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The Theme of War in Isidore Okpewho The Last Duty and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Half Of A Yellow Sun

The Theme of War in Isidore Okpewho The Last Duty and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Half Of A Yellow Sun

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 The research work examines the theme of war in Isidore Okpewho’s The Last Duty and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Half of a Yellow Sun, with particular reference to the Nigeria Civil War of 1967, which led to the death of millions of Nigerians, and destruction of properties.

Findings have revealed that one of the greatest problems of most independent African States, is instability, and the commonest cause is tribalism and ethic rivalry. Therefore, the work brings to bear the societal disorder, conflict and psychological damages done to the Nigerian citizens during the three-year Nigeria Civil War of 1967 and present day Nigeria.

The research work also seeks to portray the damages and social injustices experienced by innocent citizens as a result of war in the Nigerian society.

The Theme of War in Isidore Okpewho The Last Duty and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Half Of A Yellow Sun



1.1    Background to the Study

The federation of Nigeria, as it is known today, has never really been one homogeneous country, for its widely differing people and tribes. This obvious facts notwithstanding, enforced the former colonial master, who decided to keep the country one in order to effectively control her vital resources for their economic interest. Thus, for administration convenience, the Northern and Southern Nigeria was amalgamated in 1914.

Thereafter, the only thing this people had in common was the name of their country, since each side had different administrative set-up. This alone was an insufficient basis for true unity. Under normal circumstances, the amalgamation ought to have brought the various people together, and also provide a firm basis for the arduous work of establishing closer cultural, social, religious and linguistic ties, vital for true unity among the people. There was division, hatred, unhealthy rivalry and pronounced disparity in development.

The growth of nationalism in the society, and the subsequent emergence of political parties, were based on ethnic/tribal sentiments rather than national interest and therefore, had no unifying effect on the people against the colonial masters. Rather, it was the people themselves who were the victims of the political struggles which were supposed to be aimed at removing foreign domination.

At independence, Nigeria became a federation and remained one country. Soon afterwards, the battle to consolidate the legacy of political and military dominance of a section of Nigerian over the rest of the federation began with increased intensity. It is this struggle that eventually degenerated into coup, counter coup and a bloody civil war.

The Nigerian Civil War broke out on 6th July, 1967. The war was the culmination of an uneasy peace and instability that had plagued the Nation, from independence in 1960.

This situation had its genesis in the geography, history, culture and demography of Nigeria. The immediate cause of the civil war itself maybe identified as the coup and counter coup of 1966, which altered the political equation and destroyed the fragile trust existing among the major ethnic groups.

From the aforementioned, the research work seeks to expose the effects and negativities of war, as seen in Isidore Okpewoh’s The Last Duty, and Chimanda Ngozi Adichie’s Half of a Yellow Sun.

The work brings to bear the societal disorder, conflict and psychological damage done to the Nigerian citizens (Igbos), during the three-year Nigerian Civil War of 1967.

The Theme of War in Isidore Okpewho The Last Duty and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Half Of A Yellow Sun

1.2    Statement of the Problem:

The Nigerian Civil war, also known as the Nigeria-Biafra War, was a three-year bloody conflict with a death toll numbering more than one million people.

Having commenced seven years after Nigeria gained independence from Britain, the war began with the secession of the southeastern region of the nation on May 30th, 1967, when it declared itself the independent Republic of Biafra. The ensuing battles and well-publicized human suffering prompted international outrage and intervention.

Carved out of the West of Africa by Britain without regard for pre-existing ethnic, cultural and linguistic divisions, Nigeria has often experienced an uncertain peace. Following decades of ethnic tension in colonial Nigeria, political instability reached a critical mass among independent Nigeria’s three dominant ethnic groups: the Hausa-Fulani in the North, Yoruba in the Southwest and Igbo in the Southeast.

On January 15th, 1966, the Igbo launched a coup –d’état under the command of major – General Johnson Thomas Umunnakwe Aguiyi Ironsi, in an attempt to save the country from what Igbo leaders feared would be political disintegration.

Shortly after the successful coup, widespread suspicion of Igbo domination was aroused in the north among the Hausa-Fulani Muslims, many of whom opposed independence from Britain.

Similar suspicion of the Igbo Junta grew in the Yoruba west, prompting a joint Yoruba and Hausa-Fulani countercoup against the Igbo six months later. Counter coup leader General – Yakubu Gowon took punitive measures against the Igbo. Further anger over the murder of prominent Hausa politicians led to the massacre of scattered Igbo populations in Northern Hausa-Fulani regions. This persecution triggered the move by Igbo separatists to form their own nation of Biafra the following year.

