The ghost of Biafran secession is again stalking Nigeria and Nigerians are once more beginning to relive, reflect on and even debate the events that led to the unforgettable secessionist conflict that ostensibly ended in January 1970.
This month marks the 50th anniversary of the country's first coup. Led by an Igbo, Major Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu, the 15 January 1966 anti-corruption coup provided the trigger for the Biafran civil war that engulfed Nigeria later.
With the October 2015 arrest and detention of Nnamdi Kanu, the Biafran activist and leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, debate on what next in Nigeria is in sharp focus as people begin to take in once again the brutality and numerous reasons behind the first failed January coup which include: the mistakes of the successor military regime of General Aguiyi-Ironsi's as he sought to abandon the weak federal system in favour of a strong unitary government; the cruel violence of the second revenge coup by Northern officers in May 1966; the attacks and murders of Igbo civilians which created the grounds for secession by Biafra; the attempts to find a political solution which would hold the country together at the Aburi conference in Ghana and which reached agreement on a loose confederal political system; the subsequent abandonment of the Aburi accords by the Nigerian government; the final descent into civil war and the large-scale humanitarian disasters in the besieged Biafra that followed; and finally the collapse of the rebel state, the terms of the surrender in 1970, and post-war reintegration of the rebel state back into Nigeria.
Reflection on each of these chapters will enable Nigeria to confront important aspects of its past which it has been reluctant to discuss. The peace in 1970, although considered magnanimous at the time, has partially unravelled. Many of the defeated Igbo have long perceived themselves discriminated against and marginalised. …
By Wambu, Onyekachi