By Emeka Obasi

Col. Ahmed Taiwo spoke the minds of many when questioned on why he joined the Army, 12 years after his father was assassinated by soldiers of the 26 Brigade, Ilorin, led by Major Kephas Kolo Gagara.

Late Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu

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He said:“I only followed my inspiration. From time,I always wanted to join the Army. ‘All die na die.’ The fact that someone drowned would not mean others will not go near the river again.”

There is an Igbo adage: ‘You cannot be afraid of death when going to war.’ This best describes the resolve of some families who lost dear ones as servicemen and also offered more members to continue from where the departed stopped.

Biafran leader, Emeka Ojukwu, felt enough pain very early during the Civil War when he lost his half brother, Lt. Tom Bigger, around Nsukka. The latter was killed alongside Major Chukwuma Nzeogwu in an ambush.

Federal troops of the 21 Battalion, led by Captain Abubakar Gora did the damage. That battalion was under the command of Captain Inua Wushishi whose boss was Col. Folusho Sotomi. Sotomi felt bad when the news reached him for Nzeowgu was his friend. Both were commissioned in 1959.

Bigger’s death saved Ojukwu from those who alleged he knew something about Nzeogwu’s demise. Of course, it sounded illogical that Ojukwu could plan Nzeogwu’s assassination not minding the loss of a blood brother in the process.

Nzeogwu died on July 29, 1967. But  the death of Ojukwu’s brother did not stop him from going to war after Nigeria attacked through Garkem.

As war raged, there was another Ojukwu. Major Juventus Chijioke Ojukwu was commander of Biafra’s 45 Armoured Battalion. This one was no relation of the Biafran commander’s. He joined the Nigeria Army same day as Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, in April 1962.

Brigadier Samuel Ademulegun, commander of One Brigade, Kaduna, was murdered with his wife in the January 15, 1966 coup right in front of their only daughter, Solape. Mrs Latifat Feyisitan Abike Ademulegun [nee Noble] was also known as ‘Sisi Nurse.’

All their children were home. Bankole, the second son, watched as bullets flew across their compound. Kunle, Gbenga and Goke did not understand what was happening.

Many were shocked when Ademulegun’s first son, Frank Bandele, enlisted in the Nigeria Air Force. The loss of his parents in a military coup did not deter him from pursuing the profession of his dream. He rose to the rank of Group Captain and died in 2002.

Brigadier Abubakar Zakariya Maimalari, also lost his life in the January 1966 coup. He was the first Nigerian to pass out from the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, as part of Intake 10, 1951-1953. Among his course mates were King Hassan of Morocco, Charles Buah of Ghana and compatriot, Umar Lawal.

Maimalari was Commanding Officer, Two Brigade, Lagos, and was said to be welcoming his new wife with a party the night he was killed. The first wife had died in what was described as a hunting accident.

His son, Abubakar Sadi Zakariya Maimalari, followed Daddy’s footsteps. In 1998, he was appointed Military Administrator of Jigawa State by General Abdusalami Abubakar. In 1999, the Lt.Col was sacked from the Army by President Olusegun Obasanjo.

Col. Shittu Alao trained as an Army Cadet at Sandhurst and was commissioned Second Lieutenant in 1962. He later crossed over to the Nigeria Air Force and rose to the enviable position of Chief of Air Staff in 1967.

Unfortunately, Alao flew solo and died in a crash in October, 1969. His light plane hit a school field in Uzebba, Edo State after he lost bearing on his way to Enugu and tried to return to Benin.

In 1984, his son, Lawal, joined the Air Force as a graduate and was commissioned Pilot Officer in 1985. By 1989, he was serving as Aide de Camp[ADC] to another Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Ibrahim Alfa. Today Lawal is an Air Vice Marshal.

Col. Ibrahim Taiwo was born in Wushishi but grew up in Kagara, Niger State. At the Provincial Secondary School, Bida, they called him Ibrahim Kagara. His parents, Adeosun and Emily, were Christians from Ogbomosho and even named his younger brother, Sunday.

Taiwo found love in the Army and survived the Civil War. In 1976, he was appointed Military Governor of Kwara State by Gen. Murtala Mohammed. On February 16, 1976, the governor was murdered at Ambari village on the Ajase-Ipo/ Offa Road.

He left behind two wives, Bunmi, Margaret and five children including Adenike, Adebayo, Ahmed and Abdulazeez.

In 1987, Ahmed who was barely six when his father died, was at the University of Ilorin studying Political Science. A year later, he left the University and proceeded to the Nigeria Defence Academy [NDA], Kaduna.

We also have cases of men who joined the Army after their brothers’ passage or those who fought bravely even after losing brothers in battle.

Adetunji Olurin was absorbed by the Army after his elder brother, Major Olurin, died fighting with Murtala’s Second Division in Onitsha. The younger Olurin became part of NDA Course Three [September 4, 1967-March 4, 1970].

Flt. Lieutenant John Ikeokwu Chukwu was a daring fighter pilot for Biafra. He earned a medal from Gen. Ojukwu in 1968 for tormenting a Nigeria Air Force MIG with his chopper in the skies of Port Harcourt. He was recalled by Gowon and was said to have fought in Angola during the Murtala regime. He died in Nigeria as a Squadron Leader.

His younger brother, Christain Ndubuisi, joined the Air Force in 1979 and was also a fighter pilot who saw battle in Angola and was decorated by Obasanjo in 2000. He retired as an Air Vice Marshal.

Flt. Lt. Ibikari Allwell was downed by Nigerian troops barely a week to the end of the Civil War. His elder brother, Bara, continued as a Biafran in the air.

Major Hannibal Okpani Nkama defied a bad right leg to fight for Biafra. He refused amputation even after younger brother, Captain Ray, was lost in battle.

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