Today in history, 40 years ago,General Ojukwu, The Legend of Biafra (apologies to Prof. Kalu Ogbaa) made the famous Ahiara Declaration. In it the young Oxford educated President of Biafra outlined the Principles of the Biafran Revolution.
My brothers and sisters, last night I reread this document. And I felt very proud to be Igbo. I feel proud to be an Igbo-Biafran. And I am very proud of our fathers, uncles, mothers and all who contributed to the Biafran effort.
But for the British, Russia and the Arab world who gave massive military and diplomatic support to the British contraption called Nigeria, Biafra would have survived and the Ahiara Declaration would have been used to build a modern model African State.
One thing I noticed in the Ahiara Declaration is that the failed state called Nigeria has borrowed ideas in that document under various guises.
However, it has not worked for them because they have no regards for meritocracy. Merit was one of the important factors that would have influenced the religious implementation of the Ahiara Declaration.
My generation, indeed every true Igbo should be eternally grateful to General Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu for braving the odds and providing the astute leadership to ensure that we survived the genocidal onslaught unleashed on our people with the sole aim of exterminating the Igbo from the face of the earth.
'The Biafran Revolution is indestructible and eternal!'
___________________ "Udo, Njiko na Nwere onwe anyi" Posts: 63 | From: PH, BIAFRA | Registered: Dec 2003
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Icheoku Thanks for reminding us the importance of hsitory, and thank God for a place like BNW future generation will continue to have access to documents like ahiara declaration. I can remember that day as a 9 years old boy we walked with kerosene lantan for the short 2 miles from my Village to St Brigids Ahiara. To witness that August occasion which started in the dark of the night to the wea hours of early morning, to avoid the vandals and their air bombardments.
CONSTRUCTING A NEW NATIONAL PARADIGM III - REVISITING THE AHIARA DECLARATION FORTY YEARS LATER n 1 June 1969, Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu made an important speech at Ahiara. I can hear even now the wonderment as to the relevance of a speech made forty years ago in civil war circumstances. There are ofcourse a great cloud of mainly sceptical witnesses who do not like to consider anything connected with the controversial Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu. But even so there is considerable reason for our national discourse to be inclusive and to revisit a seminal speech made forty years ago.
Why Ahiara? I ought to know where Ahiara is but I apologise that despite my long acquaintance with Imo and later Abia States, not once did it occur to me to identify the town of Ahiara. But the importance of this town cannot be denied. Recorded history indicates that Ahiara has been the centre of Igbo resistance to British rule and as late as 1905 - 1906 the British were compelled to send an expeditionary force to Ahiara to crush the insurbordination of NdIgbo. Whether the choice of Ahiara was a deliberate choice by the Biafran high command given the history of Ahiara as a pivot of Igbo resistance or whether it was a location dictated by the exigencies of Biafra's situation at the time is open to question. The speech was to mark Biafra's independence anniversary. However after two very difficult years for the Biafrans, it was an opportunity for the Biafran leader to galvanise what was left of the energies of the people and to reignite the flagging resistance of the people. By this time Biafra had lost much territory and the other privations of war, too well known to require recounting here, had taken their toll; indeed one passage from St Paul's letter to the Corinthians aptly describes Biafra's situation at the time - "We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed" (II Corinthians 4: 8 New International Version).
The Ahiara Declaration A full version of the Ahiara Declaration is available on the world wide web, but buyer beware! because there are some versions which have had significant portions excised! The version published at http://www.kwenu.com/biafra/ahiara_declaration.htm is one such version which those who are familiar with the declaration will know is not complete; but the version at http://www.biafraland.com/Ahiara_declaration_1969.htm is complete and unabridged. At the end of the war in 1970 I had opportunity to see an international version published by Markpress (Switzerland). Recently I was able to borrow a copy via the British Library. This was the version published by the Biafra Information Service Corporation Ltd. Although the binding of this Biafran-made version betrayed evidence of war-time production, it is testament to the resilience of the spirit of the Biafran state that even in difficult circumstances the organs of state remained functional. From these two sources I can authenticate the latter internet version as the accurate one.
In effect the document popularly called the Ahiara declaration is "The Principles of the Biafran Revolution". "The Principles" was the result of the efforts of the National Guidance Committee. This group of intellectuals had given consideration to issues of a contemporary Biafran society and what sort of post war nation should emerge from the rubble of war. In effect Biafra did not survive as a nation-state; by 1970 the war ended and with it the concept of an independent Biafra. But there are useful lessons that could be learned from the Biafran experience and which require closer examination for the benefit of Nigeria.
