Saturday, 31 December 2011

Walk of introspection

Less than 24 hours away from 2012, the yearnings and aspirations of peoples across the African World for a decisively transformative change in their lives in the New Year is distinctly palpable. This is particularly the case in those three notorious genocide-states that go by the names Nigeria, Congo Democratic Republic/Zaϊre, the Sudan; they all acutely constitute the bane of African existence and progress. For the concerned and/or besieged constituent peoples in these states, the future direction is evidently clear: (1) dismantle the extant genocide state or quickly abandon their membership therein and (2) create new state forms of civilisation that expressly serve their own interests, worldviews and aspirations, and respect human rights.

For the Igbo nation of southwestcentral Africa, the sense of urgency generated by the cataclysmic sociopolitics of these times cannot be more pronounced. The Igbo homeland has been under a blanket occupation by the Nigeria military/police/allied terror institutions since the presumed end of the 44-month long genocide against the Igbo people carried out by this state. Nigeria murdered 3.1 million Igbo or one-quarter of the nation’s population between 29 May 1966 and 12 January 1970. Nigeria has murdered tens of thousands of additional Igbo during the “post”-genocide years of the past 41 years. According to a study published just recently (December 2011) by the International Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule Of Law, a human rights organisation based in Onicha, 90 per cent of the 54,000 people murdered in Nigeria by the state/quasi-state operatives and agents since 1999 are Igbo. On Christmas Day, last Sunday, at least 90 per cent of people murdered by the Boko Haram islamist insurgency group’s bombings of churches in central Nigeria are Igbo. It is increasingly difficult to come to a contrary conclusion that the raison d’être of Nigeria’s existence is to murder the Igbo. Since 1945, i.e. 66 years ago, Nigeria has indeed carried out this dreadful mission so clinically, so ruthlessly, so savagely, so relentlessly, so remorselessly.

BEGINNING ANEW

As we walk into 2012, the Igbo and all peoples of goodwill, the world over, can’t but look forward to the future well beyond the horror of genocidist Nigeria. Predictably, the future for the nations and peoples of this very west Africa region couldn’t be more reassuring on the morrow of that which was once genocidist Nigeria. The restoration of Igbo sovereignty is currently, clearly, in the sights for all to see. Biafra, and the other successor-states from genocidist Nigeria, organically constituted, really has its work cut out. Its mission is not to begin to construct a state that is merely post-genocide or post post-conquest/post post-“colonial” state (cancelling out a stretch of indices which was Nigeria here and there!) but a realisation, a reclamation of that which makes humans humans and part of humanity. Biafra has an opportunity to begin to build a new civilisation where human life, fundamentally, is sacrosanct. This is an inclusive state where women and men live as co-operators and co-creators, a dual-gender complementarity in fundamentally transforming its society. This is a state that accepts and accords full rights to all minority groups, however so defined. This is a state where people enjoy the rights to differ and to dream dreams and dream different sets of dreams as they choose. This is a state dedicated to furthering and nurturing the resilience of its people and to enabling them pursue their highest creative endeavours. This state continuously strives to remove all limitations in the paths of its people and committed to making life better and better and better. This is a state that primes its people to flourish. Finally, the long drawn out nightmare is over and truly we do stand poised on the eve of a new beginning.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Withdraw from Mr Oyedepo’s church

The video clip below is staggeringly depressing. Here, Mr Oyedepo fiendishly assaults, humiliates and dehumanises a congregant - a child, a child who is potentially a surgeon, a writer, a professor, an astronaut, a lawyer, a banker, an entrepreneur... but most importantly, a human being - someone's daughter, someone's sister, someone's granddaughter, someone's niece, someone’s cousin, someone's relative, an Igbo child. I don’t know if Mr Oyedepo would have assaulted this child if she were Yoruba or Nupe, or Hausa... It should be noted that the child (boy) who says they are from Jos and repeats words very similar to those made earlier by the Igbo child is spared the Oyedepo punch. Oyedepo’s mindset is a haunting reminder of Benjamin Adekunle’s - also displayed publicly, this time in a 1968 press conference and couched in this grisly prose: “I want to see no Red Cross, no Caritas, no World Council of Churches, no pope, no missionary, and no United Nations Delegation. I want to prevent even one I[g]bo from having even one piece to eat before their capitulation. We shoot at everything that moves and when our troops march into the centre of I[g]bo territory, we shoot at everything even at things that don’t move”... David Oyedepo is a mean, swaggering brute who must be prosecuted for daring to assault this child. All Igbo congregants and all other peoples of goodwill should now withdraw and boycott Mr Oyedepo’s church wherever it is located. David Oyedepo must no longer work with and around children. Today, the David Oyedepo assault is on the Igbo child; tomorrow, it will surely be a child from elsewhere...

Saturday, 17 December 2011

The sardauna, Britain, Nigeria and the Igbo

Igbo tenacity, drive and relentless optimism to pursue and overcome life’s challenges were acutely an affront to both the sardauna of Sokoto (northwest Nigeria) and British occupation sensibilities in Nigeria. This sardauna interview (video below) must have been recorded in the late 1950s/early 1960s definitely after both the 1945 and 1953 north Nigeria-organised pogroms against Igbo immigrant populations in Jos and Kano respectively. Hundreds of Igbo were murdered during the pogroms and tens of thousands of pounds sterling worth of their property were looted/destroyed at the time. Each pogrom was carried out because of the Igbo vanguard role in the restoration-of-independence movement to free Nigeria from the British conquest and occupation, begun in the 1930s. North Nigeria’s sociopolitical leaderships, effectively British regional clients, were opposed to the restoration of African freedom. No other leadership across the entire Southern World (Africa, Asia, the Caribbean/South America) has such an unenviable record during this unprecedented epoch of transglobal freedom charge. North Nigeria leadership, indeed, were disposed to the continuing British occupation of Nigeria.

Enslaved spaces and replicas

As a result, the occupation regime did not apprehend or prosecute anyone for either the 1945 or 1953 pogroms and the outrages became the “dress rehearsals” for the 29 May 1966-12 January 1970 Igbo genocide when the Nigeria state (as a whole, involving other constituent nations including the Yoruba, the Edo and Urhobo of the west region) with full Britain involvement, and others, murdered 3.1 million Igbo or one-quarter of this nation’s population. Britain, nor in fact any of the other pan-European conquerors of Africa (France, Portugal, Belgium, Spain, Germany), did not create a Nigeria, or whatever names these “Berlin states” in Africa are called, as precursor for African emancipation. On the contrary, the Nigerias of Africa are more of replicas of the enslaved plantations of the Americas (in the previous epoch of nearly 400 years) to perpetuate European World control and exploitation of Africa and Africans in perpetuity.

The enslaved Igbo encountered this with unrelenting courage and defiance in the enslaved estates in the Americas (north, south and the Caribbean), as history shows, and wouldn’t have it either at home! The sardauna interview should be part of History/Politics 101 course on Africa because it does tell one, in a nutshell, the “fate” of the Igbo in Nigeria that north Nigeria, with firm support of Britain, had, carefully, contrived right back in the 1950s. Except the Igbo people have signed up for a concerted suicide, they surely cannot see their destiny emplaced in this space of certain death.

This has been the cardinal lesson of the Igbo genocide. Thankfully, some Igbo who were still not sure of the long term implications of the continuing Nigerian occupation of their homeland (since 12 January 1970) have had a baptism of enlightenment since the video of the sardauna interview went viral just recently! Suddenly, historical records become opportunities for rare streams of conscientisation...

Monday, 5 December 2011

Africans in Britain – They came before the SS Empire Windrush*

In that moving, intensely expansive exposition on the subject of history in James Baldwin’s Just above my Head, the narrative voice states:
To overhaul a history, or to attempt to redeem it – which effort may or may not justify it – is not at all the same thing as the descent one must make in order to excavate a history. To be forced to excavate a history is, also, to repudiate the concept of history, and the vocabulary in which history is written; for the written history is, and must be, merely the vocabulary of power, and power is history’s most seductively attired false witness.

Baldwin’s interest in history and power of course focuses on world history and its aftermath during that crucial, unprecedented epoch of globalisation, namely the 15th-20th century. In Just above my Head, as well as in his other novels, writings and lectures, Baldwin is wrestling with the position and impact of this history and power on African peoples, peoples of African descent, in the United States and elsewhere. Baldwin’s interest is not predicated on merely assessing and classifying the obvious balance of forces of the principal national/racial/class/continental participants in this interplay of conflict relations, important as this goal may be, but much more in engaging in a challenging enterprise to, to use his word from archaeology, “excavate” the critical agencies at work in the process, during the epoch.

We should now focus more closely on Britain, our own regional tributary in this global stream of history, and explore its variegated course and profile. Contrary to the “conventional wisdom” which is all too eager to limit our comprehension of African-descent presence in Britain to the post-Second World War era, I am not aware of any historian who has categorically stated that the origin of the presence of African peoples, African descent peoples, in Britain began in 1948 with the Tilbury port docking of the SS Empire Windrush ship from Jamaica with 492 African Caribbean immigrants on board. What is true however is that few historians have found it expedient to challenge this seeming “orthodoxy” for all kinds of reason that would become apparent shortly.

The truth is that African-descent peoples have lived in Britain, in varying numbers, for several centuries. There were African soldiers in the Roman legions that invaded Britain thrice (in 55BCE, 54BCE, 43CE) including those who embarked on the Roman occupation of the country in 43 CE. For the interested researcher, there is a veritable storehouse of sources that catalogues the African presence across the ages at the British Library, the London Records Office, local history libraries, museums, churches, art galleries, local governments, municipal councils, health authorities, trading companies, the merchant marine and military records.

