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Monday, October 8, 2012

Achebe's Biafra Memoir-Opening Pandora's Box?

"Is Achebe speaking for all the Ibos or he is simply reliving his Biafra experience that he has not been able to psychologically outgrow? I want to believe that the later is the case. A defeat can be very traumatic and dangerously lead to a state of paranoia and I suspect that is the state of mind Achebe is today...The most disturbing aspect of Achebe’s new book is the timing. Why didn’t he write the book when the Sage was alive? The generations of Nigerians and particularly the Ibos who were not born before the war broke out could be corrupted with this kind of falsehood. For those of us who were adults then cannot be corrupted because we know the facts. We witnessed it. We know the ethnic group that first fired the first shot that led to the war. For firing the first shot the group became the aggressor. We know how much Gowon government put into the prevention of the war but Ojukwu and people like Achebe would not appreciate all the entreaties. The Ibos cannot in any way cry foul and blame anyone except themselves" - Prof. Segun Ogungbemi on 'Achebe on Biafra War and the Role of Awolowo in the Conflict' at http://dialogueseriesnew.blogspot.com/2012/10/usa-africa-dialogue-series-achebe-on.html

"Achebe mourns Biafra, but his anger is directed at the failures of Nigeria. His great disappointment manifests itself in a rare moment of defiance towards the end of the book: 'There are many international observers who believe that Gowan’s actions after the war were magnanimous and laudable. There are tons of treatises that talk about how the Igbo were wonderfully integrated into Nigeria. Well, I have news for them: the Igbo were not and continue not to be reintegrated into Nigeria, one of the main reasons for the country’s continued backwardness, in my estimation'" - Chimamanda Adichie on 'Things Left Unsaid' at http://www.lrb.co.uk/v34/n19/chimamanda-adichie/things-left-unsaid

"The Biafran War defined many things about Nigeria’s future. My father once told me that “we stopped being Nigerians after Biafra.” Many Igbos believe they have always been marginalised and were never really a part of the country before the war and even after. The debate on the marginalisation of the Igbo deepens each time the Federal Government is accused of attempting to exterminate Igbos during the Biafra war. Forty-five years since the war, this dirge is again revived in Chinua Achebe’s Guardian contribution" - Olajumoke Verissimo on 'Chinua Achebe reflects on Biafra, but for whom?' at http://africasacountry.com/2012/10/08/chinua-achebe-reflects-on-biafra-but-for-whom/

"This sense of persecution still persists today: Achebe believes that Igbo people are the engine of Nigeria's advancement, stifled by a corrupt elite that prefers power and mediocrity to meritocracy. Igbo ostracisation, he says, is "one of the main reasons for the country's continued backwardness". Some might call this supremacism, but Achebe is ultimately a Nigerian patriot who sympathises with ordinary Igbos, rather than any broad Igbo power structure" - Noo Saro-Wiwa on 'There Was a Country: A Personal History of Biafra by Chinua Achebe - Review' at http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2012/oct/05/chinua-achebe-there-was-a-country-review

"As a writer I believe that it is fundamentally important, indeed essential to our humanity, to ask the hard questions, in order to better understand ourselves and our neighbours. Where there is justification for further investigation, justice should be served.In the case of the Nigeria-Biafra war there is precious little relevant literature that helps answer these questions. Did the federal government of Nigeria engage in the genocide of its Igbo citizens – who set up the republic of Biafra in 1967 – through punitive policies, the most notorious being "starvation as a legitimate weapon of war"? Is the information blockade around the war a case of calculated historical suppression? Why has the war not been discussed, or taught to the young, more than 40 years after its end? Are we perpetually doomed to repeat the errors of the past because we are too stubborn to learn from them? [Until the nation faces up to this, its mediocrity will continue]" - Chinua Achebe on 'The genocidal Biafran war still haunts Nigeria' at http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/oct/02/biafran-war-nigeria-mediocrity-persecution-igbo

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