Donu Kogbara

Childrens’ voices
Donu Kogbara

I WAS recently invited by the organiser, Roz Amechi, to speak at the launch of Through The Eyes Of The Child, an anthology of the Civil War that is unique because it’s the first time that the Biafran story has been told solely from the perspectives of youngsters who lived through that harrowing period in Nigeria’s dramatic history.

Compiled by John Mozie, Charles Spiropoulos and Edozie Ezeife, who are elders now but minors in the late 1960s, the book is dedicated to “the children who lost their lives in Biafra. The unseen, unheard innocents who paid the price for a cause that was not theirs…[and to] the survivors who bear the burden of untold memories.”

Introduced and reviewed by two talented Southern and Northern authors and poets, Dike Chukwumerije and Salamatu Sule, the book is so moving, fascinating and educational that I couldn’t put it down till I’d finished it and highly recommend it to anyone who wants to develop a deeper understanding of our collective and complex past. 

Compassionate and heroic gentleman

I already knew a lot about Biafra because my father (who by the way, is briefly mentioned in the book) was Ojukwu’s “ambassador” in the UK. This book taught me even more than I already knew.

For example, I had no idea until I read the chapter written by Okey Ndibe, the novelist/journalist whose parents were based in Yola when war broke out, that the then Lamido of Adamawa was a compassionate and heroic gentleman who “was uninfected by the malignant thirst for blood… and vowed that no innocent person would be dealt death on his watch” and provided cars in which frightened Igbos were rescued from mob violence, taken to the Lamido’s palace to shelter and helped to escape to their homes in the South East.

Brigadier General Saleh Bala (retired) also spoke at the launch and made the point that good and genuine commitment to the One-Nigeria project are not restricted to any ethnic group and talked about Igbos who had supported him over the years.

For me, the most interesting part of the event occurred when I asked the mostly Igbos in the audience whether they would be ready to fight another war today if identical circumstances arise.

NOT ONE person said “yes”. The general consensus seemed to be that war should never be an option, even when provocation prevails and dignity is at stake. 

Hmmm!!! These were definitely not IPOB sympathisers!!! Let me sign off this week by sharing excerpts from the slightly edited speech given by the launch chairman, Eyinnaya Abaribe, Minority Senate Leader:

Who is a ‘Biafran’?

FORMER Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, says President Buhari, through his actions and policies, has only succeeded in creating “Biafrans” in Nigeria. Biafra is no longer the word it used to be.

It has now metamorphosed into a synonym for injustice, unfairness, discrimination, marginalisation and unjust treatment. Indeed Nigeria has come to a sorry pass with the present administration…which is the worst we have ever had…a failure.

But to get to our topic today, which is the book: No child starts a war. It is the adults who through their insensitive actions and inability to reach compromises or who through a warped sense of superiority or abject incompetence sentence people into avoidable conflicts.

In today’s Nigeria, from the Chibok girls to Dapchi to Jangegbe to Kankara, to all other schools in states, children are again bearing the brunt of adult failures to provide an environment for them to live their lives in safety and freedom.

To all intents and purposes Nigeria is now at war in most parts of the country. Where our warplanes are making sorties within our borders and even one of them being shot down by so-called bandits, tell me what else to call it. Life has become brutal and short for adults and children alike in many parts of Nigeria as was witnessed during the unfortunate civil war.

This book is a wake-up call to the Nigerian elite who have put their petty grievances and idiosyncrasies above national interest. Who in pandering to their personal interests, have endangered all the 200 million-plus citizens of this potentially great country.

I took the time to read the book and found all of the stories very interesting and poignant. However, I would like readers to pay special attention to the story by Arthur Harris-Eze on page 155 about Buhari as a battalion commander in Awka in 1969.

The Buhari depicted here that was so empathetic and kind sounds like a far cry from the inscrutable and stoic Buhari that we know as at today. What could have been the reason for the change? Maybe this would be a topic for researchers to unravel. As stated in the foreword of the book, more than two million souls were sacrificed to prevent the breakup of Nigeria.

Fifty years later, we are back on the starting block with a danger of the same dismemberment lurking in every corner and the managers of our polity seemingly helpless to prevent our slide to Armageddon. How many souls would be lost this time if we don’t get our act together and work hard to prevent the looming catastrophe?

In the story by Nnaemeka Nnolim who, adding a postscript on page 239, quoted Winston Churchill who said: “Never, never, never believe that any war will be smooth and easy… the statesman who yields to war fever must realise that once the signal is given he is no longer the Master of Policy but the slave of unforeseeable and uncontrollable events… always remember, however, sure you are that you can easily win, that there would not be a war if the other man did not think he also has a chance. Vietnam and Afghanistan on my mind.

This book is a must-read for those who care about Nigeria and the present trajectory that it has taken. It’s a book that sends a warning to those who are making decisions without caring about the consequences of their actions on the vulnerable in our society…..the children!!!

The book can be purchased via Amazon or the following link: https://paystack.com/buy/through-the-eyes-of-the-child-rmnqaw

It will also be available in selected Nigerian bookshops next week.

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