How Biafrans Were Denied Right To Plebiscite On The Control Over Port Harcourt
This excerpt shows how Biafrans were denied of plebiscite to control their revenue base and internal security.
The excerpt was drawn by Mbe Nwaniga from the 1981 Arnold Smith's book on Stitches In Time:The Commonwealth In World Politics .
They rejected Okpara’s three conditions: the boundaries of the ‘Biafran’ state to be determined by plebiscites to decide whether it should include any of the parts of the Mid- West, South Eastern and Rivers states, and specifically Port Harcourt; and for it to control its own internal security and its own mineral and economic resources, while guaranteeing Lagos ‘independent sources of revenue adequate for its functions’.
Gowon argued that the federal government had to control internal security in an emergency, had to have enough control over resources to promote national development, and could not allow a precedent to be set on holding plebiscites on boundaries, which could be properly settled by a commission.
In a private talk later he told me that the key issue was Port Harcourt. This major port was now in Rivers State and, although a majority of its population were Ibo, it served the vital transport interests of several states, including notably some parts of the Muslim North. If it were to be excised from Rivers State through a plebiscite, the Ibos could use it as a strategic threat in any future quarrel.
It was reassuring to find, on a visit to Kaduna, that Colonel Hassan Katsina, who wielded wide influence as chairman of the council of the six Northern governors, said he favoured ending the war as soon as possible by a negotiated settlement.
He even suggested the solution to the Port Harcourt issue might be a joint administration by the Rivers and Ibo states.
Stitches In Time:The Commonwealth In World Politics .
Arnold Smith ( published in 1981)