Culled from ThisDay Sunday Dateline: 24/07/2004 23:03:11
|My Personal Recollections
By Benjamin Adekunle
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
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,
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
Dateline: 24/07/2004 23:03:17
|_THE WAR LETTERS _
Edited by Abiodun Adekunle
This Chapter contains letters written by my father to senior
officials in the ruling military Council, Chiefs of Staff Supreme HQ, as well as
to the Head of State, General Gowon, who were based at Dodan barracks Lagos,
then the seat of military power. There are also letters addressed to the
governors of the Western State and the newly created and liberated Rivers State.
They were written from the warfront during the heat of battle. He retained
copies of the letters he wrote and they have been reproduced below unedited.
They have been interspersed with commentaries taken from his personal
The major point of interest of these letters is that in the
same was as some of the testimony at the 'Oputa Panel' proceedings, they paint a
disturbing 'behind the scenes' picture of the highest echelons of the Nigerian
Military at a critical juncture of Nigeria's history. The letters reveal how
factions and cliques had begun to emerge in the army and how even at this stage
when Nigeria was fighting for her corporate existence, suspicion and disunity of
purpose among officers had eaten deep into the fabric of the Armed forces. The
letters also touch on some of the issues that have remained unresolved within
the Nigerian polity more than three decades after the war- the issues of double
standards, ethnicism, equality of Nigerian citizens in the eyes of the state and
the quality of national leadership.
They depict his feelings of isolation
and increasing disillusionment not only with the war aims, but also his concerns
about the future of the nation and his insistence on the maintenance of high
professional standards within his Division. It is clear from his correspondence,
that soon after the commencement of the war, he was fighting a battle on two
fronts, - one on the Biafran frontlines and the second and equally stressful,
with the Lagos high command. Reading through these letters, it is also true that
he believed he might have been fighting a losing battle.
As I stated in
the introductory section of this book, my father became an extremely
controversial figure as the war progressed. Various myths sprung up about his
person, ranging from the ludicrous to the plausible.
charges have been made against him: he has been called a sadist, has been
accused of having 'deliberately prolonging' the civil war, of having made a
'fortune' from the war. Four years after the war ended, he was retired from the
army after having been suspended by Gowon on charges of involvement in the Iyabo
Olorunkoya Indian hemp scandal. His retirement was subsequent to a military
inquiry whose findings have never seen the light of day; leaving a dark cloud of
unsubstantiated allegations and innuendo hanging over him. These letters and his
commentaries state his position on many of these issues. They illustrate I
believe, the wide separation that can exist between public perception and actual
The conflict between my father and the Lagos high command extended
beyond the treatment of the defeated Easterners and the quagmire of "abandoned
property". It extended to the conduct of the war. It is apparent that he came to
believe that certain members of the Lagos High command strove to retard his
efforts at the height of federal success after the initial fall of Owerri and
Aba in September 1968, no doubt due to his abrasive style and a fear of his
My father's antagonistic relationship with many of his peer
group began very early in his career. During his recounting of his early
military training, he was found radical and hard headed not only by his military
instructors, but also by his peers.
Many of my father's letters are in
response to and in defense of his character. According to him, not long after he
attained national and international acclaim, he was perceived by some of his
superiors in SHQ, and Army HQ as a threat to the post civil war Nigeria. The
great fear was that he would stage a coup to topple the existing
My father speaks vehemently against the long-term effect of
the double standards of both military and political indiscipline that had
already began to emerge in the military. Thirty years later, we are all in a
better position to assess the validity of his warnings that the policies of
Supreme Military Headquarters' would serve to entrench corruption, nepotism and
mediocrity in national life.
