The Igbo genocide was primarily about the protection of strategic British interests in Nigeria. The departing colonialists had secured the collaboration of the northern region, which was vehemently opposed to African independence. Thus Fulani-Hausa elites played a key role in the perpetration of the genocide.
In ‘Empire: What Ruling the World Did to the British’ (London: Viking, 2011), Jeremy Paxman allocates just 12 lines of his total 368-page study to British-occupied Nigeria in west Africa. But Paxman’s pithy commentary undoubtedly speaks volumes of the mindset of the occupation regime on the very eve of its presumed departure from Nigeria in October 1960. This is clearly a regime that is not prepared or willing to abandon the bounty harvest or lucre that is its Nigeria. Instead, it is exploring across a spectrum of strategies to subvert the very goal of the restoration-of-independence movement for the peoples which the Igbo, one of the constituent nations in Nigeria, had led since the 1930s.
Using state archival material, Paxman presents the crux of the panoramic conversation on the subject in Lagos (Nigeria’s then capital), in January 1960, between James Robertson, the outgoing occupation governor, and visiting British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan (Paxman, 2011: 272):
MACMILLAN: Are the people fit for self-government?
ROBERTSON: No, of course not.
According to Paxman, James Robertson reckons that it would take ‘another 20 or 25 years’ for Nigeria to be ‘fit for self-government’ (Paxman: 272). Instructively, this is the same Robertson who had, prior to his Lagos meeting with Macmillan, ‘concluded’ the ‘terms’ of the British ‘exit’ from Nigeria in ‘negotiations’ with the country’s restoration-of-independence movement – begun 15 years earlier and had been chaired successively by two previous occupation governors including sessions scheduled and held in England (Herbert Ekwe-Ekwe, ‘Biafra Revisited’, 2006: 27-43, 121). This is the same Robertson who had just rigged the December 1959 countrywide elections in Nigeria (part of the restoration-of-independence ‘package’) in favour of the Hausa-Fulani north region, as Harold Smith, a member of the occupation regime in Lagos at the time, would recall years later (Harold Smith, ‘A squalid end to empire’, The Free Library, 1 November 2008; Herbert Ekwe-Ekwe, ‘Elections in Africa – the voter, the court, the outcome’, 2013: 810-811). Furthermore, this is the same Robertson whose predecessor, in Lagos, had earlier rigged the countrywide census results – again, in favour of Britain’s Hausa-Fulani north regional clients (Smith, ‘A squalid end of empire’), aimed at ensuring that the latter, with a fabricated population majority in the country, has the ‘electoral clout’ to safeguard for the (British) conqueror-state the vast arena of its strategic and economic assets in Nigeria in perpetuity (Ekwe-Ekwe, 2006: 18-114; Herbert Ekwe-Ekwe, ‘Readings from Reading: Essays on African Politics, Genocide, Literature’, 2011: 1-6). As this study will demonstrate, this north region constitutes the core of Britain’s local clients in Nigeria, vehemently opposed to African independence – and, therefore, the British exit! Consequently, it would play a key role in the perpetration of the Igbo genocide which it undertakes in concert with Britain. Pointedly, on the broader stretch of the politics of liberation of the Southern World, during this post-Second World War epoch, the northern Nigeria region has the unenviable accolade across this hemisphere of being home to one of the few peoples who wanted the continuing occupation of their lands by one of the pan-European powers of global conquest since the 15th century CE (Herbert Ekwe-Ekwe, ‘Léopold Senghor’, The Literary Encyclopedia, 30 June 2002).
So, given James Robertson’s apparent ‘unfavourable prognosis’ on Nigeria illustrated in ‘Empire’, Prime Minister Macmillan asks his governor for advice on the way forward for the British continuing occupation of Nigeria (Paxman: 272): ‘What do you recommend me to do?’
ROBERTSON: I recommend you give it to them at once.
Really? Why? Doesn’t Robertson’s suggestion to his boss sound wholly contradictory to the track that this conclave had trodden so far? Well, no, not really… Both prime minister and governor have no disagreement, whatsoever, on holding onto British ‘interests’ in Nigeria in perpetuity; they do not believe that they are necessarily bound by the ‘terms’ of the envisaged British ‘exit’ from Nigeria ‘negotiated’ since 1945 even though, ironically, these had largely preserved British ‘interests’, thanks to the veto-power that its Hausa-Fulani north region subalterns would exercise in the ‘new’ dispensation (Ekwe-Ekwe, 2006: 40-43, 121); most crucially, both men do not subscribe to the inalienable rights of Africans to recover their conquered lands.
