The Biafran struggle is, on another plane, a resistance to the Arab-Muslim expansionism which has menaced and ravaged the African continent for twelve centuries. As early as the first quarter of the seventh century, the Arabs, a people from the Near-East, evolved Islam not just as a religion but as a cover for their insatiable territorial ambitions. By the tenth century they had overrun and occupied, among other places, Egypt and North Africa. Had they stopped there, we would not today be faced with the wicked and unholy collusion we are fighting against. On the contrary, they cast their hungry and envious eyes across the Sahara on to the land of the Negroes.
Our Biafran ancestors remained immune from the Islamic contagion. From the middle years of the last century Christianity was established in our land. In this way we came to be a predominantly Christian people. We came to stand out as a non-Muslim island in a raging Islamic sea. Throughout the period of the ill-fated Nigerian experiment, the Muslims hoped to infiltrate Biafra by peaceful means and quiet propaganda, but failed. Then the late Ahmadu Bello, the Sarduana of Sokoto tried, by political and economic blackmail and terrorism, to convert Biafrans settled in Northern Nigeria to Islam. His hope was that these Biafrans on dispersion would then carry Islam to Biafra, and by so doing give the religion political control of the area. The crises which agitated the so-called independent Nigeria from 1962 gave these aggressive proselytisers the chance to try converting us by force.
It is now evident why the fanatic Arab-Muslim states like Algeria, Egypt and the Sudan have come out openly and massively to support and aid Nigeria in her present war of genocide against us. These states see militant Arabism as a powerful instrument for attaining power in the world.
Biafra is one of the few African states untainted by Islam. Therefore, to militant Arabism, Biafra is a stumbling block to their plan for controlling the whole continent. This control is fast becoming manifest in the Organisation of African Unity. On the question of the Middle East, the Sudanese crisis, in the war between Nigeria and Biafra, militant Arabism has succeeded in imposing its point of view through blackmail and bluster. It has threatened African leaders and governments with inciting their Muslim minorities to rebellion if the governments adopted an independent line on these questions. In this way an O.A.U that has not felt itself able to discuss the genocide in the Sudan and Biafra, an O.A.U. that has again and again advertised its ineptitude as a peace-maker, has rushed into open condemnation of Israel over the Middle East dispute. Indeed in recent times, by its performance, the O.A.U. might well be an Organisation of Arab Unity.
Our struggle, in an even more fundamental sense, is the culmination of the confrontation between Negro nationalism and white imperialism. It is a movement designed to ensure the realization of man’s full stature in Africa.
Ever since the 15th century, the European world has treated the African continent as a field for exploitation. Their policies in Africa have for so long been determined to a very great extent by their greed for economic gain. For over three and half centuries, it suited them to transport and transplant millions of the flower of our manhood for the purpose of exploiting the Americas and the West Indies. They did so with no uneasiness of conscience. They justified this trade in men by reference to biblical passages violently torn out of context.
When it became no longer profitable to them to continue with the depopulation and uncontrolled spoilation of Negro Africa, their need of the moment became to exploit the natural resources of the continent, using Negro labour. In response to this need they evolved their informal empire in the 19th century under which they controlled and exploited Negro Africa through their missionaries and monopolist mercantile companies. As time went on they discarded the empire of informal sway as unsatisfactory and established the direct empire as the most effective means of exploiting our homeland. It was at this stage that with cynical imperturbability they carved up the African continent, and boxed up the native populations in artificial states designed purely to minister to white economic interests.
This brutal and unprecedented rape of a whole continent was a violent challenge to Negro self-respect. Not surprisingly, within half a century the theory and practice of empire ran into stiff opposition from Negro nationalism. In the face of the movement for Negro freedom the white imperialists changed tactics. They decided to install puppet African administrations to create the illusion of political independence, while retaining the control of the economy. And this they quickly did between 1957 and 1965. The direct empire was transformed into an indirect empire, that regime of fraud and exploitation which African nationalists aptly describe as Neo-Colonialism.
Nigeria was a classic example of a neo-colonialist state, and what is left of it, still is. The militant nationalism of the late forties and early fifties had caught the British imperialists unawares. They hurried to accommodate it by installing the ignorant, decadent and feudalistic Hausa-Fulani oligarchy in power. For the British, the credentials of the Hausa-Fulani were that not having emerged from the Middle Ages they knew nothing about the modern state and the powerful forces that now rule men’s minds. Owing their position to the British, they were servile and submissive. The result was that while Nigerians lived in the illusion of independence, they were still in fact being ruled from Number 10 Downing Street. The British still enjoyed a stranglehold on their economy.
The crises which rocked Nigeria from the morrow of “independence” were brought about by the efforts of progressive nationalists to achieve true independence for themselves and for posterity. For their part in this effort, Biafrans were stigmatised and singled out for extermination. In imperialist thinking, only phoney independence is good for blacks. The sponsorship of Nigeria by white imperialism has not been disinterested. They are only concerned with the preservation of that corrupt and rickety structure of Nigeria in a perpetual state of powerlessness to check foreign exploitation. I am certain that if tomorrow I should promise that Biafra is going to be a servile and sycophantic state, these self-appointed upholders of the territorial integrity of African states will sing a different tune. No…I shall not oblige them. Biafra will not betray the black man. No matter the odds, we will fight with all our might until black men everywhere can, with pride, point to this Republic, standing dignified and defiant, as an example of African nationalism triumphant over its many and age-old enemies.