These records show that African-descent peoples have maintained a continuously expanding permanent presence in London since 1507. Subsequently, the presence of African peoples in London and elsewhere in Britain, in varying numbers and circumstances, would be inextricably woven with that of British history itself through enslavement, mercantile capitalism, industrial/monopoly capitalism and enhanced global conquest and hegemony. The visit to England in 1555 by five west African merchants from Shama was an opportunity seized by English traders involved in the lucrative west African gold, ivory and pepper business. The English were keen to dislodge the Portuguese from their dominance in the “external” sector of the trade. With the beginning of the European World enslavement of African peoples in 1562 (first evidence of enslaved Africans physically sold in England was in 1621) and following the outbreak of the Spanish war of succession in the early 1700s, African peoples began to arrive in Britain in droves. By the 1750s, the African-descent population in Britain was approximately 20,000 with the majority living in the London area (10-15,000). Soon, it was “fashionable” for members of the British aristocracy and the emerging bourgeoisie to “own” one or more enslaved African. Those Africans who became free (the enslaved became free by either buying back their freedom through an agreed payment to their owner/owners or, more audaciously, by escaping from the bondage!) earned their living as entertainers, artists, craftspeople, cleaners or street beggars. In a celebrated painted panel of the royal court at Kenilworth (Warwickshire) in the 1570s, Queen Elizabeth I is shown being entertained by a group of African musicians and dancers. Soon, the essentially racist stereotype of the African, particularly the diasporan African in the West, as a “natural entertainer” was developed. More institutionalised caricatures of the African-descent presence, especially in London, were expressed in the naming of streets and pubs. From the mid-16th to mid-19th century, a total of 61 streets in London were named Black Boy Lane (One still exists in Tottenham, borough of Haringey[!] and there are still popular public houses in Reading, Winchester, Banbury, Caernarfon, Oxford and elsewhere called “Black Boy” Pub/Inn from the same period. In the latter example, Oxford university students tried unsuccessfully to have the pub’s name changed in 1999 because they felt that the name “caused offence”.) and 51 taverns were called “Blackmoor Head” (“blackmoor”, “blackamoor”, “n[****]” and “c[*******]” were some of the other English epithets used in describing Africans during the era).

For African peoples, generally, life in Britain was indeed harsh, turbulent and grim. It was a social existence of deprivation, hopelessness and humiliation – a “Babylon”, to borrow the popular imagery of the Rastafarian movement. Africans were subjected to life on the edge of society. Quite often, in spite of this obvious marginalisation, the African-descent population was blamed for society’s ills and misfortunes. For instance in 1596, during a devastating famine in the country, Queen Elizabeth I signed a decree ordering the deportation of all Africans from the land. She simply felt that the Africans were responsible for the scourge of the times! This was the same monarch who, 30 years earlier, had made fortunes from the African enslavement traffic. Apart from handsomely decorating John Hawkins, the first principal English enslaver of the African mission, the queen also lent Hawkins a ship during his second enslaving voyage to the west Africa coast and the profits made by that mission were shared by both.

Huge surpluses generated by Britain during the 350 years as the leading enslaver- power in Africa (a position it had taken over from the Iberian states of Portugal and Spain) were later used to finance its spectacular industrial revolution, finance its invasion and occupation of India, and emerge as the first truly expansive global power by the end of the 19th century/beginning of the 20th century. Cities such as London, Bristol, Cardiff, Liverpool, Manchester and Glasgow became extremely rich, showcasing the spectacular transformation that each had undergone from being key destinations of prime investment of profits accruing to the British treasury and multifaceted institutions from the enslavement of the African humanity. Thereafter, Britain became the epicentre of the intellectual activity of an ever-expanding collective of scholars, scientists and writers who offered the “requisite” cultural/scientific/literary rationalisation for the African holocaust. As for the Africans, the cataclysmic consequences of this phenomenally long-stretched dehumanisation on themselves and on their African homeland and the new spaces of enforced habitation in the Americas, Britain and elsewhere in Europe are extensively documented in an impressive and challenging African-led scholarship available in schools, colleges, libraries, museums and elsewhere across the world.

FORTITUDE & RESILIENCE

African experience and presence in Britain though was not just a long, dreadful, and uninterrupted age of woe. It was also an epoch when African intellectual ingenuity, artistic expression and activist involvement in the host society’s social struggles flourished. Utilising these crucial sociocultural arenas, even if at times uneven and contradictory, Africans mounted their resistance and embarked on clearly marked liberatory initiatives here and there in Britain. Phyllis Wheatley, the poet, became a celebrity in literary circles in 1773 when her poems (Poems on Various Subjects) were published. Wheatley had been kidnapped from contemporary Sénégal at the age of 8 and transported to Boston (United States) where she became a child prodigy and later arrived in England in 1772. In the 1780s, two Jamaicans, William Davidson and Robert Wedderburn, emerged as leading organisers of the Spencean revolutionary socialist movement in London. The Spenceans (followers of Thomas Spence) were the most radical organisation at the time, which included agrarian communalists, factory workers, tradespeople, shoemakers, sailors and soldiers. Wedderburn was later jailed and his address to the people before he was marched off to prison became an enduring inspiration to the African population:
Oh ye Africans and relatives now in bondage … because you are innocent and poor; receive this the only tribute the offspring of an African can give, for which, I may ere long be lodged in prison … for it is a crime now in England to speak against oppression … I am a West-Indian, a lover of liberty, and would dishonour human nature if I did not show myself a friend, to the liberty of others.

William Cuffay, who was most likely from present-day Ghana or Côte d’Ivoire, was one of the principal leaders of the chartist movement (the first mass political organisation of the British working population) which fought for the human rights of the people, including universal adult suffrage. Cuffay’s militancy and astute political leadership were often satirised in the media, with the Punch once depicting London’s chartists as the “Black man and his party”. Cuffay was later deported to Australia for his work in the movement.

Africans usually found it tactically perspicacious to participate in the great social struggles of the oppressed and disadvantaged sectors of the British population and then use the opportunity to broaden the scope of the protests to incorporate their own worse condition. A notable example was the African-descent involvement in the gripping Gordon Riots of 1780. This was a campaign that initially began as a protest against the social position of rich Catholics. Soon, this turned into a generalised political struggle by the people against the nobility and the political establishment. During the march, state institutions such as the City, Westminster and the Lord Mayor’s office were attacked. A number of leaders of the uprising were later executed at Tower Hill including the prominent African activist, Charlotte Gardens. Ignatius Sancho, the African grocer and diarist, recorded this historic event and his account was published posthumously as Letters of the Late Ignatius, an African, in 1782.

There was another aspect of British society in which Africans played an important role. This was in military service. Africans began to serve in the British armed forces in the late 18th/early19th century. Military historians note that the origins of African active service (earlier on in the 17th century, African servicepeople had been restricted to music duties in band regiments) could be traced to the US war of independence when some Africans fought for the British. After Britain’s defeat, the African soldiers were promised refuge and settlement in England and a large number of them arrived here in 1784. On the whole, the rehabilitation of these ex-servicepeople did not materialise and many of them joined the rank of the very deprived African population. But Britain would in future always resort to this population and those of their cousins in Africa, the Caribbean and South America to fight its wars – most often, ironically, its wars of conquest and occupation across the world. It was in one of such wars, this time in the Crimea, that the services of a legendary African-descent woman must be recalled – Mary Seacole, from Jamaica.

Seacole, from relative obscurity, volunteered her services and projected herself on the international scene of her day and through extraordinary selfless care for the wounded and suffering at war, anticipated the massive humanitarian concerns and support that the world and the British Red Cross would be contending with just a few decades away. A dispatch sent from the Crimea in 1855 by a British assistant field surgeon serving with the British 90th light infantry is a moving reminder of Seacole’s legacy:
She did not spare herself … In rain and snow, in storm and tempest, day after day, she was at her self-chosen post, with her stove and kettle, in any shelter she could find, brewing tea for all who wanted it and there were many. Sometimes, more than 200 sick would be embarked in one day but Mrs Seacole was always equal to the occasion.

INTELLECTUALS FOR FREEDOM

Another prominent member of the Africa population in London during this period was the Igbo intellectual, diarist, orator, sailor, explorer, entrepreneur and political organiser named Olaudah Equiano. Equiano had been captured and enslaved in Igboland at the age of 10. He purchased back his freedom in 1766. In the following year, he emerged as leader and spokesperson of the African-descent population in London and campaigned extensively across Britain for the termination of African enslavement. Equiano was appointed commissary of stores for the Sierra Leone resettlement scheme but was outraged by the corruption of government agents who spent much of their time pilfering the basic settlement necessities required for the scheme. Equiano’s outspokenness on this situation and his subsequent volte-face on the entire Sierra Leone programme cost him his job. He was later accused by the authorities of inciting an increasingly restive African population. When in 1789 Equiano published his autobiography, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African, it was received with popular acclaim and became a seminal contribution to the African enslavement abolitionist movement. Equiano’s organisation with those of Paul Cuffee’s and Ottobah Cugoano’s, a Fante, another influential resident African, constituted, in essence, an incipient pan-African consciousness that would be transformed into a full-blown liberation movement/uprising in subsequent epochs to free European-occupied Africa and the Caribbean and Guyana (South America) as well as the parallel African American human rights revolts. These would be influenced and led by a range of intellectuals such as Sojourner Truth, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, James Africanus Beale Horton, King Jaja of Opobo, Edward Wilmot Blyden, Harriet Jacobs, George Washington Carver, Ras Makonnen, Eric Williams, Aimé Césaire, Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, John Henrik Clarke, Abdulrahman Mohamed Babu, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, Léon-Gontran Damas, Marcus Garvey, C.L.R. James, Countee Cullen, Malcolm X, Léopold Sédar Sénghor, E. Franklin Frazier, Martin Delaney, Cheikh Anta Diop, W.E.B. Du Bois, Martin Luther King, Nnamdi Azikiwe, Kwame Nkrumah, George James, Ama Ata Aidoo, Walter Sisulu, Louis Armstrong, Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti, Duke Ellington, Nicholás Guillén, Mahaila Jackson, Agostinho Neto, George Lamming, Theophilus Enwezor Nzegwu, Ivan Van Sertima, Louis Mbanefo, Frantz Fanon, Ousmane Sèmbene, Charlie Parkar, J.F.K. Aggrey, Zora Neale Hurston, Charles Mingus, Nelson Mandela, Billie Holiday, Mbonu Ojike, Amiri Baraka, Gani Fawehinmi, Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, James Baldwin, Onwuka Dike, Thelonious Monk, Patrice Lumumba, Miles Davis, Edward Kamau Brathwaite, Julius Nyerere, Dizzy Gillespie, Chinua Achebe, John Coltrane, Okot p’Bitek, Jacob Carruthers, Christopher Okigbo, Eric Dolphy, Ladipo Solanke, Molefi Kete Asante, Steve Biko, Toni Morrison, Walter Rodney, Chike Obi, Bob Marley, Cornel West and Théophile Obenga.

