One of the most common arguments in favor of studying history, is the famous quote by George Santayana, an American Philosopher, which stated that ” Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it” which means that people who do not learn from the mistakes of the past are going to make the same mistakes. This brought us to our topic of discussion “Why Nnamdi Kanu Biafra will fail like that of Ojukwu because of arrogance and lack of diplomacy.
The President of the Pan-Igbo Socio-Cultural Organization and elder statesman, Chief Ralph Uwechue has revealed why Biafra lost out to Nigeria’s federal might was because of quest for absolute control and ego of its leader at the time, Chief Odumegwu Ojukwu. Former Biafran Warlord.
Chief Nwechue revealed this in his book, “Reflections on the Nigerian Civil War – Facing the Future.” According to him Ojukwu adopted a maximum ruler posture, shunned advice as well as believed in his own judgment, which he said caused the failure of the breakaway of the Eastern Nigeria.
He said: “By keeping Ojukwu constantly enveloped in an atmosphere of superiority, it made him, as a matter of habit, distrustful and disdainful of other people’s with their opinions and finally simply authoritarian.”
Reading Chief Uwechue’s book, we found The Genesis of Failure very interesting. The chapter talked about the things that caused the failure of the Biafra Republic. He pointedly laid the blame on Chief Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, who led Biafra. He said that Ojukwu lacked tact, never took advice, suffered what could pass for inferiority complex and was power drunk. In the opening paragraph of that chapter, Uwechue said: “It is a sad but instructive irony that Lt. Col Odumegwu Ojukwu, one of Africa’s one-time most brilliant political promises, was the man that led his own people with such a lack of ingenuity into what was clearly a foreseeable disaster.” He said that the personality of Ojukwu robbed off negatively on Biafra, adding: “It can be said for the Nigerian Civil War that the personality of Odumegwu Ojukwu more than any other single factor determined much of the course and certainly the character of the end of the Biafran adventure.”
The elder statesman said, in the book, that Ojukwu was ambitious and, therefore, paid attention only to the “politics of the war” instead of the security of the people he led. He said that owing to Ojukwu’s interest, two wars were fought with the territory of Biafra then: “The first was for the survival of the Ibos as a race. The second was for the survival of Ojukwu’s leadership.” He said that Ojukwu was more interested in the survival of his leadership at that time, which, he said: “Proved fatal for the Ibos” during the war.
The Ohanaeze chieftain said that if Ojukwu were smart enough to understand the politics of alliances in the country, Biafra could have survived. According to him, there was an opportunity for Ojukwu to align with the Western Region then, but he did not see the necessity for that. He said that this opportunity came when the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo was released from prison by General Yakubu Gowon and he declared: If “the Eastern Region was pushed out of the federation, Western Nigeria would quit the federation as well.” According to him, Ojukwu should have taken that declaration as a cue and wooed the Western Region.
Uwechue said that another opportunity also came the way of Ojukwu to forge an East-West alliance when Awolowo visited Enugu, as Gowon’s emissary. According to him, what Ojukwu needed was to bring Awolowo to his side, but he did not utilize the opportunity and ended up describing the meeting as “ill-conceived child.”
He had revealed: “When on 7th May 1967 the Yoruba leader (Awolowo) came to Enugu at the head of a reconciliation committee, Ojukwu had a handsome opportunity to play his card. He missed. Dr. Michael Okpara, who still enjoyed popular support in Eastern Nigeria and whose friendship with Chief Awolowo had sustained the UPGA alliances, was not even invited to meet Chief Awolowo. After a hurried reception, Chief Awolowo’s delegation left Eastern Nigeria.”
He said that Gowon, understanding the way alliances worked in the country, had wooed Western Nigeria, first by releasing Awolowo from prison and second, by not only offering him an appointment, but also making him the highest civilian in the government as the vice president of the Federal Executive Council. According to him, by this appointment, there was an “unspoken understanding that Nigeria was his (Awolowo’s) as soon as the war was over and the army withdrew.” He said that this cemented the relation between the Northern Region and Western Region and, therefore, left the east in the lurch.
Uwechue said that within Biafra, Ojukwu alienated talented Igbo, using iron hand to establish his authority. Towards this end, he said that Dr. Okpara, former Premier of Eastern Nigeria, was jailed as well as others. “These political figures were to remain out of favour and far from the corridor of power, except for their occasional utility as window dressing, such as posing for photographs with General Ojukwu or flanking him on ceremonial occasions,”
Now has Nnamdi Kanu learnt anything from Ojukwu’s costly mistakes? Meanwhile, Nnamdi Kanu has been accused of being autocratic, arrogant, and fraudulent by some of his former allies. How can a person who lacked diplomacy and tact ever succeed in any struggle. Why must Nnamdi Kanu be disrespectful to his Igbo elders? Chief Pete Edochie once told him in Igbo adage, “ Nwata na juro ese wee choba ife gbulu nna ya, ife gbulu nna ya egbue ya”. Since Nnamdi Kanu has refused to learn from Ojukwu’s costly mistakes. We shall soon here how he will crash.