By Emeka Obasi
This soldier is different even if in the Army you are paid to kill or get killed. Lt. General Julius Alani Ipoola Akinrinade deserves recognition as an officer who tried as much as possible to keep to the rules of engagement during the Civil War.
I have not met him and I am not in a position to do damage control for this Yokoyo, Ife born retired soldier who started life as an agriculturist and is happy in the village as a farmer. Gen. Akinrinade does not even have enough money to give me as an image launderer.
He was in the news recently talking about Biafra and the war which in his opinion should not have been fought at all. He did not say anything new for Akinrinade had maintained in the past that the war could have been avoided.
For those who are interested in reading, they should find out from Emmanuel Oladesu of the Nation. Gen. Akinrinade bared his mind in a 2009 interview. It takes a man of conscience to say all that the war veteran offered.
According to him:”Yes. We went on a mission of revenge. Under that circumstance, could Nigeria have been thinking straight? What we fought for was absolutely unnecessary. We could not have reached the point of secession. Perhaps, we ought to have been able to sit down and do something better than Aburi.”
Akinrinade sounded like the Igbo were really hurt. “The Igbo felt at that time that nobody wanted them. And our actions spoke so. Apart from Lagos, where they left and came back, and got all their property back and their rent, it did not happen in other places. Those who had property in Lagos were the first to recover it.
“If we want to tell the truth, there was a reason for the Igbo to secede. They had good reasons. Maybe, if all of us were not so angry, we would have sat down and soothed them and done something better than Aburi, which could have been acceptable to all of us. Everything was done out of bad faith on both sides. We were damn unreasonable,” he said.
We have to understand Akinrinade’s background. On April 1, 1960, he joined the Army as pioneer cadet of the Nigeria Military Training College [NMTC], Kaduna. His mates included Yakubu Danjuma, Emmanuel Abisoye, Godwin Alabi-Isama, Ben Gbulie, Ignatius Obeya and Ayo Ariyo. Others were Simon Uwakwe, Pius Eromobor,Sule Apollo, Chiabi, David Bamigboye, Martins Adamu, J.O.C. Ihedigbo and Samuel Ogbemudia.
Akinrinade was commissioned Second Lieutenant with number N297 on December 20, 1962. He had undergone training at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst , England from August 1960 to December 1962.
One thing you cannot take away from this officer gentleman is that he was not part of any coup. During the 1966 bloodletting, Akinrinade was in the United States. In 1975, he was in London.
Akinrinade however, fought the Civil War. His first task was in August 1967 as Commanding Officer[CO] Sixth Brigade of the newly created Second Division under Col. Murtala Mohammed. Activities were limited to the Ifon and Sobe areas. Godwin Ally was CO, Seventh Brigade, Francis Aisida, Eighth Brigade and Col. Olusegun Obasanjo commanded from the rear, in Ibadan.
Akinrinade left the Second Division after disagreeing with the methods adopted by Murtala in crossing the River Niger. Many soldiers were lost because of the GOC’S recalcitrance.
When the Third Marine Commando Division[3MCD] led by ‘Black Scorpion,’ Benjamin Adekunle, launched sea borne operations, Akinrinade joined as Commander, Fifth Brigade and saw action in Bonny. However after the fall of Aba and later Umuahia, he led Sector Two comprising 14 and 17 Brigades. Again, when the GOC appeared too dangerous for comfort, Akinrinade left. He only returned after Obasanjo took control.
Credit must go to Akinrinade for helping to bring the war to an end without murdering more innocent civilians and combatants. While many believe Obasanjo should get all the encomiums, the duo of Akinrinade, then General Staff Officer One, 3MCD and Maj. S. Tomoye, CO, 17 BDE, led others to Amichi to meet General Philip Effiong after Col. Joe Achuzia had surrendered. Maj. Ola Oni stayed outside as his colleagues went to discuss. Obasanjo was only alerted by Akinrinade after a deal had been sealed.
Akinrinade would later advance to become General Officer Commanding[GOC] One Division Kaduna, Chief of Army Staff and to cap it all, Nigeria’s First Chief of Defence Staff.
He has failed to write a book on the Civil War because that is one experience he does not want to talk about. We do know that a lot happened and atrocities were committed. Funny things happened too.
Take Murtala and Ibrahim Taiwo for instance. While the former was notorious for slaughtering Prisoners of War, the latter was prominent in the genocide committed in Asaba. What a coincidence that both were born in 1938, died the same day and at the age of 38, in 1976.
Taiwo had attended Government Secondary School, Bida. Born in Wushishi, he was known as Ibrahim Kagara. The same school produced Ibrahim Babangida, Abdusalami Abubakar, Inua Wushishi, Gado Nasko, Mohammed Magoro, Garba Duba and Mamman Vatsa.
There were allegations. Lt. Shola Oremade claimed that David Jemibewon ran away from battle in Onitsha. Adekunle sold arms to Biafra and did not want Akin Aduwo to shell Bonny because Mrs Adekunle was trapped there. Lt. Col Abubakar did not attack Owerri, the hometown of his better half.
Alabi Isama and Uwakwe did not fight in Arochukwu because of old times sake. Ike Nwachukwu , born to a Biafran dad and Nigerian mom, joined Federal troops. There were Col. A.E. Utuk[N415] for Nigeria and Col. Akpan Utuk for Biafra.
Deadly nicknames: Mad Mike, Kamikaze Brown, Bandit, Kill and bury, Air Raid. Taffy Williams admitted he was half mad.
And today, Akinrinade feels the madness could have been averted. He saw it all. Those who have ears…we should listen.