Genocide has cascaded down post-WW II history, deepening the blackness of the post-Nazi era: genocide in Biafra in the late 1960s; in Cambodia in the 1970s; in the former Yugoslavia in the early 1990s; in Rwanda in 1994; in Darfur in the 2000s; and today — for all we are able to ascertain — in North Korea.
Seventy-five years after the Nazis shattered the glass in hundreds of synagogues across Germany, Austria and Sudetenland, arrested some 30,000 Jews and sent the unmistakable message that Jewish life in Germany had come to an end, we wish we could say that anti-Semitism ended in the interim.
While we do need to work harder than a quarter of a century ago to promote Holocaust remembrance, the truth is that the Holocaust is the most written about episode in history. Tens of thousands of books on the Holocaust and of video testimonies by survivors of the Holocaust are available in libraries and memorials and on computer screens. While we can never take Holocaust remembrance for granted, a special anniversary is not necessary to make the point. We need not recount the unfolding of the Nazi hatred in ghettos, mass killing pits, gas chambers, “medical” experiments and other forms of unspeakable brutality.
However, the 75th anniversary of Kristallnacht does call attention to: Now. Today. Current threats. Not, thank G-d, on the scale of Nazism; but neo-Nazi political parties flourish in Greece and Hungary. Anti-Semitism is stoked in parts of the Islamic world. Anti-Semitism masquerading as anti-Israelism far outstrips legitimate opposition to Israeli policies. Anti-Semitic websites flourish. Holocaust deniers pop up regularly. Especially in France, anti- Semitism is brutal and persistent. The old hatreds and untruths about Jews have resurfaced.
Vigilance, even 75 years after the horrors of the Holocaust, is required.
Not to mention, if the Jewish obsession with Holocaust remembrance has successfully sent the message to the world, “Never Again,” the message, alas, has been received only with respect to Jews. Genocide has cascaded down post-WW II history, deepening the blackness of the post-Nazi era: genocide in Biafra in the late 1960s; in Cambodia in the 1970s; in the former Yugoslavia in the early 1990s; in Rwanda in 1994; in Darfur in the 2000s; and today — for all we are able to ascertain — in North Korea.
The power of Yad Vashem, of the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, and of Holocaust memorials in Berlin and many other cities around the world notwithstanding, Holocaust remembrance has not yet gathered enough power to enforce “Never Again” against other, non-Jewish peoples.
On a far less global scale, the 75th anniversary of Kristallnacht is an opportunity to remember its survivors who contributed mightily to our Colorado Jewish community. Their personalities, their testimony, their presence are deeply missed. We might mention the late Jack Goldman, though, in fact, each survivor of Kristallnacht and of the Holocaust has added a shine, a cultural diversity, a beautiful tonality to our community.
When all is said and done, it was individual Jews whom the Nazis targeted; it was individual survivors of Kristallnacht whom we knew, helped, appreciated and learned from.
We salute the significant work of the Yizkor Project. Its remembrance of Kristallnacht will be this Sunday, and will include a screening of the documentary, “The Night of Broken Glass”; memories offered of Kristallnacht by survivors; and excerpts from the 1012 Reader’s Theater. The event is at noon at EDOS. The importance of the event is widely recognized in our community, as it is co-sponsored by Allied Jewish Senior Housing, Colorado Jewish Holocaust Survivors and Descendants, EDOS, Holocaust Awareness Institute, JEWISHcolorado, and JFS at JCC Senior Connections.
We must continue to bring the information to the next generation, to keep this chapter of Jewish history alive — and to tell the world that vigilance against genocide is not just a Jewish imperative. Every people, every nation, is a potential victim. “Never again” — against anyone.
Copyright © 2013 by the Intermountain Jewish News
RECENTLY, Ralph Uwazurike, the leader of the Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB), called for a one day sit-at-home.
I was deeply disturbed that people, especially in Onitsha, heeded his call. But then, the masses barely think, and consequently, are susceptible to political manipulation.
No wonder, Adolf Hitler once told an aide, “never worry about what to tell the people because you can tell them anything and they will believe, and the bigger the lie, the more believable it is to them”. It also partially explains why the masses, irrespective of their number, strength and righteous anger, cannot get anything done, unless, they are directed strategically, that is, led. Ralph Uwazurike is an uninformed activist who is strategically misdirecting the Igbo masses.
I once met Ralph Uwazurike. He was in Washington, DC with Chukwuemeka Ojukwu for the opening of the Biafran “House”. Eager to assess this then emergent secessionist activist, I listened to him very attentively and observed him very closely.
After the event, I penned my opinion of him thus:“Uwazurike is not a sober and reflective crusader on a planned mission with carefully articulated strategies and objectives. He is an impetus man dabbling recklessly into an issue with potentially momentous consequences. He lacks both charisma and oratorical flourishes.
He is neither a scholar nor an intellectual; a philosopher nor a deep thinker; a sophisticate nor a cosmopolite. He is a homespun boyish looking man, with an air of arrogance or the self-importance of a parvenu gloating in his new found prominence.”
They were to cut the tape, declaring the Biafran “House” open. They were about four hours late. Tired of waiting for them, Prof. Elekwachi of the Biafran Foundation proceeded to cut the tape and declare the Biafran “House” open. About 30 minutes later, Ojukwu, his wife, Bianca, and Uwazurike arrived.
Ojukwu spoke first. He apologised profusely for their lateness. Uwazurike made no apology for his lateness. Evidently, not happy that the Biafran “House” was declared open before their arrival, he said, “you could have gone ahead and done whatever you wanted but whatever you did in the absence of Ojukwu and I was useless”.
I was stunned and offended by his bare-faced imprudence. I though it was insensitive and insolent. Even, if it was the President of the United States of America who kept his maids and houseboys waiting for four hours, he would have been polite enough to offer them an apology, no matter how understated.
So, who is this boorish upstart thrust into the limelight by prattling his neo-Biafran nonsense who thinks he could keep more than 100 men and women, some of them older than him, waiting for more than four hours and not only refuses to apologise for his lateness, but also, had the temerity to term whatever they did in his absence useless.
I was dismayed by his delusion of grandeur and false feeling of indispensability. He continued, “Initially, I did not know what I was doing, but, as democracy allows self expression, I decided to express myself”. So, I started talking about Biafra, and as people started listening to me, I continued.
