A few days after excerpts from Prof. Chinua Achebe’s latest memoirs, entitled ‘There Was A Country: A Personal History of Biafra,’ was published in the Guardian of London, the book is still the subject of what promises to be a long-drawn debate on the Internet and social media, particularly on the Facebook.
In the book, which focuses on the Nigerian Civil War, Achebe claims that former Head of State, Gen. Yakubu Gowon (retd.) and the late Yoruba leader, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, initiated the economic policies that caused the deaths of over two million Igbo through starvation during the war.
The controversial paragraph from the book reads, “It is my impression that Awolowo was driven by an overriding ambition for power, for himself and for his Yoruba people. There is, on the surface at least, nothing wrong with those aspirations.
“However, Awolowo saw the dominant Igbo at the time as the obstacles to that goal, and when the opportunity arose – the Nigeria-Biafra War – his ambition drove him into a frenzy to go to every length to achieve his dreams.
“In the Biafran case, it meant hatching up a diabolical policy to reduce the numbers of his enemies significantly through starvation – eliminating over two million people, mainly members of future generations.”
Many Nigerians who read the excerpts on the Internet appear to be sharply divided over the content of the book.
While some accused Achebe of whipping up ethnic sentiments and accusing Awolowo falsely, others have expressed the opinion that the writer has told the truth about the civil war.
In a contribution posted on the Facebook, Mayowa Akinsola disagreed with Achebe. He wrote, “I consider this statement from the highly revered literary icon an attempt at sectional revisionism. Where emotion and sentiment rule our judgments, the ability to say the truth becomes a problem. Many countries in the world had experienced civil war before, America inclusive, so what we experience during the civil war was not new.
“Let us forget about the incidents that led to the war, all the principal actors in that incident should be held responsible, Chukwuemeka Ojukwu inclusive.
“Awolowo was perfectly right when he said that everything in war was fair. War is not a child’s play, when you declare a war, a battle line is drawn, the result is always clear from the beginning, the game is either you win or you lose.”
Also reacting to Achebe’s claims, Jesse Adeniji remarks, “Awo didn’t massacre two million people. Nigeria did, especially those of the Northern extraction who felt Kaduna Nzeogwu and Ifeajuna killed their icons.”
But Olusola Solarin chose to confine all matters relating to the civil war in the dustbin of history. He says, “Achebe should live the rest of his life happy. Nigeria and the Yoruba are existential realities today.”