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Biafra : Awolowo replies Achebe from the grave

Published on October 6, 2012 by   ·   64 Comments

Nigeria’s literary legend, Chinua Achebe in his latest memoir on the defunct Biafra, accused a Nigerian political legend, Obafemi Awolowo of demonstrating hatred against Igbo via the policies Awolowo initiated when he was Vice-Chairman and Finance Minister in General Yakubu Gowon’s cabinet during the Nigerian civil war.

Achebe did not make any new accusations; such dogged the Nigerian politician when he was alive and he had debunked all of them . Awo died in 1987 without fulfilling his life-long dream of presiding over Nigeria. The surprise however is that Achebe had decided to unearth the same old unfounded story 25 years after Awo’s demise.

What Achebe wrote about Awo:

“The wartime cabinet of General Gowon, the military ruler, it should also be remembered, was full of intellectuals, like Chief Obafemi Awolowo, among others, who came up with a boatload of infamous and regrettable policies. A statement credited to Awolowo and echoed by his cohorts is the most callous and unfortunate: all is fair in war, and starvation is one of the weapons of war. I don’t see why we should feed our enemies fat in order for them to fight harder’.

“It is my impression that Awolowo was driven by an overriding ambition for power, for himself and for his Yoruba people. There is, on the surface at least, nothing wrong with those aspirations. However, Awolowo saw the dominant Igbo at the time as the obstacles to that goal, and when the opportunity arose with the Nigeria-Biafra war, his ambition drove him into a frenzy to go to every length to achieve his dreams. In the Biafran case, it meant hatching up a diabolical policy to reduce the numbers of his enemies significantly through starvation eliminating over two million people, mainly members of future generations.”

Thanks to www.nigeriavillagesquare.com, we bring Awo back from the grave to confront Achebe’s lies, in his own words.

When you finish reading, make your own conclusion as to whom had lied: Achebe or Obafemi Awolowo.

During the 1983 elections, Chief Awolowo was hosted to a town hall interview in Abeokuta, where in addition to other pertinent topics of the day, he spoke on his role in the civil war, the 20-pound policy, starvation as a weapon, change of currency, abandoned property etc.
CIVIL WAR

MODERATOR: Yes Mr…….Mr. Oparadike.

QUESTION: Chief Awolowo, your stand on the civil war…Your stand on the civil war, however unpopular it may have been to the Biafrans or Ibo people, helped to shorten the war. Today, you’re being cast as the sole enemy of the Ibo people because of that stand, by among others, some of the people who as members of the federal military government at that time, were party to that decision and are today, in some cases, inheritors of power in one Nigeria which that decision of yours helped to save. How do you feel being cast in this role, and what steps are you taking to endear yourself once again to that large chunk of Nigerians who feels embittered.

AWOLOWO: As far as I know, the Ibo masses are friendly to me, towards me. In fact, whenever I visit Iboland, either Anambra or Imo, and there’s no campaigning for elections on, the Ibo people receive me warmly and affectionately. But there are some elements in Iboland who believe that they can maintain their popularity only by denigrating me, and so they keep on telling lies against me. Ojukwu is one of them. I don’t want to mention the names of the others because they are still redeemable, but ….Ojukwu is irredeemable so I mention his name, and my attitude to these lies is one of indifference, I must confess to you.

I’ve learnt to rely completely on the providence and vindication of Almighty God in some of these things. I’ve tried to explain myself in the past, but these liars persist. Ojukwu had only recently told the same lie against me. What’s the point in correcting lies when people are determined to persist in telling lies against you, what’s the point. I know that someday the Ibos, the masses of the Ibo people will realize who their friends are, and who their real enemies are. And the day that happens woe betide those enemies. The Ibos will deal with them very roughly, very roughly.

That has happened in my life. I have a nickname now, if you see my letterhead you’ll find something on top, you’ll find a fish done on the letterhead. Some people put Lion on theirs, some people put Tiger, but mine is Fish. And Fish represents my zodiac sign, those of you who read the stars and so on in the newspapers; you’ll find out that there’s a zodiac sign known as pisces, in Latin pisces mean Fish.

