Something got into the head of the Major. At 29, Ibrahim Adetunji Taiwo,was far away from his Ogbomosho ancestral home doing battle for Nigeria against Biafra. As an officer of the Second Division, the obstacle before him and other fighters was how to cross the River Niger and capture Onitsha.
Between October 2 and October 7 1967, men became beasts and committed crimes against God and humanity. More than 5,000 souls were assassinated by soldiers from one of the brigades that made up the Second Division. And the man whose name continues to live gruesomely in the minds of all is Major Taiwo.
When the Second Division was formed it comprised three Brigades headed by Lt.Cols Godwin Ally, Francis Aisida and Alani Akinrinade respectively. And from the recapture of Ore from the Biafrans to the march into the Midwest, these formations had eyes on Onitsha.
The General Officer Commanding ( GOC ) of the Division, Col. Murtala Mohammed, was at his operational headquarters in Umunede when Taiwo went on a killing spree with his men, some accounts say from the Brigade commanded by Aisida. They entered Asaba and holocaust commenced. Ogbeke Square, St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, St. Patrick ‘ s College, Cable Point, Ogbeosowa. Massacre, as never known anywhere in Southern Nigeria.
Families were wiped out. Ojogwu lost 10 members: Mike, Joe, Chukwuji, Moses, Omohan, Sam, Simon Oliver, Nnaji and E.O. No one was left. Nwosa lost eight: Frank, Jim, Joe, Chike,Chukwude, Onwuka,Nwaokocha and Adimonye, just like the Mordis. Seven from Okonji,Okonta and Isichei families respectively and six from the Chukwuras. Part of the 7,000+.
These names sound strange until you start attaching personalities. Chief Leonard Nwanonyei Okogwu welcomed the Nigerian soldiers since he had a wife,Asabe King,from the North. His daughter, Maria, would later marry Maj. Ibrahim Babangida. So IBB lost his father-in-law, to fellow Nigerian soldiers.
What would pain Babangida much would be that Taiwo was his senior at Provincial Secondary School,Bida. Garba Duba was also a young Nigerian officer and would feel sad that his aunt, Asabe King’s husband, was killed by friendly troops. It was through Duba that Babangida met Mariam.
Sidney Asiodu was well known in Lagos where he attended college. The athlete moved to the University of Nigeria Nsukka as a student of Zoology. Asiodu represented Nigeria at the Tokyo ’64 Olympic Games in the 4×100 metres relay. Other members of that quartet were Abdul Karim Amu, Folusho Erinle and Jimmy Omagbemi.
Asiodu also shone at the maiden West Africa Universities Games (WAUG ) in 1966, winning a double, the 100 and 200 metres. He made the hosts proud and stood shoulders above all other athletes.
It was strange that his elder brother,Philip Asiodu,was on the side of those that killed him, as Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Industries. The younger Asiodu ‘s sister – in-law was a Yoruba lady, Eugenia Olajumoke. The Super Perm.Sec. was a Nigerian civil servant at the Peduase Lodge, Aburi, Peace Talks.
Taiwo joined the Army on April 21, 1961. Some of his coursemates were Inua Wushishi, Domkat Bali and Emma Nwobosi, the man who led troops to kill Premier of the Western Region, Chief Ladoke Akintola, an Ogbomosho man. Could that be why Major Taiwo was so heartless?
He grew up in the North and was known as Ibrahim Kagara. His parents, Adeosun and Emily, were Christians and named one of their sons Sunday. Taiwo would later marry Olubunmi and Margaret Alamere who gave him five children. Many of the kids came after the genocide.
Thanks to Emma Okocha and two foreigners: Professors Elizabeth Bird and Fraser Otanelli, of the University of Florida, Tampa, United States, the world now knows what the Nigerian government tried so much to downplay. They have written books to counter the fallacies of the past.
Through these books we now know that scholar, Ify Uriah, survived the machine guns while his father, Robert , and siblings, Chike, Emma and Adigwe perished right before him. Martina Osaji, pulled her dad, Leonard Isichei’s body from the human dump. Pregnant Patience Chukwura watched as hubby Edwin and siblings,Christian,Ajokwu, David, Anene and Mgbeke were murdered.
Taiwo was also murdered by some of the soldiers who were on his side in 1967. On February 13, 1976, Major Kephas Ken Gagara ordered Lt. Obadaih Zagni of the Defence Company, 26 Infantry Brigade, Ilorin to go grab the Kwara State governor. Accompanied by Lt. Sunday Wayah, the young subaltern carried out instructions, abducted their target, took him to a bush in Amberi on the Ajase-Ipo/Offa Road and ordered Sergeants Ahmadu Rege and Bala Javan to fire.
Governor Taiwo’s death according to his son, Ahmed, took the family from grace to grass. From Government House Ilorin, they were given a two-bedroom apartment at Queens Drive,Ikoyi. They did not last there. Lt. Mustapha Jokolo threw them out and the Taiwos had to relocate to Ajegunle, of all places.
Today, Ahmed is a Colonel. His brother, Adebayo, is late. Sister Adenike is now Mrs Olujembola. There is also Azeez. The remaining Taiwos were not even born when the Asaba genocide took place. Col. Ahmed Taiwo says:” To me there is nothing in life that is worth mortgaging ones soul for”
There is something from Murtala’s second son Abba. “You cannot visit the actions of the fathers on the children. If we visit the ‘sins’ of their fathers on them, some will also hold us responsible for the actions of General Murtala Mohammed, which they did not like.” Yes, there was holocaust at Asaba. Yes, we will not forget. We could forgive. God heals.