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TITLE: UNENDING JACKBOOT RHYTHM
AUTHOR: EMEKA UKWUABA
REVIEWER: REV. FR. EMEKA NGWOKE, PHD.
PUBLISHER: WORDSHOT BOOKS
YEAR OF PUBLICATION: 2019.
PAGES: 236 +iv.

In October 1989, as a third-year student of Theology at Bigard Memorial Seminary, Enugu, yours sincerely was appointed to the editorship of the flagship students’ magazine of the seminary known as The Torch. For our first edition and for Christmas of 1989, the board chose to work on the topic: “Education” which had then quickly becoming an important issue of serious national concern. To accompany the series of articles in the said publication, I sought and obtained an hour-long interview with the world-famous novelist, Prof Chinua Achebe, -at his Umunkaka Street residence at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. As the interview session was coming to an end, I fired my last question at the celebrated story teller, “When, sir, are we going to read your autobiography.” He quickly confessed to not having ever thought about the subject and went on to concede its importance. “Now that you have said it, I shall begin to think along those lines because each generation owes the succeeding one an account of the past.”

Cover of the book

Later, in 2011 while doing my doctorate at the University of Notre Dame, IN, USA, the professor (now bound to the wheelchair came calling for three days of lectures). On the last day of the visit, as he was attending to a long line of admirers who sought autographed copies-of his books, when it came to my turn, I gently reminded him of his promise, to which he replied: “I have been busy working on that.” The result was his last published work. There As a Country, which consists in large part of memories of our country’s civil war (1967-1970). Following the release of what amounted to his last testament, the professor bowed out three months later in 2013. In that seminal work, Achebe put the present state of our country into perspective, reflecting on the promising country we once had, on how it was lost, and the progressive deterioration of its national life ever after.

In the book under review, Ukwuaba discharges an important responsibility towards the generation of Nigerians which succeeds his, proffering an engaging memoir of the civil war through an unforgettable cast of characters and their struggles for survival in a brutal war of attrition which defies all known conventions of armed conflicts. It is an intensely personal and reflective piece of literature. Delivered in 23 short chapters, the author provides readers with an important slice of his own history, yet, in doing so, he tells the story of a people under siege and military occupation in a time of war. It is also a story of coming of age, as the eleven-year-old quickly grows into a young adult in the course of the war.

There are many easily recognizable areas of excellence in this latest output from a growing body of literature on the civil war. The first thing that strikes the reader is that the author is a real storyteller: he has a story burning up his vital innards and he knows just how to tell it. Thus, the reader is transported first into life in the months leading up to war (through the keen eyes of a rather precocious eleven year old); then the reader is plunged into the impactful, sudden outbreak of hostilities: the unpreparedness of Biafra (despite loud and audacious propaganda); the easy collapse of the northern boundaries of the new republic to the first wave of attacks; the routing of the ragtag army of Biafran forces and the quick melting away of resistance in the border towns up to Nsukka; then the sheer dread of everyday life as summary executions, abductions, betrayals, rape and chaos become the staple of daily life under enemy occupation; the endless pining for information regarding the progress of the war; the conflicting claims of Biafran and Nigerian propaganda machines; the displacement of families and social life; life in refugee camps; the scourge of hunger and disease; learning new skills for survival —paramilitary tactics, hunting, wine-tapping, etc.; subtle resistance and subversion of occupation force; and, finally, as a young adult, witnessing the denouement of the war.

Emeka Ukwuaba

Unending Jackboot Rhythm is not one of those books to be breezed through quickly; it invites reflection and thoughtful self-interrogation and would reward careful rereading. Each chapter, which has an appropriate title, focuses on one of several aspects of the multi-layered experiences of war behind enemy lines. Through his deft storytelling, the author is able to address multiple audiences and issues at once. For instance, he points out the bitterness which underlay the prosecution of the war; the uneasy relationship between southern and northern Igbo; the treachery and self-defeating opportunism rampant in Igbo society; the highhandedness of indigenous militia that arose during the conflict; the sheer nerve of sundry lackeys that were propped up during the military occupation to help administer the so-called ‘liberated areas’ of the Biafran enclave; how mutual distrust exacerbated the suffering of those under occupation; and the use of rape and abductions as an instrument of war and domination.

