By Emma Okocha
â€˜â€™The Troops murdered innocent men, women, and children in their thousands from Benin to Asaba. Nigeria lost in few months university graduates, and many PhD holders… .Among them were Permanent Secretaries, Medical Doctors, Lawyers, Teachers, Professionals, Clergymen and Missionaries. It remains the only war of such magnitude without a monument of remembrance.â€™â€™
â€”United Nations Observer, Canadian MP, Stephen Lewis, London Guardian, October 11, 1968.
“The Federal Troops assumed that the people of Asaba were Igbo and inadvertently gave support to Operation Torch….the people of Asaba and other Western Ibos suffered more than any other in terms of human and material losses.â€™â€™
â€”Chief Tayo Akpata, former Secretary Petroleum Trust Fund. The Guardian, July 17, 1997.
“Benin was the capital of the Midwest with a high concentration of Ibo-speaking Midwesterner-technocrats,Â bureaucrats and professionals who met their end at the hands Federal Troops and other accomplices….
There appeared a fleeting period of lunacy in which Midwesterners gladly identified their Ibo compatriots to be shot down by federal troops on the so called Liberation day in Benin…. It was the first Black on Black genocide in post independent Africa.â€™â€™
â€”Midwest Solicitor General,Â Giwa Amu,The Nigerian Observer, March 16, 1983.
“The Civil War was one of the worst reported events in Nigerian history, thanks to the â€˜Patriotismâ€™ of the Nigerian Journalist….
The result was those massacres for most part were not to happen since there was a political consensus between the press and the politicians led by Chief Anthony Enahoro…..a man who was part of both.
He was the Nigerian war time Minister of Information.â€™â€™
â€”Lewis Obi, African Concord, Cover Story, â€˜The Asaba Massacre,â€™ August, 4, 1997.
“The Philosophers of ancient Greece postulated that in times of war, fathers bury their sons, but in times of peace sons bury their fathers. But in Emma Okochaâ€™s Blood On Niger, fathers not only buried their sons in hundreds, but sons buried their fathers also in hundreds.â€™â€™
â€”Former SSG to the Bendel Government, the Iyase of Asaba, Chief P.I.G Onyeobi, The Pointer, Nov.2, 1997.
“Our way home was littered with corpses… we saw women and children carrying the corpses of their husbands and relations from the dancing ground for burial. Some corpses that had nobody to identify them were buried in mass graves at OgbeÂ Osowa where the ghastly incident took place. I lost eleven people in my family.
Monsignor P. Ugboko lost not less than sixty of his closest relations. There was hardly any family in Asaba that was not touched. Even a popular Reverend Brother in his Habit â€” Brother Ignatius was shot at Ogbe Osowa.
The slaughter of people was followed by wholesale looting…. There was raping on an unprecedented scale. Any man still alive had to take to the bush. At 8pm I left and escaped to Ibusa.”
â€”First Republic Federal Permanent Secretary of Education, John Ilo OkwudiaforÂ KSM.Â OFR. CON.Â JP. Affidavit on the Asaba Genocide sworned before the Magistrate Court, Orlu, 20th day of January 1969.
“Ignoring his colleagues, I was given maximum cooperation by my Brigade Major, Muhammadu Buhari, ‘I succeeded in linking up Ogidi and Onitsha. The significance of this crucial victory by the Federal army ironically executed by an Igbo officer, can be imagined when the battle for Onitsha throughout the war remained the most deadly.’
Suspected by his comrades, marked down by his tribesmen, Iwezeâ€™s greatest nightmare was to unfold immediately the Biafrans surrendered.â€™ My celebration was short lived, my native town of Isheagu, Aniocha, had been razed to the ground. I had lost 21 family members and the Royal father, Obi Onyeama was brutally killed.â€™â€™
â€” See Blood On The Niger, Triantlantic Books New York 2006. Page 140. Also see General Cyril Iweze, “I fought on two fronts”… Benjamin Njoku, Vanguard, Sept 26, 2009.
In arriving at the theme of the International Conference On the Asaba Genocide of October 7 1967, the University of South Florida, discreetly avoided to delve into the motivations that led to the frenzy which decimated a particular city and whole generation of her men.
Asaba a Nigerian historic town, had taken a direct hit and suffered the brunt of the civil war.
All the same, Prof. Elizerbeth Bird in her introduction and summary report proclaimed that the goal of the Asaba project among others, “is to carry out ethnographic, historical research with the final aim to create an authoritative account of the 1967 Massacre, and assist the community of Asaba to develop plans for a permanent memorial.
“Ultimately,â€™â€™ stated the Professor and Head of the History and Archeology Department of USC, “the aim is to bring together those on both sides of the killings, to unite them in reconcilliation and closure.
Eventually, she continued, “the people of Asaba will win a more comprehensive apology for the survivors and their relations, following the September 2001 apology offerred by the former Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon.
Emphasising that Asaba and her people, had always remained Nigerian citizens, even during the war, the Professor warned that never again, will such citizens be subjected to such trauma stressing that, such tragic events should never be forgotten.
Meanwhile, Asaba is moving out all her big cannons and in an unprecedented efforts at unifying its leaders to support the organizers and the University of South Florida this time, according to Mr. Uche Oduah, President of the US Asaba Community in Dallas, “to reclaim our forgotten history.”
He revealed that meetings of her prominent sons and daughters have continued in Abuja, Lagos and Asaba. From the Palace, Nigeriaâ€™s foremost philosopher and the Chairman of the influential Lagos Metropolitan Club, Chief Philip Asiodu, the Izoma of Asaba, will present theÂ keynote address at the Florida October 7 International Conference.
Invitations have been extended to His Lordship, Emmanuel Osadebay, the Chief Justice of the Caribbean Island of Bahamas. Emmanuel is the first son of the late grandmaster on the Niger, Chief Dennis Osadebay, the first and the last Premier of the Midwest State, who was the only Nigerian that acted as the President and Commander-in-Chief of the country when the then President Azikiwe was on leave.
To Professor Nwanze, the first Black professor at the University of South Florida who incidentally had his father murdered in Asaba. And to Professor Joy Ogwu nee Mademezia, Nigeria’s Ambassador to the United Nations.
Former Nigerian Foreign Minister, a lady whose casualties during the war spread from her Ugbomanta family losses in Asaba, to her Ogwu husband’s household victims (Jay -Jay Okocha’s Family Tree) in Ogwashi Ukwu.
In extending another invitation to the President of the Black Gold group, Kaduna, the organizers hope that Chief Sonny Okogwu and her prominent sisters, would take some leave off the Ship House and after forty years dedicate one day to pay some over due respects to his late peerless father and all his fallen iconic wasted peer generation. The crucified, sacrificial lambs, hurriedly covered up by the hungry red sands of Ogbe Osowa, to keep Nigeria one.