Matthew Kukah, bishop of Sokoto Catholic diocese, says Nigeria has not recovered from wounds of the civil war 51 years after it ended.
Speaking at the second edition of the ‘Never Again Conference: 51 years after the Nigerian-Biafran civil war’ on Thursday, the bishop said the country failed to adopt resolutions that were meant to heal the wounds of citizens.
The ‘Never Again Conference’ is the brainchild of Nzuko Umunna, a pan-Igbo socio-cultural organisation, which organised the first edition in Lagos in 2020.
Kukah said some of those resolutions came from the Human Rights Violations Investigation Commission popularly known as Oputa panel, which was set up by the Obasanjo administration.
He also said while the military laid the foundation for Nigerians to begin a process of rebuilding the nation, “things somehow went wrong” along the line.
“I have met a lot of people who fought the war who are full of regrets. There is a lot of resentment, anxiety and frustration that we have not learnt any lessons,” he said.
“Fifty-one years after the war, we are still hearing the kind of agitations that ordinarily, with commitment, dedication, focus and the right leadership, we should have put a lot of the anxieties behind us. Unfortunately, they are still with us.”
The bishop described the Oputa panel which he was part of as “the best school I would ever hope to attend”.
“Oputa panel managed to generate quite a lot of data and information that academicians and policymakers would have used to ensure we erect the signpost saying, ‘Never Again’, because it gave us an opportunity, a mirror to look at ourselves after hearing from all sides but we didn’t have the discipline to follow through,” he said.
“We have not been able to forgive ourselves as a people. The wounds of the civil war have not been able to heal. Coups and counter-coups that followed were more or less miniature civil wars by themselves because they threw up the same contradictions, anxieties and feeling of divisiveness across the country.”
‘A BETTER UNDERSTANDING OF THE CIVIL WAR WILL HELP CORRECT PAST MISTAKES’
In his remarks, Pat Utomi, chairman of the conference planning committee, said the initiative started as an advocacy “in trying to bring a better understanding of the civil war and its aftermath to the Nigerian people”.
According to him, this is being pursued in a way that “it will become a source of energy for bringing a new nation”.
“We know that if people learn enough from errors of yesterday, they can, in fact, make more progress than they are currently making,” he said.
“One of the biggest challenges of nation-building is the kind of trust deficits that exist which make policy implementation very challenging.
“A better understanding of the civil war will make it become a ladder that people can climb to higher levels of growth.”