By adakole IJOGI
The 15th day of January in Nigeria is NOT only our Armed Forces Remembrance Day, a day the nation commemorates our fallen military heroes but a day that exudes far much more significance in the contextual tapestry of our nation’s history.
On this day 15th January, entrapped by tearful memory, I recall three events that changed the trajectory of our nationhood and recalibrated traditional fault lines and exculpated hate and suspicion in geometric proportions, making room for heinous complexities around ethnicity, religion and passive citizenship in today’s contemporary Nigeria.
Firstly, on this day in 1966 the coup d’état of the Five Major’s led by Major Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu, opened the road that ended the first civilian administration and democratic governance in Nigeria. Consequently, enthroning 29 years of repressive military rule in Nigeria. Secondly, in the same year, actions by these idealistic and overzealous soldiers cascaded into the unfortunate martyrdom of prominent Nigerians and national heroes, notable were Sir. Ahmadu Bello, Alh. Abubakar Tafawa Belewa, Chief Samuel Ladoke Akintola, Chief Festus Oketie-Eboh, Brigadier General Maimalari and Colonel Arthur Unegbe and others. This unfortunate and regrettable action overtly changed the narrative into sectionalism and ethnical biases, leaving little to cognitive rationalization of many. But in review of appropriate literature will postulate, that the drums of war began to beat long before the first cries of “araba”. These guns of war were already loaded and corked by brothers and sisters who lived in this geographical space called Nigeria for centuries, all it needed to deteriorate was a spark which did ignite on the 15th of January 1966. Lastly, after four long brutal years of the “war of brothers”, on the same day 15th of January 1970 also heralded the official end of the Nigerian Civil war.
However, thinking in retrospective wishes, what if we had silenced the guns on that very faithful day in January 1966? Would we have had a better Nigeria? Or perhaps those events were indelible thresholds for us to overcome ancient traditional fault lines that divides us? How do we make meaning of all these past events and put in proper perspective a people bounded by ONE common heritage, which is the Nigerian Citizen. All of these I pondered on as I remember January 15th. Oh why are thou so cruel to Nigeria, you 15th of January.
In our 59 years journey as a nation, disillusionment and self-hate has formed the national core of negative rhetoric most of us silently eschew. The word “hate” I use here as an acronym for Human Attraction Towards Eventuality. In situating this line of thought, kindly allow me to reiterate in generic metaphors the following:
▪ Some claim the right of way and see their ways as right
▪ Others insist justice must come today or sure they’ll fight
▪ The green on the flag has turned to algae, some say
▪ And the white stained by blood from those who pray
▪ Can we not see in trust and understanding a foe can be a friend?
▪ For when will this madness and circle of hate end?
▪ This is NOT a country most of my peers shout
▪ As Millennials fiddle away on social media sites
▪ Post It, Like It and Share It, the Generation Z (those born after 1996, born after the evolution of the internet) never ask who is right
As we commemorate another January 15, I ask in rhetoric conjectures, where is Nigeria and the Nigerian in all of these? Is Nigeria indissoluble? Can revenge or justice heal our wounds? Should we still be talking of unity 59 years on? Where is the love for country and patriots? Forthrightly, I then recalled Oga Tim’s profound take on all of these and the way to go 50 years after the Nigerian Civil War, simply put without ambiguity, he prophetically said “LET US ALL FORGIVE EACH OTHER”. For in voluntary forgiveness we find peace in our hearts, kindness in our soul and understanding in our minds that will enable us break the CIRCLE OF HATE and SILENCE THE GUNS. We salute all who paid the ultimate prize and eternally appreciate your sacrifice. You are NOT and an “UNKNOWN SOLDIER” we know you and your name is written in our hearts. A True Nigerian you are, you believed and dreamt of a better Nigeria and was martyred. Let us all keep dreaming of better Nigerian even if breaks our heart.
▪ IJOGI is with the Initiative for Dialogue and Development and can be reached at email@example.com