I believe that up till now, he still does not know what he is doing. He needs to stop “talking about Biafra,” and first of all, endeavour to know what he is doing. He needs to be tutored on the history of Nigeria and her social and political temperament, the strengths and weaknesses of the Igbo nation, and the principles of Nonviolence (which, according to him, informs his activism). And then, the absurdity of his neo-Biafranism will crystallize to him.
Nigeria is not breaking up because the generality of Nigerians, despite their vociferous denunciations of Nigeria for her multiple woes, are committed to a united Nigeria. The early attempt to create Biafra was the pipe-dream of someone who in his studied disdain for reason and caution scorned the advice of his father and Nnamdi Azikiwe and railroaded his self-appointed Consultative Assembly into assenting to his secessionist bid.
Unlike the masses that were whipped into a paranoiac frenzy by Ojukwu’s propaganda and falsehood, the politically perceptive Igbo were opposed to Biafra. Like Sir Louis Odumwgwu Ojukwu (before his death) and Nnamdi Azikiwe, the Igbo political class was opposed to Biafra. However, intimidated by Ojukwu’s broad-stroke labelling and chastisement of anyone who disagreed with him as saboteur, they grudgingly conceded, “you can declare Biafra at your earliest possible convenience.” It was not a heartfelt, firm endorsement but the reluctant consent of an intimidated Assembly.
Since those nightmare days when the Igbo defeated, battered and tattered stumbled out of the last vestiges of Biafra, we have made enormous progress across the whole spectrum of the Nigerian social life and gained the respect and confidence of other Nigerians.
Uwazurike is undermining the credibility of the Igbo. He is portraying the Igbo as subversive, unreliable and troublous elements and implacable, irredeemable rebels.
Igbo land is landlocked with large tracts of infertile land and a population density three times that of Yoruba land. But countervailing these disadvantages are the Igbo’s admirable qualities of courage, determination, hard-edged work ethic and enterprising vigor. Our boundless resourceful energies and effervescent entrepreneur spirit are unyieldingly spilling beyond the confines of our regional borders, and have thus, driven us to every nook and cranny of Nigeria. Operating within an expanded frontier – one Nigeria – is to our advantage.
Although MASSOB operatives are sometimes armed and violent, Uwazurike professes that he is guided by the principles of Nonviolence Civil Disobedience in his struggle for the actualization of his Sovereign State of Biafra. To appreciate the incongruity of this method with the Nigerian political environment and his agitation for Biafra, he needs to read the writings of major proponents of nonviolent protest: David Thoreau, Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr.
The Igbo masses, like the masses, universally, are not politically savvy, and therefore need to be directed strategically. The man, Ralph Uwazurike, arrogating to himself the role of directing them, admittedly, does not know what he is doing. Is that not a classic case of the metaphorical blind leading the blind?
Mr. TOCHUKWU EZUKANMA, a commentator on national issues, wrote from Lagos.
When I read your trilogy on Biafra, published in The NEWS Magazine of 25, February, 4 and 11 March 2013, based on 21,000 pages of American Secret Files, as you claimed, I wondered whether it was the same Damola Awoyokun who wrote EINSTEIN AND THE EXPRESSWAY CHURCHES in resplendent logic and language that is writing again. To read 21,000 pages is quite a feat, even if each page contains one line only! The time needed to read 21,000 pages will certainly tend to infinity as we say in mathematics.
I do not intend to take you up on the possibility of such a task. You sought to create the impression that since your source is American Secret Files, all you said is unquestionable truth. The USA being the world capital of present day CAPITALISM, every political opinion emanating from there is ideologically suspect by people of different political orientation. Reason being partly because of what John Buchan said in his novel – THE THIRTY NINE STEPS, ‐“ Capitalism has no conscience no fatherland!”, and partly because the USA is the sponsor of a very deadly type of international terrorism detailed by John Perkins in his book – CONFESSIONS OF AN ECONOMIC HIT MAN in which he said “Economic hit men (EHMs) are highly paid professionals who can cheat countries around the globe out of trillions of dollars. They funnel money from the World Bank, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and other foreign “aid” organizations into the coffers of huge corporations and the pockets of a few wealthy families who control the planet’s natural resources. Their tools include fraudulent financial reports, rigged elections,payoffs, extortion, sex, and murder. …..I should know; I was an EHM……Jaime Roldos, president of Ecuador, and Omar Torrijos, president of Panama both had just died in fiery crashes. Their deaths were not accidental. They were assassinated because they opposed that fraternity of corporate, government,and banking heads whose goal is global empire. We EHMS failed to bring Roldos and Torrijos around,and the other type of hit men, the CIA – sanctioned jackals who were always right behind us, stepped in.
“……Because of my fellow EHMs and me, Ecuador is in far worse shape today than she was before we introduced her to the miracles of modern economics, banking, and engineering. Since 1970, during this period known euphemistically as the Oil Boom, the official poverty level grew from 50 to 70 percent, under – or unemployment increased from 15 to 70 percent, and public debt increased from $240 million to $16 billion. …….Third World debt has grown to more than $2.5 trillion, and the cost of servicing it – over $375 billion per year as of 2004 – is more than all Third World spending on health and education, and twenty times what developing countries receive annually in foreign aid….” With this background of American insatiable quest for global economic domination established by an American, who was an insider, the credibility of your source of information on Biafra, is blowing in the wind, coupled with the
fact that you are apparently the Obasanjo type who swallows everything from the white man; as illustrated in his hiring of Baroness Lynda Chalker as his omnibus guide, counselor and supervisor.
21 million pages from American secret files cannot match the account of MAJOR ADEWALE ADEMOYEGA who was not only an ear and eye witness, but also, participated throughout in the planning and execution of the January 15, 1966 coup, from Genesis to Revelation so to speak. He was one of the SEVEN MAJORS who held the one and only formal meeting of the coup, one of the FIVE MAJORS that planned and executed the coup and also one of the THREE MAJORS that formed the inner core! Odia Ofeimun’s regrets and lamentations that the FORGOTTEN DOCUMENTS OF THE WAR including Major Ifeajuna’s account of the coup did not see the light of day is unhelpful. Ifeajuna and Nzeogwu being Igbos, their account, will not be accepted by most non – Igbo Nigerians because of the igbophobia that has poisoned their reasoning.
