Revolting Aspects of the Pogrom
Under this head we deal with what we consider the sinister aspects of the pogrom. Firstly, the planning and organisation of the pogrom. We have dwelt with this at length in the previous pages. Secondly the false sense of security to which the Authorities lured the victims and the barefaced deception practised on their victims was to us particularly revolting. The Kano slaughter of 1st and 2nd October, 1996 was singularly successful because of this device. Easterners were lured to Kano from many places in the far North to take a train to the East that was supposed to leave on the 1st October when none was scheduled and when the Easterners had gathered at the railway station soldiers were let loose on them and a carnage was the result. Another aspect of this practice of deception took place in many towns in the North. When Easterners got wind of an impending attack and started to make arrangements to quit, the authorities would make pronouncements refuting the rumour and assuring the Easterners of their safety only to have them slaughtered within 24 hours of giving this false assurance.
The disarming of Easterners before an impending attack was yet another aspect of this pogrom. Easterners were disarmed, yet their potential assailants were left armed. It is obvious that were it not that the seizure of arms was carried out by State functionaries it was most unlikely that the victims would willingly have surrendered the only remaining means for their own protection.
Thirdly the evidence disclosed that it was not merely a case of Northerners descending on Easterners and shooting, matcheting or clubbing them to death. They embarked on various methods of torture and humiliation. One method was described by the 72nd witness – Dick lwebi. This punishment is one of the most dreadful ways of crucifying a person. A heavy rod is tied across the back of chest of the victim with his hands stretched and secured firmly on the rod. While the victim may still be standing on his legs, he is as helpless as a man nailed to a cross. In this position they then proceed to torture the victim by plucking his eyes, cutting his tongue or cutting his testicles.
Another method was holding a victim and killing him like a goat with a sharp knife to the full gaze of other victims. See the evidence of the 168th witness – Daniel Agu:
On 2/10/66 we were in Mada Railway Station where we saw four Northern soldiers, one of whom was called Mai Karfi (i.e. the most powerful man); another one was called Mai Yanka (i.e. a great killer of human beings) but I did not know the names of the other two soldiers. Mai Yanka asked one Ibo man who was a boiler attendant in the Railway Station there why he locked the pipe. He said that he locked it because there was no train coming. Then Mai Yanka told him to shut up his foolish mouth. After saying this he and the other three soldiers called all of us to come and see how they would kill our brother Ibo man like a goat. Really, we all were forced to come and witness it. In a minute, the man was gripped by them all and then Mai Yanka took out his two- edged sword and cut his head like a goat as he said, at which the man’s blood spread all over our bodies like water spurting from a tap. As a matter of fact, we were all both horrified and gripped by fear.
And yet another method was the burying of victim alive, (witness No. 144 Miss Kate Ogbelu). In a pogrom of this nature where humanity sinks to the lowest depths one expects to find cases of rape. Rape is always an outrage on womanhood. There was such evidence before us. In this case however we encountered indescribable instances of heinous outrage on the womanhood of any people. “..Many of the girls in the training school in Kano were collected and taken to the leper colony to live with the lepers…” per Eric Spiff (163rd witness). There is leper colony a few miles from Kano at Zunkira. The reason for this we are told was that Eastern girls refused to marry Hausa men in the past. A number of other witnesses confirmed this story, (e.g. 190th witness Ephraim Etuk).”
At Oturkpo there was a camp where fleeing Eastern girls kidnapped from the trains were sent for ‘enforced’ prostitution. Many girls who were known to have had some gruesome experience in this camp and other victims of rape were very shy to come forward to testify. But there was enough evidence to show that children were raped – see the evidence of Dr. Paul Nya (187th witness) who treated Mary Udo aged 6. Then Ephraim Ernest Etuk (the 190th witness) had something pathetic to tell:-
On the day of the incident, many people were killed and all the N.A. Police men used their big lorries in carrying the corpses to the grave. The dead people were buried in groups of 20, 50, and 60 in large graves dug by the N.A. caterpillars. The burial was conducted by the armed soldiers. I really saw this because I wore an Hausa dress calling myself a Northerner from Makurdi area, and I can speak the language fluently. Another bad scene was when a Benin lady was killed and many sharp pieces of broken bottles were packed into her vagina and they left her naked inside the Hotel at 12 Odutola Street, Kano. One Miss Paulina was killed in the same way at 5 Enugu Road in the International Hotel, Kano. One Ibibio man was burnt alive in his car on the airport road. He was a Meteorological Officer. I saw 20 Hausa men conduct sexual intercourse with an Ibo girl at 15 Emir Road, Kano and at last the girl vomitted and died. The same thing was applicable to her mother, a snuff trader. Soldiers got money from many traders and killed them finally.
