By Osa Mbonu, Arts Editor
No creative work captures more aptly the theme of this discourse than Bob Marley’s legendary song, Babylon System. Politics and social issues are at the heart of Bob Marley’s Babylon System, as most of his songs. The political problems in the Caribbean and Africa that occupied Marley are not different from the political and social problems confronting Nigeria today, hence the truth to tell our children must border on politics, socio-economic conditions, and the malignant state of the nation.
In 2017, at the height of the IPOB agitation for an independent state of Biafra, Olusegun Obasanjo (now PhD) made a profound statement. He offered to show the agitating Igbo youths where Biafra was buried, in case they did not know. After watching Jide Olanrewaju’s documentary film titled: The Real Story of Nigeria (2007), I believed I found the so-called Biafran grave which Obasanjo spoke about. It was where Lt. Col. Olusegun Obasanjo led Major-General Philip Effiong and some other defeated Biafran soldiers to Dodan Barracks Ikoyi to officially surrender and accept defeat after General Odumegwu Ojukwu had escaped to Ivory Coast.
Let us agree that Biafra is dead and buried; but if we must tell ourselves and our children the truth, we must accept Renato Constantino’s insight when he said that “Military victory does not signify conquest. As long as feelings of resistance remain in the hearts of the vanquished, no conqueror is secure.” (Renato Constantino (1979).
We must also accept, since we no longer want to continue to lie to our children, that Nigeria is terminally sick. Like Obasanjo, I offer to show anyone who cares to know, where Nigeria contracted the terminal disease of which she can only be cured through thorough blood transfusion.
If the elders must tell the children the truth, children must also be prepared to read because a larger part of the truth about Nigeria is documented in books. One of the most important books to read in search of the truth about Nigeria’s terminal illness is Emma Okocha’s classic: Blood on the Niger. Every time I pick up this book, I am haunted, first by its cover illustration, and then by its bloody content. On page 234, Mr. John Kanayo Hudson Odittah, a survivor of the first black-on-black genocide popularly known as October 6 and 7, 1967 Asaba Massacre, gave an eyewitness account of how “at the Cable Point Area, hundreds of (Asaba) people were lined up by the River (Niger) bank (from where Nigeria derived her name) and ordered to walk into the River by the vandals (Nigerian Army). When they moved into a point where the water reached their waist, they were torn into pieces with machine guns and their corpses carried away by the river (Niger)…at Ogbeosowa Square, the (Nigerian Army) vandals also collected thousands of men who they ordered to dig three large graves. After they had dug the graves, they were ordered to enter into the graves which they did and were all shot dead.”
Among the thousands of innocent people executed at Ogbeosowa killing ground on October 7, 1967 by Nigerian soldiers led by Col. Murtala Mohammed, Major Ibrahim Taiwo, and Major Osaigbovo Ogbemudia, were no more than four-year old infants like Felix and Alphonsus Nwajei who were forced to join the men as they faced the firing squad. “Babies were yanked away from their mothers’ breasts,” an eyewitness, Dr. Getrude Okogwu, narrated. “Their heads were bashed against concrete bitumen tar, their little bodies strewn under and rolled over by the monstrous tyres of the army supply vehicles.”
If, by reading this article, you are beginning to understand me to mean that Nigeria’s sickness is rooted in the spiritual, you are quite on track. Or what would you make of the story of Adaobi, a 16-year-old virgin, set aside by the gods to serve as Priestess to the River Niger. Three Nigerian soldiers raped Adaobi to death during the Asaba Massacre. Adaobi’s father told Emma Okocha:
“You don’t know how powerful your River is…I told you I’m from Abor. Many Abor, Ndoni and Kwale families were killed at Cable Point. We live in Cable because the River has taken over our land. In those days, my daughter whose name was Adaobi was betrothed to the Omu family. She was sixteen. The Omu would stop by my house on her way to the Oniche Shrine down the River. She would take Adaobi along. She was getting initiated and as a Christian, I wasn’t bothered about the details.
