Nigeria: Only Good Governance Will Heal Civil War Wounds - ACF

18 January 2021

As Nigerians reflect on the way forward 51 years after the civil war, the apex socio-cultural organisation in the North, Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), has declared that only good governance will heal the wounds caused by the unfortunate conflict.

ACF admitted that while the wounds from the civil war will linger for some time, the provision of good governance would provide a sense of belonging to all Nigerians.

The northern body further stressed the need to stop religious and ethnic discriminations, saying these sentiments were some of the causes of the civil war.

Eminent Nigerians from across the country had last week deliberated on Nigeria's future 51 years after the civil war at a zoom parley with the theme, "51 Years After the Nigerian-Biafran Civil War, 2nd Never Again Conference", organised by Nzuko Umunna, an Igbo think tank group in partnership with Ovation International and Njenje Media.

Reacting to the development at the weekend, the ACF said wounds of a war in which about one million people died can hardly be healed in a short period of 51 years.

National publicity secretary of the ACF, Emmanuel Yawe said, "After all this was a civil war in which brothers fought themselves. The wounds will be there for a long time. The only way forward is for us to ensure good governance.

"That is what can keep the country as one and avoid another war. Let us stop religious and ethnic discriminations which were some of the causes of the civil war".

On its part, the Northern Elders Forum (NEF) urged Nigerians to use lessons from the war to build the country.

NEF specifically tasked Nigerian youths to learn from history, adding that they must use the positives aspects of past events to build the country.

The director, Advocacy and Research, of NEF, Dr Hakeem Baba Ahmed, said no element of our history should be forgotten or ignored.

He noted: "Our history is a major part of our building blocks. But we have ignored the vital need to reduce arguments over what actually happened around our major turning points.

"The result is that we devote a lot more attention arguing over the past than building a future. We have allowed generations to grow up on poisonous history and perceptions that there are wounds that did not heal and the nation has never recovered from the civil war. In truth, we did. As a nation, we also did much to be proud of.

"A combination of prolonged military rule and poor governance have combined to under-develop a middle class and political assets that should give the country sustained growth and the capacity to move beyond the past. We need to improve the quality of leaders we elect and focus on nurturing new generations of Nigerians that will re-discover our country's mission. We must teach our young ones our history without bias towards either the negative or positive.

"The nation must genuinely invest in its future and fight corruption with greater honesty and political will. We must elect leaders on the basis of competence and not on limiting considerations such as ethnic origins. We need the elite to unite in the search for unity and belief that we are all better off in one united and just nation".

Speaking with LEADERSHIP in Jos, secretary-general of Association of Middle Belt Ethnic Nationalities (ASOMBEN), Rev James Pam, said although the Biafran Civil War ended 51 years ago, not all the wounds of the war had been healed.

He stressed that the international community is rapidly becoming sympathetic to the plight of the South East.

"The Gowon regime that fought the War and ended it did well in its 3Rs programme of Reconciliation, Reconstruction and Rehabilitation. But subsequent governments, both military and civilian, have continued to treat the Igbo man with suspicion," he said.

On his part, the publicity secretary of the Middle Belt Forum, Dr Isuwa Dogo, commended the then head of state, General Yakubu Gawon, for being exceptionally magnanimous in handling the war.

"If you fight and win a war, those people ever remain your slaves, but he (Gowon) didn't do that. He immediately introduced the three RS which was absolutely okay and nobody was stigmatised," Dogo said.

Also lending hgis voice, a senior stakeholder in the Middle Belt Forum, Idris Nasarawa, said that it would be better for the country to resort to regionalism.

Noting that the people of the South East will always see themselves as being marginalised, he added that only time can heal the injury.

However, a good governance advocacy group, the Unity House Foundation (UHF), called on Nigerians to look for positives from the civil war in order to move the country forward.

Speaking with LEADERSHIP in Port Harcourt, UHF convener, Kingsley Wenenda Wali, accused the Nigerian elite of using the issue of the country's civil war to merchandise their political interest.

Also, a former liaison officer to former President Shehu Shagari during the Second Republic, Tanko Yakasai, said Nigerians, especially those at their prime ages should think of how to vote for credible people that would help in bringing about good governance.

"Once good people are elected they are often left with no option than to quickly work for the good of the people," he noted.

On its part, the youth wing of Ohanaeze Ndigbo asked the government to holistically address the post-civil war wounds that have refused to heal.

National president, Ohaneze Youth Council (OYC), Comrade Igboayaka Igboayaka, said marginalisation, lack of proper integration and reconciliation must be addressed holistically.

He submitted that the Igbos are major stakeholders in the Nigeria project, adding that justice, equity and fair play must be extended to them for proper healing of the wounds.

Also, a civil war veteran, Augustine Maduabuchi, who fought in many sectors, including the famous Azumini and Abagana, lamented that many Nigerians behave as if they did not learn any lesson from the 30 months of hostilities.

Pointing to a bullet wound scar he sustained during the war, he maintained that the country, "is dancing on the threshold of another war if the leaders fail to address the inequalities in the system, coupled with tribal and religious strife."

On his part, a 76-year-old Ohanaeze chieftain from Ukwa East local government area, Mike Okere, said as long as Ndigbo are not yet back into the mainstream of the country's economic and sociopolitical affairs, the wounds might not heal.

"Can we say in all sincerity that the three Rs, Reintegration, Rehabilitation and Reconstruction as propounded by the then head of state, General Yakubu Gowon, for Ndigbo at the end of the war have been fully implemented? Certainly, the answer is no," he said.

Another veteran of the civil war who said he was a captain in the Biafran Army, Jim Kalu Nwadinobi, said much "is still needed to be done by every citizen to heal the wounds of the unfortunate incident."

Also, the immediate past spokesman of Ohanaeze, Chuks Ibegbu, said that the South East has a moral case.

"We are supposed to build bridges with others. It appeared that Nigerians have not learnt the lessons of the civil war," he noted.

But in its reaction, the pan-Yoruba socio-cultural organisation, Afenifere, maintained that restructuring remained the panacea to tensions within Nigeria.

The national publicity secretary of Afenifere, Yinka Odumakin said while restructuring will keep Nigeria as one, refusal to restructure the country would bring it to an end prematurely.

He stated: "What can give us indivisibility and long lease of life is to restructure Nigeria, but if we don't restructure Nigeria, the nation will die. As it is presently we are not a nation; we remain a contraption.

"It cannot be healed; it is still festering and 51 years after the war, we are also at the edge of getting closer to another war than what we experienced 51 years ago. Clearly, the way this government is running this country is not how to run a country and expect to have peace."

Insisting that restructuring Nigeria will give birth to federalism, he said, "You cannot run a multiethnic Nigeria along unitary lines and you expect to have peace. It is not possible. You have to go back to federalism.

"Those in power are conniving with forces that do not want Nigeria to make progress. That is why they are not thinking of restructuring Nigeria".

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