Fellow countrymen and women, we have seen in proper perspective the diabolical roles which the British Government and the foreign companies have played and are playing in our war with Nigeria. We now see why in spite of Britain’s tottering economy Harold Wilson’s Government insists on financing Nigeria’s futile war against us. We see why the Shell-BP led the Nigerian hordes into Bonny, pays Biafran oil royalties to Nigeria, and provided the Nigerian Army with all the help it needed for its attack on Port Harcourt. We see why the West African Conference Lines readily and meekly co-operate with Gowon in the imposition of total blockade against us. We see why the oil and trading companies in Nigeria still finance this war and why they risk the life and limb of their staff in the war zones.
And now, Bolshevik Russia. Russia is a late arrival in the race for world empire. Since the end of the Second World War she has fought hard to gain a foothold in Africa recognising, like the other imperialist powers before her, the strategic importance of Africa in the quest for world domination. She first tried to enter into alliance with African nationalism. Later finding that African nationalism has been thwarted, at least temporarily, by the collusion between imperialism and the decadent forces in African society, Russia quickly changed her strategy and identified herself with those very conservative forces which she had earlier denounced. Here she met with quick success.
In North Africa and Egypt, Russian influence has taken firm root and is growing. With her success in Egypt and Algeria, Russia developed even keener appetite for more territory in Africa, particularly the areas occupied by the Negroes. Her early efforts in the Congo and Ghana proved still-born. The Nigeria-Biafra conflict offered an opportunity for anther beach-head in Africa.
It is not Russia’s intention to make Nigeria a better place for Nigerias or indeed any other part of Africa a better place for Africans. Her interest is strategic. In her challenge to the United States and the Western World, she needs vantage points in Africa. With her entrenched position in Northern Nigeria, the Central Sudan of the historians and geographers, Russia is in a position to co-ordinate her strategy for West and North Africa. We are all familiar with the ancient and historic cultural, linguistic and religious links between North Africa and the Central Sudan. We know that the Hausa language is a lingua franca for over two-thirds of this area. We know how far afield a wandering Imam preacing Islam and Bolshevism can go. When Russia gives the Nigerians Illyushin jets to bomb us, the MiGs to strafe and rocket us and AK-47 rifles to mow us down, we should see all this in proper light that Russia, like other imperialist powers, has no regard for the Negro. To her, what is important is to gain a vantage point in Negro-land from which to challenge American and Western European world power and influence. The Arabs also in this find further attraction in that it gives to them a back-door entry eventually into Israel. In this jungle game for world domination and black man’s life, let alone his well-being, counts for nothing.
Fellow Biafrans, these are the evil and titanic forces with which we are engaged in a life and death struggle. These are the obstacles to the Negro’s efforts to realise himself. These are the forces which the Biafran Revolution must sweep aside to succeed.
If the white race has sinned against the world, the Anglo-Saxon branch of that race has been, and still is, the worst sinner of all. The Anglo-Saxon British committed genocide against the American Indians. They committed genocide against the Caribbs. They committed genocide against the Australian Blackfellows. They committed genocide against the native Tasmanians and the Maoris of New Zealand. During the era of the slave trade, they topped the list and led the genocidal attempt against the Negro race as a whole. Today, they are engaged in committing genocide against us. The unprejudiced observer is forced in consternation to wonder whether genocide is not a way of life of the Anglo-Saxon British. Luckily, all white people are not like the Anglo-Saxon British.
Luckily too, all African states not like Nigeria, Algeria, Egypt and Sudan, sworn enemies of the Negro, willing tools of white racism, white economic imperialism and Arab-Muslim expansionism. We salute the shining and enduring examples of Negro renascence throughout the world. To Tanzania, to Gabon, to the Ivory Coast, to Zambia and Haiti, we wish more success in their soldiering for all that is right, just and honourable.
We do not claim that the Biafran Revolution is the first attempt in history by the Negro to assert his identity, to claim his right and proper place as a human being on a basis of equality with the white and yellow races. We are aware of the Negro’s past and present efforts to prove his ability at home and abroad. We are familiar with his achievements in prehistory; we are familiar with his achievements in exploring and taming the African and American continents; we are familiar with his achievements in political organisations; we are familiar with this contributions to the world store of art and culture. The Negro’s white oppressors are not unaware of all these.
But in spite of their awareness they are not prepared to admit that the Negro is an man and a brother. This is why we in Biafra are convinced that the Negro can never come to his own until he is able to build modern states (whether national or multi-national) based on a compelling African ideology, enjoying real rather than sham independence, able to give scope to the full development of the human spirit in the arts and sciences, able to engage in dialogue with the white states on a basis of transparent equality and able to introduce a new dimension into international statecraft.
In the world context, this is Biafra – the plight of the black struggling to be man. From this derives our deep conviction that the Biafran Revolution is not just a movement of Igbo, Ibibio, Ijaw and Ogoja. It is a movement of true and patriotic Africans. It is African nationalism conscious of itself and fully aware of the powers with which it is contending. From this derives our belief that history and humanity are on our side, and that the Biafran Revolution is indestructible and eternal. From here derives the support we enjoy from the brave and proud peoples of Tanzania, Gabon, the Ivory Coast, Zambia and Haiti who share these ideals and visions with us and who are already engaged in realising them.
We have indeed come a long way. We were once Nigerians, today we are Biafrans. We are Biafrans because on 30th May, 1967, we finally said no to the evils and injustices in which Nigeria was steeped. Nigeria was made up of peoples and groups with very little in common. As everyone knows, Biafrans were in the fore-front among those who tried to make Nigeria a nation. It is ironic that some ill-informed and mischievous people today will accuse us of breaking up a united African country. Only those who do not know the facts or deliberately ignore them can hold such an opinion. We know the facts because we were there and the things that happened, happened to us.