Former Head of State in Nigeria General Dr. Yakubu Gown was the speaker at the 6th Convocation ceremony in March 2015, of the Chukwumeka Odumegwu Ojukwu University (COOU) in Anambra. He titled his speech, “No Victor, No Vanquished: Healing the Nigerian Nation.”
I read about his speech online. “According to The News Agency of Nigeria, Gowon explained to the audience that the Nigerian civil war was not out of hatred for the late Igbo leader Odumegwu Ojukwu or the Igbos, but was based on the principle of a commitment to a robust and united Nigeria.”
I don’t know why his speech only came to my attention today. But even though it’s several months old, I still thought it worth commenting.
The article said, “According to Gowon, an Igbo president in Nigeria would help heal the Nigerian civil war wounds and encourage rotational presidency among the geo-political regions in the country.” I’m not sure I support a codified rotation among the geo-political regions, but I do support some rotation, so that south-easterners are included in the leading political party.
I like his attitude of reconciliation. I met him at a wedding in Nigeria a couple of years ago, and thanked him for his “No Victor, No Vanquished” stance after the war.
The university where he spoke, in eastern Nigeria, was founded as the Anambra State University. I searched their website but wasn’t able to find when the name was changed to honor the man who led the secession and was Biafra’s head of state. I suspect it was after Ojukwu’s death a couple of years ago.
Then I wondered what we would think here if there were a university named for Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederate States of America, defeated in our civil war.
I certainly applaud the decision to take down the confederate flag in South Carolina, but why are we comfortable with having the Jefferson Davis name at these institutions? And why is Nigeria comfortable with Ojukwu’s name on a university?
Can you help me understand?
How to Confront Racism, Second Installment
The writer says, “I have had uncomfortable conversations with my parents and some of my closest friends about race. It sucks. I hate it and people get mad and hurt and really, really defensive.”
He continues,”Conversations where people are forced to confront the fact that they’ve gotten an unfair advantage are hard. They’re extra hard when the person you’re talking to is a poor white person, has disabilities, or are in some other way marginalized.”
But we have to do it, he says. He has found that the news about police brutality has given him, “accessible jumping-off points to help white people understand institutional racism.”
He wrote his piece before the shooting in Charleston. I think that gives us another jumping off point, though it’s a different one. A writer in the Washington Post called attention to the ways people and actions are described. A black shooter may be called a possible terrorist, while a white shooter is more likely to be described as mentally ill.
“Soon after [Roof’s] arrest Thursday, former FBI special agent Jonathan Gilliam appeared on CNN, saying that Roof probably “has some mental issues” and didn’t know he had done anything wrong. That is the power of whiteness in America,” Anthea Butler wrote.
There were lots of comments and questions. I had wondered if the conversation would be linear, but it certainly wasn’t. One question or comment would arrive while I or someone else was answering another, and it was sometimes hard to tell what had already been addressed.
But it was lots of fun and a real learning experience. I heard about several memoirs I’d like to read, and got lots of new Twitter followers! Kate held a contest for a copy of my memoir. It was won by Beckie in Pennsylvania. I’ll mail it on Monday.
Are you on Twitter? Follow me @cathonye and I’ll follow back!
Book Talk on Monday
On Monday evening I’ll give a talk to the Trumbull Moms meeting at the Trumbull Library, 33 Quality Street, Trumbull, from 6:30 to 7:30 pm. They ask people to register, but if you haven’t registered and still want to come, just show up!
Christine, who helped arrange the program, says there are moms and grandmothers of all ages in the group, and others as well. I am changing the presentation to give more attention to mothers and parenting, and I’ll read sections from the memoir that are different from my usual choices.
From you who’ve read the memoir Nigeria Revisited My Life and Loves Abroad, any suggestions on what to read to a group organized around mothers?
My father Peter Zastrow died almost twenty years ago.
His birthday was July 11! So I think about him on this day. I’ll call my sister soon so we can reminisce together.