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Remembering Biafra, Whose Biafra?

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Yes, there was indeed a country, a nation birthed on the blood and sufferings of a people whose passions rose high that they demanded secession at any price. Biafra was thus born on the footsteps of the temple of justice and like Carthage in the Third Punic War she had cause.

So no matter how it is put, even with the end of the war, Nigerians as we are, whether of the Igbo outlook or other ethnic groups that make up this behemoth of Africa, must come to terms with the fact that the civil war was never a ‘One Man’ rebellion as it is often wrongly cited, neither was it an attempt by the Igbo people to carve out a sphere of influence for ourselves. No! Rather, it was the flag stand for the survival of a people, both the Igbo and the minorities then in biafra.

That we lost the war after putting up a much vaunting stand for victory as well as survival, does not deny the just nature of our cause then, the world does not operate that way, otherwise Carthage would have defeated Rome and South Vietnam would have been an independent nation this day.

So, I have decided to dedicate this week and the next of my writings to the remembrance of the war, its actors as well as the sufferings and finally legacies of a war that was fought by brothers.

I write this as a Nigerian and as an Igbo lacing this piece with a futuristic warning that we as a people must avoid repeating the same mistakes that led to the war. A second war should it be fought, God forbid, will not be restricted to the East and contingent parts as was witnessed in the first, modern warfare has certainly buoyed man’s capacity for destruction, another war would see mutual destruction, that we cannot have.

So who’s biafra do I want to remember? Should I start from the heroics or should I first examine the gory moments? Do I recount the feel good moments of the war and then proceed to distasteful or vice versa?

Let me first punt on the heroics, and I will do that on all sides. I will recall the sheer brilliance of the biafran army and her people; her ingenuity as well as her resilience in the three years of fighting against such odds leaves her a worthy place in the annals of chivalry and warfare.

I cannot forget the nations that recognised us, Nyerere’s Tanzania, Kaunda’s Zambia, Boigny’s Cote d’Ivoire, Omar Bongo’s Gabon and Papa Doc’s Haiti, nations that saw the geniuses of the biafran ordeal and thought that a diplomatic form of recognition was its own way of attaining justice for us.

To the aid groups that provided help and assistance of food and relief in the war, such as Catholic Relief Services, Cannairelief, Caritas International, World Council of Churches, Holy Ghost Fathers and a number of other groups who airlifted food and supplies following the blockade of biafra in order to save millions of children who were starving.

To the mercenaries, who came to fight for biafra, history will be kind to your memory, I single out Count Von Rossen, the Devil Pilot who fought for biafra for free! I hope to some day visit Sweden and lay a wreath at your graveside.

To the academia, the press and the intellectual movement within and outside biafra, that drew the attention of the world to the struggle of a people for freedom, giants like Uche Chukwumerije, Cyprian Ekwensi, Chinua Achebe, Christopher Okigbo, Ezekwe, Modebe and Frederick Forsythe. Forsyth,  a former BBC journalist resisted efforts by the BBC to do a news management of the war, staying back to report the news from the biafran perspective, though his recent revelations that he had also spied for the MI6 calls into question the credibility of his support from the breakaway republic.

The biafran scientists and administrators who gave the new republic then technological miracles, building weapons such as battle tanks, rockets and guns deserve celebration. Even, with the fall of Bonny and Port Harcourt, which delivered a crushing blow to our fuel needs, biafra still refined fuel to meet the nation’s war needs. A shame that the Nigerian nation nor the nine states that made up the old Eastern Region and the defunct biafra has not been able to leverage upon!

Obviously, they are a number of untold struggles and localised heroics that never saw the light of day, they may not have been on the war front but they too contributed immensely to shaping the war, we remember them, whoever they are and wherever they may be.

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