The unfriendly and destructive outburst from a section of the Yoruba nation against Achebe’s new book on Biafra, confirms that Ademoyega’s book on the coup ‐ WHY WE STRUCK, received scant or no attention from the Nigerian reading public. This has remained so even though it is known that ADEWALE ADEMOYEGA is non–Igbo, but a FULL AND RED BLOODED YORUBA IN NAME AND BEING! His ‘offence’ is that because of Nigeria’s victory over Biafra, in that war, facilitated by the strange and most unusual collaboration and collusion of COMMUNISM AND CAPITALISM, to suffocate a people struggling for survival, the first of its kind in world history and made possible by the intellectual domination of Ojukwu by Britain our former colonial master, he did not join the band wagon of anti – Igbo feeling to hold the Igbos as the sponsors of THE GLORIOUS JANUARY REVOLUTION. I will quote Ademoyega’s book copiously and extensively in an effort to bring out the true picture of that event even before an unwilling audience. .
History is also taken to mean his story. Emeritus Professor Chinua Achebe has written his “THERE WAS A COUNTRY ‐ A PERSONAL HISTORY OF BIAFRA”, laying emphasis where he chose. Damola, you can write your own history of Biafra or Nigeria and lay emphasis as you like. Nobody has the right to task anybody on where emphasis is laid. It is most improper if not immodest of you to assault Achebe on this score.
On the January 15, 1966 revolution, it is now known, settled and agreed that the FIVE MAJORS who planned and executed it, had as the final part of the operation, to free Awolowo from Calabar prison and make him their leader. With this in view, why do you persist in calling it an Igbo coup? The best interests of Ndigbo will not and cannot be served by Awolowo, as the new leader of the revolution, were
the coup to have succeeded in Lagos. If it were an Igbo coup, the arrangement would have been that power would be ultimately handed over to an Igbo man not to AWOLOWO. Because of your uncritical obsession that it was an Igbo coup, which did not have the welfare of Awolowo at heart, you said “ In reality, there was no army unit heading to Calabar to spring Awolowo from prison.”
Major Adewale Ademoyega counters your stand thus “……Yet there was one arrangement we had left till the date was fixed. It was the arrangement for the release of political prisoners, particularly Chief Awolowo. Now that our own date had been tentatively fixed for mid ‐ January, it became necessary to gear up that arrangement. At the end of the first week in January, Major Anuforo and I arranged to meet Captain Udeaja……….Having briefed Udeaja generally and got his consent, we gave him his task. He was to fly in a special plane provided for the purpose to Calabar on the morning of the D – Day , to effect the release of Chief Awolowo and bring him to Lagos on the plane…”. Damola, you seriously need to note the above point even if it goes against the grain.Yet, if all the FIVE MAJORS were Igbos, their intention was national.
Entre Major Chukwuma Nzeogwu in ‐ 13 YEARS OF MILITARY RULE by James O. Ojiako, a Daily Times Publication. “We seized power to stamp out tribalism, nepotism and regionalism .There were five of us in the inner circle and we planned the details. On Saturday morning, the officers and men thought they were going out only on a night exercise.
It was not until they were out in the bush that they were told the full details of the plan. They had bullets, they had been issued with their weapons but I was unarmed. If they disagreed, they could have shot me.
It was truly a Nigerian gathering and only in the army do you get true Nigerianism…….They did it for the good of their country……” Where did Ndigbo come into this business in the light of Nzeogwu’s statement? Tell me Engr. Damola Awoyokun, the all knowing authority on the January coup and the Nigeria – Biafra war.
You said” Ojukwu”, said Stephan, (the West African correspondent of Bavarian Broadcasting, Munich) “was a supporter of the coup, the first in the country’s history. He sympathized with the January 1966 plot makers, but was careful enough to avoid any overplayed attachment to them. Ojukwu told me later that it had been him who had requested General (Aguiyi) Ironsi to crush the coup…” How amazing?Ojukwu an Igbo man, advising Ironsi another Igbo man, to crush an Igbo coup! The two parts of this sentence are mutually exclusive. Though your belief in an Igbo coup is very strong, you went on probably subconsciously to quote your American Secret files where they said, ‘According to Lieutenant Colonel Abba Kyari, military governor of North Central State, “there is no question that Major Nzeogwu, Ibo leader of 1966 coup in Kaduna, had been a nationalist, not a tribalist, who was acting for the good of all Nigeria.” Damola, Nzeogwu was acting for the good of all Nigeria not for the good of the IGBOS, SO SAID A NORTHERN MILITARY GOVERNOR! When Nigeria engages in dastardly behavior it does not attract your attention as in this case where your American files continued to quote Abba Kyari“….explaining that Nzeogwu having been falsely informed that Nsukka was in Biafran hands, boldly entred Ubolo Eke, near Nsukka at night and was killed. Nzeogwu’s corpse was transferred to the North and given full military burial, but not before northern soldiers had plucked out his eyes so that he would never see the North again.” What an effort, a dead man being prevented from seeing again!
With this type of treatment given to the corpse of a dead man, only God knows what they did to Colonel Tim Onwuatuegwu who was captured alive! They may still be killing Onwuatuegwu up to this day! Your American files said again, ”At the Kano airport, soldiers seized an Igbo stewardess from a plane on which she flew in from London. She was never heard of again.Chinua Achebe had extensively discussed the prevalent national resentment of the Igbos by other Nigerian ethnic groups. Ndigbo cannot help this unjustified, diabolical, conspiratorial, animosity against them by volunteering their extinction from the planet earth. Almighty God placed Ndigbo in this part of the globe, and they will not betray the responsibility of preserving their specie. You concocted all types of fables to portray the IGBOS as being unsympathetic on the size of the northern casualties during the first coup.
Ademoyega speaks again “….It would be recalled that by late 1965 the efforts of the Balewa Government to Northernise the top echelon of the army was already bearing fruit. Some Northerners were already holding most of the strategic positions in the Army. Those positions could easily be used to thwart our attempt to change the Government. Sheer caution dictated that we would be sure to neutralize those officers so that our revolution would have a chance of taking off and succeeding. Later events did fully justify our apprehension, since it was the escape of only one of those marked down for arrest that brought us intense hardship and finally compromised our success.
There was no plan to arrest or kill all the officers above the rank of Major as was later claimed by extreme Northern propagandists. Even among those earmarked for arrest, only four were Northerners, two were Westerners and two were Easterners. But the North had always had more than 50% of the intake of officers into the Army since 1961, and more than 70 % of the intake of the other ranks. Therefore if casualties were to happen, it was more likely to be in that proportion than anything else.
