Achebe: Enough Of This Blame-Game


As Chinua Achebe’s memoir on the Nigerian Civil War (1967-1970) “There was a Country: A Personal History of Biafra” continues to provoke comments from great minds and mediocre alike, there seems to be no ceasefire. The book has really set an agenda among eminent Nigerians and even among the younger generation.
The book has many subjects of discussion to its contents but the one that has raised the recent imbroglio is the mention of Chief Obafemi Awolowo and the role he played during the Civil war. Ever since the release of this book, there has been ceaseless tongue-lashing especially through the online media. The most surprising one is the opportunity the younger ones who were not born at that time, have grabbed to make despicable and derogatory statements against those they ordinarily would not have insulted.
These issues which have been over-flogged over the years are already in the past. The Impression should not be created that there is still the projection of an Igbo Nation. The literary icon wrote this piece at a time the dead cannot get up from the grave to defend himself. Has it been easily expunged in  the minds of Nigerians when we talk about the 1983 defense Awolowo made as regards the Starvation Policy, the Twenty pounds Policy and Change of Currency? Although, Professor Achebe’s intention was to tell his own side of the Civil war story which took place over two score years ago, let us assume he did not envisage that the book would hit heads together the way it has.
Most of the things in the book are things Nigerians already know, the question is “why the repeat?” – “why is there this reminder of a violent past at this critical time that Nigeria is in dire need of peace?”-  Is it for Nigerians to fight and break into communal or ethnic hostility? In what direction does the book point for Nigerians and the world to follow? Should Awo’s corps be excavated and prosecuted? Or should Nigerians go ahead and victimize the Yorubas because they are 'AWOists'? Should it be said according to the popular parlance that "The sins of the father affect the children"?
True, things have not been well in Nigeria up till now, but bringing a book with such content at a period Nigerians are talking of national unity is highly inconsequential. If Awo did all that, should it now be said that that is the cause of Nigeria’s present bone of contention? From all indications, it is unequivocal that history is an indelible part of life, but then, should people continue to live in the shadows of the past? A past that will definitely make one lose focus on one’s futuristic direction. The book will definitely change people's mindsets about one another.  Achebe should have known that those things, even though unforgettable, are not meant to be brought up anymore, if not, those with the slightest inclination to violence would surely break loose with just a click.
In tandem with the Awoists views, Femi Fani-Kayode wrote a rejoinder which has also on its part, aroused several comments. What are the views going to solve looking at the present Nigeria predicaments? Should the write-up amount to an intellectual fight among public figures? Should people’s comments lead to tongue-lashing people because they made certain comments about Achebe's write-up? Have you endeavoured to look around to see what this memoir has caused among eminent Nigerians? Even among friends!
This is actually not the time to blame who said what, to whom, and on what grounds! Even when all these things happened, most of those trying to twist history because they read some history books were not born. People read various versions of the civil war history. Some versions contradict some others. In the end, they tend to selectively retain the one they so pleased out of sheer bias. When they read another one which does not match their views, they cry rain and condemn it because it does not support their submission. The question then is "who do you think is saying the fact?" Now the Professor has brought a version that will either compliment or contradict some already existing version. Why didn't Achebe bring this memoir out when Awo was still alive? Why did he not publish "There Was A Country" when Awo categorically defended himself to the full glare of Nigerians and the World? Not that this is the only issue in the book, but it is the most controversial at the moment. Of what use are all these when the person in question is no more? This is defamation against the dead... whether Achebe's claims are true or not, the dead cannot defend themselves. Let's allow the dead to rest in their graves.
Some say that it is right the truth be told, no doubt about that. The truth had not been hidden from anyone. Awolowo's explanations about 30 years ago should have been considered. If it had, the remnants of the present furore would not have been picked up. Now that the truths have been revisited, what direction should Nigeria take? Now that the supposed truths have been told, what next? We just have to stop agonizing and start organizing. If only this umbilical cord which has tied up Nigeria’s violent past to its future could be taken so far away from it so that the country will be in quietness and in the long-run, dispel the notion that there is no hope in it. This cord of distrust and reprisals, if not properly cut off from Nigerians, could damage relationships in the near future. Let’s keep praying that even though things are “No Longer at ease”, God should help Nigeria so that “Things do not Fall Apart”.
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