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Monday 14 May 2018

#BiafraFallenHeroes: A Tribute To General Philip Effiong As We Mark 51st Biafra Heroes and Heroines Remembrance Day

By Onoja Christian Obinna| For Biafra Writers 

May 14, 2018

Memorable lines from the radio broadcast made by General Philip Effiong on January 10, 1970

"Throughout history, injured people have had to resort to arms in their self-defense where peaceful negotiations fail. We are no exception. We took up arms because of the sense of insecurity generated in our people by the events of 1966. We have fought in defense of that cause…

...I take this opportunity to congratulate officers and men of our Armed Forces for their gallantry and bravery, which have earned for them the admiration of the whole world. I thank the civil population for their steadfastness and courage in the face of overwhelming odds and starvation…

...I urge on General Gowon, in the name of humanity, to order his troops to pause while an armistice is negotiated in order to avoid the mass suffering caused by the movement of population…

...I also thank His Holiness the Pope, the Joint Church Aid and other relief organizations for the help they have given for the relief of suffering and starvation. I appeal to all governments to give urgent help for relief and to prevail on the Federal Military Government to order their troops to stop all military operations..."

Those are the resounding words of the most courageous general.
A man with the heart of gold
A General of significance
The most loyal general of all time
The favourite of all favorites
The hero of the rising sun
The savior of many souls
The Chief of General Staff of Biafra.

Though I wasn't opportuned to meet him, but numerous documentaries of his gallant disposition during the Biafra genocidal war put his stance and achievements straight which aroused my love for him and filled my desire to put on his war shoes.

Brief History
Born on November 18, 1924, Obong (Gen.) Philip Effiong joined the Nigerian Army on July 28, 1945 in Enugu, and rose through the ranks till 1956 when he received the Queen's Commission after his officer cadet training in the United Kingdom at Eaton Hall in Chester.

After serving in various parts of the United Kingdom, Germany and the Republic of Congo in 1961, Obong Effiong was transferred to the Nigerian Army Ordinance Corps from where he became the first Nigerian Commander of the Ordinance Depot in Yaba, Lagos in 1962, and the first Nigerian Director of Ordinance Services of the Nigerian Army in 1963. This was the post he held as a Lieutenant Colonel when the first coup d'├ętat took place on January 15, 1966. He was then subsequently posted to Major General Aguiyi Ironsi's Supreme Headquarters in Lagos as the first Principal Staff Officer.

In July 1966, then Lt. Col. Effiong was posted to Kaduna as Acting Brigade Commander of the 1st Brigade, Nigerian Army, a post he held till the July 29, 1966 counter coup. Having successfully escaped several attempts on his life, during the “kill all Easterners” campaign in the north, he finally made it to Enugu.

Notwithstanding the level he attained in the Nigerian Army, being a compassionate being and lover of his people, he abandoned the Nigerian Army to serve his people when duty called to defend his land in the new nation, Biafra.

Very handsome and a broad shouldered man, fair and tall he was but filled with diligence and respect though full of valor, he became the second in command of all Biafran Army and the vice president of the new nation Biafra after his boss Dim Chukwuemeka Odimegwu Ojukwu who was the commander-in-chief of Biafra Armed Forces.

On the advent of the Nigerian-Biafran war in 1967, he subsequently took command under the Biafran secessionist military government and rose to the rank of Major General.

In Biafra, as Chief of General Staff, and eventually as Officer Administering the Government of Biafra, he effectively brought the civil war to an end by signing the Instrument of Surrender in Lagos on January 15, 1970. He was married with eight children and resided in Ikot-Ekpene, Akwa Ibom State at the time of his death.

Gen. Effiong’s life is significant for a number of reasons, which include but are not limited to:

A. his wise and masterful handling of Biafra’s surrender.

B. his efforts in ensuring the return of Ojukwu from exile.

C. his efforts at securing the rights and privileges of former members of the Nigerian army of eastern origin.

D. his efforts to preserve the facts of the civil war from intentional and dubious adulteration and revisionism.

E. the hostile and unfriendly attitude of Nigeria’s federal government towards him, including denial of his military entitlements.

F. his determination and conviction that his civil war role was for the good of the country and therefore refusal to be intimidated by the subsequent post-war federal governments.

G. his post-war relationship with the Igbos.

Gen. Effiong’s disrespectful and ignominious treatment by Nigeria’s federal government is not a secret. Many of the tributes and laments that followed in the immediate aftermath of his demise on November 6, 2003, made mention, in one way or another, of the meanness of the government towards him.

In a November 15, 2003 Guardian story titled “Effiong Died In Penury, Bassey, Others Lament” , opinion leaders from the south-south chided the federal government for its neglect of Gen. Effiong.

Despite all the inhumane treatment by the federal government against Gen. Effiong, he never for one day vacillated nor regretted his role played during the war as he keeps justifying it even unto his demise.

As we the living children of the rising sun keeps in memory your gallant effort and the efforts of many who paid the Supreme price during the war on this day the 30th May 2018, I assure you in this tribute that your efforts and that of all that took the mantle to ensure that we have our freedom shall never be in vain as we must restore Biafra under the umbrella of IPOB.

We shall always remember him for his great efforts, sacrifice and patriotism to the Biafra cause.

All hail Biafra, the land of the rising Sun!!!

The Biafra Times 
Edited By Chukwuemeka Chimerue
Publisher: Chijindu Benjamin Ukah 

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