OPINION: Biafra anniversary: Time to heal the wounds
May 30th, 2020, made it 53 years since the defunct state of Biafra was born.
The birth of the young state was troubled as she was immediately absorbed in an impious war of survival with Nigeria.
For 30 months, a savage internecine warfare raged between the two armies of unequal strength and fire power.
Overwhelmed, and faced with certain defeat, Biafra surrendered unconditionally.
Five decades on the effects of the war still linger, resisting every effort at erasure. The mitigating postwar policy of the victorious Nigerian government led by Gowon, aimed at reconciling, reconstructing and rehabilitating the defunct Biafra failed to make good enough impact.
Properties seized from the Igbo who constituted the bulk of what was Biafra, especially in Rivers state, remain abandoned till date while basic infrastructure in the five Igbo states of the South east remain in decrepit condition.
This situation is not made better with the subtle, but consistent effort in turning the Igbo out of doors of certain offices in Nigeria.
To date, certain positions have been denied the Igbo. But where such positions are made available to them, (which has been few and far between) they are caused to assume a refrain of favour — chorused by the state, its surrogate media and a few self-abusing Igbo.
Constant reference is made of such appointment with the government that effected it, singled out for unmerited praise.
Perhaps palsied by shock of the loss of the war, the intelligent among the Igbo became cagey, leaving the brash and the self-abusive compatriots to speak when silence should have sufficed. On many occasion the appointment of an Igbo to a position he is entitled to has been made to look like a favour.
Even if the appointee was most deserving or the appointment came at the verge of retirement, expressions of gratitude were still lavish.
Inspector General of Police Ogbonnaya Onovo and Comptroller General of Customs Bernard-Shaw Nwadialor were some of those whose appointments to the headship of the two organs of the government conformed to the conditions above. Neither was undeserving of the office he was appointed. Neither had enough years on the job before the appointment. Nonetheless, the appointments were celebrated by the brash and self abusive Igbo.
The appointment of Brigadier General David Ndefo as the General Officer Commanding 1 Division of the Nigerian Army, Kaduna, between 2000 and 2001 did not go differently. This time the media upped the game of reminding the readers that appointing an Igbo to a G.O.C position was a favour to be eternally grateful.
Major General Azubike Ihejirika’s appointment as the Chief of Army Staff was a tad above the ordinary run of reportage. It was advertised in the national dailies with comments of gratitude as if a mercenary was appointed.
Nigeria stands a chance of becoming a major economy in the world without her practised discriminatory treatment of a section of her people. This is because apart from their quality contributions to Nigeria, the Igbo are a major stakeholder to the development of the country. The full potential of any nation is not realized with a section of it consciously emasculated. Rather it is achieved by encouraging equality and availing each section limitless opportunities to aspire to any position.
The memories of the war should be erased permanently by consciously integrating every section of the country. Efforts must be made to eschew provocative statements capable of inflaming the state to a second conflict. It is difficult for any nation to survive two civil wars. History is yet to record that any nation became great on account of repeated internal wars.
Countries that survived civil wars were known to be stronger and close knit perhaps because they learnt as did Bertrand Russell early that “war does not determine who is right, but who is left”. The lessons of war they also know are better appreciated in peace time.
Nigeria has a good chance of becoming great by leveraging on the ingenuity of the Igbo. It is fairly right to argue that the Igbo are the uniters of Nigeria. No other tribe has done as much.
Sadly, after the Biafran war, Nigeria deliberately ignored the Igbo. The ingenuity of the Biafran scientists was totally ignored. It died with the war. No government saw the wisdom in adapting the technology. The effort at having the technology developed with the formation of Project Development Institute (PRODA) Enugu, was not encouraged by lack of attention. It has since suffered neglect.
Nigeria has failed to get her acts right with a succession of leaders without vision.
The Biafran war and its attendant waste were avoidable had good reason prevailed. Avoiding a repeat should be consciously pursued. Provocative statements as well as actions should be discouraged.
The anniversary should be for reflection. It should be able to remind us of the cruelties of war and encourage us on the path of circumspection.