Confidential US dispatches on the Nigerian Civil War yield a wounding portrait of Emeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, who was painted by those who knew him as a man that experienced rejection as a child, a megalomaniac, demagogue and one who once threatened to shoot his own father
In a broadcast to the German people on BayerischerRundfunkMuchen (Bavarian Broadcasting, Munich) on 11 September 1967, Klaus W. Stephan, the West African correspondent of the service for many years, said Emeka Odumegwu Ojukwu had harboured an ambition to “alter the political constellation of power in Nigeria by means of the army one day”.
Ojukwu, said Stephan, was a supporter of the 15 January 1966 coup, the first in the country’s history. “He sympathised with the January 1966 plot makers, but was careful enough to avoid any overplayed attachment to them. Ojukwu told me later that it had been him who had requested General (Aguiyi) Ironsi to crush the coup and that he had stopped the General from being arrested.”
On 8 April 1967 in Enugu, while meeting with Suzanne Cronje, author of The World and Nigeria: The Diplomatic History of the Biafran War, 1967-1970, Ojukwu said: “On January 15, I was the one who advised Ironsi to stand as the head of the army, call for support and then organise the various units that would immediately support, so that the rebels, who were bound to be few and already committed, would suddenly find that the whole thing was phasing away.”
For this support, Ironsi rewarded Ojukwu with an appointment as governor, reckoned Stephan. “Obviously on the grounds of thankful feelings, the General (Ironsi) made him Military Governor of the Eastern provinces. I know Ojukwu as a man of more than average intelligence, extraordinary versatility, high eloquence and remarkable personal charm. But there are two characteristics in that man that are not realised by many people for a long time: his greed for power and his ability to charm and enchant the masses: a demagogue,” Stephan told the German people in the broadcast.
A similarly unflattering verdict on Ojukwu’s personality was delivered by Chief Richard Akinjide, the man who later became Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation.
A US document of 11 September 1969 quoted Akinjide as telling Mr. Strong, American consul in Ibadan, that “he (Ojukwu) suffers from Hitler-like megalomania”.
Akinjide explained to Strong that as a child, Ojukwu was rejected because his father strongly denied that he was solely responsible for the pregnancy that led to him, arguing that other mysterious force or forces may have been at work as well. His mother, claimed Akinjide, was a mistress his multimillionaire father, Sir Louis Ojukwu, acquired on one of his business trips to the North. Being a devout Catholic, Sir Louis refused to keep the boy in his house in Lagos, preferring to send him back to the North, where he was born and where his mother made a living as a trader. Ojukwu, like Nnamdi Azikiwe, was born in Zungeru, in the present day Niger State.
As the boy grew up, friends of the business mogul prevailed on him to recognise him as a son. According to Akinjide, Sir Loius agreed to do so, but the boy became something of an embarrassment to him, the reason for which he sent him to school in England, where he made it into Oxford University.
Akinjide, a member of the Nigerian National Democratic Party, NNDP and federal minister in the First Republic, said: “When Ojukwu returned to Nigeria, he tried to get a job with the Nigerian Tobacco Company, NTC, but was turned down.” Akinjide speculated on how Nigerian history might have panned out if NTC had given Ojukwu a job. “Instead, he drifted into the civil service and was given a post as Assistant District Officer at a bush post in the East. He was unhappy in this position,” claimed Akinjide, because he felt his talents undervalued.
Seeking a surer road to power and influence, he joined the army. And because of the top-tier education he had acquired in England, he was soon sent to the elite Royal Military Academy Sandhurst in the UK. Akinjide believed Ojukwu’s career and personality could be explained as an endless effort to gain the recognition he was denied early in life and to show his father and the society that rejected him how wrong they were. “Ojukwu was subconsciously seeking revenge for his early rejection. A man so driven is not subject to rational dissuasion from the course on which he has set himself,” he told Strong.
In another document dated 19 September1969 and titled Psyching Out Ojukwu, Strong narrated the story he and Colonel Adeyinka Adebayo, Military Governor of Western State, were told over lunch by Nnamdi Azikiwe. Azikiwe said the reason he was hated by Ojukwu was because “at one point, he (Azikiwe) had settled a dispute between Ojukwu and his father, which had already reached the proportion where Ojukwu had threatened to shoot his father.” Azikiwe told the private gathering that Ojukwu’s father was a very good friend of his and he prevailed on Ojukwu not to carry out his threat. Since then, Azikiwe said, Ojukwu had been very unfriendly towards him.
According to Chief N.U. Akpan, Ojukwu’s secretary before and during the war, the first orders Ojukwu gave when he resumed as military governor on 19 January 1966 were to “remove Azikiwe as the Chancellor of University of Nsukka, cut off all incomes accruing to him from his properties in Nsukka and order African Continental Bank to recover forthwith all overdrafts or loans outstanding against Azikiwe or any companies and business establishments with which he might have been associated”. Azikiwe told the American consul: “Perhaps, I offended him by preventing him from shooting his father.”
Chief Obafemi Awolowo’s assessment of the Biafran leader was not very dissimilar to Akinjide’s view of him as a man who sought to control everything around him. Reviewing his own efforts, undertaken at considerable personal risk to find an accommodation with Ojukwu before he declared the secession in May 1967, Awolowo told US Ambassador Elbert Matthews on 24 August 1967 in Lagos that he was convinced it was impossible to negotiate with Ojukwu, who was seeking to bring the whole of southern Nigeria under his control. He described Ojukwu as being committed to conquest, not secession. According to the Periodic Intelligence Note complied on the Nigerian situation by Thomas L. Hughes, Director of Intelligence and Research, submitted to US Secretary of State, Dean Rusk, the “chief target” of Ojukwu’s “seizure of Midwest” was the Yoruba. “Should this large tribe, numbering eight million or more, choose to join Ojukwu in a move to oust northerners from southern Nigeria, the rump Nigerian federation would come apart…The Yorubas, riven by past divisions and in no mood to pull Ojukwu’s chestnuts out of the fire (rescue Ojukwu), are undecided. They have tended to side with the Gowon government ever since their principal spokesman, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, agreed to join it last June. At the same time, the fear of northern domination remains strong…Awolowo rallied towards the Federation when Gowon, himself a northerner, showed he meant to break up the once monolithic North by decreeing several newstates there,” the US intelligence estimate stated.