Less than two months after Biafra declared its independence, diplomatic efforts to resolve the crises fell apart. On July 6th, 1967, the federal government in Lagos launched a full- scale invasion into Biafra.


1.3    Purpose of the Study:

Generally, this study seeks to portray the theme of war in Isidore Okpewho’s The Last Duty, and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Half of a Yellow Sun. Specifically, the study will:

(1)     examine the Nigeria Civil war of 1967;

(2)     assess the effects of war on the Nigerian society at large;

(3)     examine the causes of war in any society;

(4)     to expose the wicked and deceptive nature of most leaders in the Nigerian Society.

1.4    Objectives of the Study:

          The major objective of this research work includes the following:

(1)     to examine the theme of war, and its imminent effects on the masses;

(2)     to expose the injustices committed against innocent civilians, by highly placed individuals in the society;

(3)     to bring to bear the rivalries that exist among the different ethic groups in the Nigerian society at large;

(4)    to bring to bear the issue of tribalism which has gone  a long mile in posing threats to the spirit of oneness;

(5)     to portray the effects of most decisions taken by political leaders, even at the expense of the masses;

(6)     to vindicate literary icons on their exploits in exposing some of the societal misdemeanors and the presence of dichotomy between the various social strata, especially the widening gab between the Bourgeoisies(rich) and the proletariats(poor) , in their literary adventure

The Theme of War in Isidore Okpewho The Last Duty and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Half Of A Yellow Sun

1.5    Significance of the Study

The research work on The Theme of War as seen vividly in Isidore  Okpewho’s The last Duty, and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Half of a Yellow Sun, brings to sunlight of the Casualties, and the degrading effects of the Nigerian civil War, which took place on 6th July, 1967.

The research work creates awareness to the public of the general effects of war in any modern society, as well as the societal disenfranchisement.

The research work also exposes the ill-policies of administration of the colonial masters.

The work will serve as a reference manual for future researchers on the related topic.

Finally, the work will serve as a didactic piece to advise the political class to desist from formulating obnoxious policies which would trigger off ethnic segments, and animosity among citizens of our dear country Nigeria.

1.6   Research Methodology

This research work is basically a library research, and internet browsing. Information gathered from primary works such as Isidore Okpewho’s The Last Duty, and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Half of a Yellow Sun, constitutes the primary research method, which is used to carry out the work.

1.7   Scope and Limitation of the Study

The scope of the study is restricted to an investigation in the “The Theme of War” in Isidore Okpewho’s The last Duty, and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Half of a yellow sun.

Hence, the limitation of this study lies within the confines of the researcher’s inability to reach out for field documentations to further showcase the evil nature of war in any society.



The Theme of War in Isidore Okpewho The Last Duty and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Half Of A Yellow Sun

2.1    The Nature of War

 War is a state of armed conflict between various societies. It is generally characterized by extreme collective aggression, destruction, and it is usually high in mortality. An absence of war, is usually called “Peace”.

While some scholars view war as a universal and ancestral aspect of human nature, others argue that it is only a result of specific socio-cultural or ecological circumstances.

 In 2003, war resulted in 31,000 deaths, down from 72,000 deaths in 1990. The deadliest war in history, in terms of the cumulative number of deaths since its start, is the Second World War which lasted from 19339-1945, with 60-85 million deaths, followed by the Mongol conquest, which was greater than 41 million deaths.

War usually results in significant deterioration of infrastructures and the ecosystem, a decrease in social spending, famine, large scale emigration from the war zone and often the mistreatment of prisoners of war or civilians.

Another by-product of war, is the prevalence of propaganda by some or all parties in the conflict and increased revenues by weapons manufacturers.

Cicero defines the concept “war” broadly as “a contention by force” (24). Hugo Grotius also asserts that war is the state of contending parties. (15) Considered as such, Thomas Hobbes also notes that war is an attitude, going further to state that: By war, it is meant a state of affairs which may exist even while its operations are not continued. (44)

This simply portrays that even in the absence of operational wars, that war still exist between man and a fellow man, and even animals in the society.

          Denis Diderot also comments that:

            War is a convulsive and violent disease of the body politic. (75)

The definition which is considered to be salient, is one given by Karl von Clausewitz, which according to him:

War is the continuation of politics by others means. (88)

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Each definition has its strengths and weaknesses; for example, the motion that wars only involve states as Von Clausewitz implies a strong political theory that assumes politics can only involve starts, and that war is in some manner or from a reflection of political activity.