The attack on schools and churches provides yet another instance of the callousness of the assailants. To desecrate a church by persons professing to know and worship God is a very queer way of doing Him honour. Lastly the attack on unarmed civilians by the army and the police who are supposed to give them protection against such attack is the limit. It marks the final disintegration of any political society.
What was the motive behind this pogrom? This is a separate question from the causes of the pogrom about which we shall deal in the next chapter.
It was the complete extermination of Easterners from the face of Northern Nigeria. It was even more than that. In this connection the seven-Point programme of the organisers of the pogrom becomes relevant. It was tendered as Exhibit SWAN 24 and reads as follows:-
- a) To kill off the Major-General and Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces – J.T.U. Aguiyi- Ironsi.
b) To kill off all the Yanmiri Army Officers.
c) And subsequently purge the Army of Yanmiri by killing the rest in all the ranks.
- a) With the aid of the Westerners in the Army to take complete control of the Armed Forces. The Police and the Navy and to purge off the Yanmiri in these Forces too.
- To kill off and dispossess all the Yanmiri domiciled in the Northern Region.
- To use the control of the Armed Forces to take complete control of the Country’s Government.
- To revenge Sarduana’s and Abubakar’s death by killing Dr. Zik, Dr. Okpara, Ojukwu and Major Nzeogwu.
- To destroy Port Harcourt, Enugu and the University of Nigeria, Nsukka.
7. To kill off all:
a) Yanmiri in top Civil Service posts.
b) All wealthy Yanmiri – male and female.
c) All Yanmiri educational giants.
d) All grown up males and females of Yanmiri.
e) To leave out only sucklings in Yanmiri land.
The controlling idea behind this plan was to exterminate the Yanmiri (Easterners) to a point where the North will be ahead in every sphere of life and to be in a position to dictate to their younger generation what to do. The circumstances in which the seven – point programme came to be disclosed were narrated by the 8th witness Mr. S.W.A.N. Onuoha. The seven-point programme appears on the face of it to be fantastic and too diabolical to be entertained by any human being and least of all fellow nationals but when one sees the evidence of the atrocity in all its aspects it ceases to sound all that fantastic. They did try to exterminate all Easterners in the North. The Kano massacre of October 1966 showed that they did their utmost to achieve their aim in the principal towns, at least with the forces at their disposal. The 125th witness Paul Okwawa who looked every inch a Ghanaian (this was his saving grace) gives a graphic description of what happened in Kano in the October riots. Hear him:
After the July incident many Ibos in the North started to pack up to go. It was then that the remaining Ibo teachers in primary and the secondary schools were determined to leave Kano. But a week before the August holidays, a team of School Inspectors (white and black), Police Officers and the Native Authority police came to our school to assure us that our lives were no longer in danger. On the strength of these assurances the teachers returned after the holidays. A week before the October massacre of Ibos in Kano occurred, Mustafa Gashash, a student of Ibo Union Grammar School, Kano, met me on the school premises and advised me to leave Kano before the first of October because Northern soldiers and civilians were going to kill all the Ibos in Sabon Gari.
I had no means of leaving since all train services between the East and North had been discontinued. The alternative was to leave by air. During this week my wife, my brother and my boy were with me. On Tuesday of that week, I booked accommodation for four of us for £132:16s to travel by air to Lagos the following morning, Wednesday.
When we arrived at the airport, the white officers and the Northerners on duty told me there was no accommodation for us that morning, and advised us to report at 2.30 p.m we were told to report again at 6.30 p.m. the same evening. Again when we arrived we were told we could no longer travel that day. The same thing happened on Thursday and Friday of that week. On Friday evening when the last plane had left the airport, I went to one of the Northern duty officers and asked whether or not we would be travelling again. He assured me that nothing would stop us from travelling on October 1st. We could not travel in the morning and the afternoon. At 6.30 p.m. on October 1st we arrived at the Airport and to my greatest surprise I saw a sight that drove fear into my heart. Literally all the Northern ex-politicians had gathered at the airport in their immaculate white gowns. I saw Aminu Kano. I saw Maitama Sule, Inua Wada, many Europeans also came to the airport. Exactly at 6.50 p.m soldiers in green shirts and trousers invaded the airport.