On 12 September, Radio Biafra broadcast attacks on Awolowo and Anthony Enahoro for being in “the rebel government of Gowon”. The radio station referred to the recent arrest and detention of “Wole Soyinka, that patriotic Yoruba son” and the arrest and interrogation of Tai Solarin, the well-known Yoruba educator and writer. It thought it “significant” that these “Yoruba freedom fighters” should be threatened by a government of which “Chief Awolowo himself a Yoruba is a deputy head.” It reminded its listeners that “Awolowo and Enahoro have not only succumbed to northern pressure, but have also teamed up with Gowon to supress Solarin and Soyinka, whose ebullient enthusiasm for Yoruba freedom is threat to their security, but they have substituted private interest for commonwealth.” The radio station, confirming the findings of the US intelligence estimate, then recommended that “all Yorubas should waste no time in responding to call by one of their own sons, Brigadier Victor Banjo, commander of liberation forces. It is such young men as Brigadier Banjo, Wole Soyinka and Tai Solarin that will provide effective but selfless leadership that Yorubas badly need at this moment”.
On Biafrans sounding more Yoruba than the Yoruba themselves, the American ambassador noted in a confidential document of 15 September 1967: “In fact, the Eastern effort to tell Yorubas who their leader should be as well as not to follow Awolowo could cause opposite reaction among majority of people in Yorubaland.” It did.
With troops blazing with Biafran agenda already at West’s door at Ore, it became clearer to Awolowo that Ojukwu was not interested in secession, but actually in conquest. Awolowo proceeded to rally the Yoruba, who had hitherto been lukewarm to Gowon’s government with a powerful “I am absolutely and irrevocably committed to the side of Nigeria” press release on 12 August 1967. It was Awolowo’s first statement defending the Federal Government since the Civil War began on 6 July. Unlike many of Awolowo’s speeches and public statements, this one derived its forceful elocution from the use of adverbs and intensifiers. There were no “could,” “might” and other hedge-betting modal verbs. It was all “must,” “will” and other commanding auxiliary verbs.
“It is imperative that the unity of Nigeria must be preserved and the best judge of what to do now is the Federal government, which Yorubas must continue to support. The Yorubas have never set out to dominate others, but have always resisted, with all the energy in them, any attempt, however slight or disguised, by others to dominate them.…Indeed it is for these reasons that they must now be ready to resist any attempt by the rebel forces from the East and the Mid-West to violate their territory and subjugate them.…To these ends, therefore, all Yoruba people, particularly those in the Western and Lagos states, which now face the threats of invasion, must not only be as vigilant as ever, but must also lose no time and spare no efforts in giving every conceivable support to the Federal troops in defence of their homeland and of the fatherland,” Awolowo said.
He was not only rallying the Yoruba people, he was sending a powerful message to the Biafran High Command in Enugu. Victor Banjo, on 11 August, had sent a secret note to Governor Adebayo, the man who, according to the Biafran High Command, was slated for assassination by Banjo’s gun. In the letter, amongst other things, Banjo asked for “clarification of the Western position.” Adebayo promptly passed the letter to Awolowo in Lagos. S.G. Ikoku, an Awolowo loyalist in the East and Secretary-General of his Action Group, who was in exile in Ghana, said Major Emmanuel Ifeajuna told him when he escaped to Ghana, their plan in the January 1966 coup was to free Awolowo from Calabar prison and install him as Prime Minister. Awolowo was serving time for treason.
In reality, there was no army unit heading to Calabar to spring Awolowo from jail. Receiving the secret note, Awolowo publicly pledged his allegiance to the federation and called upon special adverbs, forceful intensifiers and commanding modal verbs to elicit and consolidate the patriotism of his fellow Westerners. The statement split the Action Group and the West down the middle. They had not forgotten the monstrosity of northern hegemony; they had not forgotten how the North colluded with Igbos to forment trouble in the West. They had not forgotten how the North-East coalition had excluded Yoruba from key posts and grassroots recruitment policies.
On 7 August 1967, the American consul in Ibadan, Strong, wrote: “An old line of supporters, including more mature intellectuals like Professor Hezekiah Oluwasanmi (Ife University Vice Chancellor) and S.O. Ighodaro (lecturer at the University of Lagos) support the statement. They said Awolowo has always been a minorities man and the Eastern takeover of Midwest and continued occupation of Eastern minority areas is an indication of continued Ibo desire to dominate southern Nigeria.”
On the other hand, Strong continued: “AG (Action Group) activists and the man in the street are convinced Awolowo made the statement under duress…They say Awolowo’s true position was indicated in the Leaders of Thought resolution in May, which said if any region seceded or forced out, the West would automatically become independent. The activists feel that Awolowo missed the opportunity to bring the present conflict to close by coming to Ibadan and make a Western Declaration of Independence speech supported by Victor Banjo and his National Liberation Army.”
Mr Strong provided another dimension. “Since ‘there are no secrets in Yorubaland,’ it is very likely Awolowo was aware of coup talk here and issued the statement to forestall Western coup attempt and try and keep the tenuous peace in the West,” he wrote. On the night of 11 August, Mr Smallwood, British Deputy High Commissioner, came to inform his American counterpart that “decision has been taken by a group of AG activists to support efforts to stage a Midwest type coup here in the West. Timing uncertain but could happen anytime from 12th. Planners supposedly do not include top members of AG hierarchy, but certain young activists who hope present AG leaders with fait accompli consistent with their own sympathies.”
Strong was sceptical of the success of the coup not because of Awolowo’s rallying call, but as he wrote: “In the West, several ingredients for successful coup are lacking. There is, for example, no real counterpart of Ibo officers here.” And that was the coup for which Victor Banjo, confident of its success, received Ojukwu’s bullets with his head raised high and his chest pumped out at the firing squad in Enugu. Odumosu, Secretary to the Western government, was to later tell the consul in a secret document of 11 October 1967 that Bola Ige and Bisi Onabanjo, both commissioners, were suspected to be involved in the plot to make Banjo replace Adebayo once he invaded the West. Strong also noted that Alhaji Busari Obisesan, the former NNDP speaker of the Western House of Assembly, had been heavily involved in the plot to assassinate the pro-AG and pro-Awolowo Governor Adebayo since November of the previous year. The NNDP was a traditional ally of the North in its will to dominate. The consul noted: “Their plans in the past, traditionally, involve use of Northern troops for NNDP ends.” That was the 4th Battalion. This North-based battalion was moved over to Ibadan in 1957, it was said, to quell the political restiveness engulfing the streets of Ibadan. Soon it became a repressive machine made available by Ahmadu Bello to Akintola for use against his opponents and critics. The self-loading rifle Akintola used on the night he was murdered by Captain Nwobosi and his men was given to him by the 4th Battalion commander, Lt-Col Abogo Largema.
