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Biafra Remembrance Day became a mainstream anniversary celebration in the 1990s, with thanks or no thanks to the neo-Biafran agitators who chose to remember their fallen heroes every May 30th, the date the short-lived Republic was created in 1967. Before then, the federal government attempted to suppress the Biafran war memories and the atrocities that were recorded during the war with the celebration of Armed Forces Remembrance Day. Celebrating Armed Forces Remembrance Day eclipsed the true history of the war. The official history of the war was for long written as well as distorted by the federal government. For the federal government, the Biafran republic consisting of the Igbo and sub-Igbo groups led by Col. Odumegwu Ojukwu chose to secede from the rest of the country because of oil in the Niger Delta. It took several scholars within and outside Nigeria such as Chinua Achebe, Ngozi Chimamanda Adichie, Chima Korieh, Samuel Fury Childs Daly, Paul Obi-Ani, Herbert Ekwe-Ekwe, Elizabeth Bird and Fraser M. Ottanelli and so many others to address the false narratives. Their independent studies exposed the chilling Igbo massacres that happened before, during, and after the war. Hence, the Igbo genocide came into mainstream Nigerian, African, and genocide history and studies.
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According to their studies, the Igbo didn’t feel secure in Nigeria when over 8,000 to 30,000 Igbos were killed between July and September 1966 in Northern Nigeria. The “1966 Pogroms” as the ugly event came to be, saw over one million Igbo people fleeing their homes and businesses in the north and elsewhere outside the Southeast to their homeland in the East. It was like the Jews fleeing the Holocaust. Fleeing their homeland never guaranteed their safety. The Federal Military Government under General Yakubu Gowon with the backing of the United Kingdom, the United States, the USSR, and a majority of the African Union moved eastward and crushed the infant republic. Fighters and MiGs were supplied to the Nigerian Army by the UK and USSR. The effect was fatal. Thousands of war images depicting the suffering of the Igbo people were captured. Richard Nixon, president of the United States declared that there is a “grim reaper” and “a genocide is going on in Biafra… and Biafran babies are dying” of starvation and kwashiorkor caused by the economic blockade executed by the Nigerian government.
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Fifty-Five years after, the Igbo people will not forget the systematic atrocities committed against them by the rest of the country before, during, and after the war. Of course, there have been recent attempts to silence the Biafra remembrance when the Goodluck Jonathan administration refused to grant viewing license to the producers of Half of a Yellow Sun, a movie adapted from the Chimamanda Adichie’s novel of the same title. But providence prevailed and the movie was aired. Finally, the issues that led to the civil war are yet to be addressed in a post-civil war Nigeria. This failure which centers on the foundational issues of Nigeria’s nationhood has birthed several resurgence groups across the nation, with the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) being the most vocal. Despite this, it is high time the nation gave Biafra war memories their rightful place in Nigeria’s history. Featured Image Source: The Guardian Nigerian News
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