Many notable Nigerians, on Monday, gathered to discuss issues that led to the Civil War and ways to foster reintegration and unity in Nigeria, 50 years after the Nigerian-Biafran war.
The discussion held at the ‘Never Again Conference’ organised by the Nzuko Umunna and Ndigbo Lagos, in Lagos.
The conference focused on a constructive discussion of factors that led to the first military coup in Nigeria in 1966, which then led to the Nigerian Civil War between 1967 and 1970.
In his opening remark, Abel Umahi, a retired major-general, said the conference symbolises a national reflection in the civil war which will herald a new chapter in Nigeria’s history.
“This Never Again Conference is geared towards promoting nation-building, forgiveness, healing of wounds, reintegration, stability and national cohesion,” Mr Umahi said While giving his remark, Professor Anya Anya, the chairman of the occasion, said that Nigeria is in trouble partly because the nation went through a temptation period that led to the war.
“Nigerians have never reflected on the past history since the beginning of the good period. This is the first opportunity for us to do so.” Anya said the Nigerian situation is not unique, as there are other countries that have gone through it. He said Nigeria should learn from others and from her past mistakes.
Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka; the keynote speaker at the conference, said that no nation ever survived two civil wars and there is a need to embrace unity in Nigeria.
“One of the ways to say ‘Never Again’ is to enthrone the principles of democracy,” the Nobel Laureate said.
Prof. Soyinka said humanity tends to forget lessons too soon and pursue the same course of action again and again, leading to the same consequences. He recalled that over two million lives were lost within two years of the civil war and numerous casualties resulted from the war.
Good democracy is a key way to declare ‘never again’ to civil war in Nigeria, he said.
He added that the vital goal of humanity is not merely to survive but to live in dignity.
Profesor Banji Akintoye, a former senator and the leader of the Yoruba association, asserted that the people of Nigeria will never again manage the affairs of the country in a way that will lead to war.
“We have good reasons to fear today that the character of the affairs of our country these days, and the prevailing mood among us Nigerians, are chillingly similar to the character of the affairs of our country in the months leading to our civil war.
“The government of our country is being managed in ways that make it look like an exclusive preserve of a particular minority.
The voices of the majority register protests continually and are continually disrespected and ignored,” Mr Akintoye said while adding that Nigeria is in crisis and if the citizens can no longer hold together as one entity, there is a need to find a rational solution so that the nation would not plunge into any form of war.
Professor Pat Utomi, the chairman, planning committee of the conference, in his remark said the inability to manage public conversation is a major challenge to nation-building in Nigeria.
“If you go to the social media today, you will know that Nigeria is at war.
The young people who were not anywhere near the war hate so much, and you wonder why? This is a failure of leadership in Nigeria.”
Mr Utomi said if the Nigerian civil war was held today, there would be no Nigeria because the mood in the international community now accepts self-determination.
He said there is a need to educate the young ones and drive sustainable public conversation on Nigerian problems.
He added that a great part of the problem is leadership failure and Nigeria’s essence has become that of democratisation of mediocrity.
The conference also featured a handshake between the royal fathers in attendance and a declaration of ‘Never Again’ to civil war in Nigeria.
By Akwaji Ushie