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The Origin of Biafra — By Darren Idongesit

Biafra is not Igbo. Biafra is the name the Portuguese used to refer to the Present Cross River , Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa , parts of  Edo, Delta States,  Rivers States of Nigeria ; South East Cameroon , Gabon and Equatorial Guinea. 

Look at maps drawn  by cartographers in the 15th Century. Meaning of “Biafra” and location. Little is known about the literal meaning of the word Biafra. The word Biafra most likely derives from the subgroup Biafar or Biafada of the Tenda ethnic group who reside primarily in Guinea-Bissau.

Manuel Álvares (1526–1583), a Portuguese Jesuit educator, in his work “Ethiopia Minor and a geographical account of the Province of Sierra Leone”, writes about the “Biafar heathen” in chapter 13 of the same book. The word Biafar thus appears to have been a common word in the Portuguese language back in the 16th century.

Early modern maps of Africa from the 15th–19th centuries, drawn by European cartographers from accounts written by explorers and travellers, reveal some information about Biafra:

According to the maps, the European travellers used the word Biafara to describe the region of today’s West Cameroon including an area around Equatorial Guinea. 

The German publisher Johann Heinrich Zedler, in his encyclopedia of 1731, published the exact geographical location of the capital of Biafara, namely alongside the River Rio dose Camaroes underneath 6 degrees 10 min. 

Latitude. The words Niagara and Biafares also appear on maps from the 18th century in the area around Senegal and Gambia! The British colonists established the Protectorate of Biafra  on 1 February 1852.On 6 August 1861 the Bight of Biafra Protectorate and Bight of Benin. 

Protectorate were merged   Recall the present Bight of Benin. As a united British Protectorate, which was ultimately to be merged into Nigeria. 

Because of the sad events of the Nigerian civil war, the Bight of Biafra which was formerly known and called ” Bight of Biafra” was changed to Bight of Bonny by  the Federal Government through the passage of an Act of the National Assembly in the 1970s . 

The Bight of Biafra was changed the name from ” Bight of Biafra to Bight of Bonny”! Presently the Basin countries of the Bight of Bonny are Nigeria, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea and Gabon.


Biafra meant different things to different people. If the Nigerian army was seen as saviour and liberator by my people, it should tell you all you need to know about Biafra of 1967. 

As we remember the army of Biafra, let’s not forget the children who were forcefully conscripted, our children who died while Ojukwu prolonged the suffering and starvation of their families. 

Let’s remember the Ibibio men who were lynched in Umuahia.

Let’s remember the shameful collaborators who pointed out old men that simply expressed dissenting voices to that of supreme overlord Ojukwu. 

Let’s also remember that Ojukwu fled after needlessly sacrificing so many innocent lives. Let’s not forget the events that caused that war. 

We have always been a peaceful people and our parents did honorably in the face of an overwhelming Biafran occupation. 

What I know as a minority is that these lands, undulating hills populated with multitudinous palm trees, these lands coterminous with the endless blue seas, this land will always be ours. 

The salt in the oceans will be ours just as it was before the war of 1967; these lands are our ancestral home, we deserve every inch of it. 

Our towns may have been called Duke town, Creek town, or even James town by the white man but these names were consensual, we welcomed the white man even when he assumed authority in not so direct and boastful way as the Biafran occupiers did, the stay of white people was consensual and we even enjoyed the fanciful names because the white man called our lands by a name he could pronounce on his little map.

To us, our lands have always been Oron, Akwa Akpa, Uyo, etc. We didn’t have a problem with our white guests and they could call our lands by names they could pronounce but “New Onitsha” was not the name we gave consent to and to suggest that as an occupying force was to insult the land that we have known as home. 

We never accepted the name ‘New Onitsha’ because it was boastful and insensitive- it challenged our very pride as a people. 

It was still Oron to us and never New Onitsha. 

Let’s also remember the white people who Ojukwu’s unprofessional militia killed and kidnapped, a man who summarily sentenced foreigners to death thus wiping away any international pity for the besieged enclave. 

The pope begged, Félix Boigny begged but Ojukwu ‘the proud’ lingered just as he lingered while millions of minorities starved. 

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