That morning should never have begun the way it did.
An annoyed, and irritated Ojukwu, feels humiliated by General Gowon’s decree on May 27. ‘Why then did we go to Aburi? Why have I been playing fool to them all along? So he now wants to diminish my power here, from his throne in Lagos? That’s it! We’re leaving! We leave, today!’*
And so began the ignominy of the Biafra War.
With the advantage of hindsight, we accuse the protagonist of war-mongering and power-grabbing. We insist that it could have been avoided had one side swallowed their ego and ‘played along’. But all things considered, that an on-going ethnic genocide would arouse the anger and retaliation of a people, was only inevitable.
The battle was bitter, but without better weapons and good food, it was always a matter of how long before they surrender.
Fifty years after, we still have the visible effects of that war. Visible in the persisting physical defects of some of our adults today, who have grown through the groans of being the malnourished children of those days. Vivid in the traumas being witnessed by families on both sides, over the loss of loved ones, both old and young. Vexations in the hearts of mothers over their stubborn sons who they hard strenuously tried to entice away from the “Nzogbu Nzogbu” calls to valour, most of whom never returned.
But fifty years after, these people have also risen. Risen above the penury that the pillage pounded on them. These people have raised new empires, despite being remunerated with all but twenty pounds for the worth of all their previous castles. Glory is in their industry, in their education and in their wealth, as it was before the war, it is now and ever shall be.
The Biafra War was a setback for all of Nigeria. Now, it is time to get our backs off the ground and move forward. Indeed, it was the consequence of the fragility of the years that preceded it, but that it is considered abominable to discuss it today does not show how much we have learned about the futility of sweeping issues under the carpet.
Whoever said commemorations must always be about joyful moments? Why do persons who lose loved ones from Cancer and Alzheimer’s set up foundations and memorials, if not to make sure it doesn’t happen to other people? How do you extract juice, or sauce, if you don’t squeeze the fruit?
Perhaps it is in the matter of the manner of squeezing that we are divergent on. It is sensitive, but it should not then be altogether abandoned. Let our educators simulate lessons that contain the substance of what we should have learned, along the lines of “No Victor, No Vanquished”. Let our legislators, at State and Federal levels, commission lectures and activities that foster inclusion and regeneration for Youth to be interested more in persons other than those of same tongue and dress (we all know NYSC isn’t achieving that anymore). Let our Executive have the will and conscience to ensure fairness to all in all matters, whether in appointment or retrenchment.
Most importantly, raw wounds of war, and hearts once in one love but now cold, take time to heal and thaw. It has only been 50 years, and we are still a growing nation. There should not be another reason to take arms up again, or should have our fathers have died in vain?
Ka ihe tara n’abani buru anwu nta. Ozo emena.