There was a country: Deconstructing Chinua Achebe’s ‘lies’ (1), By Nnaemeka Meribe

Nnaemeka Meribe
Nnaemeka Meribe

Regular visitors to Nigerian internet discussion forums and social networking sites know that there has always been a cyber war between Yoruba and Igbo cyber warriors. Almost every issue-positive or negative-is tribalised. The two groups are filled with scoffers. An eminent Yoruba leader dies, Igbo cyber warriors pour invectives on him and vice-versa. A Nigerian of Igbo extraction achieves a rare feat abroad; Yoruba cyber warriors go lengths to belittle the achievement and vice-versa.

The only time the two groups would reach a consensus is when the issue is the non-performance of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party or the barbarism of the extremist group, Boko Haram.  Indeed, a first time visitor (with little or no knowledge of Nigeria) to any of these forums will think that Nigeria is all about the Yorubas and the Igbos.

Not surprisingly, the recent release by iconic novelist, Chinua Achebe, of his civil war memoir, There was a country, intensified the cyberwar. The master story teller blames the late sage and Yoruba legend, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, for the starvation to death of a huge number of Biafran children during the war.
Achebe writes: “It is my impression that Awolowo was driven by an overriding ambition for power, for himself and for his Yoruba people. There is, on the surface at least, nothing wrong with those aspirations. However, Awolowo saw the dominant Igbos at the time as the obstacles to that goal, and when the opportunity arose – the Nigeria-Biafra war – his ambition drove him into a frenzy to go to every length to achieve his dreams. In the Biafran case it meant hatching up a diabolical policy to reduce the numbers of his enemies significantly through starvation — eliminating over two million people, mainly members of future generations.”
Achebe’s narrative, not surprisingly, infuriated the Yoruba group and a good number of them turned into emergency researchers and historians, using the Internet and the print media to disseminate counter narratives aimed at absolving the most venerable Awolowo from Achebe’s accusations. Old Awo’s interviews were excavated to exculpate him. His associates, even those who betrayed him at some points, went mad, describing Achebe as one of Nigeria’s greatest liars. Some even called for Achebe’s head.

Many fly-by-night literary critics dismissed the memoir and its style as the worst of Achebe’s literary works. It did not matter to them if book and its style had been lauded by some of the world’s top names in literary criticism. Their Igbo counterparts used the same combination of media to stoutly defend Achebe’s position, reinforcing his narrative with many of their own ‘well -researched stories based on historical facts’.

In the midst of this cyber war, the Yoruba group exhumed a big one that was sure to bolster their position that Awolowo was not guilty as charged.  It was a letter of resignation by Biafra’s publicist, Robert Goldstein, published in the Morning Post of Lagos edition of August 17, 1968. In that letter, Goldstein claimed that his conscience had led him to resign from his job as Biafra’s publicist considering that Biafra’s leader, Odumegwu Ojukwu, was deliberately prolonging starvation to win world’s sympathy and support.

Goldstein wrote:  “It is inconceivable to me that you (Ojukwu) would stop the feeding of thousands of your countrymen (under auspices of world organizations such as the International Red Cross, World Council of Churches and many more) via a land corridor which is the only practical way to bring in food to help at this time. It is inconceivable to me that men of good faith would try to twist world opinion in such a manner as to deceive people into believing that the starvation and hunger that is consuming ‘Biafra’ is a plot of Britain, Nigeria and others to commit genocide”.

To the Yoruba group, it was eureka! Comments like ‘the truth can never be hidden’ were not in short supply. Many of them thanked God that Awolowo had finally been absolved while Achebe and his colony of liars and losers had been given a technical knockout. Indeed, that resignation letter got the social media buzzing. It trended like hot akara balls.

Without any shadow of doubt, Goldstein’s resignation letter spoke volumes. It must have derailed what was left of the Biafra’s ‘propaganda’ train. It is based on that letter and people’s readiness to stand truth on its head in order to defend a member of their tribe that I am writing this piece. I feel that we will be doing our country a lot of good as we trudge toward nationhood if we began to remove our tribal goggles when looking at issues. We should stop defining truth and justice on the basis of who is involved. I am worried that injustice will become justice to the Igbo when a Yoruba has been cheated and vice-versa.

Those who hoped to score a cheap point with Goldstein’s letter failed to do a good research on the fellow. The guy was more or less a mercenary who was ever willing to work with the highest bidder. His whole interest was pecuniary.

What actually led to Goldstein’s resignation? It was the quest for more dollars. His associates said so. There was no doubt that Goldstein did a good public relations job for Biafra. This, however, did not go down with the Nigerian government and they looked for ways to buy him over, especially when Biafra was not meeting its financial side of the deal with him.

This was well stated in a story published by the Milwaukee Journal on August 14, 1968 with the title, ‘US publicist quits in fight with Biafra’. According to the story, during a press conference in Los Angeles in which Goldstein , who ‘was now convinced that one Nigeria is the only solution to peace’, announced his resignation, two of his associates, Howard Cogan and Martin Wesson, contended that his ‘actions were nothing more than a sell out for dollars’. The two guys exposed Goldstein when they revealed to journalists that he ‘had accepted $35,000 from the Federal Republic of Nigeria as part payment for his resignation and discredit of the Sovereign Republic of Biafra’.

The newspaper saw through Goldstein’s dodgy nature when it wrote: ‘Somewhat vague on figures, Goldstein insisted that he had gotten only $22, 000 from Biafra for expenses so far and that he had spent much more than that. He said he was renouncing all claim to his share of $400,000 due to him from the Biafran regime this Dec. 1. But he declared that he did not have ‘the foggiest idea’ of how much money he stood to lose.’

Nigeria’s complicity in Goldstein’s resignation was, however, tacitly revealed in the The Blade of Toledo’s report of the story on the same day (August 14, 1968). The newspaper reported that Goldstein told journalists that he was considering going to work for Nigeria but that he hadn’t been approached. The newspaper added, “later that day, the Nigerian Embassy announced that they have already fired another firm, Burson-Mar stellar Associates, to burnish their image here’. It goes without saying that the firing opened way for the engagement of Goldstein by the Nigerian government.