Some of the letters written in this chapter
are addressed to his perceived detractors, and mention others. To General Hassan
and Army HQ specifically, he levels the charge of sabotaging his efforts in the
In a letter dated July 1968, at the height of the Division's
success and several months before any such Owerri 'debacle', he responds to
General Hassan (Chief of Staff, Army HQ's) attempt to dismiss him on the grounds
of 'rudeness.' The letters depict a situation where my father speaks of having
lost his command and to have all the Divisional Commanders being of Northern
origin. It is during this particular episode that he made one of his infamous
visits to the rear in Lagos ostensibly to make his case, (or as he puts it, to
defend his 'character'). According to my father's letters, one of the
consequences of this incident was a mutiny staged by officers and men of the
Third Marine Commando on behalf of their potentially outgoing Commander. He
speaks of absolving his men of their acts spurred on by desperation at losing
As I stated earlier, one particular thread that remains
constant throughout these letters is my father's stand against indiscipline,
double standards and injustice. He maintains his stand on these principles
regardless of whose ox is gored. One very clear example of his unyielding call
for consistency related to the administration of the nearly- liberated South
Eastern and Rivers States.
It is clear from the letters written in July
1968, that he felt grave concern about the choice of governors and later, about
their direction of their governance. The series of letters written to the Rivers
State Governor illustrate my father's concerns about the 'abandoned property'
In his letters to the Head to State, General Gowon, he
questions the sincerity of the SMC and its will for putting aside all political
considerations, and providing him with the logistical and political support
necessary to end the war.
In other letters to the Head of State, my
father expands on these themes, imploring his Commander-in-Chief to practice
justice for all. He is forthright in his admonitions against domination of any
minority, and vents further against the Ibibios being 'trampled upon' by the
Efik, Calabar and Ogoja. His prediction was 'they are going to demand for a
state of their own sooner or later."
That letter was written in 1968. In
1967, South Eastern State was created when Gowon had increased the number of
States to twelve. In 1976 when the states were increased to nineteen, South
Eastern State was renamed Cross-River State. In 1986/87 under General Babangida,
the number of States was increased to twenty -one, the Ibibios eventually got
their own state. Akwa Ibom State was created from Cross River at that
Taken as a whole, my father's series of war letters reveal a
soldier, a patriot, and a nationalist who was committed to his ideals as he saw
them right or wrong. They reveal a soldier whose principles lead him into
antagonistic relationships with his peers, and who declined to take the less
troubled road to his ultimate detriment. It was this unyielding stance inherent
in my father's character that ignited and fueled the efforts of the Lagos high
command, and led them to characterize him as a 'threat' to the post war
political set up. It was this view more than anything else, that would lead to
his loss of command and eventually his forced retirement from the military in
This perverted dictum of the Nigerian living elite for villifying
and ostracizing our very true fearless nationalists has been our bane as a
nation even till this day. Indeed, I believe it shall remain our greatest
impediment towards establishing a truly equitable, just, united and prosperous
nation, whose future is secure and promising, and whose corridors of power are
not filled with pretenders and charlatans.
The reader can formulate their
own conclusions about whether or not the fears my father expressed about
Nigeria's future in these letters have been unfounded. They can reach their own
conclusions if subsequent events have vindicated the positions he stood for,
politically and militarily.
The history of the Nigerian Army since the
end of the civil war with the absence of discipline and prevalence of double
standards clearly seem to vindicate my father's fears not only for his cherished
Army but also for the nation.
These are His Words:
dimension surfaced after the capture of Calabar. The activities of the Division
gained international recognition and applause. Lagos did not take too kindly to
those glowing reports. The story was that I was constructing an aura of
'invincibility' around my person. The troops were told through clandestine
avenues that I was building up an 'ego' at their expense. The officers and men,
whom I had schooled in loyalty to their superiors and to country, were exposed
to the gospel of my so-called ambition. I came to learn that the security threat
I posed to the federal government was codified in numerous volumes by the
special branch of the Nigerian Police Force, which had compiled its report with
the assistance and close collaboration of a good friend in the Lagos cabinet
office. I came to learn that some of my officers were given gifts and promised
accelerated promotion to work with these Lagos elements. The bastion of my
strength was the unflinching loyalty and support of the Officer Corp. For a good
number of my men, these efforts simply had the effect of transforming their
loyalty to the nation to personal loyalty to their Commander.
surprised me that my Lagos friends were unable to appreciate the dangers in
breaking up the ranks of the 3rd Marine Commando both in the short and the long
term. The principle of double loyalty is a dangerous one to inject into an Army.
