Tuesday, September 16, 2014

USA Africa Dialogue Series - Fwd: {Yan Arewa} 850 Soldiers Escape Boko Haram Ambush [Nigerian Anti-Terrorism War]


---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Ibrahim Sanyi-Sanyi aim.ssanyi@gmail.com [YanArewa] <YanArewa@yahoogroups.com>
Date: Tue, Sep 16, 2014 at 12:37 PM
Subject: {Yan Arewa} 850 Soldiers Escape Boko Haram Ambush
To: YanArewa@yahoogroups.com


 

http://www.theparadigmng.com/?p=22562#

850 Soldiers Escape Boko Haram Ambush

About 850 soldiers shortlisted for a counter-terrorism course at the Nigerian Army Training Centre in Kontagora, Niger State narrowly escaped death when they were ambushed by suspected members of the outlawed Boko Haram islamist sect.

Four of them were however seriously injured in the incident which took place at a location between Okene and Lokoja, Kogi State on Sunday night.

A security source said on Monday that the soldiers were men of the 322 Artillery Battalion, and the Fourth Brigade Garrison, Ekeunwa, Benin in Edo State.

The Punch   learnt that the 850 soldiers were expected to give fillip to the ongoing counter-terrorism operation in Borno and Adamawa states on completion of the counter- insurgency course.

Our source said   there were suspicions that the attackers were insurgents because of the intensity of the gunfire directed at the vans conveying the soldiers from both sides of the road.

He added that the soldiers, who shot their way through the ambush,   passed the night at the Nigeria Army formation in Lokoja.

The four injured soldiers, according to him,   were taken to a military facility in Lokoja while   the commanders of the troops addressed the others on Monday morning.

The source said,   "There was an attack on soldiers along the Okene-Lokoja Road on Sunday night. Four of the soldiers were seriously wounded in the attack though all of them are still alive and are receiving treatment at Lokoja.

"The soldiers were on their way for a course at Kontagora, where they are expected to be deployed in the North-East for the war against the insurgents.

"The soldiers were pulled out from two military formations in Benin–the 322 Artillery Battalion and the Fourth Brigade Garrison in   Ekeunwan, Benin.


"It was not long that the soldiers returned from a peacekeeping operation in Sudan; they were members of the NIBBATT 41 that returned to the country about two months ago.

"The soldiers were taken unawares as the attackers operated from both sides of the road and got four of the soldiers seriously wounded.

"However, they returned the fire and passed through to Lokoja where they were addressed   the following morning. I believe as I talk to you that they must have left for Kotangora to participate in the planned course."

The   source said that there were feelings that somebody might have given out information on the movement of the troops from Benin to Kontagora.

Efforts to get the comment of the Director of Defence Information, Maj. Gen. Chris Olukolade, on the latest ambush were futile as the calls to his mobile telephone indicated that it was switched off.

It will be recalled that about 190 Nigerian troops were ambushed by militants a few kilometres from Okene on January 19, 2013.

The militants were said to have cut through the convoy of Mali-bound Nigerian Army peacekeepers travelling in three luxury buses via Kaduna to Bamako, Mali.

They first hit the convoy with   Improvised Explosive Devices planted on the highway before firing on the troops afterwards. Two soldiers were killed and several others injured during the attack.

A few days after the incident, a group, Jama'atu Ansarul Muslimina Fi Biladis-Sudan, claimed that it carried out the attack. The group is a break-away faction of   Boko Haram.

Punch

As I see it.

Ibrahim Sanyi-Sanyi
http://www.buhari2015supportgroup.org

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Posted by: Ibrahim Sanyi-Sanyi <aim.ssanyi@gmail.com>
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Monday, September 15, 2014

Re: USA Africa Dialogue Series - Tribute: General Benjamin Adekunle

"A no nonsense warrior of his time. A man of great honor to the Black race."---PROFESSOR Segun Ogungbemi, 15 September 2014.

Yes, indeed! What better way to honor the Black race than genocide, including shooting at the corpses of dead children and women and proudly admitting it? As long as it's my co-ethnic who did it, it's o.k..

On Mon, Sep 15, 2014 at 7:40 PM, Segun Ogungbemi <seguno2013@gmail.com> wrote:

Benjamin Adesanya Maja Adekunle, a hero, a man who loved his country and gave his life for unity and peace of Nigeria. The "Black Scorpion" as he was popularly called who put smiles on our faces at the end of the civil war. A no nonsense warrior of his time. A man of great honor to the Black race. 
A man who stood to challenge racists because he believed in equality of all races because all human beings are created equal by God.
The country owes him a great honor and it should be given to immortalize him. 
May his soul rest in perfect peace as he has joined his ancestors and may the family and friends receive the most generous hands of comfort from the ancestors and that Olodumare  grants them the fortitude to bear the irreparable loss of this great hero. Aase. 

Segun Ogungbemi Ph.D
Professor of Philosophy
Adekunle Ajasin University
Akungba-Akoko, Ondo State
Nigeria
Cellphone: 08033041371
                   08024670952

On Sep 16, 2014, at 3:15 AM, Mail Delivery Subsystem <mailer-daemon@google.com> wrote:


Benjamin Adesanya Maja Adekunle, a hero, a man who loved his country and gave his life for unity and peace of Nigeria. The "Black Scorpion" as he was popularly called who put smiles on our faces at the end of the civil war. A no nonsense warrior of his time.
A man who stood to challenge racists because he believed in equality of all races because all human beings are created equal by God.

The country owes him a great honor and it should be given to immortalize him.
May his soul rest in perfect peace as he has joined his ancestors and may the family and friends receive the most generous hands of comfort from the ancestors and that Olodumare  grants them the fortitude to bear the irreparable loss of this great hero. Aase.

Segun Ogungbemi Ph.D
Professor of Philosophy
Adekunle Ajasin University
Akungba-Akoko, Ondo State
Nigeria

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Okey Iheduru, PhD
You can access some of my papers on the Social Science Research Network (SSRN) at: http://ssrn.com/author=2131462.

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RE: USA Africa Dialogue Series - FROM THE ARCHIVES: My Personal Recollections of the Nigeria-Biafra Civil War, by Benjamin Adekunle

Dear Prof.,
                  Greetings and permit me to raise a query about your personal experience which you narrated :

As a writer for WEST AFRICA Magazine of London (affiliated at the time with DAILY TIMES, SUNDAY TIMES & LAGOS WEEKEND newspapers in Lagos), I was returning from the Chijioke and Nebolisa families in Onitsha the very month Biafra was declared as an independent Republic or entity. At the Nigeria end of the Niger Bridge, all travelers from the then Eastern Region had to be searched. Anybody, who looked like an Igbo was in trouble! A Nigerian soldier, with very small tribal marks on both sides of his mouth, looked sternly at me and shouted, "Na Igbo..."

 

Before I could explain, "No, I am from Ghana," a bayonet had been thrust on the side of my hip, and blood was oozing out. Another Nigerian soldier, for good measure, restrained his buddy (the perpetrator), saying "Stop"; I heard another one yelling at the perpetrator, "Tafiri..." I told them I was from Ghana, and showed my passport and press ID. Of course, later on, an apology was rendered from Dodan Barracks for my mistreatment through the Ghana High Commission near Racecourse, Lagos. That was when Sandhurst-educated Shehu Musa Yar'Adua and others were junior, junior officers in the Nigerian Army!