From these two stories, it is clear that Goldstein resignation was dollar-driven rather than conscience-driven. It will, therefore, be unfair for any person of goodwill to use the letter to absolve Awolowo from an unfortunate action which he never denied. In the interview he granted to journalists on the run up to the 1983 general elections, which was unearthed and reproduced in various newspapers and online news portals in the wake of Achebe’s book, he gave his reasons for sanctioning the starvation policy. The sage defended the action, saying that it was a well thought-out policy to stop Biafran soldiers from ‘stealing’ food meant for civilians.

What a sagely defence! So, the best and fastest way to stop less than 20,000 soldiers from feeding fat and continue fighting was to come up with a policy that would lead to the death of two million children.  How many tonnes of food could soldiers possibly finish given the amount of food that became rancid in Sao Tome and Principes following the starvation policy and the blockade? When you contrast Awo’s defence with his now infamous and eternally self-damning statement: “All is fair in war, and starvation is one of the weapons of war. I don’t see why we should feed our enemies fat in order for them to fight harder”, you will see that the starve-them-to-death approach was more of a well-planned war strategy.

Obviously, the Nigerian government was not interested in whatever happened to Biafran children and civilians. In fact, its aim was to kill and destroy any movable thing in the Biafran territory. Benjamin Adekunle , who was the commander of Nigeria’s 3rd Marine Commando Division, confirmed it when he said: ‘I  want to see no Red Cross, no Caritas, no World Council of Churches, no Pope, no missionary and no UN delegation. I want to prevent even one Ibo from having even one piece to eat before their capitulation’ (See the 2010 publication: Executive Session of The US Senate Foreign Relations Committee -Historical Series-, Vol XX, Nineteenth Congress, Second Session, 1968, p. 1023)

David L. Koren, a former American Peace Corps member in Nigeria, also affirmed same in his book, Far Away in the Sky: A Memoir of the Biafran Airlift, which was released this year. He told of how Biafra’s Uli airstrip was consistently bombed by Nigerian aircraft whenever relief cargo was being unloaded, According to Koren, ‘The Nigerian Intruder, code named “Yellow Bar” or “Genocide,” persistently bombed the airstrip, sometimes as relief cargo was being unloaded, sending workers into crude bomb shelters…’

In fact, Keren described as inhuman the notion that starvation ends wars quicker. He observed: “Four decades after the Biafran war the causes and events of that time are forgotten.  What remains is an historical lesson, the idea that the Biafran Airlift was a mistake, that it caused many more deaths by prolonging the war, that a ‘quick death’ would have been the more merciful solution. In academic books about international aid, that doctrine is sated as fact without proof or discussion.

“In international politics, the doctrine impedes the impulse to intervene in humanitarian disasters like Rwanda or Darfur. This Biafra lesson explicitly condones massacres, acts of war, and mass starvation of people by its government, as long as it’s done quickly. Instead of condemning humanitarian aid for keeping people alive too long, condemn that government which uses mass starvation to subdue its own people”.

In a review of the memoir in Peace Corps Worldwide ( July 24, John Coyne, who was also an American Peace Corps member in Nigeria before the civil war noted, “What advocates of the let-them-starve doctrine need to do, says Koren, is talk to the children who without the nourishment supplied by the airlift would have died to force their government to surrender.”

The starvation policy was unfortunate and wicked and trying to absolve a person who even confessed to being an author of the policy is even more wicked.What led to the death of over two million people is not what anybody should revel in. Vice should not become virtue when it is Uche and then become what it actually is when it’s Segun.What is condemnable is condemnable whether or not our demigods are involved. That’s one of the ways to heal the painful wounds of the past and move forward in one accord as a nation.


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  • Henry Chidi

    Well done. Wonderful piece. Well researched. Let the truth be told though the heavens fall.

  • Oladimeji Olaposi

    Well done Nnaemeka Meribe, was all that anecdotal piece meant to absolve Ojukwu? Well, you have also tried to absolve one who had never denied the responsibility of starving his own blood to death.

  • femi

    Meribe, it gets to a point where one wonders whether it is intellectually worthy to engage in this debate. But for reasons of clarification one may say one or two things. One thing came out clearly from for example Tunji Ariyomo’s starting point in his own submission. When I read Tunji’s posts some weeks ago, I took something away about we peoples of African descent globally. And that is our now legendary failure as a people to take responsibility for our actions. Take the issue of slavery and colonialism-Tunji gave fillip to my thought when he said that on the issue of slavery we blacks continue to blame the western world, but we never introspect and say “look I sold my brothers and sisters slavery … I made a mistake doing that… it was wrong…” This mode of thought has one phrase “… take responsibility for your action…” It is simple. It prevents you from repeating it. You also help others not to follow a path that you took which proved disastrous. You can see the consequence of that failure in black peoples and peoples of African descent and their so-called countries. Then and now we blacks remain the most backward globally. We are also the ones that sold our brothers and sisters, refuse to take responsibility and this is why today we make “home” difficult and we make our people to run abroad to beg and be second class citizens. The day we are ready to take responsibility for our actions as back people and peoples of African descent is the day the world will begin to respect us. Also, that day we will be very “hard’ on ourselves and take responsibility for our actions in a way that prevents us from repeating past mistakes. Having said I want to briefly call your attention to what you have written-at least in this part 1. I have the following questions.

    1. What is the responsibility of the leadership of Biafra in all these and in the Civil? By leadership that includes people like Ojukwu, Chinua Achebe. Do they have any responsibility in the killings of both Biafra Nigerians and other Nigerians in the non-Biafra part of Nigeria? Or what is your own idea of taking responsibility? Should humans take responsibility for their actions or should we not?

