Ojukwu’s Message as He Flees Biafra (1)
(1) Pre-recorded and broadcast over Biafran radio at 6:00 a.m., 11 January 1970. (Text from B.B.C ME\3277\B1.)
Proud and heroic Biafrans, fellow countrymen and women, once again I salute you. My Government has been reviewing the progress of this war that has now raged for the past two and a half years with increasing fury. It is well that at each stage we remind ourselves of the purposes of this war, what we are fighting to safeguard, and why we are so determined to continue to defend ourselves.
You have borne the brunt of the strains of this fight. You have suffered unmentionable privations at the hands of an enemy that has used every conceivable weapon, particularly the weapon of starvation, against an innocent people whose only crime is that they choose to live in peace and security according to their own beliefs and away from a country that had condemned and rejected them.
Your heroism as a people has sustained our gallant armed forces in defending the territory of our fatherland and in giving you that protection that we all so ardently need and desire. You have had your villages and homes ravaged and plundered, your assets destroyed, millions of your sons and daughters murdered in cold blood, and your youth condemned to misery by the enemy’s recent movements and indiscriminate shelling and bombing of hamlets, villages, and refugees in their camps and on the roads.
All this sacrifice has been in the interest and with the sole purpose of achieving security which was the main motive forcing our taking up arms to defend ourselves. We had proclaimed ourselves a Republic independent and sovereign because we were and are satisfied that only through it can we guarantee our security. Nevertheless we left the door open and [declared] on several occasions that we welcomed any other initiative that offer us the security we need. Each time we have said so our enemies and detractors have mischievously distorted our statements. We are entitled in the light of our recent experience to demand to know what measures are being proposed for our security.
The task of a leader of a people at war is to be responsive to the plight of his people, to determine what level of sacrifice can be accepted. Your patriotism has exceeded all expectations and earned worldwide admiration for your fortitude. Armed with your mandate I have striven to apply the forces at our disposal to the best of our ability against overwhelming odds. Throughout we have made strenuous efforts for peace, taking initiatives of our own to get peace talks going, made compromises in order to get our adversaries to settle our conflict at the conference table. Each time a callous world has imposed a new set of conditions. Each condition that we fulfil gives rise to an entirely new one.
More recently, some friends of both sides have made some proposals for an arrangement with Nigeria that in our view will offer to Biafrans the security to which we aspire. This has been referred to as certain forms of union, confederalties, association, or commonwealth arrangements with Nigeria.
Once more, to show our honesty, and in accord with my own frequent affirmations that I would personally go anywhere to secure peace and security for my people, I am now travelling out of Biafra to explore with our friends all these proposals further and fully and to be at hand to settle these issues to the best of my ability, always serving the interests of my people. Our detractors may see this move as a sign of collapse of our struggle, or an escape from my responsibilities.
If, God helping, we can by this latest show of earnestness secure for our people the end of destruction of your homes and property, I shall be satisfied that this venture on which I embark with your blessing has yielded fruit. I know that your prayers go with me as I go in search of peace and that, God willing, I shall soon be back among you. In my short absence I have arranged for the Chief of General Staff, Maj-Gen. Phillip Effiong, to administer the Government with the rest of the Cabinet to run the affairs of this Republic while I go on this mission, accompanied by my Political Adviser and my Chief Secretary.
I once more pay my tribute to the Biafra Armed Forces, and urge all ranks to maintain their positions while I seek an early and honourable end to this struggle and all the suffering it has brought on our people. Proud and courageous Biafrans, [noble] Biafrans, Biafra shall live. God bless you all.