I was a small boy (non-Igbo Midwesterner) in May 1967 when Biafra was declared, but was old enough to see the atrocities on both sides at Agbor and Benin City under Biafran occupation of Midwest State and Federal liberation of Midwest. 
I raise this query because the Midwestern end of Niger Bridge is Asaba, an Igbo town. The town was under the Midwest Area Command of the Nigerian Army which was under the command of Lt. Col. Conrad Nwawo (an Igbo) and the officer corp of the command was dominated by the same Midwest Igbo (only three of the thirteen officers from Captain to Lieutenant Colonel were non-Igbo). The Midwest Area Command was made up of only Midwesterners without Yoruba and Northern Soldiers ("with very small tribal marks on both sides of his mouth). With due respect sir, i find it difficult to understand how an army under command of Igbo officers in an Igbo town (Asaba) will be hunting down Igbo people and violate your person on the suspicion that you are Igbo.

Maybe if your experience at Niger Bridge had happened around October to December 1967 after the liberation of Midwest and the Federal push to Onitsha, it would not created any difficulties for me. You may need to recheck the date of this incident sir to clear this issue. 
Uyilawa 


From: aassenso@indiana.edu
To: usaafricadialogue@googlegroups.com
CC: anthonyakinola@yahoo.co.uk; osafoaku@indiana.edu; uosili@iupui.edu; szalanga7994@msn.com; KwabbyG@aol.com; mannan20@hotmail.com; hwahab@indiana.edu; ovaughan@bowdoin.edu; ericobek@yahoo.com
Subject: RE: USA Africa Dialogue Series - FROM THE ARCHIVES: My Personal Recollections of the Nigeria-Biafra Civil War, by Benjamin Adekunle
Date: Mon, 15 Sep 2014 08:16:37 +0000

Brothers and Sisters:
 
Do I have to be a Nigerian to add my nimble voice to these very interesting discussions about the passing of Brigadier Adekunle ("Black Scorpion")?
 
As a writer for WEST AFRICA Magazine of London (affiliated at the time with DAILY TIMES, SUNDAY TIMES & LAGOS WEEKEND newspapers in Lagos), I was returning from the Chijioke and Nebolisa families in Onitsha the very month Biafra was declared as an independent Republic or entity. At the Nigeria end of the Niger Bridge, all travelers from the then Eastern Region had to be searched. Anybody, who looked like an Igbo was in trouble! A Nigerian soldier, with very small tribal marks on both sides of his mouth, looked sternly at me and shouted, "Na Igbo..."
 
Before I could explain, "No, I am from Ghana," a bayonet had been thrust on the side of my hip, and blood was oozing out. Another Nigerian soldier, for good measure, restrained his buddy (the perpetrator), saying "Stop"; I heard another one yelling at the perpetrator, "Tafiri..." I told them I was from Ghana, and showed my passport and press ID. Of course, later on, an apology was rendered from Dodan Barracks for my mistreatment through the Ghana High Commission near Racecourse, Lagos. That was when Sandhurst-educated Shehu Musa Yar'Adua and others were junior, junior officers in the Nigerian Army!
 
I narrated the foregoing episode simply to say that Brigadier Adekunle (or "Black Scorpion") was neither a Nigerian Army unit commander at the time nor near the Niger Bridge scene, where many of us (who looked like Igbos) were stripped, searched, whipped and maimed, with some males and females even taken away in jeeps to their doom! Simply put, the main purpose of the Nigeria-Biafra war was to unite a great nation, with the Federal Government's clarion statement: "To Keep Nigeria one is a task that must be done". Yet, atrocities were committed by low and high officers of the Army.
 
Baba Ijebu, my landlord, who praised Brigadier Adekunle for helping to decongest the Port (or Wharf) of Apapa 
may have his own "delicious" side of the story to tell about the "Black Scorpion", leave alone his unnecessary brutality on the war front! indeed, Shirley, the British mournful poet, wrote in "Death the Leveller" that death levels everything for us all. Therefore, like Caesar in Shakespeare's "Julius Caesar", so must it be for Brigadier Adekunle, who is probably at perfect peace since his passing on 13th September, 2014. After all, it was in death that it was asked to be inscribed on Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s tomb: "Free at Last, Free at Last, Thank God Almighty I am Free at Last."  
A.B. Assensoh.
  

From: usaafricadialogue@googlegroups.com [usaafricadialogue@googlegroups.com] on behalf of Ibukunolu A Babajide [ibk2005@gmail.com]
Sent: Monday, September 15, 2014 12:16 AM
To: usaafricadialogue@googlegroups.com
Subject: RE: USA Africa Dialogue Series - FROM THE ARCHIVES: My Personal Recollections of the Nigeria-Biafra Civil War, by Benjamin Adekunle

Bad belle !

On 15 Sep 2014 00:14, "Anunoby, Ogugua" <AnunobyO@lincolnu.edu> wrote:

Adekunle was a creature of his era. He should never have been a commissioned officer in a properly regimented army. His role in the Nigeria-Biafra war was not unlike the role of many commanding officers of his time. He did commit what today would be crimes against humanity not only against Biafra but troops under his command too. War could not be an excuse for the evils he visited on many people.

As a military commander, Adekunle was bad in the original sense of the word. He was called “Black Scorpion”. He believed he was. Everyone knows what scorpions do. Remember his solution to the cement blockade of Nigeria’s ports in the early 1970’s?

As military commanders, Adekunle and Muritala Mohammed were cut from the same cloth. Like Mohammed, he was too angry and undisciplined to be a military commander in a fratricidal war. One wishes that he in retirement, was man enough to show some remorse for the needless violence he directed against many people on both sides of the war.

He came across as a very lonesome, pitiable,  and unhappy man in the last press interview of his that I read. He had a bunch of complaints and seemed to me to be in a state of extreme disaffectation.

There are lessons to be learned from his life by many who enjoy power in Nigeria today. May he have the forgiveness of many he hurt. May whoever rules on the other side of our firmament grant him peace. He may not deserve it but he needs it.

 

oa  

 

From: usaafricadialogue@googlegroups.com [mailto:usaafricadialogue@googlegroups.com]
Sent: Sunday, September 14, 2014 8:49 AM
To: usaafricadialogue@googlegroups.com
Subject: Re: USA Africa Dialogue Series - FROM THE ARCHIVES: My Personal Recollections of the Nigeria-Biafra Civil War, by Benjamin Adekunle

 

Thanks for sharing, Bolaji. Obviously not only are our leaders corrupt and dishonest, they are allergic to the facts of history. If the civil war had happened this century, Mr. Adekunle would have been hauled before an international war tribunal for crimes against humanity, he was a monster. A deadly one. I do not believe in heaven and hell but if there is hell, it would please me greatly if he ended up in the hottest part of hell. Worthless thug.

 

On a really sad note, by the way, Joe Sample of the Crusaders stopped playing music. Now, that is an immeasurable loss. God is mean, Allah!


- Ikhide


On Sep 14, 2014, at 6:42 AM, Mobolaji Aluko <alukome@gmail.com> wrote:

 

 

My People:

 

Benjamin Adesanya Maja Adekunle, alias "Black Scorpion," born Friday, 26th June 1936, died Saturday, 13th September 2014.

 

Maja?   He has stopped fighting for ever... Ko ja mo!

 

RIP....

 

 

Bolaji Aluko

 

_________________________________________________________________

 

 

 

 

 

<image.jpeg>

 

<image.jpeg>

 

________________________________________________________

 

 

War hero Benjamin Adekunle dies at 78

*He’s one of the most celebrated military commanders of his generation, says Jonathan
*He can’t be forgotten in a hurry -Obasanjo
*He’s a soldier’s soldier -Tinubu

One of the country’s most accomplished strategists and celebrated hero of the Nigerian Civil War, Brigadier General Benjamin Maja Adekunle died yesterday in the course of a protracted illness.

The Black Scorpion, as he was affectionately called in recognition of his war exploits, was aged 78.

News of his passing away was broken by his widow, Folake, in a text message yesterday.

