Biafra: What Have We learned? 50 Years After Reconciliation By Prof. Uzodima Nwala - EazyFeeds

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Monday 29 May 2017

Biafra: What Have We learned? 50 Years After Reconciliation By Prof. Uzodima Nwala

Paper presented at the Conference -Memory and Nation Building: Biafra 50 Years After: A Sober Reflection.
Before I thank the organisers of this Conference and pay my tribute to the Memory of my friend, late Major-General Shehu Musa Yar’Adua, in whose Founda­tion Center this historic event is being organised, let me quickly dis­miss certain lingering pernicious fallacies that have dominated all discussion about the coup of Janu­ary 15, 1966 and the Biafra War.

First, the Chairman of the occa­sion, Alhaji Ahmed Joda, has al­luded to the January 15, 1966 coup as an Igbo coup that, according to him, was replied by a Northern coup of July 29 1966.
Let it be said loud and clear that that coup, namely January 15, 1966 coup, was not an Igbo coup. It was a coup led by certain Igbo and Yo­ruba Officers, involving the active participation of soldiers from the North. The aim, as has been stated again and again, by the leaders of the coup was to release Chief Oba­femi Awolowo, who was in deten­tion at the time and install him the Prime Minister of Nigeria.
That coup was foiled by Igbo mil­itary officers. Igbo political leaders and activists knew nothing about the coup.
Again the Incursion into the Mid-West by the Biafran troops was not a quest for territorial grab­bing by the Igbos. Ojukwu sent troops under the Command of Col, Banjo in response to Chief Awolo­wo’s request for troops to help lib­erate Yoruba land from the occupa­tion of soldiers from the North. By the time Col Banjo got to Ore, the British had gotten Gowon to offer Chief Awolowo Vice Chairman­ship of the Nigerian Government. Awolowo, therefore, asked Banjo not to proceed on his mission.
General Yakubu Gowon knows the truth of all these things. And that is why the Alaigbo Develop­ment Foundation (ADF) had writ­ten him and asked him to tell Nige­rians and the whole world the truth about the January 15, 1966 coup and the Biafra incursion into the Mid-West to stop all the lies against Ndigbo, which have been the basis of the burden they carry as a nation within the Nigerian Federation.
Secondly, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, the former Head of State and a frontline commander on the Federal side during the war, said that they (the Federal military lead­ers) conducted the war without any hate or vengeance because it was a quarrel between brothers.
To this, one is constrained to ask a few pertinent questions
How did the world come to de­scribe the conduct of the war as POGROM?
What about the policy that hun­ger was a legitimate weapon of war and so was justified in its applica­tion against the Biafrans?
What about bombing of refugee camps, market places, churches, etc?
Again, when Chief Obasanjo said that they, the victorious side, have been more magnanimous than the victors in the American civil war, where, according to him, those who lost the war never had a chance to be President of America until sev­eral decades if not a century later, I would ask him WHAT ABOUT SOUTH AFRICA? WHAT ABOUT NELSON MANDELLA?
Such assertions rather than heal the wounds of the war, keep the wounds aglow, rather than recon­cile pour raw paper of unjustified arrogance on the wounded hearts of the Biafrans. How can you genu­inely talk about reconciliation with that kind of mind-set. The truth is that for General Obasanjo, the Bi­afrans are defeated people. Period!
Indeed, before we can talk about reconciliation, we must accept that grave wrongs were done to the Biaf­rans, Before, During and Since the end of the war.
Tribute to General Yar’Adua.
NOW, Mr Chairman, Ladies and \Gentlemen, let me go on to thank the organisers of this Conference - the Yar’Adua Foundation and the six Nigerian Universities partner­ing with the Foundation; the Ford Foundation and the Open Society Initiative for West Africa who have provided support for this Confer­ence - Biafra: 50 Years After.
What is more, I would like to pay tribute to the memory of my late friend, General Shehu Musa Yar’Adua. I met him for the first time during the 1994-5 National Constitutional Conference. There we struck a friendship that would have born great fruits but for his untimely death. I personally es­caped being arrested with him.
General Shehu Musa Yar’Adua, became a great democrat after the war despite his aristocratic back­ground. He genuinely believed that this wobbly Federation could be given a dependable foundation. Consequently, he set out to recruit gifted compatriots to work with him for that purpose. What a great hunter of talent Shehu was!
I remember two memorable mo­ments in our interaction. One after­noon, after lunch in his house, we sat down on the sofa. I asked him:
“General why is it that when you are not smoking cigar (cigarette), you are chewing kola nut?
He answered me: I will not tell you his answer today. Wait for my Memoire that should be ready by my next birthday.
At another moment, also af­ter lunch with him and late Prof. Aborisade, we sat down on the sofa. Shehu said to me “Dr Nwala, let me show you why we Northerners are reluctant to relinquish political power”.
He brought out two volumes of strategic studies which he had commissioned some intellectu­als to produce in preparation for the Constitutional Conference of 1994-5. I glanced through volume 1 which deals with the indices of power in Nigeria. I read the discus­sion, looked at the statistics and the graph, and shook my head, and said to myself this guy is a great politi­cal actor. I also reserve the details of what I read in that volume as well as our discussion for the sake of my forthcoming memoire.
I saw those two volumes of stra­tegic studies at the Library of the Yar’Adua Center when I visited there about two week ago.
What is important in this narra­tive is that General Yar’Adua was a very sincere leader, he always spoke to me and to anyone in his political company from the bottom of his heart. He was sincerely in search of a genuine way forward. He was a man who knew that all is not well with the Nigerian Federation and genuinely sough the correct path to its healing!
Prof. Uzodinma Nwala is the President of Alaigbo Development Foundation (ADF)

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