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Remembering the end of the Biafran war: History some people will rather not remember

Jan 29, 2021
Remembering the end of the Biafran war: History some people will rather not remember

End of the Biafran war : On 13th January 1970, exactly five days after General Odumegwu Ojukwu fled to Ivory Coast into exile, his Deputy, Col Philip Effiong announced the surrender of Biafra.

He made the formal announcement at the Dodan Barracks in Lagos in the presence of Gen Yakubu Gowon and other top officials of the Nigerian Army thus signalling the ultimate capitulation of Biafra.

The Nigerian Civil War equally known as the Biafran War or the Nigerian-Biafran War which began on 6th July 1967 and ended on 15th January 1970 was a bloody war fought between the government of Nigeria and the secessionist state of Biafra.

Biafra represented the nationalist yearnings of the Biafran people comprising mainly of the Igbo People domiciled in the South Eastern part of the country.

They sought a country of their own as they felt that their interests and aspirations are being trampled upon by the Hausa/Fulani Hegemony.

When the war got messier and Biafra was fast losing it, Gen Ojukwu fled into exile by plane to the Ivory Coast, leaving his deputy Philip Effiong to handle the details of the surrender to General Yakubu Gowon of the Federal Army on 13 January 1970.

The surrender paper was formally signed on 14 January 1970 in Lagos and thus came the end of the civil war. The war formally ended a day after.

Below is the full speech of Col Effiong on the day of the surrender:

‘Fellow Countrymen,

‘As you know, I was asked to be the officer administering the government of this republic on the 10th of January, 1970. Since then, I know that some of you have been waiting to hear a statement from me. I have had extensive consultations with the leaders of the community, both military and civil, and I am now encouraged and hasten to make this statement to you by the mandate of the Armed Forces and the people of this country. I have assumed the leadership of the government.

Throughout history, injured people have had to resort to arms in their self-defence where peaceful negotiations fail. We are no exception. We took up arms because of the sense of insecurity generated in our people by the events of 1966. We have fought in defence of that cause.

I take this opportunity to congratulate officers and men of our Armed Forces for their gallantry and bravery which have earned for them the admirations of the whole world. I thank the civil population for their steadfastness and courage in the face of overwhelming odds and starvation. I am convinced that the suffering of our people must be brought to an immediate end. Our people are now disillusioned, and those elements of the old government regime who have made negotiations and reconciliation impossible have voluntarily removed themselves from our midst.

I have, therefore, instructed an orderly disengagement of troops. I am despatching emissaries to make contact with Nigeria’s field commanders in places like Onitsha, Owerri, Awka, Enugu, and Calabar with a view to arranging armistice. I urge on General Gowon, in the name of humanity, to order his troops to pause while an armistice is negotiated in order to avoid the mass suffering caused by the movement of population.

We have always believed that our differences with Nigeria should be settled by peaceful negotiations. A delegation of our people is therefore ready to meet representatives of Nigeria Federal Government anywhere to negotiate a peace settlement on the basis of OAU resolutions. The delegation will consist of the Chief Justice Sir Louis Mbanefo, as leader, Professor Eni Njoku, Mr. J. I. Emembolu, Chief A.E. Bassey, Mr. E. Agumah. The delegation will have full authority to negotiate on our behalf. I have appointed a council to advise me on the government of the country. It consists of the Chief Justice Sir Louis Mbanefo, Brigadier P.C. Amadi – Army, Brigadier C. A. Nwanwo – Army, Captain W. A. Anuku – Navy, Wing Commander J. I. Ezero – Air Force, Inspector-General of Police, Chief P. I. Okeke, Attorney-General Mr. J. I. Emembolu, Professor Eni Njoku, Dr. I. Eke, Chief A.E. Udoffia, Chief A.E. Bassey, Mr. M.T. Mbu, Mr. E. Agumah, Chief Frank Opuigo, Chief J.N. Echeruo. Any question of a government in exile is repudiated by our people.

Civilian population are hereby advised to remain calm and to co-operate with the Armed Forces and the Police in the maintenance of law and order. They should remain in their homes and stop mass movements which have increased suffering and loss of lives.

Emeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, pictured here in June 1968, was a charismatic figure

On behalf of our people, I thank those foreign governments and friends who have steadfastly given us support in our cause. We shall continue to count on their continued help and counsel. I also thank His Holiness the Pope, the Joint Church Aid and other relief organizations for the help they have given for the relief of suffering and starvation. I appeal to all governments to give urgent help for relief and to prevail on the Federal Military Government to order their troops to stop all military operations.

May God help us all.’

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end of the Biafran war | end of the Biafran war