Biafra-50 years After: Snippets from Prof. Yemi Osinbajo’s Speech
Reading through the beautifully, well-crafted speech made by the Acting President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, I marveled at the intelligence of a man who would never be forgotten in the annals of the history of Nigeria. His brilliance is so inspiring and infectious that you long to hear him share the invaluable proceeds from his erudite disposition.
The commemoration of 50th anniversary of the declaration of Biafra no doubt, offers fundamental insights into the sojourn of the country so far and how we have evolved afterwards especially in dealing with myriads of challenges facing the contemporary Nigeria.
I would have to say that, like aptly put by the Acting President Prof. yemi Osinbajo, in his speech at the conference organized by the Shehu Musa Yar’Adua Foundation with support from the Ford Foundation and Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA) themed “Memory and Nation Building-Biafra: 50 Years After” and I quote:
“Introspection is probably what separates us from beasts. That ability to learn from history is perhaps the greatest defence from the avoidable pain of learning from experience, when history is a much gentler and kinder teacher”
The Ag. President recalling rather poignantly, the sad memories of seeing truckloads of Easterners and watching his best friend who was from the East and his aunt who was married to an Igbo man leaving for the East and never returned, has this to say:
“This is why I would rather not spend this few minutes on whether there was or was not sufficient justification for secession and the war that followed. The issue is whether the terrible suffering, massive loss of lives, of hopes and fortunes of so many can ever be justified.”
In reflection of the events that led to the civil war and how we would’ve worked so hard to ensure that whatever precipitated the war was averted, he posited this rhetorical question:
“What if we had spent all the resources, time and sacrifice we put into the war, into trying to forge unity? What if we had decided not to seek to avenge a wrong done to us? What if we had chosen to overcome evil with good?’’
A truism lies in the following statement he made. A maxim that would’ve reflected the depth of a man with a sound mind. A statement whose philosophical undertone would rival that of famous philosophers.
“The truth is that the spilling of blood in dispute is hardly ever worth the losses.”
The Ag President unequivocally made a very remarkable point in his stance against the agitation for the separation of the Easterners from Nigeria through the call for an Independent Biafra.
“This is also the sum and substance of the agitation for Biafra. The campaign is often bitter and vitriolic, and has sometimes degenerated to fatal violence. Brothers and sisters permit me to differ and to suggest that we’re greater together than apart.”
I think the below statement would be ideal for a topic in our history lessons whenever Nigeria decides to bring back the teaching of Nigerian history into our educational curriculum. At the point where we are now as a nation, perching precariously on a precipice of collapsing, the following reflection of the mind of our Ag President should be emblazoned onto our minds.
“The most successful of the nations of the world are those who do not fall into the lure of secession. But who through thick and thin forge unity in diversity.”
He even went further to add an empirical backing in justifying a glaring fact.
“Let me say that there is a solid body of research that shows that groups that score high on diversity turn out to be more innovative than less diverse ones”
He maintains that it should be the Nigerian Dream; to strive in creating a country whose citizens will believe in, a country that will not discriminate or marginalize them in any way. But he was quick to affirm that at the moment, such thoughts are still merely an aspiration we are yet to attain.
“We are not there yet, but I believe we have a strong chance to advance in that direction. But that will not happen if we allow our frustrations and grievances to transmute into hatred”
In what would seem as a dramatic shift from the seeming reluctance of the government to bring those agitating for secession to a round table discussion, the Ag. President remarked:
“Let me make it clear that I fully believe that Nigerians should exercise to the fullest extent the right to discuss or debate the terms of our existence. Debate and disagreement are fundamental aspects of democracy. We recognize and acknowledge that necessity.”
He reiterated what has always been our demand to the government that part of the solution to the problems we have in Nigeria is the seeming conscious efforts by the government to smother the history of the country judging its sensitive aspects and the emotions it will whip up. But Ag. President said, quoting the famous writer, Chinua Achebe:
“Chinua Achebe repeatedly reminded us of the Igbo saying that a man who cannot tell where the rain began to beat him cannot know where he dried his body. If we lose the past, we will inevitably lose the opportunity to make the best of the present and the future.”
As a lawyer, the Ag. President was quick to summarize the constitutional expectations we have of our leaders and the government of the day:
“The promise of our constitution which we have sworn to uphold is that we would ensure a secure, and safe environment for our people to live, and work in peace, that we would provide just and fair institutions of justice. That we would not permit or encourage discrimination on the grounds of race, gender, beliefs or other parochial considerations. That we would build a nation where no one is oppressed and none is left behind.”
He concluded the beautiful, thought provoking address by emphasizing that the above expectations are what we should expect of our leaders.
“These are the standards to which we must hold our leadership. We must not permit our leaders the easy but dangerous rhetoric of blaming our social and economic conditions on our coming together. It is their duty to give us a vision a pathway to make our unity in diversity even more perfect.”
The Full address presented by the Acting President, Federal Republic of Nigeria, His Excellency Prof. Yemi Osinbajo at the at the conference Organized by the Shehu Musa Yar’Adua Foundation with support from the Ford Foundation and Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA) themed “Memory and Nation Building-Biafra: 50 Years After can be found here.