Finally, I must not fail to remark on the timing of this publication and its potential for deconstructing the illusions of some of our more impressionable youths. Ukwuaba, by exposing the sheer ugliness of war in its unvarnished, gory details, has done a very important service to the Igbo whose younger generations are so easily sold on the dream of secession as the cure-all remedy for the many ills and injustices of the Nigerian nation. Ukwuaba can now proudly take his place alongside the likes of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – Half of a Yellow Sun – for providing the young and upcoming generations with a cautionary tale about the horrors of war as borne out by the experience of Biafra.

Indeed, here is a book to read and ponder, a well-written first-hand account from an intelligent, non-combatant observer of a dreadful conflict. One must not fail to commend the author for the picturesque details of his memory, a sad teachable memory etched into his child’s mind and so preserved with passionate intensity for over fifty years. Fittingly, the book is dedicated to the author’s parents, James Onoima and Josephine Omada Ukwuaba, who were created, courageous and daring in the face of life’s limit experiences of unimaginable proportions. This is as much their story as ours: let us hurry to take possession of copies of this book: read it, ponder it and be wiser.

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COPYRIGHTS: DR. ANIOKE ADDRESSES WIPO AFRICAN GROUP IN GENEVA, CANVASSES FAIR DEALS FOR WRITERS, PUBLISHERS

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Experts and stakeholders in the Copyright matters and intellectual property are meeting at the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Headquarters, Geneva, Switzerland.

Uchenna Cyril Anioke , PhD, President, Nigerian Publishers Association (NPA), is a distinguished participant where he presented the position of Nigerian Publishers Association on issues of exceptions and limitations to WIPO African Group.

His paper titled “The State of the Publishing Industry in Nigeria: Challenges and the Need for Stronger Enforcement” had the following outline: Introduction and overview of Publishing in Nigeria; problems facing the publishing Industry in Nigeria; challenges of piracy and the need for stronger enforcement; importance of educational publishing sector and he finally proffered ways to strengthen the business environment for African Publishers.

Dr Anioke took active part in the discussions on Enabling Text and Data Mining Research Through Copyright Reform; The impact of Covid – 19 Pandemic on the Copyright Ecosystem .

Anioke opined that Copyright Act should benefit authors and publishers who are ultimate originators and producers of creative and intellectual works by ensuring that fair use or fair deal translates to fair returns for authors and publishers for their efforts. All said, a labourer deserves his wages, Dr Anioke concluded.

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REBEL WITH A CAUSE

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A review of Frederick Forsyth’s EMEKA, an authorised biography of Emeka Odumegwu Ojukwu

By Emmanuel Obe

It was in 1984 that I read Frederick Forsyth’s Emeka, the authorised biography of Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, the feared but respected leader of the secessionist Republic of Biafra.

Ojukwu had returned to Nigeria roughly two years earlier to a tumultuous welcome by Nigerians across political and regional divides after the government of Shehu Shagari granted him amnesty. The reasons for the popularity of Ojukwu are diverse. Many respected him for his wartime erudition, others for his elite education, yet others for standing up to oppression and yet many others for his fearsome looks embedded in his thick untamed facial hair. The rebel tag and his radicalism endeared him more to the younger generation.

I had read Forsyth’s account of the Nigerian civil war in 1983 captured in ‘The making of an African legend: the Biafra Story.’ Forsyth was a war journalist who fell in love with Ojukwu during the war and became his intimate friend. The Biafra story was the first book I read about the civil war and it painted a salutary picture of Ojukwu and the Biafra effort during the war. Needless to say that if I had an awful impression of Ojukwu, the impression became awesome. I loved Ojukwu to the hilt.

The military government of Muhammadu Buhari that came on December 31st, 1983 had imprisoned Ojukwu alongside many other politicians in 1984 but that did not diminish Ojukwu’s popularity, even while in prison.

When news came that Forsyth was out with a paperback authorised biography of Ojukwu, I made it a point of duty to read and own it. The opportunity came when I travelled from Port Harcourt to Ogbor Hill, Aba to check my university matriculation result. On my way back, I saw a street trader hawking the book and I picked it up ‘sharp sharp’ with N2.

I voraciously consumed it as I journeyed back home and didn’t put it down even as I got home.

Emeka was the story of a rebel with a cause, a war general and a philosopher king. It covered Ojukwu’s growing up days in Nigeria, his education in England, his return to Nigeria and the beginning of his rebellion against his father, in the army and then against his country. It also captured his 12-year stint in exile in Ivory Coast.

