Who Killed Biafra?

“If we fail, the white man, who has been so surprised by our movement, the white man, who has entirely miscalculated every facet of this struggle, will have garnered a new range of knowledge about the potential of the black man and prepared himself to combat us should we ever again rear our ugly head. We owe it, therefore, to Africa not to fail. Africa needs a Biafra. Biafra is the breaking of the chains.

“It is not enough just to fight the Nigerians or their friends. We have to fight as a starting point of the African revolution…. If the revolution fails, we do a disservice to our race. But…what really frightens the white man is this whole challenge to the direction of international economy…. This is the one black society that on its own can go out and seek raw materials, manufacture finished products and sell them with absolute equality in the open world market. Once this has been demonstrated, you will find that the basis of neo-colonialism has been removed; which is continued economic dominance.”

—C. O. Ojukwu,
at the Biafran People’s Seminar,
Umuahia, March 5, 1969


Now that Biafra has been defeated by Nigeria and its patrons, history is being rewritten in order to accommodate the interests of the victors. In fact, the defeat of Biafra is not a victory for the Nigerian people but for the neo-colonialists, whether Soviet or North-Atlantic. As Conor Cruise O’Brien has pointed out, it is Nigeria, not Biafra, which resembles Katanga. But statements emanating from the Great Powers would have us believe that the Biafrans were the aggressors against a liberal and well-intentioned Nigerian regime, that the nation was allied with the white supremacists, that it was a creature of the oil companies, that the war was a conspiracy by a clique of adventurers led by Ojukwu. These variations on a theme run from Moscow through Whitehall to the State Department and the editorial pages of The New York Times,1 and they echo in the pronouncements of General Gowon.

Moreover, Nigeria and its allies, misrepresenting the depth of the Biafran struggle in an effort to mitigate their own responsibility, have done everything in their power to underestimate the past suffering and the present condition of the Biafran people. In spite of the grim reports of correspondents who have penetrated the Ibo-heartland, the British government and the press in this country even now refuse to acknowledge the full extent of the human disaster in Biafra. A generation of children has either been starved to death or deprived of the protein necessary for normal mental and physical growth. A generation of young adults, among them the most talented and skilled in black Africa, has been stifled.

At whatever cost to the Biafrans, the Nigerian state must not be embarrassed. For example, the Nigerians have forbidden the use of the airstrip at Uli although, or perhaps because, it is situated in the most devastated…

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