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Memorialisation Principles, Post-Civil War Reintegration and the Quest for Sustainable Peace in Nigeria

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Philip Ademola Olayoku

Introduction

To the unsung and forgotten heroes of the Nigerian Civil War, who defiled the divides to be their neighbours’ keepers.

Full text

  • 1 In contrast to the view of some other miners, Patrick Mcloughlin’s position is that the autocratic (...)
  • 2 The Hillsborough Disaster happened on 15th April, 1989 in which 96 Liverpool fans lost their lives (...)

1In April 2013, the demise of Margaret Thatcher, the first female British Prime Minister, stimulated polarised discussions among some British citizens regarding her conservative mode of governance. There were those, like David Cameron, who believed that the late former prime minister rescued Britain and its declining economy (Mason, 2013). Others, by contrast, argued that she destroyed the middle class and widened the poverty gap with her pro corporate policies; the best known example of this being miners whose divisive revolt against the closure of mines in 1984 led to police brutality at Orgreave, South Yorkshire (Czernik, 2013; Hope, 2013)1. However, the memory of Thatcherism which lingers on in Merseyside is dominated by the Hillsborough disaster2 which has become synonymous with Liverpool Football Club. Within the same month, the death of Anne Williams, a leading figure in the struggle for truth and justice for her son (Kevin) alongside ninety-five others killed in the disaster, received a contrasting reaction (especially in Merseyside) to the death of the 87 year old Thatcher who preferred to lay the blame at the feet of the casualties, as revealed by the first inquest into the causes of the Hillsborough incidence (Shaw, 2013).

  • 3 See: Crowds to Line Streets for the Funeral of the Much-Loved Hillsborough Campaigner Anne Williams (...)
  • 4 See Hillsborough Inquests: What You Need to Know. BBC News. 26th April, 2016. Retrieved from http:/ (...)
  • 5 The struggle had also been to establish that about forty-one of the ninety-six victims may have bee (...)

2The tribute on 15 April 2013 to mark the 24th anniversary of the Hillsborough Disaster through oration and a minute of applause before the Liverpool/Chelsea match on 21 April 2013 (Carroll, 2013) coupled with the Liverpool Council’s order that the flag flown at half mast for Anne in the city3 clearly shows the importance of memory in creating an ambience of unity among a people. This is especially so as the tribute was held before a keenly contested match which was laddened with post-match controversies. In the same vein, the remembrance of the ninety-six has become an integral part of the recent history and identity of Liverpool Football Club, which among other things, includes a memorial service every 15 April and the laying of wreaths of flowers in honour of the deceased fans even as the struggle for the truth continued. The memorialisation of this event, coupled with the intensified struggle for justice for the 96, led to the reversal of blame after fresh inquests into the killings at Cheschier between 31 March 2014 to April 26 2016. The Jury had maintained that the David Duckenfield, the match commander at the time was to blame for negligence of duty that led to the unlawful killing of the victims.4 The foregoing reflects that the memorialisation of past events could be used as a formidable tool in the creation of group identity, by integrating and uniting distinct factions through a unanimous show of their respect. More importantly, it helped in redressing thwarted historical facts.5 The former British Prime Minister, David Cameron, had commended the initiative for ensuring justice while alluding to layers of injustices against the victims whom, according to him, had their security compromised at every level during the period of disaster (Gibson, Conn and Siddique; 2012). In this respect, the memorialisation of the deceased 96, amongst other things, included the search for truth in order to pacify the bereaved families, bring the conspirators to justice and prevent the reoccurrence of such neglect of duty in the future. The example of the Hillsborough agitators for justice justifies the category of victims who refuse to remain silent in ensuring, that people are enlightened by their experiences through open action (Jelin, 1994: 44) so that justice may take its course. Memorialisation, thus executed, serves to ensure restorative justice as a “truth therapy” for the victims and their bereaved families. Beyond this, a recent initiative of honouring the victims with the Freedom of the City of Liverpool on 22 September 2016, is important for the erasure of the falsehood of their culpability. On the other hand, it serves to emphasize the need for accountability, especially as a deterrent for the negligence of duty by public service holders. Consequently, the preventive function of memorialisation ensures deterrence for intending perpetrators of harm, and its application to different national contexts has helped in ensuring justice for victims and building sustainable relationships as shall be examined below.

  • 6 The Nigerian Civil War is also known as the Biafran War. Both terms are used interchangeably in sub (...)

3While there have been memorialisation efforts in the aftermath of the Civil War6 in Nigeria, these efforts have been arbitrary, and they are often not properly coordinated, thereby failing to yield the desired results. The object of this paper is therefore to expatiate on the memorialisation mechanism within the global context and how this could be adopted as a national policy in Nigeria to serve the aforementioned purposes while particularly focusing on the experience of the Nigerian Civil War.

Notes

1 In contrast to the view of some other miners, Patrick Mcloughlin’s position is that the autocratic attitude of the president of the miners’ union was to blame for the troubles rather than Margaret Thatcher who advocated for a consensus among the miners. Also see the Letter of Professor F. A. Hayek titled ‘Trade Union Privileges’ in The Times 2nd August 1977.

2 The Hillsborough Disaster happened on 15th April, 1989 in which 96 Liverpool fans lost their lives during an FA Cup semi final match between Nottingham Forest and Liverpool.

3 See: Crowds to Line Streets for the Funeral of the Much-Loved Hillsborough Campaigner Anne Williams. In Liverpool Echo. 25th April, 2013. Retrieved from http://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/2013/04/25/crowds-to-line-streets- for-funeral-of-much-loved-hillsborough-campaigner-anne-williams-100252-33232044/

4 See Hillsborough Inquests: What You Need to Know. BBC News. 26th April, 2016. Retrieved from http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-merseyside-35383110

5 The struggle had also been to establish that about forty-one of the ninety-six victims may have been saved if there had been an effective response from the security/rescue agents where victims, like Kevin, were said to still be alive for as long as forty-five minutes after they were all reported to have died due to the crush on Sheffield Wednesday’s ground.

6 The Nigerian Civil War is also known as the Biafran War. Both terms are used interchangeably in subsequent sections.

© IFRA-Nigeria, 2017

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