We should conclude by returning to Baldwin’s Just above my Head. The narrative voice ends those intense reflections on history and power by stating, “Our history is each other. That is our only guide. One thing is absolutely certain: one can repudiate, or despise no one’s history without repudiating and despising one’s own”. It does appear that these thoughts, made in the mid-1970s as Baldwin writes Just above my Head, underline the thinking being vocalised more keenly by intellectuals, statespersons and many others in our current era in a new millennium – namely, that we are now in a more “interdependent” world which inevitably calls for an honest, multiple, uninhibited flows of our collective narratives of experiences and aspirations from across and from within the varying regions of our world, however seemingly uncomfortable these may be. There cannot be a hegemonic reading of our disparate historical experiences and discourses without simultaneously creating the marginalisation, alienation and subjugation that characterise that overwhelmingly tragic globalisation heritage of the 15th–20th century.

*An earlier version of this essay was a lecture given during the 2009 British Red Cross African-descent History Month, British Red Cross Headquarters, Moorfields, London, 6 October 2009. I wish to acknowledge that the phrase, “They came before”, in the essay caption, is borrowed from the title of the path-breaking study, They came before Columbus, by Ivan Van Sertima, the distinguished African-Guyanese historian and linguist. They came before Columbus was published by Random House in 1976.

Herbert Ekwe-Ekwe’s latest book, Readings from Reading: Essays on African Politics, Genocide, Literature is available at amazon.com/amazon.co.uk, US$29.95/£19.95.

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Igboland – Freedom, survival, future

The major preoccupation of an aggressor/conqueror state is to seek to effectuate a process of memory erasure over its overrun nation and land. This is the opportunity for the conqueror to begin to construct a bogus narrative of possession and control of the targeted society that arrogates it to the fictive role of primary agent of the course of history.

The enduring success of Chinua Achebe’s Things fall Apart is that the classic not only anticipates this conqueror’s predilection but it subverts the triumphalism of the latter’s Pyrrhic victory. Despite the District Commissioner’s bombastically-captioned anthropological treatise at the end of the novel, heralding the latest European “possession and control” of another region of Africa, this time Igboland, the future direction of history here neither lies with the administrator nor his evolving occupation regime – nor indeed with his conquering capital back home in Europe!

To locate the source for change and transformation in Igboland, subsequently, we need to examine, carefully, the import and circumstance of historian Obierika’s address to the administrator on the life and times of his friend and people’s hero, Okonkwo, who had recently committed suicide. We are reminded that as he speaks, two full sentences into a third, Obierika’s voice “trembled and choked his words”, trailing off into gasps and silences of deep contemplation. It is precisely within the context of these kaleidoscopic frames of Obierika’s recalls and introspection that we discern the sowing of the Igbo nation’s regenerative seeds of resistance and quest for the restoration of lost sovereignty. It is therefore not surprising that Okonkwo’s grandchildren would spearhead the freeing of Nigeria, to which Igboland had since been arbitrarily incorporated by the conquest, from the British occupation – beginning in the 1940s, just 40 years after the so-called formal inauguration of the conquest.

ABOLISH THE SUN

For the aggressor state with a clear genocidal goal, memory erasure of the crime scene at the targeted nation is even more frantically pursued. On the morrow of the conclusion of its execution of the second phase of the Igbo genocide in January 1970, Nigeria wheeled out pretentious cartographers to embark on erasing the illustrious name Biafra from all maps and records that it could lay its hand on! During its meetings, the genocidist junta in power banned the words “sun”, “sunlight”, “sunshine”, “sundown”, “sunflower”, “sunrise” or any other word-derivatives from the great sun star that unmistakably reference the inveterate Land of the Rising Sun. This task and symbolism of sun-banning and sun-bashing were of course bizarre if not daft as the junta itself was to discover much sooner than later – and from a most unlikely source indeed…

At the time, a British military advisor to the junta, who was out dining with a senior member of the council in Lagos, unwittingly compared Igbo national consciousness and tenacity with that of the Poles. The advisor, who had studied modern history at university and was a great admirer of the exceptional endurance of Polish people in history, stated that the Igbo had demonstrated similar courage in the latter’s defence of Biafra and that the “rebirth of Biafra is a distinct possibility in my lifetime” – this was unlike the 123 years it took the Polish state to re-appear in history after its disappearance from the world map! The advisor was then in his early 30s and the obvious implications of his Igbo-Polish analysis were not lost on his host. The junta member co-diner was understandably most outraged by the advisor’s crass insensitivity on the subject which he readily shared with his junta colleagues. Predictably, the immediate consequence of the hapless advisor’s impudence was an early recall home to Britain.

There were other bouts of farcical treats on display in Nigeria during the period aimed at erasing the memory of the Igbo genocide. Junta and other state publications and those of their sympathisers would print the name Biafra, a proper noun, with a lower case “b” or box the name in quotes or even invert the “b” to read “p”, such was the intensity of the schizophrenia that wracked the minds of the members of the council over the all important subject of the historic imprint of Igbo resistance and survival.

The Awolowoists and Awolowoids (supporters of Obafemi Awolowo – junta deputy chair, genocidist “theorist” and head of finance ministry) on the junta even toyed with the idea of abolishing money altogether in the economy of the soon occupied-land of the resourceful and enterprising Igbo. They reasoned that this would deliver the “final solution” that had eluded them during the “encirclement, siege, pounding and withering away”-strategy of the previous 44 months… They ended up with the “compromise” pittance of £20.00 sterling (twenty pounds sterling only) per the surviving male-head of the Igbo family – a derisory sum, which, they reckoned, stood no chance of averting the catastrophe of social implosion they envisaged would occur in Igboland subsequently. We mustn’t fail to note that the £20.00-handout excluded the hundreds of thousands of Igbo families whose male-heads had been murdered during the genocide… Dreadfully, the accent placed by Nigeria on this third phase of the genocide, starting from 13 January 1970, was the economic strangulation of the 9 million Igbo survivors… 3.1 million Igbo had been murdered in the genocide between 29 May 1966 and 12 January 1970. This is the foundational and most gruesome genocide of post-(European)conquest Africa.

SURVIVAL

Igbo survival from the genocide is arguably the most extraordinary feature for celebration in an otherwise depressing and devastating age of pestilence in Africa of the past 51 years. Few people believed that the Igbo would survive their ordeal, especially from September 1968 when 8-10,000 Igbo, mostly children and older people, died each day as the overall brutish conditions imposed by the genocidist siege deteriorated catastrophically.

The Igbo are probably the only people in the world who were convinced that they would survive. And when they did, the aftermath was electrifying. In spontaneous celebration, the Igbo prefaced their exchange of greetings with each other, for quite a while, with the exaltation, “Happy Survival!” Igbo survival, at the end, does represent the stunning triumph of the human spirit over the savage forces unleashed by Nigeria and its allies that had tried determinably, for four years, to destroy it. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s description of Half of a Yellow Sun (this sun star, yet again! o di kwa egwu!), her majestic tome on the subject, as a “love story” couldn’t, therefore, be more apposite.

Forty-one years on, first and second generations removed from their parents and grandparents, respectively, who freed British-occupied Nigeria in 1960 and survived the follow-up genocide, Okonkwo’s progeny are once again tasked and poised to restore Igbo lost sovereignty. Everyone knows of their firm resolve and ability to achieve this goal. The Igbo can feel it; they feel it; the rest of the world feels it. Surely, the successful outcome of this endeavour is one of the most eagerly awaited news developments in contemporary Africa.

Monday, 28 November 2011

Presaging the Igbo genocide

In his recently published Empire: What Ruling the World Did to the British (London: Viking, 2011), Jeremy Paxman allocates just 12 lines of the total 368-page study to British-occupied Nigeria. But the pithy commentary undoubtedly speaks volumes of the mindset of the occupation regime on the very eve of its presumed departure from Nigeria in October 1960. This is clearly a regime that is not prepared or willing to abandon the bounty harvest or lucre that is its Nigeria. Instead, it is exploring across a spectrum of strategies to subvert the goal of the restoration-of-independence movement for the peoples which the Igbo had led since the 1930s.

Using archival material, Paxman presents the crux of the panoramic conversation on the subject in Lagos, in January 1960, between James Robertson, the outgoing occupation governor, and visiting Prime Minister Harold Macmillan:

MACMILLAN: Are the people fit for self-government?

