Posts Tagged ‘Biafra’

Armed Forces Remembrance Day: We Need To Talk About Biafra

January 16, 2017

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.

 

 

 

 

The Latest NOIPolls Tells Me More About Nigeria & Biafra Than Buhari’s Popularity

November 10, 2015

Latest governance poll results released by NOIPolls have revealed that the President’s approval rating for October 2015 stood at 80 percent.

This represents a 2-points increase from September 2015 (78 percent) and a 10-points increase from June 2015 (70 percent) when his first job performance was appraised.

Findings indicate that the increase in the President’s job performance is mostly centred on the perceived ‘improved electricity supply’ (21 percent) and ‘improved security’ (17 percent).

Analysis on the President’s performance by geo-political zones indicated that the North-West zone (92 percent: 57 percent + 35 percent) and North-East zone (87 percent: 48 percent + 39 percent) had the highest percentage of respondents who approved of the President’s job performance.

On the other hand, the South-South zone (17 percent: 13 percent + 4 percent) and South-East zone (13 percent: 8 percent + 5 percent) had the largest proportion of respondents who disapproved of the President’s job performance.

Analysis by geo-political zone revealed that the North-West (82 percent: 47 percent + 35 percent) and North-East zones (69 percent: 42 percent + 27 percent) accounted for the larger proportion of Nigerians who experienced an improvement in electricity supply, whereas the South-East (33 percent: 24 percent + 9 percent) and South-South zones (30 percent: 23 percent + 7 percent) accounted for the larger ratio of Nigerians who reported a poor state of electricity supply to their households over the past month.

In conclusion, 8 in 10 Nigerians approved the President’s job performance in October 2015. Also, the President achieved an average (3) rating in terms of his performance in National Security, Education, Healthcare, Infrastructure, Conflict Resolution, Agriculture and Food Security but he performed poorly in Job creation. Finally, majority (62 percent) of Nigerians surveyed reported that electricity supply to their household has improved over the past one month.

Note the geopolitical differences and think about it in the context of the current agitations in the South East.

the people of the region are expressing their grievances. Nigeria needs to start listening. WE really really need to talk about the Nigerian Civil War and start calling it that too. When peaceful change is impossible, violent change becomes inevitable.

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Chikezie – The Man That Arrested a Police Officer

May 31, 2015

A lone policeman came to the old homestead to arrest him. He met Chikezie sitting under the udara tree eating his afternoon meal of pounded yam and soup made with stockfish.

“You! You bloody criminal! You thief! I have caught you today. Get up. You are under arrest” the policeman shouted and brandished a pair of handcuffs at Chikezie.

Chikezie, rolled a large ball of fufu in the soup and pinched a piece of stockfish into it with his thumb. He bent over the plate slightly as he put the mound in his mouth and swallowed. He looked up at the policeman.

“I’m eating. You cannot arrest me while I am eating” he replied chewing and turned back to his food.

“Come on get up! I said you are under arrest” the police man shouted and knocked over the stainless tray, with two stainless plates and a stainless steel mug of water on it. There was a metallic clatter and the pounded yam rolled away in the dirt and stopped in front of a startled billy goat eating his afternoon greens. The soup made a blotch in the dust as the plates rolled away.

Chikezie stared at the remains of his food. He had given his mother NGN1000 earlier in the morning to prepare it especially for him. He looked up at the police man with a spark of fire in his eyes.

“I said you are under arrest. Come on! Get up! You are coming to the station!” the police man shouted again and grabbed Chikezie roughly by the collar.

Chikezie sprang to his full height and stepped back, the police man stumbled against him, tried to hold him to steady himself and dropped the handcuffs. Chikezie brought his knee hard into the police mans groin and as he doubled over he took another knee into the police mans jaw. The man went down like he was pole axed. He came to a few seconds later found himself handcuffed and Chikezie removing his belt and boots.

The police man tried to shout for help. Chikezie shoved a piece of foam he tore out of an old mattress into his mouth.

Chikezie went to the police station with the man’s belt, beret and boots.

“These items belong to one of your men.” he said to the police man at the front desk from the relative safety of the door “He is in my cell in Ahumareze’s homestead. Go and bail him.”

He fled before they could stop him or ask him anymore questions.

An hour later a squad car arrived at his homestead with five police men. They found their colleague hands cuffed behind his back, a piece of dirty foam in his mouth and a rope around his ankles under the udara tree.

Chikezie watched from a distance while the police stomped around and made threatening noises. No body else was in the homestead, there were no witnesses. He smiled when they took the renegade cop away, hands cuffed in front of him.

Njaba River Copyright Lesley Agams 2015

Njaba River
Copyright Lesley Agams 2015

Not Another Commentary on “There Was A Country”

October 29, 2012

As part of my research for a biography that I am currently writing I had to read up on Biafra and the Nigerian civil war. By coincidence Chinua Achebe’s personal memoir  about the war “There Was A Country” released recently  (which I am yet to read) has been polarizing opinion among Nigerian commentators and pundits. The arguments have as usual been mostly emotional and tribalistic.

While Chinua Achebe asserts there was a ‘genocide’ and that it was spear headed by Obafemi Awolowo, Awolowo’s defenders argue otherwise. There is also a lot of rancor about whether the ‘true’ history of the civil war is being taught to our younger generations.