It is the case, though, that if the British officials were to renege on their ‘exit’ from Nigeria at this 11th hour, they would have to contend with a serious crisis – at least in the short/medium term – right there on the ground in Nigeria: ‘The alternative [is"> that most talented people [read: the Igbo and those others elsewhere in south Nigeria who demanded and supported the drive towards unfettered restoration-of-independence for the peoples during these past 30 years"> would become rebels and the British would spend the next two decades fighting to stave off what [is"> inevitable, while incurring the opprobrium of the world’ (Paxman: 272).
As the Lagos deliberations end, nine months before the designated British departure date (1 October 1960), both prime minister and governor needn’t agonise, too much, over the future prospects of their country’s Nigeria stranglehold. After all, despite the ‘talented people’, Britain is aware that it holds the trump card to defend this stranglehold via its Hausa-Fulani clients. Twice in the previous 15 years (significantly, it should be noted, during those crucial years of British ‘negotiations’ of its ‘exit’ from Nigeria with the ‘talented people’), the clients organised and unleashed pogroms against Igbo people in the northcentral town of Jos (1945) and north city of Kano (1953). Hundreds of Igbo were murdered during these massacres and tens of thousands of pounds sterling worth of their property looted or destroyed (Ekwe-Ekwe, 2006: 8, 19-20). No perpetrators of these murders were ever apprehended or punished by the occupation regime.
Six and one-half years hence, from Sunday 29 May 1966, these same British clients would unleash the genocide against the Igbo people. During the course of 44 months, 3.1 million Igbo children, women and men are murdered in this foundational and most gruesome genocide of post-(European)conquest Africa. The Igbo and the world suddenly realise that those anti-Igbo pogroms, carried out during the years of the Anglo-‘talented people’-in-Nigeria doubtful restoration-of-independence negotiations, were indeed ‘dress rehearsals’ for the 29 May 1966-12 January 1970 Igbo genocide.
Britain plays an instrumental role in the perpetration of the genocide – politically, diplomatically and militarily, and its closest international ally, the United States, as we will soon elaborate, is fully aware of its mission. Now, a new Harold-the-prime minister, this time Harold Wilson, beginning in 1964, has no qualms about the ‘opprobrium of the world’ considered by the other Harold during those January 1960 talks with governor Robertson. Wilson’s reasons are obvious: the architecture of control and execution of mass violence in Nigeria has altered, somehow, since January 1960, and the forces on the ground spearheading the Igbo genocide are the trusted Hausa-Fulani subalterns of old in addition to their since locally expanded allies in Yoruba, Edo and Urhobo west Nigeria – not Britain, directly; precisely, what Macmillan and Robertson had sought to avoid during that Lagos summit! Declassified British state papers indicate the monstrous disposition by the Wilson government, right from the outset, to saturate the Nigerian genocidist armoury on the ground with a wide range of British weapons to ensure that the murder of the Igbo is effected most comprehensively:
“In December 1967 … [British Foreign"> Secretary George Thomson said that ‘[the Nigerians"> are most impressed with the Saladins and Ferrets previously supplied by Britain. As a result Britain supplied six Saladin armoured personnel carriers (APCs), 30 Saracen APCs along with 2,000 machine guns for them, anti-tank guns and 9 million rounds of ammunition. Denis Healey, the Defence Secretary, wrote that he hoped these supplies would encourage the Nigerians ‘to look to the United Kingdom for their future purchases of defence equipment’. By the end of the year [1967"> Britain had also approved the export of 1,050 bayonets, 700 grenades, 1,950 rifles with grenade launchers, 15,000 lbs of explosives and two helicopters … In the first half of the following year, 1968, Britain approved the export of 15 million rounds of ammunition, 21,000 mortar bombs, 42,500 Howitzer rounds, 12 Oerlikon guns, 3 Bofors guns, 500 submachine guns, 12 Saladins with guns and spare parts, 30 Saracens and spare parts, 800 bayonets, 4,000 rifles and two other helicopters. At the same time Wilson was constantly reassuring Gowon of British support for a United Nigeria, saying in April 1968 that ‘I think we can fairly claim that we have not wavered in this support throughout …’ British arms supplies were stepped up again in November [1968">. Foreign Secretary Michael Stewart said the Nigerians could have 5 million more rounds of ammunition, 40,000 more mortar bombs and 2,000 rifles. ‘You may tell Gowon’, Stewart instructed High Commissioner Hunt in Lagos, ‘that we are