ROBERTSON: No, of course not.

According to Paxman, James Robertson reckons that it would take “another 20 or 25 years” for Nigeria to be “fit for self-government” (Paxman, 2011: 272). Interestingly, this is the same Robertson who had by the time of his Lagos meeting with Macmillan “concluded” the “terms” of the British “exit” from Nigeria in “negotiations” with the country’s restoration-of-independence movement – begun 15 years earlier and had been successively chaired by two previous occupation governors including sessions scheduled and held in England. This is the same Robertson who had just rigged the December 1959 countrywide elections in Nigeria (part of the restoration-of-independence “package”) in favour of the Hausa-Fulani north region (see the irrepressible Harold Smith, member of the occupation regime in Lagos at the time – http://www.thefreelibrary.com/A+squalid+end+to+empire.-a0189071322, accessed 27 November 2011), Britain’s local clients, vehemently opposed to African independence – and, therefore, the British exit! (This north Nigeria region has the unenviable accolade across the entire Southern World of being home to one of the few peoples who wanted the occupation of their lands indefinitely by one of the pan-European powers of global conquest since the 15th century CE.) Furthermore, this is the same Robertson whose predecessor, in Lagos, had earlier rigged the countrywide census results – again, in favour of Britain’s Hausa-Fulani north region clients (http://www.thefreelibrary.com/A+squalid+end+to+empire.-a0189071322accessed 27 November 2011).

Macmillan then asks Robertson for his advice on the way forward for the British continuing occupation of Nigeria: “What do you recommend me to do?”

ROBERTSON: I recommend you give it to them at once.

Really?! What? Why? Doesn’t Roberston’s suggestion to his boss sound wholly contradictory to the tract that this conclave had trodden so far? Well, no, not really… Both prime minister and governor have no disagreement, whatsoever, on holding onto British “interests” in Nigeria in perpetuity; they do not believe that they are necessarily bound by the “terms” of the envisaged British “exit” from Nigeria “negotiated” since 1945 even though, ironically, these had largely preserved British “interests”, thanks to the veto-power that its Hausa-Fulani north region subalterns would exercise in the “new” dispensation; most crucially, both men do not subscribe to the inalienable rights of Africans to recover their conquered lands.

It is the case, though, that if the British officials were to renege on their “exit” from Nigeria at this 11th hour, they would have to contend with a serious crisis – at least in the short/medium term – right there on the ground in Nigeria: “The alternative [is] that most talented people [read: the Igbo and those others elsewhere in south Nigeria who demanded and supported the drive towards unfettered restoration-of-independence for the peoples] would become rebels and the British would spend the next two decades fighting to stave off what [is] inevitable, while incurring the opprobrium of the world” (Paxman: 272).

As the Lagos deliberations end, nine months before the designated British departure date, both prime minister and governor needn’t agonise too much over the future prospects of their country’s Nigeria stanglehold. After all, despite the “talented people”, Britain is aware that it holds the trump card to defend this stranglehold via its Hausa-Fulani clients. Twice in the previous 15 years (significantly, it should be noted, during the very years of British “negotiations” of its “exit” from Nigeria with the “talented people”), the clients organised and unleashed pogroms against Igbo people in northcentral town of Jos (1945) and north city of Kano (1953). Hundreds of Igbo were murdered during these massacres and tens of thousands of pounds sterling worth of their property looted or destroyed. No perpetrators of these murders were ever apprehended or punished by the occupation regime.

Six and one-half years hence, from 29 May 1966, these same British clients would unleash the genocide against the Igbo people. During the course of 44 months, 3.1 million Igbo children, women and men are murdered in this foundational and most gruesome genocide of post-(European)conquest Africa. The Igbo and the world suddenly realise that those anti-Igbo pogroms carried out during the years of the Anglo--“talented people”-in-Nigeria doubtful restoration-of-independence negotiations were indeed “dress rehearsals” for the 29 May 1966-12 January 1970 Igbo genocide.

Reexamination and restitution

Britain plays an instrumental role in the perpetration of the genocide – politically, diplomatically, militarily. Now, a new Harold-the-prime minister, this time Harold Wilson, has no qualms about the “opprobrium of the world” considered by the other Harold during those January 1960 talks with occupation governor Robertson. Wilson’s reasons are obvious: the architecture of control and execution of mass violence in Nigeria have altered, somehow, since January 1960, and the forces on the ground spearheading the Igbo genocide are the trusted Hausa-Fulani subalterns of old and their since locally expanded allies (Yoruba west region especially) – not Britain, directly; precisely, what Macmillan and Robertson had sought to avoid!

So, as the slaughter of the Igbo intensifies, particularly in those catastrophic months of 1968-1969, Harold Wilson is totally unfazed as he informs Clyde Ferguson (United States State Department special coordinator for relief to Biafra) that he, Harold Wilson, “would accept a half million dead Biafrans if that was what it took” Nigeria to destroy the Igbo resistance to the genocide (Roger Morris, Uncertain Greatness: Henry Kissinger & American Foreign Policy [London & New York: Quartet Books, 1977: 122]). Such is the grotesquely expressed diminution of African life made by a supposedly leading politician of the world of the 1960s – barely 20 years after the deplorable perpetration of the Jewish genocide. As the final tally of the murder of the Igbo demonstrates, Harold Wilson probably had the perverted satisfaction of having his Nigerian subalterns perform far in excess of the prime minister’s grim target.

Jeremy Paxman, a senior journalist at the British Broadcasting Corporation who anchors the BBC2 “Newsnight” programme, has a 3-minute follow-up video where he explains why he has written Empire. Two reasons are quite striking: (1) “Why did the British go out (sic) to conquer the world?” (2) “What did it do to them [the British, that is]?” For the Igbo of southwestcentral Africa, the double-jeopardy of conquest and occupation and genocide is palpably incalculable. It is now clear that the contemporary British state cannot continue to ignore its responsibilities in embarking on a comprehensive reexamination of the history of its relationship with the Igbo people and make the long-overdue restitution.

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu

General Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, who passed away earlier on this morning after a long illness, is one of the greatest Igbo of all time... Okaa Omee. He was 78. In May 1966, at the age of 32, General Odumegwu-Ojukwu was thrust, centrally, in the politics of his people as the leader of the Biafran resistance to the Nigeria state’s premeditated genocide against the Igbo people. During the course of 44 harrowing months, Nigeria murdered 3.1 million Igbo, or one-quarter of this nation’s population, in this foundational genocide of post-(European)conquest Africa. General Odumegwu-Ojukwu’s leadership, throughout this catastrophe, was focused, selfless, stellar. Three urgent goals that Igbo intellectuals will effectuate, in his memory, are: (1) contribute, robustly, to continue to inform the entire world of the nature and extent of this genocide (2) ensure that all those who planned/ordered/murdered the Igbo during the genocide are brought to justice (thankfully, the crime of genocide has no statute of limitations in international law) and (3) the restoration of Igbo sovereignty.

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Nigeria does indeed belong to a "G"!

(This commentary was first published on Thursday 16 April 2009 and is reissued here, unedited, in this season of intense reflections on the Igbo genocide, 29 May 1966-12 January 1970)

Until a fortnight ago, 43 years to the day since the beginning of the Igbo genocide perpetrated by Nigeria and its allies, no head of regime in power in Nigeria had ever admitted, albeit unwittingly, the utter worthlessness of Nigeria in the pecking order of the countries of the world. On Nigeria’s non-invitation to the April 2009 G-20 London economic summit, regime head Umaru Yar’Adua mournfully notes: “Today is a sad day for Nigeria as a country. This is because we are not invited to a meeting of the 20 world leaders. We have the population, we have the resources and we have the potential”. Predictably, Yar’Adua refers to those hackneyed, bogus indices (“population”, “resources”, “potential”) that everyone knows obfuscate the immanent fragility, infamy and hopelessness that chart the Nigeria quagmire. In response to Yar’Adua’s pain, Kevin Ani, a commentator from the Nsibidi Press civil rights group, notes: “Even if one extends (sic) this list to G-1000, Nigeria still will not make it”.

It cannot be overstated that the Igbo genocide put paid to any Nigeria pretensions to transform itself to a serious state of global contention. Nigeria, which the Igbo had strategically led to liberate from 60 years of British occupation, collapsed, irremediably, in May 1966. This was when its troops, police, students, teachers, civil servants, community leaders, clergy, alimajiri and the like in north Nigeria planned and descended on Igbo children, women and men domiciled in the region – killing, raping, maiming, looting, destroying … A total of 100,000 Igbo were murdered between May and October (1966) in this first phase of the worst genocide in Africa since the 1900s. The Nigerians later expanded their murdering zones of operation to liquidate the Igbo by attacking the entire stretch of Igboland (from Issele-Ukwu, Agbo, Anioma, Ugwuta and Onicha in the west to Ehuugbo, Aba and Umuahia to the east; from Nsukka and Eha Amuufu in the north to Igwe Ocha/Port Harcourt, Umu Ubani/Bonny and Igwe Nga/Opobo to the south) between July 1967-January 1970. A total of 3 million Igbo were murdered during this second phase. Altogether, the Igbo lost one-quarter of their population as a result of the genocide.

On the morrow of this pulverising season of murdering, the only tangible capability that the murderers had acquired was one to commit even more murders – nothing else … definitely, not the more challenging capacity to develop and transform an economy to, in turn, attract and merit the accolades and recognitions from peers elsewhere. The tragedy of the otherwise farcical so-called “rebranding” of the Nigeria state, this Malebolge, is that the current “quest” is supposedly overseen by an Igbo academic (Dora Akunyili) who presumably is unaware of the catastrophic history of her people in Nigeria or is probably biding her time to tell her employers the blunt truth of Nigeria’s inexorable cascade into irrelevance.

