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Thursday, May 23, 2013

The Last Testimony of Chinua Achebe: A Peep Into There Was A Country



A PEEP INTO CHINUA ACHEBE’S
‘There was a country’
- By Iheanetu Clarkson Evans


Africans often say that what ten young people struggle to see from the top of the palm tree has already been seen by an old wise man seating under the tree. Chinua Achebe in his  magnum opus Things Fall Apart captured in the simplest readable language the way of life of the typical African Igbo and his philosophy before the interception of western culture which crawled in via religious trepidation wearing coats of many colors (The bible and the sword) with sheath guard..


Through that novel scholars of African literature and history adapted the stories of Achebe to their own local scene and landed with a corroboration of fact that he only used his Igbo stage as an aperture into other Africanoid setting. That most widely read African literature or historical fiction today was at earlier time peddling and being to be accepted for publication.


Achebe in all his work has always found subtle inclinations that arouse indebt curiosity and intellectual quislings of the third mind. In his latest entry ‘There was a country’ which was his personal history of what led to Biafra. I wish I could have been permitted to use the cliché ‘No longer at ease when the centre can not hold’


Chinalumuogu ‘Chinua’ like the thorough stories teller we know he is started by taken us through brief history of who we are, were we are coming from end were he through we should be going to as a people.
He captured this in his introductory page which definitely is not my priority in this wobbling critique, though we know it is very important to understand the very essence of the entire happening and like he said in his Igbo proverb
‘A man who does not know where the rain started to beat him can not say where or how he dried his body; by this idiom the writer attempts to prepare the mind of the reader to follow the lines one after the other, considering in my personal view that every egusi pot of soup was forcefully concord with different helpless ingredient merged together to accept a blend of edible delicacy or concoction as the case may be.


But in ‘there was a country’ I see a big pot porri of some thing that looks like the egusi soup which is regarded as Nigeria’s most widely eaten  dish or National soup if you like to call it that way.
Whenever I want to read a new book, I start by first and fore most admiring the cover page even though I have come to learn that cover pages are like the city wagons, the outside might be yellow and the inside blurred.
Then I would pan through the synopsis and the content page haven oiled my appetite, I would now conjure my reading space to see if it can create an accommodation for intellectual assimilation into my medulla oblongata, depending on my perception of the book, but with a writer such as the Prof. I did not even realize I had been hypnotized before the conclusion of the search flinging.


Achebe in this work took us through the six centuries of the capitulation of Africa by the Caucasians captors and another less than a century of political tutoring ,toddling and meandering of our self chauffeuring of the political ship amidst strong stormy waves of the Atlantic ocean and its dangerous surge into our own natural dwelling.


The writer seized the opportunities of the diary to give us his biography and family literature which he had not done in much of his books that I have read except if he has an autobiography.


That was noble in the sense that a lot of his Faithfull’s now have that information provided in reasonable detail and enviable humility as the case may be.


One notable striking future of Professor Achebe is his powerful retentive memory to note down even minutest details that could have been ignored by chain browsers of today’s social network” Internet” from his primary school through to Government College Umuahia and the university college Ibadan. I spotted the writer’s lucid passion for description of human character in such friendly manner which is not quite common with most writers. This remarks actually informed my opinion to attempt a re-view of this latest bride of our big master; this same attribute in another clime could be misinterpreted to mean playing the ostrich hence in Nigeria. We say ‘one man’s food is another man’s poison.’


The part one of the book was also saddled with the responsibility ushering us into the body or subject matter of the main topic of the book.


Here we observe the powers of the application of wisdom in narrating stories, his un-eruptive use of metaphors, his love for synonyms, poetic rhymes and moderate usage of acronyms to dowse down tension, in what could have been a conflagration of chemical reactions on burning comptemporary issues, such as the delicate stories of the personality of the Igbo, a large ethnic tribe that have remained a subject qualms within the socio political geometry of Nigeria even since the penetration of the British colonial rule into this shores  about two centuries ago.


Chinua, broke this perception into a clearer understandable language in page 74 “A History of Ethnic Tension  and Resentment”, in which he summarized the republican and egalitarianistic tradition of Ndiigbo as a big chunk of their been misunderstood by other ethnic tribes whom he described as unhindered and hampered by religious and traditional cleavages (my own word). His metaphorical use of the termite to describe the nature of the Igbo spirit have very much captured or qualified the phrase resentment and likening the behavior f the Igbo to the Jews is almost in Ernest saying ‘two by two’ or ‘ten and ten pence’.


It is very difficult containing the termite because their organizational drill makes them the most efficient of all creatures created by God.  


Amongst the Igbo, you may likely have read or come across people bearing tittles such as “Ijere” which means tiger ant.


A study of the behavior of the tiger ant in general tells you how hard working and restless these creatures can be, nothing can be as exciting as taking time to watch the construction of an ant hill mould, sure the organizational skills thrilled you.  Achebe told us how the Igbo emerged out of their tick rain forest to occupy almost every sector of the Nigeria economy, even though western education and Christianity had it a tedious war before it penetrated into their clans.


Furthermore, in preparing our minds to understand the nitty gritty of future events that took place, the writer reminded the reader that their had been clashes against the Igbo as far back as 1952 which is to say that the 15th January 1966 coup led by an Igbo officer was only a scratch that opened the sore of the leper or adding salt to injury(but not mental injury) Chinua Achebe’s mindset through his narration of the Kaduna Nzeogwu led coup in page 78-80 speaks saintly against the five man military mutineers, who through their radical perhaps excess patriotic zeal painted with  radical impatience pulled down the first republic, while their action consumed the lives of some front line politicians in the north and a few in the west without a significant touch on any eastern politician. Commenting on the acrimonies that had been deepened as a result of the coup, the writer curiously lashed the plotter for stirring the dampen muddy water which provoked the throttle in the mouth of the occidental deity to request for the blood of the military supreme commander of the Army, major general J.T.U. Agu-ironsi who whisked the strum off the young revolutionaries  before using his head to pay for the sins of Kaduna Nzeogwu and his cohorts, Achebe minute on page 81 that the Arewa(northern) elders has handed a list of demands to the Aguyi Ironsi led government which startled the six footer supreme commander to suspect that his earlier ban of tribal associations throughout the nation immediately on assumption of office may have fallen into deaf ears.


