A new nation has been born. Fourteen million people have taken their destiny into their own hands and embarked on the task of building a nation free from fear, bitterness and hate. Their sole aim is to develop their innate capabilities and rear their children in an atmosphere of peace and security. They stretch their hands of fellowship to all nations and appeal for understanding, friendship and co-operation.
We, Biafrans, opted for self-determination after a long period of heart-searching and after making desperate efforts to save the Federation of Nigeria from disintegration. More than any other people in the former Federation, Biafrans contributed their human and material resources to the cause of national unity. From 1914, when the British amalgamated Northern and Southern Nigeria, Biafrans began to leave their homeland in large numbers to settle in several places among the Fulani-Hausa in the North and the Yoruba in the West. In those areas they opened up new avenues of commerce and industry and at the same time built new homes and erected places of worship and institutions of learning. By so doing they came to acquire a real stake in the progress and well-being of ALL parts of the country. They regarded themselves as citizens of Nigeria to an extent that no other group in the country ever did.
Wherever Biafrans sojourned their industry, resourcefulness and drive marked them out from their neighbours. In the North, particularly, the distinction was enhanced by religion; for while the majority of the Fulani-Hausa population were Muslims the Biafrans were and still remain mostly Christians. In addition, the progress and dynamism of Biafrans contrasted with the tardiness and conservatism of their neighbours who were generally unable to achieve the same standards of efficiency and prosperity. The envy and animosity the Biafrans excited were manifested periodically, such as in the massacre of Biafrans by Northern Nigerians at Jos in 1945 and at Kano in 1953.
While Biafrans abroad were thrusting ahead and setting the pace for the economic development of Nigeria, those in Biafra itself were diligently exploiting the human and material resources of their homeland. Their ready acceptance of modern ideas and techniques brought them to the forefront of economic and political activities. Democratic by tradition, they championed democratic ideals and at the same time advocated the concept of a united country. They resolutely opposed the reactionary ideas of the Fulani-Hausa ruling elite which controlled the North and dominated the Federal Government. They also resisted the vicious and unscrupulous methods by which the Northerners sought to perpetuate their hold on the political strings of Nigeria. It was largely this confrontation between the forces of progress, represented by Biafrans, and those of reaction, represented by the Fulani-Hausa which culminated in the Nigerian census crisis of 1963-64, the Federal election crisis of 1964 and the Western Nigeria election crisis of 1965 which brought the military to power in January 1966.
During the massacre of 29 May 1966, which was the reaction of the Fulani-Hausa to Unification Decree No. 34 of the Supreme Military Council, Biafrans were the sole victims and there was no discrimination with regard to their individual ethnic origin. The massacre of Biafran army officers and men by their Northern "comrades-in-arms" on 29 July 1966, and of Biafran civilians later, followed the same pattern: they were killed only because they were Biafrans.
Those who survived the pogrom fled back to their homeland disillusioned and embittered. Their investments in other parts of the Federation had been destroyed and those whom they held dear had been killed or maimed. The families in Biafra who received them back shared their grief, and hardly any family in Biafra escaped the loss of a member or the return of a destitute relative needing relief. The Northern Assailants showed no sign of remorse. On the contrary they were jubilant over the expulsion of the Biafrans in their midst. The Biafrans themselves would never think of going back to expose themselves to the risk of a repeat of their previous harrowing experience. Thus the pogrom of 1966 resulted in an irreversible movement of population.
In spite of all they had suffered during earlier massacres and during the more recent pogrom, the people of Biafra sought no revenge but strove strenuously to find a peaceful solution which would keep Nigeria together. The Northerners, on the contrary, rejected every overture, ignored the implementation of agreements which had been mutually arrived at, and relied on their military occupation of Lagos and Western Nigeria to humiliate Biafrans even further.
Two of these agreements stand out clearly. As far back as 9 August 1966 representatives of the Military Governors and Lt.-Col. Gowon agreed in Lagos that, inter alia "Immediate steps should be taken to post military personnel to barracks within their respective regions of origin". It was generally recognised that tension would be reduced and Biafrans would have less fear of attending meetings elsewhere in Southern Nigeria if this measure was taken. The implementation of this agreement was pressed on numerous occasions from August 1966 until the collapse of the Federation, but was totally ignored by the Northern "conquerors". Again, after long persuasion, the military rulers of Northern Nigeria agreed to attend a conference at Aburi, Ghana, in January 1967. Far-reaching decisions aimed at restoring the Federation to normalcy were taken at this meeting. As is now well-known, the Northern military rulers at first repudiated the decisions as soon as they returned to Lagos but, following further persuasion both from within and outside Nigeria, proceeded to implement only a portion of the Aburi decisions. At the same time the Federal Government contrary to an Aburi decision stopped paying its staff serving in Biafra, and withheld the Biafran share of Federal revenues.
The protests of Biafrans against the attitude of the North were met with threats of military subjugation. The proposal that Nigerian military lenders should meet in the presence of named African heads of States was spurned. The stoppage of salaries of Biafrans in the Federal public Service and Corporation compelled the Government of Biafra to pay these salaries in addition to bearing the financial burden of rehabilitating other refugees and displaced persons. Then the Lagos Government continued to withhold the periodic payments and remittances from Federal funds due to the Government of Biafra, the Biafran Government was forced to take steps to stop the continued accumulation of debt by the Lagos Government by promulgating the Revenue Collection Edict. Thereafter, the Lagos Government mounted a blockade aimed at the economic strangulation of Biafra.
It is this calculated and systematic persecution of Biafrans in the former Federation of Nigeria that has driven us to seek justice and salvation in independence. Molested, taunted, hounded, murdered and finally driven away from other parts of Nigeria, Biafrans have been compelled to acknowledge that close association with Fulani-Hausa is fraught with disaster. We have therefore taken up the challenge to our liberty and dedicated ourselves to the struggle for our survival.
Some well-meaning observers have expressed doubts as to whether the Republic of Biafra can survive both economically and politically as an independent, sovereign state. Firstly, they hint that Biafra had been so tied to the economy of the rest of Nigeria that if the federal links were severed Biafrans would suffer a fall in their present standard of living. In the second place they have tried to emphasize that Biafra consists of a composite group of people who lack the attributes of a nation. Such views have obviously arisen from an imperfect understanding of Biafra, past and present.
It is, among other things, in order to enlighten the enquirer and reassure the waverer that this publication is being issued. In the following pages the reader will discover the real Biafra, a country which has through the ages undergone a political as well as an economic transformation resulting in the emergence of a virile and united nation that is capable of sustaining itself in the committee of nations.