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History: We Need It, but Respectfully

History is very often, never just left in the past. It returns over and over again. Whether in the classrooms, in day-to-day conversations with family or friends, or on Twitter!

History is hardly ever just left in the past, especially when that history was extremely positive, revolutionary or extremely gruesome. People share such events of the past, so that memories will be cherished and so that the people of the present can learn a thing or more from such past events.

An example that relates very personally to me is the Biafran War of Nigeria. Last week Tuesday, May 30th, 2017, marked 50 years since Biafra was declared an independent nation, away from Nigeria. It was an attempt by the Igbos and some present-day Niger Delta tribes, to secede the rest of the nation, given the constant massacres and marginalization of the Igbos, that were happening. In inhumane reaction to South-Easterners attempting to form a nation outside of Nigeria (which was not giving them refuge), the then Nigerian government starved and bombed the Eastern parts of Nigeria. Millions of people were killed, several fled to neighbouring nations. It was a genocide. I am an Igbo woman from Anambra State in Nigeria, so the story of the Biafran War gives me very awful chills.

The story also teaches me lessons to remember. It teaches me that what may seem like the beginnings of a prejudiced nation can be furthered to an extreme called war. It also gives me a sense as to why so many Nigerians are still prejudiced, with regards to the Igbos. Such people never learned from the war or they inherited the prejudice from senior family members and perhaps, jealousy is involved – I mean, how smoothly a People (the South-Easterners) bounced back from genocide to be so influential.

The story of the Biafran War increases my admiration at the strength and triumph of South-Easterners. To the best of my knowledge, no federal government of Nigeria has ever apologized for the ethnic cleansing that was the Biafran War, yet, my people, you have moved on regardless. You have contributed immensely to the economic growth of the nation. You have greatly contributed to the intellectual vibrance of Nigeria – at home and abroad.

History teaches. Nevertheless, recounting bad events from history can be (and understandably so), traumatic for those that it directly affected. So when we share history that could create triggers, let’s be careful to share it in a way that honours people’s struggles and decries the actions of the oppressor(s) – and not the opposite.

Love & peace,
Chiamaka

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