Achebe/Awo war: A plea for sanity –2

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By Dele Sobowale

“I must practice moderation and say that peace is better than the finest war in the world”, Catherine the Great, Empress of Russia, 1762-1796.  (VANGUARD BOOK OF QUOTATIONS p 183).

After decades of war mongering,one of the most powerful women ever to walk the earth discovered the truth – war often does not pay; winners and losers pay horrible prices. When the Japanese first attacked America at the start of World War II, they never knew that, in retaliation, two atomic bombs will land on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 – killing more than 4 million and maiming millions more in less than two weeks. The Americans, meanwhile carry, till today, the guilty conscience associated with unleashing that unprecedented horror on other human beings. War is hell. Must we waste our resources, including time, on it?

Despite the open declaration last week that I will neither defend nor condemn Achebe or Awo, but, instead, I will continue to plead with the combatants on all sides, not two, (because unfortunately the memoirs have induced reactions from many ethnic groups apart from the Igbo and Yoruba), to let’s stop this needless controversy. Below are some of the replies which were received as a result. I reproduce them with a great deal of sadness because collectively they lead us further down the road to disunity – which will serve nobody’s interests.

Let me digress to draw our collective attention to two events which passed unnoticed because we were too busy raking up the embers of ethnic hatred. Rwanda, a tiny African country was elected to fill the African seat in the United Nations Security Council for the next two years.

That such a monumental test of national prestige was in progress was lost in the recriminations about the past. And there was a second assault on our national image. Ghana is now busy enforcing their own version of “Nigeria must go” by passing a law which had indigenized certain categories of trade in that country.

Nigerians, especially Igbo and Yoruba, constitute the largest group likely to suffer hardships as a result. Forget Bakassi, which we lost to the same sort of internal discord. As the old saying goes, “united we stand, divided we fall”. We seem determined to fall in defence of “truths” – the cores of which are not acknowledged by both sides while deliberately and vehemently arguing superficialities.

One of the senders had asked that his GSM number not be published. As usual, that wish will be respected while the message is presented.

“0815-260-7443. Oga Dele, at your level of development in age you should kwow that calling a spade by its only name a spade is not of impotance but very vital. You’ve not turned to anything, mediator, or peacemaker because you are being economical with d truth.

In Igboland, were two people are fighting, one must be guilty and the other innocent. Belive it or you forget it. JUSTICE is more important than your fake unity. Sir, if at your age you see two sons fighting and there and then you can’t tell the guilty one shut up, then your FRANKLY SPEAKING is madness……

“GSM Number withheld. I lost my father, mother and two sisters, when Baifra soldiers came to our town in Edo State. They raped my mother and sisters and killed my father. One sister died from abortion when she got belle from the Ibo beasts. Over 20,000 women and girls from 7 yrs were raped. Na Hausa Fulani killed dem, but it was we they attacked. Awo did not kill enough of them. We young Edos are waiting to clear Kobokobo people from our place.

“0805-666-5544. Deeply disappointed with ur article of Oct 2I . R u implying that TRUTH has to be buried for the survival of Nigeria? R u implying that the presumed sin of Awolowo is taken as  collective of all Yoruba? I would rather think that Nigeria will be well served when the truth of the unfortunate is discussed..I’m Igbo and am the first to condemn Ojukwu for ruining us..

0803-7I2-9538 What you have is a bunch of relevance seekers splitting hairs for no reason. If we want to exorcise the ghost of the Civil War forever, we have to confront the truth…..

0805-77I-3057 If Achebe (80) believes in Nigeria as you do, he would, ab initio, have held his pen when he he knew that re-opening old wound at this time may likely turn the country upside down”.

0807-607-045I. Thank God Awo was able to defend himself before his death. He even stoutly reacted to Ojukwu’s diatribe before his demise…I hope the Prof is not warming up for another war as an Igbo leader. Layi.

0708-296-2679 Yorubas should drive Ibos out of the Southwest immediately starting with Lagos State”.

Now you have read the “truths” to which some people hold. There are more than I can publish. But, none of them said anything new on both sides. And there is no “truth” that is not being contested. So how can anyone want to judge his own case based on his own “truth”? We will get nowhere this way.

Let me close this second part by recalling a real personal experience. I drove from Kano to Lagos in I984 for the Christmas holidays; went to Campus area of Lagos Island and saw two fellows about to start a fight. One told me to mind my business, because he was certain he would beat the other senseless.

The other also told me to leave them alone. It was going to be a fight to the finish. Each claimed he was in the right. I left them. Less than thirty minutes after there was a terrific knock on the door of our house. The two guys were bleeding profusely from cuts inflicted on each other and no taxi was willing to carry them to General Hospital. Those who came were there to plead with me to convey them to the hospital because only somebody like me could get them treated on a public holiday.

What would you have done in my shoes? War is hell; we better think again before we start another violent conflict on account of “truths”. If care is not taken another one is on the way. Even, to 08I5-260-7443 who descended into personal attack, my plea remains “give peace a chance”. That is the best legacy we can leave for the dead, the living and the unborn.

However, if anyone is still spoiling for a fight, they are welcome to it. I have an idea whose blood will be spilled most because it will be an unfair contest – for reasons I don’t want to disclose.

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