Date Published: 11/09/09
Deciphering what Ojukwu said (2) (pictorial) By Temple Chima Ubochi
Continued from Part 1
War is delightful to those who have not experienced it. ( Erasmus)
War remains the decisive human failure. ( John Kenneth Galbraith)
The only way to abolish war is to make peace heroic. ( John Dewey)
When you betray somebody else, you also betray yourself. (Isaac Bashevis Singer)
War is the tool of small-minded scoundrels who worship the death of others on the altar of their greed. ( John Cory)
I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, only as one who has seen its brutality, its futility, its stupidity. ( Dwight D. Eisenhower)
What Ojukwu meant was that he would be at the forefront of the “legal war”, through legal means, to see that illegality does not stand, should the appeal court judges rule in Andy Uba’s favour and not that he would pick up arms or organise people for another battle. He’s now too frail for that, he cannot handle a weapon now; he has no standing army he can deploy easily to any war front. It’s unfortunate that so many people have attacked him viciously for what they did not comprehend, they have taken Ojukwu’s statement out of context.
This writer experienced the war with the eyes of a child, his family lost a lot to the war and he would never want his children to go through that ordeal again. What this writer experienced then was very traumatic for him, he still do have occasional flash backs. The sound of the war, the littered and decomposed corpses which he and his family had to walk on top of, on their constant moves looking for safer place, traumatized him as a boy. The unimaginable agonies and pains of the war are not lost on him either, he experienced it all first hand, he does not wish that traumatic experience to those who did not experience the war and would never want to go through it a second time.
Even if the different peoples of Nigeria decide to go their separate ways, let it be only through peaceful means. Igbos would never be in the driver’s seat again, if there should be any war. The Igbos would be spectators this time around. What Igbos did not achieve through war, they would now achieve without firing a shot.
Ojukwu is and will remain our hero. We would continue to love and respect him no matter whatever anybody thinks or says of him. Whatever that was his shortcomings during the war were overlooked long ago; we only remember his good side and deeds! Majority believed and still believe that he tried his best to protect his people and we inferred that had he not done what he did at that particular time, the calamity that would have befallen his people, would have been worse than what they suffered during the fratricidal war. Any of his shortcomings might have been as a result of his age when the enormous responsibility of saving his people from extermination, was placed on his shoulders. Anybody at Ojukwu’s age then would have committed the same or even more blunders than he did.
Ojukwu was rich and had all he needed and wanted, he was already a member of the elite class before the war, being the son of a rich transport magnate then and a senior military officer and could have chosen to ignore the plight/suffering of his people, but, he sacrificed his personal safety, comfort, freedom, wealth and position for others. It can only take love from a person to forsake all these so that his people can live and be free. Whether the goal of Biafra was achieved or not is another thing and another topic for another day. Despite the destruction and lives lost, the Biafrans gave a very good account of themselves and did prove a point. That was the most important thing. Sometimes, someone can loss, but, still be the winner and someone can win and still be the loser. Only time would tell where to pigeon-hole Biafra’s effort in this regard. Can a well equipped military, backed by the major world powers, claim victory after it took it about 30 months to defeat the so called “ragtag” army hastily formed, fighting with bare hands and knives after it was blockaded from all sides? It goes on to show that in life, it’s not how well equipped somebody is that brings success, rather, it’s the determination such a person has, and that makes the difference and only that brings success.
Ojukwu was and is no saint, he made some mistakes no doubt, but, anybody who attained such a leadership position at that age, was beamed with overwhelming pressure from left, right and centre and had to face the whole world almost all alone (safe for about 4 countries which recognised Biafra), would need sheer determination to keep his sanity and that, Ojukwu did, no matter the few lapses he made. We love Ojukwu because he loved us first; he deserves our praise and love always. Let’s not forget that that it was a case of Biafra alone against the whole world, because, Nigeria and its allies wanted to continue controlling the purse and pulse of oil in the former Eastern Region. Oil led to the war; oil is the cause of the silent wars still raging in Nigeria uptill now; oil keeps Nigeria in the parlous state it’s now and if care is not taken, oil would lead to its demise. How? Without the oil, the British government and other developed/developing countries which fought the war on the side of Nigeria, wouldn’t have committed their resources, men and expertise to that war, but, because of oil, they knew what they would gain keeping Nigeria as one under any condition, even if the people living in it, are not happy staying that way. For them Ojukwu was/is too intelligent and cannot be cheated/deceived/fooled like the Hausa/Fulani rulers who are at their best, dumbbells. Oil and the easy money from it made Nigerians lazy, made the ruling class very corrupt and turned a once hardworking and God fearing people into something else. Now crime is synonymous with the name Nigeria all over the world, every Nigerian is now first of all, a suspect, all over the world.
