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Biafra: A Historical Perspective, By Bernard Balogun

By News Express on 10/09/2016

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I have no doubt in my mind that my exposition this month shall elicit comments from both sides of the divide (for and against). The truth of the matter is that, I deliberately want to generate a healthy appraisal of the Biafra agitation, so that at the end of the discourse, we shall arrive at a common ground that will promote better understanding why the agitation, as valid as it may appear is, indeed, unnecessary. We must learn tolerate each other’s opinion and consequently learn to live in peace, devoid of the emblems of segregation and war song, as currently exists.

Let us remind ourselves that a nation without history will go into extinction. This brings me to what ‘Common-Sense’ Senator, Ben Murray-Bruce, said on the night of Sunday, April, 24, 2016, at the Man of the Year Award Night organised by Silverbird TV in Lagos. Senator Ben Bruce told his audience that: “As I walked into the venue this evening, two young ladies approached me and asked what is happening here? I said, it is an award night to honour some Nigerians who had done well in their respective fields and, indeed, impacted on the lives of Nigerians. Among them is Maj Gen Tunde Idiagbon of blessed memory. The ladies - one, may be about 27 years and the other about 22years - retorted, surprisingly:’ you mean Maj-Gen Tunde Idiagbon will be coming?’ That is what we get when a nation has no history, when we fail to teach history in our schools.” (My apologies to the distinguished senator, if I did not capture his statement verbatim, but the message is quite clear). For purposes of education, Maj-Gen Babatunde Abdulbaki Idiagbon died on March 24, 1999. That digression is necessary, permit me all the same.

The Biafra agitation – is it necessary? In a short video interview granted to a foreign female correspondent by our respected Chief Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu (of blessed and unforgotten memory), he said, and I quote: Intro: Chief Emeka Ojukwu led the Biafrans against the government in the last war. He says, it will be a mistake for anyone to provoke another war. Correspondent: But, Chief Ojukwu, you led the first one? Chief Ojukwu: Yes, I know. A lot of people will say but you were leading the first one. I will say to everyone, I led proudly the first one. (But) I do not think a second one is necessary. We should have learnt from the first one, otherwise the dead will have been to no avail. It would all have been in vain (end of the interview). That was the man who began the Biafra struggle in the mid-60s as a young military officer serving in the Nigerian Army. A struggle which culminated into a full-blown civil war, with its attendant consequences, with over 3 million Nigerians dead and properties of unimaginable proportion destroyed. A war, which in the eyes of the international community, was clearly needless and avoidable, if revolutionary ideas had not been promoted over and above the love and growth of our compatriots and the nation per se. The interview above was granted in the late 80s. Perhaps, with the advance in age, Emeka-Ojukuwu saw that struggle in a different light. In his considered opinion, the struggle “was, indeed, no longer necessary.”

Let us undertake some historical calculations to convey a message. The war ended in January 1970, meaning 46 years ago. A baby born 46 years ago is today an adult and by extension a father. A 46-year-old of today will not know much about the war – what led to it, how it was fought and how it ended. All he knows are synopsis from his parents. Not much information really. By now, all things being equal, a 46-year-old man should be a father to another young man of between 18 and 25. A young man born about 21years after the civil war ended certainly has no idea of the war, its magnitude, the losses, pains and psychological torture suffered by his grand-parents, not his own father who was born at the time the war ended. This young man of about 25 was simply told there was a war – no further details about it. So he went, checked the Internet to piece together information about the war. Information from the Internet is sometimes full of inaccuracies, distortions but in any case, bears semblance of truth. No proper historical documentation, either still or motion, to appropriately tell the full story of the war – how it began, the roles of the founding fathers from the respective regions and their concerted efforts to quench the fire of the raging war.

That is, painfully, the dilemma the younger generation of today find themselves, especially our brothers and sisters of Igbo extraction. Has my generation failed these youngsters? Certainly not. My generation has not failed our children because we, as their fathers, did not experience the war. Our own fathers did, so we have no full knowledge of it. Truth must be told, when our parents, who are grand-parents tell the story to these children with its attendant advice to avoid such agitation and calamity, these children would not listen.

They feel, right or wrong, that our generation as parents did not do enough to sustain the fight which would have excised them from the Nigerian state.

A generation of young men (and women) with revolutionary ideas. We do know revolutionary ideas have always aggravated situations. A young man thinks about the size of the man in a fight, whereas an adult thinks of the size of the fight. Our elders also told us long ago, It is the beginning of a fight you know, but you never know the end of it.. Painfully, this kind of adage has no meaning to our children of today. It simply does not fly. Shall we ask our elders, our grandfathers in Igbo land their experiences during the war? Or in recent times, do we ask our brothers and sisters from Ife/Modakeke, in Osun State, their sad experience during their communal clashes? It is, indeed, a very bad and painful experience.

Thank God, today, common-sense has prevailed in Ile-Ife /Modakeke. There is harmony. Mutual respect has returned. There now exists in Ile Oduduwa, peace. Please, let us perish the thought of another war. Need we mention the senseless Rwandan genocide, which began like play and grew exponentially out of control. Truly, it was not anticipated that it will escalate to the proportion it got on April 7, 1994 when it began between the Tutsi and Hutu. Consequently, countless innocent souls were lost and uncountable properties destroyed. Till date, it is still a bad reference in the history of Rwanda and the world. The genocide would have been avoided if dialogue had been encouraged and brought to the front-burner.

I shall respectfully suggest that the Federal Government should invite elders from the South-east region to a roundtable discussion, so that they can find a common ground for a better understanding of our differences, for the purposes of a united and purposeful Nigeria. The various nationalities that presently make up Nigeria can peacefully live together as brothers and sisters, if we so desire genuinely.

I feel there is the need now to constitute a body that will give us a detailed documentary on the civil war. Such documentary will be a guide to avoid such pitfalls, and will clear any misgivings, misconceptions once and for all. This needless agitation should be discouraged and halted. I also believe that the National Orientation Agency has a significant role to play in de-radicalisation of youths from the South-east. I do believe it will be a worthy sacrifice if the Federal Government releases Nnamdi Kanu in the best interest of peace and tranquility, with a view to bringing him to the mainstream of the South-east developmental restructuring programme. The young man certainly has a strong voice among the youth in the region. That voice needs to be respected. We must not misconstrue the release of Kanu as a sign of cowardice or weakness on the part of the Federal Government. Certainly not!  However Kanu should be encouraged to purge himself of his radical views. These are my thoughts.

God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria

Balogun writes from Wuse District of Abuja. He can be reached via bernardbalogun1@yahoo.com

Source News Express

Posted 10/09/2016 3:05:45 PM

 

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