I have refrained from commenting.  My experience has been that discussing the civil war is like discussing religion or politics, unacceptable as polite dinner conversation. No one seems rational about it.  Tempers flare and friends destroy friendships.

There was an attempt by @CitizensPlatformNg to moderate a discussion on twitter that largely failed do more than stir the hornets’ nest. Nothing conclusive or progressive came of it, it seemed only to further expose peoples entrenched and fixed opinions.

Considering the sentiments expressed by the various parties it was a bit of a surprise to see the wealth of information available about the war on the internet alone. Especially considering that the debaters were mostly online activists. Google ‘Biafra’ and almost 2 million results come up, many of them commentaries and reports written during the war.

Like this one by Maxwell Cohen who argued vehemently in 1968 that there was a genocide and it was being ignored by the global powers for self serving reasons.  And this memorandum from the American Jewish Congress also of 1968 that pretty much said the same thing and names a number of other western liberals that believed that the starvation policy was a form of genocide.

George T. Orick, a business man who left Lagos just before the war started  said in his speech to the  First International Conference on Biafra in New York, on December 7, 1968 that;

“After the January 1966 military coup in which the Sarduana of Sokoto, who was the spiritual leader of the Moslems in Nigeria as well as the central leader of the Northern Region and in fact, if not in theory, of Nigeria, was killed, the folk wisdom of many of the tribes then (I call it folk wisdom because it was never official government policy, but it was a motivation expressed by the largest tribe in Nigeria) was that one million Ibos must die to avenge the killing of the Sarduana. I heard this many, many times. Nigerians will deny it, of course, but it was-said often.”

During an interview the subject of the biography I’m writing, and who was a child during the war expressed experiences and sentiments very similar to those expressed by Okey Ndibe in this 2007 feature on the website “Nigerian Village Square” titled “My Biafran Eyes”.

Having worked with victims of violence against women for over 15 years the most important lesson we learn and share is to always validate a victim’s account of their abuse.  As such I find the criticism levelled against Achebe for his  personal account of an atrocious war grossly unfair and quite frankly  akin to a public lynching  or like asking a rape victim ‘what were you wearing’.

And that’s all that I have to say about it right now.

One love and One Nigeria.

Fascinating to learn the region of south east Nigeria and most of Cameroon were known as Biafra or Biafara by the Portuguese. Makes you wonder. Cultural or socio-political similarities?

Not Another Commentary on “There Was A Country”

October 16, 2012

As part of my research for a biography that I am currently writing I had to read up on Biafra and the Nigerian civil war. By coincidence Chinua Achebe’s personal memoir  about the war “There Was A Country” released recently  (which I am yet to read) has been polarizing opinion among Nigerian commentators and pundits. The arguments have as usual been mostly emotional and tribalistic.

While Chinua Achebe asserts there was a ‘genocide’ and that it was spear headed by Obafemi Awolowo, Awolowo’s defenders argue otherwise. There is also a lot of rancor about whether the ‘true’ history of the civil war is being taught to our younger generations.

I have refrained from commenting.  My experience has been that discussing the civil war is like discussing religion or politics, unacceptable as polite dinner conversation. No one seems rational about it.  Tempers flare and friends destroy friendships.

There was an attempt by @CitizensPlatformNg to moderate a discussion on twitter that largely failed do more than stir the hornets’ nest. Nothing conclusive or progressive came of it, it seemed only to further expose peoples entrenched and fixed opinions.

Considering the sentiments expressed by the various parties it was a bit of a surprise to see the wealth of information available about the war on the internet alone. Especially considering that the debaters were mostly online activists. Google ‘Biafra’ and almost 2 million results come up, many of them commentaries and reports written during the war.

Like this one by Maxwell Cohen who argued vehemently in 1968 that there was a genocide and it was being ignored by the global powers for self serving reasons.  And this memorandum from the American Jewish Congress also of 1968 that pretty much said the same thing and names a number of other western liberals that believed that the starvation policy was a form of genocide.

George T. Orick, a business man who left Lagos just before the war started  said in his speech to the  First International Conference on Biafra in New York, on December 7, 1968 that;

“After the January 1966 military coup in which the Sarduana of Sokoto, who was the spiritual leader of the Moslems in Nigeria as well as the central leader of the Northern Region and in fact, if not in theory, of Nigeria, was killed, the folk wisdom of many of the tribes then (I call it folk wisdom because it was never official government policy, but it was a motivation expressed by the largest tribe in Nigeria) was that one million Ibos must die to avenge the killing of the Sarduana. I heard this many, many times. Nigerians will deny it, of course, but it was-said often.”

During an interview the subject of the biography I’m writing, and who was a child during the war expressed experiences and sentiments very similar to those expressed by Okey Ndibe in this 2007 feature on the website “Nigerian Village Square” titled “My Biafran Eyes”.

Having worked with victims of violence against women for over 15 years the most important lesson we learn and share is to always validate a victim’s account of their abuse.  As such I find the criticism levelled against Achebe for his  personal account of an atrocious war grossly unfair and quite frankly  akin to a public lynching  or like asking a rape victim ‘what were you wearing’.

And that’s all that I have to say about it right now.

One love and One Nigeria.

 

Fascinating to learn the region of south east Nigeria and most of Cameroon were known as Biafra or Biafara by the Portuguese. Makes you wonder. Cultural or socio-political similarities?