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Tuesday, June 18, 2024

We need another war… – By John Okiyi Kalu



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Earlier today, I posted this on my facebook wall.


“Ultimately, Nigeria will need another civil war to end the first civil war of 1967-70.”


Many of my friends made comments but am sure the hard hitters among my friends must have been silently watching my wall knowing that the JOK they know is anti-war and hate blood shed. Naturally, they will be astounded by this “new JOK”. One very close female friend of mine summarized the understandable confusion when she wrote “Haba Oga JOK! Diplomacy is not working again abi? It is well oo”.


Permit me to start with a question here. Is the Nigerian civil war of 1967-70 over? Two recent unrelated events in Nigeria should guide us in answering that question.


Speaking at a recent Leadership Newspapers Awards event held at Abuja and reported by Thisday Newspaper of September 19th 2012, Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar reportedly stated as follows.


“I want to recall that during the 1994-95 Constitutional Conference, Dr. Alex Ekwueme, the Second Republic vice-president of this federation, introduced and canvassed for the concept of geopolitical zones.


“I was among those who opposed it because I thought that Ekwueme, coming from the defunct Republic of Biafra, wanted to break up the country again.


“Now, I realise that I should have supported him because our current federal structure is clearly not working. Dr. Ekwueme obviously saw what some of us, with our civil war mindset, could not see at the time. There is indeed too much concentration of power and resources at the centre.


“And it is stifling our march to true greatness as a nation and threatening our unity because of all the abuses, inefficiencies, corruption and reactive tensions that it has been generating.


“There is need, therefore, to review the structure of the Nigerian federation, preferably along the basis of the current six geopolitical zones as regions and the states as provinces.


“The existing states structure may not suffice, as the states are too weak materially and politically to provide what is needed for good governance.”


Personally, I support restructuring of Nigeria with the 6 geopolitical zones becoming 6 Regional Governments of the Federal Republic of Nigeria with as many states and LGA as they want to create. Derivation should be 50% to cure the regions of laziness while the Federal Government will share the remaining revenue strictly on the basis of equality of regions. Of course the centre will have a President with 6 Vice Presidents and part time national Assembly that convenes not more than 4 times per annum, to approve Federal Budgets and legislate on critical issues that will be left in the exclusive list. We need not pay them anything more than a fixed sitting allowance that will take care of their transport and accommodation at Abuja.


Pardon my digression.


Those who believe Nigerian Civil War ended in 1970 should read these lines from Atiku Abubakar. “I was among those who opposed it because I thought that Ekwueme, coming from the defunct Republic of Biafra, wanted to break up the country again.

Now, I realize that I should have supported him because our current federal structure is clearly not working. Dr. Ekwueme obviously saw what some of us, with our civil war mindset, could not see at the time.” This is coming from a man who ended up being the most powerful Vice President of Nigeria from 1999 to 2007. He is also reputed to be one of the most powerful power brokers from Northern Nigeria.


Obviously the Atiku mind set is the Northern/Western Nigeria mind set. To them the war is not over yet. Ndigbo must be punished further for daring to ask for freedom from a marriage that was killing them in 1966. I recall current CBN governor Sanusi Lamido Sanusi pointing out the dangers of this anti-Igbo mind set in one of his presentations titled “The Yoruba are Nigeria’s problem” in a Paper Presented At The “National Conference On The 1999 Constitution” Jointly Organised By The Network For Justice And The Vision Trust Foundation, At The Arewa House, Kaduna From 11th –12th September, 1999. (You can read a copy from http://theafricansense.blogspot.com/2012/02/yorubas-are-problem-with-nigeria-by.html?m=1). While not agreeing entirely with Sanusi, it is important to note that anti-Igbo sentiments accounts for why Igbo are massacred whenever the gods of the North need blood appeasement. The whole country appears to be involved in this conspiracy and share the Atiku mind set. That explains why even though Dr Ekwueme was a key founder of PDP and the most qualified Nigerian to lead in 1999 the Atikus of this world and their military wing conspired to dash his ambitions. Ekwueme lost PDP primaries because he is “coming from the defunct Republic of Biafra that wanted to break up the country again”. That must have been what Atiku and others told the talakawas of the North while bribing them to vote against arguably Nigeria’s best hope in 1999. Otherwise, every PDP delegate to Jos convention of 1999 knew Ekwueme was the best of the lot.


