Author of Nigerian descent, Dr. Ngozi M. Obi is a woman on a mission.
The clinical pharmacist whose book, Land Of The Rising Sun paid homage
to the Biafran war experience is currently on a quest to chart a new
course on how to heal the wounds of the civil war. Why is she so much
confident in her abilities to make a difference in Nigeria? She goes
with the flow and tells it like it is.
The Inspiration Behind Land Of The
I've always wanted to write a book about Biafra because I grew up
hearing both of my parents, who were in the war, talk about what they
went through. I was really motivated to write the book in 2017 at the
fiftieth anniversary of the war as I started to hear that there was a
renewed agitation for Biafra and all the negative things that were being
said about Igbos. I wanted to remind the world of what happened to the
Igbos during the war and still happens today that makes them feel
marginalized enough to seek their own country. I also wanted to make
sure the Igbos really understood what they were asking for and if they
were willing to sacrifice for it by reminding them of what their
predecessors went through during the war. This is more than carrying
placards, walking around and shouting “Give us Biafra”
My Take on the agitation for separatist state for the people of
Ultimately, what we seek is peace so I would hope that my book will
serve as a warning to make sure Nigerians avoid fighting another civil
war rather than add to the agitation. Let me be clear, I'm not agitating
for or against Biafra by writing this book. I'm simply trying to
highlight the issues that plagued Nigeria and led to the civil war in
the sixties. Most of these issues have remained unresolved till this
day. If something isn't done, then it may lead to another war. Igbos
shouldn't have to live as second-class citizens in their own nation. I
believe it was Wole Soyinka who said that if Barak Obama was an Igbo man
in Nigeria, he could never aspire to be the president of his nation.
What a sad statement and that's only the tip of the iceberg. Ensure
things are equal enough for Igbos and make them feel like they belong in
their own country. If things can't be worked out and Biafra is to become
a nation, then let them go peacefully.
Emotional scars from the civil war
Everyone who was alive during the civil war, including my father who
fought in the war, and gave you the historical facts that formed part of
the book bemoans it 'til today. These people went through hell and lived
to tell about it. A lot of Igbos left the country because of the shame
that resulted as a loss of the war. The Biafran war was to Igbos what
the Vietnam war was to Americans. American soldiers came home to great
ridicule after the Vietnam war. Now imagine that same ridicule from the
very people you fought to separate from but still have to live amongst.
Yes, there are a still a lot of emotional scars and the wound is daily
reopened because of the way things are in Nigeria.
What the government should do to heal the wounds of Biafra
The government should first of all acknowledge that the Biafran war
actually occurred instead of merely sweeping it under the rug. I can't
tell you how many Nigerians there are, particularly those born after the
war, that have no idea of how brutal it was.
They don't teach this history in
schools but just as the subject of slavery is a difficult but important
subject in American history so the Biafran war is in Nigerian History.
You can't heal what you don't acknowledge. The next step is to engage
the Igbos in dialogue and really hear what their issues are and device a
plan to fix them instead of dismissing the Igbos as mere thugs. Some of
the issues the government can start with include bringing meaningful
development to the Southeastern part of Nigeria and including them in
national appointments. One token appointment here and there isn't enough
for one of the three largest tribes in the country. They need to be
included in governing their own nation.
The first time I heard about Biafra
I don't remember an exact date but I can't remember my parents not
talking about their wartime experience. It was always a topic of
discussion in our home and peaked my curiosity even at a young age to
read more about it. What affected me the most is the Kwashiorkor
children who became the unlikely faces of the war. Their pictures
haunted me and I often wondered if that would have happened to me had I
been born during the Nigerian-Biafran war.
How I felt writing the book
Writing Land of the Rising Sun brought out a lot of emotions for me. The
subject of war alone is hard enough to write about. Couple that with
having lost my mom years before the book was written. It was a rough
emotional journey to say the least because the stories used to craft the
fictional portion of the book are actual narrations of her Biafran
wartime experience as a young impressionable nurse. I just wrote a back
story to tie it all together in a continuous flow.
I wish she was here to read it. I think she would be proud and maybe
even cry, so yeah, writing the book was quite emotional for me.
