Nigeria has not learned from civil war, says Kukah

CATHOLIC Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Matthew Kukah, yesterday said Nigeria has not recovered from wounds of the civil war, 51 years after the unfortunate event.

He also lamented that the leaders have not learned instructive lessons from the 30-month war.


The activist-cleric, who spoke at the second edition of the “Never Again Conference” said the country has failed to adopt resolutions meant to heal the wounds of the war.

But, elder statesman Alhaji Tanko Yakassai disagreed with him, saying that the country had witnessed reconciliation and healing.

The Second Republic politician, who recalled that the largely Igbo coup of 1966 aborted the Nigerian dream and trajectory, observed that reconciliation, reconstruction and rehabilitation had taken place and Nigerians are living with one another all over the country.

He called on Nigerians to join hands to deepen democracy and enthrone an egalitarian society.

The theme of the virtual conference was: “51 years after the Nigerian-Biafran civil war.” It was chaired by Afenifere chieftain Chief Ayo Adebanjo.

The conference is the brainchild of Nzuko Umunna, a pan-Igbo socio-cultural organisation, which organised the first edition in Lagos last year.

Kukah said some of the neglected resolutions were re-echoed at the Human Rights Violations Investigation Commission set up by former President Olusegun Obasanjo and chaired by the late Justice Chikudifu Oputa.

He also said while the military laid the foundation for Nigerians to begin a process of rebuilding the nation, “things somehow went wrong” along the line.

Kukah stressed: “I have met a lot of people who fought the war who are full of regrets. There is a lot of resentment, anxiety and frustration that we have not learnt any lessons.

“Fifty-one years after the war, we are still hearing the kind of agitations that ordinarily, with commitment, dedication, focus and the right leadership, we should have put a lot of the anxieties behind us. Unfortunately, they are still with us.”

The bishop described the Oputa panel, which he was part of, as “the best school I would ever hope to attend”.

He added: “Oputa Panel managed to generate quite a lot of data and information that academicians and policymakers would have used to ensure we erect the signpost saying, ‘Never Again’, because it gave us an opportunity, a mirror to look at ourselves after hearing from all sides but we didn’t have the discipline to follow through.

“We have not been able to forgive ourselves as a people. The wounds of the civil war have not been able to heal.

“Coups and counter-coups that followed were more or less miniature civil wars by themselves because they threw up the same contradictions, anxieties and feeling of divisiveness across the country.”

The chairman of the conference planning committee, Prof. Pat Utomi, said the initiative started as an advocacy “in trying to bring a better understanding of the civil war and its aftermath to the Nigerian people”.

He said it was being pursued in a way that “it will become a source of energy for bringing a new nation”.

Utomi stressed: “We know that if people learn enough from errors of yesterday, they can, in fact, make more progress than they are currently making,” he said.

“One of the biggest challenges of nation-building is the kind of trust deficits that exist which make policy implementation very challenging.

“A better understanding of the civil war will make it become a ladder that people can climb to higher levels of growth.”

Adebanjo said with justice and equity, restructuring and a people’s constitution, Nigeria would overcome most of her current challenges.

He called for a return to the 1960 Independence Constitution or 1963 Constitution, which were products of agreement among the founding fathers, including Sir Ahmadu Bello, Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe and Chief Obafemi Awolowo.

A First Republic Minister, Chief Mbazulike Amechi, who decried the marginalisation of Igbo in Nigeria, called for the enthronement of equity, fairness and justice.

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