By Kamike Nwachukwu
Obari Gomba of the University of Port Harcourt in an essay titled; Power As Motif in Aniebo’s Rearguard Actions quoted popular theorist and polemicist, Chinweizu as saying that,” it must be a strange war indeed, which fails to produce literature.”
And true to this assertion, all known wars in history have produced great literatures, whether in the form of fiction, faction or film. Accordingly, Nigeria like all other countries of the world that have engaged in wars has also witnessed a great deal of writings on the subjects of the war.
Surprisingly, over 40 decades after the regrettable fratricidal war, a good number of literature have been written by both Nigerians and foreigners in an effort to document that important historical phase of the nation and as well, lend some interpretative template for a proper evaluation of the cost of the war on both Nigeria and Biafra.
In doing this, writers from diverse background have attempted to chronicle the war narrative in different genres; and especially through the platform of history and fiction. From the genre of faction Some of the titles that have attempted to preserve this narrative thread are; The Making of African Legend by British journalist, Fredrick Foresight, Why We Struck by Ademoyega, On A Darkling Plain by Ken Saro Wiwa, Nigeria’s Five Majors by Gbulie Ben, The Nigerian Revolution and The Biafran War by Alexander Madiebo, The Biafran War and Igbo in Contemporary Nigerian Politics and Biafra Revisited by Herbert Ekwe Ekwe.
However, it is in the area of imaginative literature that the war has generated very profound outburst of writing. By employing the imaginative skill, writers have critically engaged the many dimensions of the war.
For instance; such writers like INC Aniebo, Isdore Okpewho, Akachi Ezeigbo,Eddie Iro, Chimamanda Adichie and Elechi Amadi have written to examine the different strata of the war ranging from the plight of the Minorities, women and children and love relationship during the crises.
Udenwa writing from the point of view of history, engagingly provides what one might describe as an eye witness, participant player and self appointed critique’s perspective of the war.
A two time governor of Imo State and one time, Minister of Trade and Commerce, Udenwa’s account of the 30 months war, recounted from personal experience takes the reader right into the battle field; and especially, to the side of Biafra, to feel first hand the frustrating challenges under which the war was prosecuted.
Written in 258 pages of seven chapters, the book, firstly, takes on a historical excursion of Nigeria’s socio- political history as an important way of contextualizing the very origin of the country’s deep seated leadership malaise.
The work explains how the various colonial constitutions foisted on Nigerians from the 1922 Clifford Constitution through the 1960 constitution helped to institute and fan the amber of division, tribalism, minority’s and all the other forms of political and economic imbalances that have continued to hunt the nation till date.
Taking the reader properly into the battle front, the authour, who fought and commanded some battalions in some of the critical war sectors narrated how poor logistics, hunger, poor fire power and training constituted in undermining the efforts of Biafran war soldiers.
Particular incidents as recounted by the author that happened in Onitsha, Elelele, Owerri and Oguta war sectors are so pathetic as the account portrays the Biafran soldiers as fighting like blind folded soldiers or better put, suicide armies committed to self extermination as a result of poor logistic supports.
Writing about the poor logistic support, Udenwa on page 100 writes that:
“ After the troops had dinner, the scanty ammunition that was available was distributed and troops deployed to the forward locations waiting for the starting time( H-Hour.) Meanwhile, an operation order was issued to be preceded by artillery bombardment, mortar cover was also to be available through out the operation. There was inadequate information on the exact position of the Nigerian troops. All we knew was that they were somewhere ahead of us.”
This was the plight of the soldiers most of the time, told from the point of view of one participant, but which captures deeply shared collective experiences. As a result of poor communication gadgets, incidences are recounted about when Biafran soldiers on opposite fronts ended up shooting and killing themselves without knowing.
Many lives too, were loss according to Udenwa’s account as result of poor logistic support for the evacuation of wounded soldiers from the battle front. To compound the matter became the inability of Biafran war ammunitions to matching the power fire of the Nigerian troop.
Nigeria/Biafra Civil War: My Experience is not only an interesting read because the author from hindsight of experience, offers some of what he considers critical solution to post Nigeria’s civil war crises; but more importantly, provides a vital literature on war history, prosecution and management. The account is in fact, a very compelling read, told frankly, and much unbiased in presentation.