certainly ready to consider a further application’ to supply similar arms in the future as well. He concluded: ‘if there is anything else for ground warfare which you… think they need and which would help speed up the end of the fighting, please let us know and we will consider urgently whether we can supply it’. Other supplies agreed in November [1968">, following meetings with the Nigerians included six Saladins and 20,000 rounds of ammunition for them, and stepped up monthly supplies of ammunition, amounting to a total of 15 million rounds additional to those already agreed. It was recognised by the Defence Minister that ‘the scale of the UK supply of small arms ammunition to Nigeria in recent months has been and will continue to be on a vast scale’. The recent deal meant that Britain was supplying 36 million rounds of ammunition in the last few months alone. Britain’s ‘willingness to supply very large quantities of ammunition’, Lord Shepherd [minister of state, foreign office"> noted, ‘meant drawing on the British army’s own supplies’. By the end of 1968 Britain had sold Nigeria £9 million worth of arms, £6 million of which was spent on small arms … In March 1969 the government approved the export of 19 million rounds of ammunition, 10,000 grenades and 39,000 mortar bombs … Two senior British RAF officers secretly visited Nigeria in August 1969 to advise the Nigerians on ‘how they could better prosecute the air war’ … [I">n December 1969 … Foreign Secretary Michael Stewart was calling for stepping up military assistance including the supply of more armoured cars. These supplies by Britain, he wrote, ‘have undoubtedly been the most effective weapons in the ground war and have spear-headed all the major [Nigerian"> advances’.” (Mark Curtis, ‘Nigeria’s war over Biafra, 1967-70’)
So, as the slaughter of the Igbo intensifies, particularly in the catastrophic months of 1968-1969, Harold Wilson is totally unfazed as he informs Clyde Ferguson, the United States state department special coordinator for relief to Biafra, that he, Harold Wilson, ‘would accept a half million dead Biafrans if that was what it took’ Nigeria to destroy the Igbo resistance to the genocide (Roger Morris, ‘Uncertain Greatness: Henry Kissinger and American Foreign Policy’, 1977: 122). Such is the grotesquely expressed diminution of African life made by a supposedly leading politician of the world of the 1960s – barely 20 years after the deplorable perpetration of the Jewish genocide in Europe. As the final tally of the murder of the Igbo demonstrates, Harold Wilson probably has the perverted satisfaction of having his Nigerian subalterns perform far in excess of the prime minister’s grim target, a subject coldly stated in Wilson’s own memoirs where he notes that the Nigerian military, equipped zealously by Britain as we have highlighted, expends more small arms ammunition in its campaign to achieve its annhilative mission in Igboland than the amount used by the British armed forces ‘during the whole’ of the Second World War (Harold Wilson, ‘Labour Government, 1964-1970: A Personal Record,’ 1971: 630). On this feature, Colonel Robert Scott, military advisor in the British diplomatic mission in Nigeria, during the period, acknowledges, equally gravely, that as Nigerian genocidist military forces unleash their attacks on Igbo cities, towns and villages, they are the ‘best defoliant agent known’ (Daily Telegraph, London, 11 January 1970).
POLITICAL ECOMOMY OF CONQUEST AND OCCUPATION – AND GENOCIDE
Whenever it occurred, Africa’s independence, or more historically correct, the re-establishment of African independence after centuries of the European conquest and occupation, was sure to be the turning point in the history of African peoples. It would be the beginning of an extensive re-construction process for a continent that had for the greater part of one-half of a millennium, starting from the 15th century CE, been the target of a devastating trail of invasions, murders, mass exportations and enslavement of its peoples (chiefly in the Americas and the Caribbean), occupations and subjugations by a constellation of European World states (Herbert Ekwe-Ekwe, ‘African Literature in Defence of History: An Essay on Chinua Achebe’, 2001: 1-54). Ultimately, Britain emerges as the lead conqueror-state-beneficiary of the occupation of Africa, having particularly seized lands with major population centres and vast and multiple natural resource emplacements across the regions of the continent: South Africa, Namibia (proxy control, post-1918 – after the defeat of Germany in World War I), Zimbabwe, Botswana, Swaziland, Lesotho, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania (post-1918, after the defeat of Germany in World War I), the Sudan, south Cameroon (post-1918, after the defeat of Germany in World War I), Ghana, Sierra Leone, Gambia, and Nigeria (Ekwe-Ekwe, 2011: 4-6).
