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About Arrogance, Naivety, and the Last Man Standing

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Like most communal activities that we periodically indulge in, war is a habit we inherited from early humans. And like other such habits, while the language and accouterments used during its practice may have changed greatly, the attitudes that

accompany war remain much the same as they did thousands of years ago.

An example of these attitudes is that after a war, no blame attaches to the victors - something which probably came about as a result of how, in those earlier days, humanity was much more prone to seeing the hand of supernatural forces in everything.Which would of course include a highly risky venture like war.

War was thus seen as one of the ways in which divine judgement is delivered. Therefore, to lose at war was not only an indication of which side was better armed (or trained), it was also the way powers from above showed which side in the conflict was at fault. Instances from history where the few defeated the many or, where the sparsely armed took on and defeated the armies of empires stood as the proof of a supernatural component of war to several generations of humans all over the world.

In fact, religions were validated by what were seen as miraculous victories on the battlefield by armies of the faithful.

Now, since to embark upon a war was to stand trial and, since the outcome was the judgement, the end of hostilities rarely indicated the end of the matter that had led up to the trial. After the last battle, the custom was for the victors to take spoils both as a way of compensating themselves for the costs of the war and, as further punishment for those whose defiance of the Divine Laws had caused them to experience defeat.

Therefore, the worldwide norm since ancient times has been for ones who lose a war pay reparations in one form or another to the victors. After all, if the victor's cause had not been just, would 'God' have allowed them to triumph?

This is why throughout all history, not one instance can be found of victors apologising to those they defeated at war. But, because Nigeria is such a unique country, some believe that this long-standing precedent has no validity in the case of the Nigeria-Biafra war.

It is apparently not enough that Nigeria, in an act of unprecedented humanism, did not act in accordance to the norm and demand/extract reparations from Biafrans. This is not enough. Which is why Professor Chinua Achebe, an aged (and unsanctioned) survivor of that conflict, believes that Yoruba should make history by apologising to people who lost a war?

I stated elsewhere that Professor Achebe is still fighting that war. Still looking for a way to use words to win an advantage for his own people. He is not alone.

Biafran intellectuals tell us that all nations have the right to decide their own destiny and that this was all Biafra was doing. From there, in a paroxysm of psychopathic narcissism they identify the unwillingness of Yoruba and their leaders to follow the lead of Biafra or, to allow Yoruba territory to be used as the battleground where Biafra's pursuit of its rights would be decided as wrongful - even 'treacherous'.

They ignore the indispensable rider that validates this principle of nation's rights in a peculiar environment like Nigeria : which is that either all nations have the right to assert their natural sovereignty in any way they see fit - which may include forming alliances with whoever best serves their purposes - or, no nation has the right to define its own sovereignty.

A favoured talking-point of Igbo intellectuals has to do with the subject of 'marginalisation' : how Igbo have been deprived of the opportunity to progress in Nigeria by deliberate obstacles others have placed in their path.

They speak of themselves as being the best at being good Nigerians. That this may be because Igbo gained the most from the manufacture of Nigeria by the British is never mentioned. Yet, it remains true that prior to Nigeria coming into existence, all of the places that would later be home and business locations (for millions of Igbo) were prohibited to them. In other words, the Pax Britannica that accompanied the manufacture of Nigeria was what enabled the Igbo to start moving out of their enclave in large numbers. Thus overcoming the main disadvantage that had prevented them from building wealth.

This main disadvantage is a lack of land. The indigenous territory of Igbo cannot contain their numbers so, in order to build wealth, they needed/need to emigrate. And because it was the least acclimatised to the new age that accompanied British imperialism, Northern Nigeria became the most favoured location Igbo looked to for lebensraum but, for some reason, their presence led to repeated violent reactions by the indigenous people. So, the Igbo needed to look elsewhere.

Igbo therefore started heading West in large numbers.

Yoruba land has for long absorbed immigrants with some ease because Yoruba culture allowed for easy integration of foreigners who wished to build new homes. However, due to a deeply imbued sense of superiority, the Igbo immigrants that started moving in after the creation of Nigeria   neither saw themselves as guests or, as ones who needed to integrate into the culture of the people in whose midst they were settled.

They (adult and child) learned the language and became fluent. But this is/was to enhance business. Unlike others who had preceded them, they kept (and still keep) alive a sense of themselves as special and superior people. Because they believe others to be genetically less gifted than themselves, they viewed (and still view) their presence among these others as if it were a gift to them. In other words, some Igbo do truly believe that by merely moving onto the territory of others, they add value to that territory. Therefore, not only do they not need to feel or express any appreciation for the hosting they are benefiting from, the belief is that they actually deserve the gratitude of their 'lucky' hosts.

Therefore, it should come as no surprise that highly visible Igbo elites like Professor Achebe have never expressed any appreciation to Yoruba for the refuge millions of Igbo have found in Yoruba territory. In this age of easy access to global spanning information dispersal systems, topics to be discussed are selected by unspoken consensus and, where these discussions are to lead to a positive evolution of awareness, all facets are exhaustively hashed and rehashed. For Igbo commentators   while Biafra is the number one topic, the studied avoidance of some other facets of that historical period has now become critical - especially with regards to how this effects Igbo socialisation with those neighbours who did not act in favour of Biafra.

In short, because they have been allowed to roam the public space unchallenged for so long, half-truths and outright lies are now close to taking on a life of their own. This means that eventually, if not checked, these deliberately deformed factoids will shamelessly stand fully upright in the daylight.

To be continued....
By Ishola Taiwo