Biafran Declaration of Independence
This is a political declaration of Biafra published after a period of time when the military governor of Eastern Nigeria had taken a critical stance against the people who carried out the July, 1966, coup. Lt. Col. C. O. Ojukwu denied the legitimacy of the coup leaders to rule and also claimed that the rest of Nigeria, especially those living in the North, had carried out murderous actions (and policies) against Easterners, especially the Igbo people, the largest ethnic group numerically in the East. His staunch stands can result in comparisons of him to George Washington--or he can be seen as another military opportunist. All in all Nigeria has had nine coups in the last forty years, not counting unsuccessful attempts.
Declarations such as this one assert principles and tell a story. The American Declaration of Independence asserts the primacy of the natural rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness and then, in the long middle section of the document, gives a long list of examples of actions taken by King George III against the Americans in order to tell a story of oppression that justifies the revolution.
Questions on the reading
What principles does the Biafran declaration assert? What story does it tell? The Igbo people of Eastern Nigeria are usually seen as the core of this movement. How many times are the Igbo mentioned in this document? Why is this the case? It might be helpful to pause at the end of each paragraph to reflect on what it might mean and why the authors decided to include the statement.
The Biafran Declaration of Independence
[The following is taken from C. Odumegwu Ojukwu, Biafra Selected Speeches and Random Thoughts of C. Odumegwu Ojukwu (NY: Harper & Row, 1969), 191-196]
Resolution passed on May 27, 1967.
WE, THE Chiefs, Elders, and Representatives of Eastern Nigeria, gathered at this Joint Meeting of the Advisory Committee of Chiefs and Elders and the Consultative Assembly, do solemnly declare as follows:
WHEREAS we have been in the vanguard of the national movement for the building of a strong, united, and prosperous Nigeria where no man will be oppressed and have devoted our efforts, talents, and resources to this end;
WHEREAS we cherish certain inalienable human rights and state obligations such as the right to life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness; the right to acquire, possess, and defend property; the provision of security; and the establishment of good and just government based on the consent of the governed;
WHEREAS in practical demonstration of these beliefs, our people settled in other parts of Nigeria, served their country in many capacities, and contributed immensely to the growth and development of Nigeria;
WHEREAS WE ARE LIVING WITNESSES OF INJUSTICES AND ATROCITIES COMMITTED against Eastern Nigeria, among which are the premeditated murder of over 30,000 of our innocent men, women, and children by Northern Nigerians, the calculated destruction of the property of our sons and daughters, the shameless conversion of 2,000,000 Eastern Nigerians into refugees in their own country, all this without remorse;
WHEREAS in consequence of these and other acts of discrimination and injustice, we have painfully realized that the Federation of Nigeria has failed, and has given us no protection;
WHEREAS in spite of these facts, the government and people of Eastern Nigeria have persisted in their efforts to find a practical and just solution that would preserve the continued existence of Nigeria as one corporate unit and restore peace and confidence as demonstrated by the initiative of our military governor in getting all the military leaders together at Aburi, Ghana;
WHEREAS the hopes which the Aburi Agreement engendered have proved to be misplaced and have been destroyed by a series of acts of bad faith and distortions and finally by a refusal on the part of the "Lagos Government" to implement these and other agreements notwithstanding the fact that they were freely and voluntarily entered into;
WHEREAS the Federation of Nigeria has forfeited any claim to our allegiance by these acts and by the economic, political, and diplomatic sanctions imposed against us by the so-called Federal Government;
AND WHEREAS the object of government is the good of the governed and the will of the people its ultimate sanction;
NOW, THEREFORE, in consideration of these and other facts and injustices, we, the Chiefs, Elders, and Representatives of all the twenty provinces of Eastern Nigeria, assembled in this Joint Meeting of the Advisory Committee of Chiefs and Elders and the Consultative Assembly, at Enugu this 27th day of May, 1967, hereby solemnly:
- MANDATE His Excellency Lieutenant Colonel Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, Military Governor of Eastern Nigeria, to declare at the earliest practicable date Eastern Nigeria a free, sovereign, and independent state by the name and title of the REPUBLIC OF BIAFRA.