I had a presentiment that something bad was in the air, and as we sat near our luggage, we wondered whether these ex-politicians and their European, Asian and Arab friends had come to witness the final liquidation of our people. Soon shots were heard everywhere. That day was declared a public holiday, and as usual many Ibos came to the airport. Many of us who could not fly were surrounded by soldiers.
One soldier ordered me outside and asked me where I came from. When I told him I was a Mid-Westerner he told me I was lying because he knew where I came from. What I heard was “about turn, quick march.” I heard a shot behind me and I fell down and passed out.
How long I was there before I came round I could not; but when I became conscious, a heap of dead men was on me, some still breathing, but others stone dead. It took me some time to extricate myself from the dead bodies heaped upon me. I crept over other dead bodies as I tried to hide because soldiers were still shooting people down in their hiding places at the airport. Presently, I found myself in a big kitchen, the whole length and breadth of which was littered with dead bodies. Two Hausa stewards in the kitchen refused me entry until I had paid £5, and within seconds of my entry about five armed Northern soldiers entered the kitchen shouting ‘are there any more of Okpara’s brothers hiding here? Please let them come out; we mean to kill all of them.’ The two Hausa stewards to whom I had paid my ransom told them there were no more of Okpara’s brothers left to be shot. I was again saved because I lay among the dead and pretended to be dead also. When I could no longer hold out I got up and walked to the table where one of the stewards was sitting, I shouted ‘please take me to the soldiers; I can no longer stand this strain.’
Somebody emerged from under the big table on hearing me. It was Mr. Lekettey, a Ghanaian who apparently was hiding from the savage soldiers. We decide to give ourselves up to the soldiers. He was my uncle and I his nephew. This strategy worked wonderfully, and when the soldiers heard us out, they shouted in unison. ‘Why have you been hiding? We don’t want to kill Ghanaians. They are our friends, Yorubas, Efiks, – all are our friends. We are after Okpara’s brothers. We are going to finish them off.’ They took us upstairs where we saw more dead bodies, some of whom I recognised. Mr. Lekettey and myself gave them £10 for drink. They drank until 6.30 a.m. the following morning 2nd October. These soldiers had some harsh things to say about Okpara and Ibos, Okpara was their arch enemy who must be destroyed. ‘Why did they kill our leaders while Okpara, Zik, and Osadebay were left out?’ Mbadiwe was the only Ibo man who would be spared on their march to Eastern Region, because he was ’our good man.’ All other Ibos must be destroyed.’ At 7 a.m. that same Sunday morning, they asked Mr. Lekettey and myself to get ready because they were going to show us how ‘we have dealt with Okpara’s brothers and sisters.’ They took us to the Railway Station in an army landrover, and there we saw a sight which I would never like to see again to my dying day. Over 700 men, women and children had been mowed down – they had been killed while they were waiting for a train to take them to our Region. A few of the children were still creeping over their dead mothers, shouting, ‘Mama I am hungry, I want to drink.’ Some were trying to suck their dead mothers’ breasts! I left them to suck on!
It should be borne in mind that three days before this unprecedented massacre, it was announced over the Kano Redifusion Network that a passenger train would be leaving Kano for Eastern Region on 2nd of October, and that all those wishing to travel should report on 1st of October, at the Railway Station. Over 700 Ibos packed to the Railway Station. This announcement was caused to be made by one Mr. T. George, the Senior Train Officer, who incidentally is a native of Idoma. He was educated at the Methodist College, Uzuakoli. He was a member of Nasara Club, and attended all the meetings where it was decided to kill all the Ibos in Kano.