So I put pisces on top, that’s my zodiac sign being born on the 6th of March,….er well, the year doesn’t matter, it’s the day that matters. And then on top of it I write Eebudola. All of you know the meaning of that. You know I don’t want to tell a long story but………………Awolowo school, omo Awolowo, the started in Urhobo land, in Mid-west in those days. They were ridiculing my schools, I was building schools –brick and cement, to dpc level, block to dpc level and mud thereafter. And so the big shots in the place..”ah what kind of school is this? is this Awolowo school? Useless school” and when they saw the children..”ah these Awolowo children, they can’t read and write, Awolowo children” that’s how it started, with ridicule, and it became blessing, and now they say “Awolowo children, they are good people” no more ridicule about it, that’s how it started, so the Eebu becomes honor, the abuse became honor.

And so when I look back to all my life, treasonable felony, jail, all the abuses that were heaped on me, to Coker Inquiry, all sorts, and I see what has happened to the people who led, who led all these denigration campaign, where are they today? Those that are alive are what I call Homo Mortuus- dead living, oku eniyan, that’s what they are, those that their lives have gone.

So when I look back, I come to the conclusion that all these abuses which have been heaped on me all my life for doing nothing, for doing good, they have become honor, and so Eebudola is one of my nicknames. So I’ve cultivated an attitude of indifference, I’ve done no evil to the Ibos.

During the war I saw to it that the revenue which was due to the Iboland- South Eastern states they call it, at that time..east central state, I kept it, I saved the money for them. And when they ….was librated I handed over the money to them- millions. If I’d decided to do so, I could have kept the money away from them and then when they took over I saw to it that subvention was given to them at the rate of 990,000 pounds every month. I didn’t go to the executive council to ask for support, or for approval because I knew if I went to the executive council at that time the subvention would not be approved because there were more enemies in the executive council for the Ibos than friends. And since I wasn’t going to take a percentage from what I was going to give them, and I knew I was doing what was right, I wanted the state to survive, I kept on giving the subvention – 990,000 almost a million, every month, and I did that for other states of course- South eastern state, North central state, Kwara and so on.

But I did that for the Ibos, and when the war was over, I saw to it that the ACB got three and a half million pounds to start with. This was distributed immediately and I gave another sum of money. The attitude of the experts, officials at the time of the ACB was that ACB should be closed down, and I held the view you couldn’t close the ACB down because that is the bank that gives finance to the Ibo traders, and if you close it down they’ll find it difficult to revive or to survive. So it was given. I did the same thing for the Cooperative Bank of Eastern Nigeria, to rehabilitate all these places, and I saw to it as commissioner for finance that no obstacle was placed in the way of the ministry of economic planning in planning for rehabilitation of the war affected areas.

TWENTY POUNDS POLICY

That’s what I did, and the case of the money they said was not given back to them, you know during the war all the pounds were looted, they printed Biafran currency notes, which they circulated, at the close of the war some people wanted their Biafran notes to be exchanged for them. Of course I couldn’t do that, if I did that the whole country would be bankrupt. We didn’t know about Biafran notes and we didn’t know on what basis they have printed them, so we refused the Biafran note, but I laid down the principle that all those who had savings in the banks on the eve of the declaration of the Biafran war or Biafra, will get their money back if they could satisfy us that they had the savings there, or the money there. Unfortunately, all the banks’s books had been burnt, and many of the people who had savings there didn’t have their saving books or their last statement of account, so a panel had to be set up.

I didn’t take part in setting up the panel, it was done by the Central bank and the pertinent officials of the ministry of finance, to look into the matter, and they went carefully into the matter, they took some months to do so, and then make some recommendation which I approved. Go to the archives, all I did was approve, I didn’t write anything more than that, I don’t even remember the name of any of them who took part. So I did everything in this world to assist our Ibo brothers and sisters during and after the war.

And anyone who goes back to look at my broadcast in August 1967, which dealt with post-war reconstruction would see what I said there.

STARVATION POLICY

Then, but above all, the ending of the war itself that I’m accused of, accused of starving the Ibos, I did nothing of the sort. You know, shortly after the liberation of these places, Calabar, Enugu and Port Harcort, I decided to pay a visit. There are certain things which I knew which you don’t know, which I don’t want to say here now, when I write my reminisces in the future I will do so. Some of the soldiers were not truthful with us, they didn’t tell us correct stories and so on.

