By Osita Ebiem
Biafra became independent of Nigeria on 30 May, 1967. The country Biafra seceded from the Nigerian union through the now internationally recognized principle of United Nations stipulated and universally accepted rights of nations to self-determination and the UN Declaration of Human Rights. Biafra’s justifying reason for separating from Nigeria has been well documented by many experts and is easily accessible by all interested readers. But in a nutshell, it is freedom, Self-dignity, Self Determination, Self-preservation and Self-defense against the openly declared project of pogrom, genocide, ethnic/religious cleansing, and deliberate and systematic program by the rest of the Nigerian Hausa, Fulani, Yoruba and others to totally exterminate them from the face of the Earth that pushed Biafra out of Nigeria.
But interestingly, in the crucibles of the fierce fight that ensued heroes and villains of Biafra were created. In the end over three million Biafran heroes emerged as blazing, shining, deathless stars on the bejeweled Biafran firmament. It is these stars of matchless glory that we continue to celebrate with pride and reverence on the 30th of May, every year. The light of these transcendent stars blaze the path and serve as the beacon that shows Biafrans alive today that the only way that will lead them to their true home of peace and untainted freedom is outside the Nigerian union. By this light every willing Biafran alive today can see clearly, be guided and guarded as they walk this hallowed path. It is by the light of these heroes that we know that there is available to us only but one genuine option – a free and independent Biafran homeland which is apart from Nigeria. Almost 50 years ago the light of these heroes shined so bright and powerful that it successfully pushed back the threatening darkness of total eclipse by the intolerant and bigoted violent Islam, and its mad and inordinate desire to forcefully impose Islam on other people. The light of these heroes shines ever so bright as we continually celebrate them but today we remember especially one star among them that shines so remarkably bright – Bruce Mayrock of New York-Biafra.
Many of us who may have heard of the other great heroes of Biafra like Christopher Okigbo, Chukwuma Nzeogwu, the heroic pilot Artur Alves Pereira, Joe Achuzia, the Count, Carl Gustaf von Rosen may not have heard of Bruce but his star in the Biafran crown shines especially bright. Bruce did not pull the trigger of Dick Tiger’s Madison or Ojukwu’s Catapult or the trigger-wire of any Ogbunigwe. He did not dodge into the fortified Ojukwu Bunker amidst the jungles of Umahia to escape the enemy’s bombings, shelling and strafing of civilian targets like hospitals, schools, churches, marketplaces and private homes. The Biafran hero Bruce Mayrock did not dive into the marshy trenches to spend the night in the company of poisonous snakes and stinging scorpions. He did not go through any of those things for him to feel the pain, the fire and starvation that Biafrans endured. But in the far away heart of New York City, in the middle of Manhattan’s glistering marbled sky high office buildings lining well-paved great avenues and boulevards and with carefully manicured and watered lawns Bruce was able to feel and endure the same pain and fire of ethnic and religious hatred from Nigerians that Biafrans went through and are still going through. Yes, though 5 thousand miles away, Mayrock became the Biafran hero par excellence.
Barely one month after the declaration of independence, on the 6th of July, 1967 the Nigerian state declared war on the new country and fired the first shot on that day at Gakem, a Northeastern part of the Biafran territory. So, by that first shot, Nigeria became the aggressor and Biafra the aggrieved. And from that fateful day till the 12th of January, 1970 the Biafrans who though knew the odds that were against them: they were from the onset outnumbered, outgunned and almost entirely unfriended but they were nevertheless determined to fight on to defend the Homeland. With the exception of those brave and heroic countries like Tanzania, Haiti, Cote d’Ivoire, Gabon, Zambia, France, Israel, Portugal, Spain, Sao Tame and Principe, Ireland, Vatican, Biafrans had no friends. The enemy was so powerful because it had very powerful allies and so with an entire world’s might behind it, the enemy determined to annihilate the entire people of Biafra. We may need to emphasis here that the friendship and support of the countries on the Biafran side was more of emotional, moral and humanitarian relationship. But today and as then and for all time we highly value their very honorable friendship and help. Even though we acknowledge that a country like France could and should have done more than she did but nevertheless we remain eternally grateful for what they did. We recognize that without the help and support of these our friends in need Biafra’s story would have been written differently and perhaps with too many irreversible deficits. Yes, Biafra had and we believe still has friends in these countries and peoples and we will continue to cherish and depend on them. We say thank you great heroes.
