Opinion About Nigeria

I am quite sorry I have not posted in a while, I have been reading a lot of books; both fiction and non-fiction. In the past 6 weeks  alone I have read more than 15 different books and honestly, I do not think there is a chance of me slowing down anytime soon.

Out of these 15 books I have read, two are non-fictional books about the Nigerian civil war of 1967 from two authors who provided great perspective to some of the historic issues the civil war raises. I am not going to write a review of the book per se, based on what I have learnt so far, I just feel like I should write down my opinion and share it with you.

The first of the two books I read was My Command by former Nigerian, President Olusegun Obasanjo, while the second book is There Was A Country by Chinua Achebe, even though I felt like I ought to have read them the other way round since the Obasanjo book was a reprint of his book which was first published in the 1980s but was reprinted in 2015 (I believe) as a kind of response or a rebuttal to Achebes’ book. In any case, whichever I chose, I was still able to follow the issues raised, questions asked and answered and also learn a lot of things about the story surrounding the  civil war which the government and the people do a bad job of pretending did not happen.

Before the civil war, there were a lot of events which can be said to have triggered the war, but the most important events were the January 1966 coup, the Kano riot which occurred after the July 1966 counter coup (where many Nigerian citizens especially the Igbos were attacked by the northern Hausa indigenes) and the attitude of the government right before the Kano riot and after. Of course according to Obasanjo in his book, the Federal Military Government (FMG) was slow to respond then because the Supreme Military Council had not chosen a new Head of State (which later turned out to be Gowon), however, according to Achebe not much was done by the FMG (even after Gowon was made Head of State) to protect the Igbo people in the North from attacks and no one was arrested or formally prosecuted for larceny and murder. Basically, law and order broke down but the state was not there to protect the citizens it swore to protect.

Also before the civil war, the government did not carry out its duties of protecting lives and properties, leading to a massive exodus of Igbos from every other part of the country back to the South Eastern Nigeria while answering the call of Ojukwu, the then military governor of Eastern Nigeria in 1966, basically by its action or inaction, the government further polarised the nation along ethnic lines.

The civil war started in July 1967 and then ended on the 15th January 1970 with the secessionist leader of Biafra taking a trip out of Biafra “in search of peace” while his Chief of Staff Col. Effiong surrendered to the Nigerian Army who had already surrounded and taken back territorial control of eastern Nigeria. In the end, northern and southern Nigeria was not any closer together than it was before the 1960 war. Although it is relatively “common knowledge” that during the civil war the Biafrans were made to starve by the FMG who used starvation as a tool to bring the war to a quick end, leading to the death of hundreds of thousands of Igbo people (although the precise number is still a moot point in Nigeria).

Another issue I found interesting in both books was how both authors (in their own way) wrote about how the war was fought and the attitudes of the forces of both sides during the war. For example,  there was report of widespread rape, larceny, murder, and a lot of human rights violations alleged against some of the Igbo people encountered by the Federal forces according to Achebe and a host of other international observers of the war, however, Obasanjo in his book conceded that the Federal troops in the early stages of the campaign looted in every territory it took back from the secessionist group, after which,  he claimed the Federal troops were issued a clear and concise list of ‘dos and don’ts’ from the Geneva Convention which “all” the Federal troops, especially the ones he commanded strictly adhered to. This is just one of the few things I ran into in the book which I felt did not add up.

In any case after reading the books, I am moved to learn more about my country, about how things were good and about how Nigeria has so much prospect and a bright future. I quite agree with both authors about their conclusions that Nigerians need to stop being tribalistic, be more united, focus on kicking out corruption, pay attention to governance, promote free and fair election, be more trusting of one another and so on.

One important lesson learnt, war of any kind is not the answer to any kind of question/dispute you may have, and the reason for this is not even farfetched. The past 10 years alone has seen the Middle East and the Eurasia (Ukraine/Russia conflict) turned into war devastated zones, especially in the Middle East leading to the huge migration of middle easterners into Europe. Although we humans pride ourselves as prime and higher animals with higher intellect, however with all the wars and conflict (previously fought and/or currently in progress)  which have led to the uncountable loss of human lives will rebut this presumption of higher intelligence.

A show of aggression is not the last resort to the resolution of a conflict and lives need not be lost for same to happen; who knows, maybe the world just needs a little bit more of a conscience and empathy.