I wanted to be there and see things for myself, bear in mind that Gowon himself did not go there at that time, it was after the war was over that he dorn himself up in various military dresses- Air force dress, Army dress and so on, and went to the war torn areas. But I went and some people tried to frighten me out of my goal by saying that Adekunle was my enemy and he was going to see to it that I never return from the place, so I went.

But when I went what did I see? I saw the kwashiorkor victims. If you see a kwashiorkor victim you’ll never like war to be waged. Terrible sight, in Enugu, in Port Harcourt, not many in Calabar, but mainly in Enugu and Port Harcourt. Then I enquired what happened to the food we are sending to the civilians. We were sending food through the Red cross, and CARITAS to them, but what happen was that the vehicles carrying the food were always ambushed by the soldiers. That’s what I discovered, and the food would then be taken to the soldiers to feed them, and so they were able to continue to fight. And I said that was a very dangerous policy, we didn’t intend the food for soldiers. But who will go behind the line to stop the soldiers from ambushing the vehicles that were carrying the food? And as long as soldiers were fed, the war will continue, and who’ll continue to suffer? and those who didn’t go to the place to see things as I did, you remember that all the big guns, all the soldiers in the Biafran army looked all well fed after the war, its only the mass of the people that suffered kwashiorkor.

You won’t hear of a single lawyer, a single doctor, a single architect, who suffered from kwashiorkor? None of their children either, so they waylaid the foods, they ambushed the vehicles and took the foods to their friends and to their collaborators and to their children and the masses were suffering. So I decided to stop sending the food there. In the process the civilians would suffer, but the soldiers will suffer most.

CHANGE OF CURRENCY

And it is on record that Ojukwu admitted that two things defeated him in this war, that’s as at the day he left Biafra. He said one, the change of currency, he said that was the first thing that defeated him, and we did that to prevent Ojukwu taking the money which his soldiers has stolen from our Central bank for sale abroad to buy arms. We discovered he looted our Central bank in Benin, he looted the one in Port Harcourt, looted the one in Calabar and he was taking the currency notes abroad to sell to earn foreign exchange to buy arms.

So I decided to change the currency, and for your benefit, it can now be told the whole world, only Gowon knew the day before, the day before the change took place. I decided, only three of us knew before then- Isong now governor of Cross River, Attah and myself. It was a closely guarded secret, if any commissioner at the time say that he knew about it, he’s only boosting his own ego. Because once you tell someone, he’ll tell another person. So we refused to tell them and we changed the currency notes. So Ojukwu said the change in currency defeated him, and starvation of his soldiers also defeated him.

These were the two things that defeated Ojukwu. And, he reminds me, when you saw Ojukwu’s picture after the war, did he look like someone who’s not well fed? But he has been taking the food which we send to civilians, and so we stopped the food.

ABANDONED PROPERTY

And then finally, I saw to it that the houses owned by the Ibos in Lagos and on this side, were kept for them. I had an estate agent friend who told me that one of them collected half a million pounds rent which has been kept for him. All his rent were collected, but since we didn’t seize their houses, he came back and collected half a million pounds.

So that is the position. I’m a friend of the Ibos and the mass of the Ibos are my friends, but there are certain elements who want to continue to deceive the Ibos by telling lies against me, and one day, they’ll discover and then that day will be terrible for those who have been telling the lies.

http://www.nigeriavillagesquare.com/newsflash/exclusive-chief-obafemi-awolowo-on-biafra-in-his-own-words.html

Posted by on October 6, 2012, 11:25 am. Filed under Features, News, Today's Headlines, World. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

64 Comments for “Biafra : Awolowo replies Achebe from the grave”

  1. john ufot

    Thank you O Mr Majority, I have spoken the truth based on my observation of the war. I don’t know if you were born then, the Igbos committed worse crimes against the people of the Niger Delta than the government of Nigeria committed against the biafrians. I am happy to come from a minority tribe that has helped to sustain Nigeria with our natural resources. I am glad God blessed us and in spite of our minority status as you want to see us we have produced a democratically elected president for Nigeria. Our lands are blessed and we have access to the sea, we are not landlocked like your so called majority disorganised tribe. We humbled ourselves and the rest of the country acknowledged our humility and entrusted the presidency of this great country in our hands. We build bridges to reach out to other tribes, including your frustrated Igbo tribe and I am very proud and grateful to God and to Nigerians for recognising our qualities.

