Odumegwu Ojukwu
Odumegwu Ojukwu

A US document of 11 September 1969 quoted Akinjide as telling Mr. Strong, American consul in Ibadan, that “he (Ojukwu) suffers from Hitler-like megalomania”. Akinjide explained to Strong that as a child, Ojukwu was rejected because his father strongly denied that he was solely responsible for the pregnancy that led to him, arguing that other mysterious force or forces may have been at work as well. His mother, claimed Akinjide, was a mistress his multimillionaire father, Sir Louis Ojukwu, acquired on one of his business trips to the North. Being a devout Catholic, Sir Louis refused to keep the boy in his house in Lagos, preferring to send him back to the North, where he was born and where his mother made a living as a trader.

As the boy grew up, friends of the business mogul prevailed on him to recognize him as a son. According to Akinjide, Sir Louis agreed to do so, but the boy became something of an embarrassment to him, the reason for which he sent him to school in England, where he made it into Oxford University.

Akinjide, a member of the Nigerian National Democratic Party, NNDP and federal minister in the First Republic, said: “When Ojukwu returned to Nigeria, he tried to get a job with the Nigerian Tobacco Company, NTC, but was turned down.” Akinjide speculated on how Nigerian history might have panned out if NTC had given Ojukwu a job. “Instead, he drifted into the civil service and was given a post as Assistant District Officer at a bush post in the East. He was unhappy in this position,” claimed Akinjide, because he felt his talents undervalued.

Chief Obafemi Awolowo’s assessment of the Biafran leader was not very dissimilar to Akinjide’s view of him as a man who sought to control everything around him.
Reviewing his own efforts, undertaken at considerable personal risk to find an accommodation with Ojukwu before he declared the secession in May 1967, Awolowo told US Ambassador Elbert Matthews on 24 August 1967 in Lagos that he was convinced it was impossible to negotiate with Ojukwu, who was seeking to bring the whole of southern Nigeria under his control. He described Ojukwu as being committed to conquest, not secession.

According to the Periodic Intelligence Note complied on the Nigerian situation by Thomas L. Hughes, Director of Intelligence and Research, submitted to US Secretary of State, Dean Rusk, the “chief target” of Ojukwu’s “seizure of Midwest” was the Yoruba.
On 12 September, Radio Biafra broadcast attacks on Awolowo and Anthony Enahoro for being in “the rebel government of Gowon”. The radio station referred to the recent arrest and detention of “Wole Soyinka, that patriotic Yoruba son” and the arrest and interrogation of Tai Solarin, the well-known Yoruba educator and writer.

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It thought it “significant” that these “Yoruba freedom fighters” should be threatened by a government of which “Chief Awolowo himself a Yoruba is a deputy head.” It reminded its listeners that “Awolowo and Enahoro have not only succumbed to northern pressure, but have also teamed up with Gowon to suppress Solarin and Soyinka, whose ebullient enthusiasm for Yoruba freedom is threat to their security, but they have substituted private interest for commonwealth.”

The radio station, confirming the findings of the US intelligence estimate, then recommended that “all Yorubas should waste no time in responding to call by one of their own sons, Brigadier Victor Banjo, commander of liberation forces. It is such young men as Brigadier Banjo, Wole Soyinka and Tai Solarin that will provide effective but selfless leadership that Yorubas badly need at this moment”.

On Biafrans sounding more Yoruba than the Yoruba themselves, the American ambassador noted in a confidential document of 15 September 1967: “In fact, the Eastern effort to tell Yorubas who their leader should be as well as not to follow Awolowo could cause opposite reaction among majority of people in Yorubaland.” It did.

With troops blazing with Biafran agenda already at West’s door at Ore, it became clearer to Awolowo that Ojukwu was not interested in secession, but actually in conquest. Awolowo proceeded to rally the Yoruba, who had hitherto been lukewarm to Gowon’s government with a powerful “I am absolutely and irrevocably committed to the side of Nigeria” press release on 12 August 1967. It was Awolowo’s first statement defending the Federal Government since the Civil War began on 6 July.

Unlike many of Awolowo’s speeches and public statements, this one derived its forceful elocution from the use of adverbs and intensifiers. There were no “could,” “might” and other hedge-betting modal verbs. It was all “must,” “will” and other commanding auxiliary verbs.

It is imperative that the unity of Nigeria must be preserved and the best judge of what to do now is the Federal government, which Yorubas must continue to support. The Yorubas have never set out to dominate others, but have always resisted, with all the energy in them, any attempt, however slight or disguised, by others to dominate them.…Indeed it is for these reasons that they must now be ready to resist any attempt by the rebel forces from the East and the Mid-West to violate their territory and subjugate them.…To these ends, therefore, all Yoruba people, particularly those in the Western and Lagos states, which now face the threats of invasion, must not only be as vigilant as ever, but must also lose no time and spare no efforts in giving every conceivable support to the Federal troops in defense of their homeland and of the fatherland,” Awolowo said.