She wrote: “This is Folake Adekunle, GEB Adekunle’s wife. I just want to inform u that GEN Adekunle died this morning.”

As news of his demise spread, prominent Nigerians including his colleagues in the army began paying tribute to his memory.

President Goodluck Jonathan called him one of the most celebrated military commanders of his generation while former President Olusegun Obasanjo said his contribution during the civil war would not be forgotten in a hurry.

For APC leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, he is a generalissimo and one of the most remarkable icons of Nigeria’s military history.

Senate President David Mark, a retired soldier described him as one man who fought vehemently to keep the nation untied.

The President said Adekunle achieved national fame during the Nigerian civil war for his gallant leadership of the 3rd Marine Commandoes in the successful effort to defend the unity and territorial integrity of the country.

His  war heroics, President Jonathan added, made him easily one of the most celebrated military commanders of his generation,  and have ensured that he will always be honoured and remembered as a valiant soldier who served his fatherland  exceptionally well at a very trying time in its history.

He  enjoins the Adekunle  family, friends, former military colleagues and all who mourn his passing to also give thanks to God for blessing the nation with fearless soldiers and patriots of his calibre who stand ready to lay down their lives for the peace, unity and progress of their country.

President Jonathan prayed that God Almighty might   comfort the grieving family and associates.

Chief Obasanjo who was Adekunle’s contemporary in the army said he was shocked by the development.

Adekunle’s exit, according to him, will leave a vacuum very difficult to fill.

Obasanjo   described the deceased  as a “friend, colleague and course mate,”  adding that his contribution during the Civil War was no mean effort, which would also be remembered for long a time.

He recalled that both of them trained together as young soldiers in Ghana.

Obasanjo succeeded Adekunle at the 3rd Marine Commandoes during the war.

Tinubu in a statement entitled ‘General Benjamin Adekunle: The Generalissimo has fallen’, said he was saddened by his demise.

His words: “The Civil War Hero was a Soldier’s Soldier. He was a man of valour and unimaginable bravery. Lion-hearted and a leader of men. He served his Fatherland devotedly and without question when we most needed him.

“Like most great men, he was greatly misunderstood. His flamboyant and outspoken nature made him a colourful character. However, that never stopped him from emerging as one of the most remarkable icons in Nigeria’s military history.

“The “Black Scorpion” was a man of uncommon intelligence and fierce determination. On the battle field, he had no equal. He represented the best generation of our military personnel. The ones who refused to back down from any enemy; who put their very existence on the line for our continued coexistence.

“Of all of Gen. Adekunle’s qualities, it is his loyalty to the flag that I most admire. He was a worthy ambassador of his people and a great example in service. He led from the front.

“Let it be said of Gen. Adekunle: ‘Here is a man who gave his country the best of his life.’ May his warrior soul find rest. And I pray his wife family find the fortitude to bare the irreparable loss.”

Senate President David Mark said Adekunle was a success in all ramifications of his military career.

Mark, who retired from the army as brigadier-general like Adekunle recalled the role late Adekunle played during the Civil war, saying: “He led the Third Marine Commando Division with such great panache and determination and precision.

“He was a father, a brother, a substantive army General and a patriotic Nigerian. We are pained at the news of his death.”

“Even in death, Nigerians will forever be grateful for the services Late Adekunle rendered for the nation’s unity,” Mark noted.

He asked the Federal Government and the Oyo State Government to immortalize the late General as a morale booster to our service men who are placed in harm’s way for us to have a peaceful nation.

It was all quiet at his Eric Moore Close, Surulere, Lagos residence yesterday after news of his death broke.

When The Nation got to the modest bungalow, the few relatives gathered there said the widow was not in the right frame of mind to speak to journalists. “Yes, she is inside but she cannot attend to you now. Please bear with us, she is being attended to by her people,” they said.

When, The Nation put a call across to Mrs. Folake Adekunle on her mobile phone, she simply said: “it happened this morning (Saturday). He is dead. He died this morning. Sorry I cannot say more. I am still too shocked to say anything. Thank you.”

A male relative who said the family would meet soon on the burial arrangement.

“The incident just happened. As you can see, not many people are aware yet. There are things we need to do first as a family. Those are the things we are doing now. We will talk to the press. Somebody will talk to the press but not now,” he explained.

General Adekunle had been ill for some time now.

His condition degenerated so much mid last year that his son, Biodun ,had to go public  for government and the army to come to his aid.

He was born on June 26, 1936 in Kaduna to an Ogbomoso father and a Bachama (in Adamawa State) mother. He joined the army in 1957. He served as Aide-de-camp to former Governor of the old Eastern Region, Dr. Akanu Ibiam.

He was pioneer Commander of the 3rd Marine Commando during the war and was compulsorily retired from the army in 1974.

_____________________________________________________

 

I was his shoe shine boy -Uduaghan

Posted by: our reporter in News 9 hours ago

Delta State Governor, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, has disclosed that he was the late war hero’s shoe shine boy  in Sapele during the Nigerian Civil War.

The governor had in an interview in 2012 told an online publication, www.todaysnigeria.com: “My father was Chief Edmund Dudu Uduaghan. He died some years back. He was a policeman for several years. He retired as Inspector after 33 years in the Police Force and became a chief of the Warri kingdom.

“I remember an incident during the Nigerian Civil War when the Biafran soldiers occupied part of Midwest. All the policemen sent their families home. Because when the Biafran soldiers come, the first place they capture is the police station. They were there for some weeks until the federal soldiers came to liberate Sapele. Since the whole family had gone to the village, I was the only one living with him in the barracks.

“Opposite where we were staying was the Inspectors’ House which Brigadier-Gen. Benjamin Adekunle took over and was staying there. For the few days he stayed there, he would bring his boots out and I would go and pick it and clean it and shine it, because he said he loved the way I used to shine my father’s shoes.”

 

______________________________________________

 

My personal recollections of the war, by Benjamin Adekunle

Posted by: Benjamin Adekunle in FeaturedNews 9 hours ago

I was born in Kaduna on the 26th of June I936, the fifth in a line of six children born by Amina Theodora to a polygamous husband, Thomas Adekunle. My father, a native of Ogbomoso, was domiciled in Kaduna as early as 1908. He had met my mother in her hometown Numan, during one of his sojourns to the Adamawa Province and married her in 1919. She was a member of the Bachama Tribe, an ethnic group noted for their fighting abilities. As one of the earliest converts to Christianity in her area, my mother was a staunch Christian. She succeeded in converting my father Thomas to Christianity in the course of their courtship and we were raised as Anglicans.

According to the legend repeatedly narrated to me by elderly female relations during my childhood, the circumstances surrounding my early entry into the world were somewhat portentous. They said I overstayed my time in my mother’s womb by two months. Moreover, I am reported to have vacated this comfortable abode only after a series of local birth attendants had exhausted their entire repertoire of childbirth skills. These tales meant little to me at the time, but their chief significance was the special attention it secured for me from my family, particularly from my mother.

Both my father and grandfather served in the colonial army. My father later entered the carpentry trade where he made a sufficiently good living to fend for his large family of two wives (he later married a second wife, Christianity non-withstanding), a dozen children and numerous relatives. We all lived in the sprawling house that he built in the Kaduna Township.

By 1945, at age nine, I had enough of both school and my unsatisfactory home life. The death of my father in this year strengthened my resolve to take matters into my own hands. I resolved to leave home and look for someone to serve, in exchange for educational support. On the chosen night, I gathered my few belongings and ran away from my brother’s home. After several days on the streets, I found my way to one Reverend Ayiogu whom I persuaded to employ me as a domestic servant at the rate of one Shilling and six pence a month. With the assistance of the police, my elder brother soon traced me to my new living quarters. However, all entreaties, commands, cajolery and threats directed at me by the police officers, relations, and the Reverend to return with my brother fell on deaf ears; with Reverend Ayiogu I would remain or vanish again.

