Author: Leo Oko Ogba
Reviewer: Goke Ilesanmi
Valuable first-hand experience, accurate historical record and right education are capable of changing the mindset of any group of disgruntled people through potency of enlightenment and persuasion as well as quenching the otherwise raging fire of conflicts, prejudice and/or discrimination.
This is why I want us to examine this book entitled “The Road Not Followed” written by Dr Leo Oko Ogba, who was once a young Biafra Soldier between 1967 and 1970 and thus has an authoritative first-hand experience articulated in this historical book.
Ogba, who is currently a Senior Legislative Aide at the Senate of the Nigerian National Assembly is an expert and Consultant in Conflict Management, Legislative Studies, International Development Studies and Voluntary Services Management.
This book is centred on the memories of the author as a boy soldier during the Nigerian Civil War. It also examines the multiplicity of threats dragging the integration of the Nigerian nation in the corridor of fragility among other issues. According to Ogba, the story of the failure of Biafra is simply the story of the failure of a threatened polity to employ peaceful negotiation as well as creative imagination strategy of nation-building as an alternative conflict resolution mechanism in a multi-ethnic nation.
This author says fifty years after the quest for a superior performing Biafra State in the African regional space, and the end of the resultant devastating civil war, not much has changed about the resolve to accomplish a unique environment to showcase the potential of the Biafra vision. Ogba adds that today, the same issues that led to the civil war have re-ignited massive secessionist agitations for a Biafra nation, championed by the Indigenous People of Biafra with the support, both public and covert, of the younger generation of the Igbo, many of whom are either too young to remember the war or were not yet born at the time.
Ogba submits that although much has been written about the Biafra struggle, most of such narratives have not really addressed the area of “the other road not followed” and how this affected the outcome of the civil war and the future agenda of the struggle. He says the purpose of this book is to fill this historical vacuum and offer rational enlightenment to save a generation of youths from making the same mistakes of the past.
Structurally, this book is segmented into ten chapters. Chapter one is christened “The Biafra questions – where and when it all began for me”. The author says the air of political emancipation from colonialism swept through Africa, having made landfall in the Gold Coast (now Ghana), which became the first country to secure independence from Britain in 1957. Ogba says while no consensus could be reached among the component regions of Nigeria on the purpose of the independence, among the citizens, the desire for independence was high and most Nigerians were sentimentally against the idea of continuing life under the colonial rule of Britain. The author says in 1965, he began to develop interest in the turbulent politics unfolding in Nigeria and other developments across the world of politics, economy and military revolutions.
Chapter two examines the subject of the making of the Nigerian Civil War and the Biafra question. Here, the author says moving from a colonised to an independent status was a road overloaded with difficulties and disagreements not just from the colonialists, but from the different ethnic groups and the political elite. Ogba adds that the colonialists had ruled three regions of Nigeria differently and employed divide-and-rule tactics before independence was eventually granted in 1960.
In chapters three to six, the author examines the concepts of the odds in the making of a Biafra soldier; the realities in the lives of young soldiers and the last days of Biafra; the post-traumatic effects of the civil war and survival of young Biafra soldiers as well as the possibility of a way manifesting where there is a will.
In chapter seven, thematically tagged “Biafra-Nigeria war: The road not followed”, the author says, “War is never an alternative to a peaceful environment because of its serious consequences on communities and human nature.” He adds that conflict interventions as a change agent should not be allowed to degenerate into hot wars.
Chapter eight is christened “So that we do not forget”. Here Ogba concretely appeals to personal and national conscience and consciousness here. According to him, whenever a war has already been fought and caused enormous destruction and frustrations, it is important not to forget what caused the war, the missed opportunities for peaceful resolution and the implications we derive from the ugly incident.
In chapters nine and ten, Ogba examines the issues of the third option as the Biafra of the mind and the pathway towards achieving the Biafra of the mind.
Conceptually, this book scores an excellent mark, especially with the depth and quality of contents confirming massive first-hand experience of the author.
Stylistically, this text is exceptional. Ogba proves his scholastic acumen and eclecticism of quality high-profile work experience, particularly as a former Special Adviser on Speeches and Public Communication to a Governor of Abia State, with his professional mode of presentation and simplicity of language. He also shows that he was a University Lecturer by aligning with the academic culture in the form of including rich Notes and References at the end of the text to lend conceptual authenticity. Another plus is the visual communication of the outer front cover of the book which reinforces the book title. Ogba uses quotes/classical allusions and proverbs to amplify his message.
However, some errors are noticed in the book. One of the errors is the word “presently” used as “now”. “Presently” means “(very) soon” in British English and “now” in American English. In the Prologue, the word “potentials” is used in place of “potential”. The word “potential” is an uncountable noun and cannot take an “s”.
Finally, this text is outstanding. It is a must-read for those who want to know the genesis of Biafra agitations, origin of some of our current national crises and solutions.
GOKE ILESANMI (FIIM, FIMC, CMC), CEO of Gokmar Communication Consulting, is an International Platinum Columnist, Professional Public Speaker, Career Mgt Coach and Certified Mgt Consultant. He is also a Book Reviewer, Biographer and Editorial Consultant.
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