“Myself and the same UNICEF representatives went on to convey something of what lay behind this intransigence: Among the large majority hailing from that tribe who are the most vocal in inciting the complete extermination of the Igbos. I often heard remarks that all Nigeria’s ills will be cured once the Igbos have been exterminated from the human map.”- (Dr Conor Cruise O’Bien, 21 December, 1967, New York Review”. (CONCLUDED).
As harrowing as these words are they accurately and graphically capture the mood and horrific essence of the civil war.
They also reveal an inconvenient truth which is as follows: that the Nigerian people and General Yakubu Gowon owe the people of the east a sincere and unwavering apology for the barbaric and criminal manner in which they conducted the civil war.
We also have an obligation to make restitution to them, offer them compensation for all they have lost and to bring to justice all those that were directly or indirectly involved in the commission of the barbaric and hideous atocities and crimes against humanity that were visited upon the Igbo civilian population and defenceless Igbo women and children.
I refuse to describe the killer of children and the murderer of women and defenceless civilians as war heroes. My conscience does not permit it.
If the German people could find it in their hearts to ask the Jews to forgive them for what they did to them in the Second World War, the Nigerian people should be big-hearted enough and strong enough to ask the same of the Igbo.
Such a course of action does not diminish or weaken us: it makes us more humane.
And neither do I believe that offering them “more cake” as President Olusegun Obasanjo has suggested can make up for all that we have subjected them to over the last 51 years.
The last person that suggested the offering of cake to the irate masses and victims of injustice as a way of calming them down and getting them to stop their agitation for emancipation was Queen Marie Antoinnete of France. That was in 1789.
Unfortunately it did not go down too well and a few weeks later the French revolution took place and both the Marie Antoinette and her husband King Louis XV1, together with much of the French royal family, courtiers, nobles and landed gentry were arrested by the Jacobins, publicly humiliated, tried in the people’s courts of law and had their heads chopped off with a guillotine.
That signified the end of the monarchy in France, the demise of the long rulership of the proud and distinguished royal Bourbon lineage and family and the beginning of the great French Republic which changed the face of Europe, the history of world and which endures till today.
So much for the offering of cake as a panacea or solution to the unjust and barbarous treatment of the oppressed and the deprived.
I do not believe that the dream of Biafra can be shattered and obliterated by promises of cake and a few crumbs from the masters table.
And neither do I believe that they can be wished away or destroyed by reckless and dangerous attempts to break their will and dampen their spirits by killing them in the streets or incarcerating them indefinately or with threats of wiping them off the face of the earth and total and complete annihilation.
I am a man of peace and I believe that war is evil. It is the darkness that seeks the darkness. It is utterly repugnant and manifestly destructive.
It is a complete and total descent into madness, barbarism, hell, chaos and inhumanity.
Those that glorify it or encourage and endorse it any shape or form are either shallow, naive or simply insane.
It is the will and law of God to fight for freedom, equity and justice. Our cause is just. What we must NOT do is use violence or shed blood.
Yet despite this fundamental principle which I hold dear, one thing that I know is this: If, God forbid, there were ever to be any major conflict or war in our country again the Igbo would not be left to fight it on their own.
If, God forbid, there were to ever be a round two of our civil war I have little doubt that this time around the entire south and the Middle Belt would stand together as one against our common oppressors and those that kill and slaughter our people at will in the name of ethnic supremacy and faith.
I pray that it never happens and I hope that we either restructure the country or peacefully go our separate ways before it is too late.
Those that resist that course are playing with fire and are sitting on a keg of gunpowder.
When it ignites no-one will be left standing, no-one will come out whole and no-one will escape being amongst the victims of the cataclysmic and horrendous events that will follow.
As a matter of urgency we must pray fervently for peace in Nigeria. We must counsel and encourage restraint, understanding and patience from all sides.
Most important of all we must find it in our hearts to display and express a high degree of regret and contrition for what we did to the Igbo, pay them compensation and make restitution for what we subjected them to before, during and after the civil war. God demands it and justice requires it.
Until this is done every Nigerian, including yours truly, should hold himself partially responsible for the atrocities that have been committed against the Igbo in our country over the last 51 years.
May the souls of all those that lost their lives on both sides of the divide during the course of our civil war rest in peace and may May 30 1967, the day that the war started 50 years ago today, be acknowledged and set aside as a day of honor for the unsung heroes of the Biafran struggle.