The wicked propaganda that followed the coup was only made possible by the weakness and non – revolutionary principles of the Ironsi regime, which bore no semblance to the well ordered and well controlled government that was envisaged and could have been run by us if our plans were fully executed…”
In your prejudiced mind, you trivialized the critical and crucial safety valve that ABURI ACCORD provided by saying “All his (Ojukwu’s) performances in Ghana that culminated in the Aburi Accord of January 1967, or discussion with the Awolowo led National Conciliation Committee five months later, turned out to be ruse. ” You overlooked the very important fact that at Aburi, an agreement was reached, signed and sealed by Ojukwu and Gowon. When they returned to their countries, instead of implementing the accord as signed, Gowon allowed his ‘super’ permanent secretaries, to interpret that document which was not written in Greek or Latin language, but in plain simple English language, and ended up, refusing to implement it and therefore PRECIPITATED THE WAR. If Gowon had implemented the ABURI ACCORD as signed in Ghana, on January 5, 1967, THERE WOULD HAVE BEEN NO WAR. I should have closed my case here in ABURI, but could not resist the urge to respond to some of your other foibles.
Nigerian commentators on the civil war always fight shy of the ABURI ACCORD and its tremendous and strategic importance, because by so doing, IGBOS are set up for the kill on the guillotine of ethnic cleansing. Every unbiased umpire will agree that THE CIVIL WAR WAS CAUSED BY GOWON BECAUSE HE REFUSED TO IMPLEMENT THE ABURI ACCORD! Any objective and sincere inquirer on the cause of the war, should go no further than the ABURI ACCORD! In Biafra, we had as our mantra, ON ABURI WE STAND, while Gowon, instead of standing on ABURI with Biafra, torpedoed and demolished the good work done at Aburi.
Even though the credibility of your American Secret Files is hanging in the balance, I am curious to note what they said here. “The secret US document called Njoku the best Enugu has (and one of the very best Nigeria has produced).The UK defence advisor who had known Madiebo as subordinate officer First Recce Squadron for several years, said he is “perfectly charming socially, but quite worthless
professionally. He is weak, ineffective commander and consistently had worst recce squadron.” To affirm what he was saying, he showed the US defence attaché, Madiebo’s file at the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst. Madiebo’s records were abysmal…..”
The coup was purely a Nigerian enterprise by patriotic citizens. Ndigbo or The Igbo State Union as at the time had no hand in the coup, as confirmed by Ademoyega when he said “It was in mid – November 1965 that we held the one and only formal meeting that preceded the coup .The meeting was held in Lagos, in the military quarters of Major Ifeajuna……The meeting was very short. There was a consensus
that something had to be done quickly to save Nigeria from anarchy and disintegration and to restore peace and unity to the nation. It was agreed that only the use of force could bring immediate end to the violence being perpetrated in many parts of the country. It was, however, agreed that the use of force should be minimal. Political leaders and their collaborators were to be arrested, but wherever an arrest was resisted, it was to be met with force. Otherwise, no one was to be killed. Only the heads of government, that is, the Prime Minister, the four regional premiers and their right – hand men, were considered most essential to arrest throughout the country. And among their military collaborators, only the top echelon and those holding strategic positions were named for arrest. These included the GOC of the Nigerian Army, General Ironsi, the commanders of the two brigades, Brigadiers Ademulegun and Maimalari, the Chief of Staff Army HQ, Colonel Kur Mohammed, and the Adjutant General of the Army, Lieutenant – Colonel Pam. Others were the Deputy Commander of the NDA, Colonel Shodeinde, the Quartermaster – General of the Army, Lieutenant – Colonel Unegbe and the Commander of the 4th Battalion which was based in Ibadan and was the most politicised unit of the Army, Lieutenant-Colonel Largema.
Contrary to the load of wicked propaganda that has since been heaped on us, there was no decision in our meeting to single out any particular ethnic group for elimination or destructionOur intentions were honourable , our views were national and our goals were idealistic. We intended that the coup should be national in execution so that it would receive national acclamation. We planned that the use of force should be minimal so that our methods could at once be seen as superior to those of the politicians, who simply went on killing the very people they were called upon to govern. The need to bring more of the middle level officers (Majors and Lieutenant – Colonels) was discussed. But the few names that could be mentioned had to be dropped because their interpersonal connections would compromise the security of the planning. After ninety minutes of discussion, the meeting was over. We dispersed as if from a prayer meeting since it was a Sunday and the Lord was in our midst……..“
NNA Plan to Wallop the West
“It was at this time that I met Chief H. O. Davies for the first time. He was a famous politician who had been in the nationalist struggle since 1941. He was a Federal Minister under the Balewa Government….I soon got into deep conversation with him on the political situation in the country, I was particularly interested to know what the Federal Government’s view was, apart from Balewa’s public statements.
Chief H. O. Davies made it clear that the Federal Government had no, solution to the political crisis” (Damola are you hearing this? Since the Federal Government had no solution to the crisis the January boys not the IGBOS had to step in.)” He said that everybody was just waiting to see what would happen next and that nobody knew exactly what that would be; but surely something was bound to happen. I
left Chief Davis feeling that the Balewa Government had something up its sleeve .Otherwise, the minister would not be so emphatic that something was bound to happen…“ .
On January 3, 1966, I went to work with Ifeajuna. After extensive prodding, we discovered that the Balewa Government had a terrible plan to bring the Army fully to operate in the West for the purpose of eliminating the elites of that region, especially the intellectuals who were believed to be behind the intransigence of the people against the Akintola Government. It was for this reason that the government
had attacked the intellectuals of the Region, especially those at Ife, intimidating and victimizing them for their refusal to support it. People like Solarin of May Flower School, Ikenne, were among those marked down. It was also intended that if the plan succeeded in the West, the next target would be the East. The Federal Government was to use loyal troops for this purpose and the 4th Battalion at Ibadan
commanded by Lieutenant – Colonel Largema and the 2nd Battalion temporarily commanded by Major Igboba, but soon to be taken over by Lieutenant ‐Colonel Gowon, were designated for this assignment.”
If the January boys had not intervened, Sardauna and the Balewa Federal Government would have recolonised and severely subjugated Southern Nigeria and placed it in a condition far worse than Southern Sudan experienced before her independence. Damola, I hope you can now see that the January coup was very divinely timely. Ademoyega continued ” The operation was fixed for the third week of January 1966, when the Sardauna would have returned from his pilgrimage, and Lieutenant – Colonel Gowon would have completed his takeover of the Ikeja Battalion. In preparation of this horrible move by the Federal Government, the high echelons of the Army and the Police were being reshuffled.