This request by the northern elites pushed the head of state to embark on a nationwide tour to cool embers of the people, a process which became his waterloo in the hands of his own bodyguards along with his host, the courageous lieutenant colonel Adekunle Fajuyi, who was governor of the western region . Though the professor did not hide to inform us that the counter coup was carried out by northern soldiers but he seems to have shielded the names of the actors even though some of the actors themselves have come out arrogantly fearlessly in the media to own up without any sign of remorse. Theophilus Danjuma has boasted his out escape several times over.    Murtala Mohammed who bowed to colonel Dinka’s archery during the summer of 1976 also flaunted his role in the counter coup. Covering or sweeping over names can not help our history at this times of reconciliation, even though we know nature has its own natural way of paying back anyone who has desperately taken the life that only the omnipotent can create.


The reportage of our past history in its true perspective is very important as the lessons to be learned could help us build a better society that would show respect to individual cum collective feelings. The pogrom which I always personally refer to as the extermination remains the saddest and most excruciating human height of animism propelled by savage cruelty and envy using Colin legume’s London observer newspaper report or account of the killings that took place all over the northern region of Nigeria meant only been economical with the actual number of people that were slained. Northern Nigeria occupies more than 750,000 square kilometers of Nigeria or 68% of the total land area. There is no way the reporter could have gotten any number that would be accurate. I rather may consider the 50,000 that the federation of Igbo towns union came out with; if at all there is any sense or remedy in even mentioning numbers. Since the slaughtering of Igbo lives and the sacrifice of her blood has ever since continued to be used to appease the deities of major northern towns till date. Though I have observed recently that the Hausa, Fulani gods are fed up with the consumption of stubborn Igbo blood that has only intoxicated the deities to the extent of driving their spirit bizarre, it neither yielded them any financial growth or earned them physical mental balance, rather deficiency of ideas and hyper active disorders which has now resulted in demanding for the calm blood of Kataf, Jukuns, Igala,Tivs Birons, Alago and all the other minorities in the north.


Page 91 “The nightmare begins” This topic to me appears too vague if in the right sense it was talking about the meeting colonel Ojukwu had with eastern politicians and elders of thought of the twenty sixth may. I know the writer possibly intends to draw the attention of the reader towards the impending war but I wonder why he chose this catch phrase instead of a direct topic that would capture the essence of the meeting. This is very important in order to make Iconoclasts’ know that the war was not a unilateral decision by 33 years old Colonel Ojukwu, who was the leader of Biafra only because of his position then as the military governor of the east seconded by the fact that he was bold and very passionate about the Igbo course.


Biafra was in the right sense, the region that had the core of intelligentsias in Nigeria. .Professionals were not lacking in any field. The leaders of thought representing the different Igbo sub divisions, Ijaw, Ibibio, Efik, Ogoja, Ogoni where all present to take the decision which led to the succession and declaration for ‘Biafra’.


Ojukwu could not have hypnotized the entire eastern region into a war without the support of the people. Do not forget that more than half the number of Nigeria freedom fighters who fought for the independence of Nigeria came from the eastern region.


I also expected the writer to be more elaborate here instead of just pinching the surface of one key area that have divided the Igbo ethnic nation into political dichotomies as a result, states creation which were indiscriminately carved in order to put a wedge in the relationship amongst the Igbo themselves visa avis the other ethnic minorities living in the eastern region. For instance, most of the Igbo within oil producing areas near the coast or boarder lines were removed from the core Igbo state in order to build a friction amongst the people. Example are some villages in Egbema were carved into river state, Ahoda, Obigbo now (Oyigbo), Etche, Ikwenne, Ogba, Ndioni, Ndoki, Elele, Omalelu, etc.


This confusion was indeed a perfect master stroke designed to tear the people and their est. spirit de corp. Though General Yakubu Gowon has since accepted this milieu as a grand design to land lock and compress the Igbo into a much smaller land area in order to avert any incoming insurgency by Ojukwu and his Igbo brotherhood.


Part 2: The Nigerian-Biafran war Achebe informs us of the 185 Army officers of eastern origin who were slaughtered in retaliation against the January 15th 1966 coup, led by Nzeogwu. He also chronicled aptly the other events that followed including the mass return of Igbo and their families back into the eastern region; The OAU partial intervention scheming which became a charade of the first order. The triangle game of UK, France and USA. Of course every ardent African enthusiast knows that the overall interest of these Caucasians in Africa is the natural resources principally before any other primodiality. Human life means nothing to them except if it has value to their overall interest. For instance, Achebe tells us on page 99 that Michael Leapman, a reporter with the independent news uncovered what he must have termed as Harold Wilson’s “secret agenda”. To us in Biafra as it were, we are no longer snoop rats that you easily trap with cheap baits.


We already knew that the sole immediate British interest was and is still to balkanize us for their own selfish interest. The Brits have always been known for this chess game. They mastered the act in the last half of the millennium when they rushed out of their ancient cocoon and timidity to grab a place in the African sun after under studying the philosophies of the Greeks and medieval Roman Empire. I do not give a hoot whatever Rick Fountain of BBC was able to uncover a secret report about Biafra’s so called intrigue or what have you, what is utmost undoubtful is that Britain and other Caucasians as the case may be are just ordinary leech or at most wood maggot (eruru) in Igbo language who come as parasites into your bone marrows, when they finish sucking you dry, they live you to die with leukemia.


Our very revered writer surely brought these schemes of the western hunks in order to attract the curiosity and intellectual discuss of Africanists to the front burner of our socio-economic politics. The only thing that disturbs me is that not only have they completely usurped continually the natural resources of the continent but they have also white washed the mentality of an average African to a level of servitude except if it can ever be possible again to have the likes of the Nkuruma, Sankaras, Patrice Lumuba, Jerry, the former Biafran leader Ojukwu and a few other radical, Madiba,Rawlins,Albert Luthuli etc ,.


It is interesting to know that while the fratricidal war were brewing, creative writers still found space to carry on with their intellectual passion which of course provided room for academic discuss and more over opening information flow to people who had been placed in the dark with happenings in the Nigerian theatre. He dedicated ten quality pages to give account of the involvement of notable Nigerian men and women of letters, some of them suffered incarceration for their effort to broker out peace,  Wole Soyinka vividly come to mind, having spent more than two years in prison walls for a frame up of espionage in favor of Biafra.


