Fifty-two years after the first shot of Nigerian Civil War, one-time governor of Ogun State, Chief Olusegun Osoba, has said that the day Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu announced the secession of Biafra Republic, he wept.
Osoba, in his upcoming memoir, Battlelines: Adventures in Journalism and Politics, scheduled for presentation on July 8, 2019 at Eko Hotels and Suites, Lagos, said “the day he announced that secession, I wept because I saw it as the end to the massive support that Ojukwu had generated, not just among journalists, but among the generality of Nigerians.”
While saying that his generation of journalists totally supported the rebel leader on his position that the country needed to have a confederation because Nigerians generally abhorred the immoral principle of ‘monkey dey work, baboon dey chop’, Osoba noted that to have allowed the situation to degenerate into a civil war was most painful.
The Akinrogun of Egbaland said: “The war was a nightmare that left behind sour memories of death, destruction and human misery, which included gory pictures of starving civilian population symbolised by the protruding bellies of malnourished children.
“War is a no-win event. Not only is it destructive in human and material terms, casualties of our civil war were not only the thousands who suffered trauma, hunger and war-induced sicknesses from the war; there were also those whose lives were destroyed permanently by depression and other medical conditions. There were so many aspects and spin-offs that one cannot fully explain.”
The All Progressives Congress (APC) stalwart and former managing director of Daily Times asserted that Ojukwu disappointed many people by opting for secession. “That turned the whole thing into a war of survival of the country.”
Osoba said the late Biafran warlord was not supported to the point of breaking up Nigeria.
“Secession was one tactical error on Ojukwu’s side. It made him lose some level of sympathy from those who believed that the Igbo had not been well-treated in terms of the massacre in the North then. The feeling that we should go back to the kind of federation conferred by the 1963 Constitution where each state controlled its resources and then contributed reasonably to the centre was strong. Then the centre collected royalties from the mineral resources that were available in those areas.
“If we had had that kind of constitution, maybe Nigeria would have been better than what we have now, because at that time, the East under Dr. Michael Opara was developing reasonably well. Opara was building road networks. The Uli-Ihiala was one of the beautiful roads that Opara built.
“Then Chief Obafemi Awolowo, as premier of Western Region, had developed cocoa to a very high level as a major export and source of revenue. Oil palm was being developed at a very high level in the East.
“The North was the agriculture centre for consumables like tomato, pepper and groundnut. Unfortunately, we lost our pre-eminence in cocoa to other countries like Ivory Coast. Even Malaysia came here to take the palm seeds to go and develop oil palm into a major source of foreign exchange earner.”