Soon after Nigeria started the war – Biafra-Nigeria war, Christopher Okigbo would be among the very early harvests of the choice seeds that would fall into the ground and die to germinate into the mighty and marvelous iroko that Biafra would become. Yes because Chris the poet-soldier believed in the Biafran idea, he willingly became one of the early heroes of Biafra. At the foot of Okpatu Hills near the University of Nsukka in Biafra while defending the territorial integrity of his newly liberated and independent fatherland, Okigbo would fall into the ground to further enrich the fertile, creative and prosperous Biafraland. In his translation to glory the poet carved out an enviable niche for himself in the middle of the foundational stones of the towering solid superstructure that would become the independent Republic of Biafra.
Counting from the first wave of the pogrom and genocide that ranged effectively from May, 29, 1966 till the 12th of January, 1970 and beyond, 3.1 million Biafran heroes and heroines would be enlisted in that long and sobering list of children, women and men mindlessly murdered and buried in mass graves by Nigeria and its allies. Yes, Biafrans have many great heroes who died to purchase with their blood the liberty and security of their fatherland and they all shine so bright on the Biafran horizon but one of these stars shines especially so bright. This special star is that of the 20 year old Bruce Mayrock. He was from Old Westbury, New York born on the 6th of May, 1949. At the time in May 1969 when he took his own life protesting with this large and unmistakable sign, “YOU MUST STOP GENOCIDE! PLEASE SAVE NINE MILLION BIAFRANS” he was then a student at Columbia University. On that day in New York City at the premises of the United Nations Headquarters Mayrock set himself ablaze protesting the world’s conspiratorial genocide on the nation and people of Biafra.
Today as Biafrans remember all their heroes Mayrock occupies this special enviable place amidst our numerous heroes and heroines. Though the war raged so far away in Biafra on the other side of the Atlantic coast he recognized and demonstrated in the profoundest manner the true spirit of the brotherhood of man. Yes he knew that in the injustice of Biafra was an indicting display of human depravity and that in the face of such inhumanity to man every individual must absolve themselves and by their actions redeem the soul of our common humanity. Bruce Mayrock on that day, by his self-immolation redeemed the entire humanity. He proved that all hope was not lost and that we can still believe in our common humanity. By Bruce’s supreme sacrifice he performed the redemptive ritual and gave back the other special Biafran hero Steve Jobs his faith.
When Jobs saw the pictures and wondered how humanity could have callously inflicted so much pain and suffering on little children and their mothers as Biafrans were deliberately starved to death by Nigeria he lost his faith in God and humanity and stopped going to Church. But by the deliberate and consciously chosen action of self-sacrifice, Mayrock gave back to Jobs his faith. And, because Mayrock died, Jobs believed and this faith would eventually propel him into inventing the Apple Empire and several other things that transformed for the better our common human experience. Yes, Bruce Mayrock was the Biafran hero par excellence who changed the world.
Today as Biafrans scattered around the world are celebrating these heroes who gave their lives to preserve the sanctity of human dignity of freedom and human life, everyone must reflect on what they can give for the ultimate freedom of Biafra. Biafra is still not completely free. Boko Haram is still rampaging and threatening to run rough shored over Biafraland again. The vicious and bestial enemy is still at the gate growling. Political and radical Islam is still raving and prowling about the precincts of the Biafran territory. The enemy mercilessly is still out murdering, maiming, looting, and abducting again girls and forcefully converting them to Islam and selling them into domestic and sex slavery as they did in Biafra. With all these dangers and threats of being swallowed up completely by the utter and hopeless darkness of Islamic terrorism, we are asking again what will every Biafran alive today give in exchange for their freedom and that of their children.