The poetical chief priest and wordsmith of university college Ibadan, Christopher Okigbo, translated his heaven’s gate master piece passionately with his precious blood at the Nsukka battle field within six months of the war. Till date Christopher is still only known and remembered amongst literary world which is also been revisited here. Achebe mentioned virtually the position of most intellectual writers and their role during the hostilities but one spectacular hint noted in his bit by bit narration of these literary gurus. There fraternity elucidates misery and candors of tight relationship. That bond existed among the fellers irrespective of their different ethnicities and cultural cleavage.  As a mere larva of human specie at the period in Achebe`s description, I began to ruminate in retrospect the type of society Nigeria would have been prior to the pulling down of the first republic, especially here in southern Nigeria, it could have been probably something close to my family dinner each time my siblings arrived home during any of the Christmas holidays in my village some where in Mbaise southern Igbo land, Nigeria.


On page 118-126 of part 2
The major Nigerian actors in the conflict “Ojukwu and Gowon”. The writer attempts to carry out a dramatic personae of the two key actors other than what a lot of us followers of our country’s contemporary issues already know, the incept into this two great gentleman of our nation could be well likened to that old political rivalry between Caesar and Brutus’ according to the tales of William Shakespeare.


From another perception I read in the classical novel “The prince” Nicole Machiavelli that princes are not often times born hence princes can also be made.


One of the salient factors that underscored the personal wrangling between the two men definitely had to do with class and social status.
Emeka Odimegwu Ojukwu was by every means and standard a prince of the first order, the princely background of the Ojukwus of Nnewi is no doubt pulled from a rooted blue blooded royalty. Sir Louis Odumegwu Ojukwu, Emeka’s father was the son of an ancient high chief in Nnewi, a town within the centre of Igbo heart land. Sir Louis himself of course was the Nigerian lord of the mansion whose wealth transverse the entire nation beyond such was the background of Emeka, the oxford trained historian who went to join the army in order to carve an entirely different niche away from his father’s strong influence. He was of course a spoilt brat who had the puffy tradition of a typical, English boy. Emeka was by every inch princely both in character and action. He was also humane and very principled; to his people he was an alter ego of some sort. He loved his people especially the Igbo for whom he scarified elitism and personal comfort as was epitomized in their defense from total annihilation, with out compromising for any selfish interest.


Gowon on the other hand came from a humble average family in Pankshin Plateau State; his parents were Christian missionaries who spent much of their period evangelizing in core Hausa areas of the north particularly, the ancient city of Zaria.


I personally know that in the days of  Yakubu Gowon many northerners did not take to education and the privileged ones who  managed to go up to standard six in the elementary school either took to soldiering or worked at the several tin mines as clerks, for Gown who was also called ‘Jack’ to have gone to secondary school and later as tradition enlisted into the military academy means that his parent would have been part of the first set of educated people in the north “No wonder why they could work as missionaries”


Children of missionaries like Achebe also are often times brought up under very stern tutelage and religious discipline, that could explain the high level discipline and charisma of Yakubu Gowon which surely endured him to very important people, who had soft spot for him more over as lock and destiny would have it going by Achebe`s story, Gowon must have been one of the few person that stepped into the right place at the right time, especially when you consider the antecedents that brought him to power and all the chess games and machinations. You could also conclude my earlier reference on Nicole Machiavelli’s novel titled ‘The prince’ here Gowon from a humble background has been made a prince that deserves all the special gifts, like Agathocles the Sicilian rose to become the king of Syracuse an ordinary son of a potter. Though this example are abound very much in Africa just like our own brother ‘Oboma’


After the personal analysis of the two princes, the writer noted a few salient factors which could have contributed to the friction or disagreement to include the personal ego of each of the principal character, the propaganda war, the fear of total domination by each of the Regions races. The interest of external bodies such as
Britian, Russia, the USA etc.


In my summation I feel that first and foremost the two men, giving their age as at the time of the crises could not have taken a better position than each of them took because we could also liken them to the youth of today and with that draw up an articulate comparison of characterization even though they were very intelligent but one could still see very vividly some of the pragmatic mistakes in decision taking for instance Ojukwu’s refusal to accept the six hundred propound sterling offer by Britain for relief supplies in protest  to Britain`s double standard and open military support for the Nigeria side. Even though the action could be seen from another angle as heroism but some Biafrans saw it as arrogance; accepting the aid probably could have reduced the pains of the suffering Biafran civilians and children in particular, but what I expected of Britain was to ask Nigeria to vacate the Biafran frontier which were solidly blockaded with the assistance of British naval commanders at Oron and Eket on the south eastern flank of Biafra. The British ab initio was the first to advice Gowon to scuttle the Aburi peace accord for their own selfish interest.


As a matter of fact I personally saw the British offer as share hypocrisy painted with a double edged sword. Ojukwu definitely was not the sorth of person that such cheap sympathy could buy, what Biafra needed was empathy and not omelets.


Senator Francis Ellah being one of the arc leaders of Biafra in his opinion felt the Biafra could have accepted the chances or opportunities of entering  into a confederal system of government during the 1968 March peace meeting here we are not told which of the meetings because we were all aware of the Aburi accord, that also recommended a confederation and how it was scuttled by the federal government advisors and the British high commissioner Sir, Cumming Bruce it’s possible that Biafra thought meeting the meeting might end up being another mediocre fun fare that would never be respected.


Gowon may not be completely culpable either because; he acted only on the advices of his advisors, such as Chief Obafemi Awolowo Enahoro, the British high commissioner. It was very clear that Gowon at a time during the pogrom concluded that their was no basis for one Nigeria. Suddenly he received an encouragement from the British high commissioner and Chief Obafemi Awolowo who threatened that if the Eastern region secedes the west would also have no choice than to follow suit. Further more, there may not have been the degeneration of friction leading to succession if the second pogrom had not taken place.