Chief Ralph Uwechue wrote in a book, how ego and quest for absolute control by Ojukwu ruined Biafra. He said, in the book, “Reflections on the Nigerian Civil War – Facing the Future”, that Ojukwu adopted a maximum ruler posture, shunned advice as well as believed in his won judgment, factor, which he said, caused the failure of the break away of the Eastern Nigeria. That “By keeping Ojukwu constantly enveloped in an atmosphere of superiority, it made him, as a matter of habit, distrustful and disdainful of other people’s judgment, impatient with their opinions and finally simply authoritarian.”
Chief Uwechue did not say anything new, this has been said before. Even if Ojukwu was guilty as accused, things caused it. One of the reasons might be that some people must have betrayed the trust Ojukwu reposed in them at one time or the other. For instance, Banjo, although not an Igbo man, was the head of the Biafran forces. He led the Biafra army that bulldozed their way through the Midwest on their way to conquer Lagos. That onslaught made Gowon jittery and he wanted to abscond, but, was stopped at the airport by the British ambassador then, who convinced him to stay put, promising him that her majesty’s government (British Government) would do anything possible to see the fast advancing Biafran forces crushed. What happened then was that at Ore, Victor Banjo established contact with the British Ambassador and thereafter, the fortune of the Biafran army started to dwindle and they were pushed back across the Niger in a jiffy. That contact between Banjo and the British ambassador enraged Ojukwu because; his war commander (Banjo) never sought clearance from him before establishing contact with the enemies, a pure case of sabotage. With such experience, anybody in Ojukwu’s position would start seeing everybody in a different light and would be viewing every advice suspiciously. People say “once beaten, twice shy” and my people say that “a person bitten by snake, runs whenever he sees an earthworm (onye agwo tara, n’agba oso m’ohu udide)”.
Unfortunately, the fratricidal civil war is now part of our history; there’s no denying it and there’s no pretension about it. No matter what anybody thinks or says, that would never wish it away. That was a senseless war that shouldn’t have happened, had everybody committed him/herself to genuine peace and worked towards it. Anyway, the blames have already gone round, the damages have already being done, so there’s no sense in going back to same thing said before, let’s not bring the ugly past up anymore.
What this writer is saying in effect is that we don’t care who was right or wrong then, we don’t want to fight anymore. Hanging on to that ugly past would only be a wedge on our effort for greatness. Let’s move on. But having said that, there are salient issues which must be addressed and taken care of, before there would be progress and genuine peace! The conditions which led to that war are still much around and without exorcising those “demons” once and for all, there would be no justice, peace and progress in Nigeria and the drum beats of war would continue to sound.
Nigeria in a figurative sense is like a shooting star, it’s there, but, it can’t survive the way it is. The best for Nigeria is to have strong regions and weak centre, where all regions would take greater control of their resources and development. That would be the precursor to our development; then, each region would develop at its own pace and ability, and that would also give more sense of belonging to the people of each region, as it would mitigate the effect or assuage their fear of marginalization.
Talking about war, it’s better not to experience it in any way or form. One cannot come to a complete grasp of the agony some mothers (and fathers too) went through (some who are still alive have not forgotten) loosing their sons and daughters to the war. Many of them never recovered from that traumatic experience till their death. This writer’s grandma, never ceased, until her death, mourning the lost of one of her sons, who went down fighting in that war. She was also hoping against all hopes, till her death in 1998, to hear or learn more about the fate of her son. This writer also lost three other step uncles and their mothers lived with that heart break till their death. The worse was that each of the three step uncles was the only son of their respective mothers. The four of my relatives who died fighting, were some of the brightest and my kindred/village have never, till this day, been able to fill up the vacuum their death created.
Gowon and Ojukwu as the principal actors in the theatre of that war should make haste and write their comprehensive memoirs of the war, so that people and the future generations would learn about the war the more, first hand, from them. They should not pass on without putting down, in black and white, all they know that happened during the war. They owe it to Nigeria and Nigerians, so that we may avoid the mistakes which led to the carnage, because, people who failed to learn from their mistakes are bound to repeat them. Gowon claims to be a “born-again”, but, he’s yet to apologise and seek forgiveness from the people. There are many questions begging for answers and the earlier he starts answering them, the better for all of us.
