Today is the third day in our tribute to the great Zik of Africa in readiness for his posthumous birthday on Monday, November 16, 2020. In this edition, we are dealing with his involvement in Ojukwu’s Biafra.
To graphically understand the gulf that existed between the two men, it is imperative to quote verbatim and copiously, Ojukwu’s thought on Zik. “He was the indifatigable fighter of freedom and equality. To all intents and purposes, Zik inserted the word politics into my life’a dictionary. I respected, worshipped, considered him a hero, and saw him saw him as a living legend.
“At independence, he cut a rather tragic figure. He was to me the symbol of a Nigeria that might have been, but was not. He became the one Nigerian alongside whom every other Nigerian achievement, every other success, paled in comparison. He became governor general, the Queen’s official representative. He later became president – a ceremonial executive. He could not intervene to halt the iniquities (of First Republic), and from time to time, we saw him justifying and rationalizing actions we were sure conflicted with his better judgement.
“With bitterness, we began to to learn that Zik, whom the British colonial administration could never incarcerate, had willingly constituted himself a prisoner of appeared to us as northern interest. With many others, I began to feel let down. During the war, which to a certain extent was a war to to free him, he rallied round to the Biafran side but later switched his support when it appeared the Biafran would fail”. BECAUSE I AM INVOLVED, page 157.
Some not well informed Igbo people have continued the lies against Zik that he abandoned Ndigbo during the tragic days of Biafra. But, from Ojukwu’s account above, Zik was with Biafra from day one. Even Achebe confirmed Ojukwu’s claims on Zik’s support for Biafra. In his timeless book, THERE WAS A COUNTRY, Achebe wrote “It is crucial to note that the decision of an entire people, the Igbo people, to leave Nigeria, did not come from Ojukwu Ojukwu alone but was informed by the desires of the people and mandated by a body that contained some of the most distinguished Nigerians in history: Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe, Dr. M. I. Okpara, Sir Francis Ibiam, Sir Louis Mbanefo, Alavan Ikoku, K. O. Mbafuwu, N. U. Akpan, Joseph Echeruo etc. Page 91.
What really happened was that Zik later was convinced that Biafra would not win the war. He was very concerned about the millions of life being destroyed on the Biafran side with its attendant malnutrition that turned the Bianfran enclave as a ghost territory. Looking at the devastation in Biafra and having used his closeness and contact with most African leaders of that time, to get recognition for Biafra, Zik knew it was better to call for a cease fire than continue in the bloody carnage. For your information, Zik’s name gave Biafra support from African countries like Gabon, Ivory Coast, Zambia, Tanzania, Kenya, and Equtiroal Guinea.
The above account counters the allegation that Zik never did anything to rescue Ndigbo during the civil war years. What was on board as Biafra’s national anthem was an extract from Zik’s collection of poems. While Zik claimed that Ojukwu adopted it without his permission, Ojukwu revealed that Zik gave it to him. Zik was a great Igbo and a patriotic Nigerian.
Continue to rest in peace our icon and happy posthumous birthday, Zik of Biafra.