Why the Igbos must be unified
They would truly be a force to be reckoned with if they could put aside
all the variant Igbo culture factions and realize they are one people
and act like it. This subject of disunity is truly my biggest fear. If
they can't get along in Nigeria, now, what will they do in Biafra? Psalm
133: 1-3 essentially says “It is good for Brethren to dwell together in
unity for there God commands His blessings”. This is also relevant for
Nigerians as a whole. It is also important to note that unity doesn't
always mean total agreement. It's okay to peacefully disagree at times.
What I want to tell Nigerians
The one thing I would tell Nigerians is to change their value system and
become their brother's keeper. . Part of what plagues the Nigerian from
the average man on the street to Aso rock is the failure to see beyond
themselves and their needs. It's also the basis for creating a culture
of corruption in the country. If you can truly see beyond yourself and
realize that your fellow man is also a human being who is entitled to
live in our world freely, it will make you think twice before you do
anything that will harm them physically, financially or otherwise. It
takes reevaluating individual value systems and making changes where
needed. This alone will also rid the country of the corruption that
they're desperately trying to fight at the surface. Tackle the
foundation and what's on the surface will change too.
Was the war avoidable?
Perhaps, especially if the tribes had stuck to their agreement on having
stronger regional governments. But everything happens for a reason and
because of it I think the Igbo man is wiser though there are negative
stigmas associated with losing the war.
Formal presentation of the book in Nigeria
I've actually done quite a few presentations of my book in the United
States but the subject of Biafra is more of a Nigerian issue at the
moment, than for the United States. My goal in doing a presentation of
this book in Nigeria is to start a much-needed healing process for the
Igbos that will go a long way in restoring dignity to them. I hope it
will also bring peace to the nation as a whole, especially as the
upcoming elections loom.
Land Of The rising Sun circulation in Nigeria
I'm not sure who all have heard about the book in Nigeria. I've heard
things here and there but hopefully, this will increase reader
circulation. I know this is an important subject that requires all of
our attention to create a permanent solution. Right now, the books can
be ordered through amazon and other online retailers.
How writing has affected my life
I believe words have power and I've always been fascinated with books.
From the curious George series of books as a tot to Charlotte's web, the
Laura Ingalls wilder series of books and required reading like Pride and
Prejudice as I got older. The natural progression would be to become a
writer even though it wasn't my initial profession because as a good
daughter to African parents becoming a doctor of some sort took
precedence. I did find my way back to books in the form of writing and
it has allowed me forge into territories that would otherwise be unknown
to me. Saving lives one word at a time is our brand motto and that's
exactly what writing has allowed me to do.
The theme of virginity in my books, particularly the love series
Sex is a beautiful part of love when done in the proper environment. God
actually created it to be the glue in marriage. Unfortunately, our sex
crazed society has told us that its okay to give your body to anyone who
wants it. I wanted this theme to be a light in what has become the
societal norm or misnomer, if you will. It's alright to wait and only
give yourself to the person you marry. You don't have to give into
societal pressures just because everyone else is doing it. Dare to be
different and reap the physical and emotional benefits.
The me-too movement and feminism.
The simple definition of a feminist is one who is pro progress and equal
rights for women. In that regard, I'm definitely a feminist. I fear
though, that we've taken feminism to an extreme where being a feminist
now means we are against men. I don't think this should be the case
because we need men just as much as they need us. There needs to be
mutual respect between genders and equality, which will limit predatory
behavior of SOME MEN.
The experience that made me decide to become a writer
I've always loved books but we all know that in the African culture, one
isn't necessarily seen as accomplished unless you're a lawyer, doctor of
some sort or an engineer. I loved math in school but engineering was too
technical and law was too abstract. I was good in the sciences so I
found myself in the medical field as a Pharmacist. But when something is
really part of your destiny, you naturally gravitate back to it. My
journey as a writer began in response to my search for a genre of books
with an inspirational message that seamlessly tackle the complexity of
life's concepts with ease. I searched but couldn't necessarily find
exactly what I was looking for. I'm not saying it isn't out there. I
just couldn't find it. I like to say it happened that way to prompt me
to start writing. After all, necessity is the mother of invention. I
also found that delving into writing served as an escape and a way to
deal with my late mother's illness and subsequent passing by allowing me
to tap into my vivid imagination and create tangible characters that
most people can easily relate to.