By Osa Amadi
The cover illustration of the book is macabre, haunting, terror-striking, blood-cuddling, and to cap it all, shameful.
It is a picturesque summary of the bloody content of the book – ill-educated soldiers, fed, clothed and housed by taxes paid by erudite Asaba chiefs and kept in a country built by their sweats; the soldier points five accusing fingers at His Royal Majesty and his chiefs, saying to them:
“Today, I be your God, me first; God second. God gives you life, me I go take am. Two minutes time, you go die.” (see “Blood on the Niger”, page 230).
Some claim it is documentation of a tragedy that took place about 50 years ago; collateral damage associated with the Nigeria-Biafra Civil War. They also claim that the war ended in 1969.
Yet, gorier events are taking place today in different parts of Nigeria, especially in the South-East, where the same army that poured blood of thousands of innocent Nigerians into the sacred Niger, from where the country derived its name, carried similar atrocities 54 years ago:
“The first wave of killing produced so many bodies that their disposal presented gruesome logistic problems. Some bodies were simply hauled into the roadside narrow ditches. Others were simply thrown into the River Niger. And because of the absence of enough men to bury the numerous dead bodies all over the town (the soldiers had almost wiped out all the men in Asaba), the Niger became the most expedient cemetery for these civilian casualties. Therefore, sweeping the bodies of those regularly killed in the John Holt and Marina beaches, the Niger was turning crimson red. There was more blood on the Niger.” (page 87).
Between 1967 and 1969, the Nigerian government starved millions of Igbo children to death. Some of them, like 16-year-old Adaobi, were raped to death by Nigerian soldiers. Adaobi’s father recounts his experience:
“Then the soldiers came and defiled her in my presence…she was a virgin…the three soldiers 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 over, I had lost an eye and those vandals beat me to a pulp…. The following morning, it was my sister who ran to the Omu with the sad news. Adaobi had bled to death!!” (page 243).
Elsewhere at Ogbeosowa, infants like Felix and Alphonsus Nwajei were forced by the Nigerian soldiers to join the men as they faced the firing squad.
Fifty-four years later, a much more sinister scenario is playing out in Nigeria. Terrorists and kidnappers are boldly entering schools, abducting school children, and murdering some of them. In Igbo land, innocent Igbo youths are shot at sight.
From all indications, nothing appears to have changed; as a matter of fact, things have gotten worse. A country that kidnaps, rapes, and murders its school children does not in any way qualify to be called a country. It is a jungle.
As children in Nigeria observe the 2021 Children’s Day on May 27, a day established by the United Nations since 1964, the world tasks Nigerians, the Nigerian government, soldiers, and everyone to respect and protect children from all manners of violent abuses. For without our children, there will be no tomorrow for the human race.