Nigeria as a nation is yet to learn any lesson from its bitter civil war, so say Prof Wole Soyinka and Prof Banji Akintoye on Monday
Akintoye is of the view that the mood of the nation months before the civil war is similar to what is happening in Nigeria today.
The respected professors spoke at an occasion in Lagos alongside other notable Nigerians, including renowned musician and actress Onyeka Onwenu, Prof. Pat Utomi and Prof. Anya O Anya.
Also in attendance at the event were the President General, Ndigbo Lagos, Maj.Gen. Obi Umahi (retd.); Director-General, Northern Elders’ Forum, Prof. Yima Sen; Senate Minority Leader, Senator Enyinaya Abaribe; and Mr Akin Osuntokun.
The occasion ‘Never Again Conference’ was organised by the Nzuko Umunna and Ndigbo, Lagos, to mark the 50th anniversary of the civil war.
The conference which held at MUSCON Centre, Onikan, Lagos was themed ‘Nigerian Civil War: 50 Years After’
During the conference, the first keynote address was delivered by the renowned historian Prof. Akintoye, who said that from his recollections as a young university lecturer in 1967, “the prevailing mood among us Nigerians (now) is chillingly similar to the character of the affairs of our country in the months leading to the civil war.
“The government is being managed in ways that make it look like an exclusive preserve of a particular minority. There seems to be an agenda being pursued to establish this minority in all positions of command in the executive, administrative, judicial and security services of the country.
“The voices of the majority register protests continually and are continually disrespected and ignored. The state of the law is patently being subsumed to the needs of that agenda, with seriously damaging effects on human rights. These situations are inevitably fostering, among the peoples of the Middle Belt and South of the country, the feeling that they are being reduced to the status of conquered peoples of Nigeria.”
Akintoye urged for the restructuring of the country, “with the objective of giving our country a true and generally acceptable federal structure under which the present sections of the country will be able to develop their resources for the conquest of poverty in their domains”.
On his part, Prof. Soyinka said that one of the ways Nigeria could say ” Never Again” to civil war “is to enthrone the principles of democracy”.
Prof. Soyinka warned that the saying “no nation has ever survived two civil wars” might not be historically sustainable.
He went on to say that “In this case, let us equate it with the wisdom of not holding a banknote, for instance, over a flame, simply because the Central Bank of Nigeria says they produce a currency which is non-flammable; or even the wisdom of not holding an exposed electrical wire in one’s hand simply because we know that NEPA never supplies electricity, it might just provide that incinerating charge; so, even the capacity to be resilient is not an excuse, not a justification for tempting fate.”
While narrating his experience during the civil war, Prof.Pat Utomi recalled how his grandfather was used by soldiers for “target practice” because the septuagenarian refused to run into the bush as others.
He said he is no longer bitter about the city was because he was convinced that General Gowon and late former President Shehu Shagari were sincere in their efforts to heal the wounds caused by the civil war
Utomi said, “Had the Shagari mindset resulted in (Alex) Ekwueme’s Presidency in 1987, the ghost of the Biafran War would have been buried permanently but that was aborted in 1983.”
Chairman of the occasion, Prof. Anya said Nigeria failed to learn from the example of Germany and Japan that bounced back from World War II to become economic giants.
“We have not learnt lessons from our past and the experiences of others,” he said.