Yet contrary to Yar’Adua’s angst over Nigeria’s non-membership of the G-20, Nigeria actually belongs to a “G-” grouping. It is called Group-G and Yar’Adua must know that not only does his country belong to this outfit but it also heads it as its undisputed supremo presently.

In this club, the “G” stands for the beginning of that dreadful word which Nigeria has at once operationalised and institutionalised as the legacy of its vicious existence and has since exported across contemporary Africa – Genocide.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Herbert Ekwe-Ekwe on the Igbo genocide

Recorded at V ENABED, Fifth national conference of the Brazilian Association of Defence Studies, Seara Praia Hotel, Fortaleza, Brazil, Monday 8 August 2011






Thursday, 1 September 2011

Nigeria 1 October 2011 – Celebrating? What?

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Thursday, 18 August 2011

The Africa state, genocide and the exigency of AFRICOM

(Paper presented on the panel “US Africa Command and South Atlantic Security”, V ENABED, Fifth national conference of the Brazilian Association of Defence Studies, Seara Praia Hotel, Fortaleza, Brazil, Monday 8 August 2011*)

The state in Africa demonstrates a glaring inability to fulfil its basic role to provide security, welfare and transformative capacities for society’s developmental needs and aspirations. The state is virtually at war with its peoples, having murdered 15 million in Biafra, Rwanda, Darfur, southern Sudan, Uganda, Guinea-Bissau, the Congos, Angola, Côte d’Ivoire and elsewhere on the continent between 1966 and 2011. Since January 1956, fifty-five years after the beginning of the so-called restoration of African independence process in the Sudan, it is the case that the state in Africa is essentially a genocide-state, the bane of African social existence. It is what constitutes the firestorm of the emergency that threatens the very survival of the African. It is not the “debt”, “poverty”, HIV/Aids/other diseases and the myriad of socioeconomics indices often reeled off in many a commentary.

This state, which the European conqueror-regime (Britain, France, Portugal, Germany, Belgium, Spain) created originally in Berlin in the 1880s, cannot lead Africans to the reconstructive change they deeply yearn for after the tragic history of centuries of foreign occupation and plunder. Such a change was and never is the mission of this state but an instrument to murder, expropriate and despoil Africa by the conquest and its aftermath. As this paper demonstrates, the very presumptions, predilections and exigencies that encapsulate the thinking and strategic goals of the planners of the United States Africa Command, AFRICOM, the subject of this panel at the August 2011 conference of the Brazilian Association of Defence Studies, here in Fortaleza, are based precisely on this evaluation of the utterly unviable ethos of the contemporary Africa state and the palpable, widespread feeling of alienation towards it expressed by most constituent African peoples or nations. In other words, AFRICOM wishes to exploit the critically unresolved seismic crisis within the African political landscape created by the history and devastating consequences of conquest.

Tragically, this is equally the background against which an array of foreign powers and international/transnational institutions or organisations have often acted, with impunity, in African socioeconomic and political affairs and development in the past 55 years, despite this epoch of presumed restoration of African independence and sovereignty. The ongoing flagrant Anglo-Franco-US-led NATO unrelenting aerial and naval bombardment of Libya, which has gone on for four months, and the French-led violent military overthrow of the government of Cote d’Ivoire earlier on in the year, during which an estimated number of 2300 Africans were so ruthlessly murdered, underscore this staggering impunity. Africans, themselves, must therefore resolve the contentious issues generated by the extant genocide-state that fuels the conflictual existence of its peoples before achieving urgently needed socioeconomic transformation. This is an imperative, internal political question, whose answer or solution is also imperatively internal – definitely not external, howsoever the “rationalisation” is construed. Thus, Africans’ own strategic goal for change remains the dismantling of the architecture of alienation and subjugation posed to African existence and progress by the “Berlin state” emplaced. There is no more profoundly urgent case to illustrate this grave emergency in Africa than to focus on the very country from where it first originated. This country goes by the name Nigeria and it is to it that we should now turn.

IGBO GENOCIDE AND ITS AFTERMATH – THE TRAGEDY OF AFRICA’S UNLEARNED LESSONS

In 1966, soon after the world commemorated the 21st anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz and made the customary, solemn declaration of “Never, Never Again”, Nigeria defiled that season of reflection, commiseration and hope. Its military officers, the police, Hausa-Fulani emirs, muslim clerics and intellectuals, civil servants, journalists, politicians and other public figures planned and executed the Igbo genocide – the foundational genocide of post-(European)conquest Africa. This is also Africa’s most devastating genocide of the 20th century. A total of 3.1 million Igbo people, a quarter of this nation’s population at the time, were murdered between 29 May 1966 and 12 January 1970.

Most of Africa and the world stood by and watched, hardly critical or condemnatory of this wanton destruction of human lives, raping, sacking and plundering of towns, villages, community after community in Biafra and elsewhere... Most Igbo people were slaughtered in their homes, offices, businesses, schools, colleges, hospitals, markets, churches, shrines, farmlands, factories/industrial enterprises, children’s playground, town halls, refugee centres, cars, lorries, and at bus stations, railway stations, airports and on buses, trains and planes and on foot, or starved to death – the openly propagated regime-“weapon” to achieve its heinous goal more speedily. In the end, the Igbo genocide was enforced, devastatingly, by Nigeria’s simultaneously pursued land, aerial and naval blockade and bombardment of Igboland, Africa’s highest population density region outside the Nile Delta. Earlier on in 1945 and 1953, under the very watch of the British occupation, the Hausa-Fulani political leadership had carried out two premeditated pogroms on Igbo immigrant populations in Jos and Kano, cities in north Nigeria, in opposition to the Igbo vanguard role in the struggle for the restoration of the independence of peoples in Nigeria from the British conquest. Hundreds of Igbo were murdered in each occasion and tens of thousands of pounds sterling worth of their property looted or destroyed. Neither in Kano nor Jos did the occupation regime apprehend or prosecute anyone for these massacres and destruction. Tragically, these pogroms turned out as “dress rehearsals” for the 1966-1970 genocide.

The perpetrators, who subsequently seized and pillaged the rich Nigeria economy appear to have got off free from any forms of sanctions from Africa (and the world) for what are, unquestionably, crimes against humanity. The consequences for Africa have been catastrophic. Several regimes elsewhere in Africa are “convinced” of the conclusions that they have drawn from this crime by their Nigerian counterpart: “We can murder targeted constituent people(s) at will within the state we control … Haul off their prized property and livelihood … Comprehensively destroy their cities, towns, villages, communities – precisely their agelong, priceless, inheritance ... There will be no sanctions from Africa – and the world”. As a result, the Igbo genocide becomes the clearing site for the haunting killing fields that would snake across the African geographical landscape in the subsequent 40 years with the murders of additional 12 million Africans, since January 1970, by regimes in further genocide in Rwanda, Darfur and Zaïre/Democratic Republic of Congo and other killings in Liberia, Ethiopia, Congo Republic, Somalia, Uganda, Sierra Leone, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Côte d’Ivoire, Chad, south Sudan, Burundi.

YAKI, IT ISN’T

The records of those who carried out the Igbo genocide make no pretences, offer no excuses, whatsoever, about the goal of their dreadful mission – such was the maniacal insouciance and rabid Igbophobia that propelled this project. The principal language used in the prosecution of the genocide was Hausa. The words of the ghoulish anthem of the genocide, published and broadcast on Kaduna radio and television throughout the duration of the crime, are in Hausa:
Mu je mu kashe nyamiri
Mu kashe maza su da yan maza su
Mu chi mata su da yan mata su
Mu kwashe kaya su

(English translation: Let’s go kill the damned Igbo/Kill off their men and
boys/Rape their wives and daughters/Cart off their property)

The Hausa word for war is yaki. Whilst Hausa speakers would employ this word to refer to the involvement/combat services of their grandfathers, fathers, uncles, sons, brothers, other relatives/friends in “Boma” (reference to World War II Burma [contemporary Myanmar] military campaigns/others in southeast Asia, fighting for the British against the Japanese) or even in the post-1960s Africa-based “peace-keeping” military engagements in west, east and central Africa, they rarely use yaki to describe the May 1966-January 1970 mass murders of Igbo people. In Hausaspeak, the latter is either referred to as “lokochi mu kashe nyamiri” (English: “when we murdered the damned Igbo”) or “lokochi muna kashe nyamiri” (English: “when we were murdering the damned Igbo”). Pointedly, this “lokochi” (when, time) conflates the timeframes that encapsulate the two phases of the genocide (May 1966-October 1966 and July 1967-January 1970), a reminder, if one is required, for those who bizarrely, if not mischievously, wish to break this organic link.

Elsewhere, genocidist documentation on this crime is equally malevolent and brazenly vulgar. A study of the genocide-time/“post”-genocide era interviews, comments, broadcasts and writings on the campaign by key genocidist commanders, commandants and “theorists” and propagandists including particularly Yakubu Danjuma, Ibrahim Haruna, Yakubu Gowon, Benjamin Adekunle, Olusegun Obasanjo, Oluwole Rotimi, Obafemi Awolowo, Allison Ayida and Anthony Enaharo is at once revealing and profoundly troubling. Adekunle, a notoriously gruesome commander, had no qualms, indeed, in boasting about the goal of this horrendous mission when he told an August 1968 press conference, attended by journalists including those from the international media: “We shoot at everything that moves, and when our forces march into the centre of I[g]bo territory, we shoot at everything, even at things that do not move”. True to type, Adekunle duly carried through his threat with clinical precision both on his “everything that moves”-targeting, especially in south Igboland where his forces slaughtered hundreds of thousands, and on the “things that do not move”-assault category. Adekunle’s gratuitous destruction of the famed Igbo economic infrastructure, one of the most advanced in Africa of the era, was indescribably barbaric.