According to Webster Advanced Dictionary, War is a state of open and declared hostile armed conflict between states or nations, or a period of such conflict. This captures a particularly political rationalistic account of war and warfare, for instance that war needs to be explicitly declared and to be between states to be a war. We find Rousseau arguing this position:

That war is constituted by a relation between   things, and not between persons, War then is a relation, not between man and man, but between state and state… (The social contract theory)

 An alternative definition of war, is that it is an all-pervasive phenomenon of the universe. Accordingly, battles are mere symptoms of the underlying belligerent nature of the universe; such a description corresponds with a Heraclitean or Hegelian philosophy in which change (physical, social, political, economic, etc.) can only arise out of war or violent conflict.

        Heraclitus describes that:

               War is the father of all things. (47)

Interestingly, Voltaire, the embodiment of the Enlightenment, asserts that:

 Famine, plague and war are the three most famous ingredients of this wretched world­­­— All animals are perpetually at war with each other— Air, earth and water are arenas of destruction. (From pocket philosophical Dictionary 34)

          Alternatively, the Oxford Dictionary expands the definition to include:

any active hostility or struggle between living beings; a conflict between opposing forces or principles.

          This avoids the narrowness of a political rationalist conception by admitting the possibility of metaphorical non-violent clashes between systems of thoughts, such as of religious doctrines or of trading companies. This perhaps indicates a two broad definition, for trade is a certain kind of activity than war, although, trade occurs in war, and trade often motivates war.

2.2    Etymology of War:

The plasticity and history of the English language, also mean that commonly used definitions of war may incorporate and subsume meanings borrowed and derived from other older languages; the relevant root system being Germanic, Latin, Greek and Sanskrit. Such descriptions may linger in oral and literacy depictions of war, for we read of war in poems, stories, anecdotes and histories that may encompass older conceptions of war.

However, etymologically, war’s definition does refer to conceptions of war that has either been imputed to the present definition, and a cursory review of the roots of the word war, provides the philosopher with a glimpse into its conceptual stand point.

Therefore, the English word “war”, is derived from the late old English words “wyrre” and “werre”, which is from old French “werre”, ultimately deriving from the Proto-Germanic “Werzo”, which means “mixture or confusion”.

The word is related to the old Saxon “werran”, old high German “werran”, and German “verwirren”, meaning “to confuse”, “to perplex”, and “to bring into confusion”.

The Theme of War in Isidore Okpewho The Last Duty and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Half Of A Yellow Sun

2.3    Effects of War in West Africa:

The advent of intra-state conflicts in West Africa has brought many of its economies to the brink of collapse, creating humanitarian casualties and concerns. For decades, countries such as Liberia, Sierra Leone, Cote d’ivoir and Guinea Bissau were crippled by conflicts and civil strife in which violence and incessant killings were prevalent.

While violent conflicts are declining in the sub-region, recent insurgences in the Sahel region, affecting the West Africa countries of Mali, Niger, Mauritania and low intensity conflicts surging within notable stable countries such as Ghana, Nigeria and Senegal, sends alarming signals of the possible re-surfacing of internal and regional violent conflicts. Fithen and Vinck assert that:

These conflicts are often hinged on several factors including poverty, human rights violation bad governance and small arms proliferation. (64) For example, the 2012 coup d’état in Mali was reportedly triggered by lack of support from the Traore’s regime to the Malian army to handle the Tuareg rebellion in January 2012, which led to the death of several national soldiers.

 According to Afisi, although conflicts are not always violent, those that have plagued West Africa at community, state and regional levels, have been characterized by violence. (59-66) For decades, countries such as Liberia, Sierra Leone, Cote d’ivoire and Guinea-Bissau, were crippled by conflicts and civil strife. (24)

 More critical to add, is the low intensity conflicts surging within notable stable countries such as the Casamana conflict in Senegal, the intermittent Dagbon chieftaincy crisis in Ghana and the Niger Delta conflict in Nigeria. (11-26)

According to Afolabi: These conflicts have resulted in the destruction of lives and property, the internal displacement of people, a region-wide refuge crisis, poverty and disease, the proliferation of small arms, human and drug trafficking, illegal exploitation of natural resources and banditry.(29)

Ending violent conflicts in West Africa remains one of the main challenges of the sub-region. This is possibly attributed to the sudden shift from inter-state, to intra-state conflicts which characterized most part of the late 1980s, through to the 21st century, posing a new challenge of intra-state peace consolidation and conflict prevention.