It does not strengthen esprit de corps and certainly, has never contributed to
tactical success in any war. The Army as a corporate entity suffered more than I
from these activities, in the corrosive effect on the esprit de corps of the
Even greater surprise law in store: the domestic press
was warned not to give 'undue coverage' to the successes of the 3rd Marine
Commando Division and when the The Daily Times disregarded the military warning,
Sam Amuka, Editor of the paper was shown the way out.
foreshadowed the post-war relationship between the authorities in Lagos and
myself. At the same time, my relations with the foreign press grew more and more
tempestuous. These men expected to stroll in and out of thc scenes of an ongoing
war, at their whim and caprice! To The Economist Magazine, I was a friend who
relished using starvation as a weapon of war.
I expected Lagos to come to
the defense of its Commander. It did not. Rather, Army Headquarters under
General Hassan, repeatedly sent damaging reports to Supreme Headquarters. I was
branded as an obstinate officer who defied orders, an officer who refused to
'cooperate' or implement policy decisions and most incomprehensible of all, a
grossly 'ambitious' officer. The Division was accused of being infested with
hemp addicts and it was said that I was instrumental in this odium. I treated
with absolute contempt, the ignoble role played by the 1968 Army Chief of Staff
to undermine my command and control of the 3rd Marine Commando
I was also accused of bad management and of selling arms and
ammunition to Ojukwu. The civilians were fed with the untrue statement that the
3rd Marine Commando Division was not only saturated with first class arms, but
also choked with first class infantry officers. Nothing could be far from the
realities than the tale of arms saturation. The pattern was for the majority of
arms and ammunition to be shifted to the north, on the pretext that the Republic
of Niger ordered them. Time without number, I had to be physically present at
Lagos airport whenever I had a warning that a plane load was expected, to get an
allotment for the Division. This pattern of events persisted up to the capture
of Port Harcourt. My protests never brought me close to securing any logistic
support. It must be admitted that the ammunition expenditure of the 3rd Marine
Commando Division was alarmingly high. The ill-trained soldiers that were
drafted to this theatre had generated this deplorable situation.
the accusations and counter accusations reached an intolerable level, I found
relief in responding to Army Headquarters by letters addressed to the then Chief
of Staff, Supreme Headquarters. By mid June 1968, the Chief of Staff, Supreme
Headquarters received my letters in succession:
To: Brigadier E.O.
Ekpo, June, 1968
I have a little more time on
my hands and I want to devote it solely to replying your last Demi-Official
letter. From the tone of your letter, I can well guess that you have not been
given all the facts but that you have prejudged me, which I do not care one
hoot. It does not take time for the truth to emerge.
From time it has
been my cross for my ideas to be rejected in-to-to. I have grown to live with
One fact does stand out. Alao is a complete misfit, who still does
not merit anything decent. When a man becomes self centered, to me, he is a
pronounced enemy. You tell me, if within your sincerity you are not aware of the
role Alao has been playing? Of course he is a venerable member of the ruling
junta of the sane, so why should he not get away with murder?
All I have
to say is that you should check these facts from the Commander-in-Chief, Chief
of Staff (Army) and my Commander Rear. In as far as I am concerned, Alao is a
liability to the nation, even the most stupid civilian will tell you that the
Nigerian Air Force is a mess. Of course, I am aware I have no right to derail
another officer or even service. Just contact Ochefu to tell you the devilish
role Alao's clique has evolved again with regards to the deployment of the new
crew of the Migs 17. This is one of the reasons why I find it difficult to
remain in the Army. If I have to commit murder or anything to get out, I will do
it. I am not kidding, just watch me for am on my way out already. The Army and
the Armed Forces can do without an agitator. I am fed up to the neck, with the
multiple plots I had to go through to see the war end. Please, for once, tell
me: Have I done anything really out of the ordinary by persistently demanding
equipment for my operation?
