Post-Colonial Nigeria: Did Igbos Draw First Blood?
Genesis: The Beginning Of North-South/Hausa-Igbo Beef in Nigeria
June 20th, 2012
Lekan Abayomi, New York
I was born in 1975. I grew up believing that the Hausa/Fulani of Nigeria were a very intolerant ethnic group of people.
That the Hausas were so wicked they simply picked on Igbos in Nigeria living up North and slaughtered them in droves. And that the unprovoked massacre of Igbos in the North prompted the Biafra secession event, which again resulted in another Hausa Muslim leadership-led slaughter and genocide of Igbos in the South.
I believed for the first two decades of my life that the Hausa Muslims for no reason despised Igbos so much and that they ruled Nigeria almost entirely throughout its 50 years post independence, never giving an Igbo an opportunity to rule.
I associated Military rule and Military coups with Muslim Northerners.
I even associated the North of Nigeria with Islam and the South with Christianity. ‘Roughly divided’ between the two, as I always read in the news.
Little did I know that I was wrong in almost everything I grew up reading from the Nigeria predominantly Southern press, and European media.
They say that had Hitler won the war, history today would have been written in his favor. Perhaps the one great mistake the Hausa-Fulani-Kanuri and all Northerners ever made was not getting involved in western media, press and propaganda.
No Beef Till ’66
Igbos draw first blood in 1966
All was going well in Nigeria, post 1960 independence, with Tafawa Balewa, aka, the golden voice of Africa, the Prime minister of the federation, and Nnamidi Azikiwe the commander in chief and president, till January 1966.
In January 1966 an Igbo Major in the Nigerian army, Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu, who was born in Kaduna and had such family affinity to Kaduna, that he was popularly called, ‘Kaduna Nzeogwu’, a Catholic by faith decided to embark on a mission that will change Nigeria’s history forever.
In the early hours of January 15th, Kaduna Nzeogwu disgruntled over a list of items with the ruling political class and with disdain for certain regionalists, led an army of fellow Igbo Majors and a Yoruba, Ademoyega Adewale, in a military coup against the political leadership of Nigeria.
He and his team of Igbo comrades murdered Nigeria’s top brass Hausas in that Coup. Prime minister, Tafawa Balewa, a federal minister and two top regional premiers were among those murdered.
Kaduna Nzeogwu’s Igbo squad killed he premier of the Northern and Western regions but of course left the Igbo Eastern premiere alive.
He killed the Finance minister, who was Nigeria’s #3 man, but left the number #2 man.
The coup started failing when the ethnic nature of it was noticed. Neogwu confronted Captain Isong, the second-in-command at the 1 Recce Squadron, on account of a rumor that Isong was allegedly spreading in the barracks about the ethnic coloration of the unfolding events.
Azikiwe was left alive.
In essence Kaduna Nzeogwu’s coup was not a coup against the establishment only, but a targeted ethnic war, waged by himself and his fellow Igbo patriots against the Hausa-Fulani, who he grew up and served with.
Nzeogwu assassinated very many top Northern brass. Included and very significant was the Sardauna of Sokoto who was shot dead with his wives too.
In the video below, late Kaduna Nzeogwu describes how he plotted the coup and killed the Sardauna.
Wikipedia- The killing of Brigadier Ademulegun’s pregnant wife by led to the suspicion among Yoruba and Hausa that the coupist were common criminals rather than Nationalistic patriots. Brigadier Ademulegun was a Yoruba officer. The premier of the Northern region was killed, The premier of the West was killed, but the premier of the Eastern region where most of the plotters were from was forgotten. On the Federal level the Prime Minister was killed, the Finance Minister the number 3 man was killed but the number 2 man who “coincidentally” happened to be from the same region as the plotters “escaped the killing”. The kid glove with which the new leader Ironsi handled the coupist led to the dissatisfaction of northern officers with Ironsi’s reluctance to courts-martial the coup plotters led to the counter-coup of July 29, 1966 which was led mainly by a group of junior Hausa-Fulani officers.
The coup plot failed and just before midnight on January 16, following a complex series of events, the GOC of the Army, General Aguiyi Ironsi, also of Igbo origin, preceded by a short statement by acting President Nwafor Orizu, announced that he was taking over the country following an “invitation” from the Council of Ministers. ref
Brigadier Ademulegun was shot dead in his bed, head of the NMTC Colonel Ralph Shodeinde was killed. Ifeajun in high treachery murdered his boss, Brigadier Maimalari.
