By Osa Amadi
Yesterday, we published part one of Justice Peter Umeadi’s speech in Asaba at the gathering of the old boys of the University of Nigeria’s Jackson College of Mass Communications which amounted to a review of the life and works of Emma Okocha, author of Blood on the Niger. Here is the concluding part:
A Professor of English at Florida University, United States of America, the celebrated, Obi Nwakanma, provided us some guidelines to understanding Emma Okocha as a writer of conscience, human rights crusader and anti-genocide campaigner. Professor Nwakanma of whom I referred to as a refreshing/laureate in my book (above), asserted that ‘Okocha’s pursuit of exposing the Asaba genocide, reopening the case of the mass killings, compelling the official acknowledgment of war crimes by the Nigerian government, and erecting a visible war memorial in honor of the Asaba dead of October 1967, continue to attract unprecedented world attention. For the first time Asaba is the news that can no longer be under the carpet. Professor Nwakanma continued, “Happily, Emma Okocha’s work is drawing attention to one of modern Africa’s darkest war crimes. He had convened the Asaba Memorial Symposium to reopen the issue, and unveil “the long-buried tragedy, led by the anthropologist Elizabeth Bird, Erin Kimmerle and Fraser Ottanelli, Chairman of the Department of History, in collaboration with the USF Libraries Holocaust and Genocide Studies Centre.”
In collaboration with Emma Okocha, the University recruited a Tampa homicide detective, Charles Massucci, to gather documents, record oral histories and to examine mass graves and recover evidence of the Asaba genocide. More than any other individual, Obi Nwakanma testified, Okocha has pursued the Asaba story with the temerity of a survivor, and the hardnosed instincts of a well-trained journalist. Asaba has become Okocha’s life work; an obsession, and according to him, all the struggle is to give final rest and honour to those who perished in that day of infamy in Asaba, October 7, 1967.
Testimonies from far and near
Elsewhere, another celebrated American writer of the Newsweek magazine, Shana Alexander, had described Emma Okocha experiences as those that would shatter most people, adding that Emma in all his writings could express himself with so much eloquence.
In his own definition of Emma Okocha and his struggles, your own Sunday Pointer, that is the Delta State Newspaper, March 20, 2011l; the Delta State Newspapers Editor-in-Chief, Monday Uwagwu, stated as follows….” that Emma Okocha is an exemplary Journalist, the conscience of history.” And in the Champion of Tuesday, August 23, 2011, the Deputy News Editor, Charles Oko, described Okocha as the leader of the Asaba October 7 group, who have persevered to put the perpetrators of the Asaba genocide to justice.