I have argued variously that without the very determined British military, diplomatic and political support to the Nigerian state right from the outset, the Igbo genocide, this foundational genocide of post-(European)conquest Africa, would probably not have occurred (see, for instance, Herbert Ekwe-Ekwe, “Rights for Scots, Rights for the Igbo”,
http://re-thinkingafrica.blogspot.com.br/2012/01/rights-for-scots-rights-for-igbo.html). Definitely, the Nigerians would not have embarked on the third phase of the genocide, the direct invasion of Biafra, beginning on 6 July 1967, without receiving firm support for the operation from
Earlier on, 100,000 Igbo had been murdered by the genocidists in waves after waves of meticulously-coordinated savage campaigns across the entire north region of
The Aburi African-led and controlled diplomatic initiative and resultant summit are indeed extraordinary, the likes of which we haven’t seen on the African political scene since. After two days of talks, 4-5 January 1967, the delegates achieved an exceptional degree of agreement, in spite of the genocide of the previous seven months. A brief examination of the key points of the agreement underscores our conclusion. Two areas require comment. First, the resolution that focuses on the renouncement of force and the importation of arms: (1) “renounce the use of force as a means of settling the present crisis in
Jackie McLean Sextet, “Appointment in Ghana” [personnel: McLean, alto saxophone; Blue Mitchell, trumpet; Tina Brooks, tenor saxophone; Kenny Drew, piano; Paul Chambers, bass; Art Taylor, drums; recorded: Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, US, 1 September 1960])
In effect, the Aburi decision to transfer the constitutional responsibility of the Nigerian military from the position of the supreme commander to the supreme military council extensively limited the executive (and legislature) powers of the position of “supreme commander and head of state” which Gowon had exercised since the genocide (these powers were originally contained in General Aguyi-Ironsi’s January 1966 decree no.1 which had made the occupant of that office, and not the SMC, the principal person in charge of decision making in the country). In future, following the Aburi accord, “any decision affecting the whole country must be decided by the Supreme Military Council” (added emphasis) – namely, the eight members that made up the body gathered in Ghana including, pointedly, the military governors of the regions of which Odumegwu-Ojukwu, the only member that had refused to recognise Gowon in that position, was one.
Back to Aburi (1967), Odumegwu-Ojukwu had laid bare, for the crucial reckoning of African history, the apposite moral and juridical dilemma surrounding the status of lead-genocidist leader Yakubu Gowon. Odumegwu-Ojukwu had insisted at the talks that Gowon must neither be seen nor aided by his peers to appropriate the position and the powers invested in Nigeria’s top political and military leadership after his perpetration of the mass murder of tens of thousands of Igbo people and the murder of General Aguyi-Ironsi, the commander-in-chief, under whom Gowon served as chief of army staff. Odumegwu-Ojukwu’s reply to a question about Gowon’s status, posed by Mobalaji Johnson (governor of
Odumegwu-Ojukwu was in effect highlighting the territorial reach and distribution of the Gowon-controlled genocidist forces across the country – Lagos/west-north regions where they occupied, and the east and midwest regions, which were still free of their presence. In the light of Aburi, Gowon’s overall control of the Lagos/west/north regions had in fact come under question. With the newly acquired powers of individual governors on the supreme military council at the expense of those hitherto wielded by Gowon, it followed, for instance, that the governors of
Gowon’s ultimate renegation of an accord that he signed, willingly, in Ghana, in the presence of all the other seven members of the Nigerian governing military council, their five secretaries, and General Ankrah, their host, was a reminder, if ever such an evidence was sought, of who, eventually called the shots at the crucial junctures of the course of the Igbo genocide: Britain. Such was the British disappointment of Gowon’s performance in Abuja that they ensured that Gowon would in future no longer be “exposed” to Odumegwu-Ojukwu or any of these Igbo with “compulsive logic”. Subsequently, the often more “coherent” spokespersons who tried to put across some “form of explanation” of the Anglo/Nigerian position on the Igbo genocide, especially in Britain where there was a groundswell popular opposition to the slaughter, were from a hired pool of consultants of ex-British conquest administrators who had served in Nigeria.
This “final solution” of the Igbo Question had become the proffered one sought by the British and their Nigerian allies since. And they soon unleashed a cataclysmic surge of violence in
*All military rank references here to the Aburi conference participants are statuses achieved and recognised prior to the outbreak of the Igbo genocide, 29 May 1966.