Apart from South Africa, Nigeria’s is Britain’s most ‘diversified’ occupied economy in Africa. This is indeed the British ‘most-prized land’ of west Africa whose fortunes it is prepared to hold onto with or without the restoration of African independence. It is indeed to hold onto these fortunes that Britain becomes fully involved in the perpetration of the Igbo genocide – to ‘punish’ the Igbo for daring to spearhead the termination of the British occupation, begun in the 1930s, and further consolidate the envisaged overseeing role of its Hausa-Fulani north region allies in this evolving dispensation of the age. It is therefore important to highlight the empirical nature and range of this Nigerian ‘prized land’ as these provide an invaluable context within which the catastrophe of the Igbo genocide is executed.
Prior to the outbreak of the Second World War, the following commodities account for nearly 90 per cent of Nigeria’s ‘diversified’ export products: rubber, cocoa, cotton, groundnuts, tin ore and columbite, beniseeds, palm-oil and palm-kernels (Bade Onimode, ‘Imperialism and Underdevelopment in Nigeria: The Dialectic of Mass Poverty’, 1982: 47-55). This ‘diversification’ occurs as a result of the size of the country, stretching from the south on the Atlantic Ocean shorelines of southwestcentral Africa to the deciduous/savannah vegetation belt of the north hinterland bordering on the Sahel, which ensures that the conquest regime can maximally exploit the varying climatic zones across the territory in its choice of which agricultural products it wishes to grow. Expectedly, such choices are dictated fundamentally by the imperatives of the British economy and not Nigeria’s. In this regard, the immediate post-war British reconstruction programme is highly illustrative. The occupied Nigerian economy responds to this emergency, 3500 miles away, by embarking on the intensification of the production of both the country’s agricultural and mineralogical commodities listed above. In 1946, the value of Nigerian exports to Britain is £23.7 million (R Olufemi Ekundare, ‘An Economic History of Nigeria: 1860-1960’, 1973: 225). By 1955, it is £129.8 million and in 1960, the year of the supposed restoration of independence, it is £165.5 million (Ekundare: 225). There is a distinct growth in Nigeria’s gross domestic product during the period, an annual rate of 4.1 per cent in 1950/51-1957/58 (Onimode: 48). Indeed, not since 1916 had Nigeria enjoyed a favourable net-barter terms of trade with Britain as recorded between 1951-1958, and 1958-1960 (Onimode: 48). Consequently, the huge sum of £276.8 million, the preponderant chunk of the surpluses that accumulated from this unprecedented boom is transferred from Nigeria to Britain between 1947 and 1960 (Ekundare: 226). This is not to mention British surpluses enjoyed by the corresponding increases in the value of Nigerian imports from mainly Britain at the time: £19.8 million in 1946, £136.1 million in 1955, and £215.9 million in 1960 (Ekundare: 226).
Besides, Britain’s more advantageous trade relations with Nigeria is further consolidated in 1955 when Europe slumps into an economic recession. The prices that Europeans are prepared to pay for imports of agricultural and mineral products from abroad fall considerably resulting in an instant blow to the Nigerian economy. Even though its export trade that year increases by 7000 tons in volume, the value falls by £17 million (Okwudiba Nnoli, ‘A Short History of Nigerian Underdevelopment’, Okwudiba Nnoli, ed., ‘Path to Nigerian Development’, 1981: 124). The result is a further increase in Nigeria’s import bills. While a ‘buoyant’ Nigerian economy with its dominant reliance on the British economy for imports is clearly an advantage for Britain, especially at a time of recession at home, the enormous strain on Nigeria’s own accounting is becoming severe. Not only does the country incur deficits in its balance of payments position, it also draws heavily from its external reserves (Nnoli: 124). Such is the situation that Nigeria allocates at least one-fifth of the total investment bill earmarked for the 1955/56-1961/62 development plan to be financed from abroad (Nnoli: 124). While the total investment by leading Western companies (predominately British) in Nigeria stands at about £11.7 million in 1954, the figure for 1959/1960 is £20.5 million (Nnoli: 124).
