Before the January 15, 1966 coup, it has been mentioned earlier that Awolowo and his other Yoruba politicians were imprisoned by Tafawa Balewa regime for treason with the massacre of Easterners and the death of Ironsi. The Yoruba leaders apparently decided that if the East secedes, so will the West.
This was why the British Government had in their records the initial plan of the Yorubas to declare their own autonomy or hinder Gowon’s mission against the East. War was likely to break out any moment. On May 1, 1967, Awolowo told a meeting of leading Western Nigerians that the Western Region and their national capital area of Lagos would opt out of the federation, if the Eastern Region secedes.
The Yoruba violent crisis and the dissatisfaction in the way it was handled by the Balewa Government which necessitated the first coup that culminated into the North-East violent resentful relations. Empirical evidence and literature have shown that not only the West reneged on its alleged public declaration to secede when the East seceded, it joined the North (Hausa-Fulani, Kanuris and the entire middle belt) to fight against the East for seceding.
Ironically, Obafemi Awolowo, who was imprisoned by the Balewa Government for treason and released by Ojukwu of the Eastern Region Government switched sides and joined the North to fight against the East. This is man’s inhumanity to man and a nonsensical piece of a ridiculous nonsense!!
Awolowo’s stature in Nigerian politics and in the West in particular cannot be overstressed and this made him a significant factor in the political affairs of the country. S.W. Fremantle highlighted the significance of Awolowo in the eruption and continuation of the war; ” Awolowo joining the Federal Government appeared to unite and strengthen the Federal Military Government and therefore make conflict more likely.
But Awolowo was volatile, might switch alliance and because of his increase in power, such a switch would make FMG weaker than before Awo gained it.” Awolowo’s support encouraged Gowon in his war mission. Without his support to Gowon, the execution of Nigeria-Biafra War would therefore, be more unlikely. For his support, Awolowo was rewarded with an important office of the Federal Finance Minister of Nigeria and the Chairman of the Federal Executive Council.
During the Civil War (1968) Zik advised Ojukwu to go to the Organization of African Union (OAU) and ask them to use their good offices to settle the dispute in order to avert the loss of millions of lives on both sides. Ojukwu agreed. Zik went as a peace envoy to meet the President of Liberia, William Tubman, who in turn discussed with his friend Emperor Haile Selassie, then Emperor of Ethiopia, and both of them agreed that the Civil War was placed as the first item on the agenda if the OAU summit in Krishasha, CDR.
When the OAU summit opened, Chief Awolowo, as the Chairman of the Federal Executive Council and Commissioner for Finance, led a strong Nigerian delegation to Krishasha and raised a very strong objection to the Civil War being placed as an item on the agenda on the ground that according to the OAU charter, this was a domestic affair and member States were precluded from interfering in the domestic affairs of each other, which was really sound according to international law.
But African leaders at the summit wanted to solve in the African way, to use mediation and conciliation to bring two warring brothers together. Like Shyloch, Awolowo insisted on his pound of flesh! The OAU as a matter of law, accepted the submission of chief Awolowo and so it was not put on the agenda.
History has shown that by this act, Awo consciously accentuated the War, to make sure that the agenda of the Hausa-Fulani oligarchy to utterly destroy Biafrans especially the Igbos became a reality in Nigeria. But the gods do that in the shame of cowardice, to lose a battle is not to lose a War.
The War ragged on with force destructive weapons from British, Russian, Yugoslav armouries. Biafra replied with Ogbunigwe, shore-battery, Ojukwu’s beer and bucket from RAP in Umudike, Umuahia.
As the Federal Minister of Nigeria during the War in 1968, Awolowo was quoted to have opined:
” 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.”
Awolowo was driven by an overriding ambition for power, for himself in particular and for the advancement of his Yoruba people in general. Awo saw the dominant Igbos at the time, as the obstacles to his goal and when the opportunity arose, the Nigeria-Biafra War, his ambition drove him into frenzy to go to every length to achieve his dreams, even if it meant expunging any one that had Igbo blood flowing in his/her veins, Awo cared less.
In the Biafra case, it meant hatching up a diabolical policy to reduce the members of his enemies significantly through starvation, eliminating over 3.5 million people mainly members of future generation. Jesus wept and heaven cried!
Chibuike John Nebeokike
For: Radio Biafra Media