I met a Jamaican who knew so much about the Biafran war. She was so excited to learn that I was Ibo and she could identify that as the Eastern part of Nigeria. She also asked me about the difference between ‘igbo’ and ‘Ibo’. This was rather surprising for me because only a foreigner with depth of knowledge can guess that Igbo is the language and Ibo is the tribe. She told the story of the war as though she had experienced it.
We spoke over cold coffee, not bothered about what other plans we had for the day. We spoke about how many of my people are still hurting, and concluded that Nigeria as a whole has not fully recovered from the war.
My father grew up in the heat of the war; he told me that one day they were cooking a pot of soup and upon the sound of an explosion, they put the boiling pot of soup in the boot of the car and drove off to the nearest safe place.
My mum grew up in Lagos, still too young to fully understand what was going on. Little did she know that her future husband was a war child.
Most times, I wish I experienced the civil war, because the stories seem interesting – rather ironic for someone who jerks in fear most times at the sound of the alarm announcing that ‘NEPA has brought light’.
I also wish I was old enough to understand what the hell Abacha was doing in leadership. It is the same way I wish I experienced military rule, all for the sake of being able to write a personal account of it.
This is one of the reasons why I studied Journalism. I enjoyed Chimamada’s Half of a Yellow Sun, but I was even more consoled by the fact that she was told the stories of the war the same way I was told.
A book about Boko Haran written by Mike Smith caught my attention. At first instinct, I was offended by how detailed the book was, the stories where drawn from the victims themselves. The author employed the aid of a Northern Nigeria correspondent, Aminu Abubakar who he did well to acknowledge.
How dare a foreigner write about our own issue? That was the point. Nigeria’s story and Africa’s story has for long been defined by the wrong people.
So I was excited to share my story of Biafra with my Jamaican friend. We spoke about how the war affected politics. I told her I look forward to having an Ibo president, not that I was bothered about what part of the country any political leader came from.
I want my people to be more involved in governance, but I fear they are not ready.
I fear that they feel sidelined in the practise of governance.
I fear that they might be intimidated and want to create their own.
My friend asked me if it was true that the Ibos only married amongst themselves. I explained that a lot is changing. Many do not know that Nigeria has evolved. Many do not even know that our generation is different, because our realities are slightly different from that of our parents.
Yet there is a bigger problem; how well do we know our own story? What story are we telling to the world and how are we reacting to the story that is being told about us?
The moment we get to this point, you will get offended the same way I do when I hear a wrong notion about where I am from, you will feel the need to ‘educate’ people and even more, you will desire to share your own experience.
The time has come for Africa to tell her own story.
Photo Credit: Smandy | Dreamstime.com