For these basic reasons, separation of the forces, the separation of the population, I, in all sincerity, in order to avoid further friction and further killing, do submit that the only realistic form of Government to-day until tempers can cool is such that will move people slightly apart and a Government that controls the various entities through people of their areas. It is better that we move slightly apart and survive, it is much worse that we move closer and perish in the collision. Therefore, I say no single one person to-day in Nigeria can command the entire loyalty of the people of Nigeria. People can command loyalties of various groups and, therefore, to save the suspicion, to enable us settle down it is essential that whatever form of Government we have in the centre must be limited and controlled by a consensus which we all agree. It is easier for people at the top to be reasonable, it is a different thing for people lower down and it is that that makes me say that Nigeria wide content should be at the highest possible level until such a time as tempers have cooled and tensions have come down. This is the basic principle, if we are agreeable on it then we go into the matters of detail.
Lt.-Col. Hassan: I do agree basically with the principles that have been mentioned by Emeka, but starting from May, I think, in his statement and in what you mentioned earlier, we that are here to-day know what we have done and we know what we have been doing to console and to stop the killings of the people of the East. On the other side, you may not know that all of us here on this table have done so much also, risking our lives and, as you mentioned, the whole thing is at the lower level. If you know how much it is at the lower level and how much we have tried to console the people to stop all these movements and mass killings, you will give me and others a medal tonight.
However, I do agree that at the moment the confidence at the lower level has to be restored and it will take time to get confidence because it is a known fact that the confidence now both in the East and in the North is not yet there. We have tried our best to see that the ordinary man in the street understands the difficulties as already mentioned by Emeka that may face the country, a complete civil war. However, we have done our best and we will continue to do our best but all the same I agree that whatever form of association we are to discuss has to be at the top; to make me believe that tomorrow a Northern soldier will stay in the same barracks within the next few months with an Eastern soldier, the confidence is just not there. With the civilians I would agree because there are so many that have written to us, we have so many from the East who still want to come back but I cannot really say to them ‘It is true, go and reside in such and such a place’ because if he comes back and something happens to him I will have the feeling that it is my responsibility to save the life of that individual and I told him to come back and he has been killed.
Lt.-Col. Ojukwu: The Easterner who wanted to come back to the North I tried actively to stop because I know the Easterner, I know what he is going to do when he goes back to the North and I would be grateful if you discourage him.
Lt.-Col. Hassan: I encouraged some and discouraged some because I feel it is my responsibility. This was what made me face the mutiny in Kano, soldiers were ready to shoot me but all the same it is my responsibility to save lives and I did it. However, I feel that on the civilian side we can do it gradually but at the Army level that will give us great difficulty. I feel we should concentrate now on the form of association we want at the higher level not promises that an Eastern soldier and a Northern soldier can mix together tomorrow, the chances of their mixing together is about 35 per cent but not up to 45 per cent yet. I think that the form of Government that we should have should be discussed at the higher level and then we can try within our territories to bring confidence back gradually. We may say that the confidence is there but right at the bottom it is not there and I am sure Robert will]l agree. Even right now we have divisions within the Regions in the North, the West, the Mid-West, even in the East, the Rivers people want to go. Therefore, we better try to keep the big groups together at the moment and gradually we start mixing together.
Lt.-Col. Ejoor: I do not think I will recount the details which have been mentioned but the salient point which we want to consider is that since there is no one person that has absolute control of the Armed Forces, it is now difficult for us to accept one authority and I think this is the main point which Emeka has tried to make.
We can tackle it in two ways. First, by removing the subject of objection in the lower group, that is by separating the soldiers in the mean time to build confidence until we can bring them together.
Secondly, since we are working in good faith among ourselves we have to repose the responsibility for each group of the Army on those personalities until we are in a position to merge together. With this progression from a Federal set up it only means we have to look very closely into the central powers which are supposed to be those of the Supreme Commander and see how best we can limit these in such a way that the actions are acceptable, to the various Regions. I would like this body to be maintained, the Supreme Military Council must be maintained but we have to reconstruct the duties or the powers of the Supreme Military Council in order to give effect to the other functions that will restore confidence within the various Regions and then in general. I do not think our answer here is to start re- organising the Council but to look into the functions and to specify very definitely what it can do and what it cannot do. If we do that we would go a long way in restoring confidence within the Regions. When this is restored we hope gradually we shall build up, it will be a matter of time and it will come automatically but we will want a strong centre….
Col. Adebayo: I think I should come in here. Two points have been made, one on the Government side and the second which is inter-related to the Government side, the Army. This is a Military Government or Military rule and as such we are military people and must get ourselves together first. If we do not sort ourselves out I cannot see how we can confidently rule the country. I agree entirely with Emeka, Hassan and David. I think it will be simpler on the Government side if we can restore the confidence of the population which we have not got at the moment. Even in the West the Yorubas are afraid of moving around with the Northern troops because they feel ‘Well, they have done something to the Easterners may be it is our turn next….’ I think I would agree with the majority here that our association should be tightened up at the top and see whether we can bring that association down to the ground when the time comes, when the troops have more confidence in themselves. As Jack and myself have always said, we do not want to break the Army completely into pieces because it will be very very dangerous to any one of us if we break the Army into pieces. If we can tighten up the Army on top then those who are on top will gradually have the confidence of the troops back but I agree entirely that we must separate these troops.
If there are areas where some people can work together, we can go into detail on that but in general I think one should agree that there should be separation from the bottom but not on top.
On the Government side, the problem has been half resolved. We agreed yesterday that our Solicitors-General should get together on the 14th and see what part of the Decrees we can repeal later on and submit their recommendations. I think if we can go back as at 14th January, 1966, I think half of the problem on the Government side is resolved. Then if we want to go through the functions of the Supreme Commander and see what the Regions can take on it will be all right. But, personally, I would say we only repeal those Decrees that were passed after 15th January, 1966 but I think we should revert to what the country was as at 14th January, 1966, that is Regional autonomy.