There Was A Country


There Was A Country: A Personal History Of Biafra By Chinua Achebe

In the aftermath of the release of Chinua Achebe's book titled There Was a

Country: A Personal History of Biafra and his article published in the Guardian

on 2 October 2012, there have been many debates about the Biafra war.

Some have accused Achebe of stirring up old wounds by resurrecting the "B"

question, while others are appalled at his comment about Awolowo’s policies,

which Achebe claims resulted in the starvation of millions of people. Some

have suggested that rather than heap the blame on Nigerian officials, Achebe

should have heaped the blame on the Biafran leaders who embarked on a

war knowing that their army was ill equipped to take on the Nigerian forces.

The debate has also taken a tribal dimension with many Igbo’s rallying behind

Professor Achebe, while many Yoruba’s have taken to the opposite side by

expressing their displeasure at Achebe, while defending Awolowo’s legacy.

Regardless of what Achebe said or did not say, it does not deny the fact that

his article in the Guardian and his new book are timely. For a very long time,

the Biafra question keeps on coming up again and again. On one hand, the

Igbo's feel aggrieved by what they experienced during the war, while on the

other hand, the rest of the country feel that the Biafra war occurred long ago

and that the Igbo's should get over it and move on.

Unfortunately, the current debate triggered by Achebe’s article and book has

resulted in many of us focusing on the principal players in the war, rather than

focusing on the underlying issue at hand: i.e. the genocide that took place

during the three year war. One problem with focusing on the principal actors

such as Yakubu Gowon, Obafemi Awolowo, Chinua Achebe, Emeka Ojukwu,

Olusegun Obasanjo, Brigadier Adekunle, Murtala Mohammed etc is that none

of these actors were significantly impacted by the war. They and most of their

family all came out of the war, intact, healthy and alive. However, what we

need to revisit as a nation is the tragic story of the millions of people (majority

children) who died as a result of man’s cruelty to man.


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