• Tuesday, July 16, 2024
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BusinessDay

Biafra – Time to end Nigeria’s 53-year-old uncivil war

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WHAT happened when the Civil War ended in 1970? The uncivil war started.

The war with Biafra became the war against Biafra on 15 January 1970, when General Phillip Effiong surrendered to Head of State General Yakubu Gowon in Lagos. Effiong, who died in 2003, was Biafra’s acting Head of State. General of the Peoples Army, Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, had gone on exile a week earlier.

“I, Major-General Phillip Effiong, Officer Administering the Government of the Republic of Biafra, now wish to make the following declaration: That we affirm that we are loyal Nigerian citizens and accept the authority of the Federal Military Government of Nigeria. That we accept the existing administrative and political structure of the Federation of Nigeria. That any future constitutional arrangement will be worked out by representatives of the people of Nigeria. That the Republic of Biafra hereby ceases to exist,” Effiong told Gowon.

Marks the war left defy adequate accommodation in paltry words that address them at conferences. Words are seen as healing for the revolving devastations of one of the most vicious wars fought in the previous century.

People ignore the uncivil war that commenced in 1970. It is spoken of with justifications, among them, that Igbos planned a coup, and killed others. Igbos (forever?) deserve punishment and they must remain in Nigeria to receive that punishment.

Images of malnourished children are everlastingly etched on minds – the loss of our best, able, intelligent young men and women across Igbo land, and parts beyond the then Eastern Region, is unforgettable. We cannot lose sight of a war that Nigeria unleashed on Igbos in 1970 to ensure that “never again shall they rise.”

Valuable national resources have been wasted in moves akin to trying to stop the sun from rising from the East. Unfortunately, some Igbos, with their war wounds, have joined the uncivil war so that they can become “something” in a Nigeria that remains indeterminate.

Nigeria’s recurring challenges rest on the race for nothingness, empty positions and opportunities that undermine Nigeria’s chances of making progress delight many.

You stay on the ground, my people say, if you have dedicated your life to holding someone down. Nigeria’s indiscernible progress is situated in resources wasted to ensure Igbos are down. For 53 years this approach has decimated national efforts in all things. Sadly, the ferocity of these policies increase as they fail.

Wars cost lives. We know. We went to war to defend ourselves. We knew lives would be lost. I saw many of them.

My primary school teacher died in the war, conscripted from the palm plantation, under whose cover we sought protection from air raids. It also served as a market, and community centre. He was an only son.

Each time I step into our village church, I remember it was a military base, just miles from Umuaro, where Col. Monday Onwuatuegwu commanded the 8th Division of the Peoples Army.

I still see faces of those soldiers bubbling with enthusiasm that matched the pride with which they bore the brilliant rays of the rising sun badge on their shoulders. Many of them died. Many young men from my village died, our best.

Stories of these losses are all over Igbo land. No family was spared. We have borne the marks well. Some are still counted as missing in action, nobody saw their corpses, or heard they died. We mourn them. Igbos live with these burdens. Nobody can bear them for us.

How could disagreement among top military officers, over a coup, lead to massacres, genocides and still, Igbos, on whose behalf the officers supposedly acted, without consultation, are considered not to have adequately atoned for lives lost in the 1966 coup? How does one explain the Asaba Massacre that decapitated thousands of unarmed males who turned up to welcome Nigerian soldiers?

The uncivil war has cost us more. There are no pronounced national monuments of the civil war. We circumvent the history of the war. Relentless efforts are deployed to deny the war and its destructions of national fabrics.

After 53 years of this steadied gaze on punishing Igbos many are realising Nigeria cannot work unless restructured. Igbos stood on the 1967 Aburi Accord. Aburi was about restructuring. Nigeria rejected restructuring, 56 years ago. Six months after Aburi, Nigerian troops fired shots from Ushara Hills in Gakem into Eastern Region to commence the war.

Fifty-three years after living in Biafra, that within months in war constructed an airport for night flights, refined crude oil, manufactured military hard and soft ware, Nigerians listen to tales of why the simplest things cannot be done unless they are discriminatory practices that dictate higher marks for Igbos to access Federal Government schools.

Train services began in the East in 1916 to move coal from Udi, Enugu, to Port Harcourt for export. In 2022, the tracks were removed. The eastern rail had been deemed “unviable”.

Competence is not a value. Continuous failings are treated as communal assets. The national ethos of excuses and blame-sharing are baselines for operating low standards, or no standards at all.

In 53 years of the uncivil war, there are no Red Cross, no Caritas, no peace talks, no international conventions for war. It is a war without rules of engagement. Without the more obvious indicators of escalating conflicts on display, Nigeria has exalted practised pretences of peace.

The uncivil war is more vicious. There are no air raids. The battle fronts are daily confrontations among Nigerians and our own security agencies at checkpoints, everywhere. Governments’ disinterest in the well-being of Nigerians compounds the war. It is a war of survival worse than the civil war. It is war in peace time.

Read also: The conversation we don’t want to have about Biafra (2)

Once targeted on Igbos, the uncivil war has spread to ensure that though tribe and tongue may differ, it enrolls us in brotherhood of stiff opposition to any inclinations to make Nigeria work. Now, none is safe, none is spared.

Fifty-three years on, Nigerians still struggle with making something out of our country. Our corruption, crimes, politics, competences, beliefs are rated by our “place of origin”. Unconstitutional practices that abridge our citizenship also dare court judgments.

Nigerians, who affirm the civil war ended 53 years ago, under-rate the uncivil war which questions our Nigerianess daily.

It would be a war without end until Nigerians realise that though we are not all in IDPs, we are all refugees in the uncivil war. Will it end?

The 2023 elections can end the 53-year-old uncivil war if we vote to free ourselves of the shackles of 1970. We can.

.Isiguzo is a major commentator on minor issues