There Was A Country?

Many a day leave me mentally drained and barely able to perform at am optimal level. On other days when my mind is less foggy, I get to spend time to reflect. To reflect on various subjects which I find fascinating or generally have an inquisition about. I have to admit that a large chunk of these thoughts have roots in my Twitter feed. I find that particular social media to be an interesting social experiment of some sorts; for some reason, most people tend to be the most authentic online versions of themselves on there. Someone joked about needing “past questions” when logging onto Twitter after a day, that person is not far from the truth. The TL can be peaceful at 10am, come back 6pm and the whole place is in shambles.

I enjoy the app because amidst all the banter, we get to have conversations on subjects that matter which have influence on us. One particular tweet which ignited a train of thought in me was one in the lines of this: that “History is usually narrated to the world’s audience by the victors”. That statement was especially profound for me because, for the first time, I had seen something which vocalised some of the thoughts I’d been having. One of my goals this year was to read more African literature, and somehow by providence I also got interested in Middle Eastern literature and added that to my reading list as well.

I finally got to read Chinua Achebe’s There Was A Country earlier this year, and boy, was it eye-opening. As an Igbo person, it dawned on me how uneducated I was on our history as a people. How was this possible, I thought. I could recall learning about the Civil War in one of my Government classes in secondary school, but on further evaluation, I realised that what we were taught barely scratched the surface.

They taught us that was a civil war at so and so time, and it ended, and the country kept moving on. Period. Maybe a little anecdote about the estimated number of deaths from the war.No context on the progroms and unfulfilled promises that preceded the secession and formation of Biafra, which ended up in the war. No information on the ravaging effects of the war on the millions of innocent lives, the outbreak of malnutrition and other diseases in the vulnerable population, and the several government and non-governmental agencies who tried to come to their aid. No one taught on Nigeria’s post-Biafra climate, the unfair ways the Easterners were marginalised economically and stifled as a people. One can only wonder why history surrounding the Nigerian Civil War is barely addressed and mostly whispered, and talking about it almost seen as taboo.

There is something bonding about shared trauma. As God would have it, the Igbos have come to be known as an industrious and prosperous people, and for me, learning about what my grand and greatgrandparent’s generation went through and knowing where we are now makes me so proud to be Igbo. I realised that – apart from stories told to me here and there by my Igbo parents – all of my historical perspective was formed from years of education in the Southwest. This is in no way pointing accusing fingers, just me coming to terms to the fact that a knowledge of history is always best when it is balanced. There are usually two (or maybe even more) sides to every story, and I highly recommend that you give each side an audience before making inferences or conclusions. Somewhere in between both sides, lies the truth.

I have a lot more to say on this subject and others that stem from it, but I perceive that I have to stop at this point. Maybe one day I will come back here and really pour out my thoughts, but that day is definitely not today.

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