To turn to the vexed question of the Nigerian
Air Force, other ranks under close arrest, one of them had been trafficking in
Indian Hemp, while the other had a notorious circle patronized by some Nigerian
Air Force (NAF) officers, in trafficking in the old currency from Lagos to
For sometime I had known about these but I could not lay my
hands on them. How can one explain an Other Rank (OR) having five back deposit
books with about ?3,000 in the bank? I have traced this up to Lagos. It has come
to the notice of the Central banks and the confidence they have in me has been
If the Nigerian Air Force does know its laws, definitely
under the Special Military Decree, I have full authority and power to try the
boys. The dangers about Indian Hemp are self-evident. Calabar has been drowned
in Indian hemp, it is rampant among civilians.
I am not going to this
extent to justify my actions, but to show you again that all my intentions have
been distorted in Lagos. I am well aware of the notorious rumour peddling of
Alao, which he has initiated to damage me. I only pity him for many know what I
am and what I stand for. I cannot contain myself whenever I look round at such
people. I pity this country.
You might have read my letter to the
Commander-in-Chief about the South Eastern State. I am sorry for South Eastern
State. You have to move fast to give this state a good beginning. I had
expressed myself freely, sincerely and honestly; to hell with anyone who thinks
I am taking sides or derailing them.
The South Eastern State is in a real
mess from my own judgement. Of course, it is none of my lookout to poke my nose
into the State affairs.
Accusation By London
Threat of new overthrow bid by Nicholas Lloyd.
Nigerian civil war splutter on, there are reports in Lagos of attempts to
overthrow the federal leader, General Gowon. Following the rumours, security
precautions have been tightened. At Ibadan earlier this month, two newspapers
were shut down and three lawyers- one an ex-Minister- were arrested as dangerous
to the good government of the Western State. The next day, houses were searched,
a cache of arms found and 300 more people arrested.
The whole affair may
merely have resulted from a Yoruba tribal squabble, but some Government
officials are enough to give friends warning telephone calls- As they did on the
night of the coup which brought Gowon to power. At the moment it is difficult to
find viable alternative leader to Gowon. But army coups tend to breed army
coups, so he must continually look over his shoulder for flashing
"The story told me by an eye-witness of an army colonel pointing
a gun at Gowon's head at a party some months ago, with unfriendly intentions
shows the case with which the young general could be dispatched."
tale of woe fitted the maze of the intrigues formented by Nigerian Army
Headquarters during the era of General Hassan at the helm of authority. The
equation formulated was that with the predominately Yoruba 3rd Marine Commando
and my hoarding arms and ammunition, I had laid an undisputed claim to the post
of Head of State of Nigeria. The then Governor of Western State of Nigeria fell
prey to the well charted plot conceived in Lagos but hatched and executed in the
turbulent Western State. To him I addressed:
Letter to Brigadier R.A.
Adebayo, June 1968
Every sane Nigerian and
fighting soldier is just baffled at the way you race to the so called "leaders
of unthought" to seek mandate for every action that you take. Time and time
again, every true Nigerian had held his breath at the next plunge that you take.
I will go all out to bring home to you the naked truth. Do please do not for one
moment minimize your hate or abhorrence for me, I am used to such plights. I
thrive better if I am hated, scorned and utterly disparaged, these are the new
dimensions of the roles that have been thrust on me. In your appointment of
Commissioners you were so parochial to be true, you have played yourself into
the hand of the ex-politicians that you can not get out of the web. You are a
prisoner of Zender: this has been the bedrock of the recurring unrest in the yet
to be divided Western State.
