It was Armed Forces Remembrance Day in Nigeria yesterday. Our big brass and the politricksions went and laid wreaths for unknown soldiers. Wouldn’t it have been nice if they had speedily passed legislation for the payment of veterans entitlements instead of creating entitlements of themselves instead?
Let’s look at this Armed Forces Remembrance Day anyway. It started out as a commemoration of the soldiers that fought in the First World War in which Nigerian and African soldiers fought and died with the rest of the global community. Whether they went voluntarily or not is irrelevant if you ask me. They represented.
Then Obasanjo, that wily fox, went and changed it to commemorate the ‘surrender of Biafra troops’ effectively ensuring that the end of Civil War itself is not specifically commemorated or the events discussed. And discussions about the civil was and Biafra are drowned out in a natural outpouring of communal patriotism and and nationalism. To speak about the Civil War and Biafra on such a day would seem sacrilegious as Femi Kani Kayode no doubt learnt.
Of keen interest to me is the change in the tone of the media. Since the administration of Obansanjo the military has mostly been under fire from the media for their human rights violations. Amnesty International kept up a relentless stream of reports and Nigeria was unable to buy arms under some United States act that they invoke on a need to basis.
Now we are talking about the sacrifices that the soldiers are making and there is absolutely no single credible media report about the situation in the militarised zones of the north east, south south and south east. Has our military reformed over night as if by magic? But I thought Buhari keeps them busy chasing cattle rustlers and training in animal farming techniques in Argentina. It is a public relations victory?
I suggest to activists in the Niger Delta to consider the use of drones to capture footage. The activists at Standing Rock, the Native American protest against encroachment on tribal lands used drones to record footage that showed the real picture to the world. Watch the video. The drone pilot said he is completely self taught by the way.
Why do we need to talk about Biafra and why do our rulers want us to forget it? Because we need to heal the physic wounds that continue to haunt nation building in Nigeria. And to heal those wounds we need to listen to each other and accommodate each others points of view – and then find common ground to agree on. Instead what happens is every time the topic is raised there is a still a winner and vanquished mentality – the one saying “You tried to exterminate us, we do not feel safe” and the other saying “You lost the war, deal with it.” Even Chinua Achebe’s account was vilified and divided the national debate. Neither is productive.
The patriarchal old men that have been making decisions about Nigeria’s future learnt well the lessons of the jungle. Control information, only write down stuff in an elaborate code, control access to the code and who can read it. The masses will forget.
The old were revered as living encyclopaedia’s. Imagine what it must have been like when life expectancy was even lower and even fewer made it to old age. All that remains in the common memory is the idea of an injustice inflicted once upon a time, brought out and dusted off by old men (and young) when they need to whip up the crowd.
In the era of new media its tricky to pull off a scam like that. And video IS the new frontier for credible news delivered via the world wide web. It becomes both a record and an account and dilutes the influence and power of those wily old men that would keep their subjects ignorant and malleable. It would be great to see some female leadership too.
While, it is appropriate to remember and support our troops, those gone and those risking their lives, media coverage needs to be balanced and consistent to keep the government institutions on their toes and to keep citizens informed. We need to ask questions and investigate their allegations. And we need to whole heartedly celebrate the end of the Civil War and stop making it about the ‘defeat’ of Biafra and sweeping it under the carpet.
The men of the Nigerian Army sure do need our support right now. They’re spread pretty thin – north east,north central, south south, south east, cattle rearing, oil & gas security, Liberia and about to go off to Gambia. And they face formidable foes. Lets keep praying my praying brethren that trouble doesn’t erupt in the north west and south west.
Sadly, stories coming from the front lines seem to suggest they maybe as inadequately cared for as ever. Even in the military Nigerian women are left to pick up the slack.