“Then the soldiers came and defiled her in my presence. For me, a titled man, the Otibu-Ayiya of Abor, that was an abomination! She was a virgin, and apart from the fact that the eye does not see the ear, the three army rapists almost suffocated Adaobi, my young daughter, to death.
“In my rage, I cared little about their guns when I charged. By the time it was all over, I had lost an eye and those vandals beat me to a pulp. It was in the morning hours, a day after, the Omu as usual visited her daughter. She never said any word or blinked till the end of the story. She left for the River and returned with a large piece of white cloth and covered the poor girl. The following morning, it was my sister who ran to the Omu with the sad news. Adaobi had bled to death!! The Omu returned with my sister and asked us to leave the house. She avoided the casket the family bought for Adaobi’s burial.
“She lifted her with little effort and we were amazed that such an advanced woman could lift that 180 pound, 5feet, 9inches chubby girl without help. She never cried, shed tears, nor blinked. She took my daughter down the slopes of Cable Point to the River. Adaobi was buried somewhere there. I never had the courage to interfere and till this day, there was no question from me, her mother, or my sister on why the Omu took away the corpse of my daughter.
“Four days later, the Priestess of the River, the Omu of Asaba, entered my house. Again, she was in all white. It was around 5:00 a.m. and she declared in the language of the water:
’On the portals of her Shrine/Before the presence of her messengers/Barbarians came to defile?/The virgin daughter of the River/Abomination is wrought their cause/Tribulation shall carry their cause/Their families a future cursed/ A generation to be born and lost/Oniche from strife always recaps/But never forgives her virgin rape/Tomorrow the land shall turn to water/And the water shall bury the land.’
“And Omu disappeared just like the way she had appeared. I rushed to my door and the door was still locked. It had been locked since the previous night, yet, she had come in.
“When I opened the door, the build up for the invasion of Onitsha had started. There were lots of activities down the River Niger Road to the River Port – hundreds of armored vehicles, artilleries, machine guns, etc., countless numbers of soldiers.
“Then the following morning, there was Armageddon! The River was afloat with thousands of dead soldiers by dusk, right till the next day. The soldiers that attacked Adaobi were in the same boat with Lt. Usman, alias ‘White man no mercy.’
Their disintegrated barge was the first to receive a direct hit from the Biafran shore-batteries. Lt. Usman and few others were still struggling when an amorphous monster, more of an alligator, surfaced. “White man no mercy” had been masticated alive! The next morning, his two legs, still in the black army boots and familiar bulala whips, were found at the banks under the big mango trees overlooking the River Niger killing spot. After the vultures had had their fill, the boots were never touched until the end of the war.” (P243-244).
Perhaps, that was why General Gowon went to Asaba “to the very sands of the River Niger and prayed and apologised,” said Saint David Oputa. But what can one man’s apology do for a nation neck-deep in the blood of her innocent citizens? And yet, the blood level, like sea level, is still rising.
The children must also be told how leaders of these murderers, General Murtala Mohammed and Major Ibrahim Taiwo ended up: On February 13, 1976, Lt. Col Bukar Suka Dimka, who was also deeply involved in the killing of innocent Igbos in Kaduna during the July 1966 counter-coup, cornered General Murtala who was sitting in his car in a Lagos traffic holdup and cut his body into pieces with a machine gun. On the same day, Col. Ibrahim Taiwo was also beheaded by his mates. It was a coup against Murtala Mohammed. Those who kill by the sword will also die by the sword. This is one of the lessons today for our children.
Another truth we must tell our children today is that the physical death of the individual sinner is not the end of his punishment. God tells us through the Bible that we should not be afraid of the person who only has power to destroy the body but has no power over the soul. The person we should fear, says God, is the person who has power to destroy both the body and cast the soul into Hell Fire. So, both terrestrial and eternal punishment await all those who committed and condoned the Massacre of Igbos generally and Asaba people particularly.
God is merciful. If Nigeria genuinely repents and forsakes her evil ways and submits herself for thorough blood transfusion, she might obtain forgiveness and survive, otherwise, she must pay the supreme price – death, both of body and soul.