Twenty years later, on the eve of the Igbo genocide in 1966, the ‘diversification’ character of the Nigerian economy virtually comes to an end. Even though Nigeria had since become ‘independent’, it is acutely significant that the prevailing export product, petroleum, which has now displaced the basket of commodities of economic ‘diversification’ enumerated above, shares an equivalent quota of the country’s export trade (90 per cent) as the latter did in the 1940s/early 1950s. As should be expected, the production and marketing of petroleum, this commodity now central in the Nigerian economy, is dictated principally by the needs of the British economy. Whether as ‘monocultural’ or ‘dualcultural’, formally occupied or technically ‘independent’, the essential logic and character of this Nigeria economy remains to serve the interests of Britain. Apart from South Africa, Nigeria is now the site of Britain’s highest economic and industrial investment in Africa with the total worth of £1.5 billion. The British success story is phenomenal. The British government controls a near-50 per cent shares in Shell-BP (the predominant oil prospecting company in Nigeria) and 60 per cent shares in Amalgamated Tin Mining, a major prospecting tin, cobalt and iron ore mining company (William Freund, ‘Theft and social protest among tin miners in northern Nigeria’, Donal Crummey, ed, ‘Banditry, Rebellion and Social Protest in Africa’, 1986: 49-63).
In the non-mining sector of the economy, John Holt, owned by a British family, is one of the two largest in the country with branches located in the principal towns and cities. The United Africa Company (UAC), another British enterprise, accounts for about 40 per cent of Nigeria's entire import and export trade. The UAC is the major African subsidiary of Unilever, the British transnational corporation. It developed from the Royal Niger Company, which, in association with Taubman Goldie, the entrepreneur, and Frederick Lugard, the first British occupation governor, harnessed the British conquest of the number of states in this southwestcentral territorial stretch of West Africa between 1886 and 1941, and converted them into the amorphous political entity called Nigeria (Ikenna Nzimiro, ‘The political implications of multinational corporations in Nigeria’, Carl Widstrand, ed., ‘Multi-National Firms in Africa’, 1975: 210-243).
The UAC, for its part, has wholesale and retailing enterprises run in most parts of Nigeria by its numerous subsidiaries, among which the following three are most prominent: Kingsway Chemist, G.B. Ollivant, and African Timber and Plywood (Nzimiro: 212-214). In addition, the UAC has part interest in other well-established companies in the country such as Gulf Oil of Nigeria, Nigerian Prestressed Concrete, Nigerian Breweries, Taylor Woodrow, and Nigelec. Ikenna Nzimiro’s often-quoted aphorism, ‘UAC was Nigeria and Nigeria was UAC’, does not therefore exaggerate UAC’s effective control of Nigeria’s economy at the time (Nzimiro: 217).
Finally, in the finance sector, Barclays Nigeria (subsidiary of the British Barclays Bank) and Standard Bank Nigeria (owned largely by the British Lloyds Bank and Westminster Bank) control 90 per cent of Nigeria’s effective banking system. Once again, these institutions have branches across the country. The 25,000 Britons resident in Nigeria are employed in this extensive network of businesses and related services in the economy.
IGBO, RESTORATION-OF-INDEPENDENCE, POGROM, GENOCIDE
“Believing our country is rightfully entitled to liberty and prosperous life … and determined to work in unity for the realisation of the ultimate goal of self-government …” (part of conference communique at the formal launch of Nigeria’s lead restoration-of-independence party, the National Council of Nigeria and Cameroons [NCNC">, Lagos, 26 August 1944: quoted. in James Coleman, ‘Nigeria’, 1958 :264)
Nine months before the end of the Second World War, as the above declaration shows, the National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons, the lead restoration-of-independence political party in Nigeria whose principal leaders consisted of notable Igbo intellectuals most of whom were educated in the United States, had, in an historic move announcing its formation, forced to the open the important question of the restoration-of-the-independence of peoples in Nigeria from the British occupation. This is undoubtedly a momentous development in the peoples’ consciousness and aspirations, with its membership drawn across the country including cultural associations of constituent nations, trades’ and students’ unions, women’s organisations, and the youth.