From this period, the influences to which I was exposed were more stabilizing. The Reverend proved to be a decent man and I lived with him for two years. By 1947, I came under the protection of a new Master. Under his guidance, I earned a scholarship to Dekina Primary School in Kwara State. My new Master was an extraordinary man though unimposing in appearance. In all the years I spent in the home of Mr. Quinni, a native of Ugep and employee of the Igala Native Authority, he never once raised his voice in anger. He was scrupulously just in his dealings with all persons around him. He was gifted with a formidable intellect, which was brought to bear in every situation. I was fascinated by his ability to win any argument by rigorous analysis. By the time he reached his conclusion, the parties present had little option but to agree, regardless of their own initial positions or whether his conclusion, conflicted with their own interests. It was for this reason that his polygamous home was calm, stable, and peaceful. Mr. Quinni taught me the strength in meekness, the honour in humility, and the dignity in labor. If I have not always succeeded in exhibiting these qualities, he blessed me with the ability to appreciate and esteem them in others.

Under his influence, I thrived at my new school (Dekina Primary School) to the extent that my progress caught the attention of the Head Master, Mr. Dokpong. Among my schoolmates at Dekina was the one time Director of the Nigerian Twelve Corps Service, Colonel Ahmadu Ali, who is still a friend. I passed the entrance examination to Okene Middle School in 1951and left Dekina with many happy memories.

After my primary education, my relatives in Idah attempted to reassert their claims over me. According to their plans, I was to stop my schooling and be apprenticed in the family trade of carpentry. Needless to say, I vehemently resisted this plan as my years with Mr. Quinni had the effect of drilling in me, a powerful thirst and respect for western education. My stubbornness on this point served to severe all pretense of supervision over my welfare by my guardians. It was now clear to all that I was on my own. I was given to understand that I should expect no support from them. I steeled my mind to fend for myself, to plough a lonely furrow and take life as it came. Fortunately, for me those were the days of free education.

To Okene Middle School I went. I met other interesting characters such as Mr. Bolujoko whom we had nicknamed ‘the black horse of Okene Rock.’ Though an almost fanatical disciplinarian, Mr. Bolujoko like my former Master, possessed the ability to inspire the best in anyone and nurture the person’s more positive qualities. Despotic though he was, he personified to his students the modernized and educated man. In addition to academic development, Mr. Bolujoko took great interest in the spiritual development of his students.

 

My Military Career

I enlisted in tile Nigerian Army in 1957 immediately after I finished my school certificate examination. The idea of beginning ‘life’ at once, without the suspense and irritating interlude of University strongly appealed to me, a young man without the luxurious backdrop of a solicitous family. Large or small, I had already proved my physical mettle on a thousand occasions; why not I reasoned, fight for a worthy cause – in the service of my fatherland? With the images of the confident giants of 1945 in my head, I departed for Lagos after my final examination and found my way to the Apapa cantonment.

The first hurdle in my chosen career was the stiff entrance examination. At the succeeding interview, numerous white-headed expatriate military officers gave me the grilling of my life. The Nigerian army was then in its infancy and placed every conceivable impediment to dissuade aspirants from making the army a career. These obstacles did not daunt me. We were then made to undergo physical exercises. I found these exercises hilarious. I was given size 12 boots (I take a size 6); and oversized clothing. For a joke, I put them on and appeared at the venue to the vast amusement of the other boys. Notwithstanding my deficiency in size, the Army accepted me.

Reflecting on Africa’s propensity for coups in the post-independence era, I sometimes felt that it could be traced to some extent, to the feelings of indispensability that was nurtured in cadets at this stage of our training. Time without number, the importance of our roles in shaping the future of our nations was impressed on the minds of young military officers. This was not done with any sinister motive, but certainly, the orientation we were given was capable of sowing seeds of the ‘messiah complex’ in some of the cadets that passed through the institution. Also of some significance I believe, were subconscious feelings of competitiveness among the officers. If former course mates could successfully execute a coup in their countries, who wanted to be caught lagging? On January 15, 1966, Nzeogwu implemented his coup. In my opinion, there was a domino effect on the rest of Africa following the one in Nigeria.

The day of reckoning, which separated the boys from the men soon arrived. Though I had immersed myself in the world of the institution and had given my all, I was as nervous as hell. I had never before failed any task I set out to achieve, but there was no telling what the results of this selection board would be. The waiting period was a period of severe anxiety for me. To my profound relief, I passed this selection and the board recommended me for Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst, England (RMAS). We (the successful cadets) went wild with joy. For the rest of our stay at Teshie, we conducted ourselves with licentiousness that would have been unthinkable only a few weeks before.

 

Britain

Prior to Sandhurst, cadets were sent to Mons Officer Cadet School in the UK for a period of three months. The objective of the Mons training was to separate cadets for either a long or a short training course. The older cadets were sent on the short course, while the younger or more able cadets were sent to Sandhurst. The Mons training was to be my first experience outside my native country and nothing in my interactions with expatriates in Africa prepared me for the culture shock I experienced in those first few months in Britain.

The first shock was the freezing cold. However, this was a condition that I could and did adapt to. What was harder to adapt to was the overt and covert racism that infected the entire British society. There are several facets of racism: first, the conviction that blacks were innately inferior to whites and secondly, an intolerance for blacks who failed to conform to a restricted number of stereotypes. From my observations, there were two acceptable ‘African Types’; the ‘funny’ African who grinned incessantly and was incapable of taking offense and secondly, the ‘ignorant’ African, who understood nothing, appreciated his own ignorance, and was profoundly grateful for whatever attention was bestowed on him by the all knowing Whites.

The examination period arrived and again, I was filled with anxiety about my chances of success given the sour relationship between the instructors and myself. Other Nigerian officers who were contemporaries at Mons were Chukuka, Idiaja, Nnadi, Obasanjo and Adegoke. Once again, my fears promise to be unfounded. I passed the Mons examination and was confirmed for Sandhurst in January of 1959.

I considered my selection for the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst to be an honour and a privilege. To my mind, Sandhurst was the best military institution in the World. Not all the Mons graduates were so privileged – for example, while Adegoke, Idiaja, and Chakuka and I was selected, Obasanjo was not. He finished at Mons and returned home.

In later years, I attributed some of the actions of my former course mates in the national arena, especially with regard to their colleagues, to the need to assuage feelings of inferiority which many have sprung from having been publicly adjudged and labeled inadequate in the midst of their cohorts.

I was at Sandhurst for two years (1959 and 1961) and registered for the course with three hundred odd cadets. In addition to the physical training, officers where imbued with a thorough academic grounding in the art of warfare. The ultimate purpose of our training was to produce not the stereotype officer, but the dynamic officer. Character development was an integral part of the course and this was brought home to me in the first week.

Before I left Sandhurst, our College Commander invited me for an interview. He examined me closely about my ‘unorthodox’ political positions, my views on his institution, and my opinions of the training that I had just completed. In our final report, Sandhurst cadets were required to make a self-assessment of their officer qualities, which was then graded by their instructor. My final report and grade contained some of the two familiar complaints about my ‘attitude’. Since the report had already been written (and passed me, notwithstanding) I felt at liberty to give the Commander an unedited piece of my mind on every subject he raised.

Far from being satisfied with my responses and desirous I think, of modifying my views, he suggested an extension of the ‘interview’ over dinner. We talked far into the night, and I conveyed my amazement that an institution would teach a course which mutilated the pride and self worth of some of the cadets and yet expect no reaction.