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He was not only rallying the Yoruba people, he was sending a powerful message to the Biafran High Command in Enugu. Victor Banjo, on 11 August, had sent a secret note to Governor Adebayo, the man who, according to the Biafran High Command, was slated for assassination by Banjo’s gun. In the letter, amongst other things, Banjo asked for “clarification of the Western position.” Adebayo promptly passed the letter to Awolowo in Lagos. S.G. Ikoku, an Awolowo loyalist in the East and Secretary-General of his Action Group, who was in exile in Ghana, said Major Emmanuel Ifeajuna told him when he escaped to Ghana, their plan in the January 1966 coup was to free Awolowo from Calabar prison and install him as Prime Minister.

In reality, there was no army unit heading to Calabar to spring Awolowo from jail. Receiving the secret note, Awolowo publicly pledged his allegiance to the federation and called upon special adverbs, forceful intensifiers and commanding modal verbs to elicit and consolidate the patriotism of his fellow Westerners. The statement split the Action Group and the West down the middle. They had not forgotten the monstrosity of northern hegemony; they had not forgotten how the North colluded with Igbos to forment trouble in the West. They had not forgotten how the North-East coalition had excluded Yoruba from key posts and grassroots recruitment policies.

On 7 August 1967, the American consul in Ibadan, Strong, wrote: “An old line of supporters, including more mature intellectuals like Professor Hezekiah Oluwasanmi (Ife University Vice Chancellor) and S.O. Ighodaro (lecturer at the University of Lagos) support the statement. They said Awolowo has always been a minorities man and the Eastern takeover of Midwest and continued occupation of Eastern minority areas is an indication of continued Ibo desire to dominate southern Nigeria.”

Ojukwu said he killed Victor Banjo, Emmanuel Ifeajuna, Philip Alale, Sam I. Agbam because they wanted to remove him, remove Gowon and install Chief Obafemi Awolowo as the Prime Minister. In a secret document cabled to the Defense Intelligence Agency in Washington, the US military and defense attachés in the Nigeria reported that based on available information at the time (3 August 1967), “in the long run Njoku will unseat Ojukwu.”

In a chat with the American consul, Bob Barnard, in Enugu three days after the executions, Ojukwu said: “The plotters intended to take Brigadier Hillary Njoku, the head of Biafran Army, into custody and bring him to the State House under heavy armed guard, ostensibly to demand of him that Njoku be relieved of the command on the grounds of incompetence.
Once inside the State House, Njoku’s guards would be used against him. Ifeajuna would then declare himself acting Governor and offer ceasefire on Gowon’s terms. Banjo would go to the West and replace Brigadier Yinka Adebayo, the military governor of Western Region. Next, Gowon would be removed and Awolowo declared Prime Minister of Reunited Federation.”

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Ojukwu continued: “Victor Banjo, Ifeajuna and others kept in touch with co-conspirators in Lagos via British Deputy High Commission’s facilities in Benin.”

When the American consul asked Ojukwu for evidence, Ojukwu replied: “Banjo is a very meticulous man, who kept records and notes of everything he did. The mistake of the plotters was they talked too much, their moves too conspicuous and they made notes which came into my hands. As a result, the conspirators came under surveillance from the early stages of the plot’s existence. Their plans then became known and confirmed by subsequent events.”

In another document, Major (Dr.) Okonkwo, whom Ojukwu appointed as military administrator of the Midwest, said he and Ojukwu participated in court-martialing Banjo in Enugu on 22 September 1967 and Banjo “freely admitted in his testimony that a group of Yorubas on both sides of the battle were plotting together to take over Lagos and Enugu governments and unite Nigeria under Chief Awolowo. Gowon, Ojukwu and Okonkwo were to be eliminated. Gowon was to have been killed by Yoruba officers in the Federal Army.” He added that when arrested on the night of 19 September, Banjo offered no resistance because he said then it was too late to stop the affair and the plot was already in motion. His role, Banjo said, was already accomplished. “As far as is known, Banjo died without revealing the names of his collaborators in Lagos,” Okonkwo said.

Ojukwu, who told the American diplomat that the coup against him “involved many who participated in the January 15, 1966 plot” and that aside the four he had executed three days before, he would not execute others yet because “he did not wish to give the impression he was conducting blood purge.”


Ojukwu did not execute Njoku. He only demoted him and replaced him with Colonel Alexander Madiebo. The secret US document called Njoku “the best Enugu has (and one of the very best Nigeria has produced). The UK defense advisor, who had known Madiebo as subordinate officer First Recce Squadron for several years, said he is “perfectly charming socially, but quite worthless professionally. He is weak, ineffective commander and consistently had worst unit recce squadron.”


To affirm what he was saying, he showed the US defense attaché Madiebo’s file at the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst. Madiebo’s records were abysmal.

Culled from: http://www.ooduapathfinder.com/yorubaland/biafra-secession-or-taking-over-yorubaland/

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