He personally supervised Akintola’s target practice in his barracks. It was some members of this notorious battalion that Major TY Danjuma also used to capture and murder Ironsi and the Western Region Governor, Adekunle Fajuyi. As part of Gowon’s effort to secure the support of the West, he pulled the notorious battalion back from Ibadan, stationing it in Jebba. As Captain Hamza, Ahmadu Bello’s chief body guard said to an expatriate friend, who then informed the British Deputy High Commission who, in turn informed the American consulate, Busari Obisesan had gone to the North to ask Hassan Katsina for help on 10 August.
NNDP, he said, was “plotting their own measures to counter the AG threat of takeover” in the light of a pro-AG governor.
Meanwhile on the streets of Ibadan, there was massive anger. On the morning of 15 August 1967, Adebayo told the American consul that “the trouble in Ibadan in the last three days were caused by some Hausas, including some Hausa soldiers hunting out and beating up Ibos. They wanted to kill them. This started sporadically, but when the situation got worse yesterday. He decided firm action was necessary to bring it under control. He ordered soldiers back to barracks and later announced curfew.” The Western State Police Commissioner, Emmanuel Olufunwa addressed the Hausa community in Sabo and “warned them against engaging in any unruly acts.” The leader of the Hausa community replied and warned his fellow Hausas against doing anything (that would) damage their reputation.” It wasn’t clear whether he was being ironic or sincere because at 8:15pm that same day, Lt Colonel Olusegun Obasanjo, head of Ibadan Garrison Command, and his deputy, Major Olu Bajowa, were there with around 60-bayonet wilelding slodiers to seal off the Hausa quarters.
Why Ojukwu Killed Banjo, Ifeajuna and Others
In the most detailed revelation yet, Ojukwu said he killed Victor Banjo, Emmanuel Ifeajuna, Philip Alale, Sam I. Agbam because they wanted to remove him, remove Gowon and install Chief Obafemi Awolowo as the Prime Minister. In a secret document cabled to the Defence Intelligence Agency in Washington, the US military and defence attachés in the Nigeria reported that based on available information at the time (3 August 1967), “in the long run Njoku will unseat Ojukwu.”
In a chat with the American consul, Bob Barnard, in Enugu three days after the executions, Ojukwu said: “The plotters intended to take Brigadier Hillary Njoku, the head of Biafran Army, into custody and bring him to the State House under heavy armed guard, ostensibly to demand of him that Njoku be relieved of the command on the grounds of incompetence.
Once inside the State House, Njoku’s guards would be used against him. Ifeajuna would then declare himself acting Governor and offer ceasefire on Gowon’s terms. Banjo would go to the West and replace Brigadier Yinka Adebayo, the military governor of Western Region. Next, Gowon would be removed and Awolowo declared Prime Minister of Reunited Federation.”
Ojukwu continued: “Victor Banjo, Ifeajuna and others kept in touch with co-conspirators in Lagos via British Deputy High Commission’s facilities in Benin.”
When the American consul asked Ojukwu for evidence, Ojukwu replied: “Banjo is a very meticulous man, who kept records and notes of everything he did. The mistake of the plotters was they talked too much, their moves too conspicuous and they made notes which came into my hands. As a result, the conspirators came under surveillance from the early stages of the plot’s existence. Their plans then became known and confirmed by subsequent events.”
In another document, Major (Dr.) Okonkwo, whom Ojukwu appointed as military administrator of the Midwest, said he and Ojukwu participated in court-martialling Banjo in Enugu on 22 September 1967 and Banjo “freely admitted in his testimony that a group of Yorubas on both sides of the battle were plotting together to take over Lagos and Enugu governments and unite Nigeria under Chief Awolowo. Gowon, Ojukwu and Okonkwo were to be eliminated. Gowon was to have been killed by Yoruba officers in the Federal Army.” He added that when arrested on the night of 19 September, Banjo offered no resistance because he said then it was too late to stop the affair and the plot was already in motion. His role, Banjo said, was already accomplished. “As far as is known, Banjo died without revealing the names of his collaborators in Lagos,” Okonkwo said.
In another confidential document cabled to Washington on 12 October, 1967 it was revealed that Ojukwu who had always been suspicious of Major Kaduna Nzeogwu, sent him to his death at Nsukka. According to Lieutenant Colonel Abba Kyari, military governor of North Central State, “there is no question that Major Nzeogwu, Ibo leader of 1966 coup in Kaduna, had been a nationalist, not a tribalist, who was acting for the good of all Nigeria.” He described Nzeogwu as “a victim of Ojukwu”, explaining that Nzeogwu, having been falsely informed that Nsukka was in Biafran hands, boldly entered Ubolo-Eke, near Nsukka at night and was killed. Nzeogwu’s corpse was transferred to the North and given full military burial, but not before northern soldiers had plucked out his eyes so that he “would never see the North again”.
Ojukwu, who told the American diplomat that the coup against him “involved many who participated in the January 15, 1966 plot” and that aside the four he had executed three days before, he would not execute others yet because “ he did not wish to give the impression he was conducting blood purge.” Ojukwu later made a radio broadcast that confirmed the existence of mutineers and blamed the loss of Midwest, Nsukka, Enugu, Onitsha on them. He said they called for the withdrawal of Biafran troops from these cities and that they were even shelling Onitsha with Biafran artillery to sow panic long before the arrival of federal forces.
Ojukwu did not execute Njoku. He only demoted him and replaced him with Colonel Alexander Madiebo. The secret US document called Njoku “the best Enugu has (and one of the very best Nigeria has produced). The UK defence advisor, who had known Madiebo as subordinate officer First Recce Squadron for several years, said he is “perfectly charming socially, but quite worthless professionally. He is weak, ineffective commander and consistently had worst unit recce squadron.” To affirm what he was saying, he showed the US defence attaché Madiebo’s file at the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst. Madiebo’s records were abysmal. The US attaché noted also that Madiebo graduated as an associate field artillery officer at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, in 1964.