Achebe did not dwell much into the second pogrom may be in order not to over whip emotions on page 127 the writer used a short poem “The first shot” to summarize the first military action taken by the federal government in order to stop Biafra from breaking away. We were  also told us how the action got a rebuff of strong resistance at Nsukka and Ogoja axis by the Biafrans made up of a make shift three thousand army returnees and volunteers from the University of Nigeria who suffered terrible casualties due to  lack of weapon and adequate training.  Nigeria also quickly landed the shores of Calabar and Eket through the 3rd marine commander led by colonel Benjamin Adekunle fighting from the water front and sealing off sea access for Biafra, while it looked as if the new republic was going to collapse in few days. Ojukwu and his think tank lunched what they considered ‘A way out by using the Mid Western Axis. This was a perfect tactics to capture Gowon in Lagos but very unfortunately colonel Banjo and Ifeajuna who led the operation later had their own plans as they got to Ore town in present day Ondo state. The same Banjo and Ifeajuna who scuttled the Nzeogwu’s coup a year ago, by failing to carry out their details in the Eastern Region over flimsy excuses..


Some have critiqued the Biafra’s invasion of the Midwest with out a reciprocal thought of the survival of the eastern civilians and children who had been bashed through the northern and eastern frontier of the enclave.


Had the leaders of the Midwest mission carried out their instruction to the letter, it was possible the war could have taken a different dimension of total dissipation of the country between north and south or at worst the Yoruba in their natural diplomatic nature could have opted out of the brouhaha or forced to fight alongside the Biafrans. It was very unfortunate that this master stroke of a plan collapsed due to the lowsy nature of Banjo and Ifeajuna and their egocentric zest and indecision at the sleepy town of Ore, in the present day Ondo state, which was regarded by most Igbo travelers as half way from Onicha either to or from Lagos then capital and Eldorado of the nation.
I could not comprehend any reason why the Midwest would not have been part of the conflict considering the many presence of their indigenes in both Nigeria and Biafra armies. The region being a melting point of ethnic correlation and cultural diffusion between the three major tribes of Nigeria certainly could not have been continually ignored in such emotionally driven crises of that magnitude. Do not forget that a reasonable number of the top commanders of the Biafra army came from the Igbo speaking part of the Midwest including Nzeogwu who led the first coup on January 15th 1966.


A John de st. Jores report of the ramshackle nature of the Biafra army tells that the easterners were not ready for any war.


In as much as some Midwesterners were not happy with the Biafran invasion for certain obvious reasons, it was never reported in any media that the Biafran Soldiers were belligerents. Though their may have been some odd propaganda as it were in every war situation but nobody ever said that the Biafra soldiers were found in in descent act such as looting, rapping, civilian assaults. This meant that they were more business like or focused towards their aim unlike what the Nigeria army commanders owned up they did to Igbo civilians with out any sign of remourse.


The killings of civilian male adults at Asaba and other small nearby villages and the rapping of Igbo ladies including married women could have been more viciously projected by the writer whose words are respectively taken as statement on marble for posterity.


These atrocities could have been taken as war crimes in some other climes where human life is valued. General Harunas`s obstinate response at the Oputa panel is just a characteristic reflection of the current goings on in the northern part of Nigeria, where more than ten thousand souls have fallen to the ethnic religious killings from 1976AD to 2013AD.


Through out the war the Nigerians army carried out mass killings rapes, looting and other act of brigandry in all the cities they captured. All these were reported by international war co-respondents across the globe.


Page 141 through 149 of part two
The author rejuvenated our mind set with the Biafra’s’ day celebration of 1969, which exhibited the very essence of the Biafra revolution through a perfectly crafted document put together by a group carefully selected intelligentia, led by Professor Chinualumogu Achebe and presented before am international live audience by the people’s general himself and also aired on radio and television. The document was later christened Ahiara declaration because the Umuahia, capital of Biafra was already under siege of being attacked by air raid. This scholastic paper should have being published as an appendix in this book in order to educate and further ignite the curiousness of Nigerians who where not privileged to be around during that period of our history. It could have also aided the African renaissance movement to appreciate the very essence of the Nigerian civil war and the injustices perpetuated by the western nations on the continent of Africa. Most times Nigerians and Igbo in particular were carried away by the oratorical skills of general Odumegwu Ojukwu than the very essence of the message delivered.


In page 149-174 the writer took the reader on a rendezvous’ of what constituted Biafra, its people, strength, economy and what have you, I just want to correct an impression that have been sold into the heads of a lot of Nigerians since after the civil war. That Ikwere and Egbema are Igbo people who speak Igbo as a first language in their own native dialect like every other Igbo  sub set. I am only reacting to the ethnic tribes that were out lined on page 150 of the book “ There was a country’ I am sure this must have been a minor over sight or the same jaundiced creations that came with civil war survival strategy and political orchestration as earlier admitted by general Gowon.


Achebe used this book to inform some iconoclast that Biafra was a full fledged sovereign nation with every organ of government in place and functional through out the duration of the war. Probably it could haven been the first truly African nation, created by Africa, and ruled by Africans with African renaissance beaming all over her. It must have amazed any third party out side the Biafra enclave how the embattled nation was able to put on stiff resistance considering all odds.


Achebe here attempted to capture the main essence of the true Biafra patriotism which has its plate form resting on the will of the people to survive contraptions. The military strength of Biafra as explained originally depended more on individual heroism and team spirit rather than the usual military war heads and arsenal, this could be seen from all the war front where individuals displayed exceptional skills, at least the writer was fair in mentioning certain officers like, the legendry Joe Achuzie “Air raid who was also known as the ‘Hannibal’He was a Nightmare on the federal on all the fronts. Mention was earlier made of col. Archibong the trotter who fell on the south eastern flank to Adekunle`s third marines.


The Abagana ambush was indeed spectacular because in modern war fare intelligence and logical calculations are very important in as much as an army could parade the sophiscation of their military war heads; its also a mile stone but more advantageous when the brain is in focus. No story is told of the Nigeria civil war without the Abagana combat except that no writer including Achebe was able to explain how Murtala Mohammed escaped after losing nearly all his men at this sector, was he sacrificing his men to be slaughtered by Ojukwu dare devil Ogbunigwe (Bucket) that rugged scientific ingenuity built by the Biafra research and production agency.


Although Achebe was not a Nigerian-Biafran civil war correspondent so to speak but he has given an account that surpasses most of the other writers or at best corroborates their dairies. Just that on the Abagana ambush, I did not read about the escapades of corporal Nwafor that much talked about NCO or rating whose boldness and gallantry Madiebo and a few others eulogized, I also know that as a little boy in Biafra my uncle who fought in this sector also talked about corporal Nwafor. It would have been a good adventure story for young people in military service. The writer talked about Biafran organization of freedom fighters BOFF without a mention of the Boys company (Those were young boys who were trained in the act of intelligence gathering or espionage) .
These group of boys, and girl were in the age bracket of six and fourteen years depending on their intelligence and maturity, I accompanied my elder brother a couple times to recky and I must tell you it was very dangerous and interesting, in fact I am scripting together some of my own juvenile stories for publication.