On 22 June 1945, Nigerian workers declare a countrywide strike to back their demands for an increase in wages and improvement in the ever deteriorating conditions of the people made worse by the ongoing war. The strike virtually paralyses Nigeria’s economic life. It goes on for 44 days in the Lagos capital district, but even longer elsewhere in the country – up to 52 days in some places in the regions. The NCNC and the restoration-of-independence press (particularly the vanguard West African Pilot and Daily Comet, both edited by Nnamdi Azikiwe, then secretary-general of the NCNC) support the strike, underlying the increasingly evident cooperation between the trade unions and the emerging political leadership in working towards the country’s liberation. The strike is the most far-reaching mobilisation of labour in occupied Nigeria and its political implications are not lost on the occupation regime.
It is evident that ‘Nigerians, when organised’, as James Coleman has noted on the impact and significance of the countrywide shutdown, ‘had great power, that they could defy the white bureaucracy, that they could virtually control strategic centres throughout the country, and that through force or the threat of force they could compel the government to grant concessions’ (Coleman: 259). While the regime agrees to enter into negotiations with the workers after the strike is called off, it nonetheless seeks to destroy the huge ‘political dividend’ of liberation consciousness that the shutdown has generated across the country. Earlier on, it had proscribed the circulation of the West African Pilot and the Daily Comet, and accused editor Nnamdi Azikiwe and the Igbo people of engineering the strike (Okwudiba Nnoli, ‘Ethnic Politics in Nigeria’, 1980:122, 234-235).
Having exerted its influence on its Hausa-Fulani north region clients not to participate in the strike, the regime’s propaganda on alleged Igbo responsibility for the event becomes an instigator prop to Hausa-Fulani leaders’ organised massacres of Igbo immigrants in Jos and the surrounding tin mining towns and villages in October 1945. Hundreds of Igbo are murdered during the pogrom and tens of thousands of pounds sterling worth of their property looted or destroyed. No perpetrators of these murders are apprehended or punished by the regime. As a result, emboldened Hausa-Fulani leaders organise yet another pogrom of Igbo immigrants in the north, this time in Kano, in May 1953. In carefully orchestrated attacks that rage uninterruptedly for four days, mobs of Hausa-Fulani youth attack Igbo population centres across the city. Scores of Igbo people are murdered during the period. Hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of Igbo business enterprises, homes, schools and recreational centres are looted or destroyed. These latest attacks coincide with the heightened debates among Nigerian politicians on the possible date for the formal termination of the British occupation and the restoration of independence. In contrast to the Igbo and other nations in the south who favour the year 1956, the north, with total British connivance, as expected, is vehemently opposed to any such dates. Essentially, the north unleashes the Igbo pogrom in Kano to scuttle these debates – which it succeeds in doing, with evident British relief and satisfaction. As in Jos, the occupation regime does not apprehend or prosecute anyone for these massacres and destruction. But even more ominous for the future of the Igbo in Nigeria, these Kano attacks are a portent of the widespread genocide of the Igbo by Nigeria, beginning in May1966, in which a total of 3.1 million Igbo are murdered during the course of subsequent 44 months.