Major – General Ironsi was ordered to proceed on leave from mid – January. He was to be relieved by Brigadier Maimalari, over the head of Brigadier Ademulegun…..In the Police, Inspector – General Edet was sent on leave from December 20,1965.The officer closest to him was retired and the the third officer, Alhaji Kam Salem was brought in as the new Inspector – General. The stage was thus set for the proper walloping of the West…….
“Late on the 14th, news reached us that the Sardauna had been having a meeting in Kaduna on that day with Chief Akintola of the West, and that both Brigadier Ademulegun and Lieutenant Colonel Largema were in attendance. It was obvious to us that they were putting finishing touches to their planned “walloping of the West”. But we felt confident that we were one step ahead.”
After the revenge coup, neither the triumphant NORTH nor you Damola, expressed sympathy to Igbos because of the over 200 Igbo casualties compared to the about 26 casualties of the first coup by your account from the American secret files! .” You went on to say” that the Igbos in the North were widely taunting their hosts on the loss of their leaders. Celestine Ukwu,a popular Igbo musician, released songs titled Ewu Ne Ba Akwa (Goats Are Crying) and others celebrating “Igbo power….”. I do not intend to comment on your assertion that Igbos in the North celebrated the death of northern leaders because it is neither here nor there. But the record song you referred to, was a high life number released by Cardinal Rex Jim Lawson a Kalabari, long before the first coup. You had to foist authorship of that highlife record, on Igbos to further criminalise and calumnise them. At that time, once a highlife record was released, whether by Bobby Benson, E.C.Arinze, Stephen Amechi. Victor Olaiya, Eddy Okonta, Chief Bill Friday, Roy Chicago, Victor Uwaifo, Agu Norris, Baby Face Paul, Ambrose Campbell and His West African Rhythm Brothers, Stephen Osadebe or any others, those of us in the know, would immediately and correctly name the author. May be, you were not in circulation then.
To further put the Igbos in bad light, you said “He (Achebe) claimed that they (the Igbos) were the dominant tribe, led the nation in virtually every sector – politics, education, commerce and the arts”. You agonizingly noted in your pathetic myopia “which included having two vice – chancellors in Yoruba land…”Your list is not exhaustive . At that time, Engr. Francis C.N.Agbasi was the first Nigerian Principal of Yaba College of Technology and Mr. Clement Odunukwe was the Senior Lecturer –in –charge (Principal) of Federal Emergency Science School, Onikan, Lagos. Also, Mr. F.C. Nwokedi, was the first Nigerian Federal Permanent Secretary to be appointed by the colonial masters. When Mr. P. G. Stallard was retiring, Mr. Nwokedi ought to have succeeded him as the first Nigerian Secretary to the Council of Ministers. But because he came from the ‘wrong’ tribe, he was skipped and Mr. S. O. Wey was given the post while Mr. Nwokedi became the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Modesty will not restrain me from expressing my joy, be it of local patriotism because, the last three gentlemen mentioned above, hailed from my home town, Nnewi, and Mr. Nwokedi was from my village, Edoji.
Since these institutions are in Yorubaland, you created the impression that the Yoruba benevolently allowed the Igbos to occupy those posts. You deliberately ignored the fact that they are Federal Government institutions and appointment into those positions followed very rigorous due process. I had described in a previous article how Professor Kenneth O. Dike was unanimously elected the Principal of the University College Ibadan, by the University College Council. It bears repeating for your benefit. The Chairman of the Council, Dr. Akanu Ibiam, went to London, and consulted Sir Charles Morris, Chairman of the Inter ‐ University College Council that found Principals and Vice Chancellors for colonial Universities. Sir. Morris said to Dr. Ibiam, ”Why do you come to us? You have your man there (Prof Kenneth Dike).You are lucky to have a ready – made man on the spot.”
In my second session as an undergraduate at Ibadan University in 1965/66, a Yoruba undergraduate wrote an article in which he said “If this university was situated east of the Niger, one would understand; but to hear people ‘keduing’ about all over the campus in a university founded in Yoruba land is unacceptable.” Kedu is the Igbo word for how do you do.
In that same year, some of us students were hanging around the Faculty of Science premises where Faculty Lecturers were reviewing the sessional results of students. We asked Dr. V.O. Olunloyo, Senior Lecturer in Mathematics who was the first lecturer to come out of the meeting, about the result of Mr ONWUCHEKWA, a final year Mathematics student. He said, second class upper.
We expressed our dismay, for we had expected Onwuchekwa to make a first class in the light of his brilliant records. Dr.Olunloyo remarked, “ You don’t expect Onwuchekwa to make a first class considering the high standard set by Kenku last year.” I am not aware that the record set by Prof Iya Abubakar in Mathematics has been equaled or broken ,yet Kenku made his first class without equaling Abubakar’s record. Instead of saying that Onwuchekwa did not meet the first class bar, he resorted to ethnic politics by comparing Onwuchekwa’s ( an Igbo) result with Kenku’s(a Yoruba) result .
In 1998, Emeritus Professor Chike Obi solved the over 300 years old Mathematics puzzle – FERMAT’S LAST THEOREM, established in 1637 by a French Lawyer/Mathematician, Pierre Fermat. Chike Obi’s paper was accepted for publication and appeared in the USA – based Journal of Algebras, Groups and Geometries, Vol. 15 pp 289 – 299 (1998). Despite the fact that Chike Obi’s paper was published by a renowned and distinguished American Journal, Dr. Olunloyo and one Ogunsola, an actuary, openly disputed without any basis, the validity of Chike Obi’s proof.
To add to these polemics by some Yorubas, Damola Awoyokun accused the Igbos of boastfulness and excessive exhibitionalism, of their strenuous achievements, when it is known that potentials, abilities, competences and the like, are either God – given or acquired. The Igbos have not been known to be boastful for such attributes coming their way.
Achebe simply traced the Igbos’ ‘LONG WALK’ to acquire them, which made Damola furiously uncomfortable.Your mindless determination to tarnish the image of the colossus, Achebe has failed. The following is the view of a Yoruba man, Duro Onabule, on Achebe. “Whatever the bad feelings of his critics, Achebe’s reputation, unlike his contemporaries, is that of a straightforward man. He has never been known to be cowardly, neither does he cringe before nor collaborate with local or international establishment. Achebe’s character is definite as he does not charade in the day only to be settled at night…….
