World War II @75, Nigerian Civil War@50: Lessons in conflict

OLALEKAN OSIADE reports that Year 2020 is a significant one as it marks milestone anniversaries of the end of two major wars; the Nigerian Civil War and the World War II, which majorly affected the lives of Nigerians as well as many other people across the globe.



This year, 2020, which began on a note of conflict between Iran and the United States, marks the 75th anniversary of the end of the Second World War as well as the establishment of the United Nations (UN), an organisation, built on the ashes of a terrible conflict of military aggression that raged for six years from 1939 to 1945.

This year also marks the 50th anniversary of the end of the Nigerian Civil War, which led to the death of over two million people, including secessionist Biafrans of Igbo extraction led by the late Colonel Odumegwu Ojukwu, and federal forces of the Nigerian Army under General Yakub Gowon, with major players like the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo.

The concerns of renewal of hostilities among local warring communities and international factions have heightened tension in Nigeria and across the globe.

This is because the echoes of wars have continued to resonate, especially as the nation and the world mark the 50th and 75th years respectively that the ill-fated events came to an end.

The World War II has been acclaimed as the biggest and deadliest war in history, involving more than 30 countries.

The 75th anniversary of the Allied Victory in World War during the reign of President Delano Roosevelt would  be commemorated around the world this year. Though Roosevelt did not see to the end of the war due to his death in April 1945, he already laid the foundation for the victory.

The US remembrance

Though September 2, 2020, marks the 75th commemoration of the end of World War II; a war that took the lives of over 405,000 U.S. military personnel. The “Mighty Mo,” which now rests on the hallowed waters of Pearl Harbor, is a reminder of those who gave the ultimate sacrifice in restoring peace to the world.

To pay tribute and honour those who served and their families, the USS Missouri Memorial Association and the Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum will recognise this historic milestone with several commemorative events from August 29 to September 3, 2020.

As it stands, members of the Spirit of ’45 coalition are forming an alliance to help raise public awareness about activities that are being organised by various groups to commemorate the 75th anniversary of important events that took place during World War II.

Sparked by the 1939 Nazi invasion of Poland, the war dragged on for six bloody years until the ‘Allies’ defeated Nazi Germany and Japan in 1945.

Among the estimated 45-60 million people killed, six million of them were said to be Jews murdered in Nazi concentration camps, as part of Adolf Hitler’s diabolical “Final Solution,” now known as the Holocaust.

According to, Hitler’s invasion of Poland in September 1939 drove Great Britain and France to declare war on Germany, and the World War II begun. Over the next six years, the conflict took more lives and destroyed more land and property around the globe than any previous war.

Re-enactment of the world war

According to, hundreds of actors recently re-enacted the ‘Battle of the Ardennes’, near the southern Belgian town of Bastogne.

The event commemorated the 75th anniversary of what was to become a turning point in the Second World War.

More famously known as the ‘Battle of the Bulge’, on December 16, 1944, more than 200,000 German troops counter-attacked across the front line in Belgium and Luxembourg, smashing into battle-weary US soldiers, who were positioned in the terrain as foreign to them as it was familiar to the Germans.

In Bastogne, surrounded US troops were cut off for days with little ammunition or food. But they regained momentum after Christmas until the battle ended on the January 28, 1945. When Allied forces invaded Germany

Nigerian Civil war

The Nigerian Civil War came about after a military coup and a counter-coup believed to be tailored towards the persecution of the Igbos.

As such, the Biafran war was seen as an aspiration of a people, who could no longer cope with the dominance of a section, which later resulted in major political tensions and eventually led to the 1967 to 1970 war.

Speaking at a recent event to mark the anniversary, many eminent Nigerians said such an occurrence should never happen again.

At the ‘Never Again Conference’, organised to mark 50 years after the end of the bloody conflict, personalities such as Nobel laureate Professor Wole Soyinka, professors Anya O. Anya, Pat Utomi and Banji Akintoye as well as former Head of State, Gen. Yakubu Gowon (retd.), who superintended the war, among many other notable dignitaries, declared that the conflict was unnecessary and should have been avoided.

Gowon recalls

Gowon, who spoke via a recorded video, said: “Although the Nigerian Civil War ended in January 1970, yet it has continued to be a veritable reference point in our nation’s political discourse for the past 50 years.

“It ended at the time for it had posed the greatest threat to the territorial integrity and unity of Nigeria, our promising multi-ethnic federation.

“The civil war left an indelible impression and desire in me to hold dearest, the unity and indivisibility of a democratic Nigeria”, Gowon said.

He continued: “It was in line with my response to a question by many people in 1965/66, who asked whether there could be a coup in Nigeria?

“My response was that it was impossible because we are ‘apolitical army’ trained to be loyal to the government of the day, to defend the unity and territorial integrity of Nigeria.

“Until we got to Ghana on January 12, 1966, when as a result of a reported threat near Nigeria, I had to change my stance and said philosophically “nothing is impossible in this world, but if such a thing happens in Nigeria, I hope the few loyal of us will check, deal with it and return the status quo.

”And that was what happened, 36 hours after my arrival in Lagos on January 15, 1966”, Gowon said.

Soyinka’s views

On his part, Soyinka said the people had been made to understand that no nation had ever survived any two Civil Wars, while recalling how Tanzania recognised Biafra as a nation.

Frowning at the casualties recorded during the war, the Nobel laureate said: “Tanzania was one of the nations that recognised the breakaway republic of Biafra during the Nigerian Civil War.

