George Onyejiuwa, Owerri
Colonel Lambert Iheanacho who was retired from the Nigerian Army in 1990, was the last Biafra Army field commander and had commanded the famous 63 Infantry Brigade which recaptured Owerri from the federal forces in 1969. He stated that nothing has changed since after the war as the South East has not been really reintegrated into the political structure.
He pointed out that the civil war was imposed on the then Eastern region by the Federal Government led by General Yakubu Gowon, because the Eastern region did not cause the war, and that the people fought simply to defend themselves from being wiped out from the face of the earth.
Iheanacho said: “The civil war was levied on the former Eastern region and especially on Igbo by General Yakubu Gowon and those of us who had escaped the killings of Igbo army officers in Kano by the special grace of God had to join in the fight for survival. However, Nigeria had won the war in 1970 and immediately Gowon declared that there is no victor, no vanquished policy which was just a ruse because the Eastern region was really vanquished.
“The 3Rs which is Reconciliation, Rehabilitation and Reconstruction was never implemented by Gowon who had initiated the policy in the first place at least not in the devastated Eastern region. Gowon rather went ahead to create states and the Igbo were left in one state called East Central State because Gowon never deemed it fit to create more states in Igbo land to put it at par with the other regions and that was the beginning of the political and structural marginalisation of the South East. Even those of us who were reabsorbed into the Army at the end of civil war, were only allowed to remain on the former ranks and were not promoted for three years.”
Iheanacho said the alienation of the Igbo by successive governments in line with the Gowon policy of not integrating them into the political and economic structure of Nigeria has been fuelling the agitation in Igbo land.
“Now, Kano, Katsina and Jigawa states have more local governments than the entire South East. It is Gowon who disorganised Nigeria because he failed to do the right thing and imposed on Nigeria the lopsided structure. Today, it is only the South East that has only five states against other zones with six and seven states respectively which is obvious that the South East is still being treated as a conquered people.”