CHIWETALU AGU: A Nation Of Flags

CHIWETALU AGU: A Nation Of Flags

To keep a people oppressed, take away knowledge of who they are, their past, their identity.

Today, history is no longer taught in Nigerian schools.

Yet for the duration the subject flourished in the educational system, the nation’s civil war was hidden from sight. When I released my book, #InBloodAndWar, a mail from a young fan revealed this was her first of hearing there was ever a war in Nigeria.

Till date, the younger generation remain in the dark that a war was ever fought in Nigeria. They lack knowledge that explains the reasons, the identity of the aggrieved, and the identity of the aggressors.

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On The Biafra Flag and IPOB

The flag of the former Republic of Biafra consists of a horizontal tricolour of red, black, and green, charged with a golden rising sun over a golden bar. Red represents the blood of those massacred in northern Nigeria and in the consequent Nigeria-Biafra war. Black is for mourning them and in remembrance. Green is for prosperity and the half of a yellow/golden sun stands for a glorious future. The sun has eleven rays, representing the eleven provinces of Biafra.

The flag is a symbol of the oppressed people in 1967, and remains a monument to honour an historical memory of a people.

It is not a flag of the recently founded IPOB

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Who are Biafrans?

After the first coup of 15th January 1966, at the end of January the same year, Colonel Ejoor in the Midwest called for a unitary form of government. A move the then Military Head of State, General Ironsi, put into action. In addition to the assassination of many Igbo officers during the subsequent July coup, a massive pogrom against Igbos surged in the North and continued unabated by government sanction. The region became uninhabitable for the Igbos, prompting a mass return to the Southeast.

Though the Igbo were the majority that suffered this onslaught, there were not the only victims of assault. The Northern derogatory word, Nyamiri, swept across all Easterners regardless of racial group. The Efiks, Ibibios, Ogojas and Ijaws were also targets of the massacre.

Failed peace talks ensued, with a final summit of military leaders held at Aburi, Ghana on the 4th-5th of January 1967 after about after 30,000 of the Eastern people had been killed and 1,800,000 driven back to the East.Because of the refugee crisis, Colonel Ojukwu, Military Governor of the Eastern Region, asked for a Confederation of Nigerian States, at least until things stabilized.

In the Aburi accord, the different parties, Yakubu Gowon, General Ojukwu and Obafemi Awolowo, signed an agreement that a looser Nigerian confederation would be implemented. This would mean that each region will have total control of their wealth and submit a fraction to the central government. The North found this solution unacceptable as the oil was in the South. Gowon delayed announcement of the agreement and later reneged.

To make matters worse, the relationship between Ojukwu and Gowon was already suffering under the strain going of Ojukwu’s refusal to back Gowon as the successor of the late General Ironsi.

In anticipation of eastern secession, Gowon moved quickly to weaken the support base of the region by decreeing the creation of twelve new states to replace the four regions. Six of these states contained minority groups that had demanded state creation since the 1950s. Gowon rightly calculated that the eastern minorities would not actively support the Igbos, given the prospect of having their own states if the secession effort were defeated. Also, the move removed the newly discovered oil in Port Harcourt from the East to the Rivers State.

On May 30, 1967, the Military Governor of Eastern Region, Colonel Odumegwu Ojukwu pulled the region out of Nigeria and called it Biafra. A few hours later, the General ordered his arrest, a move that eventually led to a civil war.

The war lasted thirty months and ended in January 1970 with over two million easterners killed.

With massive support from the British government, the Nigerian federal forces launched their last attack against the Biafrans on the 23 December 1969. By the end of the year, the 3rd Marine Commando Division under the command of Col. Olusegun Obasanjo split the Biafran region in two. The Biafran towns of Owerri fell on 9 January, and Uli on 11 January. Only a few days earlier, Ojukwu fled into exile by plane to the Ivory Coast. His deputy, Philip Effiong, handled the details of the surrender to General Yakubu Gowon of the Federal Army on 13 January 1970. The surrender paper was signed on 14 January 1970 in Lagos, marking the end of the civil war and secession.

In accepting Biafra’s unconditional surrender, Gowon declared that there would be no victor and no vanquished, wrapping it up with:

“The tragic chapter of violence is just ended. We are at the dawn of national reconciliation. Once again, we have an opportunity to build a new nation. My dear compatriots, we must pay homage to the fallen, to the heroes who have made the supreme sacrifice that we may be able to build a nation, great in justice, fair trade, and industry.”

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The Biafra Flag was never and has never been outlawed by the then president, Gowon, in the surrender treaty, but rather he urged we pay homage to the fallen, to heroes who have made the supreme sacrifice. And that is what the flag represents.

So far, neither is the Biafra flag outlawed in our present day constitution.

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On CHIWETALU AGU’s arrest

In the video making rounds, seeing the elder veteran award-winning actor tackled to the floor begs the question, would it have made any difference if he had worn the green and white of Nigeria?

Then we recall that the Lekki protesters had waved the green and white, and were not treated any more honourably.

Not only has history failed us in the educational system, the subject ‘Government’ has been so conditioned in tutorship that Nigerians are birthed, they live and die, with no knowledge of the rights their constitution ought to protect.

It is a curious thing in my Nation to wake up one morning and be told of laws and breaking them.

I find it more curious that a civilian is arrested by the military in a ‘democratic’ government, while a Northern bandit negotiator still walks free.