In August 1966, the third month into the genocide, Britain is elated with its success in overcoming a potentially strategic rupture with its north region clients on the ground on the critical question of the territorial reach or extent of the ongoing murder mission. The north-led Nigeria military and civilian-assisted brigades which had by now murdered tens of thousands of Igbo across north and west Nigeria (during this first phase of the genocide) and forced two million Igbo survivors to take flight to their east region Biafra homeland (Ekwe-Ekwe, 2011: 75-76) were on the verge of formally declaring their Arewa Republic from Nigeria. Genocidist commander Yakubu Gowon had already informed the world in a 1 August 1966 radio broadcast that ‘there was no basis of Nigerian unity’ (Obi Ebbe, ‘Broken Back Axle’, 2010:23). Subsequently, his troops began to fly their Arewa ‘independence’ flag over their headquarters in Lagos as a prelude to evacuating/transferring their military contingent/other residual assets in west Nigeria to their north homeland. These north troops were nowhere in the east region or Biafra (300 miles away) at this time and they had no plans, evidently, to extend their killing fields there. From all indications, the genocidists appeared satisfied that they were now on the verge of completing the murder of all Igbo living in their controlled Nigeria territory and would have thus reckoned their mission accomplished…
But the British government thinks otherwise… The British government is adamant that the east region, now under de facto control by the Igbo ‘talented people’, should also be taken over by its north clients as this is the political geography (mapped out above) that ensures that Britain’s overarching economic and strategic interests in southwestcentral Africa remain intact. In other words, the British government feels that a north region ‘departure’ from Nigeria ‘robs’ the conqueror power of its historical potent overseer African-based nurtured force to protect its stranglehold economy that is Nigeria, as this study has demonstrated. Britain requires this north region client on the ground to fight to safeguard its interest precisely because it wishes to avoid ‘incurring the opprobrium of the world’ (Paxman: 272) by fighting freedom-quest Africans more openly and directly in the mid-1960s. Furthermore, Britain argues that such a ‘departure’ couldn’t be beneficial to the long term interests of its genocidist clients either: ‘Secession would be an economic disaster [for the north">’ (Michael Gould, ‘The Biafran War’, 2011:43); ‘Without the Igbo, there is no Nigeria. They [the Igbo"> have the skilled manpower that held Nigeria together and they have the resources’ (Ebbe: 23). Francis Cumming-Bruce, the British chief representative in Nigeria, is charged to communicate his government’s view on this subject to the Hausa-Fulani emirs, that notorious grouping of the north region power bloc responsible for launching the ongoing genocide (and the 1940s/1950s Igbo pogroms). As the following quoted reference attests, Cumming-Bruce’s intervention is robustly forthright and it is important to quote him directly at some length:
“[I">t wasn’t on the face of it easy to get the (the North) to change, but I managed to do it overnight. I drafted letters to the British Prime Minister, to send to Gowon [genocidist commander"> … and for my secretary of state (Michael Stewart) to send letters to each of the Emirs. I wrote an accompanying letter to each of them because I knew them personally. I drafted all these and they came back to me duly authorised to push at once. The whole thing was done overnight and it did the trick of stopping them (the North) dividing Nigeria up” (Gould: 23).
So, by promptly agreeing to British demands to abandon their planned secession from Nigeria in August 1966, the north region genocidists effectively became available to extend their murder campaign to Igboland as a way of securing the country for Britain – i.e., without Britain apparently ‘incurring the opprobrium of the world’ (Paxman: 272). Cumming-Bruce’s spirited intervention, contacting key operatives he ‘knew … personally’ had indeed done ‘the trick’. Britain would forthwith back this expansive stretch of wholesale murder militarily, politically and diplomatically. Pointedly, Foreign Secretary Michael Stewart, one of the pivotal British officials involved in the Cumming-Bruce deliberations with the north emir-operatives, told the British parliament in one of its numerous debates on the campaign that his government was probably the only country in the world that could not cease its support for the Nigerian mission against the Igbo (Suzanne Cronje, ‘The World and Nigeria’, 1970: 38).
If ever there were any doubts about British intentions on this genocide, since its outbreak in May (1966), it was now clear that the architect of what scholars of the genocide describe as its ‘phase-II’ (Ekwe-Ekwe, 2011: 86-91) or the invasion of Igboland or Biafra was essentially none other than Britain. Yet again, on the African scene, as history has shown so catastrophically since the early 1900s, the European conqueror-power on the continent can also double up as a genocide-power. In centrally initiating this follow-up phase of the Igbo genocide after August 1966 which would result in the slaughter of 3 million Igbo people, one-quarter of this nation’s population, Britain joins Belgium (1878-1908) and Germany (1904-1907) in perpetrating a state-organised genocide against a constituent nation in its occupied African country. In the case of Belgium, during the period, King Leopold II-led Belgian monarchy/state forces organised the genocide of African constituent nations in the Congo basin (central Africa) in which a total of 13 million Africans were murdered (Isidore Ndaywel è Nziem, ‘Histoire générale du Congo: De l'héritage ancien à la République Démocratique’, 1998: 344). Between 1904 and 1907, Germany carried out the genocide of the Herero, Nama and Berg Damara peoples as it sought to ‘consolidate’ its conquest and occupation of contemporary Namibia. The Germans murdered 65,000 Herero or 80 per cent of the population, 10,000 Nama or 50 per cent of the population, and approximately 30 per cent of Berg Damara people at the time (Horst Drechsler, ‘Let Us Die Fighting’: The Struggle of the Herero and Nama against German Imperialism, 1884-1915, 1980). In April 1994, France, another leading European conqueror power in Africa would join this league of genocide-powers of Africa in the complicity of its military forces based in Rwanda in the genocide against the Tutsi people organised by the country’s central government, a close ally of the French government (Linda Melvern, ‘Conspiracy to Murder: The Rwandan Genocide’, 2006).
