Nnamdi Ebo | NewsBlog

In my NewsBlog Nnamdi Ebo, I provide perspectives on news, events and analysis of unique stories, and I also offer original content, articles and photos; with contributions from some of the best minds.

Nnamdi Ebo | NewsBlog

In my NewsBlog Nnamdi Ebo, I provide perspectives on news, events and analysis of unique stories, and I also offer original content, articles and photos; with contributions from some of the best minds.

Nnamdi Ebo | NewsBlog

In my NewsBlog Nnamdi Ebo, I provide perspectives on news, events and analysis of unique stories, and I also offer original content, articles and photos; with contributions from some of the best minds.

Nnamdi Ebo | NewsBlog

In my NewsBlog Nnamdi Ebo, I provide perspectives on news, events and analysis of unique stories, and I also offer original content, articles and photos; with contributions from some of the best minds.

Nnamdi Ebo | NewsBlog

In my NewsBlog Nnamdi Ebo, I provide perspectives on news, events and analysis of unique stories, and I also offer original content, articles and photos; with contributions from some of the best minds.

 

THERE WAS A TIME | Biafra: The beginning

Nnamdi Ebo 2BOOKS . There was a Time  | By Nnamdi Ebo.

1.

The beginning.

It began on the campus of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN) around 8pm in the night on a Saturday. I was in my room, the first after the sitting room or parlor. My two cousins four year old Nwabufo or Booby, a boy and five year old Afulenu a girl were in the next room sleeping. My uncle Goddy and his American wife were in the master bedroom not sleeping because the bedroom light was on and I could hear their voices as they left their master bedroom door slightly ajar. The aromatic smell of Erinmore tobacco as he puffed on his pipe pervaded the atmosphere up to my nostrils as I lay on my bed looking up to the ceiling in the dark room. I loved the sweet smell of that tinned tobacco and it lingers throughout the house at nights as he huffs and puffs away. My uncle’s constant sucking and puffing on his pipe gingers his lips to make some sloppy sound as if he is puffing even when he is not puffing. I always wondered why and how he always did that when both lips rub together as if automatically. I realized it was a habit of his and I got used to it just like his wife and children.

Biafra . radio transistorI grabbed my small radio the same type carried by Hausa people everywhere, the ubiquitous radio carried by gatemen, meguard or mallam as people now call them. I later found out after the war that a Hausa man or ndi awusa as Igbos called them are the most information-seeking tribe in Nigeria. I asked my grandmother’s nephew Basil and he said they always try to keep abreast with events and news and their preferred station is the Radio Kaduna, especially the station’s Hausa Service programs. He told me that the radio station is part of the Radio-Television Kaduna established by the iconic Sir Alhaji Ahmadu Bello the Sarduana of Sokoto and Premier of the Northern region.  How come the Igbos or other tribes are not doing the same thing and carrying small radios for information I asked and he said the Igbos especially think they know everything that they would rather concentrate on their business of buying and selling and seek information in that direction.

I relaxed on my bed with my small radio on my hand and started fiddling with the dial. Uncle Goddy lived in America where he earned his Ph.D. in political science before coming back to Nigeria and to the UNN. He listened to the VOA a lot and I took a liking to the station as well. I was looking for the VOA or the BBC with their nightly music programs and soon I heard “…this is VOA…still on R&B with the queen of soul…” and Aretha Franklin’s hit single Respect was playing to my utmost delight followed by Fontella Bass’ Rescue me which blasted me to a joyous mood. VOA was always my station of choice as well because at that time in the sixties, black music was in ascendance in America and VOA aired their songs regularly. VOA started playing a song I wasn’t familiar with so I tuned to BBC and:

…this is BBC Bush House London…the political crisis in Nigeria has escalated with the refusal of Lt. Col. Emeka Odumegwu Ojukwu to accept Lt. Col. Yakubu Gowon as the Head of State of Nigeria…

 

 

 

 

I tuned back to VOA and lowered the volume as I reminisced on what had been happening in Nigeria; news making the rounds and what I heard my uncle, his visitors and his wife saying in the past one week.

