As world-renowned writer, Chinua Achebe’s latest book, There was a country, continues to generate reactions even from “those who have not read it” to borrow Okey Ndibe’s description of those whose judgment is derived mainly from the portion on late Chief Obafemi Awolowo (Awo), all sorts of flashes and blasts from the past are starting to echo.
The following concerns the purported resignation of Odumegwu Ojukwu’s PRO in the United States at the time carried by the Lagos-based Morning Post. I received it through my association with a group, albeit on the fringe but with full view of goings on inside!
I have neither seen nor read the book; I intend to do so.
OPEN LETTER OF RESIGNATION TO ODUMEGWU OJUKWU
FROM Robert S. Goldstein
Public Relations Representative of Biafra in the United States
(Published in the Morning Post, Lagos, August 17, 1968)
As your Public Relation’s Representative in the United States, it is my
distasteful duty to tender my resignation based on the following
POINT 1 – In November of 1967 when we met in Umuahia, you and
your Cabinet were very impressive. You told me of the woes of your
little Republic, that thousands of people had died, were dying and
more were prepared to die for freedom’s sake.
You and your Cabinet told me you believed world opinion would
help your cause if you could get your story across.
You expressed the opinion that very few if any people in the United
States knew of the plight of the Biafrans.
You asked me to tell the world that Britain had teamed up with
Russia in a conspiracy with the Federal Government of Nigeria to
murder every Ibo in Biafra. You suggested I use my talents to induce
the Press to write about the Biafran side of the war, as at that time
all news came out of Lagos.
You will recall I did not take the asssignment that day but stayed on
several days before deciding to take that job.
To help win the peace
At that time I stated to you and your cabinet that I was taking the
assignment making it crystal clear I would try my best to help win
the peace not the war.
POINT TWO – I immediately arranged the first world Press conference
in Biafra inviting the US Press as well as journalists and television
people from England, France, Switzerland, Africa and other parts of
the Globe. This was the first news break through. I arranged regular
trips into Biafra for the world Press, helped set up stringers, etc., so
that your statements and the statements of your Cabinet would be
At that time, I was absolutely positive you were right and your
cause was a just one in the best interests of the free world and your
POINT THREE – Finally the Republic of Biafra was recognized first by
Tanzania, then quickly followed by Gabon, the Ivory Coast and
Zambia. Our public relations work was paying off, world opnion was
starting to side with us.
Peace talks were arranged at Kampala. I thought that if anyone
walked away from the table it would be the Federal Government. But
to my dismay it was Biafra that left the Conference. After all the
fighting and killing, I knew that peace would not come easy but I
could not understand leaving the Peace Conference until the last
point was negotiated and the avenue explored.
POINT FOUR – Then urgent telex messages were received from
‘Biafra’ telling of tens of thousands of people starving in the refugee
camps, the villages, the bush country – stating if something werent
done in the next few months over a million women, children and
aged would be starved to death. I immediately contacted the Press,
urgently petitioned the State Department for action on their part.
Food, medicine and milk were sent to the only available ports open
for immediate shipment to ‘Biafra’ via land routes through Federal
and Biafra territory, under the auspices of world organizations such
as the International Red Cross among others.
Then came the incredible answer from ‘Biafra’ that land corridors
could not be acceptable until there was a complete ceasefire, and
that an airlift was the only solution to feed the starving.
You then appeared before the various Heads of State and
representatives of the OAU at Niamey in Niger. I fully expected you
to at least accept the world help that was offered your starving
throngs. However, you delayed, hoping to use these unfortunates
with world sympathy on their side as a tool to further your ambition
to achieve war concessions at the upcoming peace talks in Addis
Ababa. Thus innocent victims continue to perish needlessly of
starvation, the most agonising death that can befall any living
POINT FIVE – This was incredible to me. I am now convinced that I
have been used by you and your cabinet to help in military
adventures of your origin….using your starving hordes as hostages
to negotiate a victory.
If at some later date, following the issuance of this letter, you do
concede to allow a mercy land corridor…would you expect me to
agree to espouse before the world Press the incredible delay of your
decision. What explanation could I honestly give for the needless
prolongation of this horror.
I pray this communication may in some small way influence you to
move affirmatively, allowing the mercy land corridor to be born.
It is inconceivable to me that you would stop the feeding of
thousands of your countrymen (under auspicies of world
organizations such as the International Red Cross, World Council of
Churches and many more) via a land corridor which is the only
practical way to bring in food to help at this time. It is inconcievable
to me that men of good faith would try to twist world opinion in
such a manner as to deceive people into believing that the
starvation and hunger that is consuming ‘Biafra’ is a plot of Britian,
Nigeria and others to commit genocide.
POINT SIX – I cannot in all conscience serve you any longer. Nor can I
be a party to suppressing the fact that your starving thousands have
the food, medicine and milk available to them…..it can and is ready
to be delivered through international organizations to you. Only
your constant refusal has stopped its delivery.
I am this date, tendering my resignation and am returning to Mr.
Collins Obih of the African Continental Bank all the fees you have
given me (Letter of Credit No. 354 $400,000 US.)
I have sent your representative in New York a Bond in the amount of
800.000 pounds that I was holding in your behalf. I have also this
date, sent the Bond of 200,000 pounds issues by the Central Bankl of
Nigeria back to them for disposal.
POINT SEVEN – I am now convinced that one Nigeria is the only
solution to peace. I also call upon you Mr. Ojukwu to allow your
starving people to be fed. Their well-being is of deep concern to me
as well as other right thinking people of the world. Your acting in the
utmost haste in this matter is in my opinion the first step toward
any lasting peace in your country.
Pa Achebe was part of the Biafran govt was he not aware of this fact?
His book will open more wounds and revelation that if care is not taken heroes might end up becoming villians…