  2. Shame on YOU

    Chinua Achebe…could you please tell us what you have done to advance Ibo cause apart from being literary giant and of what use is that to the Igbo masses, but our own Awolowo built schools and gave us EDUCATION…..which today, is our way to LIFE
    To HELL with you all.

  3. Joseph

    Hear him,
    “I wanted to be there and see things for myself, bear in mind that Gowon himself did not go there at that time, it was after the war was over that he dorn himself up in various military dresses- Air force dress, Army dress and so on, and went to the war torn areas. But I went and some people tried to frighten me out of my goal by saying that Adekunle was my enemy and he was going to see to it that I never return from the place, so I went.”
    The war ended over 42 years ago and it will not cause the Yoruba nation anything to apologise on behalf of Awolowo for his crime against the Ibos but to continually deny it and from the comments of most Yorubas on this issues shows that the nation has a long way from been one.
    Awolowo could not visit, fair enough. In Europe and America, the suffering of the Ibos was well known shown on their Tvs eryday that many of their citizens came to the aid of Ibo children by way of charity, yet Awolowo could not see such atrocities against the people he loved.
    History will judge us all but a simple applogy will go a long way in healing the pains.
    Fredrick Forsyth is not a Nigerian but he wrote about the part Awolowo played in the war.
    Most contributors were not born before or during the war but are making some negative comments here based on how they were told by their parents who has contributed in holding this country back.

  4. hammerhouseofhorror

    CHINUA ACHEBE SHOULD NOT BOTHER ME WITH HIS RHETORICS. I DON’T UNDERSTAND WHY OLD MEN AT QUARTER TO GO WILL START FORMENTING TROUBLE, WHAT KIND OF LEGACY DO THEY WANT TO LEAVE BEHIND?
    I AM NOT BOTHERED BECAUSE I WAS NOT PART OF NIGERIA DURING THAT TIME, I AM FORWARD LOOKING, THE PAST IS WHAT IT IS……..THE PAST, AND HISTORY………THE OLD MAN SHOULD LOOK FORWARD AND DECIDE WHAT WILL BE HIS STATE WHEN HE MEETS HIS MAKER AND POSSIBLY JOIN AWOLOWO WHERE HE IS…..MAYBE THEN BOTH CAN CONTINUE WITH THEIR JIBES.

    ABEG I DON TIRE FOR THIS KIN NONSENSE.

  5. Oga Okpia

    Prof Chinua Achebe wants his new book to sell, so that he can make millions from it, which he alone rakes into his coffers, yet, he gives nothing out of it from his far away USA residence to his very beloved poor igbo youths, widowed and poverty-stricken from the war. What a convenient way to live, throw tirades from behind the fenced-wall, from the comfort of another man’s country.

    The Nigerian civil war ended since 1967. There was also a civil war in the USA too, so it is not peculiar with Nigeria. After every war, because it is unfortunate, people move on, but some selfish people like Prof Chinua Achebe refused to move on. The US fought against Japan and Germany in the world war II, today, they are the best of allies.

    People who refuse to forgive are going to hell.

    Prof Achebe should repent, he is not happy that Prof Wole Soyinka got the Premio Nobel over him, but people who is better of the two, the one that writes with the mind of hate, and the other that writes for human knowledge.

    General Gowon was the Head of State, he is still living, so why would Prof Chinua Achebe accuse a dead man like Chief Obafemi Awolowo, who is unable to answer him back of crimes as weight as genocide? Where was Prof Achebe, when Chief Awolowo was alive? Very convenient way of selling ones watery and depraved memoir from a Professor of yester years hate warmongering. In Nigeria, we are trying to build one nation, not Igbo, Yoruba, Hausa, Ijaw, Edo

