“My father was racing to save our people from eclipse. He had the courage and the foresight to travel the world, employing the services of his best friends especially President Tubman of Liberia, President Habib Bourguiba of Tunisia, and the great African leader, President Uwalimu Nyerere of Tanzania. It was very suicidal for him to have flown to Lagos at that time of the Nigerian civil war to seek the critical attendance of General Yakubu Gowon to a planned Peace talk between Nigeria and Biafra…. I am no longer young, I have told you the book stories of what was the truth about my father’s role in the peaceful ending of the Nigeria/Biafra war. Emma, promise me you would tell the world the truth if the book is published and I am no longer alive.”
– Owelle Chukwuma Bamidele Azikiwe, Inosi Onira Retreat, to the Author, Jews of Africa. April, 2013.
The most influential Arab leader during the Nigerian civil war was the Tunisian President Habib Bourguiba. Bourguiba was more powerful than Ahmed Nasser of Egypt, Bourmedian of Algeria, and Libya was going through the revolution of Muammar Gaddafi. The Tunisian President like all pre-independent Arab States looked down on the black States down the continent. However, Bourguiba had an overwhelming admiration for the Zik of Africa who he respectfully addressed with the prefix Sir.
With the imminent collapse of the Biafran Republic, as a result of starvation and the over-running of the Biafran foodbasket communities of Abakiliki, Afikpo, Anambra river, Nsukka, Aba, Ohaji, Akwaete, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe was the first to acknowledge that the end had come. He slipped out of the besieged entity and made his way to London. In London, he contacted his protégé Ambassador Douglas Hembah at the Nigerian Embassy at St. James Court. His diplomatic offensive to bring succor and relief to his people was three pronged. As a primary objective of securing the support of the Organization of African Unity, Zik reasoned to move into his bag the following: King Haile Sellasie of Ethiopia, the Arab nations and the majority of the black African States who were still on the fence following the recognition of Biafra by Tanzania, Ivory Coast, Gabon and Zambia. He discreetly arranged to send the Nigerian Ambassador Douglas Hembah to the PLO then headed by Yassir Arafat. Ambassador Douglas Hembah’s secret brief was to align the Guerilla movement with the African freedom fighters then confronting the apartheid monster in South Africa. On the second critical mission, Zik advised Mandela to send for training into North Africa, Black Soweto children to undergo Guerilla training under the supervision of the PLO. As a Fabian strategist, Zik warned Mandela and his people to avoid frontal confrontation with the superior and massively equipped South African apartheid juggernaut.
Finally, having positively played into the minds of the Arab nation, Zik landed Tunis in company of the former Nigerian Ambassador to Paris, Chief Raph Uwechue. President Habib Bourguiba who discarded protocol was at the airport to welcome his hero, the Zik of Africa. The following was the text of their historic dialogue….
President Habib Bourguiba: Sir, I have gone through your Peace Proposals. What do you want me to do for your brave Igbo people?
ZIK: Mr. President, I thank you for your time and kindness, I depend on you to bring peace and relief for my suffering people, to restore the unity of the African peoples’, for the progress of our continent and for the continued hope we all cherish towards contributing to the civilization and attaining to the manifest destiny of our people in this continent.
President Habib Bourguiba: Sir, I will call His Majesty, the President of Ethiopia and talk to my Arab brothers…. and if your people will come back to Nigeria, the OAU will do everything to end the war and your brave Igbo people will be proud of the compromises, from the Federal side.
Zik left Tunis and was at the OAU final Meeting for the resolution of the Nigeria/Biafra war. In his file, he had penciled down more of the Biafrans demands. The Biafrans were to make only one concession.
For the Nigerian Federal government represented by Information Minister, Chief Anthony Enahoro, Dr. Okoi Arikpo, (Biafran lead propagandist Okoko Ndem referred to him as the rain maker) etc. They came to Addis Ababa to wrestle one key compromise from the Biafrans. If the Secessionists would concede their sovereignty, General Gowon and the Federal government was ready to concede the following:
The former Eastern Nigeria would be gazetted as a confederal entity.
Biafrans currency would remain a legal tender and would return and seek its value with the Nigerian Naira.
All the officers and men of the Biafran Army would like the Mozambican rebel forces reintegrated into the Nigerian Army.
The returning Biafrans would be reintegrated into the Nigerian civil, public and private offices abandoned before the war. Those returning officers would retain their ranks as when they were in service.
The Nigerian Federal government making all these concessions, were very aware that even though the Nigerian 3rd marine Commandos were advancing into the Biafran heartland, there was no guarantee that the Biafrans were ready to give up the struggle. The Federal government was not comfortable with the discovery that the Biafran Scientists had tested a new artillery, “the flying Ogbunigwe” which had overtaken the Russian longest artillery range of 24 miles!
Secondly, the starvation propaganda against the Federal government has taken a new dimension in wiping out the western support for the Federal government.
To be continued.