20 Pounds and A Case of Starvation

“At the end of the war, a Nigerian Panel came to the conclusion that every Igbo person who had an account in any Nigerian bank before the Civil War was to receive 20 Pounds.”

The year was 1970 and it never really mattered how much you had in the bank. A million Nigerian Pounds? Or one thousand? The panel didn’t care. You got 20 Pounds. This was in stark contrast of the “No Victor, No Vanquished” speech by Yakubu Gowon and the subsequent “Reconciliation, Reconstruction, and Rehabilitation” program which until date is still the first-ever Okoto meow talk ever.

It never mattered to Awo if you had a million of these in the bank before the War. You’d still get £20. Photo credit: Worbes-Verlag

Usually tagged as the first televised war, millions of people around the world watched the abject horrors of deliberate starvation by the Nigerian government play out on their television screens. Until then, the idea of a malnourished African child was a thing of “the papers” as they were seen on TV screens.

The Biafran War saw the Nigerian government use starvation (an established war crime) as a method of warfare which led to the death of millions of kids during the war. Until date, no major players from the Nigerian government dead or alive has ever answered to this.

One of the most popular images depicting the deliberate acts of the Nigerian Government during the Biafran War. Photo credit: The Biafra Herald

Chief Obafemi Awolowo, who is mostly revered by the south westerners, was one of the key people behind these two damaging facts of the Civil War. In his denial after the war, he claimed that the vehicles carrying the food were always ambushed by the rebel soldiers and taken to the barracks to feed themselves and be able to fight the war. Evidence??? None!

It is also quite sad that these actions were supported by Nigerians who argue that Awo did what he had to do to win the war and that “All is fair in War”. In my opinion, Awo was a coward.

On the 20 pounds policy (first-ever large-scale fraud by the Nigerian government), Awo claimed that the pounds in the banks were “looted”. Who looted Nigerian banks? How? Did Biafra troops ever get to Lagos? Furthermore, Awo claimed that he laid down the principle that all those who had savings in the banks on the eve of the declaration of the Biafran War or Biafra, will get their money back if they could satisfy us that they had the savings there or the money there. Don’t banks have their own records?

Sing all the praise you want to, Awo was a smooth operator. Photo Credit: Premium Times

On January 15th 2020, Nigeria celebrated its Armed Forces Remembrance Day and social media, especially Twitter was awash with discussions by young Igbos who have heard tales of the war from their parents and older relatives. With more insights from books written by Chinua Achebe, General Alexander Madiebo, Frederick Forsyth for and a host of others, there is clear evidence that Igbos are beginning to learn more about the history that has been long denied and suppressed by the Nigerian government.

50 years after the Civil War, the southeast region still suffers from the actions and decisions of the Nigerian government. Parents still suffer PTSD from the war and have refused to talk. The few who have can’t go all the way because it takes them back to a period they most likely want to forget. Families torn apart and never recovered, properties never recovered even after the so-called “No Victor, No Vanquished” speech.

50 years later, Ge. Yakubu Gowon has never given his own account of the war. Why? Shame perhaps? Photo Credit: Accord.org

Infrastructure in the southeast is at its poorest state, decades of INTENTIONAL neglect from the leaders of the country, not forgetting the sad and irritating silence of OUR OWN SOUTHEAST leaders, have all placed the southeast at the mercy of the Nigerian government.

We are still marginalized at every single opportunity. We are still treated with the 20 Pounds mindset of 1970. We are still starved of what is our right and what do we do about it? Keep mum and act like it’s all good. No, it’s not.

Despite the deliberate attempt to bring down the Igbos with the 20 pounds policy, we have risen above the challenge. In a short period, we were able to bounce back and rebuild our region all by ourselves. Without the aid of the Nigerian Government. This is due to the strong communal spirit of the Igbos to ensure that everyone is carried along. An example of this is the Peoples Club of Nigeria founded in Aba a year after the end of the Biafran War.

Photo Credit: Media Nigeria

The aim of the club was to “foster good relations amongst mankind and to sponsor and promote charitable and philanthropic causes. Peoples Club was formed in 1971 in Aba (Abia state of Nigeria) by a small group of individuals. This was at a period of hopelessness following the devastation of the Nigeria civil war which ended in 1970. The Club was formed with the spirit of uniting people of like-minds, for social interaction.”

While Igbos question the actions of the Nigerian Government during the war, a few accounts such as @OsosaChris, @IKENNA_____, @StephenIkechuk4, @CovenantBuhari, @lurrenz2015 and @ChiefOjukwu under the guise of “One Nigeria” were set out like rabid dogs with a payment of 20 Biarfan pounds to counter the opinions/tweets. Sadly, only a few accounts, most notably @UchePOkoye, @stephie_coco (Agu Nwanyi), @AfamDeluxo and @ronaldnzimora were on standby to repel most of these sponsored tweets.

Four notes of these were given to survivors of the War. Four notes of these are all it takes to counter opinions. Photo Credit: AljiziraNews

While I commend the efforts of a few, it is also important to criticize the docile nature and silence of many. Igbo renaissance on Twitter became very evident at the beginning of last year and since then we have grown in numbers and have done our best (and still doing much more) in promoting our rich culture and tradition. However, while we do well in promoting our culture, we fail in defending its past. This is where I think we have failed as a group.

Prior to January 15th 2020, especially in the last quarter of 2019, there have been a wave of subtle attacks from the multiple accounts against the Igbos. These accounts have most likely been paid by individuals who feel threatened the rise and newfound voice of the Igbos online. What have you, as an Igbo person who is active on Twitter done to challenge this?

A stark truth is that south-west media have an upper hand. Accounts are paid to tweet in a particular and structured manner which is why every day, a new account is out there armed with bigoted views and read to draw blood. It’s like a side hustle for most of these accounts and it is something they will always be passionate about. Afterall, agụụ di na obodo.

This, on the other hand, leads to the question. How many Igbo sons and daughters will do defend his tribe without being paid? How many of us will do it for the long run?

Ask yourself this question.

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