Britain is so determined to pursue phase-II of the Igbo genocide, in the wake of the Cumming-Bruce-north emirs accord, that it flagrantly intervenes to scotch a last minute west African regional peace mediatory initiative, led by neighbouring Ghana, to halt any further territorial expansion of the ongoing slaughter. In January 1967, Ghana’s head of state invited both the genocidist leadership in Lagos and the Biafran resistance leadership in Igboland to a 2-day closed-door emergency summit in Accra to discuss the tragedy. The outcome of the meeting is extraordinary, the likes of which have not been seen on the African political scene since. After two days of talks, 4-5 January 1967, the delegates achieved an exceptional degree of agreement in spite of the genocide of the previous seven months. They inaugurated a confederal, extensively decentralised constitutional framework solution as basis for the future direction of the country (Ekwe-Ekwe, 2011: 79-86). In effect, the regions, including, especially, the east region, acquired more enhanced powers vis-à-vis the centre in Lagos, foreclosing any ‘legal grounds’ for that British plot, hammered out by ambassador Cumming-Bruce, to extend the Igbo killing fields to Igboland. In addition, the delegates unanimously endorsed two areas of agreement that were particularly important to the pressing question of halting the genocide: (1) ‘renounce the use of force as a means of settling the present crisis in Nigeria’ and (2) ‘agree that there should be no more importation of arms and ammunition until normalcy [is"> restored’ (Ekwe-Ekwe, 2011: 82). All the eight delegates in attendance at these talks, including genocidist commander Yakubu Gowon and Biafra’s Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, signed this historic outcome which was duly witnessed by Ghana’s President Joseph Ankrah.
Suddenly, for the first time since 29 May 1966, the agreement reached in the Ghana summit radically altered the contours of the political landscape of Nigeria. But Britain rejected the agreement outright and embarked on pressurising Gowon (and other segments of the north leadership), who for two days, during the Ghana conference, was out of reach from his British intelligence minders for the first time in almost a year, to renege on it. Britain was therefore pleased when Gowon and the north scuttled the agreement just a few days after. Gowon’s ultimate renegation of an accord that he signed, willingly, in Ghana, in the presence of all the other seven conferees, their five secretaries, and President Ankrah, their host, was a reminder, if ever such an evidence was sought, of who, eventually, called the shots at the crucial junctures of the course of the Igbo genocide: Britain.
Additionally, Britain must have felt most delighted at this stage of this increasingly deteriorating tragedy that its uncompromisingly steadfast position to safeguard its interests in Nigeria, even at the cost of the continuing genocide of the Igbo people, received a decisive boost from one of its closest allies – the United States. Elbert Matthews, the US ambassador in Nigeria, publicly supported the Cummings-Bruce initiative with the north emirs, indicating, quite bluntly, albeit prosaically, that the conflict was ‘essentially a Nigerian, African and (British) Commonwealth matter’ (Confidential US State Department Files: Biafra-Nigeria, 1967-1969 – Political Affairs: v). Even though the US would hence claim a position of ‘neutrality’ (Confidential US State Department Files: Biafra-Nigeria, 1967-1969 – Political Affairs: v) as this tragedy intensified, such a disposition ideally suited the British government. But what does US ‘neutrality’ over an ongoing genocide, the first since the Jewish genocide of the 1930s-1940s in Europe and the first since the historic 1948 UN genocide Convention really mean? Some background analysis of the overarching US policy direction towards Africa, especially since the end of the Second World War, is important to answer this question.
[The last part of this article together with references, appears next week.">
*Herbert Ekwe-Ekwe is the author of Longest genocide – Since 29 May 1966 (forthcoming, 2015).
* THE VIEWS OF THE ABOVE ARTICLE ARE THOSE OF THE AUTHOR AND DO NOT NECESSARILY REFLECT THE VIEWS OF THE PAMBAZUKA NEWS EDITORIAL TEAM
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