Holocaust, Hiroshima, Rwanda And A Biafra Denied | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Holocaust, Hiroshima, Rwanda And A Biafra Denied

Nnedi Ogaziechi
Posted: Jun 7, 2016 at 2:00 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

By Ogaziechi Nnedi

 “Someday the voices of Hibakusha

 will no longer be with us to bear witness.

But the memory of the morning of

August 6, 1945, must never fade.

That memory allows us to fight

complacency. It fuels our moral imagination.

It allows us to change.

-Barack Obama (Hiroshima, May, 2016)


On May 30, 2016, the commercial city of Onitsha in Anambra State,  South East Nigeria was in the news all over the world. The kernel of the story was the shooting of a number of youths who had been having a peaceful march in commemoration of the same date in 1967 when the late Chukwuemeka Odumegwu  Ojukwu announced  the breakaway of the Eastern region under a new name of the Republic of Biafra.

The Nigerian Army has since offered what to them is an explanation for the massacre of civilians in 2016. They informed the world that they killed in self-defence.

In a country where the citizens are almost getting numb and dehumanised by the number of extra judicial killings by either terrorists, Fulani herdsmen or security agencies, the incident has gone just like the Jos indigenes/settlers recurrent night massacres, the North East Boko Haram attacks, the Kaduna Shiites/military incident, where it was alleged that more than two hundred Shiites were mowed down, the attack on the Agatu community that resulted in the death of more than three hundred souls, the Nimbo slaughter of more than thirty people by some Fulani herdsmen, who have since announced their ‘presence’ in Delta, Ekiti and Ondo States.

Nigeria has moved on. The Democracy day celebrations did not record the observance of one-minute silence for all the dead; and that made a huge statement about the value we place on human life in this country. At what point did we become this insensitive?

In the same month of May, a President Barrack Obama became the first sitting US President to visit Hiroshima to coincide with the 71st anniversary of the dropping of the atomic Bomb on the dual cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki that killed thousands.

According to President Obama, “Mere words cannot give voice to such suffering. But we have a shared responsibility to look directly into the eye of history and ask what we must do differently to curb such suffering again”.

The Holocaust memorial is celebrated every year. Monuments have been built around the world in memory of victims of terror and wars. Such acts do not demonise or canonise the initiators, they stand as monuments of history to honour humanity and teach eternal life lessons.

Even down here in Africa, the 1994 Rwandan genocide has a memorial where as gory as it appears hundreds of skulls of both Hutus and Tutsis are on display. This sounds as very poignant reminders of the evil of the genocide in Rwanda.

Sadly in Nigeria, the civil war that lasted about thirty months with millions of lives lost is continually being forcefully swept under some political carpet. A people’s future is positively shaped when they take advantage of the lessons of their history.

A former Head of State at the time of the war, Gen. Gowon (Rtd.) feels it should be ‘prayed’ away. A President Buhari reportedly said the whole country would rather drown than disintegrate probably in reaction to the agitation of some youths from both the South East and South South.

The idea of trying to obliterate history from the psyche of Nigerians just because it temporarily appears politically expedient is very retrogressive and is an ill wind that blows no nation any good. It is only from a full understanding of a past that any nation can grow and make progress.

A Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie wrote an award winning novel,”Half of a Yellow Sun” based on the facts of the Nigerian/Biafran civil war. It was adapted into a film and it has been screened around the world, but laughably initially banned from being screened in Nigeria before national and international pressure forced the Jonathan government to lift the ban.

In our normal way of living in denial and always trying to hide behind a finger, attempts have been made at totally banning the study of history in our schools just because some people are afraid to confront   our past no matter how valuable.

Make no mistake about it, this writer is not endorsing any agitation or a repeat of any war for that matter, but current realities in the country clearly points to a wrong handling of our history as a nation. We try too hard to forget where the rain started to beat us. There is no nation on earth that buries its history with the corpses of conflicts and wars.

It is erroneous for politicians to always assume that they can act as politicians and still script the history of the country. That is precisely why America’s unity is bound by their full knowledge of their history including the atrocious civil war. Europe does not pretend that the two World wars never took place.

As we stride across the dead and march the blood on the streets of Onitsha and listen to the Army tell us how they killed civilians marking history in self-defence, may we look around the world and learn how nations give dignity to citizens (dead or alive) and strive not to repeat mistakes of the past.

We must realise that truth is eternal and nations are built on justice and equity. Memorials and anniversaries are not limited to only political events. Citizens are entitled to peacefully mark social events and it behoves on security agencies to professionally manage such processions to stave off any social disruption.