May 30th was Biafra Memorial Day. However, this year’s remembrance was more fraught than usual because of all the security problems in Nigeria, and also how terrible the state of the country has been with economy and social welfare. There are many debates on social media over Biafra, but what exactly is Biafra Memorial Day? I realise that many people don’t actually know. In fact, fifty years after the civil war, Biafra us still such a sensitive topic, it feels like such a foreign subject, or a topic intended to cause controversy.
I was fortunate to study history before the subject was banned in most Nigerian schools. Like most wars, Biafra isn’t a simple ABC issue. The much that we know is that there was a war, and over three million people were killed. Of those millions were little children who starved to death. The truth is, Biafra is such a critical and layered part of our national history, and everyone should be conversant with it. I could tell you what I know about the war, but why not learn about it yourself? There are many materials on the war. My recommendations below are books and films that gave me a basic understanding.
Journey of An African Colony
This is a docu-series on Netflix by historian Olasupo Shasore. This documentary is very informative. It will give you a detailed explanation of how Britain made Nigeria. By understanding the formation of Nigeria, you’ll understand why six years after independence, we had our first military coup.
Why We Struck: Story of the First Nigerian Coupby Adewale Ademoyega
Like the title suggests, this book gives details of what led to the first Nigerian military coup. You may have heard that Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu led the first coup. But did he do it alone? Where are the others, and why did a group of young men in their thirties stage a coup? This book will give you details.
There was a country by Chinua Achebe
Achebe’s memoir is a more personal experience of the war. He was there. He lived it and experienced it. Reading this memoir made the war more human, in my opinion. It wasn’t just about numbers or who shot first, but actual human beings involved.
The Man Died by Wole Soyinka
Soyinka is not an Igbo man but got himself involved in the conflict, and for that, the Nigerian government jailed him. Soyinka’s memoir doesn’t give details of the war on the ground, but it provides a different perspective on the war.
Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Adichie
This is perhaps the most popular book on this reading list. HOAYS is a fictional account of the war. Adichie had grandparents who were killed in the war. With HOAYS, she showed how the war affected everyday people in vivid and devastating colors.
These books and documentaries don’t fully cover the war. There are many more books, academic essays, and movies on the subject. Be open-minded and curious to learn! An Irishman, Edmund Burke, once said, “Those whodon’tknowhistoryare destined torepeat it.”