Much has been made of it that the late Yoruba leader, Chief Obafemi Oyeniyi Awolowo, in 1967 promised the then Military Governor of the Eastern Region, late Lt. Colonel Emeka Ojukwu, during a meeting he had with him in Enugu, that the Western Region and the Yoruba would go along with him if the Igbo seceded from the country. The issue was raised throughout the war (1967 – 70) and after it, especially during the presidential elections in 1979 and 83 which he contested and it has been brought up since this series began in September. Not only did Awo deny it before, during and after the civil war, the facts available and level – headed analysis also show that he could not have made such a pledge to Ojukwu.
To begin with, Awo was arrested in 1962 and behind bars for four years having been jailed ten years in 1963 for treasonable felony. A case brought against him by the Federal Government of the Hausa – Fulani – dominated Northern Peoples Congress (NPC) and Igbo – dominated National Council of Nigerian Citizens (NCNC). Given this indisputable fact, how could Awo have taken side and tie Yoruba fortune to that of the Igbo when they quarreled with their Hausa – Fulani friends?
When NCNC leaders abruptly ended the United Progressives Grand Alliance (UPGA) partnership with Awo’s Action Group (AG) after the December 1964 election and joined the NPC to form a government that got him jailed. And when the crisis in the country that led to the civil war was caused by the January 15, 1966 coup by four Igbo – born majors and a Yoruba – born major and during which only Hausa – Fulani and Yoruba political and military leaders were killed. The only Igbo who died during the insurrection was Major Unegbe who was killed in Abeokuta because he refused to give the coup plotters the keys to the armoury in the barracks.
The Federal Government of Lt. Colonel Yakubu Gowon, the military Head of State, sent Awo to meet Ojukwu in an effort to prevent the crisis from ending in a war. Does it therefore stand to reason that Awo who was the Commissioner for Finance and Vice – Chairman of the Federal Executive Council on a mission on behalf of the Federal Government would get to Enugu and plot against Gowon and agree with Ojukwu that he would make the Western Region join the Eastern Region if it seceded?
Someone who was not a soldier and had no private army and who came out four years of incarceration in Calabar prison about seven months before the meeting with Ojukwu and who was pardoned and released by Gowon who sent him to Enugu. Awo was not known as a man of dubious character or an ingrate who would have done that the Gowon, his benefactor. Rather, he had the reputation of being a resolute leader of high and impeccable integrity and honour who stood by what he believed in and ready to die for it instead of compromising or undoing another person.
Continues next Wednesday
Thanking readers at home & abroad
I crave everyone’s indulgence to suspend the series on why Nigeria must be restructured which today was to have been on the need to change from 36 states to six or eight regions. I have to do so to apologize to all those who read this column and pay tribute to those who got in touch with me on its non – publication last week and six weeks ago. Indeed, I will not return to the series on restructuring until after the piece I plan to do on the remarkable career and achievements of iconic King Sunny Ade and his unique contributions to juju music, which was to have come out last week.
I start my appreciation and soothing effort on the missing column with Mr. Femi Eso, the ace chief promoter and marketer of highlife music in Nigeria and West Africa (080 – 3306 – 8283) who got to know of my column last week Monday and bought the paper and naturally was disappointed that my article was not published. He was the first to bring its non – appearance to my notice.
Next were the two greatest admirers of the column, Prince Kolade Roberts in Lagos (080 – 5090 – 4764) and Alhaji Abdulkadir in Yola, Adamawa State (080 – 6035 – 4098) who sent text messages to regret what happened. They get in touch with me at least twice in a month with the latter being the person who for several months pursued the hoisting of my column on the internet. I must also acknowledge the person whose SMS came through GSM number 070 – 6853 – 3844 who felt bad that the Awolowo and Biafra issue promoted two weeks ago did not see the light of day last Wednesday.
My thanks also go to Mr. Olusegun Arowolo, the younger brother of late Mr. Akin Arowolo, the proprietor of Aromed Pharmaceutical Company, Akure who phoned from Berlin in Germany on Thursday on the issue and to appreciate my column. Recalling that I mentioned the name of his Ado – Akure – born dad, Pa Okoro Arowolo in the column of March 16, this year in the series on rounding off on the Yoruba/Benin ancestry dispute. He said he would see me when he comes home later in the year.
He is the eighth Nigerian abroad to phone and commend my articles since this column went online seven months ago. Before him were Mr. Felix Aghohor on March 18, Mr. Remi Oyeyemi of the Fatuagun family of Ilesa, Osun State, a former journalist with the Nigerian Tribune, Sketch and The News Magazine, who on May 11 phoned from Delaware, which on December 7, 1787 blazed the trail to ratify the United States constitution and since then has been referred to as The First State in America.
Next to get in touch were General Tajudeen Olanrewaju (rtd) who rang me from London on May 18 and John, an Edo man who refused to give me his surname and who concealed his telephone number who called from Boston, Massachusetts, United States on May 25 and Dr. Dele Awopeoba, a columnist with the Nigerian Tribune, Vanguard and Herald newspapers who got in touch from London on June 16. An Igbo man in Bangui, Central African Republic dialed me on June 22 while Chibuzor Ozor Iyegwu phoned from Dakar, Senegal on September 7. To God be the glory for the recognition and high reputation accorded the column at home and abroad.