Although the substance of the speech was the result of the thoughts of the NGC, the style was vintage Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu. The speech gave a historical background to the crisis and attempted a road map to Biafra's post-war future. But more importantly the speech spoke to Biafra and Biafrans, to Africa and the Black personality and finally to a global audience.
Naturally there is an anti-intellectual streak in every nook and cranny of Nigeria that sees only the negative in anything which deviates from their learned orthodoxy; for those who see Nigeria groping for a viable way forward since 1960, all options and ideas should be considered.
I can think of no more appropriate time than now to re-examine the issues and questions raised by the Ahiara Declaration and their relevance to today's Nigeria. After 40 years is sufficient time for more mature and considered reflection rather than the usual knee-jerk comment that would otherwise be expected.
Relevance of Ahiara Declaration In reading the Ahiara Declaration it is possible to discern that it was intended for domestic Biafran audience but also for the international community. By June 1969, the only viable option for Biafra was international intervention that would have resulted in a more balanced armistice; a peace fashioned round the conference table rather than one dictated by military reality on the ground. In the event despite the "no victors, no vanquished" policy of the Federal Government, it is clear that the Nigerian government dictated not only the terms of peace but also fashioned a postwar Nigeria cast in the mould of the victor. The 'victors' progressively created a nation state with progressive accumulation of power at the centre to the detriment of the federating units of Nigeria. The imbalance of centrifugal and centripetal forces arising directly from the actions and deliberate omissions of the generals who 'won' the war has in effect rendered Nigeria a dangerously lopsided nation which is in effect unwieldy and unmanageable regardless of the statecraft and skill of national managers.
The progressive accumulation of power at the centre, the multiplicity of states and the proliferation of local governments without due regard to the costs of running these initiatives nor indeed the consideration for national cohesion has resulted in a more dangerous national situation than one could have conceived at the end of January 1970.
In some way, Nigeria had indeed won the war but lost much else beside. A reprise of what could be is necessary and Ahiara is no bad place to make a start
The Ahiara Declaration opened with the customary greetings and a retelling of the reasons that led to Biafra. There was also a situation report detailing the military situation and presented in a way to lift flagging spirits and encourage the Biafran war effort. There was also a good dose of propaganda which the Biafrans had become very effective at deploying. Propaganda is ofcourse part of daily life and even now Nigeria is talking of re-branding. In a way this is an attempt at propaganda. The Biafran propaganda machine of which the late Okokon Ndem was the audible voice was a gem of imagination and but for the privations of war, was quite amusing at times. Biafran propaganda would refer to Harold Wilson, then British Prime Minister as Harold 'Weasling' or 'Herod' Wilson. When Mr Wilson proposed sending his Foreign Office Minister, Lord Shepherd to Biafra to verify Biafran claims of Federal Government genocide, perpetrated, so the Biafrans said with British arms, the Biafrans declared that "this Lord shall not be our shepherd!" However propaganda achievements by the Biafrans are not the subject of this re-examination of the Ahiara Declaration.
Instead I am more interested in the way that the civil war is situated in an African context and the impact of colonialism and associated racist attitudes on Africa and Nigeria and possible avenues for the genuine liberation of the African personality.
The genesis of the Nigerian crisis The Ahiara Declaration examined the genesis of the Nigerian crisis culminating in the civil war. "In 1966, some 50,000 of us were slaughtered like cattle in Nigeria". Ojukwu was ofcourse referring to the mass scale slaughter of NdIgbo mainly in Northern Nigeria but also elsewhere. The pogrom of 1966 was consequent upon the 15 January 1966 coup led by Major Patrick Nzeogwu. The subsequent events and escalation to war have been better rehearsed elsewhere; but a reading of the Nigerian press will reveal that mass scale slaughter of other Nigerians and wanton destruction of lives and property still recur regularly even up to 2009 almost 43 years after the 1966 events. But one could argue that in 1945 similar events occurred in Jos and in 1953 in Kano. If the nation state has not learnt to live comfortably with itself it is imperative that Nigeria and Nigerians look dispassionately at the foundational issues that make national cohesion so difficult. But why must we have reference to Ahiara and not to some other national document or speech?
My observation of Nigerian leaders is that there are a few that have had such a comprehensive panoramic evaluation of the Nigerian condition and situated it in a global context. Ofcourse we have the Jaji Declaration in 1977 by Olusegun Obasanjo; the
Ethical Revolution of Shagari in 1981 - 1983; War Against Indiscipline by Buhari in 1984; National Orientation Movement by Babangida in 1986; Mass Mobilization for Social Justice by Babangida in 1987; War Against Indiscipline and Corruption in 1996 by Abacha; and the Anti- Corruption Act 2000 again by President Olusegun Obasanjo.
