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.
30 May, 1967, as quoted by Bernard Odogwu (1985) No Place To Hide – Crises And Conflicts Inside Biafra.
The Federation of Nigeria is today as corrupt, as unprogressive and as oppressive and irreformable as the Ottoman Empire was in Eastern Europe over a century ago. And in contrast, the Nigerian Federation in the form it was constituted by the British cannot by any stretch of imagination be considered an African necessity. Yet we are being forced to sacrifice our very existence as a people to the integrity of that ramshackle creation that has no justification either in history or in the freely expressed wishes of the people.
The worst thing about Nigeria is that here is a nation that has so much potential but the only problem is that everybody seems unprepared to face the problems or the realities of the Nigerian situation. There is absolutely no way you can look at the Nigerian federation, the way it was conceived, and say it is a good federation. One of the federating units is bigger than the other units. The other thing is that everything that has worked in Nigeria, or appears to have worked, seems very much to have been an imposition. The idea that sovereignty belongs to the Nigerian people is all fiction as far as Nigeria is concerned.
If America says to you today that they are proud of the fact that, for two hundred years, they have been trying to make their union more perfect, it sounds very reasonable. But, in Nigeria, you are not even allowed to question your union, which is ridiculous.
I don’t know who decided on a structure of 36 states, but I say, if we decide to review it, why shouldn’t we? Those states, you and I must understand, were mainly punitive creations rather than a need for economic advancement of Nigeria or Nigerians. Let us stop burying our heads in the sand. We have had national emergencies and managed to get out of it. Let us look at each other eyeball to eyeball and decide the type of country that we want to live in. I believe that is essential.
If the Igbos feel that things are best for them in a country of their own, why shouldn’t they have it? If after all we have been going through in Nigeria we feel that Biafra is best, we have every right to seek to re-create Biafra or any other place.
It is always difficult to know which is rumor and which is fact, more so in a place like Nigeria. Certainly, it is clear that the forces of law and order have tended to fail the citizenry. It is equally true that under Obasanjo’s government, though called democratic, more people have been killed for various reasons; that life has not been secured under his government. It is equally true that throughout his government in the two years, Nigeria has had ethnic problems. These are factors, I suppose, with which one can judge the success or failure of Obasanjo’s government. And it is also the factors that would indicate to you that there are underlying problems of Nigeria that need to be looked into and that if Obasanjo is not looking well into them, then he is not doing his job. That’s how I see it.
What happened was that Nigerians decided that they would like to put a final solution to Igbo problem. They unleashed a massacre. We tried to contain them; they unleashed a second wave more vicious than the previous one. I looked upon the situation, did the best I could for our people who were scattered all over Nigeria. I said okay, this is our boundary. If you can find your way back to within this area, whatever there is within this area would be shared amongst all of us. You have as much right here as anybody who happened to be here. That actually is another way of seeing the declaration of Biafra and they had a goal and aim in their flight. The other thing to bear in mind is that we didn’t really wage a war. What we did was resist Gowon’s coup d’état and I hope that he would enter the Guinness Book of Records as the person who has waged a coup longer than any body else because the whole three years, he was actually trying to legitimize his coup.
I don’t know whether I am [a world historical figure] or not. But certainly, I do know that I am probably the most Nigerian of Nigerians alive today. I also know that the failure of Nigeria has created a reflex and that reflex can be called Biafra. I know that in the context of Biafra that existed, I am very important. Having said that, I feel that I have a responsibility to always point out the deficiencies of Nigeria and to keep alive the alternative. That’s why I say that there will always be, if not the Biafra of territory, Biafra of the heart.
He is just a very kind man, very polite, not intrusive. He cared less about what happened in the kitchen, he just settled for whatever you offered him. He respected me and my opinion a lot. Later, when the children got across to him, he would ask them what my opinion was on issues. And I loved him immensely in return.
Njideka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, as quoted by Eni Akinsola, My life with Ojukwu, The Nation (4 December, 2011)