One of the most beautiful things I appreciate about humans is the memory. I remember vividly, as a six or seven-year-old boy, my stepmother (now late) taking me to a white garment church (Cele as they are popularly known) at Iyana Ipaja, then a suburb of Lagos. The ‘Olusho’ (or Pastor in charge) ‘saw’ vision that I was a wizard or witch which if something was not done urgently, the “witch” in me would destroy the family and a lot of people. I remembered the flogging on my tiny body that day in graphic details today. Even when my father came back, he had to ban her from taking me to any church again on seeing how well the “witch” in me was “flogged out.” Till today, I am still scared of anyone who tells me s/he a white garment church. That is the power of human memory.

 

Another thing I have come to realise about the human memory is that it selects what it wants to remember. Despite my experience with Cele people, (I don’t ordinarily ask people about their religious beliefs), I have had friends whom I later knew attend white garment churches. Some have worked so intimately with me that their attending Cele doesn’t seem to matter to me again. Why do I still remember an incident that happened in the late 1980s? After all, we are all victims of history!

 

On May 30, 2017, the memory of the Nigerian Civil War came alive again, understandably, from the South-Eastern (the worst hit during the war) geo-political zone of the country. The part that we should not forget is that according to Chido Onumah, We Are All Biafrans. But rather that say we all are Biafrans, I will say we all are victims of history. But How? Why? Where?

 

In 1953, Action Group (AG), led by Chief Obafemi Awolowo went to the London Constitutional Conference with two political demands: First, the question of whether Lagos should be part of the Western Region; and second, the question of the right of a region to secede from the Federation be included in the Nigerian Constitution.

Let us forget about the first question for now. Only recently did I read Professor Kalu Ezra’s classic, Constitutional Developments in Nigeria. The foremost authority on Nigerian Constitutional Developments writes:

“Before the [1954] Conference got underway, the Colonial Secretary, Oliver Lyttelton, produced a cigar sent to the Conference by Sir Winston Churchill, then Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Government, and said that he did not propose to smoke it unless the Conference was in trouble. Remembering the extreme and undiplomatic ‘challenges’ of Chief Obafemi Awolowo to the Colonial Secretary and the latter’s stern warning reply to him, it was not surprising that rumours were afloat to the effect that a British man-of-war was standing alert near the Coast of Lagos to take charge of the situation, should the Action Group rank and file be goaded into taking the law into their hands over the Lagos issue.

“The Action Group delegation did not raise the question of the position of Lagos again at the Lagos Conference. But it did, however, DEMAND THAT THE RIGHT OF A REGION TO SECEDE FROM THE FEDERATION TO BE PROVIDED IN THE CONSTITUTION. But the Conference, clearly influenced by Dr. Azikiwe’s scholarly exposition on the dangers of which received the strong backing of the Chairman, the Colonial Secretary, objected that any secession clause should be written into the amended Constitution.” (page 189, My Emphasis).

 

Now, had the right of any region to secede from the federation been granted in 1954, there are high possibilities that the ugly developments in the mid-1960s would never have happened. We all must accept responsibility for this!

 

To show that we all are victims and all have blood on our hands, I recount some developments of historical significance in Nigeria.

To be continued… 

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