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TRIBUTE: How I drew Ojukwu into the army – Gen Adebayo

I met Chief Ojukwu for the first time at a Cocktail Party given to the Acting Governor General, Sir Ralph Grey who was the official Deputy Governor General of the Federation who represented Sir James Robertson, the Governor General at an official occasion at Umuahia when he was in England for an official duty in late 1957.

I was the first Nigerian Aide de Camp (ADC) to the Governor General. Chief Ojukwu was Assistant District Officer then in Umuahia Eastern Region. I had a long discussion with Chief Emeka Ojukwu at the party about the Nigerian Army and I advised him to come and join the Nigeria Army.

He kept his contact with me and later became one of the first set of young Nigerian graduates to join the Army as Cadet. He started his Cadet training along with others from Nigeria and Ghana in Teshie and Cadet School at Eaton Hall in England.

Late Chief Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu the `` fall of an Iroko tree

He later attended the School of Infantry at Warminster and Small Arms School at Hythe and finally Joint Services Staff College (JSSC) at Latimer, Buckinghamshire, England. He served in various units in Nigeria and also as an Instructor at the Royal West African Frontier Force Training School, Teshie, Ghana.

He was a good and hard working officer who rose rapidly to the rank of Lt. Col in 1964. He worked as Quarter Master General (QMG) in the Army Headquarters while Lt. Col Yakubu Gowon was also Adjutant General (AG) and I was the first Chief of Staff (COS) with the rank of Full Colonel in the Nigeria Army Headquarters under the command of the last British General Officer Commanding (GOC) Sir Welby Evarald.

When the military coup of January, 1966 took place he was appointed the Military Governor of Eastern Region with headquarter in Enugu.

When the last British General Officer Commanding was about to go Major General Aguiyi Ironsi was appointed to take over from him being the most senior Nigerian Army Officer and I continued to be the Chief of Staff Army Headquarters until November, 1965 when I handed over to Colonel Kur Mohammed and I went on course at the Imperial Defence College in England.

Few weeks after I left, the first coup took place and all the most senior Nigeria Army Officers were killed but General Ironsi was lucky to be alive and was made the Head of State.

Political tension mounted and the second coup took place on the 29th of July, 1966 when Ironsi was visiting Western Region and he was killed with Lt. Col Fajuyi his host in Ibadan.

Fortunately or unfortunately I came home on consultation with the Head of State but could not see him and the coup plotters did not know that I was in town.

The second coup of July 1966 weighed heavily on the Easterners and unfortunately Emeka proclaimed himself the Head of State and Commander-In-Chief of the Republic of Biafra. The declaration led to the Civil War in the country which lasted for 3 years.

Following the fall of the Biafran forces to the Federal troops in January, 1970 he went on exile to Ivory Coast where he was granted political asylum.

Ojukwu was granted political pardon 13 years later by the then President Alhaji Shehu Shagari. He returned to Nigeria in 1982 and his people of Nnewi gave him the title of IKEMBA.

He later joined the Ruling Political Party, National Party of Nigeria (NPN). He contested the Senatorial seat but lost. He was clamped into prison in Kirikiri in 1983 but was released in 1985 by Ibrahim Babangida.

He founded the All Progressives Grand Alliance which currently holds sway in Anambra and Imo States.

My family and I join other Nigerians in mourning this great Nigerian. We join the entire Ojukwu family, the government and people of his home state Anambra, the entire Igbo people, friends, associates and followers across the Nation in mourning the GREAT Nigerian.

We all must be comforted that Ojukwu lived a most fulfilled life and has left behind a Record of very great contributions to the future notable modern Nigeria which for life will assure him a place in the history of our great country Nigeria. I will personally miss him because he was a great loyal officer from the date I met him.

May his gentle soul rest in perfect peace, Amen.

*Major General R.A. Adebayo (rtd) CFR, was the former Governor of the now defunct Western State of Nigeria.


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