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|Awolowo Replies Achebe From The Grave by ElMatteo(m): 6:54pm On Oct 08, 2012|
Although Chief Obafemi Awolowo is not alive to respond to allegations levelled against him by renown novelist, Chinua Achebe, an interview he granted during a
town hall meeting in Abeokuta, Ogun State in
1983 could as well pass for a defence.
Fielding questions from members of a panel
and the audience, Awolowo explained his
policies as the Federal Commissioner of
Finance during the Nigerian civil war.
The town hall meeting which was part of his
electioneering as the Unity Party of Nigeria
presidential candidate in 1983, lasted for 90
minutes. It was aired live by some radio
Awolowo, who was then 74 years old, spoke on his roles in the civil war, especially the 20-
pound policy, the alleged use of starvation
against the Igbo and the change of the national currency.
He said those castigating him on the basis of his roles in the civil war which began in 1967 and ended in 1970 were those who felt the only
way to remain popular was by peddling lies
Achebe, in his wartime memoirs entitled,
There Was A Country, accused members of †ђε Gen. Yakubu Gowon cabinet, particularly
Awolowo, of making “regrettable policies”
aimed at deliberately reducing the number of
The novelist, whose most popular work, Things Fall Apart, has been published in more than 50 languages, said Awolowo came up with †ђε starvation, 20-pound and currency policies with a view to exterminating the Igbo.
According to Achebe, the late sage and former
premier of the defunct Western Region,
perceived the Igbo as his enemies.
However, Awolowo, in the interview said
contrary to the claim that he used starvation as a weapon against the Igbo, the then Federal
Government was actually sending food to
civilians in the war region.
He added that government stopped sending
food to the region when it was discovered that
it ( food) was being hijacked by Biafran
soldiers, who in turn gave the food to their
“friends and collaborators”.
Awolowo said, “We were sending food through the Red Cross, and CARITAS to them, but what
happened was that the vehicles carrying the
food were always ambushed by soldiers.
“That’s what I discovered and the food would
then be taken to the soldiers to feed them, and
so they were able to continue to fight. And I
said that was a very dangerous policy, we didn’t intend the food for soldiers. But who will go behind the line to stop the soldiers from ambushing the vehicles that were carrying †ђε food? And as long as soldiers were fed, the war will continue, and who’ll continue to suffer?
“So I decided to stop sending the food there. In the process, the civilians would suffer, but †ђε soldiers will suffer most.
“When you saw Ojukwu’s picture after the war, did he look like someone who’s not well fed? But he was taking the food which we sent to civilians, and so we stopped the food.”
On his reasons for changing currency,
Awolowo said it was to prevent Ojukwu, who is now late, from taking the money allegedly
stolen from the Central Bank of Nigeria by his
soldiers to buy arms abroad.
“We did that to prevent Ojukwu from taking
the money which his soldiers had stolen from
our central bank to take abroad to buy arms.
We discovered he looted our Central bank in
Benin, he looted the one in Port Harcourt,
looted the one in Calabar and he was taking †ђε currency notes abroad to sell to earn foreign
exchange to buy arms.
“So, I decided to change the currency, and for
your benefit, it can now be told the whole
world,that only Gowon knew the day before
the change took place. I decided, only three of
us knew before then- Clement Isong, who was
the CBN governor, Attah and myself.”
Achebe had written in one of the chapters of
the memoirs published in the UK Guardian on
Tuesday that the policy was orchestrated “to
stunt or even obliterate the economy of a
But Awolowo said the policy was what
government resorted to when depositors could not show proof of what they had as deposits.
“All the banks’ books had been burnt, and
many of the people who had savings didn’t
have their saving books or their last statements of account,” he said.
Awolowo, who reiterated during the town hall
meeting that he was “a friend of the Igbo,” said he saved the accrued revenue for the Eastern state during the period the war lasted and gave it back to them at the rate of 990,000 pounds as monthly subventions.
He said, “I didn’t go to the Executive Council to ask for support, or for approval because I knew if I went to the council at that time, the
subvention would not be approved because
there were more enemies in the executive
council for the Igbo than friends.
“And since I wasn’t going to take a percentage
from what I was going to give them, and I knew I was doing what was right, I wanted the
Eastern state to survive. I kept on giving the
subvention of 990,000, almost a million, every
He said he also ensured that the houses owned by the Igbo in Lagos and on the other parts of the country not affected by the war were kept for them.
He said, “I had an estate agent friend who told
me that one of them collected half a million
pounds rent which has been kept for him. All
his rent were collected, but since we didn’t
seize their houses, he came back and collected
half a million pounds."
|Re: Awolowo Replies Achebe From The Grave by Wiseandtrue(f): 6:43pm On Mar 13, 2017|
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