World’s renowned author and bestselling novelist, Frederick Forsyth, in his eternally captivating book, The Making of an African Legend: The Biafra Story, sensationally wrote on Part Two, page 107: “In area, Biafra is not large, about 29,000 square miles. Yet in most other statistics it comes in the top three in Africa. The population is the densest in Africa, over 440 to the square mile. In every sense it is the most developed country in the continent, with more industry, the highest per capita income, the highest purchasing power, the greatest density of roads, schools, hospitals, business houses and factories in Africa.
“In potential, it has been variously described as the Japan, the Israel, the Manchester, and the Kuwait of the continent. Each appellation refers to one of the many facets that causes surprise to the visitor who thought all Africa was uniformly backward…The Biafrans are avid for education and particularly for qualification in one of the technical professions”.
Really, Forsyth tried to tell the world what Biafra would have been had it survived or succeeded. As a matter of fact, in his civil war book entitled Nigeria: The Challenge of Biafra, the late Arthur Nwankwo, and clearly defined Forsyth’s articulation in its proper perspective. According to him, “This period in Biafra’s history can be called Biafra’s finest hour. For it bore evidence of what Biafra had come to mean to Biafrans – dedicated, purposeful government, patriotic, resourceful, and hard working citizenry. This period bore the promise of Biafra: the promise of the first technically advanced black nation.
“It was during this period that Biafra established its tradition for adaptability and improvisation which marked the Biafran resistance. Ingenious improvisations were made for scarce commodities. Coconut milk proved as good as any brake fluid. A mixture of diesel and grease served as engine oil. Worn – out engine parts were remoulded and made fit for use again. Worn -out tyres were retreaded. Motor mechanics built new engines from scraps…Emboldened by the achievement of Biafran scientists and technicians, the pride and confidence of Biafrans in the country was deep and pervasive. What was happening in Biafra had never before happened in Africa. It is logical that this period of complete mobilization should induce a change in the concept of Biafra. The Biafran war was now not only a war of survival but also a revolution. It was a crucible which had effected a mental de-colonization of the people. It had purged them of age old delusions and illusions and had enabled them to see the possibilities of the Blackman in a new light. This was the new spirit of Biafra, the psychological triumph over complexes embedded in the Blackman by centuries of slavery and colonization, the shattering of the myth of racial superiority”.
In fact, nothing dramatizes Biafra’s inventive and ingenious spirit than the the floating of the highly successful Research and Production Unit (RAP). This unit was studded with scientists, engineers, technicians and technologists who later invented the dreaded Biafra’s home -made anti -personel weapon, the indomitable Ogbunigwe which the federal forces called Ojukwu Bucket.
Those remarkable feats made Ojukwu to note that “Biafra was the latest recrudescnece in our time of the age old struggle of the black man for his full stature as man. It is not mere resistance – that would be purely negative. It is a positive comment to build a healthy, dynamic and progressive state, such as would be the pride of black men the world over”. It has also been stated that the Biafran struggle had hammered into the head of every Biafran by the propaganda machinery, that Biafra was the first nucleus of a completely decolonized Africa – the greatest African possibility. In spite of the defeat of Biafra, the thought of Biafra still carries for many people indestructible memories of Biafra in the early months of the war.
Perhaps, General Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu provided more insight into what Biafra ought to have been if she had succeeded and survived. In an interview with Newswatch magazine on September 28, 1992, Ojukwu revealed that Biafra made wonderful inventions. He said Biafra invented her own Radio Biafra which was heard all over the world without distraction. The war leader equally stated that Biafra constructed her own airport at Uli which was then the busiest airport in Africa. Ojukwu was very proud to note that in war time, Biafra, despite all her incapacitation, flew her jet fighters, directed her rockets and directed them very far. He revealed that Biafra constructed her own bombs, including the mass destruction called Ogbunigwe otherwise known as Biafra Bucket.
The People’s General enthused that Biafra had her functional telephone lines and services, in war time. According to Ojukwu, in war time, Biafra refined her own oil and there was no fuel crisis or scarcity. Ojukwu also wrote in his timeless book entitled BECAUSE I AM INVOLVED, that Biafra was a struggle for survival. And in that course, the people did everything humanly possible and rightly to survive.
You can gleam from the above that Ndigbo would fly if they get Biafra. They demonstrated it with their ingenuity during the civil war in which they stood down on Nigeria for almost three years. Despite facing starvation, bombardment and deprivation, they still held on. They invented almost everything they needed. After the war, Nigeria never made any meaningful effort to integrate those scientists that performed those wonders. Instead, what every Biafran got was 20 pounds irrespective of how much they had in the bank before the war – thousands or millions.
Probably, the continued exclusion of the South East in Nigeria’s developmental plans, is a major reason Ndigbo, particularly the youths, are agitating for Biafra. In the First Republic, the NCNC and NPC coalition agreed to construct the Kainji Dam in the north and build the Iron and Steel Project in the East. The Kainji was built but the 1966 coup caught up the steel construction in the east. The dam was taken to the north because of the sources of River Niger and River Benue. The east was chosen because of the huge presence of coal in Enugu as the Russian experts had advised that the best place to site it was Enugu. After the coup, the military administrators took the project from Enugu to Abeokuta. In the Second Development Plan carried out by General Yakubu Gowon between 1970 and 1975, Igbo nation was completely left out. In the Third National Development Plan which was initiated by General Olusegun Obasanjo in 1978, of the 11 projects, the Igbo country got only the Anambra Motor Company (ANAMCO) while the second project, the Nkalagu Cement Company was only for revival as the Michael Okpara administration put that facility in place. Also, in the Fourth National Development Plan which was started by the late President Shehu Shagari in 1981, of all the 37 projects, only the reactivation Aba Textile Mill was allotted to the Igbo nation!
What a country? What a tragedy? What a people?