The Igbo victim was, Lt-Col Arthur Unegbe. Also killed was the highly unsung Itsekiri Finance Minister Chief Festus Okotie-Eboh.
It is important to pint out at this juncture, that Nigeria had been very peaceful. A progressive, ethno-harmonious place, with the only riots of note being some election turmoil in the western Yoruba region of the country and Tiv riots in the Middle-Belt.
Up until this time there was no major Hausa-Igbo beef.
There were episodes pre-independence, during colonial rule, triggered by the machinations of colonialism, these included the minor 1945 Amalgamation riots and the 1953 Igbo Military and political power predominance riots. The colonialist gave Igbos top positions in the Military. Indeed, over all it must be noted that the prime source of Nigeria’s ethnic disarray is colonial. ‘Nigeria, made in the UK’, they say.
Sardauna Was Premiere Of North Only: It’s Stupid To Expect Him To Talk Of One-Nigeria During The Three Region Federalism That Existed At The Time
Important to mention that Sardauna is often mispresented. Sardauna was not a leader of Nigeria but was only leader over the northern protectorate. So his statements were about his northern region, just as at the time Ojukwu made even more seditious statements about the eastern region he presided over. Sardauna’s utterances must be listened to in context of the then true Federation with three autonomous parts. Read more on this here.
Next Blunder- Aguiyi-Ironsi Dissolves Regions
You see, growing up, I have blamed the Hausas for so much. May the Almighty forgive me.
Today the South of Nigeria are heard loudly clamoring for a return to autonomic regions. You are want to believe that it was some Northern Muslim that dissolved this.
The Igbo top commander and now first military president of Nigeria, General Aguiyi Ironsi, in a very careless and thoughtless move, aimed at suppressing the Nzeogwu ethnic coup sentiment and distrust, in his brief six months of reign, dissolved the regions.
So we ask the question- why did Aguiyi Ironsi dissolve the regions and create a Unitary republic?
This according to World News.com was ‘in a bid to do away with the divisive tendencies of Regionalism.’
At this stage, we can conclude the following-
1. An Igbo man, Kaduna Nzeogwu embarked on the first ethnic identifying campaign for power
2. Same Igbo man, led the first provocative and very painful attack and assassination of top brass Hausa men.
3. An Igbo man disrupted our political beginnings and introduced us to the military rule aberration.
4. Another Igbo man, General Aguiyi Ironsi clearly recognized the ethnic danger provoked by the former.
5. The second Igbo man destroyed Nigeria’s regional rule and initiated the Unitary republic.
Evidently, the industrious Igbo did not like Regionalism, this is why they (Nzeogwu and Ironsi) killed the Northern and Western regional Premiers and abrogated the three regions, instituting a one-Nigeria to enable free Igbo entrenchment and trade outside the Eastern region.
Deadly Mischief: A Loaf of Bread Draws Second Blood
It was in May, during Aguiyi Ironsi’s reign that the first of what is known today as anti-Igbo riots occured.
According to the story, an Igbo bakery made a loaf of bread, depicting Nzeogwu as the Saint in the ‘Saint George and the Dragon’ medieval crusader story, from the 7-11th century.
Advance our standards, set upon our foes Our ancient world of courage fair
St. George Inspire us with the spleen of fiery dragons….. Richard III. act v, sc.3. ”
“ Come not between the Dragon and his wrath….. King Lear. Act I, Sc 2 –William Shakespeare
This depiction was highly provocative to a welcoming Hausa-Fulani, still licking their wounds and being hospitable, after an unprovoked Igbo led military coup and assassination of their finest.
This also while Nigeria was bleeding from being thrown into its first military government era. The military went on to rule the nation for 13 straight years.
As I was saying, the loaf of bread had Nzeogwu as Saint George, standing over and killing Sardauna, who was depicted as the bleeding dragon.
This triggered the first inter-ethnic crises in the North. Igbos fled to the East, and returned only later under guarantee of their safety by president Ironsi. Some say mischievous secessionist Igbos orchestrated the pogroms to get their people home.