Yet in very truth all these eloquent and laudable efforts were inward facing! At Ahiara Ojukwu attempted and succeeded in a forensic analysis of the Nigerian condition. The Nigerian crises and civil war were a by product of the Nigerian condition; and because of Nigeria's primacy in Black and African affairs the Nigerian condition represents and affects the global position of the African person whether in Africa or in the diaspora. It is true that Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe had on 16 November 1960 set a national vision to be "to restore the dignity of man and to revive the stature of man" not only in Nigeria but also in Africa. Chief Awolowo had through numerous writings and other speeches and contributions entrenched an unassailable strategy for the actualisation of Nigeria's greatness, a strategy which he successfully pioneered in Western Region in 1950s. This was based on his philosophy of "domestic socialism". Across the Niger in Eastern Nigeria, Dr Azikiwe's successor as regional premier replied with "pragmatic socialism" In his Jaji declaration in 1977 General Obasanjo decried the indiscipline, corruption, moral decay and lack of patriotism, which characterised the Nigerian nation-state. He exalted all Nigerians to be more disciplined, humane and considerate towards the welfare of their fellow citizens, and to eschew materialism, flamboyant display of wealth, and unnecessary acquisitive tendencies.
In fairness these well considered and properly presented propositions had one significant difference to Ahiara; whereas these other ideas were articulated in times of relative stability, Ahiara was a document borne of civil strife, in desperate circumstances. One could argue that if Nigeria is to move from its current situation to a more satisfactory dispensation then a paradigm shift is required and hence my proposition of Ahiara as our starting point for discussion.
Africa in a global context It makes instructive re-reading what Ojukwu said at Ahiara regarding the African situation in its global context. What is significant is Ojukwu's situation of the struggle of NdIgbo into a global understanding and this makes the Ahiara Declaration that more relevant to understanding what the Kenyan scholar and teacher, Ali A Mazrui calls "the African Condition"(The African condition: a political diagnosis Cambridge University Press, 1980 ISBN 0521298849, 9780521298841). Ojukwu makes the compelling statement that "The more I think about it the more I am convinced that our disability is racial. The root cause of our problem lies in the fact that we are black". He was referring to the reaction of much of the international community to view the Nigerian crises and civil war as an internal matter precluding any alternative viewpoint except that which came from the Federal side. In very truth, many, even on the Biafran side preferred a solution based on the unity of Nigeria. But whereas there were issues that needed to be resolved on both sides the outcome of the way that Biafran issues were not sufficiently listened to was that the war was settled on terms that ultimately represented a unidimensional Nigeria; in the process Nigeria lost much opportunity for political evolution.
The reason for this is that the western financial interests saw only their profit motive in Nigeria. It mattered more to them that their ledger entries indicated a favourable financial balance sheet from their Nigerian investments in petroleum , agricultural produce but also in repatriations from the various finance institutions that were formed in colonial times. Even as recently as the 29 may 2009 Chief Richard Akinjide, eminent jurist and former Attorney General bemoans the lopsided constitutional settlement which is a caricature of federalism (Richard Akinjide "There is still fear of secession" Opinion in The Guardian 29 May 2009). That such an opinion should come from a source so well informed over more than fifty years on Nigerian affairs is indeed very damning and what is more this is coming on the day set aside to celebrate ten years of our new democracy?
The Ahiara Declaration expantiates "It is the latest recrudescence in our time of the age-old struggle of the black man for his full stature as man. We are the latest victims of a wicked collusion between the three traditional scourges of the black man - racism, Arab-Muslim expansionism and white economic imperialism. Playing a subsidiary role is Bolshevik Russia seeking for a place in the African sun" and continues "Ever since the 15th century, the European world has treated the African continent as a field for exploitation. Their policies in Africa have for so long been determined to a very great extent by their greed for economic gain".
Africa's malignant blight Although the issues raised by the Ahiara Declaration are germane to the Nigerian condition, they constitute an incubus and the recrudescence of these problems at repeated intervals represents a unique malignancy with an African focus. In his book "What is wrong with being Black" (Destiny Image Publishers Inc, Shippensburg, PA, 2007, ISBN 10: 0768426383, ISBN 13: 9780768426380), pentecostal minister, Matthew Ashimolowo concludes that there is nothing wrong with being black, but identified idolatry as the fundamental issue of the Black underachievement. Many especially who are not of a religious persuasion may argue this point of view but what is incontestable is the African condition in which the richest continent somehow manages to house the poorest people living in the most inhospitable environment with weak economies and poorly developed democratic and other national institutions.
