By Emma Okocha
As international scholars swarm Florida for Asaba conference:

University of South Florida in Tampa, survived two frightening stampede, mid-day on Monday the 5th of October, 2009. On that day, a person phoned the university police, reporting that a bomb had been planted on campus. Some security precautions were taken, and later a person was arrested for making a false report.

Two hours later, at the Archeology and History department of the USF, a team of the Asaba International Conference organizers were meeting on the final logistics for the weekend programme.

Very soon, another jolt and a stir was caused when a very unusual call from California was received by one of the organisers. With his eyes popping out in disbelief, he needed the help of his colleagues who instantly put the phone on speaker.

“My name is Sydney Asiodu… the strange voice bellowed…I’m from Asaba, I narrowly escaped the October 7, massacre. I want to offer myself as a witness to all that happened.’’

“You are not Sydney Asiodu, Sydney Asiodu is dead! ‘’ The organiser, now with his eyes almost covering every part of his face…shouted back to this voice from the dead.

“I’m Sydney Asiodu, I’m from Umudike village in Asaba, I was a school boy academical, played in the defence and was also good in Athletics and Tennis.’’

“Stop trying our souls…you are not Sydney Asiodu who was also the best defender of his generation, played in the defence and was the best in cricket, tennis, etc, and was an Olympic athlete.’’

“Oh… Yes, that was the Hurricane, he was in Igbobi College, but I was in St. Patrick’s College, my own nickname is Sydney Carton! My football mates in those days were Oyedipe, ‘’a Penny’’ Idigbe etc. After school, I played for the Lagos ACB. Sydney did everything my way, we played the same wing, right half back or the central defence.

He played Tennis the same style, and, in fact, we were soul mates…. During my time, every aspiring Nigerian young sportsman knew of Sydney Asiodu… I can attest to this because it is an open knowledge then, that he could do anything and come out the best in any sports. Because my own name is Sydney Asiodu I gained from his name, I enjoyed many advantages that came from his name.’’

The relieved organisers all in chorus asked …”When did you see Sydney last?”

“I met him for the last time a few days to his death. He had traveled from Warri back to Asaba. He was the Games master at Hussey College. In fact most of the stars…. those Warri boys that made it in Athletics and Football after the war were his pupils. I met him in town… where some young men were playing table tennis.

He was an elegant young man and he was very graceful. I will never forget his dog that was tagging along with him. Everybody wanted to meet him, but already the sound of war and the guns were approaching Asaba. We were all confused and the Table Tennis game brought the young men out and for a while we tried to forget the impending crisis.

“It was Paul Ogbebor a Nigerian Captain from Benin who was an old boy of SPC that saved me …but he was too late to save the great Sydney Asiodu….We have heard what Lagos State Governor and Igbobi alumni have done for the Sydney Asiodu Foundation, but why is Hussey College, Warri, and the former Midwest not concerned about this Asaba and Sydney Asiodu tragedy?

He may be the best sportsman of his generation, whatever, but he showed his humanity his greatness, as a Games master in Hussey College College, where he combined his teaching gifts as a science teacher and his multiple talents as gifted sportsman to transform some of our Delta leaders of our time.

These people should emulate the people of Lagos and celebrate the legacies of Nigeria’s greatest Sportsman who was tragically cut down in Asaba by the blood thirsty Nigerian Second Division Army’’, Sydney Asiodu the living one concluded.

Meanwhile, the University of Florida has released the sketchy bios of its principal speakers at the Asaba International Conference. Below are the bios as handed over to the Vanguard;

Chief Philip Asiodu, the Izoma of Asaba, has held many positions in the Nigerian Federal Government, including Chief Economic Adviser to the President, and Minister for Petroleum. He has been Chairman of Ecobank Transnational, and holds many positions on boards of businesses and environmental organisations.

He has been Visiting Fellow, Woodrow Wilson Institute, Princeton University, and holds numerous awards and honors, including Grand Officer, Ordre National du Mérite of France.

Chima J. Korieh is Assistant Professor of History at Marquette University. He is a well-known historian of Africa, whose most recent books include Gendering Global Transformations: Gender, Culture, Race, and Identity (2009) and Olaudah Equiano and the Igbo World: History, Society and Atlantic Diaspora Connections, (2009). He is founding editor of Mbari:  and has published widely in journals such as Dialectical Anthropology and African Economic History.

Okey Ndibe is Director of the Creative Writing Program, Trinity College, Ct. He is a novelist, critic, and teacher of literature, whose areas of interest include the thematic, stylistic and structural intersections between African and African American literature, the role of history and memory in African and African American literature, and issues in contemporary African and African American culture and politics.

Chimalum Nwankwo is Professor and Chair of English, North Carolina A and T University. His dozens of articles, poetry, and book reviews have appeared in leading journals in Literature and African cultural studies in Africa, Europe and the USA. His major publications include two books of literary criticism, a play, and five books of poetry.

Nwankwo, whose poetry features in most significant new anthologies of modern African poetry, won Nigeria’s prestigious ANA and ANA-CADBURY Prizes for poetry in 1988 and 2002 for his books Toward the Aerial Zone and The Womb in the Heart and Other Poems.

Michael C. Nwanze is a Professor in the Department of Political Science, Howard University, Washington, D.C., specialising in International Law, International Relations and Comparative Politics, having previously taught at University of Exeter, England and the University of Windsor, Canada.

At Howard, he directs the annual Seminars in Diplomacy, which simulate the proceedings of regional international organizations such as the Organization of African Unity, and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

While at Howard he has held adjunct positions at the Johns Hopkins University, School of Advanced International Studies and Georgetown University, School of Foreign Service in Washington, D.C. He is the editor of a recently published volume, Nigeria – Romania Diplomatic Relations.

