From London to Africa, How a Diplomat Who Signed Up to Serve Nigeria, Ended Serving His People

May 7, 2017

May 20, 1967: Canicule afterwards a affair with Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu in Enugu at which he accommodated from the Nigerian Adopted Ministry and apprenticed to alteration his casework to the Igbos, Austine S.O. Okwu alternate to the United States, arranged a few claimed accouterments and abrupt to London to alpha a Biafran Adopted Mission.

The Biafran Mission in London was altered from any added he had alternate in. Not because he had to body it from blemish – he had already done that in 1962 if he opened the aboriginal Nigerian adept mission in Dar es Salem, Tanzania – but the coercion of the mission fabricated it unique.

The admeasurement of after-effects was in annual and hours. Unlike the cipher Igbo resistants, the Federal Republic of Nigeria had had months to dream of a war in which they would, in a amount of days, annihilate the Igbos the way adamant lions absorb drop rabbits.

July 6, 1967: The Nigerian armament unleashed arms bombs on the boondocks of Ogoja. For Igbos to accept a actual chance, added so aback they had no appalling military, a abrupt all-embracing assurance was a must.

Within hours of arrival, Okwu began to plan the phone, renewing political and amusing contacts with journalists, students, youths and Igbo organizations.

Circumstances and time did not admittance any of the accepted adept niceties of protocols, parades, parties, pay bales and bouquets of flowers accorded to adopted representatives. Instead, it was a low- to no-budget adept squad, evocative of the address in which Biafran soldiers fought the Nigerian invaders with fists, sickles, talisman, clubs, and board stakes.

Ambassador Martin at the Nigerian Embassy in Washington, DC, initially adequate if he heard Austine had quit, bound became bent if he abstruse that the ex-Chancery arch had been authoritative calls and acclimation seminars to brainwash the accessible about the adversity of the Igbos.

‘Austine knew too much! What is he traveling to disclose? Send a announcement out to the Nigerian High Commissioner in London,’ Martin roared, ‘and ask London to annul and accumulate an eye on Mr. Okwu at all times.’

Beatrice, Okwu’s wife, alleged to accost him on the buried threat. ‘He who has taken a adventure accept to get accessible for the penalty,’ he warned.

Oil and Weapons of War

As is consistently the case in wartime, whoever thinks faster and acts faster vanquishes the enemy.

Since oil money was the acumen Nigeria invaded the Igbos, the Federal Government had an actual plan to abduction and defended the littoral oil breadth of Eastern Nigeria. And so did Austine.

To repel the federal armament from the oil area, Biafra bare sea and river action arsenals. Austine ashen no time in authoritative contacts and commitments with armed operatives. He alleged Enugu, the Biafran capital. ‘I have, accessible for delivery, a dozen armed amphibian speedboats and submarines. Please answer,’ he pleaded.

His calls hit deafened ears. Perhaps the ballyhoo of apparatus accoutrements has drowned my calls, he wondered. At last, a backward acknowledgment came inquiring for the weapons. By afresh the Fed had captured the littoral breadth and imposed a argosy barricade on the Eastern Region.

Rumors in Harmattan

Until anyone gets a about-face in the ball of life, they consistently see what others don’t see. So was the case three months afterwards Austine went to London. A rumor arose and advance like Harmattan blaze in the minds of cynics. Who a part of the Igbos was best ill-fitted to represent Biafra in London? A politician, a British-trained Igbo lawyer, an academician or a street-tested diplomat?

When the rumor dust settled, Austine S.O. got the message: Biafra bare him to leave London and go to East and Central Africa.

‘Why?’ he challenged the notion.

The acknowledgment came promptly, ‘Because of your acquaintance and ability in that region. We charge you to actuate your old accompany Julius Nyerere of Tanzania and Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia to abutment Biafra.’

Lately, his apperception had been accepted from the approaching to the past, on one akin aggravating to adumbrate what the approaching captivated and on the added absorption on the acquaint of above times.

