ABURI ACCORD: IT’S IMPLICATION ON THE NIGERIAN CIVIL WAR
Conflicts, civil wars, communal and ethnic violence are central to the problems confronting many African states especially in the post-colonial era. These faces and phases of national insecurity and volatility are triggered by a diversity of factors some of which have remained perennial to Africa. For example, in the Nigeria political realm, most conflicts could be ascribed to leadership factor (Achebe:1989). In Nigeria, the question of Aburi Accord (a political factor activated largely by leadership discordances) is at the root of the Nigerian Civil War which took place between 1967 and 1970. Although Aburi Accord was a clear attempt at resolving Nigeria’s accumulated political discrepancies since the colonial and early independence era yet the negotiators and contributors dented the process by reclining to ethnic chauvinism and personal atavism. As a result, Aburi, a prospective instrument of peace turned out the sword of Damocles that hung over the head of its negotiators such that once peace became a nearly impossible feat; the generals took to arms to settle their differences. This research identified two major factors as being responsible for the breakdown of Aburi agreement considered successful at the point of round table diplomacy. First, the spoilers’ activities from outside actors heightened tensions after the post conference publication of an abridged version of the agreement. Secondly, the spoilers’ actions did not satisfy the expectation of the aggrieved Easterners at the point of implementation. The latter wanted no more; or less than Siamestic replications, through implementation, of the Aburi agreement. The Nigerian government, after a “perceptive” gaze at the policy frames of Aburi reneged and opted for what could be termed a partial implementation. Against these backgrounds, the obvious questions are: were the federalists right with the partial offer? Was the renege actually a move to save the country from collapse? Were the Easterners wrong in pressing home for a fuller implementation? What could have become of the Nigerian state if the parties had compromised their positions? It is upon these questions, that the study would attempt to identify its objectives. However, findings in the study further reveal other Aburi intricacies that, to a large extent, triggered the war. They include; lack of respect and contempt for policy decisions by the federal government after an initial acceptance in Ghana; lack of preparation, casualness and ineptitude on the part of the negotiators; parochialism and quest for political relevance by the post-conference policy analysts; and most importantly, the calibre of leadership that presided the crises period. The Study is not only focused on the shenanigans of blame game but also reflects a pragmatic response to practical problems of public policy implementation and leadership drawbacks for reasons of national unity and all-round sustainable development.
- BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY
Many scholars believe the Aburi question and its implication on the Nigerian Civil War has its origin in the creation of the Nigerian state. That is, the debate over the implementation of the Aburi agreement was the problem of how the origin of the Nigerian state became tied to the issue of the future association of the constituent units within the nation. In the views of Adebayo Oluoshi and Osita Agbu (1996), “the attempt by the military officers to prevent the nation from experiencing a bloody conflict merely fudged the question of Aburi and complicated it further with the consequences of civil war”.
Precisely, on January 1, 1914, Britain, a former colonial power gave birth to the nation, Nigeria through series of diplomatic initiatives and conquests that led to the amalgamation of the ethnically and cultural incongruent Northern and Southern Protectorates. This, unquestionably, according to Eleazu, explains that Nigeria became a British colony as a result of the diplomacy of imperialism than a matter of choice for any of the peoples that were to be enclosed within this grid that came to be recognized and administered as one territorial unit called Nigeria (Eleazu, 195:61-71). From the time of its amalgamation in 1914, to independence in 1960 and beyond, the nation’s stuttering part to survival was marred by a quantum of serious conflict issues that climaxed into the civil war that took place between 1967-1970. Obviously, this history of crises was a result of the decision to merge the various incompatible entities as one.
Incompatibility among the various groups was further aggravated by political disturbances that engulfed the Nigerian especially the early post-independence years. Threatened by a state of total collapse after a period of bloody military coups the Nigerian Army went to Aburi in search of peace. Aburi, Ghana and the failure to implement Aburi ratifications regarding the country’s unity, resulted in the 30 months civil war. Many years after the war the present leaders of the nation ought to have learnt a great lesson of history. But religion politics and the economy have remained virtually unchanged and in almost the same guise as in the pre-civil war years, the country seem also to be on the part of disintegration The obvious pointers to these assumption are the general state of insecurity and political instability characterized by regular abrogation of the rule of law, official corruption and incompetence, kidnapping, armed robbery, militancy, vandalizing of crude oil flow stations and pipeline that almost crippled the economic mainstay of Nigerian economy, the unabated religious/ethnic conflicts in Jos. More recently, a new form of crisis reminiscent of the 1966 pogrom is engulfing other states in the north including the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja (Amamkpa:2012:6). A Muslim fundamentalist sect going by the name Jama’atahl al-sunna li-da’wawa-l-quital, popularly known as Boko Haram (Western Education is forbidden), has gained a stranglehold on the region unleashing terror most especially on non-Muslim indigenes of the North. Very unfortunately, 46 years after Aburi and the civil war, the current trend of insecurity still cast shadows of doubts on national unity prompting plethora of demands for national conference, sovereign national confab, true federalism, political autonomy, restructuring Nigeria into six geo-political zones, financial autonomy to local government and a resistance to any change of status quo.