Yet Africa is not lacking in intelligent people; except that African talent is utilised in the achievement of narrow political and other sectional interests. Into this mix is then thrown foreign colonial and other economic interests capable of using the divide and rule principle to foreign advantage and Africa's detriment. These examples are deliberately chosen to illustrate the way in which African interests are rarely considered and Africa taken for granted:
During the Nigerian civil war quite apart from support from the British government the Nigerian government received military and technical assistance from Egypt in the form of pilots and from the Soviet Union in the form of MIG fighters. After the war the Arab League "demanded" that all OAU countries break off diplomatic relations with Israel and Africa complied and virtually all African countries broke off diplomatic relations with Israel (excluding Lesotho, Swaziland and Malawi). Would the Arab League attempt to be so bold and confident elsewhere? Whilst the African leaders presided over putrid economies with impoverished citizens, doing the bidding of the Arab League appeared their major pre-occupation. Did the Arab countries offer a dime to the African countries at this time and how much did Moscow invest in Africa at this time? Yet before the 1973 break in diplomatic relations Israel maintained over 236 experts in 25 African countries. (Israel and Africa: the problematic friendship By Joel Peters, Published by I.B.Tauris, 1992 ISBN 1870915100, 9781870915106)
In Darfur the Arab League has acquiesced in the genocide perpetrated by Sudan with tacit Russian and Chinese military and diplomatic support; where is their concern for the Black African interest.
Iran is currently establishing a secret intelligence listening post in Eritrea from which it hopes to spy on Israel as a first step towards its plan to "annihilate" the Jewish State
I have chosen these three examples to illustrate that aside from the well known relationship between the western charter companies and their governments, Africa is susceptible to a myriad influences including those not originally well known but certainly identified by Emeka Ojukwu in the Ahiara Declaration. In short after the slave trade came colonial rule, then neo-colonialism which Osagyefo Kwame Nkrumah identified as the last stage of imperialism, but he was wrong!; because as we see cultural and religious imperialism is yet another stage in Africa's ongoing colonisation which is in effect not necessarily the last stage of imperialism but part of a vicious circle in which Africa is in the grip on of a cyclical malignancy. At the heart of this malignancy is Africa's inability to evolve a cohesive approach to addressing its own interests.
A possible new paradigm? The British colonial administrative official in Nigeria, WR Crocker said that " the African people do not have a homogenous corpus of beliefs and loyalties unlike in Europe where different people are bound by the Graeco-Roman civilization and Christianity (Nigeria: A Critique of British Colonial Administration, By Walter Crocker Published by Human Relations Area Files, 1976, ISBN 0849023459, 9780849023453). This brings the argument full circle to Matthew Ashimolowo's earlier proposition that it is idolatry that landed the Black person where he is today. But must he remain there; or can a new emergent elite construct a new African paradigm based on principles of a modern state such as enunciated in the Principles of the Biafran Revolution (the Ahiara Declaration)?
The relevance of the Ahiara Declaration is that it was forged at atime when our nascent republic was all but broken. Certainly at that time Nigeria had passed through the valley of the shadow of death. There can be no better vantage point for looking up and seeing the possibilities than when one is in the valley!
With the well adumbrated experiences of Africa and the current harsh economic reality it is possible and certainly passed time for Nigeria as the leader of Africa to sit itself round a table to address the issues that militate against its success. So far even the current democratic dispensation is based on a constitution which even the people cannot identify with nor claim ownership of because it is seen as military diktat; contrast that with the Ahiara Declaration which grew not just out of the bowels of the Biafran society but was the result of considered deliberation at a time when every person was at ground zero and the only alternative was up!
On this the fortieth anniversary of the Ahiara Declaration I recommend to all progressive minds, a re-examination of the spirit and intent behind those principles as an important signpost for our forward march.
As a proud son of Ahiara myself, one cannot under estimate the resilence of Ahiara people. Every power that have tried to fight Ahiara have always been surprised and shocked that they always get more than they bargained for.
With the Fall of Biafra and Mbaise been the last Biafran town to fall, I remember the Nigeria troup get worked up look for a structure called Ahiara where the Ahiara declaration was declared. Little did they know that Ahiara is a town comprising of so many villages.
Eze Igbo will always be with us in spirit. Yes he is gone to a better place but he leaves behind a life of inspiration and courage we can all aspire to.
Posts: 1537 | From: USA | Registered: Mar 2001
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