BY Emmanuel Onwubiko
This writer is of the opinion that whomsoever denies the fact that millions of innocent lives of Children, Women and the elderly of the then Biafran Republic were calously wasted by the impact of the economic and food blockade of the then military regime of General Gowon is in the same frame of mind as the HOLOCAUST DENIERS like President of Iran Mr. Amadinajad and the other anti-Semitic writers who oppose sacred facts of life as recorded in history.
Even Chief Awo during his life time never denied the negative impacts of the economic blockade but sought to justify it by claiming that Biafran soldiers were stealing the food reliefs meant for civilians. Papa Awo also believed that in war every action taken to bring it to an end is justifiable.
But this claim has been debunked by lots of scholars and even the GENEVA convention is clearly against this sort of class genocide through bad economic embargoes as were practiced by the then Gowon-led military dictatorship under which the late Papa Awo served as Finance Minister during the war.
Also in this book, Professor Achebe addressed the inefficiency of the hierarchies of both the United Nations and the then Organization of African Unity [OAU] now renamed African Union [AU] to effectively and impartially mediate in war situations to bring conflicts to an end.
The United Nations is still very weak and incapable of saving the civilians of Syria from the bloody attacks of the brutal dictatorship of President l-Assad who is backed by Russia and China. The African Union is at best a mere contraption that has stood by watching Somalia and Mali collapsed into relentless state of anarchy.
This weakness of the United Nation led to the genocide that took place not more than two decades ago in Rwanda under the watchful eyes of the United Nations so-called peace keepers. On page 212, Achebe wrote thus; “…but as the humanitarian catastrophe worsened, leading ultimately to the starvation and death of millions, even the most committed anarchists would have expected greater United Nations involvement. That did not happen, and I and several others believe that had the United Nations been more involved, there would not have been as many atrocities, as much starvation, as much death”.
Also as a good objective observer of history who actively took part in the Nigeria/Biafran war, Achebe also carried the views of General Yakubu Gowon/Awo in the page 236 of the four segments 333-pages book and he also laid the groundwork on how Nigeria can get it right by extensively canvassing moral revolution and aggressive anti-corruption war devoid of partisan politics, the type that both the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and ICPC are waging to the consternation of most right thinking Nigerians.
On page 249 of the book where he treated corruption and indiscipline, Achebe stated unequivocally and rightly so that ‘’Corruption in Nigeria has passed the alarming and entered the fatal stage, and Nigeria will die if we continue to pretend that she is only slightly indisposed.”
Only recently, the Nuhu Ribadu-led Crude oil Revenue probe panel found out that several hundreds of millions of United States Dollars of Nigeria’s public fund were stolen by those Government fficials who are running the Petroleum sector in the last ten years including the current administration.
Any one who reads THERE WAS A COUNTRY by Chinua Achebe with an open and rational mindset would understand that the writer means well for Nigeria because it is a mortal sin of monumental proportion that successive Nigerian Government have failed to teach the younger ones about the events of the thirty months old civil war and these political actors forgot that any nation that fails to learn from the lessons of her history is inevitably condemned to repeat those same blunders on wider scale which is why armed non-state actors in the guise of Islamic rebels have launched unrelenting war of attrition against the Nigerian State and have unleashed targeted violence and terrorism on Churches, Government institutions and also have killed several moderate muslims in the North.
Achebe captured this scenario also in his book from pages 250 and 251 whereby he stated the obvious that; “In many respects, Nigeia’s Federal Government has always tolerated terrorism. For over half a century the Federal Goverment has turned a blind eye to waves of ferocious and savage massacres of its citizens-mainly Christian Southerners; mostly Igbos or indigenes of the middle Belt; and others-with impunity.
Even in cases where their hands were found dripping in blood, the perpetrators have many a time evaded capture and punishment. Nigeria has been doomed to witness endless cycles of inter-ethnic, inter-religious violence because the Nigerian Government has failed woefully to enforce laws protecting its citzens from wanton violence, particularly attacks against non-indigenes living in disparate parts of the country. The notoriously [some say conveniently so] incompetent Nigerian federal Governmen, and some religious and political leaders, have been at least enablers of these evil acts.”
Achebe is one hundred percent correct because only recently when some prominent politicians from Borno state including the serving Senator representing Borno Cetral Senatorial zone was fingered as one of the financiers of the ongoing terror-related violence in parts of Northern Nigeria, the Federal Government including President Jonathan, the Commander-in-Chief of the Nigerian Armed Forces, watched as mere spectators as the indicted Senator and the immediate past Governor of Borno State dissipate energy engaging in media war over who is to be blamed for the growth of terrorism in Norhern Nigeria.
The notoriously incompetent national police hierarchy has just issued a propaganda media statement that the indicted Senator including Senator Mohammed Ndume and the former Gvernor of Borno State Alli Modu Sherrif are under close security scrutiny.
This is laughable because it is inconceivable that people considered as security risk to the naton are busy globetrotting and even attending Government sanctioned meetings and drawing salaries, the same Nigeria Police is making jest of Nigerians by lying that these same political elite blamed by a large segment of the Nigerian society for alleged sponsorship of the armed insurrection are under investigation.
Nigerians know better that the weak Nigeria Police Force were the same retrogressive forces that gave way for the total breakdown of law and order and the near-endless anarchy that has set in in Northern Nigeria. President Jonathan recently said his government was searching for truce with the armed terrorists in the North because the perpetrators of these mass killings are ‘our brothers andsisters’ and only very recently when these armed terrorists announced their decision to negotiate peace appointing General Mohammadu Buhari as is head of delegation to discuss withthe curent Nigerian Government on possible truce in far away Saudi Arabia, the Presidential Spokesperson Dr. Reuben Abati expressed Government’s happiness at this turn f event.
This is a good evidence that Government deliberately tolerates terrorism for no justifiably reason while allowing millions of victims of these occasional and intermmittent mass killings and teror violence to go leak their wounds since Government is not ready to give them social justice and the most desired closure to the violent murder of their loved ones and bread winners by these armed non-state actors who are beautiful brides of the Nigerian Government. Sad.
In the thinking of internatonal scholars including Nadine Gordiner, Margret Atwood, the influential Time magazine of the United States of America, Tony Morrison and the global moral leader Dr. Nelson Mandela of South Africa who wrote copious coments on the back page of THERE WAS A COUNTY, Achebe is one of the finest thinkers of our contemporary world. Why is anybody unhappy with this wonderful book of scholarship authored by the World’s respected Novelist Chinua Achebe? We wont get tired of defending the truth. Concluded. Onwubiko, writes from London, UK