In a build-up to Aburi and the Civil war, 1967-1970, scholars and experts have reeled out a number of factors responsible for crises of those ominous years. These factors which include: political, social, economic, religious, etc are interwoven and could not be considered as terra incognita as far as the geo-political developments in Nigeria are concerned. Amidst the myriad of political sub-factors, the role of Aburi Accord in starting the war was, more often than not, considered the last straw. One of the oft-quoted statements of this period was reflected in Obasanjo’s My Command: [Aburi]…was the last ditch of effort to save Nigeria from collapse (Obasanjo, 1980:145). This statement was corroborated by several other scholars who pointed to the Aburi Accord as the last gap in that circle of conflict.
In a build-up to the Aburi conference, Nigeria was dragged to the brink of the abyss by two military coups in 1966. One of the far-reaching implications was a stalemate between two military leaders (Gowon and Ojukwu). The reason for the face-off, which invariably dominated the agenda of the Aburi conference, was predicated on the following:
- The leadership and restructuring of the Nigerian Army
- The compensation and relocation of victims of the 1966 Pogrom
After several unfruitful attempts to bring (Gowon and Ojukwu) to the negotiating table, Aburi, a more secured venue, in Ghana, was mutually agreed upon by both parties while General Ankrah offered to host them in a bid to restore the country from the brink. Given this obvious national exigency, it was expected that both parties will have the ample time to iron out any seemingly irreconcilable differences and as such must be armed to the teeth in terms of preparation. However, by one party’s lack of preparedness and more, the Accord, (though duly acknowledged by the negotiators), came under a serious scrutiny from (the spoilers) those who felt Ojukwu took undue advantage of his academic prowess to negotiate in favour of the Eastern region government. The implication of the bargaining capabilities of Federal side in the negotiation entailed, rather, another more besetting monster of the Nigerian system- the challenge of policy implementation. Failure to implement the agreement accordingly simply highlighted the obvious: Nigeria’s bad records of policy implementation. And historical excursion into the annals of public policy in Nigeria reveals that, if all the policies formulated in the country over the years were implemented accordingly, Nigeria, no doubt, would have been on a fast lane of development. It conjures the meaning that a full implementation of the Aburi Accord could have saved the country a great deal of human and material resources lost during the civil war.
Finally, the major fault line of the Accord was the policy frame itself which was in very many ways considered by its formulators as significant and strategic to the survival of Nigeria but following a post-conference appraisal from (spoilers) “experts”, was delineated with mixed feelings. Apparently, this prospective tool of unity incidentally became an apple of discord among Nigerians. The nexus between the exponents and contrary opinions generated around the Accord is what this study is set to explore.
1.2 STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
The decision by the warring parties (Ojukwu led Eastern government and Gowon led Nigerian government) to meet at Aburi in Ghana brought glimmers of hope for the much bartered entity called Nigeria. To many Scholars, this decision was the last chance towards avoiding war and evolving a more stable and peaceful entity /achieving peace. In finding the answer, it required, in part, a political dialogue to reach a consensus on how best the ethnic bodies would exist without having unnecessary frictions This was the main thrust of the Aburi Agreement. Against the background of full implementation of the accord, the Nigerian government therefore resorted to the famous lines of John F. Kennedy: “he, who makes peaceful resolution of conflict impossible, makes war inevitable”… (Afflerbach:2007).. Quasi-implementation of the Aburi Accord, overtime, became the oft-quoted instance for the Civil war. However, a little stretch beyond this hackneyed conclusion has revealed otherwise that conceding to the demands of decree number 13 was capable also to rip the country apart. This study highlights the misinterpretation of the Aburi document; proposes important constitutional variables needing urgent national attention.
1.3 AIM AND PURPOSE OF THE STUDY
The study seeks to explore the circumstances that led to the question of failure to fully implement the Aburi Accord and the subsequent consequences it had on the Civil war and beyond. It aims at highlighting lapses, historically, in pre-conference, Aburi document and post-conference report dilemmas surrounding the Aburi Accord.
