In keeping with my promise last week, here are some of the scores of reactions my piece of October 24 on the subject above generated in texts and emails.
Thank you very much for balancing the story objectively. We need more of your likes to educate our people on what really happened in that civil war period. As you are aware, our people, for lack of reading their history books, can believe anything, including the fact that goats in Nigeria had eight legs before the civil war! As for Prof Achebe, Olatunde Ololade summed his self-propelling lies thus, “There was an elder.” I cannot agree more!
Kayode A, Abeokuta.
Your article on Achebe’s Biafra story was well written. Those of us Igbos who lived here before and after the war understand you. Both sides have certainly erred and strayed. What we need to learn is the futility of resorting to violence and murder as a method for redressing wrongs. Peaceful demonstrations and powerful articles like yours and powerful speeches and lectures like Azikiwe’s in the pre Independence period are, in my view, better. The newspaper articles and the action of the Save NigerIa Group urging the observance of the Constitution regarding the succession of Yar’Adua by Jonathan proved that this method can work. And it is a more civilised way of dealing with such issues.
Dr. Ekweani, Kabala Hospital, Kaduna.
Come rain come sun Biafra must stand, as far as Israelite liveth.
You missed Achebe’s point. I’m neither Igbo nor northerner nor a fan of both peoples, but, my dear, we need to say the truth. And you are the one not saying the truth not Achebe. Why didn’t northern officers stop at killing Ironsi and Igbo army officers? Jan ’66 coup saw less than 35 casualties, but July ’66 coup saw well over 300 victims. Was that not enough revenge? Why oh why, go ahead to kill civilians in such large numbers and expect d Igbos to stay calm for the sake of one Nigeria? Your article justifies the murder of countless innocents. This is one area anti Achebe writers including you glossed over. If hatred for the Igbo wasn’t a factor, why didn’t Gowon institute policies to assuage Igbo feelings? How on earth did you expect a tribe that lost 30,000 souls in massacres across the North not to opt for secession?
Tonye Kalango, Port Harcourt
I read with dismay and I found it very nauseating reading miles of inaccurate nonsense you wrote about Chinua Achebe and the civil war. I don’t like distortion of facts which is your trade mark. You exhibited a stunning ignorance of what happened during the war. Yorubas and Northerners both hate Ndigbo. Why don’t you leave us alone to go as Biafrans? You hate us and you still want us to be in Nigeria. I believe you are confused and your confusion emanated from a deeper ignorance different from what Achebe has written in the nice book, “There was a country”.
Collins Ewenike, Atta, Njaba L.G.A, Imo state.
For the first time you are writing southern issue without your acidic bite. Thanks for not joining our Yoruba brothers to shout down peoples account as if they have skeletons in their cupboard. Ojukwu failed the Igbos by not writing his account before he died. Please beg Gowon not to make the same mistake again. We the new generation Igbos need as much information as possible on the civil war so that when the time comes in the near future we will not suffer the same fate again.
You can go ahead and invest your “Africa’s greatest literary figure” with the Nobel Prize. You bloody Yoruba hater.
Your piece, of 24/10/12 got it all right. However, you equally allowed the manipulation of historical events to affect you, which reflects in your write up. You may note that Anthony Enahoro’s proposal for independence in 1956 was in 1953, which Sir Ahmadu Bello sought for its amendment with the clause “as soon as practicable’. The eventual motion for Independence was proposed by Chief S. L. Akintola in 1959. The Yoruba nation, in its desire to erase the contributions of Akintola, conspired to ensure that all his landmark inputs were obliterated from historical events. Sir, please crosscheck this area of your work and don’t allow students of political history quote you in error.
Mohammed Adebayo Ameenu
Thanks for the refreshing angle on the one of the causes of the civil war. Achebe has only succeeded in opening a can of worms, and creating disaffection between a new generation of Nigerians.
Your fact on Igbo triumphalism and their celebration and gloating at the death of Sardauna is very true, as I recall as a 7 year old kid in Makurdi, a recorded popular song in Igbo with the lyrics ‘ewu ne barkwa’ ( meaning a goat is crying or gloating). Regrettably that’s what the Igbos still think and call all Northerners. What puzzles and annoys me is why would an icon like Achebe today remind me of the sad era of me running for cover with my siblings whenever Makurdi came under Biafran bombing? History is okay but Nigerians, especially the Igbos, should let the sores of that period of the life of the nation go.
I can’t understand what Achebe wants to achieve by raking up an old wound with so much hatred at a time this nation has so much present day challenges to surmount. What Nigeria needs today is how to heal old wounds so as to move forward.
I suppose Achebe is familiar with the saying that if you cannot improve on the silence it is better to keep quiet!
I think Achebe and some members of his generation with long memory for hatred are part of the problem with Nigeria. Period!
Dr Festus Aisabokhale, Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma.
I hold you in a very high esteem, and your critique on Achebe’s latest offering, ‘There was a Country’, has only reinforced my respect for you.
You pointed out, from your perspective, the lapses inherent in the work without abusing the author. There is no doubt that Achebe is human, and therefore he is not infallible. The good thing about this work is that it has opened up the debate for a soul searching exercise, and even the healing of the wounds of the past. It is right for those that do not agree with Achebe to state their own perspectives, without resorting to inflammatory statements or abuses. I do not share the view of some commentators that we should bury the past and forge ahead. The holocaust is still being discussed in the Western world, in spite of being a very sensitive issue.
If, as you pointed out, Achebe glossed over the murder of innocent military officers of Northern extraction by Major Nzeogwu and other conspirators, then you have towed the same line of argument as Michael Hollman, one of the first reviewers of the book, who stated that the book is ‘partisan in perspectives’. I was uncomfortable to learn from you that Achebe did not acknowledge the contributions of nationalists like Herbert Macaulay and Bode Thomas to our independence. However, the lapses inherent in the book do not detract from its importance and relevance to our fledgling society. For once, both the generation that did not witness the civil war and those that witnessed the brutal conflict are engaging themselves in intellectual exercises; some in the right direction, others, unfortunately, in the wrong direction. Only well informed and respected columnists like you and Duro Onabule, would serve as guides to ensure the youths do not stray from the path of probity. Abusing Achebe and demonising his tribe, simply because his views were seen as ‘being partisan’ will not help matters. We need other perspectives to balance the stories of our unfortunate past. As you rightly pointed out, ‘The truth of the Civil war was that there were rights and wrongs on both sides’.
Another critic, Clem Baiye, in Tell of October 29, even pointed out that Achebe did not address the issue of the opposition of the minorities in the South East to the secession of Biafra in his work. It is however simplistic and reductionist for most commentators to dwell solely on Achebe’s comment on Awolowo’s role during the war. Those commentators turned a blind eye on Achebe’s observation of Awolowo’s meticulousness in managing the affairs of Action Group, as pointed out by Clem Baiye in Tell.
Having said that, I have placed an order for the book, and your critique will surely serve as a guide for a student of political history like me.