On the whole however, I enjoyed the period at Sandburst. The skills I picked up, particularly on the ‘Tactics’ course, (my favorite ), were to prove invaluable to me in later life.

My encounter with British military institutions did not end there. Two further courses were arranged for me in accordance with my selection. The first was at the School of Infantry at Warminster, and the second was at the School of the Tactical Wing. And so ended my military training in Britain.

My first unit was the first Queen’s Own Nigerian Regiment based in Enugu. At this time, a good number of the senior officers were British, though there was a sprinkling of Nigerian officers and one Cameroonian, (Captain Malinga), whose awe of the British officers was a source of constant amusement.

Regimental life lived entirely up to my expectations. I was appointed the platoon commander of ‘C’ Company under the command of then Major Ogundipe. My main duty was to assist in training the troops. They were a mixed breed but those of Bachama extraction, (my mother’s ethnic group), impressed me more than the others. There were quite a number of them in my platoon.

After a few months, we were posted to thc Republic of the Congo en masse, under the auspices of the United Nations, to quell the growing unrest there. The antecedents of the political turmoil in the Republic of Congo as is in much of Africa, could be traced to its colonial period. Congo was a colony of Belgium and its capital Leopoldville (now Kinshasa) was named after Leopold II of Belgium. The Congo was rich with precious minerals such as diamonds. Uranium was abundant in the Congo-in fact, the first atomic weapons were developed with uranium from the Congo.

The burning crisis for which troops were posted to the Congo involved the power struggles between the old colonial powers, Congolese nationalists and later, Congolese stooges of the Colonial powers. Municipal elections had already taken place in 1957; nationalists organized pre-independence elections after serious agitation in January 1959. Patrice Lumumba’s Congolese National Movement emerged as the winner of the May 1960 elections. Lumumba became Prime Minister and on June 30, 1960 the Independent Republic of Congo was proclaimed. Violence within the Congo intensified soon after independence, and the political situation was complicated by the attempted secession of the mineral- rich province of Katanga in July. The Katangan Premier was funded and supported by Belgium. Lumumba invited the United Nations into the conflict and the UN demanded the withdrawal of Belgian forces from the country. Peacekeeping forces were then sent into the Congo with a mandate to restore order to the Congo and the Katangan province. Patrice Lumumba was murdered in the subsequent violence (January 1961) and UN peacekeepers were mandated to use force to prevent civil war. In spite of the spirited efforts of the UN Secretarial-General, Hammarskjold (who lost his life in a suspicious plane crash during one his Congo peace trips), the violence continued unabated. Mobuto Sese Seko, then the head of the army, foisted himself on the country as President in November 1965, according to him, for a 5-year term in October 1966. He formally dismissed the Parliament and the new Prime Minister and established a Presidential form of government. The ‘five year term’ ran over three decades.

Congo was a profoundly beautiful country though completely underdeveloped in physical terms. We were stationed in Leopoldville. Our first assignment was to fish out the murderers of about 15 Nigerians, who had been mutilated after their murder. It was hard going in that environment with very few roads, non-existent telecommunications system, and a perplexing language. With some hard work and the assistance of our intelligence system, the perpetrators were identified, tracked down and appropriately punished.

The language barrier precluded extensive interactions with the Congolese people, but my overriding impression of their lives, was of intense suffering. The amenities of life- electricity, clean water, roads, hospitals, etc- were in very scarce supply and the level of hunger, disease, immorality, physical insecurity and crime in the society as a whole was pitiful. As far as I was concerned, Nigerians were incomparably better off. I was also struck by the rigidity of the informal ‘apartheid’ system prevalent in Congo: after my experiences in the U.K, I had grown to be somewhat hypersensitive and intolerant of all forms of racism. I noticed that unlike Nigeria, the two races were almost completely estranged – not only physically segregated, but with few avenues for interaction, such as sporting or social events, where the differences of skin color were temporarily forgotten.

I watched the naughty bearing of the Congolese expatriates towards the owners of the land and their total subservience. The only relief available to the Congolese from the misery and deprivations they suffered appeared to be drinking, music and dancing. I would watch for hours as the Congolese men and women cast aside their cares and abandoned themselves to ‘Congo music.’

Just as I settled down to learn more about my environment in the Congo, I was bundled home to Enugu to become the first Army officer Aide-de-camp to Sir Francis Akanu Ibiam, the first Governor of the Eastern Region.

Sir Francis Ibiam was a well respected Nigerian politician. An old boy of King’s College and a graduate of the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, he received a knighthood from the Queen in recognition of his accomplishments. He built Abiriba hospital, and served on several hospital boards. He had served on the Nigerian Legislative Council, between 1947 and 1952, on the Executive and Privy Councils between 1949 and 1959 and capped this with his appointment as Governor of Eastern Nigeria from 1960 to 1966. Sir Ibiam also chaired several Church Councils, including the World Council of Churches in 1961.

Within a very short period, it became clear that we had ‘irreconcilable differences.’ The nature of my posting compelled me to spend a lot of time with the governor, and at very close quarters. I was with Dr. Ibiam on formal occasions, I was with him behind the scenes at his home, and I witnessed and contributed to the policy-making processes of the Eastern regional government on a day-to-day basis at the office.

In many ways, Dr. Ibiam was a gentleman. However, there were several difficulties I had will the governor. The first was what I regarded as his religious rigidity. Like many persons I had come across, Dr. Ibiam was passionate almost to the point of fanaticism about matters of external religious observance – church going, prayers before meals etc.

Secondly, the good Doctor’s treatment of his staff caused me to mull over the contradictions between what is preached as opposed to practice. I failed to understand why the Governor seemed unable to appreciate the connection between welfare, morale and productivity. Consequently, the working environment at the Governors office left much to be desired, characterized as it was by surliness, complaints and resentment. Our relationship was not improved by my blunt rejection of his attempts to compel me to conform to his religious practices.

The most serious chasm concerned our professional duties. As the governor of a region, which embraced many different ethnic groups, my boss appeared to have some difficulty in appreciating that he owed each inhabitant of the region an equal obligation. It seemed to me that at every turn of policy- making, he favored members of his own tribal group.

As a Nigerian of multi-ethnic parentage, born and raised outside my region of ‘origin,’ I found these exhibitions of ethnic chauvinism incomprehensible. At that point of my life, as far as I was concerned, a Nigerian was a Nigerian member of one nation with one destiny, and differences of origin were subordinate to the national identity.

I considered this to be an unfortunate disposition for a Governor of a multi-tribal state, and felt it to be my duty to point out the dangers of our discrimination against non-Ibos by the Eastern Government.

As time went on, my objections became less and less courteously expressed, and our discussions, louder and louder. Dr. Ibiam labeled me arrogant, rude as hell and unqualified to advise him politically. Naturally, I had a differing opinion. It got to the point that I was unable to bear the daily offense to my sensibilities. After one particularly unpleasant episode, I was sufficiently incensed to place my career in jeopardy. I left my posting without orders.

I posted myself to Enugu later that year in 1961. Enugu was a town I was very fond of. It was at Enugu that I had met my wife to be, Comfort Akie Wilcox, a police woman, sister of Chief Harold Dappa Biriye, and the daughter of Chief Roland Dappa Wilcox, a Bonny Chief from one of the riverrine tribes of Eastern Nigeria. I used the opportunity of my stay in Enugu to perfect my Ibo speaking skill. As a boy, I had picked up Ibo from my neighbors in Idah. From Enugu, I went to Port Harcourt on a month’s extended leave. To my amusement, I was informed that the police was seeking me on the basis of certain allegations made against me by the Governor’s wife. I immediately reported myself to the police where the issue was clarified. Meanwhile, the Governor, as he was perfectly justified in doing, had fired off a smoking hot letter of complaint about my abandonment of post and disrespectful conduct in general. After a month in Port Harcourt, I reported to the Army Headquarters in Lagos to make my defense to (then) Lt. Colonel Gowon, the General Staff Officer (Grade 1), and it was to him I made my case. This act of insubordination was to delay my promotion by over a year – at the time I felt it was a fair price to pay for my peace of mind and liberation from an intolerable duty.