    2. Suppose EVERYTHING YOU HAVE WRITTEN HERE IS TRUE, given your “rebuttal” of Goldstein, are you aware that you have given us a picture that Biafra was a business project? The business partners are the Biafra leadership which include Ojukwu, Chinua Achebe, Goldstein, Howard Cogan, Martin Wesson and others that may either escape your findings or that are not mentioned. I am basing this observation on what you have presented here. Mr Meribe, check your write up once again, given the image of the Biafra leadership(Ojukwu, Chinua Achebe and others) that is gradually emerging from all the ” finding” you have presented Biafra as a business project that went awry. Let me make this clearer, I guess the question is: suppose everything you have written here is the fact the question is what does it mean when people( in this Biafra case Ojukwu, Chinua Achebe, Goldstein, Cogan, Wesson etc) haggle and bargain over prices over and above the head of suffering masses of Igbos? It is just business. It is sad. Unfortunately, you did not see this because you are involved. You lost the critical edge, that sharpness to see things and to penetrate the project that sent innocent peoples to their graves. This is where you need to be very careful because your (as part of the new young Igbo elite) loss of that critical edge would logically make you abuse the masses of the Igbos once again just the way Ojukwu, Achebe and others abused them. Here I am talking about the masses of people who take the brunt of the oportunism and bragging of the elites. I am not talking about the children of the elites. This is the precise problems with African elites. They go over and above the head of the masses of African peoples and sell us to the highest bidder. That is the picture we see in your essay. The picture of bargaining and haggling among Ojukwu, Achebe, Goldstein, Cogan, Wesson etc is what we see. You may organize conferences all over the place-with the white man’s dollar, Francs, Deutch and pound sterling. It will not work. You may envelope all your writings with the relevant phrases that generate emotions, it will not work. A rational engagement of what you have written reveals the reprehensible acts of African elites who would always sell their peoples to the white world for pittance. And while they sell the masses of the African peoples, you bet that they have taken their own children abroad to receive good education. Their children are not dying in the so-called battle fields. They prepare their children to come back and take over the remains of the battles. That is the opportunism of the typical African elites. As part of this notoriously opportunistic African elites, that was the class opportunism displayed by the Biafra leadership of Ojukwu and Achebe and others when they sent the masses of the Igbos to their graves for their own selfish class interests. Meribe, it is unfortunate that given that you lost the critical edge to see these larger issues, you have unfortunately given us a bad picture of Biafra leadership as business men. That is bad for the memories of Igbos who died. It is bad for Biafra, it is bad for African elites and their legendary opportunism. My plea to you and other young Igbo elites, do not repeat the class opportunism of African elites. It is not good for our African peoples.

    • Mpitikwelu_na_Ugwu_Awusa

      You are a very smart man. Can I support you by asking
      1. What is the responsibility of the Jewish leadership when Hitler murdered 6 million of them? Those ‘wicked’ jews ‘enjoyed’ having their people massacred.
      2. Yes, we must blame biafrans for hiring an image maker,Goldstein. according to your Solomonic wisdom it shows, having their people starved to death is a ‘business transactions’ for Biafrans.
      Well done, son. Your dad is proud.

      • femi


        My answer to you is simple. You have
        as usual adopted a false and self-serving illustration to suit your tribalist agenda,
        which is also unfortunately defined by a variant of the inferiority complex some black people carry. And in this case given the illustration
        you use one should begin to wonder what your problem and those of your sponsors
        are. There are two issues
        here. The killings, and, the causes and responsibility for the killings. Second, is whether the Jewish case you use
        is the same as the Igbo case. In
        common sense public discussion,
        which goes beyond intra-tribal
        discussion (intra-tribal is the discussion you may have among and within
        members of your tribe), we use public criteria to test the sense in what we are
        saying. People do not use private or intra tribal criteria. Private and intra
        tribal criteria will be okay for you and members of your tribe for whatever
        reason. But they cannot be
        okay for the public in general which go beyond your tribe. So For your illustration to be
        acceptable to people beyond your Igbo tribe you need some measure of
        non-Igbo way of thinking. There is nothing wrong with an Igbo way
        of thinking so long as you do not expect anyone to take you seriously, so long
        as you do mean such for your people.

        Also, people know that you have this inferiority
        complex where you must see yourself in the guise of another group of people
        entirely. No doubt some black people have such inferiority complex too. It is
        like black people who hate
        themselves so badly they bleach to
        look white; they straighten their hair after this they convince themselves that
        they are “white and Caucasian” . After they have done this for so many times,
        they look at themselves in the mirror, and say “oh I look white, I am white.”
        After this they begin to tell themselves that they are white and Caucasian!!!
        This explains your problem when you call yourself and the Igbos Jew on this platform. That in itself is a big
        psychological complex you have to
        solve. Having said that I understand why you will run all the time to the Jewish
        illustration!!! But let us look at
        how sensible your illustration is using basic criteria of sensible and PUBLIC (not personal and
        intra-tribal among your tribe) conversation. For example, for your
        illustration to work,

        1. You
        must tell us whether the Jews were seceding against a sovereign state.

        2. Whether the Jews were fully armed to the teeth against
        the Germans in their secession (if they were seceding).

        3. And whether the Jews
        were ready to kill the
        Germans before the Killings of the

        4. Essentially, you must tell us whether
        there was a state of war in Germany between the Germans and the Jews before the
        killings in Nazi Germany.

        5. You are free to use a tribal Igbo frame. But know that the Igbos are just
        one of Nigeria’s national groups. Also, Igbos are just a group in the world. So
        we cannot rely on Igbo frame as members of a global world. To move closer to a position where the peoples of the world can relate to , we
        ought to use a more global frame that everyone beyond Igbos can access and relate to. This does not stop you from
        continuing to use Igbo frame. But do not expect anyone in the world to take you
        seriously if your frame is basically tribal or intra tribal (therefore making sense ONLY FOR and WITHIN
        your tribe) because people are
        bound to ask you basic and hard questions
        that will make you and your sponsors uncomfortable. So using 1-4 above inform
        us whether there was a civil war in Germany that led to the killings of the Jews in Germany. You
        cannot force an illustration. The problem with the Igbo frame is that you think
        it is enough to dredge up emotions and compare yourself to anything in the
        world, and that is the way to make your point. The world does not operate that
        way. It is because the world does not operate that way that made General Gowon
        say the following:.