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Nevertheless, over the years, states, the ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States), Civil Society groups and international community have taken measures to resolve and end violent conflicts in the sub-region. Examples can be cited of ECOWAS timely response to the violent civil wars that erupted in Liberia and Sierra Leone in 1989 and 1991 respectively, through the deployment of Economic Community Monitoring Group (ECOMOG) (1-7)

Despite these efforts which have achieved some appreciable success, the cradle of peace and stability in the sub-region, remains brittle and the possibility of a resurgence of seemingly ended conflict is very high. Buttressing of the later, is the example of West Africa’s first Republican state Liberia, where the country relapsed into a second civil war in 1999, after ECOWAS cease fire intervention ended the first civil war in 1996.

The Theme of War in Isidore Okpewho The Last Duty and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Half Of A Yellow Sun

Furthermore, the recent Boko Haram insurgency in the northern part of Nigeria, which is hinged upon religion and economic deprivation, also poses security concerns in the sub-region. Since its emergence in 2002, the Boko Haram insurgency has taken many lives, displaced several thousands and destroyed state properties.

Ejibunu also asserts that: Travelling to the south of Nigeria, the prolonged Niger Delta conflict over oil has further compounded the insecurities in West Africa’s most populous nation. (25)

The Niger Delta conflict has led to several kidnapping of expatriates, casualties and the increased use of sophisticated weaponry in the region by militant groups such as the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) thereby, heightening insecurity within the country and across the sub-region.

From the aforementioned, the subject matter of this work showcases the Nigerian Civil war of 1967-1970 and its effects on the society and the citizens at large. It expresses the economic, political and socio-political life as well as its effects on the Nigerian society.

 Achebe observes that: The man who ignores the major social issues of his time will end up being irrelevant like the absurd man in the proverb, who chased after rats when his house is burning. (18) It is on this elements that Isidore Okpewho’s The Last Duty, and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Half of a Yellow Sun reflects the African Society, specifically, Nigeria during the civil war.

Ime Ikiddeh opines that: Every writer and every artist is a historian of his time, the unconscious recorder of the events and incidents as well as the mood of his society. (204)

A social issue as used by Achebe, explores the various activities in our society a large. For instance, African independence was greeted with ceremony and a resurgence of traditional African music and dance tagged “A New Day has dawned”, this and others were the phrase of the day.

The lowering and rising of flags cannot be said to have been devoid of meaning. Upon all the jubilation that accompanied the independence, with hope of peaceful co-existence, good and democratic governance, corruption, embezzlement of funds, mismanagement of public funds, etc. is the order of the day. All these, enumerated and examined on the pages of African literacy text. A typical example is Chinua Achebe’s which addresses the issue of corruption in politics.

The work underscores Okpewho and Adichie’s bone of contention during the Nigerian Civil war in which so many people suffered, some tortured and imprisoned for no just cause, and soldiers and army commanders being ruthless, unscrupulous and dehumanizing.

Their setting is the Nigerian Society; their subject reflects the immediate and remote causes of war and its effects on the innocent citizens.

The legitimacy of Okpewho’s The Last Duty and Adichie’s Half of a Yellow Sun as pieces of African prose is the fact that both author’s works reflects their beliefs in the futility of war as a method of solving political or democratic problems in Nigeria and Africa in general.

The Theme of War in Isidore Okpewho The Last Duty and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Half Of A Yellow Sun

Substantially, one of the greatest problems of most independent African states is instability and the commonest cause is tribal discrimination.

According to Eddie Iroh: The stand which any writer takes on the Nigeria Biafra war is very much influenced by his personal convictions, interest and biases. (56)

This is explored in the works of Okpewho and Adichie. Both authors take the reader into the various sectors of fighting and in the midst of historic operations. They portray an atmosphere where war and its aftermath meant a blockade to the Nigerian society and economy.

The overall impression which emerges from their work is the familiar fact, that which social morality suffers a major dislocation.

In general term, the output of Okpewho’s The Last Duty and Adichie’s Half of a Yellow Sun can be attributed to the fact that social experience is the primary source of literature. More specifically, their work can be attributed to the rich literary harvest to the age-long relationship between literature and war. As such, both author’s works is based on the Nigerian Civil War of 6th July, 1967.

Mr. Harrison

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