Monday, June 16, 2008

No Victor, No Vanquished: Who Really Cares…?

TV - Documentary/History - The Gist

Sometime in the ‘90s…
It must have been around the holidays because I was mighty bored that day. Seeing that my elder brother (who was majoring in History at the university by that time) had left one of his textbooks around, I decided to kill time by reading about notable historical personalities.

Adolf Hitler, Mahatma Ghandi, Yassar Arafat, Winston Churchill and a couple of colourfully paged biographies later and I couldn’t help reflecting: “What the hell were some of these guys thinking? Bet I would have done that better…!”

March 2006…
Fast-forward to the first quarter of 2006, in the service of the Fatherland. 3 weeks after sharing a camp with total strangers, I was being shunted off to a tough Local Government Area that suffered from water problems but had the most picturesque scenery I’d ever seen.

After being rejected from my initial posting, I trade places with a stuttering colleague to take his teaching place in a school. Despite the rapidly dwindling student population, the shrill voices of the kindergarten kids still carries into the “staff room” as they religiously chant the names of the 36 states and capitals, thrice a day - just like medicine.

Before I gladly terminate my appointment a year later, another female colleague spots what has been bugging us concerning that recital. The kids are just mentioning 35 out of the original 36 states! The one being omitted is another issue altogether…

May 5, 2008 circa 11:00pm...
I’m lying down awake in my room closely monitoring the NTA broadcast and wishing I had enough money to pay for a cable TV subscription. Due to a certain eccentric employee of the Power Holding Corporation who runs a crazy rotational power-sharing scheme, my house only gets to receive power on alternate days. Predictably, this messes up my TV-viewing schedule when it comes to daily Reality TV. By the same time next week, I’m guaranteed to miss any great weekly TV show I happen to catch this week. Now I’ll have to add a generating set and fueling costs to that cable bill…

Eagerly anticipating that day’s episode of Star Quest (I missed the previous day’s and I’ll miss the next), I am therefore shocked when NTA starts broadcasting their post-Civil War chronicle; a series of documentaries called “No Victor, No Vanquished” which is a historical and analytical narrative of the events that led to and occurred during and immediately after the Nigerian Civil War.

Why am I bringing this all up? Well, for those of you who do not know, the Nigerian Civil War was fought from June 6, 1967 to January 13, 1970 between the Federal Republic of Nigeria soldiers and the secessionist Biafran forces (led then by General Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu) who wanted to pull out of the country to form the Republic of Biafra. Nigeria at that time was ruled by General Yakubu Gowon.

For 30 months, the war raged taking its toll on the military and civilian populace as fierce battles, air strikes, reprisal killings, community decimations and totally false political propaganda became the order of the day. The financial, moral, ethical and psychological scars as well as the many other unknown effects of that war are still present till today even though the newer generations of Nigerians have tried hard to bury the events and forget the memories.

What is my view concerning all this? Despite my semi-Eastern Nigerian origins and the tales of horror I’ve heard my parents recount, I have chosen to largely remain blissfully ignorant and never to take sides in a battle I wasn’t even around to witness. But every once in a while, whenever sectional violence breaks out across the ethnic divides of my dearly beloved country the deeply lodged animosities boil up again to the surface to confront the ideals of ye leaders past of older generations who strove hard to ensure that Nigeria remained one at all costs.

The younger generation, who by now mostly embrace the notions of intermarriage, are immediately faced with tough and confusing challenges as one’s wife, lover and friend suddenly attains the enemy status just because a tiny group of people many hundreds of kilometers clash with an equally tiny group of herdsmen over cattle grazing rights.

Or aspiring lawyers, mechanics, doctors, businessmen, seamstresses, car washers, area boys and prostitutes each hustling in equal measure for their daily bread, lay down their lives all for the noble cause of a young man who chooses to defecate in a rival’s uncompleted building or a young sixteen year old swollen with the passions of her first true love and the first stages of gestation for a misguided Youth Corp member serving in her school.