They drove us to the Loco running shed, it was the same sad story of murder. All the Ibo workers who had reported for duty were killed. Next, we were taken round the Sabon Gari. It was the same massacre of Ibos in hotels where they had gone to relax because it was a public holiday. All the hotels were literally filled up with dead bodies. In Sabon Gari everywhere we went we saw dead and dying Ibos. No tinge of compunction ever touched the conscience of these soldiers who on the night of October 1st joined their civilian Northern brothers to loot, pillage and kill our kith and kin. After we had seen enough, they took us back to the airport where they continued killing those who were suspected of being Ibos. A further £10 from us re-assured us that we were not in any immediate danger, although one of the soldiers had doubted my identity in particular. He took me aside and asked me in honesty if I was really a Ghanian, I assured him I was, but I gave him £5 more into the bargain, I asked him to take me round to see more of Okpara’s dead brothers, because the sight intrigued me. My motive for asking this was far from being disinterested. On the contrary, I mainly wanted him to take me round to see if I could stumble upon the dead bodies of my wife, my brother and my boy whom I had not seen since we were separated. My fears were soon confirmed. I saw the dead bodies of my brother and my boy near where I was supposedly killed. I mastered my emotional reactions because he was watching me all the time I went round the airport where there were heaps of dead bodies, but I could not see that of my wife. I saw other countless dead bodies I could well recognise. There were many men and women who had come to the airport to see friends off, but all were killed together with these friends. From the airport to Sabon Gari the road was littered with dead bodies. They were picked out one by one along the road as they were trying to escape from the airport, and shot in their cars, on bicycles, scooters and on foot.
Meanwhile when these soldiers had ‘walked through’ the money we had given to them, Mr. Lekettey and myself gave them further £20 to allow us remain at the airport since all the houses in Sabon Gari had been ‘sacked’.
On the 4th of October, the soldiers informed us that they could no longer guarantee our safety. At this time there were still isolated cases of shooting and beating up of people suspected of being Ibos. We went back to Sabon Gari, but the Yorubas we met refused to give me protection because they said they knew me. I tried one or two European friends I knew, but each of them swore they would rather die than give me protection since they were warned previously not to give any Ibo man or woman any protection. There was no point going to a Church compound since almost all the people who ran into such compounds on 1st of October were beaten up or shot by Hausa soldiers. I saw over 100 dead bodies on the Roman Catholic Church compound. I saw over 200 dead bodies in and outside St. Stephen’s Church. A few Ibo Union Grammar School girls had been raped by Hausa soldiers. There were quite a few of those girls who would not live to tell their tales of woe! I saw one Rosaline Metu, a class three girl. I saw the look on her face! She had gone beyond saving! These helpless girls had been abandoned to their fate to die in that cursed place.
Another witness, Anthony Ebiringa (29th witness) described his experience at the Kano Railway Station on the evening of 1st October:
I am a Grade I engine Driver and have served the Railway Corporation for the past 26 years. It happened that I was on line working a train from Kano to Nguru when the whole disturbance started. I was informed rather too late when I was just 13 miles from my Station (Nguru) of the great danger that awaited me there. However I narrowly escaped death by making my way with the engine (he had detached the coaches in his flight) without ‘flag’ back to Kano, trying to save both my life and the costly locomotive… I find it very difficult to state in detail what happened at the Kano Railway Station for it is beyond any human experience. It is better imagined than described.
The witness then narrated how the Easterners congregated at the Kano Railway Station waiting for a train that was supposed to leave for Enugu. He gave his estimate of the prospective passengers as over 1,600. The train never came. It was a false announcement. Then at 7 p.m in the evening of the 1st October tragedy descended on them.
At about 8 o’clock in the evening very many of us, Railway Staff, were in the Staff Office just chatting. Suddenly we saw a soldier in uniform. He dashed inside the office. Because we were so congested he kept on jumping on top of people ‘until he ran to the wall, cut off the telephone wire. As soon as he cut it off we were looking at ourselves. We were surprised. Within a second another jumped inside. They opened fire. What we heard was Ka-Ka-Ka: They were not aiming at anybody, just flinging the thing up and down. The first bullet got me here (forearm) as I was trying to run out. Another one passing hit me here (foot). Two persons already shot dead were lying at the ‘door’ I fell on them flat.