Even if Awolowo was not in the position to effect his belief in starvation as a weapon of war, the fact remains that he (Awolowo) publicly took that position and was widely reported in the media in Nigeria and abroad….Is Chinua Achebe fair to Awolowo in his criticisms? The appropriate preceding question is: was Awolowo fair to himself when he publicly upheld starvation as a legitimate weapon of war, more so during a civil war in which the outside world was disgusted with television visuals of thousands of starving malnourished innocent children? Achebe’s critics on his latest book, especially Yoruba, should objectively read “AWO”, Obafemi Awolowo’s autobiography, in which throughout , there is not a single sentence complimentary to Nnamdi Azikiwe, portrayed as an ethnic jingoist….Yet, Awolowo’s criticism of Azikiwe were never mischievously interpreted as hatred for Igbos. Nobody of Achebe’s status and with terrible experiences of the civil war could be expected to write his recollections without justifiable criticism of starvation as a weapon throughout the war. His critics just have to be realistic rather than being emotional.”
Damola Awoyokun and Odia Ofeimun would want Achebe’s THERE WAS A COUNTRY: A PERSONAL HISTORY OF BIAFRA not only banned but all existing copies of the book burnt. Damola said ”Instead of writing the book as a writer who is Igbo, Achebe wrote the book as an Igbo writer ( I do not see any difference here except that an Igbo writer is one who writes in Igbo language.) …All the places that
should alarm the moral consciousness of any writer, Achebe is either indifferent or dismisses them outright because the victims are not his people. But in every encounter that shows the Igbo being killed or resented by Nigerians, or by the Yoruba in particular, Achebe intensifies the spotlight, deploying stratospheric rhetoric…Furthermore, not only does he take pride in ignoring the findings of common sense, he allocates primetime attention to fact – free rants just because they say his people are the most superior tribe in Nigeria. The book, to say the least, is a masterpiece of propaganda and sycophancy. It is not a writer’s business to be an accomplice to lies.”
Damola is guilty of the same charge for where Biafra or Igbos are the victims, he ignored it totally, as in this case where the American secret files say that “Mohammed the Second Division Commander was reported to have criticized Obasanjo thus: “We told you not to end the war the way you did so as to sort things out, you went on gaddamgaddam and finished it.” Damola ignored the fact that what Murtala Mohammed meant was that Obasanjo did not give him time to apply the FINAL SOLUTION TO THE IGBO PROBLEM! That is, to give him time to wipe out the Igbos from the surface of the earth. Next, I do not think that Damola Awoyokun has the competence, experience or stature to grade Achebe’s literary work.
Odia Ofeimun said” I believe he (Achebe)got it very wrong in that book and therefore, since I believe that we must allow generations coming after us to live by the spacious and opportunistic views that our fathers had, we must contest all the lies, we must ensure that their wrong views of the way the world works get corrected…… Achebe says that Igbo people are individualistic and that was what
helped them to acquire western education, catch up with the Yoruba and then took over all the jobs.
It is a very wrong description of what actually happened. What happened is that before independence, the NPC and the NCNC reached an agreement to run Nigeria together. Nnamdi Azikiwe refused to form a coalition with the AG because the Yoruba were educated and would be competing with the Igbo people for the jobs. Therefore they wanted a coalition.( with the NPC) Because that coalition was a very conservative one, they wanted to go with the Hausa-Fulani, who did not have enough people to take over the jobs that the Europeans were exiting from nor did they have any to deal with the new jobs that would be created by independence. So, the Yoruba leader was jailed and the Yoruba who could have looked for jobs were shunted aside. So, the NCNC, though they have a strong following in the Western Region, arranged for the jobs to be taken over by their primary constitutuencies. That was it.
The above statement constrains me to define a lie and an incorrect statement. One tells a lie when one knows the truth but proceeds deliberately to tell the opposite. An incorrect statement is one that is generally limited by inappropriate or incomplete knowledge. It is not a deliberate act. Ofeimun has deliberately told a bundle of lies. What Achebe said was “ The Igbo culture being receptive to change, individualistic and highly competitive, gave the Igbo man an unquestioned advantage over his compatriots in securing credentials for advancement in Nigerian colonial society. Unlike the Hausa/Fulani he was unhindered by a wary religion and unlike the Yoruba unhampered by traditional hierarchies. This kind of creature, fearing no God or man, was custom – made to grasp the opportunities; such as they were, of the white man’s dispensation. And the Igbo did so with both hands.
Although the Yoruba had a huge historical and geographical head-start, the Igbo wiped out their handicap in one fantastic burst of energy in the twenty years between 1930 and 1950…. The rise of the Igbo in Nigerian affairs was due to the self-confidence engendered by their open society and their belief that one man is as good as another, that no condition is permanent. It was not due, as non-Igbo
observers imagined, to tribal mutual aid societies. The “Town Union” phenomenon, which has often been written about, was in reality an extension of the Igbo individualistic ethic.” Achebe never said that” the Igbo took over all the jobs.”
Zik decided never to ally with Awolowo after the carpet-crossing incident of 1951 in the Western House of Assembly at Ibadan, which prevented the NCNC from forming the government in spite of the fact that the NCNC was declared the winner of that election or as Achebe would put it “Chief Awolowo ‘stole ‘ the Government from him (ZIK) in broad daylight.” Job opportunity or who would take over from the departing British was never part of the issue at all. During the colonial era and immediately after, the Igbo relied on merit and competence for advancement and securing appointments in the public service .
It is worth mentioning here again, that the first Nigerian to be appointed a Federal Permanent Secretary by the British was Mr. F.C. Nwokedi an Igboman! This achievement of Mr. Nwokedi had nothing to do with the NCNC – NPC COALITION. With such men as Chiefs T.O.S. Benson, Adeniran Ogunsanya, Kolawole Balogun, Adegoke Adelabu and many others of timbre and caliber it was impossible that “the Yoruba who could have looked for jobs were shunted aside.”, because their leader was jailed! By the way, it was a Yoruba judge, Justice Sowemimo who sent Awolowo to jail. It is very surprising that Ofeimun left the stark naked facts and decided to dish out outlandish fiction and lies to the public ;just to ridicule and defame Achebe.On the Twenty Pounds Policy, Damola, you deliberately avoided the main issue .We are saying that all the bank accounts opened in Nigeria by Igbos, but operated in Biafra, were reduced to TWENTY POUNDS no matter the size of the account! We are not complaining about the exchange value of the Biafran currency. As the victor, Nigeria was free to pay twenty pounds or nothing for the Biafran money in spite of the NO VICTOR NO VANQUISHED bogey. Your reference to Zik’s statements condemning Ojukwu, Igbos and Biafra is in bad taste and very poor logic. Zik, having abandoned Biafra and the Igbos in particular, in their darkest hour, had to make himself amenable for pardon by Nigeria! Therefore Zik’s statement on Biafra, were not objective, credible or valid because of the above handicap.
