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The problem of the Igbo race has a tripod stand and origin which subsists as long as the HausaFulani, the Yoruba and the Igbo continue to be riveted in the entity Nigeria.
Through the exuberant display of naivety, treachery and stubbornness by Yakubu Gowon, Obafemi Awolowo and Odumegwu Ojukwu, the light that once glowed with thin yellow flames became extinguished by a thick haze of dark blood.
A lot of essays may have been written about the factors that culminated in the coups and near-genocide that plagued Nigeria in the early and mid-nineties, but enough will never be written about the memories of the Nigerian-Biafran war, especially the pogrom and massacre that bathed the Igbo race, a story that will forever be told in different tongues.
How could I ever forget the story my father promised to tell me at the age of three when I became an adult. I reminded him of it daily, weekly, monthly and yearly until I thought he had no story to tell and that he was rather playing me. But exactly on the eve of my adulthood, the day I turned eighteen, he sat me on an earthen stool and told me stories that I had never read any book written, different in many facts from the heartrending stories about the Biafran war told by Chinua Achebe, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and many other bold and concerned Igbo writers. Such stories as to how he survived the war.
How my granduncle, an acclaimed Palm wine tapper was shot in the anus on top the palm tree by a young soldier with heavy tribal marks and how he had fallen and died, sticking his brains into a spear-shaped stump. How my grandmother with a gun to her neck was forced to watch her own house help, strapped to a dead stem of a palm tree as three heavy stomached Nigerian soldiers tore through and forth her amidst blood and thorns sticking into her tender flesh.
Ugly stories! Stories I had promised him to replicate in a yet to be written title- The Heart of an Igbo Man.
“The epiphany made us realise that Nigeria did not belong we, as Liberians would put it. ‘This country belong we’ was the popular Pidgin English matrix from their Liberation struggle” wrote Achebe in There was a country.
The audacity of General Ojukwu to have declared the sovereign State of Biafra in the wee hours of Tuesday, May 30, 1967, might have been quite commendable especially having to witness his people suffer in a country that was said to be their own and after all attempts to a peaceful resolution such as the summit in Aburi, Ghana was flaunted under the selfish counsel and demand of a ‘third party’.
“By taking this action Ojukwu had committed us to a full-blown war. Nigeria would never be the same again!” Chinua Achebe wrote.
But if thousands of the Igbo men, women and children could die of bullets and hunger, if their families and loved ones spared by the war could mourn them with hope and fortitude believing that they died in the fight for freedom, if the most revered African poet, Chris Okigbo could take to the gun and die in pursuit of Ojukwu’s declaration, if Chinua Achebe could be co-opted into the struggle for the Sovereign State of Biafra and later refuse to believe that Nigeria be referred to as one indivisible entity when a certain region (the Igbo race) has over time been utterly marginalized in all respect, If I, coming two generations after could still shed tears at this age each time I recall my father’s ordeal during the Nigerian-Biafran war, then Ojukwu’s parting word as accredited to him before his death: “I believe in the unity of Nigeria. Nigeria is an indivisible country”, casts a shadow on the veracity of his intent, and leaves tears of sorrow and deep regret.
Many have said that whatever Ojukwu’s reason for this statement was, whether for his carcas to be given the ‘forsaken’ national burial, it was the biggest shame of all time and that he should be exhumed and flogged the Igbo way, or should have at best died intestate.
This article was written by Obinna Oke
Follow him on Twitter @ObinnaOke