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On June 1, 1969, a major policy speech on the mission of the struggling Biafran nation, code-named the Ahiara Declaration, was given by the Head of State, General C. Odumegwu Ojukwu. The lengthy document, which was named after the venue where it was presented, may have been deemed necessary at that juncture in order to reaffirm the raison d’etre for the nascent republic and hopefully to shore up the morale of the embattled population after almost 2 years of a survival struggle amidst overwhelming odds. The speech was well designed to reach deep into the mindset of the average Biafran who clearly saw then that the genesis and perpetuation of their plight were traceable to the neocolonial policies of the British government toward its former possessions, which included Nigeria. In a speech that was laced in emotive verses.

Ojukwu began by attributing the indifference of the civilized world to the sufferings of Biafrans as racially motivated. “The root cause of our problem lies in the fact that we are Black. If all the things that have happened to us had happened to another people who are not Black, if other people who are not Black had reacted in the way our people had reacted these two long years, the world’s response would surely have been different”, Ojukwu declared. He called the Biafran struggle the “latest recrudescence in our time of the age-old struggle by the Black man for his full stature as man”.

The Ahiara Declaration portrayed the Biafran revolution as a “resistance to the Arab-Muslim expansionism which has menaced and ravaged the African continent for twelve centuries”. The huge support for the Nigerian government in its war in Biafra by many Arab-dominated nations of Africa, like Sudan, Egypt and Morocco, was seen as part of a grand design to islamize the coastal parts of the West African sub-region and beyond. The document emphasized that the anti-imperialistic stance of the Biafran leadership has drawn the wrath of the West, especially Britain, which felt that the emergence of an independent Afrocentric Biafra would spell doom to their overall neocolonial exploits in the then confused Nigerian state. The role of the revisionist Moscow regime in arming and fighting with Biafra’s enemies was seen as part of a muddled up Soviet foreign policy which then was desirous to establish a beachhead in Sub-Saharan Africa. “Fellow Biafrans, these are the evil and the titanic we are engaged in a life and death struggle. These are the forces which the Biafran revolution must sweep aside to succeed”, the Biafran leader asserted.

The later part of the Ahiara Declaration was devoted to elaboration of various aspects of the Biafran revolution, particularly the need to reject all the social ills that destroyed Nigeria. The document extolled the virtues of good leadership, social justice, openness and accountability in government as well as equitable distribution of nation’s resources to every citizen. At least in design, the new Biafra would “reject all forms of social inequalities and disabilities and all class and sectional privileges”. In a gesture that may have rattled some nerves, especially in Western countries, General Ojukwu declared “In the new Biafra, all property belongs to the community. Every individual must consider all he has, whether in talent and material wealth, as belonging to the community for which he holds it in trust”.

In the face of severe suffering, hunger and death as well as unrelenting military pressure from the well equipped and more numerous federal troops, the average Biafran needed to hear the type of inspirational speech that Ahiara Declaration turned out to be. It was a great paradox that the enunciation of the Biafran dream predated its collapse by only 6 months. Nonetheless, the Ahiara Declaration posed many cogent questions and also attempted to proffer answers to the myriad of problems that still collude to compound the difficulties of the Black man in the contemporary world. The document clearly defined the place of the Black African in a world that disdains African humanity. It provides a snapshot of the immense challenges that confronted a people whose backs were against the wall and under the threat of imminent mass extermination. The Ahiara Declaration, though an unrealized design, remains a valuable document that will continue to enlighten present and future generations of Biafrans on the possibilities of an ideal nation that they never had.

The dream embodied in the Ahiara Declaration must live on even now that an independent Biafra is no longer tenable in today’s Nigeria. Just like other inventions of necessity that sustained Biafran resistance for 30 months, this document remains a testimony to the heroic response of a people who are proud of their heritage and keenly aware of their collective destiny as Africans. The spirit of Biafra, as enunciated in the Ahiara Declaration, must continue to remain a living hope and roadmap for the eventual emancipation of Black man and Afrocentric worldview.
“Biafra will not betray the Black man no matter the odds. We will fight with all our might until Black men everywhere can point with pride to this Republic, standing dignified and defiant, as an example of African nationalism triumphant over its age-old enemies.” …. - Ojukwu

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