By Emeka Obasi
Col. Afaha Asam Nsudoh is from a different planet. Maybe, just maybe. It is practically impossible to find anyone who saw death severally but failed to die. This same wonder man wears no airs and as he turned 79 recently, one of his subordinates, Col. Sam Kofo gave the veteran a smart salute.
Both officers are retired. Their paths crossed at the elite 72 Airborne Battalion, Makurdi under the 31 Airborne Brigade. Col. Nsudoh was the Commanding Officer while Kofo served as Adjutant.
Kofo said : “A gentleman officer who served Nigeria, Biafra and Nigeria Army after the Civil War. Col. Nsudoh is a detribalised Nigerian. I was privileged to serve under him in Makurdi. An epitome of humility. I am happy he made it to the peak of his second career serving the Lord as a Bishop.”
Nsudoh was one of the toughest officers on the Biafran side during the Civil War. He commanded 18 Battalion before earning promotion to the rank of Colonel and given command of 54 Brigade. His superiors found in him a bold determination to dare the devil.
My late friend, Prof. Emma Okocha said General Emeka Ojukwu had to order Nsudoh’s evacuation to the United States after the colonel fought on, even with his intestines gushing out. That was the only Biafran officer who was flown abroad for treatment.
At the end of the crisis, Nsudoh was one of the officers reabsorbed by Nigeria. He was at Mons with President Muhammadu Buhari, Muhammadu Jega, Juventus Ojukwu and Chris Ugokwe but lost seniority because he fought for Biafra.
When Buhari visited Makurdi in 1984 as a Major General and Head of State, his course mate, Nsudoh, was a Lieutenant Colonel and Battalion Commander. Kofo was a young Lieutenant and admired his Commanding Officer’s humility.
“Col. Nsudoh’s relationship with his subordinates was very cordial. He was deeply religious, a member of the Brotherhood of Cross and Star. He would distribute his religious tracts but didn’t compel subordinates to attend his church.
“I also benefited from his regular distribution of fruits. He was very energetic and loves jogging. His daily routine was to jog at least seven kilometres. He also played tennis. At his age as Commanding Officer, he was stronger than most of his juniors”, Kofo told me.
Charles Eyo, arguably the only journalist who got a detailed interview from Nsudoh, says the veteran still jogs at 79, goes to the market, does laundry and prepares his meals. He lost his wife of 47 years, Effanga in 2015.
Kofo also revealed why Nsudoh kept beards after the Civil War and how their relationship as boss and subordinate led the superior officer from Ido Urua, Ukwo in Esin Eket Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State to clear the beards in the Benue State capital.
“Col. Nsudoh sustained injury on his chin during the Nigerian Civil War. He covered the scar with beards till he noticed that I was often clean shaven. He wondered how he could also be clean shaven without injury from the contour of the scar.
“During our discussion, I told him, normally I use shaving powder. The senior officer applied it and discovered he could also be clean shaven. He started shaving from then.”
Col. Kofo later commanded 82 Mechanised Battalion, Jaji and in Bakkassi. He was also Commander, Army Amphibious Training School, Calabar. His take on Col. Nsudoh : “ He was not a General in the Nigeria Army but became a General ( Bishop) in God’s Army.
One of Col. Nsudoh’s daughters, Angela, who is married to an Ukonu from Umudike in Abia State described her father as an honest man who loved his wife and still loves her even in death.
‘’ My dad is very forthright. When I was about to get married, he told my husband my correct age because he thought my husband was unaware. My mom died in 2015, literally in my father’s arms. He still talks to her sometimes and says he knows he will never find a woman that will complement him as she did, “ Mrs Ukonu said.
Col. Nsudoh reminds me of General Ishola Williams of Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA) Regular Course One. He retired from the Army as Head of Training and Doctrine (TRADOC) and was also a member of the Armed Forces Ruling Council (AFRC).
I understand Gen. Williams refused to retire with Staff Car and while some of his colleagues bought wonders on wheel, you could see him jump into the popular Lagos bus ‘molue’ after attending to Handball issues at the National Stadium, Surulere.
My friend, Stanley Nkwazema who is close to Williams kept disturbing me with stories of the general’s low-key life. I did not quite believe him until I saw the man. Williams did not look anything like a top Nigerian officer as he felt free with the crowd.
As Nsudoh turned 79 on July 27, I doubt if many of the neo- Biafrans remembered to send him birthday wishes. It is possible President Buhari has forgotten his course mate. Even Akwa Ibom State Government may not be interested. I thank my colleague, Utibe Ukim for asking after this exceptional hero.