One must read with upsurge interest the story told by Major Philip Effiong in his book titled ‘Nigeria and Biafra- my story’.
In the 314 paged book(Nineteen Chapters), the Major revealed the factors that saw the plunging of the new nation into the amarathine war , hate and suffering which abused the feelings and memories of the people at the time.
15 January 1966, is not a day to be forgotten in the history of our country. The coup d’ etat came on the heels of political wrangling , mismanagement of the country ,incompetence by the ruling elites , accusations and counter accusations of electoral fraud.
It was a time in our history like the biblical children of Isreal, where the people obviously wished to return to the Egyptian imperialists as the new Cannan refused to flow in milk and honey.
The author gives a detailed review of what happened ,from the steps of the five major coupist to the misteps that led to the counter coup.
The five Majors(military officers) who offered themselves as Messiahs for the change the nation deserved had drew plans to salvage the nation from political convulsion ,economic turmoil and nepotism.
They were set to take the political bull by the scruff of the neck and grib its horn like a bold metador in order to subdue it for the general well being of the nation.
Speaking of the situation which necessitated the event ,the author writes that “need in the country was generally in favor of the coup of 15 January, 1966”.
In his word ” the country had been regenerating politically since independence ,culminating in widespread disorders and killings in the western region where Chief S.L Akintola (premier of the west) and his supporters , the Nigerian Democratic party (NDP) in alliance with the northern people’s congress (NPC) had apparently imposed his rule on the Yoruba’s remaining in power by means of an election that was alledged to have been rigged and result deliberately falsified”
While some saw the coup as a patriotic endeavor( the author’s conviction too), many saw it has an Igbo agenda to dominate Nigeria.
Philip Effiong has successfully examined and reappraise all this development for the better understanding of our past.
His scrutiny of the motives of the coup leaders in the putch make palpable the intent of patrioticism on the part of the coup planners. However, he takes to cognizance in his story ,the role played by Igbos to further inflame temper. The behaviour of the Igbos were annoying and further casted aspersions on real intent of the young Majors thus confirming negatively the misbelief of the northerners.
The killing was seen in the ethnic periscope.The coupists were no longer seen as the bold metadors the people were hailing for their sincere and good intentions. The act was misconstrued as the pattern of killing during the ‘night of long knifes’ became clearer.
The Officers that were killed during the coup were mainly Northerner (senior officers then were mainly of northern origin) and the majority of the coupist were Igbo’s, thus the mismatch of action and intent that motivated the feelings which birth the Counter coup of 29 July ,1966
Moreso, the author’s story is that of a military officer who was helpless in his role before and during the aftermath of the 29 July Counter coup and the whole Biafra struggle that followed thereafter.
At one time he said ” I was in principle opposed to secession like other Military Officers I knew”. His neutrality is impressed where he wondered why he was made a ‘Q’ officer. All this show that he was merely performing the duties of his office. The duty he performed till the outbreak of the war and the sustainance of warfare by ‘Biafra’ republic.
An opportunity came for his position to better be known. This was when General Ojukwu(Chief Commander of the federal republic of Biafra) was to travel and he was commissioned as the Commander in Chief. After exile of Ojukwu, the author led the Biafra Army to surrender to her counterpart.
“Only one issue dominated my thinking, if indeed there can be any claim to any ordering of ones thought at a time like that. To stop the suffering of the masses , claimed dominance in my mind”.
This story remains indelible in our national conscience and consciousness which makes it recommendable for read by every living Nigerian who which to know the fundamentals of his national growth and unity in diversion.
I recommend that this book be made a compulsory text for study in a general course , ‘Peace and Conflict resolution’ offered by every Nigerian university.