New Truths on Nationalism

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Stories by Yinka Olatunbosun
All new truths seem provocative. So Jimanze Ego-Alowes argues. His assortment of literary pieces had fast gained a reputation of provoking creative arguments, mostly directed at nation-building. To this end, Ego Alowes pours out what he calls “new truths” that emerge from attempts to seek fundamental answers. The result is his latest book titled, How and Why the Yoruba Fought and Lost the Biafra-Nigeria Civil War. Obviously, Ego-Alowes has a lot of questions to answer with a title that will conveniently breed argument as well as mutual suspicion between the concerned ethnic tribes.

In an exclusive interview with this reporter, Ego-Alowes gave an insight into how the title was developed along ethnic lines and contributions to national issues. For him, the title is not earthenware for controversies. Instead it reflects the chunk of the writer’s thesis.

“The duty of the historian is to look backwards just as that of the seer is look forward,’’ he began. “And neither prognosis nor history is ever out of season, so there is no better or worse time to be a historian. Our faculty’s call is to keep an eye on the rear-view mirrors even as we accelerate for the future. It is imperative we know where we are coming from. Just as the bourgeois, the masses or the religions, the Yoruba, Igbo and Hausa-Fulani, are major aggregations, categories, classes and or classifications of the Nigerian nation. So they are in that sense tools of both intellectual and practical inquiries and can be utilized for study.”

The author of Economists as Assassins: A Nigerian Connection recently made a public presentation of this compelling read while two reviewers were selected from both Igbo and Yoruba ethnic groups to give their varied opinions on the work. According to the first reviewer of the 220-page book, Charles Okoli, his first impression after seeing the book title is that Ego-Alowes is looking for trouble.

“Ego-Alowes engages in a duel with those who may think he is babblesome but always comes away with clearest examples of unsettling truth in the spectacle that was the Nigerian civil war and the canvassing of Yoruba supremacy by some of the most notable figures of the Igbo tribe, the role of the British in the saga and the repudiation of the Aburi accord as well as what Ego-Alowes describes as the “the greatest evil’ that blights Nigeria today-Boko Haram, resurgent Biafra, Niger Delta Avengers-all, he successfully argued are traceable to General Yakubu Gowan’s singular repudiation of the Aburi round-table and thus civilisation,’’ he observed.

The second reviewer, Olakunle Abimbola wondered if the Yorubas could lose a war they never fought. Like the first reviewer, he thought the book title in itself sparks ethnic provocation. He forewarned the author and the audience of his scholarship punches in case anyone present has glass jaws. He dismissed the title of the book as lacking any serious premise.

“History shows how a lot of Yorubas fought the Biafra war in pursuit of peace. Yoruba commanders played prominent, even pivotal, roles in the Nigerian Civil War. But they never fought as Yoruba, having any grudge against the Igbo, even if Yoruba and Igbo, the great Nigerian southern majorities, had always been fierce rivals.

“They fought rather as part of the Nigerian Army against a rebel Biafra Army, no more than a Victor Banjo, an ethnic Yoruba colonel, fought for Biafra. Banjo had no quarrel with his ethnic folks in Nigeria any more than Akinrinade had any problem with the Igbo. Both were just fated to fight where destiny froze them; and were condemned to the grim code of warfare: kill or be killed!

“That is why one is at a loss as to where the author got his grand premise from -that the Yoruba, as Yoruba, were fighting a war of hatred and revenge against the Igbo, which though they “won” on the battlefield, they lost eventually on the front of power politics to the Hausa-Fulani,’’ he argued.
For the author, bringing new perspective to national discourse is essential to knowledge. He gives his interpretation to history while expecting counter-arguments that give rounded view to the issues raised in the book.