Mr. Ayo Opadokun has taken a critical look at Professor Chinua Achebe’s latest book, “There was a country,” and declared the aspect that accused the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo of genocide during civil war as a lie. He spoke with RAZAQ BAMIDELE.
My take on the book
Well, I want to start by saying the write-up lifted from Professor Chinua Achebe’s book creates an unnecessary controversy. I believe that any living soul ought not to be dancing on the grave of a departed colleague. That is what I would imagine that Professor Achebe has done in a book of his. It is now over 25 years that Chief Obafemi Awolowo died. Achebe is busy grandstanding in his write-up that Awolowo was the cause of his (Achebe’s) so called undefined genocide in Igboland.
Let me make a clear statement that my concern is much more for what the consequences of Achebe’s diatribe against Awolowo can tell the younger generations.
I believe that the handshake across the Niger ought to be given more impetus. And those of us who are still alive should realize that we should stop sowing the seed of disunity amongst various ethnic nationalities in the country. I want to say that, l expect Professor Chinua Achebe to be much more mature in his desire to leave positive collaborative historical message along his path.
I also want to say quite frankly that the falsehood in Achebe’s book in describing Awolowo has now been brought out by the second Military Head of State in Nigeria, General Yakubu Gowon, who just debunked the lies of Professor Achebe. General Gowon restated that strongly that Chief Awolowo and himself have nothing to be ashamed of, and that the charge of genocide against them is totally irresponsible, uncalled for. General Gowon said he that is alive is ready to face International Criminal Court of Justice to know what happened under Biafra, and finally ended up by saying Professor Achebe is ignorant of the very situation he was talking about. In his response, Gowon said the Federal Government, in fact organized to have a corridor through which food and medication could be brought to Igboland.
Who to blame?
It was Chief Odumegwu Ojukwu and his Igbo leaders, who rejected it. So, how can they, for their selfish reasons transfer the guilt that normally belongs to them unto other innocent people, so to say under this circumstance? So, I believe that Professor Achebe has not helped in the build-up of much more cohesive society particularly between the Yoruba nation and the Igbo nation. I expected much more better service, better candor in his conduct of affairs in the twilight of his own life also. He too will soon depart no matter how far he is given the privilege to stay on. He cannot be here for ever. I expect that being an elder in this circumstance, he has to do his own utmost to bring people closer to make them delight to help Nigeria to build a nation out of Nigeria country, so that all of us would be happy for it.
Possible effect on Igbo 2015 presidential project
Let me tell you, people in my status are not excited about any prospect about presidency for any one, not only from the Igbo race. We keep on putting the cart before the horse. We have seen now, this is the third person that is in office in this so called democratic experiment. We are all witnesses to the great disaster that Obasanjo Presidency was even for the Yoruba nation. What is it that anybody can point to that he has done for the Yoruba race? He was there for eight years. No road was constructed. The ones he met in Yorubaland, that were fairly okay, he helped to destroy them in several ways. There were no economic reasons for uprooting the toll gates.
So, my first reaction to the implication of Chinua Achebe’s book could have for the Igbo’s presidential ambition, I want to say that the situation does not command the respect of the people like me. As I speak now, on the premises of what the Igbo young folks are already doing, there is a group called ALADIMA, in Igboland. They are pointing the Igbo race to the path of sanity. Their position, which is credible and which I subscribe to, is that what the Igbo race should be clamouring for is not the presidency but the national restructuring. I subscribe to that.
I am equally of the opinion that, were it to take an angel to occupy Aso Rock as it is today, he probably would fail until we restructure the land. The structure you have that enable the motley crowd of military upstart and jack boots that are probably not up to ten, to decide to annul the freest, fairest election won by a fellow Nigeria and got away with the murder is a structure not to be allowed to remain. And because of the evil circumstances of our country and how powerful the bad omen has had on our nation, one of the principal architects of such dismissal of pan Nigerian in person of MKO Abiola, is now the President of the Nigerian Senate! David Mark said he would rule only on his dead body. He and his cohorts got him arrested, detained him and killed him.
I repeat finally on this score that while it is the prerogative of the Igbo race to campaign for Nigeria’s Presidency, my attitude is to ask the would-be presidential candidate to listen to the voice of wisdom and sanity in Igboland as currently being represented by the agenda of the ALADINMA. It will serve the Igbo race far better.