Efforts are ongoing towards documenting the Nigerian Civil War (1967-1970), which precipitated a humongous human crisis in the then eastern region (now South-east and South-south) after violence blew open between federal troops and separatist Biafran fighters led by Chukwuemeka Ojukwu.
The efforts, which are people-led, have gained the backing of strong voices like former minister, Obiageli Ezekwesili; former head of Nigeria’s human rights commission, Chidi Odinkalu and a host of others.
The documentation activity is inspired by a newly formed Centre for Memories based in Enugu.
“We not only remember and pray for all families among us who lost sons, daughters, dads, moms, siblings and relatives in the war but specially thank the @cfmemories (Centre for Memories) for starting the great work of documentation,” tweeted Mrs Ezekwesili on Thursday.
In a post retweeted by the centre, people are asked to “record with your phone or video, if possible anyone known to have experienced the war as a soldier, child, informant, parent etc) please ask them about their experience and send to firstname.lastname@example.org.”
“Nobody will tell our stories for us,” adds the tweet originally shared from an Enugu promotional account, @Enuguconnect.
The Civil War is taught in Nigerian secondary schools as a topic in Government. But the subject is only compulsory for Arts students and is only optional for others in the commercial or social science classes.
Many believe it is not well documented; especially, experiences of the victims and active participants.
Agitation, not yet over
The war ended formally following the surrender of Biafra after late Mr Ojukwu had fled. But 49 years after, separatist agitation is still a significant movement in Igboland – and has been a subject of confrontation between pro-Biafra group, IPOB members and Nigeria’s security forces.
Since independence, Nigeria has continued to grapple with the challenge of integrating the array of ethnic groups lumped together by Britain into a cohesive whole. This is one Nigeria’s biggest challenge, says political scientist, Femi Mimiko.
The renewed civil war documentation movement is promoted with tweets, some coming with powerfully evocative pictures depicting terrible humanitarian situations from the war.
“There’s a good opportunity for #Nigeria to mine memory in order to build a different, more inclusive kind of country,’ tweeted Mr Odinkalu. “We stumble from one avoidable tragedy to the next, never learning anything & always repeating the same errors. So, we democratise alienation.”