December 16, 2017

Liberators in Tobruk, slaves in Tripoli – Emeka Obasi


immigrants at a detention centre in Zawiyah, 45 kilometres west of the Libyan capital Tripoli. AFP/Getty Images

It is a strange world we live in, there is nothing hidden under the sun. Events are never easily buried beneath  the rubble forever. We are back to Libya following  another round of slave trade, in the supersonic age.

Libyans should worship Nigerians instead of selling our people off as slaves. There is no trace of Libyans fighting on Nigerian soil to save us from colonization. I am pretty sure that during the Second World War, many of my countrymen joined the allies in driving Germans and Italians out of Libya.

immigrants at a detention centre in Zawiyah, 45 kilometres west of the Libyan capital Tripoli. AFP/Getty Images

Unfortunately, there is no record of this in many world war accounts. What we read is that Nigerians fought in Burma and India. Accounts show that the Nigerian Regiment of the Royal West African Frontier Forces [RWAFF] was made up of 14 Battalions. First, Second and Third Battalions saw action in East Africa with the 23 Nigeria Brigade and in Burma with one West Africa Brigade, under 82 West Africa Division.

I stumbled on the name Tobruk per chance as a boy in the late 1970s. Two senior members of my family, came out one early dusty morning to confront the biting cold. I knew they fought  in the second world war. One asked the other: “Do you remember where we felt this cold during the world war? The answer was sharp. “Tobruk,” the other responded.

All I knew about Libya then was Tripoli and Benghazi. From that day, the name Tobruk stuck. One of the veterans also said he visited  the tomb of Jesus Christ in Jerusalem and even collected sand as memorabilia. The import is that Nigerian soldiers fighting under the Union Jack also saw action in the Middle East as well as Myanmar[Burma] and India.

Perhaps,if Brigadier Babafemi Ogundipe’s son, Babajide, did not say it, most of us would not know that apart from fighting in Burma as a teenager  and  NCO, the senior Ogundipe was injured in battle in the far East. Some of us will remember that Isokari Dokubo, a member of the UK tourist team of 1949, was nicknamed ‘Burma Devil’ because he fought there.

Today, may I inform the Nigeria Army, that our soldiers also fought in the Middle East during the World War. It is possible that they were part of the British 8th Army led initially by Gen. Archibald Wavell and later by Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery.

The 8th Army defeated Nazi general, Erwin Rommel’s Afrika Korps at El Alamein , Egypt and pursued the Germans and Italians to Tripolitania, Fezzan and Cyrenaica. So beyond Tobruk, those my uncles could actually have fought the Axis in Benghazi, Misurata, Homs and Derna.

I am therefore pained that over 70 years after brave Nigerian boys liberated Libya from the Germans and Italian fascists, Libyans are selling our citizens into slavery and raping our girls without inhibitions.

While I slam the Berbers and Arabs for this obnoxious activity, I wonder what got into the heads of fellow Nigerians who have to risk their lives, in the first place, to get to Libya through  the Sahara Desert. If they survive the trek across the Sahara, most of them end up in detention camps and many more die trying to cross  the sea to Europe.

Imagine teenage girls traveling through Gao in Mali or Maradi and Zinder to Agades in Niger Republic. Many of these risk takers are Christians wading through hostile muslim territories. Do not be surprised that some of these Nigerians fail to  use their real names but claim to hail from Ghana, Senegal or even Burkina Faso.

During the years of Muammar Gaddafi, Nigerians held their heads high. He was accommodating. His enemies were the Europeans and Americans whose interests were shut down after the young colonel and his Free Officers Movement toppled King Sayyid Mohammed Idris el Senussi in 1969.

During the Sani Abacha years, the Presidential Body Guards [BGs] received further training in Libya. The dreaded Barnabas[Jabila] Mshelia, better known as Sergeant Rogers, perfected some of his sniper skills in the Maghreb.

We have also had Nigerian footballers helping to improve the Libyan league. I guess Victor Ikpeba once played there as well as Chikelue Iloenyosi and Izu Azuka. At a time, coach of the Libyan Athletics team was Nigeria’s Tony Osheku, once married to double Olympic Quarter miles medalist, Falilat Ogunkoya.

Statistics show that many of the great trekkers are from the Bini/Esan area. That is another sore point. They should listen to the Oba of Benin, Ewuare, The Second, who was an Ambassador. Ewuare, The Great[1440-1473] was the first to receive the Portuguese, Ruy De Sequeira, as far back as 1472. Then came Joao Afonso de Aveira in 1485.

Oba Esigie [1504-1550] was worshipped by the Europeans. Oba Orhogbua [1550-1578] could communicate in Portuguese. British explorers adored Oba Ehengbuda. In those years, the Bini kingdom had an Envoy in Opotokiri[Portugal]. Ivory, pepper and palm oil made the people great and they  exchanged them for manilla [money] and guns.

Bini kingdom produced powerful women : Queens Idia and Iden, and Emotan. Presently we have Arase Carrington. It is disturbing that our pretty young girls are being  lured into prostitution across the Mediterranean thereby offering  these mean Berbers  opportunity to defile people they should ordinarily, remain eternally  grateful to.