May I let you know this much that the West
needs a leader devoid of playing to the gallery. You are guilty of utter abuse
of power, position and the honourable thing to do is well known to you. I am
sure you are well aware of the qualities of being an officer and a gentleman. If
no one had the courage to tell you, you have lost long ago the support of the
masses. The confidence the people have in you is at its lowest ebb. There is
only one honourable course open to you. You are well aware of it, there is no
need of wasting time and space to bring the home truth to you.
had been the sick political baby of Nigeria. The west had been the springboard
of the present conflict, you have through misguided indoctrination plunged the
West and Nigeria into insurmountable political tackle all because you want to
satisfy your Yoruba Lagos factors. Surely, I need mention that you are a robot,
whose strings are in Lagos. The game you are playing now is not yours but the
so-called leaders of unthought, who had failed to satisfy the aspiration of this
Country. Admit it that as a Military Governor you have failed, much as the
Commander-in-Chief had not told you but we the younger ones know it. I adore you
as a person but not as a leader. Do not for one moment misconstrue me, am not
struggling to be a military Governor, for if I should I could have been long
ago. The only thing is that you are a stumbling block to the way of Nigerian
progress, who must be told how you stand. Hate me if you so wish, kill me if
within your powers, curse me if that will help you, broadcast me as your enemy
but there is a greater horizon than Adebayo and Adekunle with which Nigeria will
live for posterity. You will have to go honourably to make way for peace,
tranquility and orderly progress in the name of Black Power.
The world is
still holding you responsible to give an honest account of your stewardship much
as you disdain Gowon in all he stands for. In the name of humanity, request for
a diplomatic job and let this country move off in unison before Easter. Yours is
the asking with modifications in conformity with the aspirations of a reborn
Nigeria. Your backers have no hope in the new concept of Nigeria. Death is a
pleasure to a bastard like me, you may go to heaven, I, on my way to darling
hell in Nigeria.
Do not think I am drunk with my duty to Nigeria, I have
a divine duty, for my pay and records. You will do us an infinite pleasure if
you are out of office by January 31, 1969. As a new hand is needed, so much as I
love you, I will in the name of humanity tell you the truth. This is the limit
of human endurance. Leave that office alone. Go overseas and you will be well
off. My coffin is at Port Harcourt with me, check if you doubt it. Long live
Nigeria, the Black Power and Black Race.
The question of my retirement by General Hassan Katsina
from the Nigerian Army on the ground of rudeness re-echoed again in my next
letter on July 1968 to Brigadier Ekpo
nothing but praise for the recent stand you have taken in some thorny matters.
From time, it has been the practice rather than the exception to establish two
standards for Nigerian Army. The bare naked truth are now manifesting
I do fully share in entirety. your remarks about discipline.
Sincerely, I only glanced over the Chief of Staff Army Letter but yours stirred
me up to go over the original Chief of Staff's letter. The causes of
indiscipline are many. The foremost is these dreadful two standards that are
prevalent in the Nigerian army. I have fallen prey to these two standards. I am
aware that there is an inner circle, which is not subject to discipline. This
vicious circle has got the Army in its grip and one of its plans is the
discipline letter that has been issued. We will face a gloomier future far more
dreadful and two standard plans would emerge.
I am just sorry for the
Nigerian Army and the Country as a whole. I have enclosed a copy of a letter
that I wrote to the Commander-in-Chief. The assertions are sweeping but they
represent my deep down feelings. My main fear now is where do we go from here?
If my reasoning is not faulty, then the "Adekunle must go" circle has more up
its sleeves than is appreciated. Will it be wrong to say that since my cause has
been upheld, the circle has not come to think that the main objective of weeding
me out has been defeated? Frankly, the position of the Commander-in-Chief,
Admiral (Wey) and yourself are not safe. I wonder if the circle could have
stopped at me. How will any rational man give reasons for my retirement to be
rudeness? Honestly, this is a definite plot that has exposed itself just two
early and of course it is for the good of the county that we will wake up and be
more watchful. I had months ago pointed out that it is my ardent desire to
resign. It is not that I am afraid but I do understand that am a very
controversial person. The stories circulating in Lagos about me are most
dreadful. The originators are army officers, they nurture and spread them; this
is discipline for you.
I have at last managed to get Chief E.O. Eyo to
join the government of the South Eastern State. He and Jacob were in Port
Harcourt on the 25th July of 1968 at a meeting with me. At long last I can rest
assured that unity will reign supreme in the South Eastern State. Many will
swallow their words. I will leave to you to please do me a great honour by
writing both of them to ensure better understanding for the future.
has been moved to Calabar to take charge of things there, to be a member of the
Executive Council of the State.
