe-Osowa village. Then Nigerian troops under the command of Murtala Mohammed and Ibrahim Taiwo gave orders to machine gun “everybody”. It was reliably estimated that more than 700 men and boys were killed, some as young as 12 years old, in addition to many more killed in the preceding days. Bodies of some victims were retrieved by family members and buried at home. But most were buried in mass graves without appropriate ceremony. Many extended families lost dozens of men and boys. Federal troops occupied Asaba for many months, during which time most of the town was ravaged, many women and girls were raped or forcibly “married,” and large numbers of citizens fled and never returned until the war ended in 1970.
We shall conclude this Rejoinder by quoting Robert Melson, a foreigner, a Holocaust survivor and a Nigerian expert who witnessed what happened between 1967 -1970. In his book, ‘Revolution and genocide’, Melson states that: “I could not help but make the connection between their experience and my own. Biafrans were being killed purely for their identity: it was as if the twenty-some years after the Second World War had been compressed into a few minutes. The Holocaust monster was on the prowl again, and it was no use trying to escape its implications in Africa or elsewhere”.
It appears after each successive sit-at-home directive by IPOB, the powers that be remember Biafra. Our quest for freedom, liberty and justice can never be dismissed. At the end of this whole process Biafra will be fully restored as a civilised nation by the grace of God.
COMRADE EMMA POWERFUL
MEDIA AND PUBLICITY SECRETARY FOR IPOB
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