By Isaac Asabor
There is no denying the fact that much has been written on the Nigerian Civil War. However, its ruinous nature seems to be yet understood by some youthful Nigerians that are today energetically beating war drums as they were too young and naïve to know how devastating war is. The Igbanke people, in the bid to proverbially illustrate how damaging war is, said, “Anyone that has witnessed war will call it “Aya”. Explanatorily put, it is supposed to be pronounced as “Agha” but when it has being witnessed, its pronunciation will sound like “Aya” as such person would have being wonderstruck by the devastating nature of war.
It is foolhardy that 51 years after the Nigerian-Biafran Civil War that most Nigerians, particularly those that are in the recent time been agitating for secession have learned little or nothing from the deadly misadventure, and going by ominous activities of the agitators, it would not be mistaken to say that Nigeria could return to the disastrous path soonest.
The abovementioned foreboding fear cannot be farfetched as Prof. Wole Soyinka on June 15, 2021 spoke to Arise News Channel, the broadcast arm of THISDAY Newspapers, urging President Muhammadu Buhari to be more sensitive to the agitations of secessionists rather than bully them.
He said, “If it (Nigeria) fails to decentralize, some people use the word reconstruction, some use whatever. But if Nigeria fails to decentralize as fast as possible, manifestly, not as rhetoric, then Nigeria cannot stay together,” he warned, adding: “Again, it’s not Wole Soyinka saying this. Everybody has said it; generals have said it; ex-heads of state have said it; politicians have said it; analysts have said it; economists have said it. And that’s what’s happening to people in the streets. That’s why they are moving; that’s why they are demonstrating; that’s why they are defying threats from the police and from the government that if you demonstrate, you are traitors or you do this, we’ll deal with you.”
Given the fact that the nobel laureate is not the only personality that has sounded the warnings on imminent war, it is then expedient at this juncture to ask: “Can Nigeria Afford to “Waste All Resources” (WAR) For the Second Time In History? For the sake of clarity, an analytical examination of the title of this piece would reveal that war acronymically means “Waste All Resources” (WAR) in this context.
A graphic illustration by Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia on the consequences of war says thus: “The effects of war are widely spread and can be long term or short term. Soldiers experience war differently than civilians, although either suffer in times of war, and women and children suffer unspeakable atrocities in particular. In the past decade, up to two million of those killed in armed conflicts were children. The widespread trauma caused by these atrocities and suffering of the civilian population is another legacy of these conflicts, the following creates extensive emotional and psychological stress. Present-day internal wars generally take a larger toll on civilians than state wars. This is due to the increasing trend where combatants have made targeting civilians a strategic objective”.
It would be recall that mid-January this year was no doubt a sombre time for Nigerians as they (including this writer) rightly remembered and honoured the heroism and dedication of those whose lives were lost during the war, and celebrated those who survived the war which claimed millions of lives from both sides.
But as we honoured the heroism and dedication of those that survived, as we mourned the dead, and as we retold the acts of valour that occurred during baseless civil war in that war, it is perhaps apposite that we should also be reflecting upon the costs incurred in fighting the wars.
Without any iota of exaggeration, the greatest cost of war is the human cost. We simply cannot think about war and the so-called benefits victorious war brings without taking into account the number of people whose lives were lost, and those living whose futures were severely impaired. To take just one example, more than 3,000 and up to 30,000 Igbos living in northern Nigeria were recorded in history to have being killed during the attacks that preceded the war. Not only that, during the two and half years of the war, there were about 100,000 overall military casualties, while between 500,000 and 2 million Biafran civilians died of starvation. That was a staggering loss. And that is not counting the thousands soldiers from both sides who were seriously wounded in the war. We also too often overlook the ongoing, invisible, wounds of war. These figures are even more disturbing.
As if these tragedies and sacrifices were not enough, there is a further, rarely acknowledged, cost; which is that wars do not achieve their goals. We do not get what we were promised by our leaders, civilian and military, at the start of the conflict, especially if we look at the outcomes after the fighting has ended. Disappointingly, wars are unpredictable and produce unintended consequences. The chaotic and destructive nature of war makes controlling their direction and outcomes almost impossible.
We are told by those who lead us into wars that winning enables the victors to establish nations, create, reinstate or extend boundaries, redress grievances and restore national honour, remove cruel and despotic rulers replacing them with stable popularly-elected leaders, prevent the spread of pernicious ideologies like Nazism, Fascism, atheistic communism, and terrorism and even nepotism as allegedly been obtained in contemporary Nigeria under President Muhammadu Buhari’s leadership. In past centuries, victory was going to halt the spread of ideologies advocating liberty, equality and fraternity. Above all, we are told that we are fighting just wars and that winning will prevent future military conflicts and create an international environment in which peace and tranquility will prevail. If you ask me of my take on the foregoing, I will simply say “Lori Iro”, as they would say in the South Western part of the country.
In fact, to recall the apprehension which people have for war, it is expedient to cite Mahatma Gandhi quote in his autobiography titled “Gandhi: An autobiography”, which says, “I Appeal for cessation of hostilities, not because you are too exhausted to fight, but because war is bad in essence. You want to kill Nazism. You will never kill it by its indifferent adoption.”
Finally, it is expedient to reiteratively ask again, “Can Nigeria Afford To “Waste All Resources” (WAR) For The Second Time In History?”