The use of propaganda as an instrument of war came to its full glare with the Nigeria Biafra civil war though Achebe did not bother himself with the rhetoric of the commentators from both sides of the divide never the less we learnt from This book, that the Nigerian civil war was about the first fully televised conflict in history with horrible scenes, pictures and agony of blood lettings from the war front.


Many years after the conflict, Nigerians were still shrouded with painted fibbing which beclouded the mindsets of all people to believe that all was well, while the injured were forced to swallow their pains and agonies internally. Achebe re-ignited the genres sensitivity of the average intellectual Nigerian, with information concerning the international coverage of the civil war both by electronic and print media, more especially that glaring view of the horribly starved Biafra children who were more or less better described as walking ghosts, a situation most people from other climes thought never existed but only on the barrel of Ojukwu’s propaganda machine gun via his commentary team of Chukwu mereije and Okon Oko Ndem. On the federal side Enahoro led the propaganda dispelling machine, a role he confessed he regretted playing only during the June 12th 1993, annulled general election.


Achebe brought to the fore a lot of issues that remained unsung by the other commentators of the war, either because of his defiant consummate craft of acquiring information or his crass passion as a player during the imbroglio coupled by his unapologetic nature which he displayed all through in his style of writing. For instance, the role Harold Wilson’s government played to set Nigeria on fire and his open pretence to media reports concerning the genocide of civilians’ populace in Biafra and the sea blockade which caused the death of hundreds of thousands of Biafran under aged children. It is interesting to know, though disappointingly that Wilson hypocritically visited Nigeria during the conflict along with his battalion of marines on board British war ship “fearless” a trip that was snubbed by the Biafran government for failing to sail to the eastern harbor and also addressing the critical issues of the war rather than his extended Greek gift of invitation which Ojukwu and Biafra did not recognize as a worthy olive branch. He only embarked on this journey with his battle ready marines just to create or Smake insigna in order to win back the mindsets of British people who had been disappointed over his role in setting the conflagration.



