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Monuments of war – Part 2

By Patrick Dele Cole
08 August 2016   |   3:05 am
Nigerian Civil War has no memorials, not even the generals are remembered. Maybe a few roads are named after them. Nigeria has no cemeteries for heroes.


Continued from yesterday

Nigerian Civil War has no memorials, not even the generals are remembered. Maybe a few roads are named after them. Nigeria has no cemeteries for heroes. Do we even have a generally accepted idea who a hero is? Where are our museums in Nigeria? A proposed national museum in Nigeria was sold to a developer who turned it into a mall – the City Mall in Onikan, Lagos. Most states have no museums.

We went to ECOMOG, spent over US$ 11 billion. Remembrance monuments are nonexistent.

The Biafra war was painful, costly and existential to Nigeria. There are no memorials. The Biafrans achieved a great deal through industry and ingenuity. Those achievements have to be celebrated. Many ex-Biafrans have written in countless memoires and books about their several achievements during the civil war. Nobody has paid the least attention to these achievements. The Germans lost the First and Second World War yet no one doubts their ingenuity, their achievements: the rest of the West have drawn on this progress and achievement: in fact even the nuclear bomb was hugely contributed by the Germans who also revolutionised nuclear technology leading to the making of the atomic bomb that ended the war in 1945 after the U.S. dropped it in Japan.

Now, instead of these commemorations about Biafran achievements, there are useless and wrong signals coming from the so called new Biafrans, thereby going to confirm, if one was ever necessary, that Nigeria is an unserious country.

What do we teach our children? What do we teach them as lessons we learnt from a debilitating civil war? Is it that we went to war so that no man may be enslaved, discriminated against; did we go to build a nation where individuals can live in an atmosphere to achieve their full potential? Or was it a war of revenge, vindictive in its denouement which included genocide, evisceration of pregnant women, horrors of starving children. It is true that General Gowon declared no victor, no vanquished: that Nigeria had to be reconstructed, reconciled and rehabilitated. Have we succeeded? Why is there so much discontent and distrust? Who is reaching out for all? Do we have a country where tribe and tongue differ but opportunities are equal?

15th January 1966 was date of the first coup in Nigeria, which some have dubbed as an Ibo coup. 29th July 1967 was the date of the Gowon/Danjuma coup which has also been known as the revenge coup, the Northern coup. These coups set Nigeria on a path which inexorably led to the civil war, which ended in 1970. What has Nigeria leant from these events? Has our attitude changed when faced with choices between the Hausa and the Ibo?

A civil war should end with a conviction that never again would we do those things which were responsible for the war. The civil war in the United States was about slaves and about upholding those lofty ideas incorporated in the Declaration of Independence and the subsequent constitution of the U.S. enthroning the principle that all men born equal: their inalienable right to freedom, the supremacy of the rule of law and other provisions establishing democracy, etc.

The Nigerian Civil War ended with similar pronouncement but the practice of politics since then has been to emphasize the things which divide us!! Thus furthering a feeling of suspicion and parochialism in all we do (except when Nigeria is playing football).

Do we, have a government we believe in, a system where no one is oppressed? Are we coming nearer together or further drifting apart? Can we have any figures about anything which we believe in as Nigerians? Do we see the spread of the local government as fair? Do we believe in our census figures? Or view all figures with suspicion and through political lenses? Can we have a true believable census? Do we really understand what we mean by restructure –ultimately it is a belief that we do not trust ourselves to live together peaceably in one country? We are saying that we should move a little apart, return sovereignty from the centre to some conglomerate of states and finance ourselves not one nation but in congeries or units that are more believable?

Many years ago a plane load of Israelis on their way to Tel Aviv was hijacked and flown to Entebbe. This year marks the 40th year of the Israeli rescue of hostages in Entebbe. The Israelis remember; the Ugandans have forgotten!! Maybe that explains a great deal about Israelis and the Ugandans. Israel would not allow one Israeli to die in vain. Can Uganda say same?

Barak and Netanyahu were the leader and deputy leader of Entebbe Rescue. Both became Ministers of Defence and Prime Ministers in Israel. Today, Netanyahu is going around Africa telling us how to deal with counter terrorism. The Israelis within themselves are more fundamentally divided than Nigerians they are united in their belief in the Jewish homeland that must never again be lost or threatened.


Dr. Cole is a former Ambassador to Brazil.