•Nigeria must apologize to Ndigbo –Ikedife
By WILLY EYA and OMONIYI SALAUDEEN
As controversy rages over Prof Chinua Achebe’s new book, “There was a country”, prominent Igbo leaders have taken sides with the literary icon. Those who spoke to Sunday Sun agreed that the celebrated author of “Things Fall Apart” was right in his memoirs on the Biafran war.
The new book, “There Was a Country: A Personal History of Biafra,” recounts the 1967-1970 war when the Eastern Region tried to secede from Nigeria. In the book which is generating controversy, Achebe claimed that former Head of State, General Gowon(rtd) and then chairman of the Federal Executive Council, late Obafemi Awolowo formulated policies that promoted genocide against Ndigbo.
But defending the literary icon, the immediate past president of Ohaneze Ndigbo, Dr Dozie Ikedife justified the claims of Achebe saying that he is not surprised by reaction of some people because according to him, truth is bitter. He urged Nigeria to be repentant and apologize to Ndigbo for the atrocities committed against them during the Nigerian civil war.
“The facts are naked but only that truth is better. Igbos would not start another war but for Nigeria to move forward, she must acknowledge injustice done to Ndigbo during the war. “We all saw what happened in South Africa when Nelson Mandela took over after the apartheid regime in that country. They set up a Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
That is what we need to do here. Ndigbo deserve an honest apology particularly from the major players in that unfortunate war”. For former National Chairman of All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA), Chekwas Okorie, “ it is a general knowledge that the civil war has only ended in the battle field but it has not in reality”. He added: “Go to the South East and you will pity the Igbo. All the roads are impassable and there is no federal presence. The policies of federal character and educational disadvantage are created to deter the progress of the Igbo people.
These are part of what Chinua Achebe emphasized in his recent book and some people are not comfortable with it. “But then, you cannot blame everything on the present government. What are the Igbo in the National Assembly doing? Our Senators and House of Representatives members are not making appropriate representation. They are there when the budgets are being passed, but they cannot make case for their people.
It is only through a right leadership that Igbo can assert themselves”. He said that unless Ndigbo become ready to work together and organise themselves, none of their own would ever become president of the country. “If they say Kano has the largest people, go and find out the population of the Igbo there; they are in the majority. If they say Lagos has the largest population, go and find out the population of the Igbo in Lagos. They form the bulk of the population. But they have failed to use their enormous population for political advantage. “We must try and unite all separate groups to speak with one voice.
We must all come together and provide the right leadership like the one being championed by Orji Kalu and Pius Ezeife. You cannot negotiate with fragmented groups”, he said. In his reaction, National Coordinator of a civil society group, Patriotic Alliance of Nigeria (PAN), Chief Maxi Okwu described Achebe as a renowned literary giant whose claims cannot be dismissed. He said that no detail in Achebe’s book should be swept under the carpet regretting that the nation is at a crossroads at the moment.
The legal practitioner however cautioned that people should not read ethnic meanings into claims by the author and advised that the book should be treated on its own merit.