Wilson’s action never deferred from the Britain original imperialist agenda in all her colonies, except that in the case of Biafra their was the apprehension that a leverage for her might not be of a sure benefit to the United Kingdom over all interest, since it became glaringly clear that Ojukwu’s arrogance towards the Caucasians in general many not allow the queen and her subjects free meal should Biafra succeeds in her ambition. It is important to also note that though the ordinary Britain may have condemned the action or pretext of the British government led by Wilson but they failed to realize that, their country ever since becoming a nation independent of the ancient roman empire less than a thousand years ago have always depended on the economics and fortunes extracted from their newly acquired colonies which we all know helped in cutting the teeth of industrial revolution of Europe, which began around the sixteenth century.
Away from the British and western partiality we were told that Nigerians of the two divide made several independent effort to end the war through peaceful resolutions, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe the first president of Nigeria and also an emissary of his native land Biafra proposed a fourteen point peace plan to the united nation through a lecture he delivered at the Oxford University in February 1969.
It was instructive to note that the beautiful and impartial peace proposal offered by the great Zik was snubbed and termed not implementable, one could not have been amazed by this rejection considering the fact that Britain wanted a total defeat of Biafra military mean while the submissions of the great sage was later indirectly adopted today by the united nations for their different war torn countries and theatres of war as the panacea to the squabbles.
The united nation remained very adamant through out the imbroglio, hob knobbing pretentiously to issues of glaring war crimes against Biafra civilians and glossing over our rages by international civil societies.
On page 216 the writer attempted to clear the air on the views or opinions of most ignorant Igbo population who did not understand the role of Dr. Nnamdi Azikwe during the Biafra struggle.
Not withstanding that Zik was the greatest of the titans who secured political independence for the Nigerian federation and also the architect of political compromise who convinced southern Nigerian delegate to the constitutional conferences  to exercise patience in order to accommodate the northern part of Nigeria who at that time where still naïve for self rule.Chinua made us understand that apart from not been informed about going into a war which though biafrans were forced into; he, Zik was the one who wrote the Biafra national anthem which he adapted from one of his poems.The pathological extermination or genocide carried on his ethinic Igbo race prior to the civil war challenged his inner will and reluctance which helped Biafra secure some  diplomatic recognition (see requiem Biafra) a book writen by Dr. Nnamdi Azikwe himself. Achebe further tells us that Ojukwu confessed not involving the former president because of his compromising nature.
Thus true to Ojukwu’s thought that Zik would not have supported arms struggle or cessation as a panacea; during an interview he granted journalist after the war, yet the same Zik worked as an emissary for Biafra until middle summer of 1969 when he felt that the suffering and wastage of lives of the innocent Biafra people had become too unbearable for the war to continue and more over Ojukwu`s obstinate refusal to accept certain concessions in order to help the war come to an end. From the writer’s account of which I have reviewed here and probably expounded, one could see the difference in the dramatic personae of the two most prominent Igbo who shared the same political and spiritual faith but divided slightly in ideology which could have been influenced by the difference in age and individual personalities. This argument would for a long time to come remain a chess puzzle since the two men have crossed and transverse into another realm.
This memoire made us to understand and appreciate the intricacies of wars. On page 217 through to 227, of the book under my review, we began to see what appeared like an array of finality as the federal side who had been badly critised by event theorists and gesticulators now capitalized on the frailty and vulnerability of the Biafra enclave to carry out a re-organization and exchange of banters in new command orders which saw a timely imminent surrender by the Biafra armed forces who by this time had reached a crescendo of collapse. The introduction of the new commanders was actually a genuine tactics.
Considering the fact that the former commanders had become drought of new ideas to continue the campaigns to any logical conclusion. I also see the new commanders as men of destiny considering that the Biafra enclave had shrunk into less than one fifth of the original seize, after about twenty seven months of fierce fighting, bombardments and hunger strafing, it is very important to always state the obvious in order, not to pass very erroneous impression of our history to our youth. May I use this opportunity to also state that the most respected of the federal commanders was the black scorpion whose real name is ‘Benjamin Adekunle’  of the third marine; whose command dealt the most devastating blow that wreaked the entire water front of Biafra and her hinterland cities of Port Harcort, Aba, Owerri, Ahoda, etc were it not for the very early escaped of the black scorpion and his firm  grip of the conquered territories or if you like liberated areas, definitely the final out come of the war would not have been the same.
The black scorpion was in deed a terrible nightmare and his nemesis on the Biafra side was Achuzie Joe “The Hannibal”. This remark on Adekunle is very crucial and may evoke some radical critics and emotion. The military stake holders and social commentators said the man was robbed of the medal he deservedly won because of his apolitical nature instead of the other hullabaloos’ brought against him.
No wonder why most writers on the federal side have not properly eulogized the man the way Biafra’s or Igbo sing the ‘Hannibal’ “Joe Achuzie”.
The fall of Owerri finally into the hands of the federal army was of course the load that broke the camels back and this came shortly after the epic Ahiara declaration of 1969 in which the peoples general Emeke Odumegwu Ojukwu delivered a world press conference and also to the entire Biafra people the reason behind the Biafra revolution. It is not very important boring us with the adventurous capturing or kidnapping of the oil workers in Kwale (Ukuani) now Delta state, who were reported as playing the espionage role for the federal side, the simple reason for this is that oil workers, miners and explorers all over the third world are most times only after their selfish interest and more over they forecast a swing of the pendulum.
‘The last flight’: Ojukwu in my view remained a hero in the eye of his fellow Igbo, most especially because he survived the war to give them hope. Though in the eye of detractors death or capture of the Biafra leader could have been victory or faith accomplished but this to the average Igbo could have meant total defeat and endless annihilation of the black Jews. Achebe was very diplomatic in this analysis else he could have very sternly defended the exile better than I am trying to do here. I am very adamant because I witnessed the war as a little boy whose senses were very much in tact and responsive to stimulations of the heat.
Come to think of it, if Boko Haram and the muslim north could be this brutal on the Igbo and none Christians today, then it means it could have been Golgotha strode  if Biafra had been all round defeated and if Ojukwu had died on the process.
The presence of Ojukwu gave Ndiigbo a Hugh confidence of hope, that kind of confidence a child exudes when he sees his father and that accounted for the larger than life seize image every real Igbo portrayed of him during his funeral. Let me finally point out that the slaughtering of Ndiigbo and Christians in the north in the last three years consistently without any retaliation was because the big man became very frail and finally bowed to the cold hands of death and his shoes has not fitted anyone else.
Going back to the core of my peep before my emotions on Boko Haram insurgency, Chinua Achebe re-invigorated history and enmity on page 226 and 227 when he took the reader through a panorama of the final surrounded and defeat or collapse of Biafra with approximately three million souls perished and quantum of children suffering of kwashiorkor and malarial, even many months after the end  of hostilities in which your reviewer was a partial victim as my two younger brothers who were even more vulnerable appeared like living skulls of the horror tales, quoting the writer he said “The notoriously incompetent Nigerian government was not responding to those in need quickly enough” and as if the war was still going on Achebe writes that instead of helping the dying souls the Gowon administration went on to ban relief agencies who brought succor to the paled children thereby living their little soul bare and wondering while the gods are so  harsh on them.
It was during this period that I saw the first horrible night mare in my life as a very young boy in the first week of January 1970 ‘A dark Nigerian solider with deep facial mark was busy raping a lady at the Connor of our compound when the father of the lady courageously hacked the man’s neck off his body, the first time I saw immorality and cruelty do the dance of shame’Oh my God! The lady was perplexed perhaps, while the foolish soldier’s body gushed out blood like waste water from the drain pipe and so it was rape of young ladies all over, until this incidence which I personally witnessed. Rape has become part of the agonies of a defeated people at most war thorn countries to the extent that it has almost been accepted by war generals as booties or adventure. Some of these abnormalities were not reported in Achebe’s memoire and other writers of the Nigeria civil war.
A good number of Igbo and eastern ladies where forcefully taken or adopted for marriage during this period by Nigeria soldiers some of them are the wives of the army generals today. However the war came to a complete end with General Gowon’s magnimous “no victor no vanquish” pronouncement, there’s no doubt the event of surrender and signing of MOU could have  drawn up a sonorous plausible emotional feeling amongst the two parties to the armistice who had been at battle with each other for about three years.
The exact date was January 15th 1970, Biafra delegation was led by the indefatigable second in command of the Biafra army and the chief of army staff, major General Philip Effiong while the federal military government was led by General Gowon and Chief Obafemi Awolowo, the solemn ceremony took place at Dodan Barracks Ikoyi, Lagos.
It was important to high light this over time for national conscience and re-armament of the Nigerian people, especially those who did not learn the lesson of the civil war and zealots who are head bent on igniting troubles. The writer left us with some hypothesis on page 228“THE QUESTION OF GENOCIDE”
Except for the fact that the writer categorically stated that he only wanted to scratch the surface and maybe evoke a little curiousness which was not different from what took place within the first few weeks of the publication.
“Truth is the worst wound on the soul of man, it is also the bitter pill that initiates the conscience” Usman Danfodio equally said that truth heals the conscience so people hate truth and would do every thing possible to circumvent it irrespective of the weight and what it portends.
Some very emotionally hypoactive people whose passion for nation building is only driven by their immediate selfish interest  and ethnic jingoism, rushed into malicious attack of their much celebrated author for the simple reason that the man responded to what they regarded as dulci crux opus may be for want of time and a little spicing of the soup  with salman fish, I believe Achebe had provided all the answer to this questions in subsequent pages of this book and more so in his earlier epic publications, especially ‘A letter to my country men which was first publishes over two decades ago when the great sage Chief Obafemi Awolowo was still alive.