Since the anti-intellectual opium that has made most non-Igbo Nigerians to hold Igbos responsible for the first coup, is still prevalent, I need to bring in Ademoyega again where as part of the FIVE MAJORS’ prescriptions for clearing the Nigerian Augean stable, said, “Tax and trade laws would be such that it would be unnecessary for any individual to accumulate unspent money in local and foreign banks, while millions of Nigerians have little or nothing to survive on. It should be impracticable for a single man to spend two million naira to build himself a personal house, while a very large number of Nigerians in the same community dwell in hovels, and sleep in gutters and under bridges.
The Government would not cater for the interest of a few people, while denying the majority of Nigerians
their rights and privileges as happened with the Obasanjo Government. That Government helped a few Nigerians to make easy millions of naira through oil distributorship, while denying the majority of Nigerians their rights to obtain loans to buy motor cars, on the selfish declaration that “it is not the intention of Government that every Tom, Dick and Harry should own a car”. Such a comment constituted
a most diabolical comment on the good intentions of the January 15 revolutionaries, who removed the evil politicians with the purpose of instituting a corrective and revolutionary military era.
“Educationally, we had agreed that there was only one answer to the mass illiteracy that troubled Nigeria in 1965, namely, mass education – both formal and informal……..Moreover, the people, especially in the North, had been exploited for a long time and had become inured to suffering, blaming their man – inflicted wounds on the will of Allah, whereas Allah was totally opposed to such human wickedness…”
Ademoyega went on to say, “Today, if one were to ask “when did the preparation for the revolution really begin?” the most accurate answer would be, “from 1961”, because the three of us who formed the nucleus of the revolutionary group had met in that year. Although we had not there and then planned a revolution, we had seen eye to eye and we knew that we had a common cause. It was as if he seed was sown at that time and only needed time to germinate, grow and bear fruit” Damola, was it the Igbos that synthesized this climate of patriotic spontaneous disposition to rescue Nigeria from further decay? Ademoyega continued, “But these meetings were between Ifeajuna and me on the one hand and between Nzeogwu and me on the other….Moreover, active efforts were made to get in touch with more officers of the Army so as to ascertain their inclinations and loyalty. These contacts were made most quietly and surreptitiously. A coup d’etat is not a conventional operation of the Army. Preparations for it could not at any time be done in the open or in plain language. Therefore when we discussed with officers, unless an officer showed serious interest, we always sounded casual and the matter was always left unspecified and inconclusive.”
The other aspect of the coup which could not have been handled by Ndigbo is illustrated here by Ademoyega. “The Battle Group Course went on without a hitch in Abeokuta until the first week of December 1965. There were twenty student officers on the Course, all Captains. I indoctrinated and orientated them towards the revolutionary thought – concept. I also held personal interviews with all of them. I took the whole group on an official reconnaissance of all the strategic locations in Lagos and I taught them how important positions could be held or defended in time of war or other military actions.
This was acknowledged as a very successful exercise and student officers were particularly happy that they were being introduced to the practical aspect of their defensive duties. If the coup took place before the course ended, many of the officers would have carried out any duties allotted to them without looking back, and our Lagos operation would have been as successful as the Kaduna operation came to be.”Damola, perhaps, this military exercise was also sponsored by The Igbo State Union.
Before the coup, the whole country was in distress; but the West was the most distressed, with the widespread riot, killings and their leader, Awolowo, in prison. The West was therefore, the tribe in greatest need for a coup to change the Federal Government, and restore their liberty, not the Igbos.
It has become necessary to ask, why has the North always succeeded in first, allying with the East(Azikiwe) to deal with the West and finally with the West(Awolowo) to destroy the East (Igbos)? Zik returned from America with the noble ambition to found a ‘BIG’ One Nigeria, which was not a bad idea.
But the foundation for that size of Nigeria was lacking. The summary of the feasibility report on the One Nigeria Project said – NOT FEASIBLE, NOT VIABLE AND NOT PROFITABLE! Awolowo saw this and wisely decided to concentrate his efforts in working for the Yorubas .Similarly, Sardauna, in answer to a question by a journalist, said, “I am first and foremost a moslem, secondly a Northerner, I am yet to be a Nigerian!” Why Zik could not come to the same conclusion as Awolowo and Sardauna remains a puzzle. My great and near fanatical admiration for Awolowo has been based on this self evident fact that Awolowo served and sacrificed everything he had for his Yoruba people .The Igbos were not that lucky with Zik.
After the Awolowo constitutionally insinuated carpet crossing of 1951 in the Western House of Assembly, at Ibadan, ZIK decided not to ever have anything to do with Awolowo in politics, which was a most imprudent decision. For it is said that in politics, there is no permanent enemy, only permanent interests! Also, Chairman Mao Tse Tung said “There is a time to ally with the enemy, but more
important is to know when to break with the enemy! It is true that the Federal Government of NPC and Zik’s NCNC sent Awolowo to jail, for which he was entitled to be bitter, it is also equally true that the Igbo led NCNC under Dr. M.I. Okpara formed the United Progressive Grand Alliance UPGA, with the Adegbenro led Action Group and other progressives, to oppose the Nigerian National Alliance NNA.
Arising from this alliance , Dr M.I. Okpara(M.I. POWER) informed Akintola that he would be visiting Ibadan. Akintola told him not to come, that he would not be in . Okpara said he would at least sign the Visitors Book in his absence. Okpara visited Ibadan as a show of solidarity to Adegbenro and the Yorubas. Okpara and his team were treated to a very rousing and enthusiastic reception by the students of Ibadan University, which was chaired by Prof. Hezekiah Oluwasanmi. I was an undergraduate at Ibadan University then. During the last election to the Western House of Assembly before the coup, Okpara on behalf of the Igbos, sent Mazi Ukonu of Eastern Nigerian Broadcasting Service to Ibadan, as a continued show of solidarity with the Yorubas, where he stayed at Awolowo’s house at Oke Ado to announce the correct version of the election results. All these should not have been lost on Awolowo when he decided to support Gowon to crush the Igbos during the war, more especially with his inhuman strategy of ‘STARVATION IS A LEGITIMATE WEAPON OF WAR!’