I saw your letter about the loan. To all
intents and purposes I gave out the money to ensure that the economic life is
revived. The companies concerned were contemplating packing up; the loans have
stopped them. Presently, I know that Dunlop wants to pack-up its affairs and
sell-out its concern. I have stepped in to see if I can stop it. This, I am
sorry to say, has failed.
Definitely, if the previous loans have not been
questioned, I would have gone ahead and given the loan. My contention is always
if the Federal Military Government is not ready to finance realistically the
creation of States, then the idea should have not been conceived in the first
Believe it or not, Jacob has still been relying on me for the
salaries of his workers. If the Lagos Cabinet office and the Finance boys will
not act, I will act, for the main national trouble has been the carving of two
states from East Central State. The Trade Ministry and Cabinet Office have my
sympathy, if after one year of fighting, a directive has not yet been evolved
about private companies, then the new Nigeria will be worse off than the ousted
Sir, finally, I must confess that I have lost not just
confidence in myself but in the Army Headquarters. My hopes have been shattered
and the only thing keeping me going is my patriotism and my pledge to
To General Gowon, Commander-in-Chief, July
I enjoyed to the last bit, the recent
show of authority in retiring me in a question of minutes. In as far as I am
concerned there is more to it than presently meets the eye. In fact, in all
sincerity, the infighting, which I had long wanted for, has just
The contention of the Chief-of-Staff (Army) is that I was rude
in my signal to the Army Headquarters. How very unfortunate, but then what does
he think his own language compares with? It is the embodiment of contempt and
disparaging of a senior officer. Of course, I realize I am from the wrong side
whose abomination should not be tolerated.
Coming to a more realistic
problem, the present war is a national task in which all hands must be on deck.
Of course, initially it was a seclusive affair until the bare truth dawned on
the planners that no one section can take it upon itself to redeem this country.
I am not quarrelling with this but I realized that I had a lot at stake. With
this in mind, I got myself and my charge dug in into the task. With the help of
God, I have been able at least, to achieve a measure of success, and of course,
the place of honour and praise go to the boys. Nevertheless, to be treated with
scorn at this hour speaks well of the remorse feelings in Lagos. Question is, is
it now the policy to have all Division Commanders from the North? To counter and
state that it is an under-statement would mean not playing cricket. It is sure
blank bigotry. I had, from time, made it made clear that it has been my ardent
desire to leave the Army. If I do not, I will have myself to blame, my people
will not only lose me but my image will be damaged beyond recognition. The start
has been made. I will state here that I have my fears now well founded. The said
signal was not meant to spur me on to action nor is it an encouragement but part
of a likely well-designed scheme. Much as I enjoy the full-unalloyed confidence
of this Division, my life is obviously at stake. I am no coward but I like to
face my death like a soldier - to die for a cause and a noble one at that, but
let us crush the rebel first and foremost.
At this juncture, it will be
appropriate to state one sad incident that occurred in my theatre. For the brief
time that I was in Lagos, both officers and men mutinied in good faith that I
was no longer returning. Sir, I built this Division in the name of Nigeria, not
in the name of Oduduwa land or Dan Fodio. How-be-it, the confidence and the
inter-dependence have been most remarkable. I am ready to be dragged into
prison, to be discredited and disdained. I have served my country with all my
might but how can anyone comprehend this signal. Revolting as the implications
are, I will be of good courage and go ahead with the momentary job of crushing
the rebels. To under-rate what I have started or to pronounce that my nature has
induced me to commit the comments into writing will be begging the questions and
deferring the evil day. Nigeria has got a gloomy future.
Cowards die many
times before their deaths. I am in the name of sanity, humanity and God above
all, imploring all the outcome of this letter should not be taken on the
Division but on my person alone. I am responsible for what comments you are
reading. My blood is ready to flow; death will be more suitable experience than
I have been through. I have not the least refrained from my intention of leaving
the Army, rather my convictions have been made stronger.
