BIAFRA & NOLLYWOOD'S NEGLIGENCE
As a young boy growing up on the streets of Lagos Island, I made friends with children from all tribes. We played in the oddest of places too, school playgrounds, churches, mosques, football fields, beaches - you name it. There was never a point at which we were dissuaded by our parents from playing with one another on account of our tribal affiliations. Did we even know what it meant to hail from another tribe? In fact, I grew up thinking the Nigerian Civil War was a battle which involved few neighborhoods in some cities. Such was the feeble attention the topic got in both primary and secondary schools - at least in the schools and summer lessons I attended in this part of the country.
Then came the era of reading newspapers and history books at nearby libraries, it was at that point I realized that I, along with my peers, had been deprived the knowledge of the events that have come to shape our collective history as a nation. Fast forward to today, and several books after, it's nearly easy to tell what fuels this unbridled inter-tribal animosity. There are those who spent their time listening to the narratives of elders about the civil war and there are those of us who consulted extensive accounts presented by Nigerian historians. When you factor in the ratio of the former group to the latter, then you'd realize why it's been difficult to educate people. Now, unless you were born before 1960, you have no business claiming to have had first-hand experience of the civil war. All you know about it are most probably based on accounts by your elders or the books you've read. Agreed? Good. Now to the main point.
In all of these, I believe Nollywood has an almost insurmountable role to play in national orientation about the civil war but for reasons best known to them, continue to overlook it. I don't believe the movie adaptation of CNA's Half Of A Yellow Sun could have done enough justice to the graphical storytelling. It was primarily a story about lovebirds and was set during the civil war. Two things, love story (PRIMARY) and the war (SECONDARY/TERTIARY). You may be right to claim some scenes were expunged on the order of the federal government for national security reasons but what more could have been added to make the movie comprehensively enlightening without being laboriously boring? It's simple - to tell a war story, make it about the war and keep other elements to the bare minimum.
Look at the WWII, Auschwitz and Holocaust films created by Hollywood. The overwhelming emotions you develop from watching these movies - The Pianist, Saving Private Ryan, Schlinder's List for example - is enough reason to never again despise the people your forefathers once tortured and murdered in cold blood. Germans learnt a lot from history, they ensured it was taught at all levels because to them, no child should ever grow up loathing any tribe their parents/ancestors/forefathers deemed inferior. It's why many Serbs, Polls and co now live freely in Germany. All parties have since been made to realize the roles they played in the holocaust - some the oppressors and others the victims. But in Nigeria, ask an unenlightened northerner what he thinks birthed the 1966 pogrom and by extension, the civil war and he'll tell you in bold terms that it's because the Igbos killed Bello, Balewa and Maimalari. He might even tell you that the Igbos took away their jobs and impoverished their people in the process. His elders didn't tell him that these same "Igbos" would have killed Major General Johnson Thomas Ummunakwe Aguiyi-Ironsi had the latter not been fierce enough to bully them into submission and make further moves to punish them severely for their murderous actions. His elders didn't tell him that religious elders and northern politicians disregarded western education and instead opted for military service and national politics, which led to the more educated easterners taking up skilled jobs in the north. His elders didn't tell him of the bromance recorded among soldiers from all tribes before the bloodthirsty elders ordered them to slaughter one another and they blindly obeyed.
There's a whole lot the elders didn't tell him and even he has refused to seek further enlightenment. It's why the animosity remains till today. More disconcerting is how some of those who played a major part (Gowon and co) are still alive today and have refused to advocate for mass enlightenment. It's why earlier today, an Igbo man on Facebook still claimed Biafran soldiers committed war crimes. Such filth! I don't know what you may have heard or read but know this - NIGERIA WAS THE OPPRESOR & BIAFRA THE VICTIM. The fact that many would still argue with this is proof that it'll require a broad national platform to educate people on the truth - and this is why we need Nollywood.
Unfortunately, Nollywood is only concerned about the production of exaggerated romantic dramas, gloomy thrillers and drab series/soaps. As long as these stereotypes command the box office, history can go to sleep. A good number of soldiers who fought during the war are still alive today and not a single Nollywood production company has made attempts to interview them. Even the video archives of Biafra are either going missing or destroyed by disuse. Colonel Joe "Hannibal" Achuzie gave an interview sometime ago and it barely made the pages of Nigerian newspapers. Imagine if one of Hitler's soldiers had given an interview, the world would have trended it and reflected on the events again. The survivors keep dying one by one, as do genuine accounts of history. How many of you even know the true role Murtala Mohammed played in the Nigeria's history? What do you know about Benjamin Adekunle? The annoying thing is that the likes of Max Sioullun, Kole Omotosho, Frederick Forsyth etc. gave brilliant and dramatic accounts of pre and post independent Nigeria such that, were their books to be adapted into movies, each could bear the potential of winning an Oscar for Best Foreign Film.
However, one day, a movie production company in Hollywood - hopefully Universal, New Line Cinema or Miramax - would acquire full rights to adapt a book about Biafra (preferably Frederick Forsyth's) or about the military regimes (Max Sioullun's) and you people, you Nigerians would decide to accuse America of being meddlesome.
Let me tell you this, if we don't tell our own story, someone else will. And yes, they stand to generate hundreds of millions of dollars from it. I pray that day comes.