By Idongesit INYANG
“Almost all Warsaw is a sea of flames. To set houses afire is the surest way to deprive the insurgents of their hiding places when we crush the uprising. Warsaw will get what it deserves—complete annihilation” …..Heinrich Himmler.
’The city must completely disappear from the surface of the earth and serve only as a transport station for the Wehrmacht. No stone can remain standing. Every building must be razed to its foundation’…SS Chief, Heinrich Himmler, October 17, 1944.
‘Warsaw has to be pacified, that is, razed to the ground’…. Adolf Hitler, 1944 Warsaw!
This city has been in the news in the last few days, albeit for the wrong reasons. My first notice of the name was when I first read about the Warsaw pact some years ago. The Warsaw pact is a defence treaty signed in Warsaw, Poland among the then Soviet Union and seven soviet satellite states of Central and Eastern Europe during the cold war era. The seven countries were Albania (which withdrew in 1968), Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Hungary, Poland, Romania. Formed in 1955, the Warsaw pact was established as a direct balance of power to NATO. The Pact was dissolved in 1991.
My interest in the city was stirred last week when I read a news item on social media about a statement said to have been made by Distinguished Senator Godswill Akpabio during the funeral ceremonies of his great grandmother in-law. He is said to have made this statement: ‘….When they asked Hitler’s Minister for Information how was the war in Poland? He said Warsaw saw war and war saw Warsaw…..’ the curiosity in me jumped at alert and I decided to read up on the history of the city. What I found was both traumatic and depressing. There is so much to learn about the beautiful city of Warsaw. A read up of what this city has experienced brought tears to my eyes.
I cannot really explain the trauma the inhabitants of the city must have experienced or give a detailed history of the city’s path to destruction but there are few things that stood out from the destruction of Warsaw.
Warsaw as a city in Eastern Europe has had a turbulent history. It is the capital and largest city of Poland. Warsaw had the misfortune of being the most damaged city during world war 2. Warsaw faced perhaps the worst siege of all modern history. In fact, it is noted that the invasion and complete annihilation of Warsaw precipitated WWII.
In September 1939, Poland was attacked by Germany from the west and the Soviet Union from the East. World War II broke out and Poland ceased to exist as an independent state.
The Germans, through the authority of the anti-Semitic Chancellor, Adolf Hitler, destroyed about 80-90% of the buildings in Warsaw while an immense part of the cultural heritage was deliberately demolished, burned to the ground or stolen and or taken to Germany.
Under orders from Heinrich Himmler, who was the SS chief, Warsaw was kept under ceaseless barrage by Nazi artillery and air power for sixty-three days and nights.
The Nazis divided Warsaw into a Jewish sector, a Polish sector and a German sector. The Nazi programme of annihilation and ethnic cleansing was systematically carried out starting with Polish Jews and then Jews from other areas shipped into the Warsaw ghetto. The people in Warsaw were removed to camps and the systematic destruction of the city ensued. House by house, street by street, buildings were destroyed.
It was a most horrifying and horrendous experience for the beautiful city. It must be added that the Holocaust, the state sponsored persecution and murder of European Jews by Nazi Germany and its collaborators between 1933 and 1945 is history’s most extreme example of man’s prejudice and discrimination against another man.
Which is why I was completely unnerved and stunned when I read Senator Akpabio’s statement about Warsaw and War. I had waited for this long to say a couple of things because the humanity in me convinced me that he was probably quoted out of context. But after a week or so and without a retraction from him or his media handlers, I must say that I am saddened by the distinguished senator’s war mongering and refrain.
Distinguished Senator Akpabio is one Nigerian that is held in high esteem by people across party lines in the country. After serving meritoriously as the Executive Governor of Akwa Ibom State, it would be safe to say that the distinguished Senator ought to act and function as the voice of reason and peace both in the state and nationally, especially in these troubled political times.
Distinguished Senator Akpabio referenced the Nazi Minister for Information(sic). Does this reference indicate a new-found fascination with the man? Lovers of history and students alike all know the harm and the emotional trauma that P. Joseph Goebbels unleashed on the world through his anti-Semitic actions and rhetoric.
I have noticed that distinguished Senator quotes copiously from history’s men of character and deed. I do know too that there are inspiring quotes on political strategy, politics, elections and human psychology that the distinguished senator can easily access. But he decided to use Goebbels’ quote on the destruction of Warsaw. Was it premeditated?
This reference to war as a vehicle for political ascendancy is rather reckless and out of character for a man of the status and standing of the Distinguished Senator. It is a call for a descend to barbarism and politics of vendetta.
Politics is not war. The use of war terminologies is anathema to the concept and ideals of politics. Politics is basically the process of gaining organized control over a human community. It involves the use of the tools of negotiation, mobilization, persuasion, managing disagreement, marketing political ideals etc to access political power and use it for the good of society. For the concern of politics is the good of society. Politics is the process through which political power is attained, not for its selfish purpose, but for the utility of the rule of law to achieve the common good that satisfy the needs and aspirations of all the people of the society.
Societies aspire to noble ideals. Aspirations for quality standard of living through the provision of quality infrastructure for the members of the society forms the backbone of the need for political power. At the end of the day, the entirety of politics is about how to attain the good society.
So how do you attain the good society when you wage war against the members of the society? How do you optimize the potentialities of the society when you annihilate the people just to attain political power? Political power attained through war and or coercion can never be for the good of society. It can only serve the selfish interest of the promoters and perpetrators of such sinister motives. The question to ask is, is Distinguished Senator Akpabio in that league?
Akwa Ibom state is not at war. Akwa Ibom should not be used as the guinea pig for any experimental political warfare. We are a peace-loving people, very accommodating and industrious. We are not known for war.
My father experienced the Nigerian civil war. The gory details of destruction and killings he paints of the war makes me tremble at the prospect of a repeat in our dear Akwa Ibom state. I do not have any place to ferry my aged parents to in the event of an escalation of crisis in the state. That is why I am speaking out against war or any form of destruction as we approach the general elections.
I have always argued that political parties are just vehicles through which ideologies are propagated and marketed to the people. Elections become the avenue to test the strength and desirability of those ideologies in a representative democratic society. When an ideology resonates with the ideals and values and aspirations and expectations of a society, the society will naturally align with that ideology and the political party that champions that ideology will naturally attain political power.
We are first a people before we are members of political parties. Political parties should not make us turn the sword on each other.
What happened in Warsaw during the Nazi occupation should never be allowed to find expression in Akwa Ibom state. To even use it as a political reference is distasteful and shows a lack of class. It would be quite unfortunate for Distinguished Senator Akpabio to allow himself to be used as the present day Joseph Goebbels by the APC federal government.
Akwa Ibom state has been fair to Distinguished Senator Godswill Akpabio. Akwa Ibom state is where Senator Akpabio calls home. If he has intentioned or is being prodded to turn the state into a theatre of war and destruction, it would be most unfortunate and history will reserve its harshest chapters in his memory.