Am I really
dangerous, I do ask in the name of decency, have I wronged humanity and the
warlords by doing my God-sent duty? To destroy me will not solve the problem but
heighten the contention of the rebels and the world at large. Given the
opportunity, I will be useful to my country in better ways.
I do not deny
that I will have to go but I implore that it should be done decently for we have
given a new meaning to the African personality, which is enviable.
had been remote talk that I am waxing in power and popularity. These are not to
my knowledge nor have I got any ambition as such. I am a simple Carpenter's son
who wants to earn an honest living. Whatever might have prompted such a callous
move would be worth knowing. Have I ever given cause for anyone to doubt my
loyalty or faith to the cause? If this can be done to me then the rest of the
boys here will have their heads chopped off. Of course, I had long expected
What really are we fighting for, to enliven a new class of the
domineering type or to integrate this country? My conscience is clear, my life
mission has been manifested. I do not ask for promotion or any appointment
within the Army or in the civil service. All I do request is that I am allowed
to live a normal life having worked this far for it. If the design is to undo
me, I will absorb the outcome but then I sincerely ask, will fate and destiny be
Another Letter to Gowon, Commander-in-Chief, July
The fluid nature of the rebel
operations has again set me thinking seriously about our own reaction. The
limitations of the rebels are most apparent compared realistically with our
capabilities and weaponry. At long last we have been able to comprise the enemy
into a crushable size which, incidentally is to his advantage. What remains of
the name is OAU - Owerri, Aba and Umuahia. With the fall of Aba, Orlu and Okigwe
Much as political considerations have swayed us,
especially in the Port Harcourt sector, it has become more and more apparent
that the enemy is moving and grouping in incredible numbers in the area of Ikot
Ekpene North West and North east. This is to his own advantage.
It is my
duty as one of your boys to interpret my own application. The enemy will not
wait to fight in his own area for fear of total destruction. The episode at Awgu
is a sure prelude. It is the ardent desire of the enemy to fight as much as
possible away and with this I dare say emphatically that the final battle will
be fought not in Igboland, but within the areas of Ikot Ekpene, North West and
From a fundamental military view, the enemy has already
realized this and is earnestly planning not for the recapture of Enugu but Ikot
Ekpene, Port Harcourt for her commercial outlet and Ikot Ekpene for being the
main gateway to the Igbo hinerland. In as far as I have seen, no preparations
have been made.
2007: Subtle battle begins in
By Samuel Oyadongha
Wednesday, July 14, 2004
Yenagoa - Although the road to the 2007 general elections is long to the
ordinary Nigerian but not to the political gladiators in Bayelsa State some of
whom are already strategising while others are locked in a battle of supremacy
for the soul of the predominantly Ijaw speaking state.
For the Deputy Governor of the state, Dr Goodluck Jonathan and the Special
Adviser to the Governor on Youths, Government House Transport and Logistics,
Chief Abel Ebifemowei, a cousin of Governor Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, the battle
line seems to have been drawn for both members of the ruling Peoples Democratic
Party (PDP) over the 2007 governorship race.
The Deputy Governor, a humble and obedient servant only carries the toga of a
big office as the number two citizen of the oil and gas rich Bayelsa State given
the fact that whenever the governor travels out of the state, he literarily
leaves with the soul of the state.
A native of Otuoke in Ogbia Local Government Area, Bayelsa East senatorial
district, Dr Jonathan is said to have interest in taking over from Chief
Alamieyeseigha whom he has so far been loyal to, in 2007 even though he has not
made his intention public for now, a path most of the would-be governorship
aspirants have decided to tow for now.
On the other hand, his rival, Chief Ebifemowei whose word is law and the fear
of this young man is the beginning of wisdom for any would-be politician in the
state is also said to be interested in the 2007 election though as a runnining
mate to one Capt Matthew Karimo and this has no doubt caused friction between
Before now the general thinking among observers of events in the state was
that having worked assidously for Chief Alamieyeseigha"s return to office, the
ALAMCO machinery which incidentally is being controlled by the Special Adviser
would be at the disposal of the Ogbia born number two citizen of the state in
line with the adage that one good turn deserves another, but the events of the
last one month have once again proved that politics is not mathematics where
definite answers could be predicted.
