By Jerome-Mario Utomi
Beginning with the question as to ;if the Nigeria civil War could have been avoided, the answer, quoting C.N Oragwu, seems to be “Yes” but if all the stakeholders of Nigeria had allowed a deeper thought, patience and reflection on the complex political problems of Nigerian state to prevail. However the reluctance of Nigeria’s political “Power Blocks” or lack of vision to dispassionately, honestly and sincerely addresses the fundamental political/constitutional problems of Nigeria’s Nation in the long term interests of Nigerian population seem to have exacerbated the political crisis of Nigeria and had led to the disaster of the now defunct State of Biafra.
In the same vein, there equally exist reasons to believe that conscious efforts were made to discourage the civil war. This belief is predicated in, and supported by the Address/Speech delivered on 15th January, 1970, to mark the end of the Nigerian civil war by His Excellency, General. DR. Yakubu Gowon, GCFR, Former Head of states.
He puts it this way; the world knows how hard we strove to avoid the civil war. Our objectives in fighting the war to crush the rebellion were always clear. We desired to preserve the territorial integrity and unity of Nigeria. For as one country we will be able to maintain lasting peace amongst our various communities; achieve rapid economic Development to improve the lot of our people; guarantee dignified future and respect in the world for our posterity and contribute to African unity and modernization. On the other hand, the small successor states in a disintegrated Nigeria would be victims of perpetual war and misery and neo-colonialism. Our duty was clear. And we are, today, vindicated.
The so-called ‘Rising son of Biafra’ is set forever. It will be a great disservice for anyone to continue to use the word Biafra to refer to any part of the East central state of Nigeria. The tragic chapter of violence has just ended. We are at the dawn of National reconciliation. Once again we have an opportunity to build a new nation.
We fought the war with great caution, not in anger or hatred, but always in hope that common sense will prevail. Many times we sought a negotiated settlement not out of weakness, but in order to minimize the problem of reintegration, reconciliation and reconstruction. He concluded.
About fifty one after the speech/promise was made the question, one may be tempted to; If the ‘Rising son of Biafra’ which Gowon said is set forever, have truly set? Have Nigeria and Nigerians lived up to the ‘article of faith as proclaimed in the speech’? Or has it become more of the proverbial well said than a done presentation?
Honestly, while this author may not be in a position to advance answers to these questions, there exists a document that not only raises fears but fittingly provides answers to these nagging questions. It stems from the content of a presentation made in Lagos, by Professor (Senator) Banji Akintoye, during the 50th anniversary celebration of the end of the Nigeria civil war,
He said in parts; as an elderly citizen of this Country, and as a citizen who was already a young University Teacher in the time of our Civil War, I have good reasons to fear today that the character of the affairs of our Country these days, and the prevailing mood among us Nigerians, are chillingly similar to the character of the affairs of our country in the months leading to our civil war.
The government of our country 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 the minority in all positions of command in the Executive, Administrative, Judicial and Security Services of a 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.
Meanwhile, some persons belonging to the would-be minority conquerors are loudly threatening to overrun and seize the ancestral homelands of the said Peoples of the Nigerian Middle belt and South, and are actually pushing for the conquest with their acts of destruction of farms and villages, acts of wanton killings of People, acts of kidnapping, acts of intimidation, and the act of bringing of masses of their ethnic kinsmen from countries beyond Nigeria to seize and possess land by force and intimidation in Nigeria.
And meanwhile, the Government of Nigeria seems to be purposed, not to defend the threatened Peoples of Nigeria but to aid the processes of the conquest. The outcome of all these, as we assemble here today, is that our country is divided into two hostile parts- the minority that seems bent on conquest and ethnic cleansing, and the majority that is striving with great handicaps to preserve their Homelands and their existence and integrity as Peoples.
Meanwhile also, as a manifest corollary to these fearsome developments, the dreaded fundamentalist terrorist movement, ISIS, after being vanquished in the Middle East, has established its new strong base in a part of Nigeria, and from there has proclaimed West Africa as its new province by way of ISWAP. The probability has become high therefore that ISIS might make a junction with the minority pushing for the conquest of the majority in Nigeria, that Nigeria might thus be ravaged by ISIS, that Nigeria might soon be the base from which ISIS will push to conquer West Africa and all of Africa, with the purpose of turning Africa into a mighty base of fundamentalist terror against the rest of the civilized world.
As a solution, Akintoye again noted thus; we can, and we must, terminate all these descent towards horrific wars; we can and we must speedily move our country into the state of law, the state of mutual respect among our hundreds of nations and the state of order and peace in our country.
The steps needed to accomplish this new order of our existence for our country are obvious.
First, the Nigerian ethnic nationality that has been threatening other Nigerian ethnic nations, that has been engaging in invasion, destruction, disruption and barbarous rampages in the homelands of other Nigerian ethnic nations, and that has been mobilizing external forces to assist the conquest, subjugation and ethnic cleansing of other Nigerian ethnic nations, must now, immediately, stop and renounce this agenda to the satisfaction all of Nigeria, and to the satisfaction of the civilized world.
Secondly, we Nigerians must restructure our country, with the objective of giving our country a true and generally acceptable Federal structure under which the different sections of our country will be able to develop their resources for the conquest of poverty in their domain for the elevation of the quality of life of their citizens, and for their contribution to the overall prosperity of our nation.
While credit is again given to Professor (Senator) Banji Akintoye for materials provided, this piece however, holds the opinion that the template to solve these problems is already there: the Report of the 2014 National Conference. The holistic implementation of that report is germane to the survival of Nigeria which is right now in its most fragile state since the end of the civil war.
Utomi is the Programme Coordinator (Media and Policy), Social and Economic Justice Advocacy (SEJA), Lagos. He could be reached via;email@example.com