In another document, it was disclosed that the Head of State, Major-General Aguyi-Ironsi, was scheduled to have been assassinated on the northern leg of his national tour after the January 1966 coup. Some northern officers were already plotting to kill the head of state on 19 July 1966, but “Colonel Hassan Katsina dampened their enthusiasm, asserting nothing should happen to Ironsi while in the North. Ironsi was scheduled to visit Kano, but Colonel Katsina persuaded him to cancel that portion of his trip because Lt. Colonel Muhammed Shuwa, Commander of the 5th Battalion, had made arrangements for Ironsi’s assassination in Kano.”
Katsina told northern officers that if anything should happen to Major General Ironsi, it should happen in the South. Ironsi was killed in Ibadan 10 days later by northern officers led by T.Y. Danjuma.
The Priest, Publicist and Arms Dealer
How lean finances unhinged Ojukwu and the Biafran dream.
The Irish missionary priest of the Holy Ghost Fathers, Father Kevin Doheny, according to the US documents, was Ojukwu’s intelligence director. He was also said to be in charge of all radio communications in Biafra. According to the secret documents, Doheny, a cousin of Senator Mansfield, had ties to Senator Goodell and Congressman Lowenstein, who visited Biafra, and through his older brother, Father Mike Doheny, had ties to Cardinal Cushing, the Archbishop of Boston and member of National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP) and to US Speaker McCormack who passed the landmark 1964 American Civil Rights Legislation.
Father Doheny was ordained a priest on 5 July, 1953, in Dublin and arrived in Owerri Diocese in November 1954. During the war, Doheny was successful in mobilising worldwide Catholic relief support for Biafran children and women. Doheny, who travelled from Dublin to Geneva to hold talks with Clarence Clyde Ferguson Jr., the US Special Coordinator on Relief to Victims of the Nigerian Civil War in June 1969, told the American head of mission there that the charge of genocide against the federal troops was “highly exaggerated”, but said it as “a major factor in keeping the Biafrans fighting”.
Robert Goldstein, Biafra’s Public Relations guru, said it was necessary for the world to see the deaths and the starvation of tens of thousands refugees in Biafra. He helped organise regular international press trips to Biafra. But unlike Doheny, revealed the documents, he was motivated purely by money.
In a 13 February 1968 conversation he had with Robert Smith, Country Officer for Nigeria at the US State Department in Washington, Goldstein said Mathew Mbu, Biafran Commissioner for External Affairs, arranged for him a Public Relations contract worth “one million pounds in negotiable bonds” with the Biafran government. He presented the two certificates for the diplomat to see. One was for £200,000, payable in 1968, and another for £800,000, payable in 1973. While both bore a stamped signature of a Nigerian Central Bank official, they seemed payable to the “Ministry of Finance of Eastern Nigeria,” Smith noted. Goldstein said he was told he could borrow money against the certificates pending the time they matured. In other words, the Biafrans had convinced Goldstein he was holding gold in his hands.
Smith then told Goldstein that Biafra was in serious financial difficulties and he was not sure Biafra would be still be in existence by the time those certificates would mature. The certificates, Smith added, were of doubtful value and authenticity, given the names and offices of those who signed and stamped them. Goldstein replied that they were not fake and that as a matter of fact, he was going to the World Bank later in the day to see how the bonds could be added to Biafra or Nigeria’s external debt portfolio when he eventually had to cash them.
It was not only Goldstein who was paid for his services to Biafra in bonds. According to the US cable of 16 November 1967, written by Ambassador Elbert Matthews in Lagos, Ojukwu went on Radio Biafra to denounce the Federal Government for seeking through its High Commissioner in London “the services of four notorious mercenaries, who were connected with recent activities in Congo”. He listed them as “Mike Hoare, otherwise known as Mad Major; Commandant John Peterson, Major Capister Wicks and Major Bob Desnard.” In October, the document continued, Ojukwu had met these men at the Port Harcourt airport. They had turned his offer down as too little. He then went on radio to reveal and denounce them so that they would be rendered unbuyable by the Federal Government. Then he thought up the bonds and called them up.
According to the secret cable sent from American embassy in Gabon on 12 November 1968, “Bob Denard, a French mercenary, arrived in Biafra in December 1967 with 100 mercenaries under contract with Biafra. They fought as a single unit during the defence of Onitsha. Rolf Steiner, Taffy Williams and an unnamed Italian then became military advisors to Ojukwu. At the end of April 1968, Steiner and the Italian were each given command of a battalion of Biafran commandos with 400 to 500 men per battalion. The Italian was killed during the defence of Port Harcourt. In April, Taffy Williams went to the UK to recruit two additional mercenaries: John Erasmus and Alex, who were veterans of the 6th Commando in the Katanga war in Congo. Williams, Erasmus and Alex arrived in Biafra at the end of June 1968. There was another Irish mercenary during March to August, named Paddy, who was an engineer with 22 years experience in Africa. He was in charge of maintaining equipment.”
Another French mercenary and a Congo veteran named Armond as well as another Frenchman, Leroy, arrived at the end of August to fight for Biafra based on the bonds.
It was Leroy who proposed to Ojukwu to set up small guerrilla units to arrange air drops from Libreville, Gabon, since Uli Airstrip could not support the bigger transport plane proposed for more quantitative deliveries of arms and ammunition. Steiner, who was now in command of the 4th Commando Brigade, was put in charge of the defence of Aba. In early June, when the Federal Government announced “Operation Quick Kill” to finish off the war swiftly, Steiner’s brigade consisted of about 8000 men. Of these, only 1,500 were armed. Why?
The American, Hank A. Wharton, was the main arms dealer remaining for Biafra after Christian von Oppenheim, the Spain-based arms dealer of German origin, was shot down on 8 October 1968, when he flew to bomb Lagos. The first bomb, a 50-pound ordnance, dropped on the southwest side of State House in Marina did not explode. The second hit the Barclays Bank building (40 Marina, Lagos) and extensive damage was done to the Canadian Chancery in that same building. The third bomb was dropped in the vicinity of Niger House at the intersection between Broad Street and Marina. According to US defence attaché’s report, the plane then flew to Apapa dropping a bottled gas bomb on Harbour Road, missing the large fuel tanks in the area which were its primary targets. It was when the plane circled to return to Lagos Island that anti-aircraft batteries from the Naval Dockyard, Apapa, were launched at it. Still hurtling in the air as it passed over Ikoyi, the plane was hit by artillery from Dodan Barracks. Oppenheim and his three crew members hit the ground in southwest Ikoyi as a ball of fire. That left Wharton as Biafra’s sole arms dealer.
