January Fifteen: Nigeria and Biafra

Annually, in the history of Nigeria, the above mentioned date means two different things: To Nigerians, it is a day to mark the end of a civil war that started on July 6, 1967, and ended on January 15, 1970. It is also the day Nigeria’s first bloody coup happened. To Biafrans, it is a day to remember the atrocities committed against them, in that genocidal war that harvested the lives of over five million Biafrans.

15 January 1966: The Coup – Operation Damisa

On this day, 55 years ago, 30 years-old Major Emmanuel Arinze Ifeajuna (a Nigerian army major and high jumper. He was the first Black African to win a gold medal at an international sports event when he won at the 1954 British Empire and Commonwealth Games) and 29 years-old Lieutenant Colonel Patrick Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu (a Nigerian military officer who played a leading role in the first military coup d’ètat of January 15 1966, which overthrew the First Nigerian Republic) and three other majors carried out a revolutionary coup intended to end corruption in Nigeria. The coup failed, and owing to misconceptions about the intentions of the coup plotters, and conspiracies about the events surrounding the coup, more tragic events occured.

Major Gen. General Ironsi, who thwarted the coup attempt and took over power, was killed in a second coup six months later, and anti-Igbo pogroms led to Biafra’s secession in May 1967, and a month later, civil war broke out. Major Emmanuel Arinze Ifeajuna and Lieutenant Colonel Patrick Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu died in 1967 under different circumstances: Emmanuel Ifeajuna was executed with three others for treason against the government of Biafra, and Nzeogwu was killed in a reconnaissance mission.

15 January 1970: Biafra Surrender

A Spoken Word about Biafra, performed by Kalu Siza Amah

On this day, 51 years ago, Biafra’s second president Philip Effiong announced Biafra’s surrender to Nigeria, bringing an end to a war that claimed an estimated three million lives. The Nigerian government celebrates January 15 in remembrance of Nigerian soldiers who laid down their lives for the unity of the country.

To Nigerians, it is a day to mark the end of a civil war that started on July 6, 1967, and ended on January 15, 1970. But, for Biafrans, it is a day to remember the atrocities committed against us, in that genocidal war that harvested the lives of over five million Biafrans.

It is a day to remember the ingenuity of gallant men, who against all odds, stood their ground to defend sovereignty, not just against an ailing Nigerian state, but also against Britain, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Syria, Algeria, Bulgaria and of course, the US of America, who all aided the Nigerian state. According to Gowon, there was no victor nor vanquished. Even the devil shuddered at the creativity of such lie.

January 15 of every year leaves us with sober reflections on how Biafrans fought a war of survival. It is a day that Biafran heroes temporarily laid down their arms, and passed on the baton (of peace – they wished) to us.

They did so with the conviction that, having resisted the Nigerian aggression for three years, the Nigerian state must have learnt enough to attend to the conditions that birthed the war. Unfortunately, their expectations are yet to see sunrise. Instead of reconciliation, the Nigerian state embraced the provocative path, unleashing everything evil on the peace-loving people of Biafra.

A case of the victor and the vanquished. The. War. Never. Ended.

You don’t coerce people into unity. The war might have ended on the field of war, but it rages on in the hearts of Ndị Igbo.

Jaachi Anyatonwu

What was agreed on, after the war, is not being implemented. 50 years later, look where we are: in chaos, nepotism, tribal disgust and ethnic distrust.

All hail or all hell? Time will tell.

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Author avatar
Jaachi Anyatonwu
http://jaachiwrites.com
Jaachi Anyatonwu is a poet from Nigeria. His writings are inspired by everyday happenings and observations with writings that cut across many genres like poetry, prose, essays and music. Jaachi loves to create rich content; creative writing tips, authorship tips, humorous stories and micro poems. He's the author of Sweetness, a collection of poems.

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