The civil war in Nigeria, one of the largest genocides in the world, made irredeemable, inestimable and unforgettable losses for different people in the country. It is no more news that not less than 3 million people lost their lives in the war between the Nigeria government, led by the then junta, Yakubu Gowon, and the secessionist state, Biafra, the country whose existence relegated into oblivion when the war ended in 1970. Counting of losses is innumerable. However, one, out of all, is the loss of the poetic brain in the African post colonial era, Christopher Okigbo.
In poetry, Okigbo was in a class of his own. He, unarguably, earned the accolade as the best Nigerian poet and one of the best in the entire continent, even to date. Very versatile, vibrant, dexterous and outright brilliant, he carved a niche for himself in the literary world, most especially poetry, though he studied Classics in University of Ibadan. Okigbo published three volumes of poetry, Heavensgate, Limits and Silences, in his ostensibly worthy but cut – short lifetime.
It was in 1967 that Okigbo saw his kinsmen being killed ruthlessly. It was deplorable. No writers like wickedness, let alone, pogrom, that is, the killing of a large number of people.
Consequent to the excessive killings of Igbos, Okigbo willingly joined the military forces of Biafra, thinking that as he used his pen to serve humanity, he could as well use the gun to save his people from the loomingly outright destruction and killings. In the course of saving his people, the Nigeria soldiers killed Okigbo, and the poetic icon died at 35, the time he was supposed to be at the peak of his inviting career. The comely career of his came to an abrupt end.
Nevertheless, the actions of Christopher Okigbo in the civil war had glowed him with a lot of respect and prestige among lovers of literature. His were different from the ironical disposition of the lovers of fire, the people who had little regard for human lives, and who thought war was the only option for settling disputes. He served humanity. He enlisted himself in the Biafran armies, knowing full well he could be killed. He had every opportunity to run away, but he did not. He died while saving his people.
Many students and scholars of literature would have loved to enjoy his works more, and many would have been happy if he outlived the 20th century, just like Wole Soyinka, Chinua Achebe, Buchi Emecheta, Femi Osofisan, just to mention a few. But death came rather too soon; all thanks goes to the two actors, Yakubu Gowon and Christian Ojukwu who could not sign armistice or surrender. However, posterity will always have an expression. It goes down memory lane that two people in their selfish ambitions wasted more than 3 millions souls in a country whose citizens, then, did not exceed 53 millions in a battle, while Okigbo, in a bid to save his kinsmen from outright killing, became one of the victims of war. And, he died.