By Charles Ogbu
It is beyond argument that the pains, the deaths, the misery, the agonies, the artificial identity crises as well as the tragedies of the Biafran war could have been avoided had the Nigerian authorities, represented by the then head of state, Yakubu Gowon, not chosen to breach the Aburi Accord they had with Ojukwu which would have led to a Confederacy, which in turn, would have seen an end to the anti-Igbo pogrom in the North which was the main cause of the war.
To this end, I hold Yakubu Gowon personally responsible for the wars and woes of the Igbos before, during and immediately after the Biafran war because he was the Commander-In-Chief all through those period.
You refused to protect a people. Your own soldiers even joined the Northern mob in going from house to house killing them.
The same you still violated the last agreement which would have saved the situation.
When the people you not only chose not to protect but participated in killing, decided to declare their territory as a Sovereign State Of Biafra in a desperate bid to save themselves from annihilation, you responded by conniving with your murderous allies to bomb them. You didn’t just bomb them, you broke all ‘Rules Of Engagement’ by specifically targeting women and Children and other civilians rather than concentrating on soldiers.
In war, all sides have both moral and legal duty to protect civilians. As the extant country which was supposedly fighting to bring back one of its component units, the Nigerian state had more moral and legal responsibility to protect civilians from both the Nigerian side and the Biafran side. Ironically, the Nigeria side deliberately targeted Biafran civilians in Asaba and other places with bullets and bombs and cut foreign agency-donated food and medical supply from them.
This is nothing short of war crime. The fact that war criminals like Gowon yet walk the earth, a free man, remains a moral tragedy!
Even after the war and despite declaring the so called 3Rs, our infrastructures destroyed during the war weren’t reconstructed. Rather than being rehabilitated, we were robbed of our monies and our jobs. And our properties were tagged “abandoned properties” and confiscated. They was no genuine attempt by the Nigerian state under Gowon to either reconcile or re-integrate us into the soceity. And there has been none so far.
So basically, the 3Rs declared by the Gowon govt was one hell of an original fake. A ruse. A grand deception. A farce. And nothing short of an illusion.
I find it criminally offensive that almost 50 years after, the Plateau state-born ex-soldier (Gowon) has not shown any form of remorse neither has he thought it necessary to avail us of his own account of the tragic event in form of a book to enable us learn one or two things just so we could bring closure to this and avoid repeating history. Instead, the genocidist is going from state to state subjecting the name of God to ridicule by heading a prayer group known as “Nigeria Prays” after killing not less than 3 million civilians, mostly women and children in a war that could have been avoided had he been a man of his word.
On her own part, the Nigerian state has continued to tread the same path that led to the war. Even worse is her attempt to ensure that the victims were not just denied justice but that the thought of the Biafran war was forcefully deleted from memory.
Less than a million people died in Rwandan genocide, but decades after, people who committed crime during the unfortunate event are still being hunted down and punished. On March 20th,2017, the Catholic Pope tendered an unreserved apology to the Rwanda president for what he termed “sins and failings” of the church during the genocide. And there are memorials in honour of the victims of the 1994 tragedy. The survivors have since found closure and both the Hutus and the Tutsis now live a communal life due to genuine effort at justice and reconciliation by the authorities in Kigali.
Victims of the holocaust are still being gifted with justice, long after their bones have been interred.
But here, in Nigeria, rather than getting justice, victims of the Biafran war are still being subjected to a repeat of the war, though in a repackaged form. The dead civilian victims have not only been denied justice, their children are being killed and sprayed with acid simply for daring to organize a memoral church service in their honour.
I have asked this question before and it bears repeating now:
Why is the Nigerian state acting like a man whose brain has since seceded from the rest of his body with regards to the Biafran question?
For how long will Nigeria keep using brute force and gory displays of violence in a desperate bid to get us to forget Biafra even when all the grave injustices, killings and institutionalized marginalization which birthed the Biafran war are still very much here and still being perpetrated by the same Nigerian state against us?
Does the Nigeria govt really think that by killing the unarmed Biafran youths and disappearing the IPOB leader, Nnamdi Kanu, even while he was still under bail, we will suddenly delete Biafra from our mind, invent closure from nowhere and dance ‘Kumbaya’ as though the event of 1967-70 never happened?
What exactly is the rationale behind this very heinous and despicable attempt to ride roughshod over a people’s war and woe?
In 1967, we wanted justice and fairness and a well restructured Nigeria where we could maximise our full potentials and compete with the rest of the world. But by violating the Aburi Confederacy Accord and chosen to kill over 3 million of us and even continuing on that murderous path till date, coupled with the fact that the current govt of Muhammadu Buhari has since dumped the Report of the last National Confab which was about Restructuring, the Nigerian authorities have proven beyond doubt that they cannot be trusted to restructure this country.
This is exactly why we want our own separate space where we can run our affairs and develop our land without being killed each time some Cartoonist draw the cartoon of Muhammad in far away Denmark.
This is not too much to ask!
Indeed, it is an impossible task trying to reason with a country that is deaf, dumb and blind to the sanctity of human lives.
Nigeria was built on so many things. But certainly, justice ain’t one of those.
History will gift Yakubu Gowon with a fate more cruel than death should he go to the Underworld without coming clean on his role in the moral tragedy that was the Biafran Genocide.
WE WILL ALWAYS REMEMBER