I had to read the book twice. It left me famished, hungry and deeply emotional. Hungry because I could feel the hunger pangs of the children of Biafra. It left me emotional because I kept wondering how my 12 years old son would look like carrying a machine son. Biafra the Horrors of War The Story of a Child Soldier by Okey Anueyiagu is a must read for every Nigerian. The book’s title evokes images of war but indeed it is a sad reminder of the horrors of war. The author records, quiet meticulously, his childhood experiences and how a needless war defined and redefined his worldview. Through the lens of Okey we watch the strategy of starvation take hold, we see the lives of teenagers set in a trajectory that led to death, pain or incurable trauma.
Many will read the book and enjoy its beautiful turn of phrases, it’s eloquent avowal of courage, faith and selfless service. Others will imbibe it’s humor, sense of adventure and tragedy of a boy soldier. I saw all that and some more. Don’t know if the author set out to achieve that but he led us to some origins and sources of the trouble with Nigeria.
Through him I hear that there was no effort for deradicalisation of boy soldiers and fighters after the war. The simply walked away with their trauma. I see that the deep anger of the pain of starvation, as a strategy of war, of emotional disorientation of both both sides of the war was not interrogated, diagnosed or treated. We have a generation whose battlefield experience to either a create a safe haven in a new nation or keep the nation one, was not located in any deep philosophical construct or universal ethos. It simply was a war for resources and subsequent rapacious looting of the resources.
There is no coherent idea of Nigeria for the boy soldiers, whose only memory remains the heroic concept of Biafra as a refuge, a safe haven and a geographical and ethnic bastion of sacrifice and safety in the face of deliberate and synchronized acts of premeditated violence against a group. Nigerian leaders failed to change the narrative.
Through Okey we all see the horrors of war and the need to dialogue. His efforts at the 2004 Conference seems like his own contribution to encouraging and enhancing conversation. The Nigerian State should start a process to tell the story of the war objectively, fifty year after. A bit late but not too late. There is need to apportion the blames, publicly apologise, where necessary, punish offenders even if symbolically, identify victims of the 1966 coup, counter coup and pogroms and symbolically compensate them. We need closure and catharsis.
This book is a must read for every Igbo and indeed Nigerian. It shows the fault lines of Nigeria and the path of redemption. Okey’s personal experience tells a story of conflicting emotions and it’s resolution. It shares the thoughts of the Igbo delegates at the 2014 National Conference on the path to Nationhood.
The book is available on Amazon and Jumia. I highly recommend it. We need more stories before the Pre war generation passes. Order the book, read it and get ready for a date for a live web discussion of the book on my page. If you want to be part of the conversation as a panelist indicate and I will choose based on space availability. Taa bu gbo