In those days we read comics a lot with my friends, especially American comics. With my pocket money, I bought DC Comics which published Superman, Batman, Incredible Hulk etc. Others were British: Skid Solo, Hot Shot Hamish and English football comics. I also bought and read Tintin comic magazines with Captain Haddock, the bumbling twins and Snowy, Tintin’s intelligent white dog. With my school mates; Gordon, Odu, Chukwuka and others, we shared comics. I had particular likeness for a photo-comic magazine featuring an African facsimile of the famous James Bond 007 the British secret agent licensed to kill with a government-issue Walter PPK service pistol.

Biafra . Lance Spearman magazineBiafra . Lance Spearman magazine 2This African version of James Bond in the 1960’s popular photo-comic was known as Lance Spearman. This character was a dark-suited guy sporting a straw hat and frequently throws an uppercut at his opponents. His adventures were like a James Bond-like super cop and he always had a brown cigar in between his clenched teeth as he pulverizes criminals and bad people. This magazine was published under the title African Film by DRUM Publications. I read as a follow up, the adventures of Fearless Fang which was the African version of Tarzan published under the title Boom and Rabon Zoro. These African comics were made with actual photographs of black people rather than hand-drawn illustrations. The stories’ dialogue bubbles were positioned over the heads of the characters or beside them to identify the speaker or actor.

I was four years old when Nigeria gained independence in 1960. Uncle Goddy said that Nigerian politicians tried to emulate the Westminster-style of government practiced by our former colonial master. As a boy I got confused trying to fathom out which name properly applies to Britain. Aunty Yvonne complicated my comprehension further as she called the Island nation United Kingdom, uncle Goddy called the country United Kingdom of Great Britain or U.K. for short and I hear other people call the same country England. The latter features in my school books where their monarch is called the Queen of England and I also hear the Queen of Britain.

Biafra . Queen of England . 1960sBasil said she is also the Queen of Canada, New Zealand and Australia and I wondered how she could preside over all these independent countries widely distributed around the world. Uncle Goddy said the Queen’s cousin or niece Princess Alexandra was named after an auditorium in UNN and I see Princess Alexandra auditorium on the way with my cousins Boopey and Afulenu when we go to swim in the serene campus pool near the indoor basket ball pitch. In Lagos, instead of the cultured debate and sophisticated party political culture of the mother of all parliaments, party-politics fragmented on regional and ethnic lines into three geopolitical regions.

Ab initio, colonialism and its economic priorities dealt the North a bad hand. The centrality of oceanic shipments to the colonial economy and the bigger valuation of Southern export crops like cocoa, rubber, and palm produce meant an economic downgrade for the North in the colonial economic scheme. The North lacked access to the ocean and its accompanying shipping revenue. It produced export crops that, compared to Southern ones, did not fetch much value in the international commodities market. Consequently, the North played second fiddle to the South in the colonial revenue generation system. For long stretches in the colonial period, the North’s administrative costs were partly subsidized by Southern-derived revenues.

The Northern People’s Congress (NPC) of the Hausa-Fulani; their motto: “One North, One People gave a realistic and accurate assessment of its objectives ab initio; the Western Region’s Action Group (AG) of the Yoruba with their radicalism and the Eastern Region’s National Council of Nigerian Citizens (NCNC) of the Ibos with their exponential politics. Despite the North’s second fiddle position to the South in the colonial revenue generation system, it controlled political power and pulled the levers of power to its advantage and to the exclusion of the national interest.  The North succeeded in infusing 50% derivation in the revenue sharing formula. It did this because it was self-sufficient in agriculture which was the mainstay of the economies of the three regions.

Biafra . Groundnut pyramids in Kano . 1960s NigeriaThose were the years of the famous groundnut pyramids adorning the landscapes of Kano and other towns. I remember buying stamps and postcards emblazoned with pictures and illustrations of those groundnut pyramids.  In those days also, the regions contributed next to nothing to the center in Lagos. Zoning was a political formula excogitated during Nigeria’s decolonization era (1950s) by the three regional political parties and their genitors – the North’s Alhaji Ahmadu Bello, NPC; the East’s Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, NCNC; and the West’s Chief Obafemi Awolowo, never mind that aggrieved and unhappy minorities occupied these three behemoths called regions. These regional-based parties assured two things: first that none of the parties could govern Nigeria on its own and, secondly, that ethnic conflict was only a matter of time.

