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Wednesday, 10 October 2012


In the last one week or so, decent members of the Nigerian public have endured a regime of unmitigated insults; sweet nonsense and irrational postulations by some ethnic champions masquerading around as leaders of the great Yoruba ethnic nationality following the publication by some British Newspapers of an excerpt from the yet-to-be released memoir by the internationally respected erudite scholar and novelist-Professor Chinua Achebe.

Most of these spontaneous reactions and responses to a book that is yet to reach the Nigerian market were unfortunately championed by even some deceitful characters who were recently exposed by Major Hamza Al-Mustapha as traitors who allegedly collected huge sums of hard currency from the then maximum military ruler late General Sani Abacha to betray Chief Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola in the battle to retrieve his stolen mandate which the late politician won in the ill-fated presidential election of June 12th 1993 staged by the then outgoing benevolent military dictator General Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida (rtd).

Other so-called critics of Professor Achebe’s latest intellectual work are also some persons undergoing prosecution in the competent courts of law for alleged sundry anti-graft allegations. Clearly, some of these persons are engaging in these meaningless over-heating of the polity with ethnically-charged chorus of misplaced hatred of the beautiful work done by the globally recognized scholar just to seek for relevance and none of them has successfully faulted the historical body of evidence encompassed in the forthcoming Professor Achebe’s “There was a country,” regarding some obnoxious policies imposed by the then military dictator General Yakubu Gowon (rtd)  and his then Finance federal commissioner- the late Sage Chief Obafemi Awolowo.

The most trenchant and unrepentant rumour mongers among those who have so far enjoyed generous news media space to market their half-baked and cheap lies against the most notorious facts contained in the book under review, have sadly branded Achebe falsely as a “hater of the Yoruba race”.

This is far from the truth because what is at play here is not any intellectual war-fare between the Igbo race and their good friends-the members of the Yoruba ethnic bloc but rather it is a straight fight between apostles of darkness/ professional anarchists and those who love the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth regarding the Biafran story as espoused by a great mind in the person of Professor Chinua Achebe.

Achebe is aware that in documenting alleged human rights violations, experts are of the opinion that the basic principle is to create an accurate, reliable and concise record of sequence of events, and this he has done in this latest work.

But what did they accuse Achebe of doing?

These fortune/fame seekers who are nothing but media generated and created tigers and ethnic war-lords disputed the version of Professor Achebe’s war memoir in which he criticized the harsh policies of the then Gowon’s brutal dictatorship which foisted mass hunger, disease and untimely death of mostly women, children and the elderly among the men because of the diabolical imposition of Air, sea and land blockade against the then Biafra which inevitably denied members of the international community including International Red Cross the safe passages to deliver the much needed relief materials and food aids to the war ravaged civilian population in the areas known then as Biafra including some areas now known a South-South geopolitical Zone.

This evil air, sea and land blockade inflicted ‘kwashiorkor’ or malnourishment in genocidal proportions leading to the unfortunate death of hundreds-of-thousands of children and women in the then Biafra including one of my beloved Cousins.

Those who wish that the rest of us remain in total denial of the truth about the 30-months old [un]civil war between what was then known as Biafra and the rest of Nigeria at that ungodly period, are saying that the imposition of blockade which inflicted massive deaths was proper in war.

But I ask, are these irrational and loud-mouthed critics of Professor Achebe’s latest work aware of the existence of the Geneva Convention which spells out how a war should be fought without inflicting deaths of genocidal dimension on the civil populace?

Again, are these rumour mongers and anti-intellectuals criticizing Professor Achebe know why a war is called “Civil” and not genocidal mass killings?

What will these noise makers achieve by seeking to demonize the globally reputable Novelist Professor Achebe just because he exercised his constitutionally allowed freedom to author a book detailing the truth he knows about the Biafra/Nigeria war which these anarchists want some of us to forget?

If these persons believe they can generate civil unrest between the Igbos and their friends the Yoruba, then they are simply living in fool’s paradise because majority of the people from these two ethnic groups are too sophisticated to be carried along and deceived by these half-truths and illogical fallacies that these ‘Achebephobics’ are busy dishing out through their friendly Channels in the Lagos/Ibadan media axis.

Few days back, Punch newspaper extensively published what it credited to the late sage Chief Obafemi Awolowo as his defense for imposing these regimes of obnoxious policies including sudden change of the Nigerian currency soon after the war and the air, sea and land blockade which inflicted mortal injuries on hundreds –of- thousands of civilians in the then Biafra.

The late Chief Obafemi Awolowo was reported to have told journalists shortly before the 1983 presidential election that the blockade was imposed on Biafra because the then Biafran soldiers were “stealing” and diverting the food and other relief materials to themselves and cronies and thereby the then military government took the harsh decision which caused the death of hundreds of thousands of civilians because the then Nigerian military rulers and their civilian associates including pa. Awolowo- the then finance minister believed that it was wrong to feed their enemies (that is the Biafran Soldiers).