“And so, finding myself in that setting among products of this special historic formation, pre and immediate colonial African order, it was an opportunity to interrogate what could be considered a physiological or ideological extract from that human event”, he said.

Noting that the war consumed about two million lives within two years, Soyinka restated that the unity of Nigeria was non-negotiable.

“My extract from the civil war remains what it always was and that is a simple, self interrogatory: Are we being heard with the clarity and the excuseless that does not task the brain? The sovereignty of this nation is non-negotiable”, he maintained.

Utomi warns

In the same vein, Utomi, who noted that if the Biafran war was fought today, Nigeria might not exist again, called for urgent attention to fix the challenges facing the country.

“War is a horrible experience. I have read about it, I have experienced it and I have watched it in the movies.

“We must address the issues that led to the civil war. I can tell you that if the Biafran war is fought today, there will be no Nigeria because the international community now recognises self-determination.

“Nigeria’s inability to have learned and institutionalised lessons from the civil war is perhaps one of the greatest cases of leadership failure in modern human history.

“Even that is a paradox. The end of the civil war was marked by some great leadership initiatives”, Utomi noted.

Yoruba leader insists on restructuring

Throwing his weight behind the restructuring of the country, Akintoye, who was recently elected Yoruba leader said there was an urgent need for restructuring because the country is in a mood similar that of the pre-civil war era.

“To make restructuring produce a full and abiding good for our country, we must now for the first time, correct a serious mistake which we have been making from the beginning especially from the beginning of independent Nigeria.

“50 years ago, Nigerians saw the end of a bitter and sanguinary civil war in which two sides of our country had been pitched against each other for 30 months.

“A war which directly and indirectly took the lives of millions of our citizens and left the lives of more millions shattered.

“I assess that we are assembled to mark this day for two important reasons. First, we have assembled in gratitude to God that our civil war came to an end when it did and that it did not continue beyond that day to inflict more deaths and more wounds upon us.

“We elders, leaders, rulers and citizens of Nigeria are assembled here today before the world, and before the ruler of all peoples and nations, to assert that, we, the people of this country will never again manage the affairs of our country in such a way as to lead to war among us”, the 84-year-old professor of history said.

World heritage

Georgia in the US will be part of this year’s remembrance with the 17th annual WWII Heritage Days, May 2-3, 2020, at Atlanta Regional Airport-Falcon Field in Peachtree City. The Commemorative Air Force (CAF) Dixie Wing will celebrate the 1940s, salute the greatest generation and inspire all ages to preserve the legacy of America’s veterans. World War II veterans will also be honoured throughout the period.

A record crowd exceeding 5,000 attended WWII Heritage Days in 2019 where the CAF Dixie Wing commemorated the 75th anniversary of D-Day with paratrooper drops from D-Day C-47 transport planes and an opening ceremony that featured guest speakers from France and Canada. The US Army Golden Knights parachute team and Maneuver of Excellence Band from Ft. McPherson also participated.

The leader of the all-volunteer CAF Dixie Wing, Jim Buckley, said: “WWII Heritage Days is an immersion experience. The sights and sounds will inspire people of all ages and walks of life to connect with the legacy of The Greatest Generation.”

WWII Heritage Days is the largest World War II-theme event in the state of Georgia, bringing together historic aircraft, dozens of vintage military vehicles, antique cars, educational displays and demonstrations. More than 500 volunteers from a dozen states helped create the 1940s atmosphere, supported by WWII Heritage Days sponsors the Peachtree City Convention & Visitors Bureau and Atlanta Regional Airport-Falcon Field.

The CAF Dixie Wing hosted 78 World War II veterans, the largest gathering in the state of Georgia

The romance and glamour of the Big Band Era will return during “Keep ‘em Flying”, a 1940s-theme hangar dance featuring a live 20-piece swing band. The evening is set in the CAF Dixie Wing Warbird Museum, decorated to recreate the ambiance of the period. The dance has become a regional tradition, selling out each of the last six years.

“The CAF is best known as the largest World War II flying museum in the world,” said Buckley “but our mission is to educate, inspire and honour through flight.” In keeping with the mission

Commenting on the event, Lauren Katzenberg of the New York Times, said there would be many commemorations, including the liberation of the concentration camps, Victory in Europe Day, the dropping of the atomic bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Victory Over Japan Day and many more.

She said: My grandfather, Rauni Honkala, served in the Army during World War II. The only story he shared with me about his military service was the time he tripped and fell on his ship and knocked out all of his teeth, which is why he had dentures that he liked to expel from his mouth without warning.

“He also constantly reminded me that if the United States had not dropped the atom bombs on Japan, I would not be alive. In August 1945, he was on his way to the Pacific.

“My grandfather died in 2014, just weeks after I started a new job as the managing editor of a publication covering military and veterans issues. Before that, I had lived overseas for four years.

“I never really took the opportunity to talk to him about his time in the Army or the broader implications of World War II. 75 years on, it makes me question what lessons from the war would be lost with his generation.

“I also have to wonder what will happen as the horrors of the Second World War, which were once at the forefront of the American psyche, fade from the country’s collective memory. Already there are clues.

“41 percent of Americans didn’t know what Auschwitz was, and 52 percent wrongly thought Hitler came to power through force. At the same time, the United States has seen a rise in anti-Semitic incidents.

“It’s incidents like these that suggest the whole country will benefit from a history lesson on the ramifications of a global conflict that killed an estimated 60 million people. Would it even make a difference? She quipped.

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