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50 years after the Nigerian Civil War (1)

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EVEN though January 15, was the day General Yakubu Gowon’s Federal Military Government formally received the instruments of surrender from Col. Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu’s secessionist Republic of Biafra, January 13, 1970 was the actual date that the guns went silent on both sides.

To mark the 50th anniversary of the end of the war, two separate and significant events took place. In Lagos, Nzuko Umunna, an Igbo intellectual group and Ndi Igbo Lagos reached out to their compatriots and held the Never Again conference at the Muson Centre, Onikan Lagos.

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On the same day, the Southern and Middle Belt Leaders’ Forum, SMBLF, consisting of leaders from the South East, South-South, South West and Middle Belt gathered and issued a communique entitled: “Another Clouds of War Gather Over Nigeria”.

While the one was wishing that the events that led to the war that claimed over two million lives should not happen again, the other declared that a more dangerous, multi-frontal version is already upon us.

Ominously, the two remaining zones of the country – North West and North East – did not feature in these two events. None of the Northern personalities invited to the Never Again conference showed up, sent representatives or apologies.

While the South-based media celebrated these events on their front pages on Tuesday, January 14, 2020, all the North-centred media were totally aloof to them.

These diametric departures from this historic issue painted the picture more vividly than any other indicator that Nigeria as a collective entity never learned anything from the civil war.

Most countries emerge from wars with the bitter lessons learned to build stronger, more united and prosperous futures.

After the Second World War, the major powers rejigged the League of Nations because it failed in its objective to prevent another universal conflict after the First World War.

Secondly, the Allied Powers thoroughly rehabilitated and reintegrated the defeated Axis Powers, especially Germany and Japan, as members of the Western bloc of nations. This brought peace and prosperity for all members.

After the genocide of 1994 which claimed nearly a million people, Rwanda under a visionary leader, Paul Kagame, stopped hating and embraced forgiveness.

Tiny Rwanda, 25 years after the genocide, has become a giant African example.

That the Nigerian experience is a total failure is beyond argument. Fifty years after the civil war, Nigeria’s developmental indices can only be compared to those of war-torn countries and failed nations in terms of infrastructure, education, health, human development, quality of democracy and governance, rule of law, human rights and security; including food security.

The failure came out of the mere lip service paid to post-war reconciliatory policies which if we had faithfully implemented, would have healed the nation’s wounds.


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