Of course we all know the rest of the story, including how a Former military leader was sprung from jail and pardoned of treason convictions and then literally washed, bathed and delivered to Nigerians as our President. That arrangement favored Atiku who knew that an Obasanjo who is just coming out of jail cannot lead and so must depend on his Vice. The arrangement “worked” well till Obasanjo’s rehabilitation was concluded and he started thinking for himself. Suffice it to say that Atiku later joined Obasanjo’s opponents, even as Obasanjo’s VP, because there is no how those involved conspiracy against justice, equity and good conscience will not ultimately disagree and fight each other. But the loser was Nigeria and Nigerian masses who lost an opportunity to have a fit and proper civilian President. We have not recovered from that yet. We will not recover from it until a Nigerian President of Igbo origin is installed. Mark it somewhere and quote me freely, Nigeria will continue to grope about in search of leadership, peace and development until an Igbo man emerges as President. The coming of the Igbo President will signpost the end of Nigerian civil war. For now, the war is still ongoing. By other means.

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Recently, renowned Prof of Literature and arguably Nigeria’s best writer, Prof Chinua Achebe, released his latest and only book on Nigeria civil war titled “There was a country”. This book which was released in UK just thursday and will be released in America on 11th October is not yet in Nigeria. I am not sure that any Nigerian, including those who reacted to excerpts from the book published on wednesday can claim to have read the book as at yesterday. Yet Achebe is being attacked by a whole tribe with the leaders of that tribe already subtly threatening members of the Igbo tribe living in their area because of what Achebe wrote.


“Almost 30 years before Rwanda, before Darfur, more than 2 million people-mothers, children, babies, civilians-lost their lives as a result of the blatantly callous and unnecessary policies enacted by the leaders of the federal government of Nigeria.”

Prof Achebe also said “The wartime cabinet of General Gowon, the military ruler, it should also be remembered, was full of intellectuals, like Chief Obafemi Awolowo, among others, who came up with a boatload of infamous and regrettable policies. A statement credited to Awolowo and echoed by his cohorts is the most callous and unfortunate: all is fair in war, and starvation is one of the weapons of war. I don’t see why we should feed our enemies fat in order for them to fight harder’. “It is my impression that Awolowo was driven by an overriding ambition for power, for himself and for his Yoruba people. There is, on the surface at least, nothing wrong with those aspirations. However, Awolowo saw the dominant Igbo at the time as the obstacles to that goal, and when the opportunity arose with the Nigeria-Biafra war, his ambition drove him into a frenzy to go to every length to achieve his dreams. In the Biafran case, it meant hatching up a diabolical policy to reduce the numbers of his enemies significantly through starvation eliminating over two million people, mainly members of future generations.”


That was the offensive portion of Achebe’s book, at least to my Yoruba brothers. Ever since, they’ve rolled out the drums of “war” against, note this carefully, Igbo and Chinua Achebe. Please don’t ask me why Igbo. Don’t ask me if the book was written by the whole of Igbo land and Ndigbo. Don’t ask me if Ohaneze Ndigbo authored or published “There was a Country”. Just read two prominent Yoruba leaders in their own word.


1. “Let our Igbo brothers be reminded that about three-quarters of their assets not in the eastern Region are in Lagos and we have been very liberal and accommodating. We have allowed them to live undisturbed.” This statement was credited to Mr. Ayo Opadokun who was Assistant Director of Organisation of the late Chief Awolowo’s. He aslo said; “It is a rehearse of the perverted intellectual laziness which he had exhibited in the past in matters related to Chief Obafemi Awolowo. When Achebe described Awo as a Yoruba irredentist, what he expected was that Awo should fold his arms to allow the Igbo race led by Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, to preside over the affairs of the Yoruba nation,” Opadokun said.


2. Senator Biyi Durojaiye, another Yoruba shares Opadokun’s view. He said the Igbo should be more charitable, seeing that both sides of the war are now benefiting from its outcome. He enjoined all to join hands in facing the challenges of the moment, insisting that the way to go is for all Nigerians to support a Sovereign National Conference and restructuring of the polity. “My view is that you don’t expect somebody on the receiving end of a war to say something pleasant about the winners. “I don’t share Achebe’s view that Awolowo did all he did for personal political aggrandisement. It was all in the process of keeping Nigeria one. What he and General Gowon did was in the process of preserving the integrity of Nigeria.”


What does such response tell you about the end of Nigerian Civil War of 1967-1970? Personally, it tells me the war is not over yet hence nobody wants the truth about an unfinished war to be exhumed. A whole tribe has been threatened and reminded simply that the war is not over and “we can hurt your properties if you don’t stop your son from revealing the truth about the first phase of the civil war”.


