World leaders are gathered in France for a summit on peace during which time they celebrated the anniversary of the Armistice. Armistice is celebrated in remembrance of the end of fighting on land, sea and air in World War 1 between the allied forces and their opponent, Germany. Before this particular armistice, previous ones had eliminated other parties to the war like Bulgaria, Ottoman Empire and the Austro-Hungarian Empire. In full, Armistice of Compiegne is the particular place the treaty was signed in France. The terms of the treaty are well documented in history and international relations books, but what has become of the tangibles around the treaty and as they relate to Nigeria inform this intervention.
It is noteworthy that the Nigeria President Muhammadu Buhari is part of the global guests to this year’s celebration. The Armistice took place on November 11, 1918. Therefore this is the centurion anniversary, thus must attract some kind of general celebration. There is a museum opened in memory of the peace treaty and indeed the giants of that war. The men and women who suffered so peace may reign are remembered in the memorials. Experts study the different facets of the war and the roles played by individuals who make for a beautiful garland or a sorrowful epoch. The point is, Europe and the rest of the world do not shy away from the reality of their history no matter how sad or dark those periods were.
Conversely in Nigeria and some other parts of Africa we tend to hide our history. We even try to rewrite it to paint a perfect picture thereby ensuring that the coming generations learn nothing. In Nigeria we fought a civil war, have had different crises ranging from ethnic, religious and economic like the herdsmen and farmers clashes, we have had other sectarian crises that are not well documented or memories kept in such a way to remind citizens not to tow the line of destruction again.
We had a civil war that led to loss of millions of lives. More importantly this war caused serious distrust among our people, yet we have been unable as a people to use this war as a mirror to prevent future or present crisis. This is so because we do not want to be told the truth. There is no national memorial that brings everyone together to say never again. There is no memorial dedicated to people who lost their lives or unnamed victims who simply disappeared. We are talking on all sides to the conflict. Yes we have a museum in Umuahia, Abia state but that is majorly to celebrate some form of innovations during the war. We equally have the Armed Forces Remembrance Day which is now used to honour members of the armed forces who paid the supreme price during all manner of conflicts. That is not enough!
We need a national museum in Abuja where bodies, books, memoirs, equipment, photos, videos; etc about our civil war shall be kept. We also need such a place where constant learning takes place and a day set aside (not necessarily) a public holiday when the country bows her head in solitude and say never again. Like France, we should not be ashame of our past that brought us to where we are today. Even tiny Rwanda has such a museum. In spite of the ugliness of her own past, yet that country found a way to make its butchery a tourist haven; a place that brings tears out of the most steely of humans.
We can say the same thing for the Ogoni crises or the larger Niger Delta uprising, there is also the communal crisis in Kaduna, Benue and Plateau states. This is why we supported the recognitions accorded June 12, 1993 election and the winners of that election. We also supported the heroism of Gani Fawehinmi and his honour by this government. We call on the government to go a step further to remember other such occasions in the spirit of national rebirth and unity. In the spirit of the Armistice we also hope that our delegation in France will return home to continue from where they stopped with June 12. It is tokens like this that lift minds and bring the offender and the offended together. We can do it.