        6. Gowon
        said he was ready to face any court. Though I do not even think Gowon needed to
        go to that length. Why? When did the Civil war end? Why hasn’t the world thought
        of “trying” those who ran the Federal Republic of Nigeria during
        the civil war? If dredging up emotions (as some Igbo writers like Achebe and others do all the time) equate law and reason, you know Gowon
        and others would have faced a
        world court. That is the truth. But
        that cannot happen for you must recognize the context of war. Actually, hypothetically speaking by the
        time any trial begins , if Achebe is alive he will go on trial as one of the
        members of the Biafra leadership . He will have to explain to the world what
        justify the rejection of the food
        land corridor. My friend, this is the common sense the Igbo narrators of
        the Achebe type miss. (a) If the situation of hunger was desperate and grim(
        and it was) and it led to the
        Biafra condemnation of the fed
        govt why is THE REVERSE NOT THE CASE?
        (b) In other words why was the hunger situation NOT SO DESPERATE AND
        ABROAD STUDYING. This is simple
        question for you to answer.

        7. When
        you talk about genocide, you talk as if there was an Igbo wedding and suddenly the fed govt invaded the wedding, caught the
        Igbos who were partying unaware and started killing them. But For example when
        Biafra invaded the midwestern region and murdered people including civilians, did Biafra go there with love,
        blanket, pillows, and wedding
        garments, vases of flowers, lullabies and love songs? When Biafra put a bullet through Col Banjo’s skull what did
        Biafra think was happening? And when you were told that the killing Col Banjo
        was cowardly, your defenses are that (i) it was a war situation, (ii) Col Banjo
        was a traitor, and therefore
        Ojukwu, Achebe and Biafra were justified in putting bullets through Banjo’s
        skull and dump the “stupid traitor” somewhere. Biafra did not cite a single
        United Nation’s law that justified the murder of Col Banjo. Rather Biafra cited
        the crudity and brutality of war as the basis for the murder of Col Banjo who
        they called a “common and stupid Yoruba traitor” Now Biafra had “reason” for
        murdering Col Banjo and they justified that as treason. Okay that is fine. Since Biafra evoked war
        situation, even Col Banjo’s family kept quiet. It was war situation and their
        son, father, husband was gone. But what did Biafra commit against Nigeria? Was
        it a love affair? Was it a wedding ceremony such that Biafra should be welcomed
        with garlands of flowers and
        kisses? Is the declaration of war the clinging of wine classes and toasting to
        a wedding? If you are justified in killing those you murdered as you invaded midwestern
        region (including Col Banjo who
        you said committed treason) why do you think those you are killing do not have a right to resist you?
        Honestly, I do not know what often justify this mode of thinking in the Igbo

        8. Beside Gowon’s claim in 6 he passed some humorous comments on the
        so-called Achebe book. Seeing how it was being hawked in Abuja, he said humorously that he was sure Achebe will not make money from the
        book!. Why do you think someone you are gunning for to be tried for killings
        will pass such humor on a book that was supposed to hang him? We Nigerians now know the Igbo frame. We are used to it. So it
        does not bother anyone because it lacks
        the basic human requirement where you are expected to be man enough
        and take responsibility for your
        own actions. It is unfortunate that your posts and other essays will generate these, but there seem not to be any alternative since you are not even ready for once to introspect. It takes some human humility to do this. You do not seem to have it.

        Now let us go to the other things Meribe wrote. These are the false features that can be deduced from the usual Igbo Civil War historical frame and narrative implicated in Meribe’s essay. We are familiar with them. But let us summarise them once again. They are:

        1. ‘War Innocents”. The Igbos in the civil
        war were “war innocents”. They were so innocent , they could not hurt a fly. The federal govt caused the war, the fed
        govt pushed the Igbos, and they
        just killed the Igbos like dat!

        2. “War Innocents”. The Igbos were “war
        innocents”. They did not want to go to war. They were meek whose leaders were
        the only ones who wanted one and a united Nigeria. It was first Federal Govt that made them go to war. But check this. The Igbos were
        “war innocents” despite the fact
        that some historians sometimes
        claim and document (truly or
        wrongly) that the Igbo Biafra were
        better armed than the Federal Govt at the commencement of the civil war. Yet
        the Igbos were “war innocents” like the Jews. See what I mean.? I am just
        asking you to think. How can the Igbos be “war innocents” as the Igbo frame
        wants the world to believe, yet they were better armed than their enemies the
        fed govt at the eve of the war?
        How can someone against who you are better armed push you into war?

        3. “Moral Innocents”. Igbos do not like
        wars. They were “moral innocents”. That “evil” Awolowo forced them to go to
        war. One man, a single man called
        Awolowo deceived them to go to war. He even did that so that the Yorubas ,
        Awolowo own people “can take the place of the Igbos”. At least that is the
        silly Achebe narrative. Now look at it mpitikwelu_na_Ugwu_Awusa, you claim here
        all the time that the Igbos are geniuses, others are idiots, Igbos are Gods, gods and
        goddesses, super men and women etc. But at the same time just one man “deceived” these Igbo “moral innocents” to go to war. Just look at point 2 and 3 and see the ridiculous things the Igbo writers churn out all the time just because they refuse to take responsibility for their actions.

        4. “Business Innocents”. When war started, the Igbos were “business
        innocents”. Goldstein betrayed them! Goldstein was initially working for
        Biafra. But the federal govt asked Goldstein to betray the Igbos . But Ojukwu
        and Achebe were “business innocents’ they were distant from the
        negotiations with their chief propagandists-Goldstein, Cogan, Wesson etc.
        Biafra leadership never asked Cogan and Wesson to say or do anything. They saw
        on their own that what Goldstein did “was bad”, and they said so. Biafra leadership never co-opted Cogan and Wesson. But federal govt co-opted Goldstein who Biafra recruited!!! But same Biafra who claim same Igbos are the best business people
        in the world, they are “modernizers” who go about “modernizing” other peoples’
        lands for them, who know how to do business are suddenly “business innocents”
        who ONE MAN Goldstein “cheated’! haba!

        Now the claim that the Biafra leadership, which included Chinua Achebe, Ojukwu, and
        the publicists Goldstein, Cogan and Wesson, were merely doing business with the
        lives of the Igbos is supported by Meribe’s own claim in his essay. I am not going outside Meribe’s essay. I am staying right there in his essay
        to show this. Unknown to him his essay showed that. Now this it. He said no doubt that Goldstein did good public relations for Biafra. So what is “good” public relations? I will leave that to readers to judge.