I later discovered that my situation was not altogether unique; other Aide-De Camps attached to high ranking politicians experienced similarly poor relation with their bosses. ( Then) Second Lieutenant Obienu who had been attached to the Governor-General Azikiwe had lasted only 3 weeks before he terminated his posting in an equally unconventional fashion.

 

India

After my Captain to Major promotion examination, I was nominated for the State College in Wellington, India for a period of nine months in 1964. My exultation at being so distinguished by my superiors was tempered by recollections of my previous overseas experience. Yes, it was an honour to be offered the opportunity of a staff course, but who had the stomach for more condescension from the British officers who would be supervising training?

My wife Comfort dismissed my concerns, insisting that the benefits to be gained by taking the course far outweighed the brief period of discomfort I would face. My reluctance evaporated, and I went, leaving her in Zaria expectant with our first child.

Major Ifeajuna and I were in the second group to be sent to India. The first batch had included Nzeogwu and Olutoye. The course enabled officers to rise to Grade III Staff Officer. I knew both officers, but not intimately. It was the first time Ifeajuna and I had been at close quarters. Ifeajuna was a very interesting character, extremely well read and very politically conscious. I also had limited interaction with Nzeogwu, who had preceded us to Wellington. Nzeogwu has since been much vilified for his leading role in Nigeria’s first military coup. However, any officer (or, for that matter, civilian) who knew him could tell you that this man was a pure nationalist who burned within with the love of his country. Like myself, he gave scant regard to the place of origin of his countrymen having been born in Kaduna and raised in an era of nationalistic consciousness. He was sophisticated in his analysis of history and of political events in the country. I never became intimate with these officers as I had little interest in politics. Of greater interest to me, was building up military skills and contributing to national development in a purely military capacity.

At Wellington India, I found another country of breathtaking beauty. The British Colonialists had been kind enough whilst pillaging and plundering India, to leave behind legacies of a more benevolent nature. Wellington was a very lovely city, with spacious and cool buildings, and an abundance of flowers, winding roads and undulating value. The solitude of the Staff College itself was ideal for studies, and nine months of studies really.

My experiences in India confirmed my opinions about the evils of colonialism. The Indians were fortunate in that the British had left legacies that would survive generations yet unborn.

 

Prelude to War

Back in Nigeria, I was posted to the army Headquarters, where I remained until this fateful day of the January 1966 coup. At this juncture, it is worth examining the political situation in Nigeria prior to 1966.

The first four years after independence was nearly of turmoil. One source of instability was the physical imbalance of the regions. A second source were the controversial census results of 1952 and 1962, which were perceived by many Nigerians as an attempt to legitimize the inequitable distribution of political power and other resources. It was on the basis of these census figures, that the northern region gained control of the federal legislature and other federal institutions.

The high hopes that had attended independence had been rudely dashed by the conduct of the political class. While it was taken for granted in developed countries that the basis of elective governments was the will of the people, in Nigeria the by-words for our political leadership were refined tribalism, religious politics, treasury looting, egotism- and to hell with the people!

The spark that led to Nigeria’s first coup was ignited in 1962 when Chief Akintola and the NDP split from Chief Awolowo’s Action Group. Akintola’s alliance with NPC completely destabilized the western region, as the power struggle between him and his erstwhile boss knew no boundaries. With the ill-advised trial and detention of Awolowo for treason by the Tafawa Balewa led government, it was only a matter of time before the region exploded. The elections of December 1964, in which Akintola and his allies ‘won,’ set off this explosion. The widespread rioting in the region, which followed the confirmation of the election results, should have been entirely predictable to a responsible government. However, rather than taking measures to defuse the situation, the Tafawa Balewa-led government escalated the crisis by declaring a state of emergence and flooding the region with troops. Then there were the charges of corruption among the political class- supported by the obscene displays of wealth by some members of the political class. I recoiled at the democracy that was being hatched for Nigeria and this disgust was pervasive.

It is easy to forget that this was the background against which the military intervened. The idealistically led coup of 15th January, 1966 was the brain wave of patriotic officers of the Nigerian army. Major C. K. Nzeogwu explained his motives on January 16 1966:

Though well intended, the effects of this action on the Nigerian military was lamentable. The human losses were also grave, with the northern region suffering more deeply than other regions. The senior military officers killed in the January Coup were Brigadiers Samuel Ademulegun and Zakaria Maimalari. Also targeted and killed were Colonels Kure Mohamed and Ralph Shodeinde, with Lieutenant Colonels Yakubu Paul Arthur Unegbe (an Ibo officer), and Major Samuel Adegoke.

Among the political leadership, not only was the Prime Minister, Tafawa Balewa killed but also the much loved Sardauna of Sokoto, Ahmadu Bello, Premier of the Northern region. S.C Akintola and Okotie-Eboh, leading symbols of the First Republic also perished.

The primary ring leaders of the coup were Majors Nzeogwu, Ademoyega, Ifeajuna, Okafor, Chuk Nwuka, Onwuatuegwu and Obienu. After the initial national euphoria which followed the coup, it was not surprising that the northerners would begin to take a different view of events: the majority of the ring leaders were Ibo in origin, the Northerners had paid the highest price in terms of men and political power, and the entire ‘national’ operation had been executed on their soil. While Nzeogwu had successfully secured his area of operation in Kaduna, Major Ifeajuna and Capt. Nwobosi failed to secure Lagos and Ibadan.

In the midst of the confusion, and the bungled execution by the coupists, the GOC of the Nigerian army, General Aguiyi Ironsi, intervened and outmaneuvered Major C.K Nzeogwu. Luckily for him, Lieutenant Colonel Ojukwu, Commander of the 5th Battalion in Kano, had been able to seize Kano Airport on behalf of the rallying military. Ironsi later appointed him Military Governor of the Eastern region.

With the smell of blood choking our collective nostrils, the remnants of the Balewa government needed little persuasion to hand over the reigns of power to Army Commander-in-Chief, Major-General Ironsi. The new Head of State proceeded quickly to suspend the Constitution, dissolve all legislative bodies, ban political parties, and as an interim measure, formed a Federal Military Government. By January 18, 1966 he had announced the appointment of the Military Governors of all four Regions of the Federation: Lieutenant Colonel C. Odumegwu Ojukwu, East; Lieutenant Colonel F.A Fajuyi West; Lieutenant Colonel D.A. Ejoor, Midwest; Lieutenant Colonel Hassan Katsina, North.

Ironsi made several serious political mis-calculations. His handling of the coupists, who after all, had been mutineers, lacked directness, and betrayed insensitivity to the feelings of northern officers, who now felt vulnerable (and resentful). He also seemed to lack a full appreciation of the importance of taking steps to restore the espirit de corps in the military.

However, it was a difficult situation and I did not envy him one bit. There were skirmishes between Northern troops and their Southern counterparts throughout the country. Some five months after the coup, Ironsi announced his intention to institute a Unitary government- another serious mistake.

Predictably, this was misinterpreted by the northern elite as further proof of an Ibo plot to consolidate their hold on national political power. The abrupt termination of the Ironsi regime by a revolution by the ‘heirs apparent’ to Nigerian power politics should have surprised no one. It was an inevitable end and established later political patterns of Nigeria.

The counter-coup masterminded by the senior northern officers in July 1966 reversed the political pendulum that had swung to the political advantage of the south. It re-established the status quo to domination of political power by the North, which they had held since 1966 and justified through irregular census figures.