  6. Nigerian4sure

    Let us make use of our brains and be less emotional. Fact is that the past and present situations of the Igbos were caused by the Igbo Leaders.
    I wish that all the apologists of Professor Achebe can mention anything first in Africa which any Igbo man or Leader did in the Eastern Region before and after the Independence of Nigeria that could compare with the achievements of Chief Obafemi Awolowo:
    .
    First, Radio Station in Africa;
    First Television Station in Africa;
    First Stadium in Africa;
    just to mention a few.
    .
    Let us stop castigating one another and appreciate good Leaders who are not self-centred, but people oriented like Obafemi Awolowo, etc.
    Let us apply our brains and be less emotional. Let my Igbo friends look inward and ask themselves:
    .
    What have our Igbo Leaders done in the Eastern Region that compares or surpasses the achievements of Chief Awolowo?
    .
    The answer to that question should give every one of us a rethink, including Prof. Chinua Achebe.
    Ambassador Ralph Uweche, who was the Special Envoy to France for the Biafran Government during the civil war and who is the leader of Ohaeneze, the leading Igbo political and socio-cultural organisation today, attested to this in his excellent book titled ‘’Reflections On The Nigerian Civil War’’. That book was factual and honest and I would urge people like Prof. Achebe to go and read it very well.

  7. Nigerian4sure

    Let Igbos now ask for independence, now that the South-south has freed herself from the clutch of the Igbos.
    This is the time for the Igbos to seek their desired CHANGE. It is their right and others right also.
    Awolowo was right when he told Ojukwu that he was not adequately prepared for the war he was about to start then. The result of the war has vindicated Chief Awolowo.
    In the Nigeria of today, we shall see who will suffer, particularly a TRIBE that has SELF-CENTERED LEADERS. This will be very interesting.
    I cannot wait. But no one should make the same mistake Ojukwu did, that is, do not start what you cannot complete.
    One thing is certain in today’s Nigeria, the Igbo Leaders cannot hold the South-south people at ransome or hold them anymore for idiots. TO GOD BE THE GLORY.
    Most Igbo POLITICIANS today are in the PDP who do not want Fiscal Federation not to talk of Confederation or Tribal Independence.
    Good Luck Biafra!!!

  8. Nigerian4sure

    Unfortunately, this debate has taken another dimension which may not be benefial for Nigeria or nigerians.
    We have better material on the history of Nigeria from people like Ambassador Ralp Uweche and Poet Odia Ofeimum, just to mention a few. We should all treat Prof. Achebe’s opinion and assumptions accordingly since they have nothing to do with facts, but mere assumptions.
    Let Igbos now ask for independence, now that the South-south has freed herself from the clutch of the Igbos.
    This is the time for the Igbos to seek their desired CHANGE. It is their right and others right also.
    Awolowo was right when he told Ojukwu that he was not adequately prepared for the war he was about to start then. The result of the war has vindicated Chief Awolowo.
    In the Nigeria of today, we shall see who will suffer, particularly a TRIBE that has SELF-CENTERED LEADERS. This will be very interesting.
    I cannot wait. But no one should make the same mistake Ojukwu did, that is, do not start what you cannot complete.
    One thing is certain in today’s Nigeria, the Igbo Leaders cannot hold the South-south people at ransome or hold them anymore for idiots. TO GOD BE THE GLORY.
    Most Igbo POLITICIANS today are in the PDP who do not want Fiscal Federation not to talk of Confederation or Tribal Independence.
    Good Luck Biafra!!!
    GOD BLESS NIGERIA.

  9. mike shorunke

    the differences on tribal lines are very clear ,where do we go from here ,my people ? you can not move foreward without a sense of history ,but you have to be very careful about the history you hear or read.Each of the people mentioned above did what they have to do at that time,so what are we doing to our situations today,thats is the real question .Every contributor on this issue ,have a case ,but there is no victor or vanquise here ,lets all find the way forward ,the past has not done well for us .

  10. Raimi Olatunbosun

    Any sane Yoruba son will not waste his time to argue with a moron tribe called IBO who can not distinguish a good leader between PA AWOLOWO who led his tribe to school & Col Ojukwu/other Igbo leaders who led their tribe to senseless war and rather than think now and strategise towards 2015, they are busy fanning the hatred songs. No wonder they will continue to be 3rd citizen in their own father land.

