BY CHARLES ADINGUPU

For many years, renowned writer, Professor Chinua Achebe was in search of a vehicle to convey the anguish of the Nigerian civil war. Today, the godfather of African literature whose pen boot is lace with controversy, conveys his personal memoir of the Biafran Nigerian civil war in his latest work, “There Was A Country.” Since the publication of the work, litany of criticisms have continued to trail issues raised in the book.

Vestiges of the over 42 years Nigeria civil war resonates like a phoenix from the ashes when renowned literary giant, Professor Chinua Achebe stoke the fire in his recent works, “There Was A Country,” a personal recollection of his Biafra experience when the mantle still rages in wild fire.

The 333-page book chronicles how the Igbos were traumatised during the botched war that puts paid to their agitations for autonomy. The book, written in four parts relayed the personal experience of the writer  through whose eyes events unfold.

Beyond all these, Acbebe threw up contentious issues which culminated, according to him, Nigerians’ grand design to exterminate the Igbo people from the face of the earth. This calculation, Achebe posited was predicated on a holy jihad by mainly Islamic extremists in the Nigerian army and supported by the policies of economic blockade that prevented shipments of the humanitarian aid and food  supplies to the needy in Biafra.

The celebrated writer queries why there were 100,000 casualties on the much larger Nigerian side compared with more than 2 million – mainly children – Biafrans killed.

The master prose writer heaped the catastrophy suffered by the Igbos during the civil war on the wartime cabinet of General Yakubu Gowon, spearheaded by late Chief Obafemi Awolowo, who, he accused of initiating diabolical policies. A statement credited Awolowo and eventually echoed by his team reads: “all is fair in war, and starvation is one of the weapons of war. I don’t see why we should feed our enemies fat in order for them to fight harder.”

Beyond this mundane premise, Achebe held that at the end of the war, Awolowo and his cohorts compelled the regime to adopt a banking policy that nullified bank account operated by the Igbos. Consequently, a paltry sum of 20 Nigerian pounds was approved for each Igbo depositor irrespective of the amount of deposit.

However, to further pauperise the Igbos and strangulate their economy, the then Nigeria’s leaders embargoed the importation of second hand clothing and stockfish which were the mainstay of the Eastern economy.

For most Nigerians,Professor Chinua Achebe has threw the ‘Arrow of God’ in his recent work, “There Was A Country”, and things are “No Longer  At Ease” and except otherwise, ‘Things May Fall Apart,” particularly, as he tried to decipher ‘The Trouble with Nigeria” by building” “An Ant Hills of the Savannah.” He, Achebe may not be “A Man of the People” if the Yoruba decides to take him serious word for word.

For the likes of Yoruba  leader, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, Achebe’s book has shown that the writer has pathological hatred for the Yoruba people. He dismissed the allegations against Chief Awolowo.

In similar vein, the factional leader of the Odua Peoples’ Congress (OPC) Chief Frederick Fasehun expressed disappointment accusing Achebe of living in the past for attempting to exhume episodes of the civil war which ended almost 42 years ago.

Against this backdrop, Fasehun advised the Igbos to  jettison without hesitation anybody who tries to remind them of their sordid past but they should rather concentrate and align with other ethnic groups to realise their presidential aspiration.

The national president of Arewa Youth Consultative Forum, Alhaji Yerima Shittima believed that Achebe’s book, ‘There Was A Country,” remains a threat to the fragile peace the country is currently embroiled.

But for the Afenifere leader, Pa Reuben Fasoranti, who accused the Biafran solders for ambushing the food and other aids sent to civilians in the Biafran enclave, also accused Achebe of being prejudicial against the Yoruba people.

Also elderstatesman, Balarabe Musa insisted that issues raised by Achebe are no more relevant again unless the Igbos have any score to settle.

The Professor Anya O. Anya led Ndigbo Lagos has described events that wrapped up the civil war as unnecessary particularly so, that the Igbos were forging an alliance and hammering solutions for the country’s protracted socio-economic, political  and developmental problems.

Ndigbo Lagos enthused that what was needed at the moment was sustaining the unfolding harmonious relations between the Igbo and Yoruba nations.

But the Chief Protagonist of the Nigerian civil war, General Yakubu Gowon stated that if there was no secession, Nigeria would not have the civil war. Awolowo was not the cause of the secession. Why then are they bringing him into this controversy?

The retired army General insisted that he and his team did what was godly possible to bring the war to an abrupt end and stated unequivocally, “we have no cause to regret what we did.”

However, for some Nigerians, Professor Achebe may have introduced a new chapter in the political literature of Nigeria’s democratic journey moreso, now that history as a subject is gradually disappearing from the nation’s education curriculum.

Also, for others, it may be raw ploy to win sympathy for the Igbos in their zest and quest for political emancipation particularly as regards taking a shot at the presidency come 2015. Whichever  views may be ventilated, the renowned writer has relayed his personal memoir.

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