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Armistice Day and the lessons of war

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NOVEMBER 11th is a special day in history for many reasons quite beyond its poetic resonance. It is the Armistice Day, which is a commemoration of the armistice signed at Compiegne, France, to end World War (I) between the Allies and Germany at the 11th hour of  November 11, 1918. The armistice was followed by the Treaty of Versailles the following year.

As this year marked the 100th anniversary of the Armistice Day (which is observed as a public holiday in many countries) about 60 world leaders (including our own President Muhammadu Buhari) gathered in Paris, France, to mark an event which, when it first took place in 1918, the British Prime Minister, Lloyd George, had enthused: “I hope we may say that thus, this fateful morning, came to an end all wars”.

Future events were to prove him wrong because in 1939 a more nihilist World War (II) again broke out between the Allies and Germany and its Axis allies. Once again, the Allies prevailed, but the cost of the war was so staggering that the winners made better efforts to appease the losers and thus prevent the outbreak of a World War (III) in these atomic and nuclear ages which could extinct mankind.

It is generally believed that the Versailles Treaty had, rather than cage the Germans radicalised them, and triggered the rise and popularity of an Adolph Hitler. But after WWII, the Allies learnt their lessons and created the Marshall Plan, which helped in the massive rehabilitation of war-broken Germany and the rest of Europe.

World leaders also followed up with the upgrade of the League of Nations to the United Nations which promotes international cooperation and diplomatic approach to the prevention and management of conflicts between nations. It has helped prevent wars among the major powers in Europe, America and Asia.

Here in Nigeria, we also fought a civil war. There was a “No Victor, No Vanquished” declaration. Nigeria’s war leader, General Yakubu Gowon, also initiated the three “Rs” – Reconstruction, Rehabilitation and Reconciliation, to reintegrate the former Biafrans and secure the post-war unity of the country.

The sincerity in the implementation of these otherwise noble policies remains a subject of intense debate among Nigerians. It is, however, beyond doubt that almost 50 years after the civil war, Nigeria occupies unenviable spots in most indices of development only comparable to war-ravaged and failed countries. The country remains one but lacks basic unity.

Unlike the Allied Powers, we failed to manage the fallouts of our civil war to promote unity and development because while the guns stopped booming, the war continued in our hearts. Nigeria is in need of massive reconstruction, rehabilitation and reconciliation. But that can only come when the wars in our hearts end.


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