        But these are the points. (a) Before Goldstein abandoned the Biafra project he
        did good public relations work (Meribe). (b) After Goldstein abandoned the
        Biafra project, Goldstein was no longer good, it was the fed govt that “bought” him over! (Meribe). (c) But Cogan and Wesson who were Goldstein colleagues and who were pro-Biafra were not bought by Biafra. Cogan and Wesson were “Publicist Innocents”, they were just following their conscience doing a honorable work for Biafra!
        The Igbo narrators of this variant must think readers are idiots.

        Now before I round this part off please check what the dictionary calls
        propaganda It says it is “ chiefly derogatory information,
        esp. of a biased or misleading nature, used to promote or publicize a
        particular political cause or point of view: he was charged with distributing
        enemy propaganda. • the dissemination of such information as a political
        strategy: the party’s leaders believed that a long period of education and
        propaganda would be necessary”.

        So when we are told that some publicists did “good” publicity
        work who later became ‘dollar” driven we need to ask against the Dictionary
        meaning of propaganda (i) what
        kind of “good” public relations work? (ii) if Biafra deployed such a heinous propaganda (Meribe himself confessed to this as the “good” work of Goldstein, and check that so-called “good” work against the dictionary meaning of propaganda) machine onto the
        world and against the fed govt (to the extent that they went genetic in their propaganda war by branding themselves as Jews for an effect, for they know what that connote in the Christian world), was that heinous propaganda (please check for the dictionary
        meaning of propaganda) machine the Biblical Gospel according to St John which talks about love? When you use your own people as human
        shield ( a la Saddam Hussein and Gaddafi
        in the more contemporary situation) for effect , which was then fed into the “good” works of Goldstein, Cogan and Wesson propaganda, what should one call that? Is that the Jewish Biblical Judaic Ten Commandments that “You shall not call the name of the Lord in vain” or that “You shall not kill” or that “You shall not bear
        false witness against your neighbor, or that “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house? The Dictionary says a propaganda is a lie. The Biafra propaganda machine coordinated by Goldstein who Meribe described as having done “good” work deployed that propaganda against Fed Govt and everything the Ten Commandments(remember the Biafra machine also constructed the Igbos as Jews, so they need to be aware of what the Judaic laws as contained in the Ten Commandments said about lying and using propaganda against your neighbor) said about your neighbors, and when the tide changed those who you have deployed propaganda against must be blamed? Thus the
        question is: when exactly will this set of Igbo narrators own up to their own culpability in the killings of their own people?

        Both then and now we know how stupid so-called “war commanders” use their own people as human shields
        in war situations in the face of fire power from the opponents
        to raise global emotional alarm for propaganda purposes. Sadam Hussein is good
        example. Libya’s Gaddafi is another good example. In Nigeria the Biafra
        leadership of Ojukwu and Achebe are good examples and harbingers of this. This
        is why you must separate the facts
        of Biafra rejection of the food land corridor which is well documented and Meribe must let us know whether it is true or not that Biuafra rejected that food land corridor. You can still factor Goldstein’s “good’ work into it. But you must first deny or
        affirm whether that happened or not. Thus, how for God’s sake will the claim(Meribe) that Goldstein was “dollar driven rather than conscience driven” show that
        Biafra’s Ojukwu and Achebe did not reject the plan to ferry food to Biafra areas via land route. These two are not conceptually connected. That Goldstein is “dollar driven” only shows that Ojukwu, Achebe, Cogan, Wesson and Goldstein were doing business with the lives of the masses of the Igbos just like any mercenary would do. It is money FULL STOP. It does not show that the Biafra leadership did not reject the food land corridor. The problems the Biafarans have with their propagandists(Goldstein, Cogan, Wesson and others) have no connection with the fact on the ground that Biafra rejected the offer to ferry food through land route . To show that there is a connection you have to show
        IN FACT that Ojukwu did not reject the food corridor plan. This is apart from
        the moral question that hangs on Meribe’s narrative. Again hypothetically
        speaking suppose we limit our gaze only to what Meribe said it is obvious that
        Meribe painted a poor business that worsened but it is queer that he decided to believe Cogan and Wesson –(Goldstein’s colleagues on the previous Biafra project) and decided to disbelieve Goldstein after Goldstein abandoned Biafra. Based on this simple
        duplicity the following questions are relevant (i) Does mpitikwelu_na_Ugwu_Awusa and Meribe think Nigerians are toddlers using feeding bottle to eat when in a bad business you decide to use those (Cogan and Wesson) who are still part of your project(Biafra) against the one (Goldstein) who abandoned your project? Do mpitikwelu_na_Ugwu_Awusa and Meribe think we are retarded in our thinking? I am just wondering. You make a choice out of business partners and we should accept your
        narrative on the basis of that? I do not just know what to take of this? Hence
        my final question: when will the remnants of Biafra leadership as symbolized in Chinua Achebe take responsibility for killing their own people? There is the need for some introspection on the part of the Biafra leadership as symbolized in Chinua Achebe.

  • Mpitikwelu_na_Ugwu_Awusa

    Thanks, Meribe. You are the Okwuligbo 1. We are Igbos and we write our own story. Let the genocide deniers continue to huff and puff. I have more respect for Awolowo than those thugs defending him. Awolowo never denied his crimes against humanity. He sincerely believed it was a legitimate weapon of war. Case closed.

    • segun

      at least Premiumtimes is no longer a Yoruba paper!!!!!! Remember your comment the last time mpitikwelu_na_Ugwu_Awusa!!!!! ah make I correct myself Ndigbo-Premiumtimes was Hausa paper reporting Boko haram!!! oh noooo, Premiumtimes was Yoriba paper when Achebe lies came out oh no no no no no no. now Premiumtimes is Igbo paper reporting mpitikwelu_na_Ugwu_Awusa and Meribe, ah ah a ha I know no ooooo! You see I am just humoring you. That is the contradiction you run into when your sense of judgment is beclouded by simple rationality. Yu know you slept with my mother mpitikwelu_na_Ugwu_Awusa!!!!

