Nigeria-Civil War-Anniversary

Nigeria: The Biafra war 50 years on!

APA – Lagos (Nigeria)

It is half a century since the end of Nigeria's secessionist war, which claimed over two million lives and almost split Africa's most populous country into fragments, but memories of the conflict still run deep.

And January 15 of every year is marked as the official end of the Biafran conflict in 1970, when the guns of the war which had raged for three years finally fell silent and officially brought one of Africa's most destructive conflicts to a close.

This momentous event in Nigerian history is known simply as Remembrance Day, but it is usually a time of reflections for all those who took part in the conflict and an opportunity to offer renditions of its turbulent history to those either too young to recall its bloody episodes or still unborn.

Remembrance Day 2020, which fell on Wednesday, has been no exception with the country's armed forces holding parades across the country, while the ordinary citizens old enough to remember realise just how far their nation has come from one of the darkest chapters of its recent history.

The post-war slogan at the time was "no victor and no vanquished" but 50 years on, the role of the armed forces in defeating the Biafrans to ensure that there remained One Nigeria has not been lost to the country's current political leadership.

But the drums of war are still loud in Nigeria and it is a pointer to the fact that all is not well with the oil-rich West African country, 50 years after the civil war.

This has been largely blamed on the misrule by both the former military governments, which failed to execute its post war slogan of “no victor, no vanquished” and the execution of the programme of Reconciliation, Reconstruction and Rehabilitation. 

Sadly, the post war politicians in Nigeria are known for their divisive strategy of “winner takes all”, corruption and the abuse of the principle of the Separation of Powers as enshrined in the Nigerian Constitution among others.

Speaking in one of the week-long series of programmes lined up by some organisations and a private television station, Channels Television, Nigeria’s former military leader, General Yakubu Gowon, who prosecuted the war, blamed the failure to properly execute the post war slogan and programmes to the change of government and the differences in policies.

“Unfortunately, the change of government did not allow the programmes to be completed,” he said.

Gowon recalled that the breakdown of a number of peace talks between Nigeria and Biafra and the insistence by the Biafran leader Odumegwu Ojukwu on relying on the “Aburi Accord” (which favoured Confederation for Nigeria) and the declaration of Biafra led to the war.

For General IBM Haruna, who was a prominent player in the war admitted that “war was never the solution” to the Nigerian problems at the time.

Several other war veterans on both the Nigerian and Biafran sides agreed with the views of General Haruna that the issues would have been resolved without going to war.

In a televised programme to discuss the way forward ‘50 Years After Civil War' by Channels television on January 13, tagged ‘Never Again’, Prof Anya Anya, noted that violence cannot provide the solution to the problems facing Nigeria.

He said the country should learn from the mistakes of the past and what some say was a failure of leadership.

According to him, Nigeria is not the only country that has gone through such a situation as the civil war and that for those on the other side of the conflict, losing a war should not necessarily be a badge of failure.

Major General Obi Umahi (rtd), said that history must be brought back into the Nigerian education and school syllabus and that the aim of the conference was to sensitise citizens on the need for forgiveness, healing, and national cohesion.

Channels Television report quoted General Umahi as saying that Nigerians should see the present situation in the country as a moment for national reflection, stressing that there was an urgent need to build bridges of unity and peace.

Speaking in the same vein, a renowned Nigerian historian, Prof. Banji Akintoye, raised an alarm over what he described as worrying signs in Nigeria. 

Akintoye, who is the leader, Assembly of All Yoruba Groups Worldwide, warned that he has “good reasons to fear today that the character of the affairs in the country these days, and the prevailing mood among Nigerians, are chillingly similar to the character of the affairs in the nation in the months leading to the civil war”.

Akintoye noted that the federal government is being managed in ways that make it look like an exclusive preserve of a particular minority. 

“There seems to be an agenda being pursued to establish this minority in all positions of command in the Executive, Administrative, Judicial and Security Services of our Country.

“The voices of the majority register protests continually and are continually disrespected and ignored. The state of law is patently being subsumed to the needs of that agenda, with seriously damaging effects on human rights. These situations are inevitably fostering, among the Peoples of the Middle Belt and South of our country, the feeling that they are being reduced to the status of conquered Peoples in Nigeria".

He called on the Nigerian government to terminate all this descent towards horrific war and speedily move the country into the state of law, the state of mutual respect among hundreds of nations and the state of order and peace.

In the official anniversary ceremony on Wednesday, January 15, President Muhammadu Buhari, service chiefs, the leadership of the National Assembly, the Judiciary and members of the diplomatic corps paid their respects to the heroes at the Remembrance Arcade in Abuja.

Retired General Ibrahim Babangida, Nigeria’s former military president, used the occasion to call on Nigerians to embrace peace and unite for sustainable co-existence of the country.

“Nigeria is better the way it is now, all parts of the country should come together and see themselves as one and equal. Just like today it is 50 years after the civil war.

``As everybody knows so many good things have happened in the country, which is indeed better for all of us. So I think it is better if we put all our differences aside and work for the development of our nation,”

Babangida, who was at the time of the war a young commissioned officer said.

Nigeria, he said, learnt lessons from the civil war and should not make any attempt to embark on another one.

In Ibadan, Oyo state, Governor Seyi Makinde, who also laid a wreath in memory of the fallen during the Biafran conflict, urged Nigerians to care for those injured in the course of their service to the nation.

In Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital, Governor Dapo Abiodun also urged Nigerians to regularly remember and touch the lives of the families left behind by those killed in the conflict instead of waiting for Remembrance Day to come around.

The governor said that it was important to celebrate the people, who had laboured for the unity and indivisibility of Nigeria and to ensure that their efforts were not in vain.

“Most times, many of us hardly appreciate our heroes because we see them as soldiers, who have committed themselves to be in the military and many times, these men have become casualties in the line of duty,’’ he said.

Although the Nigerian government appears to pay less attention to the lessons of the dark years of the civil war, the persisting drums of war and ceaseless agitations for good governance, true federalism and respect for the rule of law will certainly bring about the needed change that will return the country on the path of socio-economic development.


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