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  • CIVIL WAR: ‘Nigeria more divided now than in 1967’
  • CIVIL WAR: ‘Nigeria more divided now than in 1967’
    Naira currency: Ajami must go
    A map of Nigeria

    •It’s time to say never again – Kukah, Adebanjo, Amechi, Yakassai, others

    •No basis for Nigeria’s unity – Nnamdi Kanu

    By Clifford Ndujihe, Political Editor

    YEESTERDAY, January 15, marked exactly 51 years of the end of the 30-month Nigerian-Biafran Civil War that claimed an estimated three million lives on both sides.

    After the war, the Nigerian military regime of General Yakubu Gowon declared that there was no victor, no vanquished. He unfurled a three-pronged Programme of reconstruction, rehabilitation and reconciliation to heal the wounds of the war and reintegrate the then Eastern Region, especially the Igbo, into Nigeria.

    Fifty decades and a year after it is arguable if progress has been made on this score. 

    Indeed, a salad of eminent Nigerians, on Thursday, said little or no progress has been made in cementing Nigeria’s unity. In fact, a host of them contended that Nigeria is now more divided than she was in July 1967 when the civil war started because as a country we did not learn lessons from the war.

    In 1967, it was the rest of the country against the Eastern Region. Today, there are more divisions in Nigeria, they said and urged concerted actions to avert another war.

     

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    Drawn from all parts of the country, eminent Nigerians who shared this view include Elder statesmen Chief Mbazulike Amechi, Chief Ayo Adebanjo and Alhaji Tanko Yakassai, Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah, Ambassador Godknows Igali, Senator Shehu Sani, Bishop Sunday Onuoha, Mrs Onyeka Onwenu, Ms Annkio Briggs, Mrs Charity Shekari, Mr. Peter Obi, Dr Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, Professor Pat Utomi, Elder Uma Elaizu, and Mazi Nnamdi Kanu.

    They spoke at a four-hour zoom parley themed: ‘’51 Years After the Nigerian-Biafran Civil War, 2nd Never Again Conference’’ organised by Nzuko Umunna, an Igbo think tank group in partnership with Ovation International and Njenje Media.

    Anchored by Mr Dele Momodu and Maazi Ezeoke, the parley elicited deep concerns from participants, who proffered suggestions on how to ensure that Nigeria is fair to all citizens and did not return to the deadly course of war.

    Most of the speakers agreed on the need to ensure justice, equity, review of the constitution and the elite joining forces to save the country. They also agreed that history of the war and the country should be taught to guide our children.

    Delivering the keynote speech, Matthew Kukah, Bishop of Sokoto Catholic diocese, said Nigeria has not recovered from wounds of the civil war 51 years after because the country failed to adopt resolutions that were meant to heal the wounds of citizens.

    His words: “I have met a lot of people who fought the war who are full of regrets. There is a lot of resentment, anxiety and frustration that we have not learnt any lessons.

    “Fifty-one years after the war, we are still hearing the kind of agitations that ordinarily, with commitment, dedication, focus and the right leadership, we should have put a lot of the anxieties behind us. Unfortunately, they are still with us.

    “We have not been able to forgive ourselves as a people. The wounds of the civil war have not been able to heal. Coups and counter-coups that followed were more or less miniature civil wars by themselves because they threw up the same contradictions, anxieties and feeling of divisiveness across the country.” 

    Kukah, who lamented that due to toxic politics religion has become a tool of destruction, said to get to the point of ‘never again’ we must agree on basic issues and what to remember as Nigerians.

    Urging courage on this score, he said our problem is not fashioning solutions but implementing them. “We should be citizens under one law; there should a level playing field and equal opportunity for all citizens. 

    There should be consequences for good and bad behaviour. If we have all these in place, we can build a country.”

    Chairman of the Planning Committee of the conference, Professor Pat Utomi, said the initiative started as an advocacy “in trying to bring a better understanding of the civil war and its aftermath to the Nigerian people”.

    According to him, this is being pursued in a way that “it will become a source of energy for bringing a new nation. We know that if people learn enough from errors of yesterday, they can, in fact, make more progress than they are currently making.” 

    “One of the biggest challenges of nation-building is the kind of trust deficits that exist which make policy implementation very challenging. A better understanding of the civil war will make it become a ladder that people can climb to higher levels of growth,” he added.

    Pa Ayo Adebanjo, who chaired the event said with justice and equity, restructuring and a people’s constitution, Nigeria would overcome most of her current challenges.

    Thanking the organisers for the noble objectives, he said: ‘’I am happy you invited people who took part in the mistakes of the past to this conference. Our problem is not getting solutions but the courage to correct our problems. Let’s go back to where we started before trouble set in.’’

