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The Seventies: Uwa Ochi, Part One

The Seventies: Uwa Ochie.

Part One.

With Phillip Effiong’s surrender to Nigerian forces in 1970 came the end of the thirty-month nightmare and the dissolution of the Biafran state. Although hostilities had been formally concluded, an aura of fear and uncertainty still hung in the hearts of former Biafrans, as it was unclear exactly which role they would play in Gowon’s Nigeria—possibly that of a conquered people and pawns to the mercy of a military government that was fully capable of persecuting them in the same manner it had done a mere three years earlier. All in all, the conclusion of the Nigerian-Biafran conflict was not necessarily received with joy and jubilation on the part of the Igbo.

After sacrificing so much for the war effort, in terms of human resources, when it finally dawned upon them that the war had ended and that there was the possibility that their struggles had been in vain, a large percentage of former Biafrans took to severe, chronic depression and anguish, resulting in massive waves of suicides across the East in the early post-war years. Men and women in all echelons of pre-war prosperity were reduced to nothing and forced to restart their lives as their properties and assets in banks across the country were seized and distributed to non-Easterners. As a measure of consolation, the federal government allocated twenty pounds to each and every former Biafran; a sum with which they were to restart their lives.

Despite the anguish and pains, in celebration of the fact that they had survived genocide, the Igbo fell back on their spiritual belief of ndu bu isi (meaning: as long as there is life, all things are possible) and developed the colloquial expression “happy survival”, as a testament of their strength and resiliency as a people. Interestingly, at the forefront of the emotional healing of the Igbo was Highlife, a relatively new genre of West African music that combined traditional rhythm and folk themes with modern stringed instruments. Highlife musicians and groups such as Eddy Okwedy (who released his hit single “Happy Survival” in 1970), Chief Osita Osadebe, Kabaka International Guitar Band, (continued in comments)


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