‘76. And the ties that bind.

Friday, December 09, 2016

Photo Credits: ‘76: The movie

I had high hopes for “Half of a Yellow Sun”. The movie.

The book had left me with a vacuum.

Perhaps, I had placed too much expectations on the literature, bearing in mind that I had been regaled with tales of the author giving veterans such as Chinua Achebe and Cyprian Ekwensi a run for their (individual and collective) monies.

Perhaps, it was because that was my first encounter with the author. While I have come to revere her speeches, I still have that vacuum, silently tugging at my subconscious when I read her other works.

The movie was to be my escape. Not just because of the anti-climatic effect of the book. But because, like all things that stay covered, I (and I believe, a whole lot of other Nigerians) was genuinely curious to see the representation (in motion) of a vital part of our history, which has purposefully been relegated to the background and refused to be confronted.

The justice I expected from the movie was not done. The surface was barely scratched. The goriness I had heard about that era, downplayed.

Hollywood executed a ‘romantic’ coup on what was supposed to be the story. Bright lights, good filming, but this was insufficient.

There were a number of stars, each bent on exhibiting that s/he was THE star of the movie. Uncle Oscar, (probably) their motivation. The movie left a lot of us more than just a tad bit disappointed.

Not 76.

I had been dragged to see the latter, and had scoffed at it, with my earlier memories of the disappointment of the former still fresh in my mind. “Of course”, I said to myself, “another ‘historical’ movie wannabe, filled with big names, and leaving something missing”. I was fully clothed in my skepticism and readiness to criticize.

Izu Ojukwu did well. You see ehhn, he made sure that the plot creeps up on you. Gradually luring you in with the anecdotal music and antiques (ranging from old pots found in every household, to former currency), to make one nostalgic enough to romanticize the movie. Without the need for undue and unnecessary display of affection distracting the plot.

The movie suceeded in communicating the dangerous times of that era in which it was set. It was highly reminiscent of growing up in military Lagos, and dreading the sudden curfews, quickly followed by the equally dreaded phrase "Fellow Nigerians..."

Photo Credits: ‘76: The movie
Each actor’s role was so intricately tied to the other’s, that all the actors shone together. One word kept ringing in my head throughout the movie: Teamwork.

And Ramsey Nouah! (Oh lawd!!) It was not so much about the words he delivered, as to the ‘how’ he delivered whatever he delivered. He seemed like a man on a mission in the movie: to teleport the viewer into his shoes, and feel his struggles with him.

He succeeded. He was simply awesome.

They all were; the actors. Even though, I have heard some say Ibinabo’s character was not really useful to the movie. I do not agree. Rather, I think it’s the unlikability of her personality that (subconsciously) informs this decision. It was a good twist, and I found her character was useful to that twist.

This movie was obviously not a rushed attempt to put something in the cinemas. Wikipedia confirms it: five years of planning and production. Suffice to say that my captivation has led me to see it twice, in the space of 96 hours.

‘76 was is a nice movie.


(You know there is bound to be a ‘but’)

While it did not leave me with the unidentifiable nothingness with which ‘HoAYS’ left me, ’76 has made me yearn for more.

Yes, it flirted with the mystery of the Nigerian-Biafran War, rightly identifying the war (and invariably, it precipitators) as a root cause of the tribal distrust we all hold against one another.

(‘Flirt’, being the operative word, without more than that one scene of allusion to the war).

You see, I have always wondered whether the demons be-deviling our fragile unity as a country is not exacerbated by the inexplicable secrecy in which our gory past is shrouded; a thing to be whispered about in hushed tones, rather than confronted, and taught as part of our History in Primary and Secondary school.

I studied History, up to my WASSCE level, and other than be remind constantly that the word “Nigeria” was an invention of a beautiful Caucasian woman, betrothed to our (then) Colonial lord, I am none the better regarding how and why we as a people are where we are today. The Curriculum leaves a lot wanting on historical events; facts which are eventually received in snippets from childhood, through adolescence, to becoming an adult, in the form of informal discussions often tinged with the giver’s personal prejudices. Does it surprise us that we all grew to become naturally skeptic and cynical Nigerian adults?

We need to confront, be taught of and learn about the Civil War. To discuss what is labeled “the Igbo Coup”, and the alleged reckless arrogance with which Igbos were said to carry on thereafter. Revisit in detail the counter-coup, as well as the retaliatory pogrom and genocide in the North against thousands of Igbos.

We should hear from all sides, whether there actually had been a gentleman’s agreement for the West to secede as well, why this was reneged on, and whether (or not) it further inflamed the tensions in the land.

Bring to the fore details of the long, hard, almost one-sided war, with Africa’s best military pitted against what was dubbed “a rag-tag group of dissidents, armed with sticks, bricks, stealth and sheer determination”. The role of foreign countries; their ‘aid’ in the war. The utilization of hunger/starvation as a weapon of war. The loss of savings of the Easterners, in their “20 pounds for all your savings” reward, and whether “No Victor, No Vanquished” was a fact, or a myth.
Children on the Biafran side… dying from kwashiorkor. Photo Credits: www.asknaij.com

It is important to understand why we continuously hang precariously on the brink of some religious genocide or the other, often followed by retaliatory murders and lootings in other parts of the country. Why we are quick to take offence at one another, our tribal and religious tolerance threshold, near-eroded.

Finally, we need to own up to the deepening festering wound in our Nation, continuously and consistently fanned by tribalism and nepotism, laced with mutual distrust and innate dislike for one another.

Indeed, in order to substantiate the ties that bind us, it is important for us to retrace our steps, revisit the hovering ghosts of our yester-years and lay them to rest once and for all.

I know you fear for me, as I blatantly touch on all these topics, which we have come to revere as ‘taboo’. That in itself is the problem; the secrecy we have accepted as the coffin in which we buried our past, so that attempts at revisitation are considered with trepidation.

However, it is no more sufficient to keep sweeping our scars beneath the rug, by scratching the surface and making mere allusions to that which we cannot simply wish away. This is what has fueled our curiosity, as we throng to the cinemas to view each pseudo-historical movie; hoping to lift the unofficial lid of silence, and aura of secrecy.

For as long as we have been obscure on past events, we have worsened our situations, silently breeding tension in the land.

We need to tell, and learn our National story. A cohesive story, capturing all perspectives.

We need to face our past once and for all. Perhaps, we may heal and move on. Perhaps, we may not.

But we will never know, except we try.



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  1. Good one schinelo.....i read all

  2. Well written, I remember in the words of the 2008 Nobel peace price winner Martti Ahtisaari; true peace in conflict resolution can only achieve when the root cause of a conflict is expose, and the guilty party; identified, mentioned and made to tender unreserved apology to the aggrieve party......only then can compromise, forgiveness and lasting peace be achieved.
    Unfortunately in the case of our land, secrecy, hypocrisy and arrogance informs the way we deal with very sensitive issues. We refused to see issues the way they are, but hide them to our own peril, creating an atmosphere of mutual distrust and suspicion! There are a lot of events in our history that we refuse to truthfully examine and deal with, but allow them to be shrouded in secrecy, leading to the frank suspicious and disunited atmosphere in our land. Until we learn from other Nations like South Africa (the truth commission) where issues where publicly exposed, discussed, apology tendered, and genuine forgiveness adminstered, We will just be sitting on a timed bomb no matter how much we preach unity and peace! May God almighty give us the courage to face our demons frankly and deal with them.
    Good write up, #proudofyou!

    1. Yasssssssss!!!!! This sums it all up. God bless you. Thank you!!

  3. Still yet to watch the movie.