On May 30, 1967, Biafra declared its independence from Nigeria. On July 6th Nigeria’s military attacked Biafra, touching off over two years of a vicious civil war in which over 2 million people died. 2019 marks the 50th anniversary of the “Ahiara Declaration of the Principles of the Biafran Revolution”, a speech by Colonel Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu which not only laid out the progressive goals of Biafra but lambasted the corruption rampant throughout Nigeria and the imperial disregard, indeed genocidal indifference, of the outside world.
The Biafra independence movement, its eventual failure and the still simmering resentment of the civil war in Nigeria are Ngozi Olivia Osuoha’s subject of exploration throughout Whispers of the Biafran Skeleton. Osuoha, whose father is a Biafran veteran, raises her voice in a resounding remembrance of this bitter legacy.
The poems throughout this collection are the skeletons whispering their secrets, their pleas in your ear. As Osuoha characterizes them: voices unknown, unseen, unhindered. Osuoha’s previous work – carefully crafted observations on nature and personal relationships – left me unprepared for the power exhibited here. The images build, one upon the other, to leave us at the end:
They whisper, I can hear them,
Yes, I hear them.
This evil is still on
These killings still grow
Stop! Stop!! Stop!!!
Let my people be free.
These are whispers that speak to the entire world. We play deaf at our own peril.