Saturday, 17 October 2015

When genocidists waged war on the sun

Herbert Ekwe-Ekwe
Denial is the final stage that lasts throughout and always follows a genocide. It is among the surest indicators of further genocidal massacres. The perpetrators of genocide … try to cover up the evidence … They deny that they committed any crimes, and often blame what happened on the victims. They block investigations of the crimes, and continue to govern … with impunity … unless they are captured and a tribunal is established to try them. The response to denial is punishment by an international tribunal or national courts... (Gregory Stanton, president, Genocide Watch; professor in genocide studies and prevention, George Mason University, Virginia)

Abolish the sun!
For a genocidist state, the pressing task after perpetrating its heinous crime couldn’t be more predictable: memory erasure of the crime scene at the targeted nation is pursued aggressively and unrelentingly. On the morrow of the conclusion of its execution of the third phase of the Igbo genocide in January 1970, Nigeria wheeled out pretentious cartographers to embark on erasing the illustrious name Biafra from all maps and records that it could lay its hand on! During its meetings, the genocidist junta in power banned the words “sun”, “sunlight”, “sunshine”, “sundown”, “sunflower”, “sunrise” or any other word-derivatives from the great sun star that unmistakably reference the inveterate Land of the Rising Sun. This task and symbolism of sun-banning and sun-bashing, some inter-stellar assault, were of course bizarre if not daft as the junta itself was to discover much sooner than later – and from a most unlikely source indeed… 


At the time, a British military advisor to the junta, who was out dining with a senior member of the cabal in Lagos, unwittingly compared Igbo national consciousness and tenacity, displayed brazenly during their defence against the genocide, with that of the Poles. The advisor, who had studied modern history at university and was a great admirer of the exceptional endurance of Polish people in history, stated that the Igbo had demonstrated similar courage in the latter’s defence of Biafra and that the “rebirth of Biafra is a distinct possibility in my lifetime” – this was unlike the 123 (one hundred and twenty-three) years it took the Polish state to re-appear in history after its disappearance from the world map! The advisor was then in his early 30s and the obvious implications of his Igbo-Polish analysis were not lost on his host. The junta member co-diner was understandably most outraged by the advisor’s crass insensitivity on the subject which he readily shared with his camarilla colleagues. Predictably, the immediate consequence of the hapless advisor’s impudence was an early recall home to Britain. 


There were other bouts of farcical treats on display in Nigeria during the period aimed at erasing the memory of the Igbo genocide. Junta and other state publications and those of their sympathisers would print the name Biafra, a proper noun, a name on ancient world maps centuries before the British conqueror-regime in west Africa concocted “Nigeria” at the turn of the 19th century, with a lower case “b” or box the name in quotes or even invert the “b” to read “p” – such was the intensity of the schizophrenia that wracked the minds of the members of the cabal over the all-important subject of the historic imprint of Igbo resistance and survival. Finally, Nigeria abolished the teaching of history in its schools subsequently in the desperate hope that its Igbo genocide-denial stratagem was complete. 

3.1 million Igbo or a quarter of this nation’s population were murdered in the genocide between 29 May 1966 and 12 January 1970 by Nigeria and its allies, principally Britain. This is the foundational and most gruesome genocide of post-(European)conquest Africa. As the slaughter of the Igbo intensified, particularly in the catastrophic months of 1968-1969, British Prime Minister Harold Wilson unabashedly informed Clyde Ferguson of the United States state department that he, Harold Wilson, “would accept a half million dead Biafrans if that was what it took” Nigeria to destroy the Igbo resistance to the genocide (Roger Morris
Uncertain Greatness: Henry Kissinger and American Foreign Policy, 1977: 122).  As the final tally of the murder of the Igbo demonstrates, Harold Wilson probably had the perverted satisfaction of having his Nigerian subalterns perform far in excess of the prime minister’s grim target.
(Harold Wilson)
Despite the catastrophic stretch of slaughter in 44 months, it was business-as-usual, or so it appeared, for the genocidists after the conclusion of phase-III of the murder on 12 January 1970. Lest we forget, the new phase was pursued with utmost vengeance, with the added highly prized fiscal and capital assets sequestrated by the genocidists – namely, the pillaging of the multibillion(US)dollar-Igbo economy at home and those located in Nigeria, particularly in the Lagos/greater Lagos industrial-commercial region. Many operatives who worked as advisors, at varying layers of the genocidist command and control infrastructure, went to, or returned to universities and colleges as professors and researchers, some became university administrators, bureaucrats, media editors and executives, company chief executives and directors, ministers of state, ministers of religion, businesspeople; many of the commanders and commandants became “generals” and “admirals” and “marshals”, and state legislators, administrators and the like; some even sought the highest office of state – head of regime (Obafemi Awolowo, variously, without success; Olusegun Obasanjo, three times successful; Muhammadu Buhari, twice successful; Murtala Muhammed, once successful; Ibrahim Babangida, once successful; Sanni Abacha, once successful; Abdulsalami Abubakar, once successful).


The Awolowoists and Awolowoids (supporters of Obafemi Awolowo – junta deputy chair, genocidist “theorist”, “starvation-weapon” strategist, head of finance ministry) on the junta even toyed with the idea of abolishing money altogether in the economy of the soon occupied-land of the resourceful and enterprising Igbo. They reasoned that this would deliver the “final solution” that had eluded them during the “encirclement, siege, pounding and withering away”-strategy of the previous 44 months… They ended up with the “compromise” pittance of £20.00 sterling (twenty pounds sterling only) per the surviving male-head of the Igbo family – a derisory sum, which, they reckoned, stood no chance of averting the catastrophe of social implosion they envisaged would occur in Igboland subsequently. We mustn’t fail to note that the £20.00-handout excluded the hundreds of thousands of Igbo families whose “male-heads” had been murdered during the genocide… Dreadfully, the accent placed by Nigeria on this phase-IV of the genocide, starting from 13 January 1970, was the economic strangulation of the 9 million Igbo survivors…
(Obafemi Awolowo)
Igbo survival from the genocide is arguably the most extraordinary feature for celebration in an otherwise depressing and devastating age of pestilence in Africa of the past 49 years. Few people believed that the Igbo would survive their ordeal, especially from September 1968 when 8-10,000 Igbo, mostly children and older people, died each day as the overall brutish conditions imposed by the genocidist siege and bombardment deteriorated calamitously. 

The Igbo are probably the only people in the world who were convinced that they would survive. And when they did, the aftermath was electrifying. In spontaneous celebration, the Igbo prefaced their exchange of greetings with each other, for quite a while, with the exaltation, “Happy Survival”! 

Igbo survival, at the end, does represent the stunning triumph of the human spirit over the savage forces unleashed by Nigeria and its allies that had tried determinably, for four years, to destroy it.
(John Coltrane Quartet, “Sun ship” [personnel: Coltrane, tenor saxophone; McCoy Tyner, piano; Jimmy Garrison, bass; Elvin Jones, drums; recorded: Impulse!, New York, US, 26 August 1965])
(John Coltrane Duo, “Jupiter” [personnel: Coltrane, tenor saxophone, bells; Rashied Ali, drums; recorded: Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliff, NJ, US, 22 February 1967])
Twitter @HerbertEkweEkwe

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