Wharton had been involved in arms supply to Biafra since October 1966, when Ojukwu told a select few he had decided on secession. In September 1968, Wharton said he was tired of the promise of the Biafran bonds and flew to see Ojukwu for his $1million dollars cash payment. Instead, Ojukwu accused Wharton of working for his enemies. He charged that from June to August 1968, when the Federal Government announced the much publicised “quick-kill” offensive to defeat the Biafra, Wharton’s deliveries suddenly became irregular and so the mercenaries and their battalions could not have enough supplies of arms and ammunition.
Ojukwu also described as sabotage the incident during which Wharton’s plane emptied its Biafra-bound cargo into the Atlantic Ocean. In his diary entry on that day Ojukwu wrote: “August 13 : The Hank Wharton Plot, hatched by British government and American CIA to sabotage Biafra and help Nigeria to carry through her ‘final thrust’ into Biafran heartland. Cargoes of arms and ammunition bought by Biafra are dumped into the sea during airflight. Tons of new Biafran currency are dumped into the sea, to create artificial scarcity in the Republic.”
Wharton vigorously denied that was the case. He told Ojukwu that his plane developed engine problems and the pilot had to quickly eject its cargo into the sea to avoid crash. He argued further if he had wanted to double-cross Ojukwu, he would not have lifted the cargo at all from Sao Tome. Ojukwu was not convinced. He had no money to pay Wharton.
The European mercenaries too started having a rethink; they were convinced that there was no money and that the bonds were a fraud. Peter Lynch, the Australian correspondent working for United Press International in Biafra, told the American Ambassador in Lagos on his way back that Pierre Laures, the Chief French Procurement Officer, had disappeared. “All the French mercenaries of the Faulques Group had left Biafra as they found the going too tough and had not being paid.”
Goldstein, the PR guru, called up Robert Smith, American diplomat in Washington. He said because of the discussions they had about the validity of Biafran bonds, he too had started to scale down his commitment to Biafra.
On 13 August 1968, Goldstein addressed a press conference in Washington, where he announced that he was done with Biafra and Ojukwu. In his resignation letter, he accused Ojukwu of using Biafra’s starving children to negotiate favourable concessions for himself because of the OAU summit coming up and that Ojukwu never cared about those starving children. Yet, Goldstein wrote: “Starvation was the most agonising death that can befall any living creature.” He seemed to have claimed the moral high ground.
However, The Milwaukee Journal of 14 August 1968 told a different story. The paper reported that Goldstein was given $35,000 down payment in cash for his resignation by the Federal Government in place of the worthless $1miilion Biafran bonds he was carrying about. Even his resignation letter was worded for him. According to a confidential State Department document cabled to the US Embassy in Lagos on 17 July, Goldstein met with Iyalla, Nigeria’s Ambassador to US, on 16 July 1968 and offered to reverse all the PR successes he had done for Biafra. He suggested that he would help organise a world press conference at which Gowon would passionately plead with Ojukwu to allow his people to come out of the bush and be fed. This, Goldstein argued, would switch the perception of Gowon as the starver of children they had created in the eyes of the world back to Ojukwu and the Biafran government. Goldstein also suggested that Nigerian planes should drop food and leaflets pointing to relief centres on starving Biafran territories, but this should only be done when foreign reporters were there. The cable concluded: “The fact is that Goldstein has not received payment from the Biafrans is obviously the reason for the switch, but he didn’t reveal (to us) the price he is quoting to the Federal Government. He continues to negotiate with Iyalla and awaiting decision from Lagos.”
A month later, the cable of 14 August 1968 opened with: “The (State) Department has noted with interest the Federal Government’s leaflets drop in rebel-held areas.” A sum of $35,000 had changed hands. Wharton, Biafra’s sole arms dealer, also admitted in an interview with Alexander Mitchell of Sunday Times of 27 October 1968 that he too had been “approached by British agents and offered bribes to switch allegiances”. He emptied his cargo in the sea to convince his new paymasters he meant business. The British Foreign Office promptly denied it. Wharton, Peter Lynch observed, had a row with Goldstein in Port Harcourt back in February 1968 over Biafrans’ failure to produce money owed him.
Goldstein persuaded him he would get paid one way or the other. Wharton later said he received “an anonymous call” from Frankfurt in Germany, offering him $100, 000 to switch sides. As Alexander Mitchell of Sunday Times noted, Wharton secretly visited London twice in two weeks.
During their talk in Geneva, Father Doheny told Clarence Ferguson that Biafrans believe the key to a ceasefire was London. “Despite British support for the federal side, there is an innate respect in Biafra for Britain. He feels that a British fact-finding mission to Biafra would be well received,” Doheny said. Ferguson carefully noted what the priest said and asked if Biafrans “have a price” other than “the stated price” it might be “useful if they sent the message in clear terms by known Biafran official.” Ferguson then suggested Pius Okigbo, the Commissioner for Economic Affairs and Sir Louis Mbanefo, the Chief Justice.
Father Kevin Doheny stayed with the Biafrans till after the war when he was arrested. He was tried on 27 January 1970, found guilty of “giving military help to the rebel regime” and sentenced to six months imprisonment. He was expelled from Nigeria on 3 February, 1970.
Inside The Midwest
In Lagos, the atmosphere of deep mistrust of Igbos left behind and those who recently made their way back from Biafra thickened. It had come to light that some of the Igbo minority of the Midwest were used to sweep away Ejoor and put an Okonkwo in power. It would happen in Lagos, they reckoned. Banjo’s troops were reported to be in Ore heading for Lagos. The atmosphere was dense with suspicions. Rubbles of the damaged Inland Revenue office, the British Library, the telephone exchange and cinema house near Rowe Park inYaba from the explosions of bombs conveyed in a petrol tanker on 19 July 1967 were there. Four people died and 56 were injured.
On the night of 9 August, another Biafran plane flew in from the East and dropped bombs on non-military area.‘Warning bombs,’ Ojukwu called them in a lengthy midnight address on Radio Biafra on 10 August 1967. The plane also dropped leaflets in Ikeja and Palmgrove areas “calling on people to overthrow Gowon’s government and the Hausa imperialists.” The American ambassador noted that the leaflets were similar to the ones being distributed by Biafran soldiers to gain support in the Midwest. On 16 August 1967, another Biafran plane flew in and dropped two bombs on Apapa. The more the bombs exploded, the more Igbos resident in Lagos were put in trouble.
