So much have been said, written and documented about the Nigerian catastrophe also known as the Nigerian Civil War which took place between 1966 and 1970. And so much more needs to be documented. All Nigerians and Nigeria were and are still victims of the Nigerian Civil War. Nigerians and Nigeria suffered colossally, including the loss of blood and treasure; and having to endure extreme physical and emotional traumas, and the loss of innocence as a nation. Millions of citizens were killed, starved to death and countless others were maimed for life.
The recent death of secessionist General Emeka Odimegwu Ojukwu has reawakened the need, alas the urgency for a Nigerian national debate about this very cataclysmic part of our national history. Since the death of General Ojukwu, there has been an opening of sorts, as some notable Nigerians have been discussing the Nigerian Civil War, and the Dim Ojukwu they knew. Some notable Nigerians are worth a mention here, first is former President Olusegun Obasanjo and then, the renowned iconic academic Professor Sam Aluko in “What Ojukwu told me before, during and after the war” as reported in an interview by Duro Adeseko in the Sun Newspapers. And then, there have also been public comments and interviews of other eminent Nigerians such as a former Chief of Defense Staff, Lt.-Gen. Domkat Bali, as well as another high profile military henchman, General Oluwole Rotimi and many others.
Clearly, viewpoints which have been expressed by these aforementioned individuals and others will necessarily reflect where they sit or stand or fall, on the war and the issues and personalities who played active roles on behalf of the Nigerian nation state or the now defunct Biafra. Nevertheless, it is clear to any cursory observer that the wounds from the Civil War is still very raw and fresh and it so, on all sides. The events which precipitated and led to the Nigerian Civil War, the war itself and its aftermath have shaped and continue to shape the economic and political development of Nigeria. These events and the lingering ill-will, have poisoned relationships between various regions, religions and ethnic groups in Nigeria. These events have extraordinary adverse effects which have and continue to stunt and stymy Nigeria
Nigerian Civil War is also the reason why true federation is not robustly and vigorously practiced in Nigeria. It is the case that many recent conflicts and future conflicts in Nigeria are predicated in the mutual suspicions which arose from the events which led to the war and the war itself has left an ever simmering mutual distrust and deep rooted internecine low warfare of undeclared myriad hostilities. An honest discussion, debate and teaching of the events which led to our civil war are prerequisite national growth and development. All Nigerians should know what led to the war and how the war was fought and what the consequences have been. Honest, sincere and factual debate and teachings.
Nigeria has never been the same nation since the events which culminated in the civil and the very civil war itself. It is therefore of crucial importance that these events and the civil war and its aftermath are discussed, so that healing and true reconciliation can takes place. Nigeria lost her innocence as a consequence of the Nigerian Civil War. Nigeria in the past couple of years has been afflicted with recurring ethno, religious and internecine conflict. There is a slow simmering anarchy, insecurity and a state of undeclared war with the epicenter being Jos, Plateau state but with flashes in Kaduna, Damaturu and Maiduguri etc.
There are gratuitous predictions and forecast for the death and disintegration of Nigeria as a nation, scheduled for 2015 on many calendars. Recent spate of violence, post April 2010 General Elections in Nigeria, particularly in Bauchi state, then followed by the Boko Haram insurgency illustrated by bombings and incinerating infernos on October 1, 2010, then Christmas Day two months later, and then, the bombing of Nigeria Police Headquarters, and United Nations Headquarters in Abuja Nigeria and Christmas Day bombing in Abuja and Jos December 25, 2011 lend credence to suggestions that Nigerians and Nigeria may be sleep-walking towards a national precipice-cliff-hanger
Recent repeated violence in Abuja, Bauchi, Damaturu Jos and Maiduguri has assumed regional, ethnic and religious colorations. Those engaged in these mayhems, sought out some Nigerians as victims for their senseless murders, using bigotry, hatred and prejudice as sole motivation and their heinous selections based on region of origin and religious adherence. Recent and current events in Nigeria would lead anyone to conclude that Nigeria is at the cusps of a national upheaval of the most violent type. General Danjuma I think it was, who once pronounced Nigeria incapable of surviving as one nation in the event of another civil war. The aftermath of the Nigerian civil war, the lingering raw feelings on all sides illustrates why civil wars should be avoided at any and all costs, because, civil wars are never won and that is the reason civil wars should be avoided in the first place. Many Nigerians on both sides of the aisle are still very bitter and deeply suspicious because of the 1966 coup and counter coup, and the carnage, pogrom and the insanity which preceded the bitter civil war itself.