The simple answers to the questions are:
(a) Yes the Federal Government deliberately carried out genocide against the Igbo nation using starvation as a weapon of war.
(b) Yes the information blockade around the war was a calculated historical suppression in desperate bid to deny the atrocities committed.
(c) The war has not been discussed or taught to the young Nigerians forty years after it ended because we are still been pricked and hunted by our inner conscience some Nigerians believe that most of the incidence that took place are still too fresh to be opened and as such may evoke a pocket of sentiment .While some of the participants feel sober over the anomalies that led to the war a few key players are still basking in the euphoria of their of their escapade during the counter coup and the state sponsored ethnic massacre that claimed approximately fifty thousand lives of eastern Nigerians mainly Igbo living in Northern Nigeria which was the main fuel that caused the fire.
      I belonged to the former school of thought that objected the teaching of the subject to our young ones, but with current events taken place and the continuous political insurgency in the north which  has claimed large November of human lives and properties since the early eighties of Maitacini,Shite and some other unidentifiable  groups to the current Boko Haram well over forty thousand souls may have gone to the grave beyond,so it becomes imperative to open up a discussion on the issues that caused the first conflagration in order for young Nigerians to appreciate the extent covered on the course of Nation building; especially as  we celebrate  the first centenary celebration of our amalgamation of Northern and Southern Nigeria. If we do not make this things open, we might be doomed to repeat the costly mistakes of the past once again.
Chinua Achebe on page 229 through his profound argument and supported by
 Other distinguished war correspondents who recorded the scenes both on electronic and print media.How ever this does not even all for a debate as most of the principal actors on the federal side attest to the fact that you an not be fighting with your enemy and expect to feed him fat.Iwould quite agree in toto with some schools of thought in the east that the genocide was predicated on jihad and Islamic extremist in the Nigerian army. In as much as this may not be completely false especially when one considers the current Boko Haram desidents in the Northern part of the country which had put a dagger in the throat of many innocent Nigerians.My presumption personally is that the republican nature of the Igbo which translates into in his dogged approach to material wealth acquisition, education,Politice and fearless disposition on any subject irritates other Nigerian tribes who in their docility and cowed tradition instigates envy and acute hatred on the Black Jews of Africa.
     The religious and jihad notion comes out of the natural religious extremes or indoctrinated religious extremes which has bugged Africa and the rest of the world in the last one and half century. It is important to inform those who might be reacting to this critique to understand that the Igbo and the entire EASTERN Nigeria is almost an Island of approximately ninety percent Christians, five percent free thinkers, four percent African religious practice and one percent Islamic faithfully, mainly northern settlers. Though Achebe equally provided answers to all the problematic questions, he raised by citing the findings and opinions of most of the international observer to the Nigeria-Biafra civil war. This could be seen on pages 230-232, but the contribution I find most conclusive is that of Schlesinger in which he quoted Richard Nixon, the American president’s as follow;Untill now effort to relieve the Biafran people have been thwarted by the desire of the Central government of Nigeria to pursue total and un conditional victory and the fear of the Igbo (sic) people that surrender  means atrocities and out right genocide. This is not the time to stand on ceremony or to go through channels’ or to observe the diplomatic niceties. The destruction of an entire people is an immoral objective even in the most moral of wars. It can never be justified, it can never be condoned’
   It is at least important to quote this statement even though the American Government still did not consider any official form of diplomatic assistance to Biafra.
a.                  The writer posed another hectic question ‘why ere there many small arms used on the Biafran soil than during the entire five year period of world war II?
b.                  Why were there only a hundred thousand casualties on the much large Nigeria side compared with more than two million mainly children killed on the Biafran side?
The answer to the first question is a classical test that should be looked into by every patriotic African who is worried by the on going exploitation in the continent.
My answer to the second question is principally because the east was the main theatre of the war or battle field as the case may be. After a thorough study in a previous research carried  out by  the federation of Igbo journalist  in 1994,it was  assumed that much of the casualties during  the war, occurred in the following data shown below. do not know if other person, group or organization have been able to come up with a similar study; A data like this one is very key to our historical development in order to always keep in accurate  view our national archives.
It  might interest you  to know that the names of the six million Jews that were slaughtered during the Hitler led genocide of European Jews are still in the Isreali museum till date in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.
This review is a further in put into areas that were not covered internationally or may be as a result of the in availability of data and research or what have you.
The number of actual cassualities have remain a subject. In Nigeria censors have never been  accurate at any time as a result of my in ordinate factors.
If the population of eastern region stood at approximately fifteen million before the war broke out in 1967 and were told that about three million people died which probably represents about 30% of the population, mainly 20%Igbo,6%Efik-Ibibio-Anang,4% Ijaw,Ogoja and others..The Nigerian civil war was in deed one of the bloodiest till date.A whooping three million souls on the side of Biafra and about one hundred thousand souls on the side of the federal forces whowere mainly soldiers. I personally want to use this medium to ask what lesson we have learnt       .from all these?  This is in the view of the fact that we still behave as if  we have never passed through such a situation. We easily want to get agitated over none issues to the extent of even raising friction on subjects we might not truly be grounded in.
The Writer on course to make his readers understand some of the intricate behavioral nature of a war and the win- win philosophy behind such indebt acrimony cited an example on page 233 were Chief Obafemi Awolowo in his position as the second in command and the vice chairman of the armed forces ruling council of Nigeria made a statement that “all  is well and fair in a war and as such starvation is a weapon of war, I do not see why we should feed our enemies fat in order for them to fight us harder”  This was actually the statement  that broke the back of the People of eastern Nigeria (Biafra) as the action behind the weight of those words soon  became the albatross that stood in the  way of victory and survival  for the Biafran enclave, but I believe that was  the  best  tactical option that the old man could  offer in other to keep Nigeria together and also to justify his loyality; though  contrary to his earlier cry that if the east breaks away, he would have no choice than to also liberate the people of western Nigeria, well that goes to support the age old political quote that no matter all odds what is paramount here is permanent  interest.Awolowo prior to the out break of the civil war never pretended to love the country more than his Yoruba ethnic Nation nor did he at any time crave for the acceptance of the northern Region into the sailing ship; A lot of people believed that this turn around of his original philosophy must have challenged the throttling pen of  Chinua Achebe to carry out the expose of Chief  Awolowo’s ambitious machinations. The Writer’s waddling naturally attracted wild venoms from the apostles of the revered former Premier of Western Nigeria; most of them would have preferred, the stories were not told at all than to allow the paste to stain the name that is almost a deity in the minds of some people. The heat generated by this controversy created a Hugh deluge of intellectual discuss at one level of the lintel and another level of ethnic sentiment which almost burnt the furnace of the fragile but platonic relationship existing between the Igbo and the Yoruba. Much of what Achebe pointed out here pertaining  the  Chief had  also been  written much earlier during the life time of the Sage by many other writers, including Achebe  and other opinionates with out any brouhaha. I  wonder why their was so much  fuss this time around, may be because the Yoruba  do not take kindly to any one taking ill about their dead heroes and seconded by another fact  that most of the people who made the most noise were just the ordinary rumour hawkers who up till this moment have not even seen a copy of the book neither do they have the patience to seat down and read an Achebe`s novel which would not add any meal on their breakfast table.
In all I noticed personally that the noise has helped the book to sell above expected rate at a time when our reading culture had almost evaporated and condensed in to the open air. Some have attempted to paint or label the revered novelist as a Sectionist just for saying what a glaring fact.
We must make a little effort to understand what constituted inclusive partisanism from segregate exclusionism. Achebe like Wole Soyinka,Tai Solarin,Colonel Umar,Aminu Kano,Maitama Sule,Fela Anikulakpo Kuti and even Kaduna Nzeogwu the leader of the January 15th 1966 coup no doubt belong to that rear specie of the avian which appears in winter to perch on the trunk of some large Iroko trees with peaceful olive branch. There epistles may incite curiousness and irritate some corrupt members of the society and small minds because they contain radical truth which may stire the hornets
Their personalities cut across ethnic boundaries but that is not to say they do not have  a traditional root from which their fore bears sprang up, they were just patriotic Nationalist who thought freely  with open mind, that equally accounted for the reason why most of them who join political parties  end up often with the leftist  reformationist parties  with radical doctrines including Achebe  himself who co-founded the Peoples Redemption Party (PRP) in the second Republic.
Achebe was an Africanist with the redemptionist fang, who woke up from the wink of our plural trance, to openly challenge the obnoxious authority of Western colonialism and sent it to the converse to the chagrin of our People who thought Europeans were Heavenly beings. Through his work ‘‘things fall apart ‘introduced the African version of the English language which mocked the Victorian culture of the British, through his exposition of the African culture and ancient philosophies. That in no small manner killed the ego and chauvinistic mannerisms of the whites within our corridors to begin to look at us Africans as equals and not savages from the next planet.
It is mere impossibility to do a review or critique of the professor’s latest work, which I call his last `diary with out quotations from his magnam opus (page124) when he charged like a lion and asked:
Does the white man understand our custom?
How can he when he can not even speak our tongue?
But he says that our customs are bad;
And our brothers have turned against us
The white man is very cleverly
We were amused at his foolishness
And allowed him to stay
Now he has own our brothers and our clan
No longer act like one
He has put a knife o the things that held us together;
And we have fallen apart.