Ambassador Mathews cabled Washington: “We have a number of reports that Ibos are being taken from their homes and offices, in many cases not, repeat, not gently. We have no info on what is being done with those detained.” In an earlier document, Mathews wrote: “Soldiers in lorries mounted house-to-house searches along Ikorodu Road in densely populated quarters of Lagos and took Ibos from their houses to the army barracks.”
Governor Mobolaji Johnson went on radio to address Lagosians in a way sharply different from the conciliatory tone he adopted the previous month when Biafran explosions began to rock Lagos. “Ibos openly rejoiced at the events in the Midwest and that some openly boast Ojukwu will soon take over Lagos or bomb Lagos to ashes. All these acts of treachery, sabotage and uncharitable-ness are an abuse of kindness and hospitality of people of Lagos State,” Johnson said.
According to official police estimates, around 50,000 Igbo lived in Lagos; around 32,000 were believed to live in Ikeja, where the airport and army base are located. As of August 1967, only 17, 000 were left. In Ibadan, an estimated 6000 remained.
“Recent conversations with AlhajiAdegbenro (Awolowo’s lieutenant), Dele Ige (Bola Ige’s younger brother) and other prominent Yorubas have indicated great fear on their part that Ibos were planning to sabotage federal institutions located in Ibadan, in particular University of Ibadan and University College Hospital,” Mr Strong wrote in a confidential cable.
In his probe of the prevalent fear, Strong questioned E.M. Ajala, the local head of Nigerian Tobacco Company, whose employees had been implicated in the discovery of ten cases of gelignite near University of Ibadan. According to Ajala, “the leader of the group was an Ibo graduate of University of Nigeria and the purpose was to teach the Yorubas a lesson, having displaced their countrymen after the mass exodus of Ibo doctors and professors from both institutions since last October (1966).”
The American diplomat then noted that University of Ibadan and the University College Hospital were being watched and that “Premier Hotel now searches all entering guests”.
Though later rescinded by Awolowo when he heard of it overnight on 16 August 1967, the British Area Manager of Electricity Corporation of Nigeria (ECN) received an executive order from Governor Adebayo that he had 48 hours to round up ‘his Igbos’ and send them to the designated collection points. All Igbo in Ibadan were to be rounded up and sent to designated collection points as a matter of state policy. The collection point for ECN Igbo was, ironically, Liberty Stadium. Olunloyo College of Education and Government College were the collection points for the estimated 400 Igbos of UCH and 900 Igbos of UI. All 6,000 to be rounded up would then be transported by train to Apapa for onward movement back to the East. According to the American consul, Professor J.F Ade-Ajayi, acting Vice-Chancellor of University of Ibadan after Professor Kenneth Dike fled, had gathered his remaining Igbo staff and offered to repatriate them with three months’ salaries paid in advance.
At two o’ clock that sameday, Governor Adebayo met with the Leaders of Thought at the Parliament Buildings, Ibadan, to discuss Victor Banjo and the developments in the Midwest. Adebayo told the gathering: “He stands firmly by oath to join with colleagues in the federal government to do everything in our power… to work for reconciliation amongst various peoples of the federation.” Yet, on that same day, he signed a secret executive order for Igbos to be rounded up and deported from Ibadan.
At the Kano airport, soldiers seized an Igbo stewardess from a plane on which she flew in from London. She was never heard of again. Radio Kaduna informed its listeners that all branches of the African Continental Bank, ACB, had been closed and were being searched by mobile police after “intelligence reports” revealed “all ACB branches” were harbouring explosives. ACB, the radio informed its listeners, was owned by “the former Eastern Nigerian Government and the banned Ibo Union.”
At 9:25 p.m on 10 August 1967, NNS Lokoja (Nigeria’s only landing craft), left Lagos again with supplies to reinforce the activities of Adekunle’s 3rd Marine Commandoes, 3MCDS. Two weeks before, she had taken two battalions – the first instalment of the 35,000 strong Division to Bonny. The Biafran Navy comprised speedboats, tug boats and barges commandeered from the oil companies as well as canoes and rafts of fishermen. NNS Ibadan, a Second World War British Navy Seaward Defence Boat with a 40/60mm Bofors anti-aircraft forehead that could hardly fire three rounds without jamming was the command ship of this Navy. She was proudly rechristened BNS Biafra.
Commander Winifred Anuku, head of the Biafran Navy, had mapped out a plan to arm an old dilapidated dredging ship with hidden artillery and several companies in its well and deck fittings. Seeing it was old and non-military, one of the NNS enforcing the blockade would be confident to approach her and interrogate her, they reckoned. Then they would quickly open fire on the upper deck of the Nigerian ship, overpower her and take her to their naval dockyard in Port Harcourt as the new Biafran sea jewel. Three days on the sea, no NNS approached. Lt Cdr P.J. Odu, commander of the planned piracy, reported back to Anuku: “No enemy ship sighted 20 miles offshore.”
He then dismissed the naval blockade as “propaganda to convince friendly countries from sending shipments of arms.” When James Parker, the UK Deputy High Commissioner in Enugu, and Bob Barnard, his American counterpart, met Ojukwu and asked him about the rumoured invasion from the sea, Ojukwu simply laughed. “He laughed at the thought that the Nigerian Navy could enforce a blockade of Biafran ports or mount amphibious operation on Biafran coasts with its winding creeks and primordial mangrove swamp running twenty miles inland. He said he doesn’t know where the Nigerian naval vessels go when they depart Lagos, but they are not, repeat, not patrolling off the coast of Biafra,” Barnard wrote.”
Unknown to the Biafrans, NNS Penelope, the command ship of the Nigerian Navy had been summoned with all her sisters, including the five taking turns to enforce the blockade to the Naval Dockyard in Apapa. By 1800hrs on 18 July 1967, they were all there. Also assembled were three merchant vessels from the Nigerian National Shipping Line: King Jaja, Oranyan, Bode Thomas and later Oduduwa and Warigi from Farrell Lines. They were there to rehearse a joint Army and Navy amphibious operation, which was later variously described as a “masterpiece in the history of warfare in Africa, “the first of its kind by any 3rd world country,” “the African version of Omaha Beach landings that turned the tide of the Second World War”.