I had read the biography of Martin Luther, the reformist who split the Catholic Church a few months before I read Emeka and both of them instigated the rebel in me. Martin Luther had rebelled against his parents that wanted him to study law. He instead went for priesthood. As it turned out, Luther led a revolution against the most powerful institution in the world, and succeeded.

I got reinforcement in the story of Ojukwu after reading Emeka. Ojukwu’s father, reputed to be the richest Nigerian of his time wanted him to study law. But Ojukwu rebuffed him and read history at Oxford.

On his return home, his father wanted him to work for his thriving company and earn good money. Ojukwu shunned the opportunity and opted to work in the civil service. When he got a transfer to Calabar, his father felt he had had enough. He objected to his son going to Calabar for the reason that he would be bewitched by Calabar women. In anger, Ojukwu resigned from the civil service.

His next mission was to join the army. His father could not believe it for it was said that it was the never-do-well that joined the army in those days. The senior Ojukwu pulled the strings and told the army authorities that if his son must join the army, he would be admitted as a private, where he would ‘see pepper’ and run. Ojukwu accepted and joined as a private. His father disowned him afterwards.

It wasn’t long before the army commanders saw the futility in keeping a master’s degree holder as a private. They soon lifted him to a cadet officer. Then the time for the reconciliation with his father came when he was promoted major.

His father bought a bottle of hot drink, called a few friends and went to reconcile with his son. The senior Ojukwu recalled when his own father, a warrant chief was himiliated at the market square by a British colonial major who as of then was the highest military rank that anyone could attain. Today, his own son is a major in the army. Praise the Lord.

Then the military intervention in Nigerian politics came. Ojukwu stood firm against the first coup until it failed. On becoming military governor of the Eastern Region, he bore the burden of managing the crisis of easterners escaping home from the north during the pogrom. The war eventually came. Forsyth records that Ojukwu even deployed his father’s resources in prosecuting the war. And there was no record of him misappropriating public funds in spite of the emergency situation.

Emeka was published as a paperback, with a picture of Ojukwu smoking a cigarette on the cover, which evoked an image of arrogance and radicalism. In later years when I met Ojukwu he had become subdued, less radical and more pacific. Even his fearsome beard had been trimmed and the dye could not completely hide the grey.

So far Emeka remains the main biography of Ojukwu authorised by himself. He promised to write ‘the book’ when he published Because I am Involved. He never did.

Forsyth did a marvelous job, writing with a journalistic flair, he keeps the reader asking for more till the end. As a journalist myself, I am inspired by Forsyth, who became a bestselling author drawing inspiration from his field experiences.

First published in Escape the Matrix, an online platform for literary presentations

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CHIDIOGO AKUNYILI- PARR HONOURS LATE MOTHER DORA AKUNYILI IN NEW BOOK

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Chidiogo, daughter of late NAFDAC DG Dora Akunyili has honoured her mother’s memory in her new book.

The book titled I Am Because We Are: An African Mother’s Fight for the Soul of a Nation is in memory of her mother’s legacy that encouraged millions of people even when faced with corruption and misogyny.

Released in January 2022, the book was made available in Nigerian book stores on the 4th of February.

The book tells the story of Dora Akunyili’s life from her daughter’s perspective, narrating how her mother’s story moulded her into the type of woman she is.

Stirred by the African beliefs of Ubuntu – the significance of community over one person the book gives in detail Dora Akunyili’s war against deceitful drug manufacturers whose products endangered the lives of many Nigerians.

It revisits how Dora, a woman in a male dominate sphere rose to become a cabinet minister and was faced with death threats, political plotting, and an assassination attempt for defending the voiceless.

I Am Because We Are: An African Mother’s Fight for the Soul of a Nation explores the completeness behind a woman now regarded as the Amazon.

Recounting the book, the author said: “While the world saw Dora Akunyili at the peak of her strength a warrior with a gap-toothed smile whose light-skinned oval face was crowned with a colourful head-tie that doubled as armour against incessant attacks against her values and also her life – I saw the complexity that was hidden from sight. This is the story of her multiplicity: the story of my mother.

“I have spent much of the last four years dedicated to bringing her story to life in this memoir – each step in researching and writing her story has allowed an unwrapping of her – the girl, the daughter, the dreamer, the wife, mother, warrior – her motivations, her struggles and celebrations. The result is this book I have spent much of the

last four years dedicated to bringing her story to life in this memoir. This is the coming together of her parts. I am happy to share this story that it might inspire the whole. I believe stories matter, our stories matter, and this is one of such stories.’’

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