A brief review of Olusegun Obasanjo’s own contribution (published in his memoirs, pointedly captioned My Command) that focuses on his May 1969 direct orders to his air force to destroy an international Red Cross aircraft carrying relief supplies to the encircled and blockaded Igbo is crucially appropriate. Obasanjo had “challenged”, to quote his words, Captain Gbadomosi King (genocidist air force pilot), who he had known since 1966, to “produce results” in stopping further international relief flight deliveries to the Igbo. Within a week of his infamous challenge, 5 June 1969, Obasanjo recalls nostalgically, Gbadomosi King “redeemed his promise”. Gbadomosi King had shot down a clearly marked, incoming relief-bearing International Committee of the Red Cross DC-7 plane near Eket, south Biafra, with the loss of its 3-person crew. Obasanjo’s perverse satisfaction over the aftermath of this horrendous crime is fiendish, chillingly revolting. He writes: “The effect of [this] singular achievement of the Air Force especially on 3 Marine Commando Division [the notorious unit Obasanjo, who later becomes Nigeria’s head of regime for 11 years, commanded] was profound. It raised morale of all service personnel, especially of the Air Force detachment concerned and the troops they supported in [my] 3 Marine Commando Division”. Yet despite the huffing and puffing, the raving commanding brute is essentially a coward who lacks the courage to face up to a world totally outraged by his gruesome crime. Instead, Obasanjo, the quintessential Caliban, cringes into a stupor and beacons to his Prospero, British Prime Minister Harold Wilson (as he, Obansanjo, indeed unashamedly acknowledges in his My Command), to “sort out” the raging international outcry generated by the destruction of the ICRC plane...

WHAT “INTERNAL AFFAIR”? WHOSE “INTERNAL AFFAIR”?

There was an extensive coverage of the Igbo genocide in the international media throughout its duration. The United Nations though never condemned this atrocity unequivocally. U Thant, its secretary-general, consistently maintained that it was a “Nigerian internal affair”. The United Nations could have stopped this genocide; the United Nations should have stopped this genocide instead of protecting the interests of the Nigeria state, the very perpetrator of the crime. In the wake of the Jewish genocide of the 1930s-1940s during which 6 million Jews were murdered by Nazi Germany, Africa was, with hindsight, most cruelly unlucky to have been the “testing ground” for the presumed global community’s resolve to fight genocide subsequently, particularly after the 1948 historic United Nations declaration on this crime against humanity. Only a few would have failed to note that U Thant’s reference to “internal” was staggeringly disingenuous as genocide, as was demonstrated devastatingly 20-30 years earlier on in Europe, would of course occur within some territoriality (“internal”) where the perpetrator exercises a permanent or limited or partial or temporary sociopolitical control (cf. Nazi Germany and its programme to destroy its Jewish population within Germany itself; Nazi Germany and its programme to destroy Jewish populations within those countries in Europe under its occupation from 1939 and 1945). Between 1966 and 2006, the world would witness genocide carried out against the Igbo, the Tutsi/some Hutu, and Darfuri in “internal” spaces that go by the names Nigeria, Rwanda, and the Sudan respectively. The contours of the territory where genocide is executed do not therefore make the perpetrators less culpable nor the crime permissible as the United Nations’s crucial 1948 genocide declaration states unambiguously.

The very central role played by Britain in support of the Igbo genocide no doubt reinforced the scandalous failure of the United Nations to protect Igbo people during this catastrophe. Britain, a fully-fledged member of the United Nations – indeed a founding member of the organisation who enjoys a permanent seat on its security council and participated in drafting the anti-genocide declaration – supported the Igbo genocide militarily, politically and diplomatically. It is extraordinary that in his otherwise informative study, Crimes Against Humanity: The Struggle for Global Justice (London: Penguin Books, 2006), Geoffrey Robertson, a British human rights lawyer, a queen’s counsel, does not discuss the Igbo genocide anywhere in his 759-page text nor Britain’s instrumental role in perpetrating this foundational genocide of post-(European)conquest Africa.

Britain was deeply riled by the Igbo lead-role in terminating its occupation of Nigeria and had since sought to “punish” them for this. A senior British foreign office official was adamant that his government’s position on international relief supply effort to the encircled and bombarded Igbo was to “show conspicuous zeal in relief while in fact letting the little buggers starve out”. Indeed as the slaughtering of the Igbo progressively worsened, Prime Minister Wilson was unashamedly unfazed when he informed Clyde Ferguson (United States State Department special coordinator for relief to Biafra) that he, Harold Wilson, “would accept a half million dead Biafrans if that was what it took” Nigeria to destroy the Igbo resistance to the genocide. Such was the grotesquely expressed diminution of African life made by a supposedly leading politician of the world of the 1960s – barely 20 years after the deplorable perpetration of the Jewish genocide. As the final tally of its murder of the Igbo demonstrates, Nigeria probably had the perverted satisfaction of having performed far in excess of Harold Wilson’s grim target… Predictably, it was to Wilson that the Nigerians turned to, in 1969, to “sort out” the international revulsion generated by the latter’s destruction of the ICRC aircraft as we have already stated.

ARMS BAN

Without British active involvement in the perpetration of the Igbo genocide, it was highly unlikely that this crime would have been committed. Nigeria did not have an arms-manufacturing capacity then to embark on this terror without external support. Forty-five years on, Nigeria still does not have such an internal military capability. It still relies heavily on Britain, currently the world’s leading arms exporter to Africa, for its supplies.

One immediate move that Britain, the West, and the rest of the world, including Brazil, particularly, can make to support the ongoing efforts by peoples in Nigeria and elsewhere in Africa to rid themselves of the genocide-state is to ban all arms sales to Nigeria and the rest of Africa. This ban must be total and comprehensive. Nigeria and other Africa genocide-states require the political and diplomatic support from abroad and the deadly array of arms ever streaming into their arsenal from Britain and elsewhere to exist and terrorise the people(s) in their territories. This is part of the cardinal and enduring lessons of the Igbo genocide. The legacy has, in fact, been catastrophic and feeds into the overarching strategic permutations of AFRICOM which the latter, in turn, exploits.

A total and comprehensive arms ban on Africa will radically advance the current hectic quest on the ground by peoples across the continent to construct democratic and extensively decentralised new state forms that guarantee and safeguard human rights, equality and freedom for individuals and peoples – alternatives to the extant genocide-state. Africans know very well that there are alternatives to the genocide-state. They have both the vision and the capacity to create these alternatives. For Africans, indeed, the creation of these alternatives is imperative in this age of pestilence. Nothing else.


*I wish to thank Professors Mônica Dias Martins (Universidade Estadual do Ceará, Fortaleza), Sued de Castro Lima (Observatório das Nacionalidades), Manuel Domingos Neto (Univeridade Federal Fluminense) and Gustavo Raposo Pereira Feitosa (Universidade de Fortaleza) for an excellently organised and successful conference and for their immense hospitality during my visit to Fortaleza. Obrigado. Tchau!

Friday, 3 June 2011

New book by Herbert Ekwe-Ekwe

Herbert Ekwe-Ekwe, Readings from Reading: Essays on African Politics, Genocide, Literature (Dakar & Reading: African Renaissance, 2011), ISBN 9780955205019, paperback, 236pp., £19.95/US$29.95/CDN$30.68/EUR23,99/¥2,580




















The essays here in Readings from Reading underscore Herbert Ekwe-Ekwe’s continuing optimism about the possibilities of Africans constructing post-“Berlin-states” as the launch pad to transform the topography of the African renaissance. Readings from Reading is a timely publication, coming on the eve of the historic January 2011 referendum in south Sudan in which the people of the region will choose to vote to restore their national independence or get stuck hopelessly in the Sudan, the first of the “Berlin-states” that Africans tragically “inherited” in January 1956. Ekwe-Ekwe insists that the contemporary Africa state, imposed on Africans by a band of European conqueror-states and currently run by what the author describes as a “shard of disreputable African regimes to exploit and despoil the continent’s human and material resources”, cannot serve African interests. The legacy, as this study demonstrates, has indeed been catastrophic: “The [African] overseers pushed the states into even deeper depths of genocidal and kakistocratic notoriety in the past 54 years as the grim examples of particularly Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Sudan ... depressingly underscore. 15 million Africans have been murdered by African-led regimes in these states and elsewhere in Africa since the Igbo genocide of 1966-1970”.

This is an engaging, incisive, wide-ranging and multidisciplinary discourse, salient features that have come to define Ekwe-Ekwe’s groundbreaking scholarship of the past three decades. The author covers an assemblage of diverse topics and themes which include the Igbo genocide, the Jos massacres in central Nigeria, Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab’s failed attempt to blow up an incoming aircraft over Detroit on Christmas Day 2009, African presence in Britain, Robert Mugabe, Muammar Gaddafi, Obafemi Awolowo, Omar al-Bashir, Yoweri Museveni, Charles Taylor, Olusegun Obasanjo, Ali Mazrui, Andrew Young, the G8 and Africa, Africa “debt”, African émigrés’ remittances to Africa, “sub-Sahara Africa”, reparations to Africans, African representation on the UN Security Council, African choices for the Nobel Peace Prize, Africa and the International Criminal Court, Nigeria, Côte d’Ivoire, Kenya, the Sudan and the Congo, arms to Africa, arms-ban on Africa. Finally, on the subject of the restoration-of-independence, the key connecting thread that links all the visitations, Ekwe-Ekwe critically examines the contributions made variously on this cord by an impressive line up of some of the very best and brightest of African intellectuals: Achebe, Adichie, Césaire, Damas, Coltrane, Diop, Equiano, Ngũgĩ, Okigbo, Senghor.