By the 25 July, the invasion to stamp Federal boots on the Niger Delta and close in on Biafra from the south was launched. The three Seaward Defence Boats, SDBs: NNS Ogoja, Benin and Enugu proceeded into Bonny River channel, while NNS Nigeria, a frigate, stood on the high seas guarding NNS Lokoja with its human cargo. Because of her longer range four-inch battery, Nigeria was still able to provide support for the operational objectives of the three SDBs ahead. NNS Ogoja, the largest of the SDB spotted BNS Biafra heading downstream. She quickly steered away from the convoy to engage her. Once Biafra came within her range, Ogoja fired shots in rapid succession. Biafra replied feebly and its Bofors guns kept on jamming after three shots. Akin Aduwo, who was commanding Ogoja, and P.J.Odu, commander of Biafra, were colleagues and very good friends for years. But the war had made them to reach a point where one must destroy the other for the greater glory of his country.
While the engineers were fixing this jam, Biafra was trying to quickly manoeuvre round in a tight circle so that it won’t be in a broadsides range with Ogoja, hence becoming a turkey shoot. But she got stuck in the shallow end of the river. Aduwo depressed his guns, fired low at the stern to jam the engines and propellers. That ensured Biafra was going nowhere again. His friend and his crew quickly deserted the ship and escaped into the swamps. The tow tug boat, Abdul Maliki, later came to tow BNS Biafra back to Naval Dockyard in Lagos, where it was rechristened NNS Ibadan. Ogoja returned to join Benin and Enugu never realising that the fight between friends, the desertion of Biafra and its rechristening in Lagos would be the metaphor for the 30-month civil war.
The heavy fire from Enugu, Benin and Ogoja so thoroughly subdued the Biafran defensive positions on Bonny Island that resistance to NNS Lokoja’s troop landings were too scattered to make an impact. As a result, Federal SDBs did not have to recourse to indiscriminate shelling to subdue the island, which may have affected the oil installations and refinery jetties. US Defence Attaché’s noted in his secret report of 27 July 1967 that Gowon, was “overjoyed” when Adekunle reported that Bonny had been taken with “no damage to the oil installations.” All the 16 storage tanks with their 3.9 million litres of crude oil were intact. Quickly, they consolidated their positions on both sides of the river channel and by mid-morning 5 August, Dawes Island, which controls river channels leading to Okrika were in Adekunle’s hands.
On 10 August, Adekunle received a report from Supreme Headquarters that a whole Biafran Brigade had crossed the Niger Bridge and had split in Agbor. Some battalions were heading northwards towards Auchi and Aghenebode, some were heading to Benin and more pertinently to him, some were heading to Warri and Sapele. The 3MCDs made immediate plans to respond to this Biafran surprise. First, Adekunle knew that the invasion may be a tactical objective to recapture Bonny. Biafran Navy Headquarters in Port Harcourt could not feel safe knowing that a Nigerian brigade was stationed 35km away at Bonny.
What Adekunle did was to quickly redeploy the 7th and 32ndbattalions to the Forcados and Escravos creeks, 166 nautical miles away, to contain any advance of Biafran troops to the creeks. The 8th battalion proceeded to hold a defensive alignment with Port Harcourt. Major Abubakar’s 9th Battalion left to hold Bonny Island and perform rear operations. The NNS that were bringing in supplies, equipment and personnel were re-routed166 nautical miles back to Forcados and Escravos. The Nigerian national line cargo vessel, Oranyan which, on 8 August, had departed from Lagos and arrived in Bonny with supplies, equipment and some personnel, was ordered to unload at the village of Sobolo-Obotobo which is northwest of Forcados. At 6:30a.m on the 11 August, NNS Enugu left Bonny River and was on recce in Escravos River in case there were militarised speedboats, tugs or barges lurking somewhere. There was none.At 9am, NNS Lokoja disgorged two additional rifle companies at Escravos and quickly established defensive positions there. On the 13 August, MV Bode Thomas added more supplies, equipment and personnel reinforcements. The build-up continued.
To the annoyance of Adekunle, who was arguably the most successful war commander in Nigeria’s military history, a new Division was created and called 2nd Division. It was headed by Lt Colonel Murtala Muhammed. Adekunle’s formation, despite the success of his mission so far, was not upgraded to divisional strength. With the addition of 31st and 33rd Battalion, he was upgraded to 3rd Marine Commando Division. Muhammed’s comprised three brigades 4th, 5th, 6th. They were commanded by Lt Colonels Godwin Ally, Francis Aisida and AlaniAkinrinade. Their mission imperative was to rout the Biafran forces from the Midwest by invading from the West, Northwest and North.
Ally’s 4th Brigade (which was to be later commanded by Major Ibrahim Taiwo of the 10th Battalion because a sniper fire hit Ally in the chest in Asaba and almost killed him) was at the Ore, Ofosu, Okitipupa sector, holding a defensive alignment against Banjo’s advance. Akinrinade’s 6th Brigade was tasked with Owo-Akure sector and Aisida’s 5th was the command brigade in Okene with Auchi and Ubiaja being their strategic objectives. Benin, Agbor and Asaba were their operational objectives.
All the brigade commanders were waiting for a sign. In his report of 24 August 1967, Standish Brooks, US Defence Attaché wrote: “Murtala Muhammad does not want to fight a piecemeal campaign without a series of logical and successive objectives being assigned and without reasonable capabilities to achieve the objectives at hand.” Bisalla, the Chief of Staff (Army), said of Murtala: “I know him. When he starts, he wants to go all the way to the River [Niger] before he even thinks of stopping.” But he needed the sign first and his brigade commanders were waiting too.
Besides the military communication units, the army headquarters in Lagos, at times, used the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation to transmit information to all the divisional headquarters and brigade commanders. It could be done during radio programmes, news bulletins or radio jingles. The public heard these secret codes, but thought they were part of the show. But on the 20 September 1967, at 8a.m, NBC broadcast the sign the field commanders had been waiting for. “The frogs are swimming; the frogs are swimming.” The CIA’s Foreign Broadcast Information Service (FBIS) monitored and recorded key signals, statements and speeches about the war from every radio station in Nigeria, Biafra and neighbouring countries. And they shared them with American Diplomatic/Consular units, CICSTRIKE (Commander In Chief STRIKE – Swift Tactical Response In Every Known Environment), ACSI (Assistant Chief of Staff, Intelligence), CINCMEAFSA (Commander in Chief Middle East/South Asia and Africa South of the Sahara) and DIA (Defence Intelligence Agency).