The Nigerian civil war is foundation and predicate for the shrill-shouting in all our national debate. The Nigerian civil war is the basis for our national pastime of mutual suspicion and mutual disdain and mutual contempt for fellow Nigerians. Nigerians too often, talk over the heads of other Nigerians based on the real or imagined perceptions of the other Nigerians’ otherness, by reason of being born by parents from across the Niger and Benue Rivers. Perfectly logical, reasonable and legitimate argument, discussions or debates about national issues, priorities and national challenges are derailed every minute and every day, 365-366 days of the year! Meanwhile, our nation with abundance of human and material resources is stymied and stunted in development. Meanwhile, Nigeria is bedeviled with almost 30 years of devalued national currency, the Naira. Meanwhile, Nigeria is confronted with high rate of unemployment, paucity of public infrastructures and now, national insecurity or even anarchy.
Nigeria is a nation where there is extreme poverty, extreme suffering and extreme hardship for a majority of citizens; this, despite our abundance and resourcefulness. Meanwhile, the fixation and singular focus on our benign differences, instead of accentuating the positive with focus on our unity in diversity, and the benefits imbued in our multiculturalism and pluralism as a nation, we continue to be distracted by the scourge of mutual suspicion and disdain and contempt. It is of course recognized that competitiveness is expected in a multicultural and plural nation such as Nigeria is. Even so, well-meaning Nigerians ought to insist on having a healthy competition between the states and the regions of Nigeria. Nigerians should refrain from encouraging acrimonies and antagonisms of fellow Nigerians based on the state and region of birth or religion to which a Nigerian choses.
In the past, I have written opinions about the Biafra-Nigeria war, in which I recounted my personal, painful and sordid recollections from that era. There are many Nigerians like myself, whose experiences remain indelible traumas and therefore a national baggage which continues to bedraggle us all. It is the case that some accounts of the issues and events which led to the Nigerian civil war, the war itself and its aftermath have been rendered. It is my belief that much more needs to be written, debated and record and taught at every, and at all levels in Nigeria.
A majority of Nigerians seem to pretend that the civil war and the pains it inflicted on millions, physically, emotionally and psychically, will wilt and wither and die, and just fade away, if we ignore it enough. The moral equivalents of ignoring a gaping sore, leaving the sore to fester and hoping the sore heals without treatments. But, recognizing there is a challenge, then discussing or analyzing such challenge, and fathoming or proffering solutions, is the smarter thing all Nigerians should advocate regarding our collective national history, albeit, most painful. Ignoring our past is foolhardy, pretentious and portentous. It bodes ill. The issues and events which led to the Nigerian civil war, the war itself and its aftermath should be taught in schools, from Primary Schools to University or tertiary levels. Americans fought a civil war about 150 years ago, the Americans are still divided and strident about their civil war, but, the Americans openly discuss their civil war. The Americans teach versions of their civil war, versions reflecting the Union’s side and versions, conversely, reflecting the Confederate side or worldview etc
Past and current events in Nigeria are have, had their roots in the issues and events which led to the Nigerian civil war. Nigerians from both sides of the great-divide are apparently observing false détente, false peace, false truce, and false stability. When it comes to anything, everything and all things Nigerian, mutual suspicions is the bogeyman, and the civil war is sorts of an unfinished business and an albatross. The Nigerian civil war is the thing around our neck, apologies to Ngozi Chimamanda Adichie. The civil war grudge, the mutual suspicions which is the enduring legacy in the most negative sense, remains the elephant in the room, regarding Nigeria’s development, progress and advancement.
The Nigerian civil war is indeed the unseen evil hand, the larger than life impediment and obstacle which continues to keep Nigeria at her knees. The passing of Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu presents another opening, another window for Nigerians and Nigeria revisit the issues and events which led to our civil war, and the war itself and its aftermath.
Unfettered, honest, sincere and truthful discussions and debates about the issues and events which led to the civil war are necessary preconditions and precursors to true reconciliations and national healing.
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