Going by this explanation, it therefore follows that even Papa Awo during his life time admitted that such draconian and evil policy was enforced.

Why then are these holier-than-thou critics of Professor Achebe disturbing Nigerians with their lazy and irrational postulations?

I will quote. Pa. Awo as published by punch of Monday October 9th 2012 on his reasons for imposing food blockade on the then Biafran Republic even as readers could clearly see that even the late sage acknowledged the existence of kwashiorkor in the then Biafra even though he cleverly blamed Biafran soldiers for allegedly eating up food meant for the civilians.

Papa Awo stated thus; “But when I went what did I see? I saw the kwashiorkor victims. If you see a kwashiorkor victim you’ll never like war to be waged. Terrible sight, in Enugu, in Port Harcourt, not many in Calabar, but mainly in Enugu and Port Harcourt”.

Awo continued thus “…And I said that was a very dangerous policy, we didn’t intend the food for soldiers. But who will go behind the line to stop the soldiers from ambushing the vehicles that were carrying the food? And as long as soldiers were fed, the war will continue, and who’ll continue to suffer? And those who didn’t go to the place to see things as I did, you remember that all the big guns, all the soldiers in the Biafran army looked all well fed after the war, its only the mass of the people that suffered kwashiorkor… so I decided to stop sending the food there. In the process the civilians would suffer, but the soldiers will suffer most.”

Now what Professor Achebe did in his latest work is to recount his own account of how mass deaths were harvested by hundred-of-thousands of families in the then Biafra as a result of the food blockade which as we have read above from Chief Awo was done to punish the then Biafran soldiers.

Professor Achebe in the book “There was a country” simply wrote thus; “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 goals, 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 number of his enemies significantly though starvation eliminating over two million people, mainly members of future generations.” 

But I ask, does anyone know any politician in the World who is not ambitious for power? Certainly what is reprehensible is the imposition of food blockade that inflicted mass death of civilians on the untenable excuse that Biafran soldiers were stealing the food.   

What these evil critics of Professor Achebe’s book on the Biafran story as seen by him reminds me of is the account reduced into a book by the philosopher Mr. Albert Camus who wrote under theme of “Nihilism and history” in his internationally acclaimed book  “The Rebel.”

Albert Camus, the Algerian born philosopher had written thus; “One hundred and fifty years of metaphysical revolt and of nihilism have witnessed the persistent reappearance, under different guises, of the same ravaged countenance: the face of human protest. All of them, decrying the human condition and its creator, have affirmed the solitude of man and the non-existence of any kind of morality”.

Albert Camus wrote further; “But at the same time they have all tried to construct a purely terrestrial kingdom where their chosen principles will hold sway. As rivals of the Creator, they have inescapably been led to the point of reconstructing creation according to their own concepts. Those who rejected, for the world they had just created, all other principles but desire and power, have been driven to suicide or madness and have predicted the apocalypse…”

The sacred truth is that no matter how hard these anarchists and haters of truth try to murder the truth; it (the truth) must prevail in the long run.

To underscore the severity of the effects of the blockade imposed by the then Gowon’s military junta on the now defunct Biafra, the New York Times of June 27, 1968 reproduced in the book titled “The untold Story of the Nigerian Biafra war” written by a United States based physician, Attorney Mr. Nnaemeka Luke Aneke, reported that those badly affected by the air, land and sea blockade of even relief and food materials were mostly women, children and the elderly.  

The New York Times had reported as follows; “Hundreds of thousands of Biafran civilians will face death from starvation within the next several months. Leslie Kirkley, the Director of the Oxford Committee for Famine Relief, or Oxfam, a well-known non-governmental and non sectarian British relief organization, assessed the situation this way: “Unless we pull out all the stops in Britain and other countries, we will have a terrifying disaster in Biafra before the end of August; by then, two million may have died.”

 I will sincerely call on those ethnic champions and war-mongers who seek for relevance using the latest Professor Achebe’s book as a platform to have a change of heart and find meaningful, creative and responsible jobs to do to contribute to ongoing debate on how to make Nigeria great.

Professor Achebe loves Nigeria; he loves the Yoruba people and the great Nigerian must not be associated with any phantom plot to generate tension among the various ethnic nationalities that make up Nigeria.

To now speak as if some persons are the sole owners and land lords of certain places who dishes out favours to others based on their whims and caprices, is to say the least irrational, illogical and arrogant.

 *   Emmanuel Onwubiko, a former Federal Commissioner of the Nigerian National Human Rights Commission is the Executive Director of HUMAN Rights Writers’ Association of Nigeria. 


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