The Head of State was abducted in the company of Colonel F.A. Fajuyi, by a group of junior northern officers. (Months later, Major Usman Katsina finally confirmed that his abductors had assassinated him with the Western Governor). Thus began another traumatic period for the military. In Lagos, Kaduna, Ibadan, and Kano and throughout Nigeria (except the eastern region under the command of Lieutenant. Colonel C. Odumegwu Ojukwu), senior Ibo officers were rounded up- often by soldiers under their command and shot.

At the time the power leverage changed hands to the northern group, I was at Enugu. The Commanding Officer being Ibo was relieved of his duties and I was ordered to assume them. The tense atmosphere was not helped by the trigger-happy northern soldiers at Enugu who were hell bent on killing Ibos in their homeland. This I prevented with all the persuasive authority at my disposal. Sanity prevailed, but I had to pay with my blood to appease the bloodhounds that were given a ‘rousing’ welcome by their people on their arrival at Kaduna.

There was a complete blanketing of information to the troops, which generated unprecedented rumor mongering. The chain of command had completely broken down and in thc atmosphere of lawlessness that prevailed at the time, arson, illegal imprisonment, and gross indiscipline by soldiers became the order of the day.

Brigadier Ogundipe, next in order of seniority to Ironsi, had made efforts to assume command of the Army on July 29 1966, during the pivotal moments of the coup. Brigadier Ogundipe attempted to assert his authority within the subsequent violence (January 1961) and UN peacekeepers were mandated to use force to prevent civil war. In spite of the spirited efforts of the UN Secretarial-General, Hammarskjold (who lost his life in a suspicious plane crash during one his Congo peace trips), the violence continued unabated. Mobuto Sese Seko, then the head of the army, foisted himself on the country as President in November 1965, according to him, for a 5-year term in October 1966. He formally dismissed the Parliament and the new Prime Minister and established a Presidential form of government. The ‘five year term’ ran over three decades.

Congo was a profoundly beautiful country though completely underdeveloped in physical terms. We were stationed in Leopoldville. Our first assignment was to fish out the murderers of about 15 Nigerians, who had been mutilated after their murder. It was hard going in that environment with very few roads, non-existent telecommunications system, and a perplexing language. With some hard work and the assistance of our intelligence system, the perpetrators were identified, tracked down and appropriately punished.

The language barrier precluded extensive interactions with the Congolese people, but my overriding impression of their lives, was of intense suffering. The amenities of life- electricity, clean water, roads, hospitals, etc- were in very scarce supply and the level of hunger, disease, immorality, physical insecurity and crime in the society as a whole was pitiful. As far as I was concerned, Nigerians were incomparably better off. I was also struck by the rigidity of the informal ‘apartheid’ system prevalent in Congo: after my experiences in the U.K, I had grown to be somewhat hypersensitive and intolerant of all forms of racism. I noticed that unlike Nigeria, the two races were almost completely estranged – not only physically segregated, but with few avenues for interaction, such as sporting or social events, where the differences of skin color were temporarily forgotten.

I watched the naughty bearing of the Congolese expatriates towards the owners of the land and their total subservience. The only relief available to the Congolese from the misery and deprivations they suffered appeared to be drinking, music and dancing. I would watch for hours as the Congolese men and women cast aside their cares and abandoned themselves to ‘Congo music.’

Just as I settled down to learn more about my environment in the Congo, I was bundled home to Enugu to become the first Army officer Aide-de-camp to Sir Francis Akanu Ibiam, the first Governor of the Eastern Region.

Sir Francis Ibiam was a well respected Nigerian politician. An old boy of King’s College and a graduate of the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, he received a knighthood from the Queen in recognition of his accomplishments. He built Abiriba hospital, and served on several hospital boards. He had served on the Nigerian Legislative Council, between 1947 and 1952, on the Executive and Privy Councils between 1949 and 1959 and capped this with his appointment as Governor of Eastern Nigeria from 1960 to 1966. Sir Ibiam also chaired several Church Councils, including the World Council of Churches in 1961.

Within a very short period, it became clear that we had ‘irreconcilable differences.’ The nature of my posting compelled me to spend a lot of time with the governor, and at very close quarters. I was with Dr. Ibiam on formal occasions, I was with him behind the scenes at his home, and I witnessed and contributed to the policy-making processes of the Eastern regional government on a day-to-day basis at the office.

In many ways, Dr. Ibiam was a gentleman. However, there were several difficulties I had will the governor. The first was what I regarded as his religious rigidity. Like many persons I had come across, Dr. Ibiam was passionate almost to the point of fanaticism about matters of external religious observance – church going, prayers before meals etc.

Secondly, the good Doctor’s treatment of his staff caused me to mull over the contradictions between what is preached as opposed to practice. I failed to understand why the Governor seemed unable to appreciate the connection between welfare, morale and productivity. Consequently, the working environment at the Governors office left much to be desired, characterized as it was by surliness, complaints and resentment. Our relationship was not improved by my blunt rejection of his attempts to compel me to conform to his religious practices.

The most serious chasm concerned our professional duties. As the governor of a region, which embraced many different ethnic groups, my boss appeared to have some difficulty in appreciating that he owed each inhabitant of the region an equal obligation. It seemed to me that at every turn of policy- making, he favored members of his own tribal group.

As a Nigerian of multi-ethnic parentage, born and raised outside my region of ‘origin,’ I found these exhibitions of ethnic chauvinism incomprehensible. At that point of my life, as far as I was concerned, a Nigerian was a Nigerian member of one nation with one destiny, and differences of origin were subordinate to the national identity.

I considered this to be an unfortunate disposition for a Governor of a multi-tribal state, and felt it to be my duty to point out the dangers of our discrimination against non-Ibos by the Eastern Government.

As time went on, my objections became less and less courteously expressed, and our discussions, louder and louder. Dr. Ibiam labeled me arrogant, rude as hell and unqualified to advise him politically. Naturally, I had a differing opinion. It got to the point that I was unable to bear the daily offense to my sensibilities. After one particularly unpleasant episode, I was sufficiently incensed to place my career in jeopardy. I left my posting without orders.

I posted myself to Enugu later that year in 1961. Enugu was a town I was very fond of. It was at Enugu that I had met my wife to be, Comfort Akie Wilcox, a police woman, sister of Chief Harold Dappa Biriye, and the daughter of Chief Roland Dappa Wilcox, a Bonny Chief from one of the riverrine tribes of Eastern Nigeria. I used the opportunity of my stay in Enugu to perfect my Ibo speaking skill. As a boy, I had picked up Ibo from my neighbors in Idah. From Enugu, I went to Port Harcourt on a month’s extended leave. To my amusement, I was informed that the police was seeking me on the basis of certain allegations made against me by the Governor’s wife. I immediately reported myself to the police where the issue was clarified. Meanwhile, the Governor, as he was perfectly justified in doing, had fired off a smoking hot letter of complaint about my abandonment of post and disrespectful conduct in general. After a month in Port Harcourt, I reported to the Army Headquarters in Lagos to make my defense to (then) Lt. Colonel Gowon, the General Staff Officer (Grade 1), and it was to him I made my case. This act of insubordination was to delay my promotion by over a year – at the time I felt it was a fair price to pay for my peace of mind and liberation from an intolerable duty.

I later discovered that my situation was not altogether unique; other Aide-De Camps attached to high ranking politicians experienced similarly poor relation with their bosses. ( Then) Second Lieutenant Obienu who had been attached to the Governor-General Azikiwe had lasted only 3 weeks before he terminated his posting in an equally unconventional fashion.

