From Paul Osuyi, Asaba
NOBEL Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, has frowned at the practice of naming national institutions and infrastructure after leaders known to have committed grievous harm against humanity.
Prof. Soyinka bared his mind in Asaba, Delta State capital, as a special guest of honour at the ceremony marking the 50th commemoration of Asaba Massacre with theme: “In Pursuit of Rebirth”.
According to Soyinka, to glorify the perpetrators of the Asaba Massacre with streets and important public infrastructure desecrates the memory of the innocent people killed by federal troops in 1967. His words: “How do we talk to future generations about corruption if they find a street named after Gen. Sani Abacha?
“Do we not think it is about time that somebody took the bull by the horns and wipe out the memory of that individual, it is a small restitution.”
“We do not say dig up Abacha’s remains and put in the evil forest, but do not leave lying around the provocative symbols, the trauma that this nation went through.”
“What does that make of the ethical foundations from which they pull them out to assist in peace keeping in areas all over the world in the enthronement of peace in the world?”
“We are saying that to complete that archway of healing through which all of us must pass, the capstone is restitution,” he said.
Soyinka who along with other speakers advocated restitution to complete the healing process for the October 7, 1967 massacre, said “restoration is only possible ultimately, when it is closed by a consciousness of remorse and compensation, no matter how symbolic.”
Recounting his experience before the civil war finally broke out, Soyinka said the Asagba of Asaba, Prof. Chike Edozien, hosted him in his house as mediatory efforts intensified to avert a full blown war.
“It was here that I crossed through the bush paths, through the then Biafran enclave on behalf of not just myself but of a group which believes passionately that the civil war was still avoidable,” he explained.
The experience he disclosed, inspired his publication: The Man Died.
While urging forgiveness, he stressed that the knowledge and wisdom derived from such experiences were ingredients that helped to shape the moral foundations of nations.
Bishop of Catholic Diocese, Dr. Hassan Kukah, described the Asaba Massacre as a black spot in the nation’s history, adding that Nigerians must embark on the process of healing with mutual trust and love.
Other speakers recounted their personal experiences during the period, and cautioned against keeping the memories for future generations.
They urged the Federal Government to build a memorial plaque with the names of victims in Ogbesowa Quarters in Asaba metropolis, the spot where the most heinous acts of violence were committed against the Asaba indigenes.
A book co-authored by Prof. Elizabeth Bird and Prof. Fraser Otanelli of the University of Florida, Tampa on the event and entitled: ‘The Asaba Massacre: Trauma, Memory and the Nigerian Civil War’ was unveiled at day two of the ceremony.