Brooks, the attaché posted to Nigeria, analysed The frogs are swimming intelligence thus: “This informed the 2nd Division and the guerrilla bands operating in various areas of the Midwest that elements of Adekunle’s 3rd Division are already ashore from the Escravos/Forcados creeks.” Hastily marshalled Midwestern militias had been dealing fires to the Biafran occupiers. It was reported that Urhobo, Ijaw and Itsekiri swimmers were diving underwater and organising surprise attacks on Biafran units and formations along the Ethiope River. In Benin too, they reminded themselves they were the city of Ovonramwen Nogbaisi and the Biafran forces were the latest version of the British expedition forces of the 19th century. Rapidly, young men were organising themselves into deadly underground resistance groups. Old people, who could not fight, were contributing money and their dane guns; young women, like Moremi, were reported to be offering their bodies to get close to these Biafran forces and poison their food.
The frogs are swimming. Adekunle and his 3MCDOs left their Escravos base at 3a.m and were blazing towards their objectives on speedboats. The boats held a platoon of 26 troops and the ones that carried a Land Rover each could only take 12 soldiers. With NNS Enugu providing the operational support, seven hours later, they had secured the ports of Koko and Sapele. They forked into two columns. One headed towards Warri and by 22 September, it had captured the Warri Port and the ECN power station in Ughelli. The frogs are swimming. The other column headed northeast to Agbor on Sapele/Agbor Road. A northern column from the 6th Brigade of the 2nd Division was also heading south east to Agbor via Ehor-Agbor Road.
The next day, Agbor fell. To keep up the momentum, Lagos sent in 5,000 German G3 7.62 rifles to be issued to marine commandos.The riverine operation of the 3MCDs was billed to be defining in its ruthless efficiency because the federal government wanted to use it to send a message to the oil companies suspending royalty payments who their boss was between Nigeria and Biafra. The American secret cable of 3 July stated that Shell-BP was convinced that “Biafra was here to stay and that Ojukwu would be kind to the company.”
Within seven days, Ore, Benin, Agbor, Asaba, Kwale, Warri and Sapele fell. Ojukwu fled. The 3MCDs were asked to pull back from Agbor and Kwale and the Ethiope River was made into the inter-divisional boundary with the 2nd Division. On 29 September at 1550hrs, CIA’s Foreign Broadcast Information Service recorded Adekunle on Benin Radio warning Midwesterners: “not to take advantage of the presence of federal troops to engage in looting, murder, and other criminalities.” Addressing the people of Warri, western Itshekiri and Agbor, he warned against using soldiers to achieve “personal vendettas.” Adekunle reminded his listeners that “he has powers to impose martial law in coastal areas, but does not wish to do so.”
He then signed himself off as General Officer Commanding Nigerian Coastal Sector. It was not only Adekunle, made colonel after the successful Bonny Island landing, that promoted himself without the approval of Lagos. On 21 September, Murtala Mohammed went on the same Benin Radio, as monitored by the CIA, to “officially confirm the complete liberation of the Midwestern state except Agbor and Asaba” as the GOC of the 2nd Division when he was only a lieutenant colonel. He then announced: “On behalf of the head of the Federal Military Government,” the appointment of “Lieutenant Colonel Samuel Ogbemudia as the temporary administrator.”
Gowon and the Federal Executive Council were reported to have been “shocked” but they “regularised the appointment since Ogbemudia was the most appropriate for the job.” Another document titled Military Campaign in the Midwest stated: “Ogbemudia’s father is of mixed Benin-Ika extraction, as his home village near Agbor is inhabited by a tribally mixed people. Ogbemudia’s mother is ‘pure Ibo’ from the East.”
Later in the evening, Ogbemudia addressed the people. The CIA was listening, too. He asked all workers to resume work in the morning of 22 September and nullified all the appointments and promotions made by the Biafran regime. He asked the people not to “pay back Ibos in their own coin” and announced the the lifting of the curfew imposed by the Biafran regime. However, he advised people to stay indoors after 10:00pm “to allow the federal troops to complete the operation of mopping few relining stragglers.” But why after 10pm in the night?
On Wednesday 20 September 1967, federal troops opened fire on a Catholic Convent in Benin City. There was only one nun there and she managed to escape with a few injuries. The soldiers subsequently said they were told by the local people that some Igbos were hiding behind the convent, hence their decision to shoot at anything that moved. While Bishop Patrick Kelly was giving spiritual comfort to one Igbo civilian, who was badly wounded, some soldiers approached him, enquired whether he was yet dead. When the Bishop said he was still alive, they promptly killed him. The bishop wrote a report to the Irish ambassador, who passed it to Gowon and the American ambassador.
The cold-blooded massacres in Midwest were not monopolised by the federal troops only. A confidential report of 15 October 1967 recorded that “as the Biafrans retreated from Benin to Agbor, they killed all the men, women and children they could find who were not Igbos. The town of Abudu, one of the larger places between Agbor and Benin lost virtually of its population with the exception of a small proportion that fled into the bush”. Anthony Charles Stephens, an expatriate teacher from Britain, was killed when he refused to surrender his car to the retreating Biafran forces. Father Coleman, an Irish priest, said before Biafran troops left Agbor “without a fight”, they killed off most of “non-Ibo men, women and children.”
In general, the American confidential report stated, non-Igbo Midwesterners were very anti-Biafran throughout the occupation. For weeks, many of them hid northerners in their homes from the Biafran troops who set out to kill them. The document continued: “Nearly all rejoiced when federal troops came in. The only town that was an exception was Ehor where, even after the federal troops arrived, the local populace was protecting the Igbo soldiers and tried to confuse the federal troops.”
However in Benin, there was no intention to confuse. “The civilians were busy pointing out the Ibos,” the document stated. The federal troops set up “two big camps to serve as safe havens in a school for the Ibos. The women and children were taken there,” the report said. But the men? Sam Idah, Director of the Benin Cemetery on Ifon Road, told the American diplomats on 21 September 1967 that 24 hours after the federal troops arrived, 1,258 bodies had been buried there. “Trucks from the Ministry of Works and Transport and from Benin Development Council were used to haul the corpses to the open pits,” he said. Reverend Rooney, a Catholic Missionary with Benin Public Service, said: “A total of 989 civilians had been killed that day in the city.”
Ambassador Elbert Matthews noted that “with the capture of the Midwest and the fall of the Biafran capital within days, the Federal Government senses eventual military victories and was in no mood for outside criticisms”. The massacres went on unchecked. Their report in the international media encouraged some diplomatic recognition for Biafra and arms shipments, which prolonged the war for another 27 months.