The things that have continued to spark off the raw tinder of the fires of our national divide have even lesser values than these cited examples and once in a while a movie is screened, a book published or TV documentary broadcast each portraying the events of the past through the eyes of its intellectual creator while carrying an underlying message that this evil should not visit our doorsteps again. But are these lessons in history really necessary? After all, are we really listening?

NTA’s “No Victor, No Vanquished” will not be the needed balm for soothing these long-hidden wounds nor will it be the panacea to the millions of people who lost friends, neighbours, siblings and relations and whose collective destinies changed with the drop of an exploded shell. For while critically watching it(as opposed to casual viewing), I only find a programme which will give the older generation a new cause to cast fresh accusing fingers over debatably outdated facts and also give the new generation an even bigger reason to feel disdain and disconnect from the labours of our leaders past.

Caught up in the web of wide-spread economic devastation brought about by some of these precedent hallowed, halo-clad despots, inspired by the glamour-filled lifestyles and quick wealth of the nouveau riche and bombarded by the peer- and parental pressure-filled mandatory success guidelines of top-notch jobs, fat salaries, fast cars, duplex accommodation, work-hard-play-even harder life standards and the obligatory multiple sex partners all acquired before the ideal age of 24, many a Nigerian youth is not interested in watching old men trade blames over who caused a war that may or may not have brought about all these problems in the first place.

Instead, we are watching Star Quest and hoping to be instant musical stars. We are watching The Apprentice Africa and hoping that through hook or crook, we just might be Mr. Shobanjo’s apprentices. We are glued literarily to AMBO and The Next Movie Star and hoping to break into the sleazy lifestyle of our dear Nollywoodians or we are reading about their crazy scandals in the soft sell magazines. We have lost our senses and buried our attention in following old Mexican soaps with more twists and turns in their plots than the Onitsha-Owerri road.

Don’t blame us. In our usual way of passing the buck, maybe part of the blame should go to the national education system. Let’s blame the schools who are now so good at brainwashing and indoctrination that our children are now shunning Physical and Health Education and the playground to go for junk food during break time. My niece’s boarding school in a quest for Religious neutrality recently decided to conduct joint Worship services instead of allowing the kids go to their individual churches. And in kindergarten, the letter ‘Y” doesn’t stand for Yam anymore. That’s so uncool. It now stands for Yacht… Or maybe Yahoozee!

That fresh generation will never know the black and white Television or any electrical device for that matter that has no remote control. Many will never see a turntable, a spin dial telephone, VHS tapes or a dugout canoe. Many have never been taken to museums by their over-worked, over-stressed parents whose notion of a family get-together is plunking down their kids in the latest fast-food outlet that probably has a bouncy castle. And many will never care to know or be taught about the Nigerian Civil War or its repercussions.

When a school chooses to teach her kindergarten kids just 35 out of the 36 states in Nigeria, then we can now say: Congratulations! What do we care about history? After all, Social Studies is now truly and totally dead.

As for me, I do not still know Nigeria well enough and so I must search for more. While continuously doing my research and even prior to writing this piece I still find that the debate over who was right and who was wrong and who did what still rages on till now, 38 years after. You can gather all the information you want, my dear generation, and hear all the horror stories your parents will tell but the truth is that we were not there when it happened. Whatsoever you will hear, read or view will depend on the perspective of your sources. And in wars, the greatest casualties are women, children and common sense.

They claim there was No Victor, No Vanquished. The choice of what to believe is YOURS…

1 comment:

Woomie O! said...

hey! lovely post.
so i've been AWOL for over a week. hummph! issues.

please check if our NFVCB(National Film and Video Censors Board) still functions. P-L-E-A-S-E.
Or how to you explain Yankee Girls, Beyonce & Rihanna...e.t.c

Omotola Jalade should start thinking about doing drugs or something...just to server as an excuse for her blinding flaws. Talk about value and pride and all...

Keep up the good work.

will be right back.