Aburi Accord

Ojukwu and Gowon in Aburi Ghana
Ojukwu shares a meal with Gowon at Aburi, Ghana. Phoot: Old Naija

Aburi Accord in 1966 was the watershed in the series of intrigues that led to the Nigerian Civil War known as the Biafran War. The entire two days proceeding at the round table to fashion solutions to the impasse generated by the coup that killed the Head of State, General Aguiyi Ironsi, was recorded by the Ghanaian hosts, who gave Ojukwu and Gowon a copy of the tapes. The meeting was held at the weekend resort place of Ghana’s former head, Nkrumah, at the invitation of Lt. Gen. J.A. Ankara, Ghanian leader who in his remarks evinced naivety dismissing the crisis as one the military could resolve within its ranks.

Ojukwu meets Gowon

The meeting at Aburi opened with an accusation by Ojukwu, the man in the East, of an arms build-up by the Federal military government, dominated by Northern elements. At this time, Nigerian Head of State, Ironsi and his lieutenants had been killed in retaliation for the coup in January in which major Northern leaders were murdered by a group of young soldiers who were mostly of Igbo origin from the East. According to Ojukwu, evidence exists to the purchase of large rounds of ammunition and loads of arms which have not been shared to other regions but Kaduna. On this note, Ojukwu requested an agreement on the use of force in the settlement of crises. In defense of the Federal Government, the new Head, Gowon, reiterated there had been a short-fall of arms and ammunition generally since his time as Chief of Staff and order was to have been placed for them before the counter coup of 29th July which threw the country into a crisis of leadership and ethnic distrust. In his rebuttal, Gowon had issued a threat subtly; “Even if you have arms and weapons in the East, i can assure you, you will only have more rifles in your hands and before you know what is happening the situation would have gone out of hand.” The need to put a figure to the volume of weapons been held by individual unit in the army was thereby suggested by Lt. Col. Ejoor. Ojukwu’s draft resolution which forecloses the use of force on both sides also required that a copy of the declaration be deposited with the secretariat of the Organization of African Unity, a proposition Col. Adebayo opposed. Furthermore, Ojukwu proposed there would be no more importation of arms until issues were resolved.

Another schedule of the Accord, was the organization of the Nigerian army, in which it was proposed that as far as possible the army personnel should be posted to barracks in their regions of origin, as an interim measure. Within this context arose a pertinent question, first raised by Major Johnson; if there existed a central government at that moment. Ojukwu was happy to reply to the contrary. He questioned the authority of Gowon in assuming the position of the Supreme Commander, as Aguiyi Ironsi, to his knowledge, was only missing.

Aburi fallout

Apparently Ojukwu came to Aburi to re-write the Nigerian constitution- and he largely succeeded. The meeting, though inconclusive, drew from both sides agreement that the regions should move slightly farther apart than before. “The East believes in Confederation,’ said Ojukwu in a press conference at Enugu a day after Aburi, ‘we have gone a long way towards that as a result of the meeting.” He needed to prove to his men he was not sold out, and so was Gowon, who under pressure from his own squad gave a quite different interpretation of what he thought the Aburi Accord meant. The stage for war was set.

Tope Apoola
Profession: Writer