Saturday, July 30, 2016

July: Nigeria’s Month Of Remembrance

By Dan Amor
 For those of us who were born during or after the Nigerian Civil War, Chief Uche Ezechukwu's Monday column on the 50 years of the assassination of Nigeria's first military head of state General JTU Aguiyi Ironsi, provides an illuminating pathway to the events that led to the war. No nation among the third world countries makes a stronger claim on the interest and sympathy of Africans than Nigeria. What Nigeria has meant to the black continent and to blacks across the world, makes her future a matter of deep concern.
*Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu
taking the oath of office as the leader
of the Republic of Biafra in May 1967
Nigeria might be doddering or tottering behind less endowed African countries as a giant with feet of clay, no thanks to the tragedy of irresponsible leadership. But whatever happens to her usually serves as a huge lesson for other African countries. To view therefore with judgment and comprehension the course of present and future events in Nigerian life and politics, we must possess knowledge and understanding of her past, and to provide such understanding within concise compass, we must consult history. Yet it is an unbiased, disinterested and unprejudiced inquiry into the history of our country that will ensure that we leave a legacy of truth for generations yet unborn.

In fact, the true story of Nigeria must begin with the foundations of the nation – its geographical and economic character; its social-political and religious influences and the psychology of its peoples. Besides the existence of multi-ethnic nationalities before the fusion of the Northern and Southern Protectorates in 1914 by Lord Fredrick Lugard, a British imperialist military commander, and the almost 100 years of British colonial rule, the great period of post-independence crisis – 1960-1970 – must be vividly delineated for posterity. The death in November 2011 of Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu who has come to symbolise that great epoch of epic struggle brought to the front burner of national discourse, the issues and convergent forces at play in the Nigerian Civil War. But recent developments point to the fact that our leaders who prefer to learn their geology the day after the earthquake would want history to repeat itself.

Unfortunately, rather than telling in bold dramatic relief, the tragic and magnificent story of what brought about the war and its aftermath, some commentators have elected to mislead the reading public on who actually caused the war. Some have even pointedly accused Chief Ojukwu of having masterminded the war in order to divide Nigeria. What can be more mischievously misleading than the deliberate refusal to allow the historical sense transcend the ephemeral currents of the present and reveal the spirit of a people springing from the deepest traditions of their tragic experience? How could one begin to appreciate a legend who continued to be astonishingly misunderstood even when the realities of the factors that pushed him to rise in defense of his people are damning on the rest of us forty-nine years after his action? Why is it so difficult for us to appreciate the fact that Ojukwu has come to represent, in large and essential measure, not only a signification of heroism but also a courageous attempt to say no to an emerging oligarchy which was bent on annihilating his people from the face of the earth?

No Nigerian in his right senses should support any nebulous attempt to re-awaken the Biafran experience. But if we believe the time-tested aphorism that few men are austere or dull-witted enough to scorn the pageantry and romance of history, then we must ask ourselves why, for God’s sake, would people become so barren in thought as to hold the view that Ojukwu caused the Nigerian Civil or what some mischievously call the Biafran War? Even for those of us who were born during the holocaust that was the war itself, a deep reflection on what brought it about cannot in all sincerity be divorced from the greed and unbridled ambition of Nigerian politicians – the quest to dominate others and the winner-takes-all mentality of the lackeys to whom the colonialists handed over power to on a platter of gold.

Why must we forget so soon the blatant rigging of the 1964 Western Region election by the Federal government-controlled Northern Peoples Congress (NPC) in favour of S.A. Akintola at the expense of Chief Obafemi Awolowo of the Action Group who was believed to have won that election in the first place? How can we forget so soon that it was the upheaval that followed that manipulation in the Western Region and the inability of the government at the centre to contain it that orchestrated the January 15, 1996 military coup and its aftermath?

In fact, in all the accounts of the developments that led to the war, both local and international, none particularly mentioned Ojukwu as a key player in either the coup of January 1996 or the July 29 counter “revenge” coup led by young Hausa/Fulani soldiers. Ojukwu’s response to the wanton killings of Igbo and other nationals of Eastern Nigerian origin was a latter day development which in all practical purposes followed the natural course of history. He was just an uncommon patriot who responded decisively to the issues of the day. We bow courteously before the mighty personages of other traditions. The appeal of Nigeria’s annals is not that of a success story. The record of our soulless country is strangely somber. Like in France, our earliest heroes might be heroes of defeat. But the story is shot through with episodes of unequaled magnificence. That history is repeating itself just as we recall our ugly past shows that it is the destiny of Nigeria to live dangerously.
*Dan Amor is an Abuja-based public affairs analyst (danamor98@gmail.com)



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