In the late 1950s-1960s before the first coup in 1966, Igbos, Ibibio and a few Yoruba brains ran the federal civil service of Nigeria. NIPOST then called the Post & Telecommunications (P&T) was most efficient. Letters were carried and delivered on time and intact. If you posted a letter with a Nigerian one pound note visible inside it in Aba, the letter will arrive at its destination in Sokoto on time and the one pound note will still be intact inside the letter. P&T was managed by the Igbo and they made sure that it worked.

Electricity was supplied constantly, regularly and cheaply to every city in Nigeria. Electricity Corporation of Nigeria (ECN) as it then was; was most efficient and cities from Maiduguri to Jos to Lagos to Enugu, Onitsha and Port Harcourt had regular uninterrupted light and power for industries. ECN was manned by the Igbo and their brothers in the East and they made sure that it worked. Water Corporation which was manned by the Igbo and they made sure that there was uninterrupted water supply to every city in the North, East and West.

The Public Works Department (PWD) was very efficient in the 1960s Nigeria. The brain and brawn behind this government department was the Igbos and the Yorubas. The PWD was run in the north by the Igbos. Roads in the north as in many places in Nigeria were maintained by the Igbo maintenance crews. They worked even in the night pouring coal tar and stones into pot holes and leveling them with hand-held rollers as the dark roads are lit with colonial road maintenance lanterns.

Biafra . Nigerian Railway Corporation . 1960sRail transportation was so efficient that you could load railway wagons with yams in Lafia and cabbages, carrots, tomatoes and other vegetables in Jos and these perishables will arrive Port Harcourt in a matter of hours and the vegetables will still be crisp and fresh and the yams ok. Yet the wagons were not refrigerated. Both goods trains and passenger trains ran on time and was a major means of transportation. Dr. Okechukwu Ikejiani was in charge of the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) and made sure that it operated the same way that rail transport operated in Canada where he got his medical degree.

Schools and universities were administered by the Igbo who together with the Ibibio were easily the most educated group in Nigeria. Of the four federal universities in the country two were administered by Igbo intellectuals. Professor Eni Njoku was the vice chancellor of University of Lagos (Unilag) and Professor Kenneth Onwuka Dike was the vice chancellor of University of Ibadan (UI). Professor Glen Taggart, an American was the vice chancellor of University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN).

Biafra . Onitsha main marketAfter independence in 1960, the Igbos of eastern Nigeria dominated commerce (epitomized by buying and selling) and the public service in a country where the three biggest ethnic groups (the Hausa/Fulani, the Yoruba and the Igbo) were jostling for political and economic power, supremacy in politics and geo-politics, educational and social dominance etc. In this unequal context, the Igbo came out tops with their imbued self-confidence, inherent democratic values, adaptability, independent and mobile disposition and individualistic streak.

To be sure, many Nigerians resented all these. This appeared to be fueled by the presumed cockiness, brashness and materialistic tendencies of the Igbo; more pronounced during transactions or deals. Many pundits from the north and west especially the west said at the time that Nzeogwu’s coup was just a cover to finally actualize the Igbo agenda in Nigeria. While that contention is far from the truth, it was employed in the dangerous quest by leaders of the other two regions to stop the Igbo at all cost.

To be continued

________________________________________________________________________________________

There Was A Time . Book Cover 01.Culled from: THERE WAS A TIME | Author: Nnamdi Ebo  |  Published by africagenda Publications  |  ISBN: 978-978-50804-3-8  | 1st Edition 2013

Buy the book, THERE WAS A TIMEClick  Bookshop

Nnamdi Ebo [email protected]  © 2014 Nnamdi Ebo . All Rights Reserved

 

 

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