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Thursday, 26 May 2011

5 June 1969

Thankfully, for the interest of posterity, the Igbo genocide, perpetrated by the Nigeria state, is one of the most documented crimes against humanity. Leading university and public libraries across Europe (particularly in Britain, Ireland, France, the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Portugal, Denmark and Sweden) and North America have invaluable repositories of books, state papers (including, crucially, hitherto classified material now declassified as part of mandatory timeframe provisions and freedom-to-information legislations), church papers, human rights/anti-genocide/anti-war groups’ campaign papers, reports, photographs and interviews, Red Cross/other third sector papers, reports and photographs, newspaper/newsmagazine/radio/ television/video archives and sole individual depositories, some of which are classified as “anonymous contributors”.

These data variously include extensive coverage of news and analyses of varying features of the genocide between May 1966 and January 1970 as well as still photographs and reels and reels of film footage of the devastating impact of the genocidist’s “starvation weapon” attack on Igbo children and older people, the genocidist air force’s carpet bombings of Igbo population centres (especially refugee establishments, churches, shrines, schools, hospitals, markets, homes, farmlands and playgrounds) and the haunting photographs and associated material that capture the sheer savagery of the slaughter of 100,000 Igbo in north Nigeria towns and villages and elsewhere in parts of west Nigeria (especially Lagos and suburbs, Ibadan, Abeokuta, Oyo, Benin) during the first phase of the genocide in May to October 1966. A stream of these archival references has flowed steadily onto the youtube website as well as other internet outlets and much more material on the genocide will be available online in the months and years ahead. On the whole, these documentations are a treasure trove for the conscientious scholar and researcher on the genocide. For the would-be prosecutor of the perpetrators of this crime, they couldn’t have wished anything more for that crucial resource base to embark on their historic enterprise. A total of 3.1 million Igbo, or a quarter of the nation’s population at the time, were murdered in the genocide, the worst in Africa since the 19th century. On the morrow of 44 months of unrelenting slaughtering, Nigeria, the perpetrator, emerges as the undisputed obligatory haematophagous monster in this southwestcentral region of Africa. Its death-march on the Igbo and Igboland was soon relayed, tragically, across the continent – Uganda, the Congos, Somalia, Rwanda, Burundi, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Cote d’Ivoire, Darfur … resulting in the murder of additional 12 million Africans in the subsequent 40 years.

Quite auspiciously, the record of those who ordered/executed the Igbo genocide makes no pretences, offers no excuses, whatsoever, about the goal of their dreadful mission – such was the maniacal insouciance and rabid Igbophobia that propelled the project. The principal language used in the prosecution of the genocide was Hausa. Appropriately, the words of the ghoulish anthem of the genocide, published and broadcast on Kaduna radio and television throughout the duration of the crime, are in Hausa: Mu je mu kashe nyamiri/Mu kashe maza su da yan maza su/Mu chi mata su da yan mata su/Mu kwashe kaya su (English translation: “Let’s go kill the damned Igbo/Kill off their men and boys/Rape their wives and daughters/Cart off their property”).

The Hausa word for war is yaki. Whilst Hausa speakers would employ this word to refer to the involvement/combat services of their grandfathers, fathers, uncles, sons, brothers, other relatives and friends in “Boma” (reference to World War II Burma [contemporary Myanmar] military campaigns/others in southeast Asia, fighting for the British against the Japanese) or even in the post-1960s Africa-based “peace-keeping” military engagements in the Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of Congo, east Africa, Liberia, Sierra Leone and the Sudan, they rarely use yaki to describe the 29 May 1966-12 January 1970 mass murders of Igbo people. In Hausaspeak, the latter is either referred to as lokochi mu kashe nyamiri (English past tense: “when we murdered the damned Igbo”) or lokochi muna kashe nyamiri (English past continuous tense: “when we were murdering the damned Igbo”). Pointedly, this “lokochi” (when, time) conflates the timeframes that encapsulate the two phases of the genocide (29 May 1966-29 October 1967 and 6 July 1967-12 January 1970), a reminder, if one is required, for those who bizarrely, if not mischievously, wish to break this organic link.

Elsewhere, genocidist documentation on this crime is equally malevolent and brazenly vulgar. A study of the genocide-time/“post”-genocide era interviews, comments, broadcasts and writings on the campaign by key genocidist commanders, commandants and “theorists” and propagandists such as Benjamin Adekunle, Yakubu Danjuma, Yakubu Gowon, Olusegun Obasanjo, Hassan Katsina, Ibrahim Haruna, Oluwole Rotimi, Obafemi Awolowo, Anthony Enaharo and Allison Ayida underscores the trend. A brief review of Obasanjo’s contribution (published in his memoirs, My Command) that focuses on his May 1969 direct orders to his air force to destroy an international Red Cross aircraft, carrying relief supplies to the encircled and blockaded Igbo, is crucially appropriate.

Obasanjo had “challenged”, to quote his words, Captain Gbadomosi King (genocidist air force pilot), who he had known since 1966, to “produce results” in stopping further international relief flight deliveries to the Igbo. Within a week of his infamous challenge, 5 June 1969, Obasanjo recalls nostalgically, Gbadomosi King “redeemed his promise”. Gbadomosi King had shot down a clearly marked, in coming relief-bearing International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) DC-7 plane near Eket, south Biafra, with the loss of its 3-person crew.

Obasanjo’s perverse satisfaction over the aftermath of this horrendous crime is fiendish, chillingly revolting. He writes: “The effect of [this] singular achievement of the Air Force especially on 3 Marine Commando Division [the notorious unit Obasanjo, who later becomes Nigeria’s head of regime for 11 years, commanded] was profound. It raised morale of all service personnel, especially of the Air Force detachment concerned and the troops they supported in [my] 3 Marine Commando Division”.

Yet despite the huffing and puffing, the raving commanding brute is essentially a coward who lacks the courage to face up to a world totally outraged by his gruesome crime. Instead, Obasanjo, the quintessential Caliban, cringes into a stupor and beacons to his Prospero, British Prime Minister Harold Wilson (as he, Obansanjo, indeed unashamedly acknowledges in his My Command) to “sort out” the raging international outcry generated by the destruction of the ICRC plane...

Thursday, 19 May 2011

29 May 1966

For the Igbo, prior to 29 May 1966, three important holidays were high up on their annual calendar: the Igbo National Day, the iri ji, or the New Yam Festival, and 1 October. The latter was the day of celebration for the restoration of independence for peoples in Nigeria after 60 years of the British conquest and occupation. Or, so were the thoughts predicated on this date’s designation.

The Igbo were one of the very few constituent nations in what was Nigeria, again prior to 29 May 1966, who understood, fully, the immense liberatory possibilities ushered in by 1 October and the interlocking challenges of the vast reconstructionary work required for state and societal transformation in the aftermath of foreign occupation. The Igbo had the most robust economy in the country in their east regional homeland, supplied the country with its leading writers, artists and scholars, supplied the country’s top universities with vice-chancellors (or presidents) and leading professors and scientists, supplied the country with its first indigenous university (the prestigious university at Nsukka), supplied the country with its leading and most spirited pan-Africanists, supplied the country with its top diplomats, supplied the country’s leading high schools with head teachers and administrators, supplied the country with its top bureaucrats, supplied the country with its leading businesspeople, supplied the country with an educated, top-rated professional officers-corps for its military and police forces, supplied the country with its leading sportspersons, essentially and effectively worked the country’s rail, postal, telegraphic, power, shipping and aviation services to quality standards not seen since in Nigeria … And they were surely aware of the vicissitudes engendered by this historic age precisely because the Igbo nation played the vanguard role in the freeing of Nigeria from Britain, beginning from the mid-1930s. The commentator, Sabella Ogbobode Abidde, couldn’t have been more emphatic in summarising the thrust of the Igbo mission during the period:
The Igbo nation ha[s] attributes most other Nigerian nationalities can only dream of and are what most other nations [are] not. The Igbo made Nigeria better. Any wonder then that the Igbo can do without Nigeria; but Nigeria and her myriad nationalities cannot do without the Igbo? Take the Igbo out of the Nigeria equation … and Nigeria will be gasping for air.

The Igbo’s break with Nigeria occurred catastrophically on 29 May 1966. On this day, leaders of the Hausa-Fulani north region (feudal overlords, muslim clergy, military, police, businesspeople, academics, civic servants, other public officials and patrons), who were long opposed to the liberation of Nigeria (there were no comparable clusters of political, cultural, ideational, religious, national or racial groupings anywhere else in the Southern World, during the era, which had a similar, unenviable disposition of hostility to emancipation from the European occupation of their lands as the Hausa-Fulani leadership), launched waves of premeditated genocidal attacks on Igbo migrant populations resident in the north. These attacks were later expanded to Igboland itself, Biafra, during the second phase which began on 6 July 1967, boosted particularly by the robust participation in the slaughter by the Yoruba, Urhobo, and Edo nations of west Nigeria as well as others elsewhere in the country.