    • segun

      mptikwelu_na_Ugwu_Awusa at least Premiumtimes is no longer a Yoruba
      paper!!!!!! Remember your comment the last time
      mpitikwelu_na_Ugwu_Awusa!!!!! ah make I correct
      myself Ndigbo-Premiumtimes was Hausa paper reporting Boko haram!!! oh
      noooo, Premiumtimes was Yoruba paper when Achebe’s lies came out oh no no
      no no no no. now Premiumtimes is Igbo paper reporting
      mpitikwelu_na_Ugwu_Awusa and Meribe, ah ah a ha I know no ooooo! You
      see I am just humoring you. That is the contradiction you run into when
      your sense of judgment is beclouded by lack of simple rationality. Yu know you
      slept with my mother mpitikwelu_na_Ugwu_Awusa!!!!

    • segun

      Nna, mpitikwelu_na_Ugwu_Awusa, why you want close case now when Nna Meribe don open am again. Dat ting wey yu no want gree, na im we go talk well well. Which one be worse crimes-make I kill my own pikin abi make others kill my own pikin. This is the factual thing some Igbos do not want hear. Each time you re-open the issue, you will be reminded. Okay? God no go make me begin use my own hand kill my own pikin. hm. Case no close. You will be reminded to accept your own responsibility. It is not difficult to do.

  • Oluremi Olu

    Comments On:

    Igbo – Yoruba
    Cyber Spat

    It is pertinent to inform the Writer that the Igbo – Yoruba spat
    pre-dates the cyber age. Soon after the award of the Nobel Prize to Professor
    Soyinka, in 1986, some Igbo intellectuals, notable among of which are Chinweizu,
    subjected Prof Soyinka’s works to withering criticism; in an attempt to show that
    he should not have won the Nobel Prize over Achebe. They argued that Soyinka won the prize,
    because his writing style was more of an English, than an African, writer and
    that his works were “unreadable”. Achebe
    himself was to later wade into the fracas when he triggered the
    Ashiwaju-Ogbuefi {of Nigerian literature} exchange.

    Robert Goldstein

    This Writer’s depiction of Goldstein as a “mercenary” and as
    someone of a “dodgy nature” is sour grapes, especially in view of the fact that
    he had previously conceded that the fellow had doubtlessly done “good work” for
    Biafra. It is a case of shooting the
    messenger, because he no longer likes his message and not because the message
    is necessarily untrue. The fee of Four
    Hundred Thousand ($400,000.00 for which Goldstein was signed on by Biafra is
    quite a princely sum, in 1968, and now. Hence, one would have thought that
    prior to signing on a publicist, for such a colossal fee, the Biafran
    Government, ostensibly comprising some of the most cerebral human beings on the
    African continent and in view of the critical nature of the project at hand;,
    would have after due diligence, either gone for the best and most reliable, or
    at least the very best of that hue which their money could buy. How come then
    that, a man hired for so much, turned out, barely one year into his contract,
    to be of a “dodgy nature”? Need we not question the competence, morality and
    judgement of the Biafran government who hired him? As other commentators before
    me had posited, need someone not take responsibility for this farce? Must it
    have to be the Nigerian government, and by implication Awolowo, that must take
    the rap for this? Even when Biafra was
    not meeting her contractual obligation to someone they hired, their citizens
    are blaming Nigeria! Need the Biafran leadership not take responsibility for
    this sham?

    Granted that publicists can sometimes be
    economical with the truth; nonetheless like the proverbial stopped clock, which
    is right twice a day, they can also be right. To be a good and successful Spin
    Doctor, as the Writer himself acknowledged that Goldstein was, up to a point;
    you must be well aware of the facts surrounding the situation you are about to spin. It is therefore
    inconceivable that Goldstein did not know the whole truth about the situation
    that led to the starvation of Biafran children. In any case, the fact that the
    Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN) offered a land corridor to feed starving
    Biafrans, under the auspices of the Red Cross and International Council of
    Churches and its subsequent rejection by General Ojukwu, is well documented,
    and incontrovertible. Rather than
    contest this fact, the Writer chose to attack the personality, probably in the
    name of objectivity and detribalisation? In the absence of any concrete
    evidence that Goldstein eventually went on to work for Nigeria, and the Writer
    did not present any, safe for journalistic innuendoes; it is pure speculation,
    the kind of which Achebe uses to justify his diatribe on Awolowo, to conclude
    that “…It goes without saying that
    the firing opened way for the engagement of Goldstein by the Nigerian
    government…”. Additionally, by the time the Milwaukee Journal published her
    story on August 14 1968, it was most likely, well aware that Goldstein’s
    associates had alleged that he was bribed to resign; how com then that they did
    not press him to, confirm or deny, whether or not, he received monies from
    Nigeria, at least as the quote cited by this author seems not to suggest? How
    come they only reported Goldstein’s responses relating to monies he collected
    from Biafra and not those he collected from Nigeria? Certainly, had the Journal
    actually being in possession of evidence of bribery by the Nigerian government;
    that would have made a more salacious, juicy and newspaper-selling headline,
    than the one under which they reported the so called bribe incident.

    Again, in the absence of any concrete evidence to the
    contrary, it seems to me most improbable that Nigeria will hire the erstwhile
    publicist of her enemy. Because, this will not only create credibility problems
    for the publicist himself, but also severely compromise Nigeria’s case and sow
    confusion in the minds of her intended audience. High as his charges may be and “good” as his
    track record may have been; Goldstein is definitely not the best publicist in
    America. Even if he was the best, the conditions under which he would have been
    coming to work for Nigeria undermines him, to the extent that; the second best publicists would have done a
    better job than him, in the circumstance.