Taking a cue from Ayo Opadokun and others, many of my online friends went to war against Achebe and Ndigbo. Non even bothered to find out if Achebe lied or not. The most exciting was a full note published by one Festus Akanbi titled “ACHEBE’s guided missile on Awo: Awolowo’s Account of the Biafran War”(https://m.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=10151266120884104) in which he published a 1983 interview by Chief Obafemi Awolowo where he puportedly denied the 5 key accusation against him regarding his civil war activities. Those familiar with the war blame Awolowo for (1) the £20 policy that robbed returning Igbo of billions of money left Nigerian banks before the war. (2) Starvation policy that used hunger as a weapon of war. (3) Change of currency at the beginning/end of the war, (4) abandoned property and (5) indigenization policy almost immediately after the war that allowed Yorubas to buy up UAC, Lever brothers, Cadbury, NBL etc.

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Naturally I was interested in reading Awo’s defense against those policies for two principal reasons

1. My elder brother, Jona, died of Kwasiokor during the war

2. I learned “tribalism” from Chief Awolowo.


My first instinct when I started reading the interview as published by Festus Akanbi was that Chief Awolowo was speaking as a politician. When he said ordinary Igbo love him I couldn’t reconcile that with the fact that as a small boy I watched him and his helicopter being stoned at Etche Road field Aba. My father was living at 119 Etche Road then and I witnessed this stoning by angry Igbo men, boys and girls. Naturally I was attracted to the location by the helicopter hovering to land at the field that is almost opposite my father’s house. When I asked my mother why Aba people stoned the man, she told me the man was a wicked man called Awolowo. It was that very day I found out that my only brother then died of Kwasiokor as a result of Awolowo’s starvation policy as a weapon of war. I know for a fact that anything named Awolowo in Igbo land is something that reminds Igbo people of civil war wickedness. I challenge my readers to find out about awolowo leaves for wounds and awolowo anti malaria leaves. Ask your parents why they were named after Awolowo and not even Gowon or the butcher of Asaba, Murtala Muhammed.


While going through that interview, I stumbled upon the truth from Awo’s own lips. Read this line and take a minute to digest it.


“So I decided to stop sending the food there. In the process the civilians would suffer, but the soldiers will suffer most.”-Obafemi Awolowo


Like a Facebook friend of mine wrote recently, English language is not my strong area. Of course I was among those who started primary education under a big tree at the end of the civil war. My 6 year old daughter is more of my English teacher because she is receiving better quality education. But even as an “olodo” I can see that Chief Awolowo used personal singular in describing that policy. Instead of saying “we” or “the govt” he said “I decided…” That means he takes personal responsibility for that policy and it’s execution. He expects to be given credit for that “brilliant” starvation policy. What Achebe did in his book was simply to give Obafemi Awolowo credit for the hunger policy of the Federal Govt that led to the death of of my brother Jona and about 2m children.


So why was Achebe and Igbo attacked if Awolowo accepted authoring the hunger policy? My answer is simple, the civil war is not yet over. Our brothers are reminding Achebe and Ndigbo that the winners must be allowed to decide what is true, when the truth can be revealed and also choose who will reveal it.


In conclusion, I think Nigeria needs another war to end the civil war of 1967-1970. This war will be fought with truth and forgiveness as our major weapons. The role played by living and dead Nigeria leaders must be revealed and examined to aid the healing process and those found culpable punished or vilified appropriately.


Today, 7th of October, is the anniversary of the Asaba massacre. Nobody is talking about Murtala Muhammed lining up defenseless Igbo men, women and Children at Asaba and shooting them to death at point blank range. People are making excuses for that crime against humanity and telling us how “all is fair in war” as if there is nothing called war conventions. The articles of the Fourth Geneva Convention (1949) extensively defined the basic, wartime rights of prisoners (civil and military); established protections for the wounded; and established protections for the civilians in and around a war zone. The treaties of 1949 were ratified, in whole or with reservations, by 194 countries, including Nigeria of 1967-70 and the present. Massacre of unarmed civilians and even prisoners of war is a crime against humanity. Yet Murtala Muhammed’s face is on our currency notes and the biggest airport in Nigeria is named after him. Nobody is complaining thereby legalizing that act of wickedness for the next generation to copy. And copy they have, in Madalla, Kano, Mubi, Bauchi etc.


Let every Nigerian with a conscience join this war to free Nigeria of the evils of our “heroes” past and present. Let us honor men like Prof Wole Soyinka and Late Chief Adeniran Ogunsanya who vehemently condemned Awolowo and Nigeria’s war time policies and actions even when it was unpopular to do so. Let us borrow a leaf from Prof Chinua Achebe and expose the evil policies and contradictions that have conspired to keep Nigeria down and under after 52 years of independence.


Unless we fight this war, the civil war of 1967-1970 will not end. And might just end Nigeria as we know it.


Thank you.

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