In 2017, children given birth to in 1970 would be 47 years old. These are people who were born at the end of the 1967 – 1970 civil war that rocked the foundation of Nigeria, and grossly, the Igbo nation. To know the impact of the war, you’d have to look at the psyche of the people.Most of what their parents and grandparents gathered from Northern Nigeria where trade in nuts and food items were at its peak before the oil boom perished in the war. It hurt to know that when oil hit its peak, almost zero Igbos had enough capital to invest in it. The war had done so much damage. It had hurt the creative side too. It had swallowed poets, teachers, writers and scientists from the Igbo side.
From the period of the war to date that history and knowledge of the gory war escaped the classroom and the children grew into adults to only a one sided view of the war also created a mental slope, of what can pass as victimization and isolation of a single tribe for destruction. Of course, the Igbo people lost about 70 percent of the casualties of the war but it would not hurt to learn of the fate of the 30 percent from other parts of Nigeria, men and women who died on the field or in their homes when the war came to them.
This knowledge escaped students and as time passed by, there was a crop of young people who needed to understand the Biafran dream and how it applied to them as young men with as much energy as that of 1967. The next crops of people to look up to were the politicians. Sadly, the Igbo politicians could not sell a ‘local cause’ – it was useless to want to share the Biafra dream to a political party formed by people from other ethnic groups and lose ‘business’ partners. The headquarters of the parties were in Lagos and Abuja, non-Igbo territories and the tag that paid the bills was ‘Nigeria,’ a larger concept. This forced them to abandon the locally believed valid discussion of the hunger of the people for an independent state to dust to help coat it.
One day, a man woke up to the realization of a vacuum. There was an earlier idea created by late General Odumegwu Ojukwu. It was beautiful but after its ill-fated journey during the three-year war, it was abandoned. He made an attempt to govern in a united Nigeria years later. And when he did not succeed, he was given a hero funeral in same Nigeria where he had fought to conquer. The nursed dream of Igbo youngsters whose dreams were ‘to what the future held’ and ‘to what it would be like to exist in a predominantly Igbo sphere’ looked toward Ralph Uwazuruike but his ideals were not rooted in the grassroots and though it flew a bit, it was coated in personal wants. He would later erect a palace in Owerri. He had made a fortune from championing a cause – his cause.
Nnamdi Kanu, an Igbo man in Britain also had done his groundwork and had seen the thirst of the people and a large place in their heart with a question mark. He studied the relics of the defunct Biafra to see how the era attempted the Biafra dream. He knew he would have to appeal to the grassroots and the carryover idea of radio propaganda became useful. It had callers chanting the forgotten war songs. It was the age of the Internet and it sold like hot cake. Donors came to its aids. He had found paradise. He advanced it with the promise of a military, a special underground force that would appeal to the not-so-peaceful agitators in the struggle. Donors came again with resources and he soared.
In midst of the fight for freedom, love came through. A beautiful, spotless young Igbo woman, young and brilliant bought into the ideas. And she bought into it with her heart. She fell in love with a brilliant man who was on his way to redeeming a rested dream. But the more she loved and visited Nigeria to verify facts, the more she realized that it might have been all made up – some scheme to survive. And oh, there was a discovery too that lover-boy had a family he hadn’t been particularly transparent about. The relationship hit the rock and her royal fairness who had wished to sit side by side with the soon-to-be king lashed out and her hurts were translated as betrayal by loyalists of the new messiah who had started to worship this new king. Her video confessions were called ‘government sponsored’ but her personal dream had mixed up with selfless services to motherland.
The government too had suppressed the teachings of balanced history in schools. The strategy had been a thing of common purpose amongst successive governments. Mr Kanu was arrested – a foul play. He turned to Judaism and they had played into the hands of the thriving youths who had received all that had been said as truths. And only truth could hurt so much that it would drive Nigeria berserk, so much that the guardian would want to be mimed. This created the hero status.
The Nigerian side could have identified the personal gains in the struggle and settled the leadership as usual – the Nigerian style. It happened with Niger Delta militants. They could have done the same with Kanu but he was just an ordinary man, perhaps. He had not come recommended, a highly respected act in the Nigerian political system. He had risen on the shoulders of ‘louts’ and would die with time. But it was all false. Whatever the ordinary man bought was bought for good and taken seriously! He soared.
Today, Kanu’s brainchild has been tagged a terrorist organization. But it was born from the question of discussing the essence of the togetherness of the entity called Nigeria. If there were prompt and valid meetings and relevant measures taken, maybe it would have yielded a reform. Maybe schools would have known the true story of the war, its multifaceted nature and so on. But what runs here, as government, is allergic to common sense.
And of course, I know that Mr. President’s foremost assignment is to protect an internationally recognized territory called Nigeria and disregard secession but leaders engage people and listen to debates. If someone avoided his own political debate, how could he permit such that was aimed at secession? But why can’t someone raise an issue about his inclusion in a system that he considers hostile, though that’s debatable? Why can’t it spur conversations for developments? Why can’t it serve as platforms to educate secessionist on the proper way to go about a struggle – of not insulting other people and referring to them as animals and the nation as zoo? Why can’t there be less violence and more dialogue but again, these are legislators who scale fences, punch each other on national television, get to be called rapists in foreign countries when they visit, and those who attend conferences overseas without note pads and pens.
But again, farewell!
Bure-Bari Nwilo is the author of A Tiny Place Called Happiness. His recent book about recently turning thirty is available on Okadabooks. It is entitled On Becoming Thirty and the Gift of a Blue Sky.