Statement by Margery Perham, "Friend" of the Igbo

Margery Perham was a long time scholar who studied and wrote about West Africa, specifically Nigeria. Later you may encounter he analysis of a rebellion among women in colonial Nigeria. This statement was regarded by supporters of Biafra as harmful if not "treasonous." 

What values form the basis of her plea? Western? Nigerian? Both?
Why does she want the leader of Biafra to change his course?
Why should he listen to her and value her advice?

Margery Perham's Radio Broadcast to the Leader of Biafra, General C. O. Ojukwu: [Broadcast over Lagos Radio, 7 September 1968. (Text by courtesy of Dame Margery Perham.)From Kirk-Greene, Volume 2, 326-327]

"Concern from a Friend of Nigeria"

This is Margery Perham speaking. I am speaking to you, Emeka Ojukwu, and to the Ibo people with you.

You know for you have written to me--how many Ibo friends I have and how I have tried to put the Ibo ease in Britain for many months. I know that many wrongs have been committed both against your people and by your people since this conflict began. But it is no time to speak of these things now when your Biafra is being surrounded by Federal troops, and it cannot be long before you and your people will have to face defeat.

If you try to fight to the end, many thousands of lives which Nigeria cannot spare will be sacrificed, both on your side and on the Federal side. More than this, if you insist upon holding out to the end, then thousands, perhaps millions, of women and children may die, or be wounded, or have their health fatally destroyed by hunger and hardship. And those people who have come from Britain and elsewhere to help you--doctors, nurses and others--they too might be killed or wounded. It is feeling for your people, and especially the innocent women and children, which has so deeply stirred the sympathy of people in Europe and America who have seen their suffering on television. The world which is watching would condemn you if they now believed that you were using your leadership to prolong a hopeless struggle at their expense: there would be not only sorrow, but indignation against you.

You might say that I have been put up by the Federal Government [the Gowon-led Nigerian government] to make this appeal. It is not so. I think I am too well known in Britain and by many of your own people for it to be thought that I would act or speak in any other way than upon my own judgment and initiative, and as a Christian. I cannot speak for the Federal Government. I can only say that from what I have seen and heard, not only in Lagos but in visits to other parts, the East and the North, I do not believe that your people would be in danger of massacre or revenge. You must know, even if your people do not, that an immense effort is now being made to prepare the way back for your people into life in Nigeria.

I therefore beg you not to take upon yourself the terrible responsibility of refusing to surrender and of fighting to the end.