 

India

After my Captain to Major promotion examination, I was nominated for the State College in Wellington, India for a period of nine months in 1964. My exultation at being so distinguished by my superiors was tempered by recollections of my previous overseas experience. Yes, it was an honour to be offered the opportunity of a staff course, but who had the stomach for more condescension from the British officers who would be supervising training?

My wife Comfort dismissed my concerns, insisting that the benefits to be gained by taking the course far outweighed the brief period of discomfort I would face. My reluctance evaporated, and I went, leaving her in Zaria expectant with our first child.

Major Ifeajuna and I were in the second group to be sent to India. The first batch had included Nzeogwu and Olutoye. The course enabled officers to rise to Grade III Staff Officer. I knew both officers, but not intimately. It was the first time Ifeajuna and I had been at close quarters. Ifeajuna was a very interesting character, extremely well read and very politically conscious. I also had limited interaction with Nzeogwu, who had preceded us to Wellington. Nzeogwu has since been much vilified for his leading role in Nigeria’s first military coup. However, any officer (or, for that matter, civilian) who knew him could tell you that this man was a pure nationalist who burned within with the love of his country. Like myself, he gave scant regard to the place of origin of his countrymen having been born in Kaduna and raised in an era of nationalistic consciousness. He was sophisticated in his analysis of history and of political events in the country. I never became intimate with these officers as I had little interest in politics. Of greater interest to me, was building up military skills and contributing to national development in a purely military capacity.

At Wellington India, I found another country of breathtaking beauty. The British Colonialists had been kind enough whilst pillaging and plundering India, to leave behind legacies of a more benevolent nature. Wellington was a very lovely city, with spacious and cool buildings, and an abundance of flowers, winding roads and undulating value. The solitude of the Staff College itself was ideal for studies, and nine months of studies really.

My experiences in India confirmed my opinions about the evils of colonialism. The Indians were fortunate in that the British had left legacies that would survive generations yet unborn.

 

Prelude to War

Back in Nigeria, I was posted to the army Headquarters, where I remained until this fateful day of the January 1966 coup. At this juncture, it is worth examining the political situation in Nigeria prior to 1966.

The first four years after independence was nearly of turmoil. One source of instability was the physical imbalance of the regions. A second source were the controversial census results of 1952 and 1962, which were perceived by many Nigerians as an attempt to legitimize the inequitable distribution of political power and other resources. It was on the basis of these census figures, that the northern region gained control of the federal legislature and other federal institutions.

The high hopes that had attended independence had been rudely dashed by the conduct of the political class. While it was taken for granted in developed countries that the basis of elective governments was the will of the people, in Nigeria the by-words for our political leadership were refined tribalism, religious politics, treasury looting, egotism- and to hell with the people!

The spark that led to Nigeria’s first coup was ignited in 1962 when Chief Akintola and the NDP split from Chief Awolowo’s Action Group. Akintola’s alliance with NPC completely destabilized the western region, as the power struggle between him and his erstwhile boss knew no boundaries. With the ill-advised trial and detention of Awolowo for treason by the Tafawa Balewa led government, it was only a matter of time before the region exploded. The elections of December 1964, in which Akintola and his allies ‘won,’ set off this explosion. The widespread rioting in the region, which followed the confirmation of the election results, should have been entirely predictable to a responsible government. However, rather than taking measures to defuse the situation, the Tafawa Balewa-led government escalated the crisis by declaring a state of emergence and flooding the region with troops. Then there were the charges of corruption among the political class- supported by the obscene displays of wealth by some members of the political class. I recoiled at the democracy that was being hatched for Nigeria and this disgust was pervasive.

It is easy to forget that this was the background against which the military intervened. The idealistically led coup of 15th January, 1966 was the brain wave of patriotic officers of the Nigerian army. Major C. K. Nzeogwu explained his motives on January 16 1966:

Though well intended, the effects of this action on the Nigerian military was lamentable. The human losses were also grave, with the northern region suffering more deeply than other regions. The senior military officers killed in the January Coup were Brigadiers Samuel Ademulegun and Zakaria Maimalari. Also targeted and killed were Colonels Kure Mohamed and Ralph Shodeinde, with Lieutenant Colonels Yakubu Paul Arthur Unegbe (an Ibo officer), and Major Samuel Adegoke.

Among the political leadership, not only was the Prime Minister, Tafawa Balewa killed but also the much loved Sardauna of Sokoto, Ahmadu Bello, Premier of the Northern region. S.C Akintola and Okotie-Eboh, leading symbols of the First Republic also perished.

The primary ring leaders of the coup were Majors Nzeogwu, Ademoyega, Ifeajuna, Okafor, Chuk Nwuka, Onwuatuegwu and Obienu. After the initial national euphoria which followed the coup, it was not surprising that the northerners would begin to take a different view of events: the majority of the ring leaders were Ibo in origin, the Northerners had paid the highest price in terms of men and political power, and the entire ‘national’ operation had been executed on their soil. While Nzeogwu had successfully secured his area of operation in Kaduna, Major Ifeajuna and Capt. Nwobosi failed to secure Lagos and Ibadan.

In the midst of the confusion, and the bungled execution by the coupists, the GOC of the Nigerian army, General Aguiyi Ironsi, intervened and outmaneuvered Major C.K Nzeogwu. Luckily for him, Lieutenant Colonel Ojukwu, Commander of the 5th Battalion in Kano, had been able to seize Kano Airport on behalf of the rallying military. Ironsi later appointed him Military Governor of the Eastern region.

With the smell of blood choking our collective nostrils, the remnants of the Balewa government needed little persuasion to hand over the reigns of power to Army Commander-in-Chief, Major-General Ironsi. The new Head of State proceeded quickly to suspend the Constitution, dissolve all legislative bodies, ban political parties, and as an interim measure, formed a Federal Military Government. By January 18, 1966 he had announced the appointment of the Military Governors of all four Regions of the Federation: Lieutenant Colonel C. Odumegwu Ojukwu, East; Lieutenant Colonel F.A Fajuyi West; Lieutenant Colonel D.A. Ejoor, Midwest; Lieutenant Colonel Hassan Katsina, North.

Ironsi made several serious political mis-calculations. His handling of the coupists, who after all, had been mutineers, lacked directness, and betrayed insensitivity to the feelings of northern officers, who now felt vulnerable (and resentful). He also seemed to lack a full appreciation of the importance of taking steps to restore the espirit de corps in the military.

However, it was a difficult situation and I did not envy him one bit. There were skirmishes between Northern troops and their Southern counterparts throughout the country. Some five months after the coup, Ironsi announced his intention to institute a Unitary government- another serious mistake.

Predictably, this was misinterpreted by the northern elite as further proof of an Ibo plot to consolidate their hold on national political power. The abrupt termination of the Ironsi regime by a revolution by the ‘heirs apparent’ to Nigerian power politics should have surprised no one. It was an inevitable end and established later political patterns of Nigeria.

The counter-coup masterminded by the senior northern officers in July 1966 reversed the political pendulum that had swung to the political advantage of the south. It re-established the status quo to domination of political power by the North, which they had held since 1966 and justified through irregular census figures.

The Head of State was abducted in the company of Colonel F.A. Fajuyi, by a group of junior northern officers. (Months later, Major Usman Katsina finally confirmed that his abductors had assassinated him with the Western Governor). Thus began another traumatic period for the military. In Lagos, Kaduna, Ibadan, and Kano and throughout Nigeria (except the eastern region under the command of Lieutenant. Colonel C. Odumegwu Ojukwu), senior Ibo officers were rounded up- often by soldiers under their command and shot.

Excerpts from the book "The Nigeria-Biafra War Letters:  A Soldier's Story (Vol 1), edited by General Adekunle's son, Abiodun Adekunle

More to come.......

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