The Bishop of Sokoto Catholic Diocese and elder statesman, Matthew Kukah, on Thursday expressed regret that Nigerians and the country’s leaders did not learn any lesson from the 1967-1970 civil war.
Kukah noted that there was a lot of “resentment, anxiety and frustration” from those who were alive during the war as the country had not recovered from the wounds of the civil war, 51 years after it ended.
The bishop stated these at the second edition of the “Never Again Conference: 51 years after the Nigerian-Biafran civil war” on Thursday, adding that the country failed to adopt resolutions that were meant to heal the wounds of citizens.
The ‘Never Again Conference’ was organised by Nzuko Umunna, a pan-Igbo socio-cultural organisation, which organised the first edition in Lagos in 2020.
Kukah noted that while the military laid the foundation for Nigerians to begin a process of rebuilding the nation, “things somehow went wrong” along the line.
He said, “I have met a lot of people who fought the war who are full of regrets. There is a lot of resentment, anxiety and frustration that we have not learnt any lessons.
“Fifty-one years after the war, we are still hearing the kind of agitations that ordinarily, with commitment, dedication, focus and the right leadership, we should have put a lot of the anxieties behind us. Unfortunately, they are still with us.
“(Chukwudifu) Oputa panel managed to generate quite a lot of data and information that academicians and policymakers would have used to ensure we erect the signpost saying, ‘Never Again’, because it gave us an opportunity, a mirror to look at ourselves after hearing from all sides but we didn’t have the discipline to follow through.
“We have not been able to forgive ourselves as a people. The wounds of the civil war have not been able to heal. Coups and counter-coups that followed were more or less miniature civil wars by themselves because they threw up the same contradictions, anxieties and feeling of divisiveness across the country.”
In his remarks, Prof Pat Utomi, chairman of the conference’s planning committee, said the initiative started as an advocacy “in trying to bring a better understanding of the civil war and its aftermath to the Nigerian people.”
According to him, this is being pursued in a way that “it will become a source of energy for bringing a new nation.”