The Yoruba support for the genocide as from 6 July 1967, for instance, bears all the hallmark of a squelching cadence of opportunism. The Yoruba appeared to have lost, quite spectacularly, the 1930s-1960s Igbo-Yoruba competitive “preparatory drive” to develop the high-level humanpower and ancillary resources required to run the prospective post-conquest state after the British departure. They therefore viewed the outbreak of the mid-1966 Igbo mass killings in the north region and elsewhere as welcome season to “avenge” their “loss” during the great sociocultural rivalry of those previous three decades, clutching onto any bomb or missile available from July 1967 on their onward death-march east to lob, remorselessly, into besieged Igboland, into an Igbo home, Igbo school, Igbo shrine, Igbo church, Igbo hospital, Igbo office, Igbo market, Igbo farmland, Igbo factory/industrial enterprise, Igbo children’s playground, Igbo town hall, Igbo refugee centre …

Benjamin Adekunle, one of the most fiendish of the genocidist commanders of the time had no qualms, whatsoever, in boasting about the goal of this horrendous mission when he told an August 1968 press conference, attended by journalists including those from the international media: “We shoot at everything that moves, and when our forces march into the centre of I[g]bo territory, we shoot at everything, even at things that do not move”. It is astonishing how genocidist cravings and dispositions build on gory precedents so markedly as the following two examples attest. First, in 1891, Karl Peters, the head of the German occupation regime in east Africa, gave the following haunting description of some of the gruesome massacres his forces had recently carried out in the region: “I shall show the Vagogo what the Germans are! Plunder the villages, throw fire into the houses, and smash everything that will not burn ... At about three, I marched further south toward the other villages ... [T]orches were thrown into the houses, and axes worked to destroy all that the fire did not achieve. So by half past four, twelve villages had been burned down ... My gun had become so hot from so much firing I could hardly hold it”. Second, in October 1904, Lother von Trotha, the general officer commanding the German military forces engaged in the genocide of the Herero people and others in Namibia issued the following proclamation, which he unambiguously captioned an “Extermination Order”: “The Herero people will have to leave the country. Otherwise I shall force them to do so by means of guns ... [E]very Herero, whether found armed or unarmed, with or without cattle, will be shot. I shall not accept any more women and children. I shall drive them back to their people - otherwise I shall order shots to be fired at them. These are my orders to the Herero people”. The outcome of von Trotha’s campaign was cataclysmic. No sectors of the Herero population, nor indeed those of the other nations in the region such as the Nama and the Berg Damara escaped the resultant genocide as the following statistics from Germany’s own 1911 census figures for the area show. In that year, there were 15,130 Herero, compared with a population figure of 80,000 in 1904, indicating that at least 80 per cent were destroyed in the holocaust. For the Nama, their population in 1911 was 9,781 people compared with 20,000 in 1904, recording a 51 per cent German annihilation score. There were no detailed, broken down, figures for the Berg Damara, but the Germans reckoned that about 30 per cent of them were murdered in the genocide.

To return to the post-Peters/von Trotha-genocide epoch of the mid-20th century Africa, notably between 29 May 1966 and 12 January 1970, Adekunle and his extended trail of genocidist hordes, starting from the sabon gari-killing fields’ launch pads that were Igbo homes and churches and offices and businesses in north Nigeria to the “centre of I[g]bo territory”, 400 miles to the south, did murder 3.1 million Igbo people – a haunting tally which indeed includes those slaughtered during the Adekunleist “everything that moves”-targeting, duly promised in the infamous press briefing. As for the outcome of the “things that do not move”-assault category, the genocidists were hardly off target. Their gratuitous destruction of the famed Igbo economic infrastructure, one of the most advanced in Africa of the era, is indescribably barbaric. This was followed, subsequently (post-January 1970), by the genocidists’ implementation of the most dehumanising raft of socioeconomic package of deprivation in occupied Igboland, not seen anywhere else in Africa. The brigandage includes the following:

1. Seizure of the multimillion Igbo capital asset in Igwe Ocha/Port Harcourt and elsewhere

2. Comprehensive sequestration of Igbo liquid asset in Nigeria (as of January 1970), bar the £20.00 (twenty pounds) doled out to the male surviving head of an Igbo family

3. Exponential expropriation of the rich Igbo oil resources from the Abia, Delta, Imo and Rivers administrative regions

4. Blanket policy of non-development of Igboland

5. Aggressive degradation of socioeconomic life of Igboland (As if another empirical reminder is yet required to underscore this obviously grave situation at stake, the following news item from the Lagos Vanguard [16 November 2009] is typically illustrative: “Journalists in … Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, [Enuugwu] and Imo [central Igboland administrative regions] have threatened to embark on hunger strike to protest the bad conditions of federal roads [there]. They regretted that the failed roads [have] claimed many lives and property worth billions of naira”.)

6. Ignoring ever-expanding soil erosion/landslides and other pressing ecological emergencies particularly in northwest Igboland

7. Continuing reinforcement of the overall state of siege of Igboland …

These latter measures, which inaugurated phase-III of the Igbo genocide, constitute one of the five acts of genocide explicitly defined in article 2 of the December 1948 UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide: “deliberately inflicting upon the group conditions of life designed to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part”.

We mustn’t fail to add, finally, that these measures were drafted and implemented largely by Yoruba economists and lawyers led by Obafemi Awolowo which included, ironically, Sam Aluko who, along with all members of his family, enjoyed the generosity of a political asylum in Igboland when his life was in serious danger during the vicious intra-Yoruba political violence of the early 1960s.

The Harold Wilson-led British government of the day underwrote this devastating stretch of genocide militarily, politically and diplomatically – from its early conceptualisation, liaising continuously with the Gowon-Mohammed-Danjuma genocidist cells of the Nigeria military at varying stages between January and May 1966, to the savage, spiralling aerial, naval and ground onslaughts on encircled Igbo population centres (the “shooting everything”-raging inferno) especially between March 1968 and January 1970. London’s strategic goal in supporting the genocide was to “punish” the Igbo for “daring” to spearhead the termination of the British occupation of Nigeria. This foundational genocide of post-(European)conquest Africa and the worst in 20th century Africa would probably not have occurred without British active involvement. It is inconceivable that a contemporary British government would continue to delay any much longer in offering its unreserved apology to the Igbo for Britain’s role in the execution of this genocide and pay reparations to the survivors.

29 May 1966 is undoubtedly the most tragic day in the annals of Igbo history. It was a day that the Igbo were subjected to an overwhelming violence and unremitting brutality by supposedly fellow countrymen and women. Ironically, the atrocity was clinically organised, supervised and implemented by the very state that the Igbo had played such a crucial role to liberate from foreign conquest and occupation. This state, now violently taken over by murderous anti-African sociopolitical forces, had pointedly violated its most sacred tenet of responsibility to its Igbo citizens – provision of security. Instead of providing security to these citizens, the Nigeria state murdered 3.1 million of them. The ghoulish anthem for the genocide, broadcast uninterruptedly in Hausa on Kaduna radio and television throughout its duration, was unambiguously clear on the principal objective of this crime against humanity:
Mu je mu kashe nyamiri
Mu kashe maza su da yan maza su
Mu chi mata su da yan mata su
Mu kwashe kaya su
(English translation: Let’s go kill the damned Igbo/Kill off their men and boys/Rape their wives and daughters/Cart off their property)

Yet this 29th day of May 1966 is also the Igbo Day of Affirmation. The Igbo people resolved on this day, the day that marked the beginning of the genocide, to survive the catastrophe. This was the day the Igbo ceased to be Nigerians forever – right there on the grounds of those death camps in the sabon gari residential districts and offices and rail stations and coach stations and airports and churches and schools and markets and hospitals across north Nigeria. They created the state of Biafra in its place and tasked it to provide security to the Igbo and prevent Nigeria, a genocide state, from accomplishing its dreadful mission. The heuristic symbolism defined hitherto by 1 October shattered in the wake of this historic Igbo declaration. For the Igbo, the renouncement of Nigerian citizenship was the permanent Igbo indictment of a state that had risen thunderously to murder its people.

The Igbo could not have survived the genocide if they still remained Nigerian. They rightly chose the former course of their fate and not the latter which they cast adrift. Consequently, Nigeria collapsed as a state with any serious prospects for the future. Despite the 4 murderous years of siege, the Igbo demonstrated a far greater creative drive towards constructing an advanced civilisation in Biafra than what Nigeria has all but wished it could achieve in the past 40 years. Nigeria gburu ochu; Nigeria mere alu. Surely, Nigeria couldn’t recover from committing this heinous crime – this crime against humanity, this Malebolge.

29 May is therefore a beacon of the resilient spirit of human overcoming of the most desperate, unimaginably brutish forces. It is the new Igbo National Holiday. It is a day of meditation and remembrance in every Igbo household anywhere in the world for the 3.1 million murdered, gratitude and thanksgiving for those who survived, and the collective Igbo rededication to achieve the urgent goal of the restoration of Igbo sovereignty.

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Now is the time!

I recently finished some piece of work after quite a while and I found the following Coltrane Quartet performance of “Vigil”, aka “Modal Excursion” (live in Comblain-La-Tour, Belgium, 1 August 1965), such an inspirational company during the period. Bassist Garrison appears to have just walked onto the bandstand, steadying and steadying that instrument of his that he plays with deftness and assiduousness as Coltrane, on tenor, begins the timely conversation with Jones on drums. Coltrane soars and soars in this continuously creative polytonal torrent of sound that is unmistakeably his signature. His commentary on the crucial challenges of his day is profoundly honest, insistent, multilayered and optimistic, a mood shared equally by the exhilarating inventiveness of Jones’s drumming. Note the resultant sweating and sheer exhaustion of the duo even before Coltrane’s brief break! As Tyner, on piano, joins the conversation, he takes 20-30 seconds of dizzying phrasing to restate the cardinal theme of the excursion and then essays his own contribution along a serene plateau of disarming contemplation, punctuated by Garrison’s impeccable percussive engagement and Jones’s continuing testament. Coltrane finally returns for the quartet to studiously sum up the goal for the vigil by declaring firmly and unreservedly: “Now is the time!” Today, we are most honoured and privileged to have inherited the priceless legacy of these selfless geniuses.

John Coltrane - Untitled (Vigil)