When in discussion exactly a year ago today with a group from a variety of age groups, I pointed out that this day (May 30) was a significant date in history for an African politician called Ojukwu, and I asked if anyone knew who he was. Nobody was able to answer my question. If I had asked the same question in the late 1960s, the chances are that most people would have known, because between 1967 and 1970 General Ojukwu led the secessionist Republic of Biafra, taking up the post on May 30, 1967.
The struggle between Biafra and Nigeria, from which it had broken away, was one that shocked and scandalised many from my generation at the time. Whatever the rights and wrongs may have been of the political differences in Nigeria that sparked the breakaway and the subsequent civil war, the hardship that resulted for the people of Biafra was terrible. The Nigerians were supported by the United Kingdom and the Soviet Union (in a rare joint effort). The conflict ended with the defeat of Biafra and exile for Ojukwu in 1970 (though he later returned, indeed standing for President of Nigeria in recent elections).
Nigeria still has major problems, and while the Biafra conflict may have ended 40 years ago, we should still know about it and learn its lessons, particularly as regards the role played by European powers. Maybe it is time for people to brush up on this very tragic part of recent African history.