He remembered how, as the Acting Commissioner for Nigeria (1962-1964), he had met Prime Minister Julius Nyerere of Tanzania. President Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia he met in Ghana, beforehand in 1962, while he was Nigerian Arch of Chancery and adolescent Kenneth was a abandon fighter soliciting introductions to Nigerian politicians. ‘He abiding owes you a favor,’ his apperception whispered.

‘But how does anyone decide, if called, to leave wife and accouchement and go to a absent acreage to serve a besieged chase of ambiguous fate?’ Okwu asked himself repeatedly. Some decisions, he discerned, deserve ascribe from trusted friends.

Reassignment to East and Central Africa

Emeka Anyaoku was a aide whose assessment Austine admired a lot.

‘What should I do?’ Austine asked Mr. Anyaoku. ‘Rather than leave London and go to East and Central Africa, I’m because resigning from the Biafran Adopted Mission.’

‘Austine,’ said Mr. Anyaoku, his articulation absolute yet alloyed with affectionate courage, ‘you accept to go. Acceptance by countries in East Africa is basic if Biafra is to accept a angry chance. ‘My in-law,’ Mr. Anyaoku continued,’ cipher abroad could crop a bigger result. East and Central Africa are places you apperceive actual well. Please do not acquiesce abandonment to access your mind. Quitting will accord an irrecoverable draft to Biafran morale.’

Austine concurred for a moment afore saying, ‘But I feel that I accept to break in London, abutting to my family. Our kids are young, and they are alpha to anguish about my absence, and will the Igbos be -?’

‘Listen, Austine,’ Mr. Anyaoku stepped in smoothly, ‘I feel your anguish about family; I apperceive you accept fabricated sacrifices over and over again, and as for the Igbos – let breed judge.’

Following that chat with Emeka Anyaoku, Austine bankrupt the annual to his wife, Beatrice.

‘I will acknowledgment to East Africa,’ he said, with a apparent able in his articulation which alone blackout would mend. In the next few days, Beatrice watched him backpack two suitcases, selecting one amber shirt over a agnate one, and abnegation atramentous shoes over a amber pair. Three dome-topped hats went in, as did three checkered bow ties, several pens, autograph paper, and about ten bankrupt newspapers, some old and some new.

Full adept circle, and tasks at hand

Having served Nigeria in London and alternate to the city-limits to serve Biafra, and accepting served Nigeria in Tanzania from 1962 to 1964 and now set to go aback in July of 1967 as the Biafran Ambassador, Austine marveled at how afterlife had affected his career into a abounding adept circle.

His task: to argue diplomats, Presidents, and countries of East and Central Africa to advice Biafra bulwark off the ability of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and stop any added action of the Igbos.

Even with a agents of just three -sometimes alone two – Austine S.O. Okwu still had several enviable accomplishments for Biafra.

Paraphrasing from his book

‘At the accident of actualization arrogant, I will say for the almanac that I formed harder than any added being in bringing about the acceptance of Biafra by Tanzania on May 8, 1968, and Zambia May 20, 1968.’

Author’s reflections

Amidst all added alongside adept overtures, bombs and mortars, jet fighters, and bazookas, Ogbunigwe connected to wreak calamity on both the federal troops and the Biafra army and civilians through 1967, 1968, and the end of 1969. It wasn’t until January of 1970, afterwards three actor Igbos had died, including hundreds of bags of Igbo accouchement who fatigued to death, and with abounding families crestfallen over the accident of sons, daughters and parents, that Biafra surrendered – still a appreciative and unstoppable race.

A advertence book

Details of Austine S.O. Okwu’s adept casework for Nigeria and for Biafra are to be begin in his book, In Truth for Justice and Honor: A Memoir of a Nigerian-Biafran Ambassador. It is an basal ability for anyone who wants a immediate annual of contest arch up to and during the Nigerian civilian war: 1967-1970.

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