Emma Okocha is a journalist, conflict scholar, and the author of the book ‘Blood On The Niger’, an account of the Asaba massacre based on first-hand survivor testimonies. He has written on other African conflicts, such as in Chad and Somalia, and is a foreign correspondent for the Vanguard newspaper in Nigeria.

Okocha has contributed to many newspapers in Africa and the U.S, and has edited the war memoirs of several Nigerian and Biafran Civil War Commanders. He is currently publisher of the Washington-based magazine, America Mi Dream. Okocha has also reported on the Olympic Games and World Cup; he was an administrator for sports in Delta State Nigeria, and is an ATP Tournament Director, who founded the first ATP-sanctioned Enugu Premier Tennis Tourney Obiora Udechukwu is the Charles A. Dana Professor of Fine Arts and Coordinator of the African Studies Program at St. Lawrence University.

His artwork references, Igbo Uli drawing and painting, have been exhibited in Africa, Europe, Asia, North America and the Caribbean, and are in public collections in Nigeria, Germany, Britain and USA. His first book of poems, What the Madman Said (1990), won the ANA/Cadbury Prize for Poetry (Nigeria) and received Honorable Mention for the Okigbo Prose/Poetry Prize (All Africa).

He has also published articles in books, exhibition catalogues and journals on aspects of traditional and contemporary African art, and Igbo oral literature.

Chudi Uwazuruike , Harvard PhD, is Senior Fellow, Institute for Research on the African Diaspora in the Americas and the Caribbean, (IRADAC) at City College, City University of New York.

Harvard-educated, he is a political sociologist and international affairs scholar, mass communications expert, and novelist-playwright, whose publications have appeared in Trans-Africa Forum Journal of Modern African Studies, International Journal of Comparative Sociology, Dialectical Anthropology, and many others.

S. Elizabeth Bird is Professor of Anthropology at the University of South Florida. Her specialties include the role of the media in culture, folklore, and cultural heritage. She has published four books, the most recent being The Anthropology of News and Journalism: Global Perspectives (Indiana University Press 2009), and has written more than 60 articles and book chapters.

She has been a Visiting Scholar at the University of Pennsylvania (Annenberg School for Communication), serves on several international journal editorial boards, and is an external member of the Centre for Memory Studies, University of Warwick, U.K.
Erin H. Kimmerle is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of South Florida.

Her research is in the areas of forensic anthropology, human rights and transitional justice. She has published in anthropology and forensic science journals and is the first author of the book, Skeletal Trauma: Identification of Injuries in Human Rights Abuse and Armed Conflict.

Her worked is based on numerous missions in Nigeria, Peru, Kosova, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, and Bermuda since 2000. Other professional appointments include state and national mass disaster response teams and Adjunct Senior Lecturer for the College of Medicine, Lagos State University, Nigeria.

Fraser Ottanelli is Professor and Chair of the Department of History at the University of South Florida in Tampa.  His areas of specialization are ethnic and labor History, comparative migration, and US history in a global age. On these topics he has authored two-books and numerous articles and essays.

He is currently completing a book manuscript, Migration and the Shaping of Ethnic Identity, to be submitted to Illinois University Press. Professor Ottanelli has been a Visiting Scholar in the Department of History and Civilization of European University Institute, Florence (Italy) and a Professeur Associé at the Université Paris VII—Denis Diderot (France).

Currently he served on the Executive Committee and is a member of the Board of Governors of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade Archives (ALBA) at NYU.

Varsity of South Florida disclaims earlier report of “rocket propeller attack”

I am writing in reference to an article posted on the Vanguard website, dated Oct. 8: “Sydney Asiodu resurrects from the dead,” by Emma Okocha.

As I am sure you know from Mr. Okocha’s dispatches, he is working with faculty members here at my university on the Asaba Memorial Project, and he is a valued advisor to us.

However, the latest dispatch contains a serious error of fact that cannot be allowed to stand, and with great respect, I ask that you correct the text of the article as soon as possible.

Mr. Okocha reports that  “From nowhere, a gentleman armed with a rocket propeller and some explosives had evaded the security systems and was about blowing up the campus when the some students alerted the university’s SWAT team. The gunman was accosted and disarmed.”

This statement is not true at all. On that day, a person phoned the university police, reporting that a bomb had been planted on campus. Some security precautions were taken, and later a person was arrested for making a false report.

There was no bomb, no gun, and certainly no “rocket propeller,” and the event was over without incident.
We are concerned that a false impression was given of our university that could jeopardize the project on which we are working. If Mr. Okocha is unable to change the text, I am appealing to you to modify the article as soon as possible.

This is not a question of interpretation or journalistic licence – it is simply a matter of fact.

As I mentioned, we are working with Mr. Okocha, and we believe that when writing to a deadline, mistakes can be made. We know that he had no intention of misrepresenting events, but unfortunately damage may have been done here. He knows of our concerns, and I am copying him here, so that we all are aware of the issues. The entire opening three paragraphs contain inaccuracies, and I request that it be rewritten thus:

At the University of South Florida in Tampa, members of the team preparing for the Asaba Memorial Symposium, organized by professors in Anthropology and History, received a surprising phone call.

I am most grateful for your assistance here. As mentioned, we have great respect for Emma Okocha, and we continue to work alongside him on this important initiative, as long as our university supports it.

For that support to continue, we must show that the facts are being represented correctly. If the printed version has gone to press, please correct the web page accordingly.

Yours respectfully,
Dr. Elizabeth Bird, Ph.D. ,
Professor, Dept. of Anthropology
Dr. Fraser Ottanelli, Ph.D.
Professor/Chair, Dept.  of History
SOC 107, University of South Florida
4202 E. Fowler Ave.
Tampa, FL 33620
Email: [email protected]

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