Monday, September 4, 2023

Yoruba's are not Betrayal

Destroying Age Old
Myths About The Nigerian Civil War 

Myth one: Yorubas are betrayers

A lot of this angst, which has refused to fade away decades after the dramatis personae exited this world, is centred around a supposed betrayal of Emeka Ojukwu and the Igbos by the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo.

And sadly, this has now become an emotive issue, where fiction has been fed to many young people as fact.

The truth is that Chief Awolowo went on a peace meeting to Enugu, to try to persuade Igbo leaders to adopt a peaceful way out of the crisis that had unfolded in Nigeria after the January 15, 1966 coup and the July 29, 1966 counter coup.

Awolowo met with the leaders of the Eastern Region for two days between May 6-7, 1967. THERE IS A TRANSCRIPT OF THAT MEETING, WHICH WAS PUBLISHED WHEN BOTH AWOLOWO AND OJUKWU WERE ALIVE.

Please note that this transcript was taken from a tape recorded by then Colonel Ojukwu’s own recorder.

I encourage those who are still bitterly accusing Chief Awolowo, and by extension all Yorubas, of betrayal, to please read that transcript.

At the time Emeka Ojukwu wanted Chief Awolowo to follow his lead by announcing the secession of the Western Region after his own declaration of secession of the Southeast, there were tens of thousands of armed Northern troops all over the West. It does not take a genius to guess what would have happened if Awolowo had gone that route.

Moreover, unlike Ojukwu, Chief Awolowo had no control over any troops. He was also not the Governor of the Western Region (Adeyinka Adebayo was then the military Governor). As a result, he had no executive powers. Whatever powers he had were at best residual and persuasive.

Chief Awolowo had earlier called a meeting of Yoruba officers of the Nigerian army, and key officers of Yoruba stock refused to attend, with one of them sending a message to him that he was a Nigerian soldier, not a Yoruba soldier.

So given all of that, it was rather naive for anybody to have expected him to declare the secession of the Western Region from Nigeria.

It would have been like expecting Nnamdi Azikiwe to usurp Ojukwu’s powers as Governor of the Eastern Region, and announce the secession of Eastern Nigeria, and the creation of a new Biafran nation. The Ojukwu we know may have even arrested, and probably executed Zik if he had done that.

If the grudge against Chief Awolowo is founded on the £20 pounds payment to persons of Igbo origin, then I can understand it. But even that grudge is also not well founded. Because the £20 policy only affected those whose bank records could not be verified. I hazard a guess that if another person other than Awolowo was on that seat, the payment may have been £0.

But to hold a grudge against the Yorubas stemming from that Enugu meeting is in my view an injustice to a man who only went there to seek a way to avoid bloodletting.

In any case, have those who hold this view ever considered that the man, Emeka Ojukwu, for whom they hold this torch, after his return to Nigeria on May 18, 1982, joined the National Party of Nigeria, the very same party that was peopled, sponsored and supported by the very same people who prosecuted the Nigerian Civil War against him and Eastern Nigeria?

The NPN was a Northern Party that did not win a single state in Western, Midwestern (Bendel) and the Igbo states of Eastern Nigeria. The same people who founded the NPN were the very same people who advised and perhaps tele-guided Gowon.

In fact, the first National Leader of the NPN was Makaman Bida, a former member of the inner caucus of Ahmadu Bello’s Northern Peoples Congress.

This is the party that Ojukwu joined, contested for election into the Senate (and lost), and campaigned for during the 1983 Presidential election.

Taking all of this into consideration, there is no way the myth of Chief Awolowo, and all Yorubas being betrayers, can stand.

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