Gowon made a disgusting statement the other days. This is an excerpt from The Daily Trust Newspapers of November 6, 2009: “Forty- four years after the premier of Northern Nigeria, the Sardauna of Sokoto, Sir Ahmadu Bello, was slain in a botched coup, former Head of State, retired General Yakubu Gowon, said yesterday (Nov. 5) that his killers were renegade soldiers. “Unfortunately”, he said, “it was members of my profession that cut down the life of the Sardauna, but those who did it were renegade soldiers and it is worthy of note that the coup was an unfortunate incident in Nigeria’s history”. Speaking on how he managed to bring back the country as one nation after the civil war, Gowon who was in Minna yesterday (Nov. 5) on a guinea worm eradication mission to Niger State said culture was one of the tactics used in reconciling the country. “After the Nigerian civil war, we were able to reconcile the nation more than any other country in the world ever did as both sides of the country reconciled based strictly on the love they had for their people and Nigeria. One of the basic tools used to reconcile the country was our rich cultural heritage”, he said”.
This writer wants to tell Gowon that those soldiers were no renegades, they were gallant soldiers imbued with patriotic zeal and nationalistic fervour and they wanted the best for Nigeria. Gowon should know that when compared with any of those soldiers in terms of having love for Nigeria, that he (Gowon) would pale into insignificance. He is no match to any of those men in terms of putting Nigeria on a sound pedestal. On the issue of reconciling the country after the civil war, Gowon lied here, his 3Rs (reconciliation, reconstruction and rehabilitation) after the war was a failure. The peoples of Nigeria have not reconciled amongst themselves, Igbo land has not been reconstructed and Ndi Igbo are yet to be rehabilitated. The scars of the war are still fresh in our psyche and are everywhere to be seen. So what’s Gowon taking about here?
We would never go to war again and not even for the ambition of one man called Andy Uba, even if the appeal court rules in his favour. Anybody looking for war should count the Igbos out. The pictures below will teach more about war than words. This writer is encouraging everybody to take some few minutes out to reflect on those pictures below. See what they did to my people. Those pictures are depicting a fraction of what the Igbos went through and the extent of human lives wasted during the fratricidal war. The pictures you’re about seeing are only a tiny part of what the Igbos suffered. If you didn’t experience the war, be happy.
Igbo Land and people can never recover from that war. All that we lost are irreplaceable. Are we to talk about the hundreds of thousands of our children who starved to death because Nigerian authorities used hunger as a weapon of war against the Biafrans, by stopping all relief materials from reaching them? Are we to talk about our hundreds of thousands of women/ladies raped and killed? Are we to talk about hundreds of thousands of our men, women, children killed or maimed for life? What of our houses/landed properties which some of us lost because they were declared as “abandoned” all over Nigeria? What of our properties/ valuables carted away to the north? What of the millions of our banked Nigerian pounds ( Nigeria’s currency then) confiscated by the federal government in exchange for only 20 pounds for each household, no matter the amount that family had in their account before the war? What of those of us who lost one or many of their loved ones (father, mother, son, daughter brother, sister, uncle, auntie, cousin, nephew, niece or friends?) What of those who survived the war physically, but, lost it psychologically, the people who lost their sanity and had to go mad, because the trauma/effects of the war were too much for them to bear? Was it not true that almost all our people started off again, after the war (to rebuild their lives) from nothing? What of the agonies, pains, heartbreaks and the “basin” of tears shed by those who survived the war?
Who knows what those who lost their life during the war would have been by now for their family, village, community, local government, state and the nation (if there was no war)? One thing this writer can bet on, is that, were majority of them still alive today, many families, villages, communities, local governments, states and Nigeria would have been better off for it. Nigeria would not have been a disgrace to its citizens and in the comity of nations, that it’s today.
Never would my people or Nigerians be subjected to all kinds of agony and slow death again, we would never fight another civil war. That’s a promise we have to work hard to keep. My people say “if a man wants his people to declare war immediately, he should be told to bring out his first son to lead it (onye si n’ogu bu taa, ya kpoputa Okpara ya ka oburu üzö)”. Ojukwu is a nationalist, he never wanted to do the Biafran war then, he would never fight again and nobody’s interested in war now or in the future.
Pictures below are innocent victims of some people’s ambition to keep controlling the purse and pulse of oil!
Drink little brother…and live… ( Terence Spencer, England )
This was a scene after the Aba General Hospital was bombed by the Nigerian Airforce in 1967
2 bottles of milk on 10 liter of water… ( Max-Edwin Vaterlaus, Switzerland)
That evening, she followed her child in death… ( Alex Kempkens, Germany (DBR))
Just one of the 8.000 children a day… (Gérard Klijn, The Netherlands)
There are many ready to help, but they have so little to give… ( Gérard Klijn, The Netherlands)
(Kurt Strump, AP, Germany (DBR))
(Sven-Erik Sjöberg, Sweden)
(Sven-Erik Sjöberg, Sweden)
War on civilians in Umuahia ( Biafra) (Max-Edwin Vaterlaus, Switzerland)
Fatally wounded Ibo soldier (Gérard Klijn, The Netherlands)
THE THANXS IS ALL YOURS!!!
Continued from Part 1