History is not a thing that Nigerians take seriously, it's tragic but it is the truth of things. We as a people have a knack for twisting things to fit into whatever narrative lets us remain pointedly oblivious as the world around us burns to the ground. This is the crux of our failure as a nation, this willful ignorance; the 'wetin I no know no go kill me’ mentality that is driving this country towards certain destruction. It is for this reason that I spent a greater part of life in Nigeria with only but a patchwork of information about an event that was at the time considered a turning point in African history. Here I was, a full-blooded 'Biafran' as it were, living in Enugu, in the heart of the nation that 'almost never was' and all I knew was that at some point the igbos decided they 'no dey do again' and Nigeria was strongly opposed to the notion. This is the jerry-built version of events that the younger generation has been fed through the years.
The funny thing about time is that our perception of it changes, it slows down or speeds up; depending on the vantage or stronghold as the case may be. It is easy to think that the war was such a long time ago because so much has happened in between; that has slowly blurred out the events of the past such that they have started to take on the guise of a maiden's tale, told for the fancy of women and children. For the benefit of those who may not know, what is officially referred to as the Nigerian civil war started on the 6th of July 1967 and came to a halt on the 15th of January 1970 with a declaration of surrender made by General Phillip Effiong just a day after The General of the People's army released a statement from Ivory Coast where he was on exile in which he stated that 'Biafra lives, the struggle continues..." A statement that rang hollow at the time but is proving itself to be more true each day, the struggle did continue. That was some 50 odd years ago, a life time to the average millennial whose parents were probably only just children themselves when the war ended, but a generation removed and the story shifts. Our grandparents lived through these atrocities, grandparents whose reveries about Nigeria mainly followed the lines of how Nigeria is but a shadow of its former glory. Grandparents who speak as if that period in Nigeria's history simply did not happen or perhaps didn't happen in Nigeria. I find that the more I learn about the Biafran war the more I resent the fact that more was not done to chronicle our history.
There has been a lot of speculation amongst academia and I'm sure in some dark recesses of iboland in between gulps of beer and shouts of 'Nna shattap dia", about what exactly caused the war of 'The People's Nation'. Where it is undeniable that the war was deeply rooted in tribalism, one cannot but take into account the befuddled political history of Nigeria. Having said that, it would therefore be duplicitous to lay blame on any one factor as being a distinct cause. Some have even argued that what is being described as the Nigerian Civil War cannot be in fact called that in the strictest sense if one chooses to be a stickler for technicalities as some people are won't to be. James Fearon who is an authority on the subject of civil wars defines a civil war as "a violent conflict within a country fought by organized groups that aim to take power at the center or in a region, or to change government policies" . As we all know the Igbos did not in fact want to take power at the centre and they had long moved past fighting to change government policies, they wanted separate, to exercise the right to self-determine. It has been proffered that Gowon entered into the war not out of a genuine desire to keep the country together but rather to further the selfish aims of the British Imperialists as well as to secure Northern economic interests which were tied greatly to the oil that slowly swallowed Nigeria's economy until it spit out a grotesque apparition [fed by a commodity that is proving even today to be a curse]; that is still slowly crumbling as instability in the country comes to a head. Conversely there are those that argue that Ojukwu cajoled the ibos into a fighting a war they couldn't win just to assuage some personal vendetta he had against Gowon. This portrait of the war being based on Ojukwu's ego which has been described as gargantuan would be an easy one to paint because the man himself feeds naturally into that portrayal with his strong ideals and his distinct brand of overpowering charisma, which together proved to be quite the potent combination. Who is to say that both these train of thoughts cannot dock at the same station?
One thread that runs along along the entire fabric of the motley of renderings that surround this war is that the conflict can be by all accounts considered a needless war. Having said that, one cannot help but also discern that the conflict was concurrently inevitable as even the most cursory glance of Nigeria's tumultuous history will reveal. Nigeria the nation was the machination of the British who in the carving out of their vast empire in West Africa paid no heed to anything but how easy it would be exploit the resources of the indigenous people and do so with as minimal interference with said people as could be managed. And so it came to be that our nation Nigeria was born; described as "... an uneasy marriage of over two hundred tribal groupings, many with linked histories and cultural similarities, others with very different roots and ways of living" by John C. Merriam in 1968 after he had spent two months in Nigeria with the operation crossroads of Africa building an open air market in Ojo village which was about twenty miles north west of what was the then capital of Nigeria, Lagos. The result was ethnic rivalries that manifested as a light drizzle to start and almost immediately evolved into a thunderous storm as independence came with the concept of self-determination and a new generation of Nigerians who were grossly underprepared to handle the Pandora's box that was ruling a nation like Nigeria.
'For the people, by the people', but the people in Nigeria were quickly becoming a disposable consideration. The elite could afford to have informed-even if sometimes ignorant and deeply prejudiced-conversations about the state of things as they truly were, the masses however were left to look for their explanations as to why things were and as is human nature they started to point fingers at each other. While the leaders fought their war of egos guised in genuine interest for the nation, the nation itself was diving into the pits of chaos that culminated in the Nigerian civil war. The ethnic divide was unfortunately used as a fuel to fire the furnace of the ambitions of those who saw Nigeria as chattel. The use of provocative propaganda was employed by both the Nigerian army and the Biafrans to rile people up, preying on insecurities and ignorance. It said a lot about the farce of unity of in Nigeria at just how easy it was for the idea of violence on such a grand scale to take root. What followed after was devastation, the likes of which assured Nigeria's place in the history books for the sheer horror it elicited from the whole world which at some point was forced to pay attention to what was happening, thanks to the work of journalists who found that the war made for good news ironically.
It says a lot about the farce of unity in Nigeria today and at how easy it is for the likes of some poor man's version of extremists like Shekau and Nnamdi Kanu whom the Nigerian Government have managed to mismanage into full blown terror alerts each and every time…. It's almost comical the efficacy with which they manage to bungle up such situations. It is the only reason why a charlatan like the extant leader of the IPOB would be able to drive a supposedly civilized society into chaos using only malformed idealisms and a fucking dress robe. At the risk of sounding like an alarmist, which I am, I think the violence is only going to get worse because the situation in Nigeria for the people does not appear to be getting better. I suspect it is not about to get better. As resilient as Nigerians pride themselves in being, there will come a time when the ineptitude of the ruling class and the increasingly deplorable conditions in which we as a people are subjected to living out our existence will reach such points where extreme violence will be an instinctual response for the majority. We will evolve into a nation of feral nationalists and that is the worst nationalist to be. Of course this is just one woman's opinion fueled by the bubble of youth and some vestiges of privilege admittedly. But it does make you think.