So, God gave me the sense. I just stretched my hand like this. The blood was just gushing. The man shooting was behind me. As he was shooting, many other soldiers were outside shooting. I did not know they were so many. Half of my body was outside. I was just there looking when a certain lady, one Oghe girl by name Eliza, daughter of Mr. Ofongwu, a driver (he was killed there (too) had her left eyes shot off; I identified her here). So then they shot the girl here, being that she knows me and played with my children (I was at Quarter 17 the father was at Quarter 18) she was shouting: ‘Papa, Papa’ running to me. I could not move because if I move they would know I was not dead. So in trying to shoot her, they got this leg (right leg). When they got this leg I did not know they got me at the artery. So, as soon as the bullet hit me, this leg died outright. I could not move and I did not want to move. The girl had the bullet here (indicating the eye); the left eye was off. (This girl is witness No 50). …I never knew that my artery or what they called tendon had been cut. After they finished shooting, everybody was there just lying dead. We just saw blood rushing. You know Kano Platform is built in a slopping way like this. Blood was just rushing into the gutter just like rainfall. When they kicked their kit-car and went away, I saw one man get up from some bodies that were lying dead. When he looked and did not see anybody he ran. When he ran I was sure there was none of them remaining. I got up to run. I never knew my tendon was cut. I could not run, so I had to sit down again. All those my friends with whom I was conversing were lying dead. Some with bullets here (head) some here (stomach). Some were just gasping and blood was rushing everywhere, some from the nose and everywhere. There was no alternative than for me to use my knees. I crawled and crawled and crawled past all the rails in the railway station, under the waggons fill I got to the coach siding.
When I got to the bush I felt afraid to enter anywhere because there were flashes of torchlight in the bush as the soldiers were shooting people here and there. I got to one quarters but all the people there, Yorubas and Hausas, were sleeping. As I was going I saw many dead bodies including those who were shot from the top of malina trees. I got to the loco and saw that the people who were there were all shot. There were dead bodies in empty wagons and everywhere. When I got there I saw a place which was very dark and the time was about 2 o’clock in the night. I went there to hide and when I got there I did not know that there were some other Easterners hiding there too. When they saw me they were about to run away. Some of them recognised me. One of them was my fireman before; one Mr. Odua of Asaba. They were five in all. None of them was wounded at that time. They saw my leg and I told them that place was not safe because it could be seen by people passing along the road and that when soldiers would be passing they would feel that it was being used as a hiding place. They said no that they were tired. When I left them and started to crawl I did not go beyond a pole before I heard gun shots and they were probably all killed. I kept on crawling until I reached a golf field where Europeans play golf. There was some grass there and I had to lie down to have some rest because all my knees were pealed and bruised.
I was there till half past three in the morning of 1st October. There was a very heavy rain after about half past three. There was a very bright moonlight that night before and after the rain. After the rain I started to feel very cold because I had not been used to cold bath and had never had one since I went to the North. I was therefore shivering. However, God showed me a very big tree ahead and directed me to go there; may be the rain did not fall there. On my reaching there I encountered an lbo man who saw me and picked up a race. He did not know that it was very near a European’s quarter. When the stewards and guards heard somebody running in the bush they pursued him shouting ‘nyamiri, ga nyamiri.’
I saw them catch up with him and were beating him and he was shouting ‘Chineke… e Chineke…e’ until I heard him no more and I presumed he was dead.
The witness continued in his own way to narrate his dreadful experience in Kano. He narrated how the soldiers were searching the bushes for escaping victims with their torchlights as “if they were searching for snails.” Fortunately for him the Red Cross ultimately picked him up. He was flown along with the survivors to Enugu where he received treatment. Details of his injuries are given in the chapter dealing with ‘personal injuries.’
The slaughter was not confined to the Ibos of Eastern Nigeria. The evidence disproves any such idea. One has to read the evidence of Miss Grace Okon (the 165th witness), Miss Elizabeth Okon (the 169th witness), Asuquo Effiong Ndiyo (the 171st witness), Akrasi Ekukudo Akarasi (1722nd witness), Eso Ekpo Archibong (173rd witness, Asuqu Bassey Duke (the 174th witness ), Edem Udo Inyang (180th witness), Arit Okon (the 181st witness), Cyprian Etim Udoh (188th witness), Bassey lyang Ekpo (195th witness), and many others to appreciate the point. They suffered destruction of their property just like other Easterners.
That many Easterners escaped and returned to Eastern Nigeria only showed that human beings have an infinite capacity for survival. They jumped into deep wells and remained for hours to escape slaughter (Okon E. Okon the 170th witness; hid in the dug latrines (180th witness Edom Udo Inyang); slept in the ceilings for days to avoid massacre.
Even one witness Cyril Maduagwu (75th witness) who was hiding in the ceiling of a house in Kano for four days had to drink his urine throughout this period. He feared that passing urine on the ceiling would betray his presence. Fleeing Easterners had to sleep in bushes and on tree tops for days and in holes where they had to grapple with snakes in addition; some were lowered into water tanks in the trains for want of accommodation. A careful reading of the evidence adduced to the Tribunal will repay the effort.