    Wondering why the South-East is being denied the presidency, he said: “How can we be debating wher the presidency should go in 2023? How can people be part of a country they cannot produce the president? We are paying lip service to one Nigeria. We are discriminating against people, putting square pegs and round holes. Let’s stop it if we want to stay together.’’

    Adebanjo called for a return to the Independence Constitution of 1960 or 1963 Constitution our founding fathers such as Sir Ahmadu Bello, Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe and Chief Obafemi Awolowo agreed to.

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    Chief Mbazulike Amechi, First Republic Minister, who decried the marginalisation of Igbo in Nigeria, said: ‘’I come from the part of Nigeria that was conquered in the civil war. What I am seeing today is no longer the country we founded’’ adding that the Igbo want to be part of Nigeria and should be accommodated instead of being chased away and not allowed to go at the same time.

    Noting that since the military struck the country has not had a people’s constitution, Amechi said the solution lies in returning to fiscal federalism as we had in the First Republic.

    Alhaji Tanko Yakassai, who recalled how what he deemed the largely Igbo coup of 1966 aborted the Nigerian dream, how Colonel Chukuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu led the East to secede, said 51 years after the war a lot of reconciliation, reconstruction and rehabilitation had taken place and Nigerians are living with one another all over the country. He urged joining of forces to deepen democracy and enthrone an egalitarian society.

    He lamented that despite the high level of progress made since the end of the war, there has been continuous call for restructuring and review of the 1999 constitution, insecurity in many parts of the country, agitation for Biafra by IPOB and mistrust among sub-regional groups, adding that we need to learn lessons of the civil war to address the fractional tendencies of today.

    Also speaking, Ambassador Igali said people of the South-South were victims of the civil war as much the South-East and said we need elite consensus, and collaboration to save the country. “There must be rule of law. The constitution that originated from the post-Independence conferences has been abandoned. There should be justice, equity and fairness.”

    On his part, Senator Shehu Sani said the civil war ended 51 years ago but civil battles are still raging. Citing the massive division among youths from different parts of the country on the social media, inequity in promotions and retirements in the military among others, he urged enthronement of justice and equity.

    Dr Hakeem Baba-Ahmed said he is deeply upset because “instead of reconciliation, we are more bitter about the civil war 51 years after. We are still abusing ourselves and learnt nothing from the war.”

    His words: “There should be history. There are several versions of history but we have to agree that the first coup and its aftermath put us on a different trajectory. We keep harping about the past, what about now? We need to recognize that the nation has never been worse than now with massive insecurity, vacuous leadership, and no one is building bridges.

    “The way we are going, the country can be worse. Let’s not deceive ourselves, the civil war can happen again, even worse.”

    Onyeka Onwenu, Annkio Briggs and Shekari decried poor inclusion of women in the affairs of the country.

    Onwenu lamented discrimination against the Igbo and urged the Igbo to think home if they were not wanted in Nigeria.

    Annkio Briggs said Nigeria is paying lip service to unity without addressing the injustice against the Niger-Delta, the Igbo and of course restructuring the country.

    Noting that there were victors and vanquished after the civil war, Briggs decried the neglect of the oil-producing Niger-Delta and gang-up to deny South-East the presidency in 2023.

    “There were victors and vanquished after the war. The way the Igbo were treated shows that there were winners and losers. Those given 20 pounds even if they had millions in the bank were losers. Look at the political situation, the North has no plan to hand over power in 2023. If you consider the sharing of power so far, it has to go to the South-East.

    “If we go into the 2023 elections without a new constitution and restructuring of Nigeria, we are wasting our time. If people feel they want out, if Ndigbo feel they want out, you have to discuss with them. You cannot make Niger-Delta and Ndigbo feel they are the problems of Nigeria. You cannot take oil proceed from Niger-Delta and share it to people who produce nothing and say we are one Nigeria. No, we are not one Nigeria.”

    Leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, caused a stir when in his contribution he said there was no basis for Nigeria’s unity because of inequity, injustice and lack of fair-play. He specifically vilified the Fulani for most of the socio-economic problems in the country.

    Asked if Nigeria could break up without another war, he said yes, citing the example of Yugoslavia.

    One of the organisers, Ngozi Odumuko, said they put up the event because they do not want the terrible things that happened during the war to recur. Going forward, he said a joint committee with representatives from all parts of the country would be set up to sustain the engagement and discourse because ‘’there is no need for any war.’’  

    The post CIVIL WAR: ‘Nigeria more divided now than in 1967’ appeared first on Vanguard News.


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