  11. Prince

    To those who have been saying against the Igbos their mother have not gotten married to their fathers talk of bringing down to this earth inquire from those whom you can learn something from.

  12. Olayeni Akinsulie

    For Mr. Achebe to continue to play this of game apportioning blames after all these years means he (Mr, Achebe) is unfair to himself and fellow Nigerias. If Chief Awolowo had not played the role Achebe is now blaming him for the war may still be on todate. Mr. Achebe has to think of it of how many more human lives would have been wasted in addition to those lost in the past and hardship on both sides, where ever you go in Nigeria today you find Igbo men and women going about their life without restriction which would not have been posible if otherwise.
    My conclusion is that people who fought first and second world wars are best of friends today.so if it is the wish of Mr. Achebe to revenge what he tags as victimisation of the Igbos by chief Awolowo he can start second biafran war and note that he (Achebe ) has to come to war front this time,

  13. Sam Oviawe

    My dear Nigerians, It is not surprising that most posts on this issue have followed tribal lines and have largely been unhelpful. We are not known to look deep on issues before drawing conclusions. We are also known for hero worshipping. How many of us can see that our present situation is resultant from the inability of our ‘founding fathers’ to appreciate that everything the colonialists did from the founding of Nigeria to their granting of independence were aimed at promoting only their interests and our continued subordination to and dependence on them. Some of the tools used by the colonialisats were the form of education they put us through (they concentrated on the ‘whats and hows’ but not the ‘whys’), the seed of discord sown by them into the foundation of Nigeria which makes us see any and all issues through the mirrors of ethnicity and the policies of accommodation of ‘ selected major tribes’, exclusion of a one ‘major tribe’ and containment of ‘minor tribes’, and focussing our attention on Country instead of Nation. I do not mind if Odia Ofeimun accuses me of blaming the colonialists for our woes though I have no such intention. We will not get out of the present cage unless we properly appreciate the causes of our predicament. My appeal therefore is that we must stop promoting the interest of the colonialists by showing more love to ourselves and developing national consciousness. We should be thinking of evolving new educational curricular that will focus on Nigeria and the Nigerian. We must search for a political system that will have The Nigerian as its center piece. All our policies must be directed at the well being of The Nigerian irrespective of his tribe, origin, religion or place of abode. We therefore need to define THE NIGERIAN. The good news is that Nigeria is at the edge of a massive breakthrough which will shock the world. The only obstacle is the absence of true unity. We must all work relentlessly for the unity of Nigeria. It is achievable within the next decade. God is waiting for us to move. Nigeria is not an accident.

  14. Sam Oviawe

    My dear Nigerians, It is not surprising that most posts on this issue have followed tribal lines and have largely been unhelpful. We are not known to look deep on issues before drawing conclusions. We are also known for hero worshipping. How many of us can see that our present situation is resultant from the inability of our ‘founding fathers’ to appreciate that everything the colonialists did from the founding of Nigeria to their granting of independence were aimed at promoting only their interests and our continued subordination to and dependence on them. Some of the tools used by the colonialisats were the form of education they put us through (they concentrated on the ‘whats and hows’ but not the ‘whys’), the seed of discord sown by them into the foundation of Nigeria which makes us see any and all issues through the mirrors of ethnicity and the policies of accommodation of ‘ selected major tribes’, exclusion of a one ‘major tribe’ and containment of ‘minor tribes’, and focussing our attention on Country instead of Nation. I do not mind if Odia Ofeimun accuses me of blaming the colonialists for our woes though I have no such intention. We will not get out of the present cage unless we properly appreciate the causes of our predicament. My appeal therefore is that we must stop promoting the interest of the colonialists by showing more love to ourselves and developing national consciousness. We should be thinkin g of evolving new educational curricula that will focus on Nigeria and the Nigerian. We must search for a political system that will have The Nigerian as its center piece. All our policies must be directed at the well being of The Nigerian irrespective of his tribe, origin, religion or place of abode. We therefore need to define THE NIGERIAN. The good news is that Nigeria is at the edge of a massive breakthrough which will shock the world. The only obstacle is the absence of true unity. We must all work relentlessly for the unity of Nigeria. It is achievable within the next decade. God is waiting for us to move. Nigeria is not an accident.

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