    Chief Awolowo’s

    The only thing “unfortunate” about the “action” of Awolowo,
    in the matter of the war time blockade of Biafra, was the fact that he had to
    direct his consummate skills and formidable tact at the prosecution of a war,
    rather than, at the economic development of his country. Let us be very clear
    about this, war is not a tea party; it is a nasty and brutish business that
    leads to, creates and multiplies human suffering. It is that path, which regardless of the
    appeal of the solution it may promise, is better not trodden. Those who
    complain about the use of a blockade, as an instrument of warfare should be
    reminded that blockading one’s enemy is as old as war itself. The siege on
    Jericho, by the Israelites, was a blockade. The Allies used it during the Second
    World War and so did the Germans, through their U-Boat attacks on convoys in
    the Atlantic, carrying relief and war materials to Britain; the effect of which
    was general shortage and food rationing in Britain. The Biafran Army also used
    it in Owerri, which had a civilian population at that time (November, 1968 –
    April, 1969), to rout and destroy the 16 Brigade of the Third Marine Commando
    Division. Post the Nigerian Civil War,
    several combatants have used it, among of which are, the Americans against
    Saddam’s Iraq and are currently using a limited version of it against Iran; as
    I write the Israelis are using it against Palestine, or a part of it. A
    blockade, by which ever of the warring party can impose it on the other, is
    often meant to destroy, degrade or disrupt enemy command and control
    competencies; logistics and supply chain, with a view to severely compromising
    enemy tactical and operational capabilities and eventually force them to
    capitulate or negotiate. One is loathed to say this, but the unfortunate, and
    unintended consequences, of blockades, are just the tragic realities of war,
    once you decide to embark on it, as Lt Col. (as he then was) Ojukwu consciously
    elected, through his act of rebellion and in his retort to Chief Awolowo’s question
    at their 1967 meeting in Enugu before the war, to wit, “… When Chief Awolowo asked Ojukwu about the attitude
    of Eastern Leaders to the North and the question of secession, Ojukwu’s
    response was “on the specific question of whether there is a possibility
    of contact with the North, the answer is at the battlefield.”)See:,
    Accessed on 24/11/12).
    Consequently, as Col. (as he then was) Robert Adeyinka Adebayo observed
    on the eve of the Nigerian Civil War: “I need
    not tell you what horror, what devastation and what extreme human suffering
    will attend the use of force. When it is all over and the smoke and dust have
    lifted, and the dead are buried, we shall find, as other people have found,
    that it has all been futile, entirely futile, in solving the problems we set
    out to solve.” (See:,
    Accessed on 24/11/12).

    Having said that, it should be pointed out that a blockade
    should have a human face, especially when non-combatants get severely affected
    by it. This was why the FGN acceded to
    the use of a mercy land corridor for supply of food to starving Biafrans. An
    offer which General Ojukwu rejected, for his own reasons, aptly supported by
    propaganda. Reasons which Nowa Ommoigui was later to explain thus:

    “…Ojukwu had laid down a condition that not
    only would he not accept mercy land corridors for food aid (supervised
    by the International Red Cross, World Council of Churches etc.) without a
    complete ceasefire, but that an airlift was the only solution to feed
    the starving. What Ojukwu wanted was a mechanism by which food aid could be
    used as a cover for weapons imports (particularly at night) without the prying
    eyes of the Federal Government. Hence the preference for airlifts over road
    haulage even if it meant blocking emergency shipments of food already waiting
    at Nigerian ports….” (See:
    Accessed on 24/11/12).

    Additionally, Omoigui revealed that:

    “…In support of Ojukwu’s position, another unnamed
    Biafran officer told the British journalist, John de St. Jorre,

    “If you gave us the choice of
    1000 rifles or milk for 50,000 starving children, we’d take the guns.” (See:
    , Accessed 24/11/12).

    It can thus be seen that Ojukwu, and the band of egotists
    around him,had already made their choice. Had General Ojukwu acceded to a land corridor,
    food would probably not have been rotting in Sao Tome, and indeed, in Nigerian
    ports, as Omoigui’s evidence above shows.
    As at the time the blockade had started to bite, Biafra, or what was
    left of it, had been encircled, such that any plane carrying relief into
    Biafra, as Ojukwu preferred, would have to fly through Nigerian airspace to get
    there. Even in peace time, no government would allow any unauthorised plane to
    fly its airspace; let alone when she is at war and such flights happen to
    emanate from “hostile” countries, as is evident below:

    “…Indeed, the French operation, beginning in
    September 1968 and directed by M. Jacques Foccart was code-named “Operation
    Mabel”. Foccart was the Secretary-General of the Franco-African Community.
    In collaboration with the French Ministries of Defence and Foreign Affairs, he
    used Ivory Coast, Gabon, and Sao Tome as staging and resupply points for gun
    running to Biafra with the full connivance of the French Secret Service.
    However, following aggressive diplomatic representations from Nigeria, Fernando
    Po (now called Equatorial Guinea), and Cameroun refused to cooperate with
    Foccart. Indeed, none of Nigeria’s Francophone neighbors – Benin, Cameroun,
    Chad, and Niger – supported Biafra….” (See:
    Accessed 24/11/12).

    When Chief Awolowo argued that “All is fair in war, and starvation is one of the
    weapons of war. I don’t see why we should feed our enemies fat in order for
    them to fight harder”; he was, certainly, not referring to Biafran civilians,
    but to the soldiers, who were fighting the Federal troops. This war strategy, was
    not original to him, it was devised by Sun Tzu, over 2000 years ago when he
    prescribed that:

    “When the enemy is relaxed, make them toil. When
    full, starve them. When settled, make them move.”

    Sun Tzu, in the Art of War.

    I am sure that
    Biafran military officers must have come in contact with the Sun Tzu war
    treatise and imbibed it, as it forms compulsory reading in Western military
    training institutions, where most of them trained. Cruel and harsh as this
    policy may sound, it is one that humans apply in their everyday personal struggles
    against real and perceived enemies and, it sadly reveals, the cold, harsh face
    of war. Sad to say, evidence abound that
    the starvation of soldiers affected
    their operational capabilities, as occurred during the final phase to clear Owerri,
    of the remnants of the entrapped 16 Brigade of the 3 Marine Commando Division:

    “…On January 15, 1969 the final phase “to clear
    Owerri” was launched. 60 Brigade was to take the Holy Ghost College, the
    Cathedral and the Progress Hotel after which it would swing rightwards toward
    the Clock Tower and Motor Park, destroying the bridge over the Otamini river in
    order to prevent armored counter-attacks.