It is obvious Achebe never deviated from his original philosophy of exposing what he considered (aru) or evil or abnormality. He quoted Elie Wisel
“There may be time when we are powerless to prevent injustice,
But there must never be a time when we fail to protest”
In anger and protest of the miss rule that has been going on in the government of our country, Achebe courageously turned down the prestigious honour of Commander of the Federal Republic (CFR) which was awarded to him subsequently by the Government of Goodluck Jonathan and his predecessor.
CORRUPTION AND INDISCIPLINE; On page 249 the Writer reiterated his common song, like every other revolutionist ; he reminded us about his epic ‘The trouble with Nigeria ‘He says Nigerians are corrupt because the system they live under today makes corruption easy and profitable, they would cease to be corrupt when corruption is made difficult and unattractive.
Let one expert come out and fault the old man’s finding through the world Bank that $400(four hundred billion dollars) has been stolen from Nigeria’s treasury since her independence in 1960, he went further to quote the Global bank by equating the stolen money with the total GDP of Norway and Sweden, two of the richest Scandinavian Countries, with some of the highest standard of living index in the world.
The Professor as a Social critique and commentator has succeeded in savoring the vulnerability of the average Nigerian Poor class, whose average income per annum does not exceed $800 (eight dollars) this he states on page 250 has led to the failure of the State and the rise of terrorism, ethnic problems, debauchery and other immoral activities such as kidnappings, ritual killings, looting of government properties etc..As an elderly States man who championed the literary renaissance of Africa, he did not only chastise the system through his creative writings, he also admonished the leadership in strong language to be up and doing. With out throwing away the dirty water and the baby inside, like a typical African Grand father he suggested some veritable way forward        
He exhibited his patriotism and optimism on the last paragraph on page 252, were he suggested the sovereign national conference  and a continual debate, both in large and small forums  through different media on  page 253, he wrote as follows; I for see  the Nigerian solution would come in stages. First we have to nurture and strengthen our democratic institution for the finest and fairest election possible. He advocates for a free press freedom and strong justice system.
He advised that the checks and balances should be propabably.put in place in order to cut curb corruption, after which every other thing would take its natural footing.
To me these were like a parting speech of a dying father to his Children.
with this Summation came the end of the main book in which one of the worlds most Re-known Writer kissed good by to us all,I may not have to bother you with the appendix page because I had already touched on most of the  subject matters on the course of the review  but I would not ignore  to say one or two things about the beautiful post scripts in which Chinua Achebe  eulogized The Great Nelson Mandela  as a role model for Africa leaders to emulate. He did not fail to admonish
some seat tight heads States such as those whose names he mentioned on 257 and 258. After a thorough the study of this wonderful historical diary which has driven a part way to our socio-political re-armaments, You may have come to agree with me that indeed there was a country” No wonder the father of modern leadership
Nelson Mandela who described Achebe as “the Writer in whose Company the Prison walls fell down”           .            
Please pardon some idiosyncrasies you came across, I started this Critique  or review before the news of the old man spread like the Ocean tide and smirched  me like a piece of rock out of the volcano and as such I had to re-defined the mission of my assignment to conjour  my earlier pre-monition that this may just be the professors last diary ,considering that he touched  all aspect of the Nigerian Society. In order words I wish ton use this medium to pay my little tribute to this man who has taught me and many other African about the literary and Historical re-naissance.
To you Achebe and Nelson Mandela, I dedicate my soon to published Collection of poems titled “I CRY FOR AFRICA”      
  
                                            -----CLARKSON IHEANETU EVANS
                                                    Independent Producer \ Social Commentator
                                                    Radio Nigeria, Broadcasting House
                                                     Ikoyi –Lagos  (070-83612076, 080-51194998)       
                                    
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or email: iheanetuevans @yahoo.com
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