Later that year, in July, General Murtala Muhammed, taking advantage of the precedent, led a very bloody, 4-day coup and overthrew the Ironsi Government.
At this stage, Igbos in the north were highly targeted in outbreaks of ethnic violence. Thousands were reportedly killed, though the numbers can not be verified. And this was the episode of the Igbo exodus to the South.
I guess we can call this 3rd blood.
Listen To Mischievous Seditious Igbos Plotting Similar Provocations On Radio Biafra Today
Biafra: Nigerian Civil War (1967–1970)- The Truth
I am not going to get into so much history. The history, we should all search for and study.
All I will highlight are the misnomers:
The Biafra dream was not decimated by a Hausa Muslim.
It was decimated by no other than General Yakubu Gowon, a Christian Middle Belt Nigerian, who hailed from Panshin, Plateau state. Yakubu Gowon was the ‘compromise’ Christian Middle Belt leader put in place as a palliation after the bloody years and coups prior.
He was chosen as an attempt in good faith to foster peace between Nigeria’s ethnic and religious groups.
It was Yakubu Gowon and his then military General, again another southerner, and two time president of Nigeria, southern General and Christian, Olusegun Obasanjo that destroyed the Biafra secessionist, treason campaign.
Since then, no Igbo has held the reigns of power.
This is of course not surprising, it is the simple rule of victor over vanquished.
When the Arabs lost in their 6-day war- attempt to sack European installed Israel in Arab Palestine, Israel automatically annexed Arab lands. The Golan heights of Syria and the Sinai Peninsula of Egypt.
When Japan lost the second world war, it gave up its right to have a military.
In like fashion, after the Igbo’s first attempt and bloody coup to overturn the equilibrium in multi-ethnic Nigeria’s civilian rule, and after they lost in their second attempt, the Biafra secession, bloody campaign, it is not surprising that they have not yet been put in a position of power, because the rest of Nigeria for the right or wrong reasons is afraid of them, maybe.
Time to drop the hatchet
There is no reason for continued hatred and distrust. Many do not even know why there exists the bad blood between these two prominent groups, but obviously some desperate forces are taking advantage of a sour history to invoke religious and ethnic hate and sectarian strife in Nigeria, with ultimate goal- the disintegration of Nigeria.
Churches being targeted in the North are an obvious dirty game, being orchestrated purposefully to invoke sentiment and chaos.
Among those caught planning, arming and involved in the bombings under the auspices of Boo Haram, are Nigerians of all ethnic groups, religions and regions.
In an article I read on MuslimsAgainstTerror.com, written by Aliyu, so many Christians and Southerners have been caught in failed ‘Boko’ bombing attempts. Some suspect that some extremist Biafraites with foreign meddlers are secretly behind Boko Haram, in a new attempt and sinister technique to enable secession.
The Igbo’s and the South is as suspect as the North in this deadly game, and attempt to provoke discord among ethnic groups. Little surprise Boko enjoys unbelievable impunity and success while lacking any clear or logical manifesto.
No region stands to loose more form Boko than the North. Recently listed as the best part of Nigeria to conduct business (10 Easiest States to Do Business in Nigeria), now tumbling down the corridors of deeper suffering, poverty, insecurity and at risk of being cut off from the coast.
As described in Reuters report on the last Sunday bomb attacks and subsequent Christian youth rampage in Kaduna, Boko are being allowed to win in their obvious goal- to foster sectarian strife and disintegration in Nigeria. This is all so senseless.
Are we going to let Boko win? Everybody, chill!
Now let me give you some teasers:
Do you still believe Nigeria is roughly torn North and South between Muslims and Christians, as the colonial media keeps promoting? You will be surprised to find that some states up North may even have more Christians than Muslims.
Do you know that most Yoruba states are governed by Muslims?
Do you know that the leader of MEND, the Southern rebellion group, is a Muslim, named ‘Jihad’, Mujahid Dokubo Asari.
Do you still believe that Nigeria was ruled most of its years since independence by the Dan Fodio, Northern Muslim? Will you experience shock if you read my previous paper on ‘the illusion of Northern rule’, and find out that Christians and the South and Middle Belt have ruled Nigeria the most or at least as much?
Did you know that the north occupies 80% of Nigeria’s land mass?
References and More reading:
Wikipedia & Maxisiloun