Thursday, May 30, 2019

The Ogoni: A people who never turned on Biafra

Written by Chibuzo Ihuoma

Some may be surprised about the title of this piece, some anxious to see the proof that follows, and others frightened that the truth will finally come out and their lies will finally be exposed. Ever since the end of the 1967-1970 Nigerian civil war, it has been a tradition of two out of the three major ethnic groups, the Yoruba and Hausa, to use all means to subdue the Igbo for their own political and economic benefit. One of the ways this was done was through the banning of history from schools, the use of media, and the bribing of monarchs, particularly those of the former Eastern Region Nigeria.

One of the lethal tools used by the Hausa and Yoruba Bourgeoisie, other than bribing the minority and "new minority" chiefs, was to create a false unity narrative among the non-East Central groups of the former Eastern Region in which the Igbo were made to seem as a big monster with 6 heads that if not collectively opposed would consume them. Another tool the Hausa and Yoruba Bourgeoisie used was to lull the minority by telling them that what they suffered during the war was the fault of the Igbo and that they should hate them for it. This particular one was a very easy one, the people had just come out of a brutal war, they had lost relatives and means livelihood, and they had been cut off from the world for 3 good years. The anger was there.

But was it true that the people east of the River Niger now referred to as Niger Deltans opposed their inclusion into Biafra? Not at all. It was the Council of Chief - which included elders from across the ethnic groups of the former Eastern Region, that unanimously agreed to succeed from Nigeria. In fact, they were the ones who pushed the 33 years old young man and soldier, Emeka Ojukwu, to declare secession. Did any of the groups of the Niger Delta pull out of the succession bid? Yes, but only one group of peoples, the Ijoid groups. This was due to the release of Isaac Adaka Boro, a supporter of the Northern-backed Ijaw political party, the Niger Delta Congress, and leader of a 12 day rebellion for self-determination for the Ijaw people in an Ijaw republic: Niger Delta Republic. Boro's siding with the federal troops was connected to the alliance his political party had with their sponsors and allies in the North. The Northern Peoples Congress (NPC) were allies with the Niger Delta Congress against the NCNC in the Eastern Region. I will cover Boro, NDC and the alliance with the North another time, but for now we focus on the Ogoni. 

The Ogoni were solidly behind the secession of Biafra and remained loyal until their area was captured by federal troops. They were never "saboteurs" as some ignorant and over emotional elements within the Igbo community refer to all minorities in the East. In a 2001 book by Kenyan author, Godfrey Mwakikagile, titled "Ethnic politics in Kenya and Nigeria" he sheds light on Ogoni support and loyalty to Biafra:

(To purchase book and read more about Nigerian politics and war visit: <a target="_blank" href="">Ethnic Politics in Kenya and Nigeria</a><img src="//" width="1" height="1" border="0" alt="" style="border:none !important; margin:0px !important;" />)

To give more credence to the Ogoni full support of Biafra, late Ogoni leader and writer Ken Saro-Wiwa, in an article of his titled "Complete Statement", wrote about how his people, the Ogoni, supported Biafra throughout the duration of the war and were upset with him for siding with Nigeria. He explained that even when he tried to woo them with government benefits they still remained angry with him and didn't feel the need to thank him for anything he did for them, because to them, he owed it to them for betraying their dream. Here is an excerpt from the article:

"Throughout the war, I found that I was almost the only one, of the entire Ogoni elite, who stood by Nigeria. The men of my age group and beyond who have given evidence at this Tribunal or who were listed as prosecution witnesses in the proof of evidence -- Dr. G. B. Leton, Mr. I. S. Kogbara, Kemte Giadom as well as the men who were sadly murdered on May 21, 1994 were all on the opposite side of the argument.

In spite of that, as soon as the war ended, I made absolutely sure that they were all rehabilitated, that their positions in Rivers State were promptly secured and that they could begin to make an Ogoni contribution to the development of the newly-created Rivers State. Their individual and collective achievement whatever its quality was a pride to me. I did not expect to be thanked for this service by any individuals. I was not. My reward was knowing that I had done my duty by my country and by my kith and kin." -Ken Saro-Wiwa (1995)
Let me state that Saro-Wiwa eventually regained the acceptance of his people later on in his career during his agitation against the environmental destruction of Ogoniland by Shell Oil Company. In this, he became "The Ogoni leader". 

It has been proven in this piece that the Ogoni were Biafrans throughout the duration of the civil war, as admitted even by foremost Ogoni leader, Ken Saro-Wiwa. The lies of the Nigerian state and those who supported its falsehood in reference to eastern minority support, in this particularly the Ogoni, has been exposed and destroyed.

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