You hear some Biafrans talk about some kind of events-orchestrated non-predetermined conscious plans and actions as their wishful hope at liberation and independence. But the deliberate and conscious sacrifices of the heroes like Mayrock, Jobs, Okigbo, Nzeogwu, Achuzia, Pereira, von Rosen and a host of the other 3.1 million children, women and men fault this lazy, non-committal and unrealistic lethargic stance. The acts and words of these heroes are speaking differently in a very certain language. By their actions they have thrown the gauntlet and challenge the spineless and pacifist Biafrans to wake up from their sleep, pick up the gauntlet and become proactive in saving themselves, children and homeland. Mayrock and other noble heroes of Biafra are challenging every true Biafran today to believe enough to accept that the next generation of their people is worth dying for. Can’t you hear, brothers and sisters the words and actions of Mayrock and others as they are saying that your freedom and the freedom of your children and your fatherland is worth more than the life you have right now. Give your life if Biafra’s freedom demands it. Okigbo did, Nzeogwu did, Mayrock did and 3.1 million others; children, women and men did and we must do.
Yes, let’s celebrate the sacrifices of these heroes without feeling guilty but let’s resolve to become heroes in our own right for the love and freedom of our fatherland – Biafraland. We must resolve to willingly give her everything we have got even if it means our very lives. But today, while we celebrate the memory of these heroes we must not spoil it by remembering or thinking about any of the Biafran villains, the saboteurs, and those who cannot work with their fellow brothers and sisters in a team without backstabbing and betraying and selling them for material gains to the enemy. The Biafran villains are those who erroneously misconstrue the Igbo noble concept of Igbo enweze. Such ones are deceived into believing that Igbo do not and should not have rallying figures. They believe in error that Igbo enweze translates to the Igbo should not have leaders or leadership or that Igbo should not have heroes. But today, on this 30th of May we now know that Igbo must submit themselves to each other and begin to create heroes from amongst them.
Today we have come to know that in any great society every new generation must create their own heroes while they still honor the ones of generations gone by. Fellow compatriots, the villains of Biafra that we know are those who do not refer to the works of past heroes and give them credit. Past heroes are not only those who have worked and died but even those who have done works in the past and are still doing things for Biafra. These heroes must be recognized and respectfully credited and continually honored. It is only in this way can Biafrans be a people that are progressive, standing on the shoulders of their fathers and mothers to reach greater heights.
True Biafrans do not abandon ship and they are those who take stock of the labors of the past generation, study them with reverence, learn all the lessons there are and continue building from where they stopped. Real Biafrans do not discard their past history nor destroy the bridge they have crossed. No, they reserve the best places in the shrines and museums of our collective Biafran memory to the works of fellow Biafrans other than themselves. True Biafrans showcase the works of fellow Biafrans and even prefer that their brothers’ and sisters’ lights outshine theirs. True Biafrans know that in raising high and causing to shine brighter the light of their brothers, they themselves will become even more visible. The true Biafran knows that he cannot stand alone as ofu osisi and expect to achieve the forest status. The real Biafran recognizes that it is only in teams can everyone and the Biafran state achieve true greatness.
So, here at this point we urge every Biafran who has read or listened to this message and are moved in their hearts: Don’t fold your hands, listen to your heart. Get out of your seat and go out there to do some heroic act for the sake of the freedom of Biafra. But in all you do you must honor and credit the works and persons of other heroes and always aim to accomplish all your goals and aspirations in the team – the Biafran Team. Our brother and fellow compatriot Bruce Mayrock and others have shown to us the example of how to love Biafra: With our very lives if need be. How much do you love Biafra?