Home > News > All is fair in war and Starvation is one weapon of war-Nigeria

All is fair in war and Starvation is one weapon of war-Nigeria

Posted on December 09, 2012 by Akashma Online News

by Augustine C. Ohanwe
Nigeria World

In Nigeria, topic of the Nigerian Civil War and ethnicity, is a heady mix. Ever since Achebe’s book left the publishing company for the public domain, a few lines attributed to Chief Obafemi Awolowo in the book, There Was A Country (A Personal History of Biafra) has provoked angry disagreements. Chief Awolowo was stated to have said:

“All is fair in war, and starvation is one of the weapons of war. I don’t see why we should feed our enemies fat in order for them to fight harder.”

The above statement has raised much dust and partisan opinions along ethnic line. I do not wish, in this short piece, to be pro Achebe, anti Awoist or viceversa Achebe is one of the literary icons I admire. I do also admire Awolowo for being a strong opposition leader in the aftermath of our independence. Besides, he was equally a good friend of my maternal cousin, and he did visit my community when my mother’s cousin was seriously ill. He came to register his concern and to wish him a speedy recovery. My intention here is to use factual assertions to flavor my argument pertaining to the above expression.

Personally, I do not subscribe to opinions which take pride in distorting history or using ethnic prejudice to advance conclusions. Nigerians are not mugus. They can easily fish out a counterfeit note from a genuine one. Even when you frost the glass of your window, Nigerians can discern the room’s interior.

History has informed us that in times of war truth remains the first casualty. Yes, in war, people’s personal agenda do often collide with laid down rules for the execution of wars. Unfortunately, we have realized that no matter how unorthodox war activities might be carried out, the war must have disciples that glorify it. In analyzing our civil war, most analysts do not know how to separate their prejudices/ethnocentrism’s from facts, realities, myths and rumors. They end up removing facts, and proceed to amalgamate the rest into amorphous assemblage and glorify their verdict even though it is erected on weak variables. But what matters most is whether such glorification can withstand legal punches.

A critical analysis of the above expression credited to Chief Awolowo will inform us that it is not in any form an embodiment of beautiful and elevated thought. Unfortunately, the proteges of the author of the words have espoused the statement, masticated it, swallowed and digested it. And as could be seen in the fora and elsewhere, it has been converted into a mantra that should be invoked in future conflict situations, in the same way lawyers use a past ruling as a precedence for their future legal tussle. At the moment, admirers of Chief Awolowo parade his expression around with siren voices without being aware that numerous Articles of the Geneva Convention and its Protocols possess the legal power to disprove and silence them. Starvation of civilians population as a method of warfare is prohibited in both international and internal conflicts. Nonetheless, ignorance of rules of war has its danger here. But whether it will change the mindsets of members of the above school of thought is hard to state.

”Disrobing the god”.

That a man is revered as a sage does not bestow upon him, the crown of infallibility. Ever saw a perfect being? Our flesh is a mortal chain and the mistakes we make on daily basis testify our imperfections or weaknesses. I belong to the group who believes that no human is perfect and all us do err in thoughts, actions/deeds etc. Any person who thinks otherwise could be a member of sanctimonious hypocrites. That we all do make mistakes might be one of the reasons members of Roman Catholic church observe what they call, “Sacrament of Confession”. They believe that such outward sign of confessing their sins offer them an inward grace after they have repented and be forgiven by their priest, and if they have the courage, they could say sorry to the person they have offended. Politician find it hard to confess or to admit that they have crossed the Rubicon. Let me not be misunderstood. I am not going the religious way here. Rather I am using the above analogy to prove that we all do have our shortcomings and must muster the courage to own them. Those who protect their sage as pure, uncontaminated being should remember that that Angels are said to be bright, but the brightest of them all did not only fall, but fell to the depth of darkness!

It’s not a smart idea defending the indefensible. It is no exaggeration to state that grave mistakes were made in the conduct of our civil war. There abound videos and documentary evidences produced not by Igbo journalists but foreigners covering the war. The evidences are glaring and overwhelming and falls outside the field of ”propaganda”. What is required is to admit that mistakes were made, and to categorize them as one of those human frailties, with a genuine sign of remorse and contrite. Such admittance could put the entire episode to rest instead of attempting to white wash a wrong deed with word games and blistering attacks.

Hitler stood out as a person who used starvation in his war against the Jews. After the slow moving, winding train had brought the Jews to the concentration camp, they were allowed to starve. Breast-feeding kids were separated from their biological mothers and kept in separate compartments with intent to ascertain how long a Jewish kid could stay without food before dying. This act is only a tip of the iceberg of Hitler’s atrocities. “If all is fair in war …” why, after sixty years, the International Court in the Hague is still hunting for remnants of Hitler’s men? “If all is fair in war ..” why were Charles Taylor of Liberia and Milosevic of Serbia arraigned before the International Court of Justice? The Serbs were alleged to have pillaged food meant for the starving Bosnians and stalled the movement of food convoys from getting into the refugee camps for food distribution. That was one of the charges brought against the Serbian leader in the Hague. “If all is fair in war ..” why was Pol Pot of Cambodia and his Hench men hunted down? Why, after the Rwandan war those who committed the atrocities were rounded up. War has rules governing its conducts contrary to the opinions held by some people. There were war lords in the past centuries who executed their war campaigns with unparallelled barbarism such as Nebuchadnezzar II of Babylon. His war atrocities during his policy of expansion was unmatched in its devastation. He was heartless military officer who made his captives match along in files naked without food. It was the pressure from his people that persuaded him to reconsider his policy and to allow the captives cloth their nakedness. The weary captured Jews, who were forced to match into Babylon, suffered untold ordeal in the hand of this tyrant. Nebuchadnezzar massacred thousands of them for the only reason that their beauty had inflamed the passion of the Babylonian women. And in order to make sure that their corpses were not attractive to the women, he mutilated their bodies.

Attila the Huns, Chief of the nomadic people of central Asia was another war lord whose reputation for destruction of human lives earned him the “Scourge of God..” He slaughtered human being like chicken and derived what I would call, for lack of appropriate vocabulary, a sadistic orgasm. The destructive military campaigns of both Nebuchadnezzar and Attila the Huns occurred centuries ago when international law, the Geneva Convention and United Nations were not born.

But our civil war occurred within the period when the above institutions came into existence. However, our war took place when the international community’s attention was focused on the two super powers’ Cold War ideological/geopolitical rivalry. Their contest for supremacy took ascendancy over any other domestic wars, except however, where their vested national interests were at stake. It was not so with that of Rwanda, which occurred in the aftermath of the Cold War. The plank of my piece is that mistakes were made in the conduct of our civil war and the above statement should be viewed as unfortunate one.

Those who are defending the role played by their sage in the Nigerian civil are beside the fact because they are unacquainted with the rules of war. And when the blind partisans of biased minds cast their votes in the wrong ballot box of justice, truth will only smile.


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