- RESOLVE that the new REPUBLIC OF BIAFRA shall have the full and absolute powers of a sovereign state, and shall establish commerce, levy war, conclude peace, enter into diplomatic relations, and carry out, as of right, other sovereign responsibilities.
- DIRECT that the REPUBLIC OF BIAFRA may enter into arrangement with any sovereign unit or units in what remains of Nigeria or in any part of Africa desirous of association with us for the purpose of running a common services organization and for the establishment of economic ties.
- RECOMMEND that the REPUBLIC OF BIAFRA should become a member of the Commonwealth of Nations, the Organization of African Unity, and the United Nations Organization.
- RECOMMEND the adoption of a federal constitution based on the new provincial units.
- REAFFIRM His Excellency's assurance of protection for the persons, properties, and businesses of foreign nationals in our territory.
- DECLARE our unqualified confidence in the Military Governor of Eastern Nigeria, Lieutenant Colonel Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, and assure him of our unreserved support for the way and manner he has handled the crisis in the country.
So help us God.
[Made by Col. Ojukwu]
Fellow countrymen and women, YOU, the people of Eastern Nigeria:
CONSCIOUS of the supreme authority of Almighty God over all mankind, of your duty to yourselves and posterity;
AWARE that you can no longer be protected in your lives and in your property by any government based outside Eastern Nigeria;
BELIEVING that you are born free and have certain inalienable rights which can best be preserved by yourselves;
UNWILLING to be unfree partners in any association of a political or economic nature;
REJECTING the authority of any person or persons other than the Military Government of Eastern Nigeria to make any imposition of whatever kind or nature upon you;
DETERMINED to dissolve all political and other ties between you and the former Federal Republic of Nigeria;
PREPARED to enter into such association, treaty or alliance with any sovereign state within the former Federal Republic of Nigeria and elsewhere on such terms and conditions as best to subserve your common good;
AFFIRMING your trust and confidence in ME; HAVING mandated ME to proclaim on your behalf, and in your name, that Eastern Nigeria be a sovereign independent Republic, NOW THEREFORE I, LIEUTENANT COLONEL CHUKWUEMEKA ODUMEGWU OJUKWU, MILITARY GOVERNOR OF EASTERN NIGERIA, BY VIRTUE OF THE AUTHORITY, AND PURSUANT TO THE PRINCIPLES, RECITED ABOVE, DO HEREBY SOLEMNLY PROCLAIM THAT THE TERRITORY AND REGION KNOWN AS AND CALLED EASTERN NIGERIA TOGETHER WITH HER CONTINENTAL SHELF AND TERRITORIAL WATERS SHALL HENCEFORTH BE AN INDEPENDENT SOVEREIGN STATE OF THE NAME AND TITLE OF "THE REPUBLIC OF BIAFRA." AND I DO DECLARE THAT:
(i) all political ties between us and the Federal Republic of Nigeria are hereby totally dissolved;
(ii) all subsisting contractual obligations entered into by the Government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria or by any person, authority, organization, or government acting on its behalf, with any person, authority, or organization, or relating to any matter or thing, within the Republic of Biafra, shall henceforth be deemed to be entered into with the Military Governor of the Republic of Biafra for and on behalf of the Government and people of the Republic of Biafra, and the covenants thereof shall, subject to this Declaration, be performed by the parties according to their tenor;
(v) steps will be taken to open discussions on the question of Eastern Nigeria's due share of the assets of the Federation of Nigeria and personal properties of the citizens of Biafra throughout the Federation of Nigeria;
(vii) we shall keep the door open for association with, and would welcome, any sovereign unit or units in the former Federation of Nigeria or in any other parts of Africa desirous of association with us for the purposes of running a common services organization and for the establishment of economic ties;
(x) it is our intention to remain a member of the British Commonwealth of Nations in our right as a sovereign independent nation.
LONG LIVE THE REPUBLIC OF BIAFRA!
AND MAY GOD PROTECT ALL WHO LIVE IN HER.