MANY SCARS OF THE CIVIL WAR
Although the Nigerian civil war ended long ago, the recent demise of its initiator, Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, must have ended a major era in Nigeria's social and political history. But while recounting the painful experiences of the Biafran war, a young author, has stressed the need to prevent another civil war, as failure to do so may bring more hardship to Nigerians.
Richie Adewusi, a media consultant in his book entitled Biafra: Lest we Forget, recalls his experience of the Biafran war, which started when he was about seven years old and ended when he was about 11.
'Should any kind of crisis like the one that happened around 1966 be allowed to happen here again, due to selfishness and greed on the part of some politicians; and cynicism, nonchalance and conformity on the part of the electorate, the 1967-1970 civil war would be a child's play.' (page119).
In the book, Adewusi gives a poignant description of that turbulent period of Nigerian history from the eyes of a child. Through a conversational narrative, he tells the story of how as a child of a Yoruba father and an Igbo mother, he fared during the war. He reminds how he was 'smuggled' along with his siblings by his mother from Lagos to Abia state in order to avoid being a victim. Unfortunately the family including his brothers and only sister, Meg, were eventually affected by the war. His siblings who were older than he was then, including his sister, were forced to become Biafran soldiers and he later became a refugee before he eventually got reunited with his family by a stroke of luck.
The author starts the book by giving the reader an idea of what Nigeria today has turned out to be, despite many years after the war. He goes on further to highlight the consequences of the war and effects on modern day Nigeria.
In the prologue, he notes that Nigerians know a lot about American history especially through Hollywood as well as American books and documentaries. But most young Nigerians, including his own eleven-year-old son Didie, know little or nothing about the history of their own country.
In the introductory chapter, the author wonders why there are very few works on the Nigeria civil war. He also wonders why nothing has been done to compensate the victims of that war and why the perpetrators of war crimes during that period have never faced any trial.
According to him, kidnapping which has become very popular in the Eastern part of the country is just one of the many symptoms of the unsolved socio-economic problems resulting from that war. He recalls that although he experienced the war at a very tender age, 41 years later, the effects of that war are still fresh in his memory and remain a scar on his face.
In the first chapter, Adewusi explains that Nigeria's problem is not corruption but more of parochialism or 'divide and rule' policy.The author also narrates how he crossed River Niger through together with his sister Meg. He describes the atmosphere of the Eastern Nigeria from the eyes of a civilian and that of a child. He makes the narration so emotional that the reader could watch the war as if watching a film. He recounts how the war brought out the worst and the best in people. For instance, some people stole from others during the war, just as a couple stole his sister's belongings. Nevertheless, the war brought out the good in people especially those who had to be reunited as refugees during the war.
He tells of how rotten corpses by the wayside became a common sight, which no one dared to complain about. He also describes how villages, towns, markets and farms were bombed down or taken over by the federal troops.
The author also narrates how he eventually reunited with his family after the war. This book is expository, educational, autobiographical and historical. It tells the story of a tragic occurrence in Nigerian history in a simple, conversational manner which every reader can easily understand.
However, there are typographical errors in the book. For instance, we have 'o.cial (official)' and 'sta. (state)' on page 31 just as we have grammatical errors. In 'thorn apart' instead of 'torn apart' and 'black with sooth' instead of 'black with soot' on page 109.
Nevertheless the book, which is written in the form of a letter to the author's son Didie, explicitly shows how war can adversely affect the family, which ordinarily is not part of the political crises that led to the war.
The book is a must read for every Nigerian including politicians, soldiers, policemen and civilians whether young or old. The best lesson is how to prevent the nation from descending into any crisis that would lead it to another civil war.