Bitter Memories

Published in Issue 4 (Winter 2000), Letters, Letters, Volume 8

Sir,—I wish to commend Enda Staunton for his article, ‘The ForgottenWar: the Catholic Church and Biafra (1967-1970)’, in the Autumn 2000edition of History Ireland. I read the article with great interest. Itbrought back to me bitter memories of the civil war.
I am an lgbo (Nigerian). I was six years old when the war began andnine when it ended. I was among the children who remained critical withmalnutrition (kwashiorkor) throughout the duration of the war. No doubtmy survival was due to the relief food and medicine from Ireland and afew other countries that were sympathetic to the Biafrans. I am now aCatholic priest, studying in Ireland. I do not forget to pray for allwho saved my life and the lives of other children who narrowly survivedthe war. It is very touching to hear and to read about the concern ofthe Irish church and people. The politics that went on behind the scenewere very interesting. The memories of the civil war may be fading inIreland, but not with the present generation of the Igbos. From time totime violent incidents keep re-occurring in Nigeria, and renewing thetrauma of the civil war in the minds of many of us.
I would however like to draw the attention of the writer and theeditors to the following errors. The name of the Biafran leader isOdimegwu Emeka Ojukwu, not Eni Njoku (pp.46 & 48). There arespelling mistakes in these names of places, ‘Labadan’ (Ibadan), ‘Ogoga’(Ogoja), ‘Olo’ (perhaps Olu). I could not identify ‘Ogo’ with any placein Nigeria (p.44). Those who follow the African traditional religionprefer the name ‘traditionalists’ to ‘animists (p.44).
The cause of the assassination of General Ironsi (an Igbo), and thesubsequent fall of his ‘compromise’ regime was not the result of‘corruption’ and ‘authoritarianism’. It was partly due to his‘centralising tendencies’, and partly a revenge mission by the July1966 coup plotters, who were non-Igbo army officers (p.45). His‘compromise’ regime was too chaotic and too short (January to July1966) to be labelled corrupt and authoritarian.—Yours etc.,
MARTIN EKE
Dublin

Apart from the spelling of Ojukwu/Njoku the errors pointed out by FrEke are the responsibility of the editors. Apologies also to theauthor, Enda Staunton, for the absence of his name from the contentspage.

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