We have indeed come a long way. We were once Nigerians, today we are Biafrans. We are Biafrans because on May 30, 1967, we finally said ‘no’ to the evils and injustices in which Nigeria was steeped. Nigeria was made up of peoples and groups with very little in common.
As everyone knows, Biafrans were in the forefront among those who tried to make Nigeria a nation. It is ironic that some ill-informed and mischievous people today will accuse us of breaking now the facts because we were there and the things that happened, happened to us.
Nigeria was indeed a very wicked and corrupt country in spite of the glorious image given her in the European press We know why Nigeria was given that image. It was her reward for serving the economic and political interests of her European masters. Nigeria is a stooge of Europe. Her independence was and is a lie. Even her Prime Minister was a Knight of the British Empire; but worse than her total subservience to foreign political and economic interests, Nigeria committed many crimes against her nationals, which in the end made complete nonsense of her claim to unity. Nigeria persecuted and slaughtered her minorities. Nigerian justice was a farce, her elections, her politics her everything was corrupt. Qualification, merit and experience were dislocated in public service. In one area of Nigeria, for instance, they preferred to turn a nurse who had worked for five years into a doctor rather than employ a qualified doctor from another part of Nigeria. Barely literate clerks were made Permanent Secretaries.
A university Vice Chancellor was sacked because he belonged to the wrong tribe. Bribery, corruption and nepotism were so widespread that people began to wonder openly whether any country in the world could compare with Nigeria in corruption and abuse of power. All the modern institutions the legislature – the civil service, the army, the police, the judiciary, the universities, the trade unions and the organs of mass information were devalued and made the tools of corrupt political power.
There was complete neglect and impoverishment of the people. Whatever prosperity there was, was deceptive. There was despair in many hearts, and the number of suicides was growing every day. The farmers were very hard- hit. Their standards of living had fallen steeply. The soil was perishing from over-farming and lack of scientific husbandry. The towns, like the soil, were wastelands into which people put in too much exertion for too little reward.
There were crime waves and people lived in fear of their lives. Business speculation, rack-renting, worship of money and share:) practices left a few people extremely rich at the expense of the many, and those few flaunted their wealth before the many and talked about sharing the national cake. Foreign interests did roaring business spreading consumer goods and wares among a people who had not developed a habit of thrift and well fell prey to lying advertisements. Inequality of the sexes was actively promoted in Nigeria. Rather than aspire to equality with men, women were encouraged to accept the status of inferiority and to become the mistresses of successful politicians and business executive, or they were married off at the age of fourteen as the fifteenth wives of the new rich.
That was the glorious Nigeria, the mythical Nigeria, celebrated in the European press. Then worst of all came the genocide in which over 50,000 of our kith and kin were slaughtered in cold blood all over Nigeria and nobody asked questions; nobody showed regret; nobody showed remorse. Thus, Nigeria had become a jungle with no safety, no justice and no hope for our people. We decided then to found a new place, a human habitation away from the Nigerian jungle. That was the origin of our revolution. From the moment we assumed the illustrious name of the ancient kingdom of Biafra, we were rediscovering the original independence of a great African people. We accepted by this revolutionary act the glory, as well as the sacrifice, of true independence and freedom.
We knew that we had challenged the many forces and interests, which had conspired to keep Africa and the black race in subjection forever. We knew they were going to be ruthless and implacable in defence of their age-old imposition on us and exploitation of our people. But we were prepared, and remain prepared, to pay any price for our freedom and dignity, Our revolution is a historic opportunity given to us to establish a just society; to revive the dignity of our people at home and the dignity of the black man in the world. We realize that in order to achieve those ends we must remove those weaknesses in our institutions and organizations and those disabilities in foreign relations which have tended to degrade this dignity. This means that we must reject Nigerianism in all its guises, The Biafran revolution is the people’s revolution. ‘Who are the people?’ you ask.
The farmer, the trader, the clerk, the businessman, the housewife, the student, the civil servant, the soldier you and I arc the people. Is there anyone here who is not of the people? Is there anyone here afraid of the people anyone suspicious of the people? Is there anyone despising the people? Such a man has no place in our revolution. If he is a leader, he has no right to leadership, because all power, all sovereignty, belongs to the people. In Biafra the people are supreme; the people are master the leader is the servant. You see, you make a mistake when you greet me with shouts of ‘power, power’. I am not power you are. My name is Emeka, I am your servant, that is all. Fellow countrymen, we pride ourselves on our honesty. Let us admit to ourselves that when we left Nigeria, some of us did not shake off every particle of Nigerians. We say that Nigerians are corrupt and take bribes; but here in our country we have among us some members of the Police and the Judiciary who are corrupt and who ‘eat’ bribes. We accuse Nigerians of in ordinate love of money, ostentatious living and irresponsibility: but here, even while we are engaged in a war of national survival, even while the very life of our nation hangs in the balance, we see some public servants who throw huge parties to entertain their friends; who kill cows to christen their babies. We have members of the armed forces who carry on ‘attack’ trade instead of fighting the enemy. We have traders who hoard essential goods and inflate prices, thereby increasing the people’s hardship.
We have ‘money-mongers’ who aspire to build on hundreds of plots on land as yet unreclaimed from the enemy; who plan to buy scores of lorries and buses and to become agents for those very foreign businessmen who have brought their country to grief. We have some civil servants who think of themselves as masters rather than servants of the people. We see doctors who stay idle in their villages while their countrymen and women suffer and die.
* Being excerpts from the Ahiara Declaration, a document written by the National Guidance Committee of Biafra, which was delivered as a speech by General Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu in the Biafra town of Ahiara, Mbaise, Imo State, Nigeria on June 1, 1969.