The study further examines, historically, the circumstances that gave birth to the meeting at Aburi on the 4th and 5th of January, 1967 under the auspices of General Joseph Ankrah of Ghana.
The work also analyzes, in critical terms, the content of the Aburi Agreement as a constitutional document that seeks to achieve a slightly decentralized form of government with the aim of handing the regions some level of autonomy in their quest for social, political, economic independence.
It shall also examine the operations and performance of key actors in the conference and the strategies adopted to score vital points and influence the outcome of the conference.
The works also aims at assisting the need for government to revisit the Aburi documents with the intention to apply and coordinate some or even all the recommendations the conference (political, economic, military, and diplomatic) to achieve national unity objectives.
The work will also critically analyze the roles of various individuals and groups and to what extent these groups influenced the outcome of the January 1967 agreement reached between Gowon and Ojukwu in Aburi Ghana. These individuals and Bodies include
(a) Delegates to the meeting
(b) The host
(c) The Federal Government Permanent Secretaries
(d) The delegates from Eastern Nigeria
Finally, the study is concerned with developments and issues generated forty-six years after the Aburi Accord was signed and abandoned. The major consideration here is how relevant is the Accord to current political issues that look every inch like the political climate of 1966.
1.4 RESEARCH QUESTIONS
- What was the actual agreement reached at Aburi
- Were the federalists right with the partial offer?
- Was the partial implementation actually a move to save the country from collapse?
- Were the Easterners wrong in pressing home for a fuller implementation?
- If the Aburi Accord was adhered to could there have been the Nigerian Biafran Civil War?
1.5 SCOPE OF THE STUDY
This study seeks to determine the extent by which the Aburi Accord helped in escalating the crisis that led to the Nigerian Civil War from 1967-1970. First, the Accord was to serve as the last resort to the problem of political instability but the outcome blindly guided the negotiators to the point of no return. The impacts of the Accord on the Civil War were those orchestrated, on the one hand, by the two factions in the conference spear-headed by Ojukwu and Gowon, and on the other hand, by the Federal government permanent secretaries who made a post-conference analyses and recommendations to General Gowon. Thus, the work covers the roles of these individuals in the saga.
The importance of historical past- especially a well-documented one- to contemporary events cannot be overemphasized. Again, behind every event in history is a deep-rooted cause traceable to certain preconditions and precipitants. To this end, this work is neither centered on the events that took place at the Peduase house at Aburi, nor is it concerned with its impact on the war alone. Rather, it traces the idea of hosting the meeting in Ghana to series of tensions created before and after the 1966 coups. The work also covers the post-civil war era as it relates to the relevance of the Aburi Agreement to the present day political development.
1.6 SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY
This study intends to meet a variety of needs. It has enough substance to serve as literature on the subject. It will serve as a source for future researchers having interest on this topic.
Apart from this, the work will inspire greater confidence in revisiting and ensuring a continued research on, unarguably, the most decisive moment on the nation’s history- a history that is virtually unknown to the present generation. The timing of the work is invariably analogous to the events of 1966 citing the current wave of systematic killings in the North perpetrated by members of Boko Haram against Easterners. Since history appears to be replaying itself, it must not be allowed to de-generate to another helpless state of total war as it is currently clamoured from different quarters (Godwin, 2012). Therefore, this study presents a practical reference point, as to what lessons can be derived, following the breakdown of Aburi negotiations. It creates greater awareness on the need for the present and the upcoming generations to learn from the dynamics of that momentous history and use the available information to construct a future that will give no place to such disastrous history.
It has been my desire to intimate the general public on the importance of the researching on the implications of the Aburi Accord on the Civil war and the post-civil war Nigeria. The research will open up other dimensions and perspectives of analyzing the Aburi agreement. Besides, the work will expose the many problems thrown up as a result of partial implementation by the Federal Government or the uncompromising stance by Ojukwu’s East to stick to the last letters of the Agreement.
1.7 DEFINITION OF TERMS/CONCEPTUAL ANALYSIS
It is most appropriate to begin the study of Aburi conference and its aftermath by attempting a review of some related concepts such as conflict, peace building and Conflict Resolution, Peace spoiling and Peace spoilers, War and Peace treaties/agreement etc. The reason is understandably due to paucity of published works which have specifically dealt on the Aburi Accord. There hardly has been any separate and conscientious effort to study this highly controversial and unresolved national question. Virtually all the texts-both foreign and local- consulted on the Nigerian Civil War have devoted few chapters and a number of pages, while others at best have made a passing mention of the subject. Hence, reviewing literatures on Aburi specifically (apart from the concepts mentioned above) derives from articles, commentaries and excerpts of the original document of the Aburi Peace Accord.