As regards the fate of the soldiers and politicians arrested in Lagos, the failure of the coup there, threw the revolutionaries into a quandary. Probably, in the ensuing confusion and tension, the arrested politicians and soldiers became a heavy load and were unfortunately shot.
Your recourse to 21,000 pages of American secret files was most unnecessary when you could have benefitted immensely from Major Adewale Ademoyega’s 194 pages book, WHY WE STRUCK .
While you relied entirely on the American secret files which are not only a reported speech, but one doctored to suit some entrenched partisan interest, my own account is based solely on what came out of the horse’s mouth.
Damola, I had expected the same logic and reasoning you displayed in your masterpiece of an article –
EINSTEIN AND THE EXPRESSWAY CHURCHES to be once more evident.
By confronting Emeritus Professor Chinua Achebe, Ndigbo and Biafra the way you did , you failed to meet the mark of adequate intellectual depth and strength and exposed your smallness in grappling with such a LABOUR OF HERCULES.
MAZI CHIKE CHIDOLUE , was former Officer, 12 Commando Brigade Biafra Army.
IT is that time of the year when I like to remember the darkest days of Nigeria's history, January 15th 1966 to January 15th 1970. For years it has been a ritual for me, for the simple reason that my life was defined, altered and in fact, retarded by it.
I am just one of the millions who lived in Nigeria's core theatre of war as a sub-ten little boy already looking forward to the best that life could offer only to come out of the bush in January 1970 as a refugee to be plunged into a (temporary) life of destitution.
Everything we had was lost. What the enemy could not bomb they burnt or looted. In fact, we came back from our five-month habitation in the bushes to find our centuries-old compound overgrown with weeds!
Though my grandfather's storey building (built in Abiriba in 1917) remained standing (miraculously, I must say) all the exotic furniture were looted leaving only the manila dressings in the sitting room which, I presumed, the "vandals" did not understand their worth as antique artefacts. That house still stands with people still living in it!
When Professor Chinua Achebe wrote his latest book: There Was a Country, telling his experiences through the crises and war as well as offering his personal perspectives and judgement on roles played by the central figures in the saga, it provoked a fire storm of reactions from across the divides.
It reopened dormant but suppurating emotions and generally had the three major ethnic groups and their affiliates - the Igbo East, Hausa/Fulani North and the Yoruba West at daggers-drawn, at least intellectually (thank God). No one was willing to be a "Nigerian".
It is difficult to be a "Nigerian", rise above primitive sentiments and deliver a fair and unbiased analysis of roles played by the various ethnic groups, sections and their leaders in the events before and after our independence in 1960.
The root cause of our problems came from the very manner in which Nigeria was amalgamated and run by the British colonialists until 1960. The country was never configured to facilitate the emergence of a nation. Structural inequalities were foisted on it to create a permanent state of flux, crises and disputations among its various stakeholders, big and small.
That was why, barely five years after independence the quarrels boiled over when the first military coup took place on January 15th 1966. Because the coup failed, it was later rationalised and branded an "Igbo coup", based on which the course of action taken against the Igbo people between 1966 and 1970 by the federal coalition led by the North with the technical support of ex-colonial authorities, the UK, took place.
Let us assume (without necessarily conceding) that indeed the first coup was an Igbo coup. The question I would like us to reflect upon is this: which of the subsequent coups, attempted coups and even transitions from military to civilian regimes were "national" events? Sectional forces simply took over and foisted their narrow interests upon the rest of the country as "national" interests.
At no time did any leader who emerged sit down to creditably and patriotically carry every section of the country along. Even the 1999 hand over of power to General Olusegun Obasanjo by the North was meant to serve northern interests of burying June 12 and returning power back to the North.
As Chimamanda noted in the above quote-line, Nigerians will always remember 1966 to 1970 differently. Some Nigerians experienced the pain of war and lost everything. They came out of the trenches and were plunged into forty years of exclusion (marginalisation) from strategic involvement in the affairs of state.
Some Nigerians gained ascendancy, besides not even knowing what the war being fought in Eastern Nigeria was like. Some took what the Igbo fled from and fed fat on it for thirty years before they were rudely told they could not be president.
Smaller groups, which were happy to be part of the mob, in their euphoria of being "liberated" fought to "keep Nigeria One" only to find out they were mere pawns. Smaller groups from the North tried to assert their right to power but were always brutally and bloodily silenced both in the military and now in their churches while they worship and in their homes while they sleep.
For smaller groups in the South, it was their oil that the ruling class descended upon; the very true reason for which foreign powers ensured the war was fought and Igbos bumped out of reckoning.
Today, the only thing we Nigerians remember in the same light is that the country has been ruined by the post-war ruling class, who imposed mass poverty on the country, particularly the more culturally vulnerable northern masses.
And the angry, though misguided youth, has responded with militancy, terrorism, violent crimes and general disobedience to the post-war ruling class and their agents. The post-war ruling class simply factored their permanent interests into the system before handing over, just as their colonial predecessors had.
They ossified their interests in a difficult-to-amend presidential constitution which was updated in 1999. The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 is still very much Decree No 24 of 1999, despite the cosmetic amendments and charade of grassroots public hearings towards its further amendment.
I have said it before, and I say it again: we need to allow the Nigerian people to draft unto themselves a new constitution that will remove traces of colonial and military self-interests; a constitution that will break with the past 99 years of external and internal imperialism; a constitution that will help us build a new nation where no one is oppressed.
Nigeria must never enter the second century in 2014 without it.
Hiding the controversies when we teach children about Israel's modern history is designed to promote a unified national story. But it would be better for our children to have the chance to grapple with the messy reality of their heritage now before those dormant controversies erupt again, as they have done in Nigeria, where I grew up.
Biafra children pic:Time
Once, I once went out for dinner in London with an Israeli woman. Conversation warmed, and I stopped paying attention to my meal, given my congenital inability to multitask. “Stop playing with your food,” she reproved mildly. I rolled my eyes and retorted, “You’ll remind me about the starving on Bangladesh next.” I didn’t think she’d pick up on the reference – familiar to a generation of wasteful children brought up in the wake of the 1974 Bangladeshi famine – but she grinned. “Bangladesh? In Israel, our parents talked about Biafra.” She reached across the table, scooped a spoonful from my plate. “Of course, you know all about that, being Nigerian...” She looked up expectantly. But she was wrong.