By Oduche Azih
Even I, the no-nonsense analyst that they call me, do have time for soft news. I was checking out the internet for official Lagos State Government releases concerning the current Lagos @50, MY SUCCESS STORY poster campaign.
Having earlier commented very briefly on the grumbling by some that Ndigbo were being curiously omitted, may I now take this opportunity to announce the good news that I came across Dr. Pat Utomi’s poster yesterday. It is located just by the Strabag roundabout at MM2, Ikeja. That should quieten that group. It is however not unlikely that some will still regard that as a token. You can’t please everyone, can you?
Which brings me to the discovery I made in the same Internet neighbourhood concerning a post on the movie HALF OF A YELLOW SUN which is based on a book of the same title authored by our very own Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. The writer summarized the intro by saying,
“The film is a love story that follows two sisters who are caught up in the outbreak of the Nigerian civil war.”
Good grief! Caught up?
For goodness’ sake, these were Igbo girls, sisters, like many other hundreds of thousands of that era who were living their lives in their own country Nigeria and subsequently Biafra, among their own folks. How could they have been caught up? Where else could they or should they have been in that season of bestial madness? I hope that the writer was not suggesting that if only they had stayed away in Somalia, Eritrea or Rwanda they would have had a more gentle fate. That war was real. It was no movie. It cannot be whitewashed simply by a turn of phrase.
As for the “love story”, I cannot go into Chimamanda’s mind to discern her core intentions. Granted that she is about the same age as my eldest daughter, the difference being that she was surrounded in her childhood by storytellers, I doubt that her parents and the then still living grandparents were so keen on making sure that their precious daughter saw ONLY the sunny side of life regarding Biafra and the war.
My take is that Chimamanda took on a task, after (like the gospel writer St Paul) having gone through so many other accounts by others, decided to put hers on paper. I recall a young lawyer friend who had a specific problem with her narrative. He asked despairingly, “How can such a young girl write such a story?” I had dutifully responded that obviously, (and she has said so herself on many occasions), she is a very good listener.
They say that the future belongs to the youth. The enemies of peace in Nigeria are scared stiff that the badly told story of the remote and proximate causes of the Nigeria-Biafra war, the course of the conflict and the ongoing tragic aftermath is now being relitigated by people who were not even born when it started. Hence Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), etc. The review of Chinua Achebe’s THERE WAS A COUNTRY by the likes of Ken Saro-Wiwa Jr (now late), Noor Saro-Wiwa and Robinson Sibe, all children of the Niger Delta, is very instructive. They are available on Penguin, Barnes & Noble and Amazon.
I therefore posit that Chimamanda did NOT set out to write a love story in order to regale a dangerously forgetful populace. No, she wrote a most tragic snippet of current and still evolving history, blended with a love story in order to rivet the attention of the reader. The writer above has done posterity a lot of damage by this overt oversimplification.
As we keep revisiting our bad history, hidden under a heavy cloak of government enforced amnesia, it is important that we revert to calling a spade by its proper name. Only the truth can set Nigeria free.
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