Referendum: Were it not for Azikiwe, Biafra would have had the legal right to secede

NLC/TUC: Break the Silence, Amplify Our Voices, and Demand Justice!

Did you know that Nigerians used to have the option for referendum in their constitution.

Tafawa Balewa used it to divide the Western Region and create the Midwest Region, and gave then the right to all their oil. The Midwest is today Edo and Delta. But the clause for referendum was abrogated by Major General Ironsi when he was ruling Nigeria by military fiat.

 

Major General Aguiyi-Ironsi abrogated referendums and regionalism and promulgated Decree Number 34 on May 24, 1966, which effectively ended regionalism, took control of all resources, including oil (all resources, including oil used to belong to the regions before Ironsi’s decree), which had hitherto belonged to the regions, and domiciled them in his military government.

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Other members of the Supreme Military Council alleged that Ironsi did not consult them before promulgating the decree. It is not known if their allegation is true. However, Ironsi’s Attorney General, Chief Gabriel Chike Michael Onyiuke, later said Ironsi did not need to consult them.

Also, perhaps naively, ALL of Ironsi’s advisers were Igbo, like him. They included Chief Francis Nwokedi, Dr. Pius Okigbo and Colonel Patrick Anwunah. Calls for him to appoint at least one token non-Igbo fell on deaf ears.

Even the Biafran War could have been avoided.

Referendum: Were it not for Azikiwe, Biafra would have had the legal right to secede
Referendum: Were it not for Azikiwe, Biafra would have had the legal right to secede

The idea for a secession clause (different from the referendum clause) was mooted by Chief Obafemi Awolowo in 1954, during the Lagos Constitutional Conference, but Nnamdi Azikiwe rejected it and galvanised a majority of the conference attendees to kill the idea.

After this was rejected, Chief Awolowo again wrote to the then Governor General of Nigeria, who rejected the clause on the grounds that the majority, led by Nnamdi Azikiwe, were not in support of it.

It was because of Nnamdi Azikiwe that section 86 was inserted into our constitution with the proviso that if any region should secede, it will be an act of treason.

 

Nnamdi Azikiwe himself wrote about this in an essay, which was published by the New Nigerian Newspapers in 1975, and has since been republished by other papers and by Mr Azikiwe himself.

Were it not for Azikiwe, Biafra would have had the legal right to secede.

 

Finally, Nigeria was not always like this. We each enjoyed full and total resource control.

Nigeria is currently a lopsided federation because the then head of state, Major General Aguiyi-Ironsi abrogated regionalism and promulgated Decree Number 34 on May 24, 1966, which effectively ended regionalism, took control of all resources, including oil (all resources, including oil used to belong to the regions before Ironsi’s decree), which had hitherto belonged to the regions, and domiciled them in his military government.

Perhaps if Ironsi had not sacked Taslim Olawale Elias as Attorney General and replaced him with Chike Onyiuke, he might have gotten a different counsel, but we will never know.

 

Did we also know that this happened in 1966?

That the regions were stripped of their resources and power on May 24, 1966, by then Head of State, Major General Johnson Thomas Umunnakwe Aguiyi-Ironsi, via Decree Number 34.

 

The 12 states were created by Gowon more than a year later, on May 27, 1967. The states were only created because of Colonel Ojukwu’s announcement in March 1967, in which he attacked Gowon over Aburi. Please find below an American diplomatic cable from March 3, 1967, declassified by the U.S. Department of State:

“Ojukwu’s provocative broadcast, release of Aburi documents in Lagos and broadcast of Aburi tape recording in Enugu have heightened Department’s concern.”

If not for Colonel Ojukwu’s action on March 1, 1967, the states would not have been created in May.

 

Please assume I am lying and research the above.

I have seen Radio Biafra even claim that Ojukwu released Chief Awolowo. That is not factual.

Colonel Gowon freed Chief Awolowo from Calabar prison on August 2, 1966. Chief Awolowo was then flown to Lagos on August 4, whereupon he was picked up by Lt. Colonel Murtala Muhammed and personally driven by Murtala to Dodan Barracks to meet with Colonel Gowon.

 

Odunayo Joseph

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