First City Monument Bank, FCMB

By Emeka Obasi

Now I understand why it is pretty dicey to judge a book by the cover. Dr. William Boyd was different in life from what he is in death. Brigadier Joe Achuzia knew more than enough to ever lend him attention while battle raged in oil rich Republic of Benin (Mid-West) during the Civil War.

Until he breathed his last recently in Abuja, Boyd was  President of the Nigerian Baseball and Softball Association. I knew him as a common face at the Nigeria Olympic Association building, Lagos. I did not care who he was because the man seemed to be filled with funnily unnecessary airs.

My feeling was that this one could have been a Berliner. Or maybe, a Sydneysider  turned New Yorker who found himself in Nigeria. His skin colour made him look more of an expatriate than a serious minded compatriot.

How wrong I was. I never bothered to dig deep. It took Chief Tony Nezianya’s announcement of Boyd’s passage to open my eyes to reality. The phantom strange looking man was indeed closer than I ever imagined. Pure Home Boy, Ojunwala.

Boyd was not only Igbo from the Aboh area of Delta State, he was Lieutenant in the Biafra Army and served in the Commando (CODO) division. The subaltern must have been a toughie, for only the brave could undergo the training.

What impressed me was the bravado in making Achuzia spare a life that would have been wasted over oil matters. If you knew Achuzia, also called ‘Air Raid’ by Biafran soldiers or ‘Hannibal’ by the populace then it would be easier to understand.

As tributes poured eulogizing Boyd, one touched me .It came from Anthony  Ikwuazom, a Biafran Veteran who escaped execution by a whisker simply because a subaltern chipped in more than a word for him. Others accused of the same offence were summarily executed.

Ikwuazom said : “ Boyd and I served together in the Biafran Army. He was a full Lieutenant while I was a full Corporal. We served under Sector One, Commando Division in Aboh, ROB (Republic of Benin) then commanded by Col. Joe Achuzia.

“ Boyd was a fine officer who saved me from Achuzia’s commander’s trial in Aboh for oil bunkering during the war. He knew I was innocent and together with his senior sister called Mabel, who happened to be close to Achuzia struggled to save me.”

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Ikwuazom and Boyd were friends in Lagos before war broke out. That friendship helped for Achuzia was known as a trigger happy officer who shot soldiers like game without recourse to military law and was like an untouchable.

“Boyd and I were family friends. His father who was Director of Prisons, was my dad’s close friend. I was not there  with them but I know they convinced Achuzia that I was innocent. After thorough investigation,I was released

“ I was very lucky indeed.Others paid dearly. Soldiers like Wasky, Ali Baba, Otigba, Wasmola, Carton of Trouble and  Obele were not so lucky,” Ikwuazom added.

Achuzia so loved Biafra that the thing got into his head. There are no records to show he was trained as an officer. One account said he fought in Korea as George Taylor. After bagging a degree in Engineering, he joined oil Giants, Shell.

When war broke out, Col.Conrad Nwawo helped recruit him. Achuzia began from the militia in Port Harcourt and was lucky to become a GOC.He was brave no doubt but also ruthless. He killed as many Biafran troops as the enemy.

Richard Magana ( Nwa Lawyer) who fought in Port Harcourt and Owerri blames Achuzia for the loss of Major Theodore Atumaka in Owerri. Atumaka was in the United States as a cadet with William Walbe, Isa Bukar, Eddie Utuk and Yemi Alabi.

As if Achuzia’s flawed tactics were not enough, when Atumaka’s body was retrieved by his men, Achuzia mistook them for deserters and shot some of the soldiers. One  Biafran Commander was so pained that he vowed to deal with Achuzia.

Another Biafran officer, Col. Tim Onwuatuegwu was ready for the worst right in front of their boss, Gen. Alex Madiebo. He and Achuzia drew pistol to finish themselves before the Biafran Army Chief intervened to save an ugly situation.

This was the Achuzia that Boyd calmed down. Ikwuazom was one of the experienced Biafran fighters. “ I formally joined at Utchi in ROB and sent to 20 CODO Brigade commanded by Maj. Ugorji with Lt. Francis Uwalaka, the famous Nigerian footballer as O/C Training Depot.

“ We were firstly deployed to Okogbele near Asaba. I ended up at Aboh after a duty tour of Umuolu, Patani, Iyede Ami, Lagos Iyede, Akiri, Azu Aboh, Abalagada, Okpai Olushi. I served under commanders like Captains Pender, Mike Ajegbo (Senator), Big Boy Anoliefo from Ogidi and Kyrian from Kwale,” Ikwuazom said.

“War”, according to Ikwuazom, “cannot solve any problem. The most painful thing is that the rich will escape with their family, like General Emeka Ojukwu did, leaving the poor to suffer.” Dr. Boyd fought, graduated as a Medical Doctor and departed at 71.

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