POGROM – 29TH SEPTEMBER, 1966
On 29th September, as the Constitutional Conference was still sitting in Lagos, events occurred which will always rank as of the utmost significance in the social and political history of Nigeria, events which made fundamental changes in the structure and pattern of Nigerian society and government. On that day began a series of organised massacres of Easterners by armed Northern soldiers and civilians. The pogrom was on a scale never before witnessed in the history of Africa.
The harrowing details of these massacres have been too well documented to need re-telling here. However, the following three accounts of what happened should be quoted; not so as to dwell on the horror of what took place but to establish (a) that the massacres were organised with care and precision, and (b) that the army played an important part in the killings.
John Bulloch, Daily Telegraph, 22nd October, 1966:
“This uninhibited violence has been put forward as another hysterically spontaneous demonstration of Northern dislike of the Ibos. That might be accepted if the massacres had spread in a chain reaction. But they did not not.”
“In Kano, Kaduna, Jos, Zaria and a dozen other places the killings all began about 7 p.m. on a Saturday. At each place Hausa soldiers with loaded weapons were on hand, with gangs of young thugs imported from the surrounding countryside to help the troops. These groups were armed not only with sticks and machetes, but also with typed lists of addresses of Ibos. Hardly a spontaneous outbreak.”
Special Correspondent, Financial Times, 30th November, 1966:
“Meanwhile in the North itself there is a resurgence of the old N.P.C. with its true Muslim-Hausa-Fulani base, its exercise of control through the emirates and its complex power structure which is little understood. Who indeed plotted violence against the Ibos so that it would erupt, on the same day, in towns hundreds of miles apart?
“More and more pressure is being brought to bear on Lt. Col. Hassan Katsina by the old style politicians such as Alhaji Inua Wada Zanna Bukar Dipcharima and young army officers such as Lt. Col. Shwa.”
The scale and intensity of the massacres prompted Lt. Col. Gowon to make a personal appeal to Northerners to stop the killings; but it was in that speech that the true attitude of those in control of Nigeria was impolitically revealed when Lt. Col. Gowon stated:
“You all know that since the end of July, God, in his power, has entrusted the responsibility of this great country of ours, Nigeria, into the hands of another Northerner …. Here I would like to repeat what I have said earlier. The responsibility for the well being of Nigeria is today in our hands and this is a responsibility which cannot be treated lightly.” (New Nigerian, 30th September, 1966.)
This speech confirmed the conclusions already widely held in the East that the Northern idea of unity for Nigeria was one which entailed Northern domination; that the Ironsi Regime was overthrown because it was headed by a non-Northerner, and that Easterners were slaughtered in their thousands because the North saw in them an obstacle to domination.
At the same times as Lt. Col. Gowon was addressing the North in these terms in the hope of reducing in intensity the savage massacres which had then begun, he broadcast to the nation on the eve of National Day. “We must, first of all”, he said, as thousands of Ibos were dying at the hands of organised Northern civilians and soldiery, “thank God that we live to mark this anniversary ….” With increasing irony he went on to say: “I seize this opportunity therefore to remind the Army, the Navy, the Air Force and the Police again of their sacred charge. Our duty as personnel of the Armed Forces is to protect each and every citizen of this country and to serve any Government of the country. It is therefore absolutely essential that each soldier, or sailor, or airman, or policeman, does his utmost himself and together with his company to ensure that every citizen is enabled to go about his lawful duty and personal business free from fear and free from molestation. We have a duty to contribute our utmost to the restoration of normalcy and stability in the country. We must remove any grounds for apprehension.”
These massacres are further significance in that it is from this point in time that the death of the old Federation dates. The very basis of the Federal system of Government was undermined. The rights of freedom of movement, to seek employment, to set up home or business anywhere in the Federation were curtailed for the majority of Easterners. The scars of these days are, and will remain for many years to come, fresh on the memories of the Eastern people, and it is obvious that any form of political association for the future between the peoples of Nigeria will have to accommodate and make allowances for these realities. As was eventually determined, over 30,000 Easterners lost their lives in the pogrom of May, July, September, and October of 1966. Hardly an Eastern family did not suffer. Over 1,800,000 refugees flooded into the East, creating intolerance economic and social strains on that region – the East was stunned, frightened and suspicious.
In summary, the pogrom was precisely planned with typed names and addresses of victims, same time, same date, 29th May, 29th July, 29th September 1966 in cities throughout the North, some over 100 miles apart. The atrocities were so effectively carried out with military precision, political party official vehicles used to transport one group of citizens to murder unsuspecting fellow citizens and only stopped when there were no more ‘Nyammari’/Easterners left in the North to kill. The GENOSLAUGHTERING of Biafrans in 1945, 1953, 1966, 1967-1970 and continued till 2018 more than anything else has succeeded in killing Nigeria as a country. Stop the killing for the more they kill the deeper the grave for the burial of the coffin that is Nigeria.