The cold war between both party chieftains in the Alamieyeseigha cabinet took
a dramatic twist penultimate week following the alleged attempt by the number
two citizen to remove the incumbent chairman of Sagbama Local Government Area,
Mr. Barnabas Edure.
The embattled council chairman was undoubtedly loyal to the Special Adviser,
a native of Amassoma in the Southern Ijaw council area, in the Bayelsa Central
Senatorial district , leader of a "cartel", a sort of power bloc which most of
the state lawmakers and council chairmen belonged to.
The "cartel" is reputed to have returned vitually all the council chairmen
and about eighteen of the twenty-four members of the state House of Assembly in
the last general elections but how intact it is today could not be ascertained
given the rumours of division within.
However the rivalry between the Deputy Governor and the Special Adviser
become a public knowledge when the embattled Sagbama council chairman, a member
of the "cartel" and in-law to Governor Alamieyeseigha accused the number two
citizen of orchestrating the plan to oust him from office alongside the chairmen
of Ekeremor and Kolokuma/Opukuma council areas.
Edure whose election is being challenged by the Justice Party (JP) at the
tribunal had in a statement made available to newsmen in Yenagoa wondered how
his own party chieftain especially those from the Bayelsa West senatorial
district could gang up with the Deputy Governor to work for an opposing
According to the embittered council chairman who is also said to be at
loggerheads with some party stalwarts from his constituency, "these people
wanted him out so as to achieve their 2007 agenda" adding "these people threw
decorum to the wind as they gave out my confidential file to the opponent."
He said he was being made to suffer because of his relationship with Chief
Ebifemowei whom they regarded as a stumbling block to their 2007 ambition.
But in a swift reaction, the Deputy Governor in a statement signed by his
Press Secretary, Mr. Gibson Gbalimori dismissed the allegation saying it was
designed to tarnish the reputation of his boss.
He said: "As the 2007 governorship race tickles in the state, a lot of
political intrigues are expected to be perfected to damage the credentials of
political aspirants whose intimidating track records of achievement speaks
volume of their acceptability to the electorate.
"As the Deputy Governor, such theatrical manoeuvre is a mere figment of the
regular gimmicks to downsize his reputation and exemplary leadership style."
He concluded by saying that since his boss did not contest for chairmanship
position in Sagbama council there was no way he could have attempted to oust him
(Edure) the anointed political son of the Special Adviser from office and urged
Bayelsans to disregard the allegation.
Chief Abel Ebifemowei, the Amassoma-born politician who is often referred to
as the defacto ''deputy governor"" of Bayelsa State because of the unparallel
influence he wields in the Alamieyeseigha cabinet has never hidden his
reservation for the Bayelsa number two citizen as he has repeatedly told newsmen
that he will give his total support to Capt Matthew Karimo whom many political
observers believe he is currently working for even before he (Karimo) indicates
interest in the 2007 governorship race.
Not known to abandon his friends even at the peril of his political career,
the Special Adviser only last week led other party supporters to the tribunal's
sitting to bolster the morale of the embattled chairman.
Whichever way the crisis between both PDP chieftains is viewed, it is the
ruling Peoples Democratic Party that will suffer a setback if the simmering feud
continues unabated as it could breed bad blood not only between their camps but
also could tear the party apart given the support the deputy governor enjoys
from his Ogbia people known for their block voting in every election and Chief
Abel Ebifemowei from the youths.
For a state that was practically held hostage by contending forces in the
build up to the last PDP primaries coupled with the adverse effect on the much
desired development of the young state, it is the view of political observers
that the leadership of the party should wade into the matter with a view to
reconciling both forces in the interest of the party.
A concerned member of the party who would not want his name in print told
Vanguard that it is only the party that can save itself from destruction by
allowing the peoples voice to
2007: Subtle battle begins in