    However, once they came upon abandoned Federal
    supplies of ammunition, food and clothing near the Holy Ghost College, rather
    than maintain hot pursuit, hungry and naked Biafran troops ignored their
    commanders. They stopped short of the
    Otamini Bridge not only to eat but also to
    “evacuate enemy abandoned food” and “change into the newly captured uniforms”. But while they happily savored the liberated
    food and clothing a federal armored counter-attack across the Otamini Bridge
    swept them out of Owerri back to the previous jump-off lines at their trenches
    in the perimeter.

    This became the established pattern. …”

    Accessed on 24/11/12)

    Generals go into a war without the resources to follow it through, have not
    planned ahead against the likely weapons that their enemy might throw at them
    and refuse to take the course of realism, when the flaw in their planning shows
    up, what you get is unnecessary suffering and deaths of the innocent. If your
    enemy throws the starvation, or indeed any other, weapon at you, you can either
    nullify his actions, through good planning and counter measures or take the
    course of realism. Ojukwu, and his advisers, refused to take neither.

    Role of Blockades
    in War

    In his treatise
    “The Art of War”, the renowned Chinese war strategist and tactician, Sun Tzu,
    observed that: “There is no instance of a country having benefited from
    prolonged warfare”. This observation merely states the obvious, in the light of
    the heavy cost of war, in human, economic, social and material terms. If the
    Nigerian Civil War did not end sooner than it did, it was not because of the
    failure of the blockade or Sun Tzu principle. But, it was rather due to the
    failure, on the part of an egotistic and intransigent leadership, who insisted
    on fighting on, at the expense of the welfare of his own citizens, even when
    realism and wise counsel cautioned otherwise. For example, we now know that:

    The situation in Biafra in
    September 1968 was, therefore, very fluid. On one hand, the French had started
    making good on promises to supply weapons and ammunition. But international
    pressure to reach an accommodation with Nigeria to protect starving civilians
    was continuing. At the OAU meeting that took place in Algiers on September
    13th, Nigeria won a diplomatic victory when the continental body passed a
    pro-Nigerian resolution basically declaring its opposition to secession.

    The Biafran delegation to the
    meeting, consisting of recognized figures like Nnamdi Azikiwe, Michael Okpara,
    Kenneth Dike, Francis Nwokedi and others subsequently conducted a crucial
    meeting with the French observer delegation from Foccart’s office. They wanted
    France to agree to an unrestrained military commitment to Biafra, in which
    enough weapons to assure victory over Nigeria, would be supplied, rather than
    just enough to defend the core of Biafra against Nigeria’s “Operation Tall
    Man”, Gowon’s final offensive of 1968. The French delegation refused, and
    stipulated that they would not increase the current level of commitment
    unless Biafra was able to independently attract additional diplomatic
    recognition from more African countries. It was a Catch-22 situation.

    It was on this basis, therefore,
    that the Biafran OAU observer delegation in Algiers (except Nwokedi, who
    dissented) sent a cable back to Emeka Ojukwu in Biafra. They advised that in
    view of the recent fall of Aba and Owerri, and French ambivalence, Biafra –
    faced with large numbers of starving people – should negotiate a peaceful end
    to the crisis by responding to Nigeria’s offer of guarantees and re-integration
    of Igbos. Ojukwu’s reaction, however, was to accuse them all of treason and
    order the delegation to return home at once. This was the point at which Ojukwu
    parted ways with long-standing Igbo politicians like Azikiwe and Okpara. A
    follow-up letter sent from Paris on September 25th by Nnamdi Azikiwe
    to persuade Ojukwu to negotiate – in order to save lives – was also rebuffed. A
    few days later, on September 27th, to outflank the old political
    warhorse, Ojukwu convened his appointed Biafran Consultative Assembly and got a
    “mandate” to keep fighting. (See:
    Accessed on 24/12/12).


    Rivalries had existed between Igbo and Yoruba elites and intellectuals
    long before the cyber age. While
    pecuniary motives may sometimes inform the actions, and choice of clientele, of
    publicists; however, in this instance, this Writer has not presented any
    evidence, stronger than journalistic innuendoes, to support his claim that
    Robert Goldstein’s actions was “dollar-driven”. An event as unfortunate as the
    Nigerian Civil War, with its attendant loss of lives and human suffering, could
    not have been entirely the fault of just one side, or person, alone. There is certainly enough blame to go round
    all the dramatis personae of this sad event of our history. It is my contention that, our Igbo
    compatriots should demand accountability of their war leaders and it is only
    then that they can truly learn from this tragic and sad event of our history. Failing
    this, they will continue to run around in circles and keep making the same
    mistakes. Those who wish to continue fighting the war, forty two (42) years
    after the fact, should firstly, clear their heads of the cobwebs of war
    propaganda and situate whatever “facts” they are presenting in its proper

  • Kekere Ekun

    “Achebe’s falsehood-laden new book has reopened longstanding issues of the aged author’s credibility including old charges of alleged plagiarism of Things Fall Apart, reportedly of which Achebe’s people prevailed upon his kinsman accuser to settle as a family affair. There is speculation that the unresolved plagiarism controversy is part of Achebe’s undoing with the Nobel Commission. Chinamanda needs to be careful that what is yet conceded as her naiveté, will not also lead to questions about her own integrity and scholarship.” from “Chinamanda And Achebe Hate Campaign – A Word Of Advice.” by Olaitan Oladipo NVS

  • kelvin

    this accusation was made when baba awo was alive he did not deny it,how come all these people are denying it for him are they smarter than awo?

  • Dokita

    It is interesting that the great story-teller never saw anything wrong with the Ibos! They were a perfect race without any blemishes apart from being superior and willing to show others they were superior – that was their only sin. For me, the book should have been titled ‘How biafra sacrificed 2 mllion (one-sided estimation typical of situations like this) for a war it knew it could never win with machetes and a thousand rifles. He who does not know how to run and live to fight another day does not blame anyone else for his calamities. It thought it could blackmail nigeria into stopping the war by starving or allowing its people to be starved and showing them to the rest of the world in the hope that the rest of the world would prevail on nigeria to stop the war and allow biafra its autonomy.