As the agitation for a new republic of Biafra draws more attention, there has been a debate on the role of Chief Obafemi Awolowo in the Biafran war. Below is what late Biafran leader Chief Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu had to say about it in a 2001 interview.
When asked by Rudolf Okonkwo if Awolowo ever made the promise of seceding with the Yorubas should the Igbos leave Nigeria, Ojukwu said;
“We’ve said this over and over again, so many times, and people don’t understand; they don’t want to actually. If you remember, I released Awolowo from jail. Even that, some people are beginning to contest as well. Awo was in jail in Calabar. Gowon knows and the whole of the federal establishment knows that at no point was Gowon in charge of the East. The East took orders from me. Now, how could Gowon have released Awolowo who was in Calabar? Because of the fact that I released him, it created quite a lot of rapport between Awo and myself and I know that before he went back to Ikenne, I set up a hotline between Ikenne and my bedroom in Enugu. He tried like an elder statesman to find a solution. Awolowo is a funny one. Don’t forget that the political purpose of the coup, the Ifeajuna coup that began all this, was to hand power over to Awo. We young men respected him a great deal. He was a hero. I thought he was a hero and certainly I received him when I was governor. We talked and he was very vehement when he saw our complaints and he said that if the Igbos were forced out by Nigeria that he would take the Yorubas out also. I don’t know what anybody makes of that statement but it is simple. Whether he did or didn’t, it is too late. There is nothing you can do about it. So, he said this and I must have made some appropriate responses too. But it didn’t quite work out the way that we both thought. Awolowo, evidently, had a constant review of the Yoruba situation and took different path. That’s it. I don’t blame him for it. I have never done.”