.First City Monument Bank, FCMB

I never saw him smile, he wore muffler and became the first governor of Enugu State in 1991. Herbert Obi Ezeh left the Nigeria Military School ( NMS) Zaria during the 1966 Pogrom. By 1967, he was a Biafran officer.

The story behind it was not his making. Eze went to school not knowing that he would see war as a boy. With admission number,NMF/191, his mates included David Mark, Tunde Ogbeha,  Raji Rasaki, Isaiah Gowon, Bzigu Afakriya, Rufus Eyitayo, Isaac Areola and Ibrahim Rabo.

When war broke out, NMS boys from the Eastern Region were sent to elite schools closer home. Ezeh, Paul Ndimele Omeruo, Lorderick Emejuru and Bernard Akpunonu became students of Government Secondary School, Afikpo.

At Afikpo, they met foreign students from other African countries. There were John Garang of Sudan, Hilton Sinyangwe, the Tanzanian, Ethiopia’s Iyassu Gutama and Samuel Chichindua, from Namibia. Their principal was George Akabogu.

Ezeh became ‘Eze War’. Omeruo was nicknamed ‘Admiral’, Akpunonu chose ‘Brave’ and Emejuru, ‘Major’. They completed secondary education in 1967 and were drafted to the Biafran Army. Their principal later joined them and became famous as Maj. Akobogu, commander, Uli Airport.

The war claimed some of the NMS boys from the East. Ezeh survived. His cousin, Major  Mike Mbonu Ezeteoha, was quite unlucky. A pioneer student of the University of Nigeria Nsukka and Best Graduating Student in Geology, Mike fell to friendly fire on New Year Day, 1970 barely two weeks to the end of hostilities.

Eze War lived until 2021. His career was affected by the war.

He did not go beyond the rank of a Colonel although he went back to the Nigeria Army with some of his mates like Omeruo and Emmanuel Acholonu.

While the boys from the Eastern Region fought for Biafra, their mates in Nigeria proceeded to the Nigeria Defence Academy in 1967 as members of Regular Course 3 and were commissioned in 1970. Acholonu had to wait until Regular Course 9 and was commissioned with juniors like Buba Marwa, Cletus Emein, Anthony Oguguo and Fidelis Makkah.

When Ezeh was appointed Military governor of old Anambra State, he was a Lt.col. His NMS mates, Rasaki and Adisa, were sent to Oyo and Lagos States as full colonels. Oguguo, who was Aide de Camp to Ndubuisi Kanu, the first governor of Imo State in 1976, was sent back to Imo as governor.

I met governor Ezeh at the Hotel Presidential Enugu in December 1990. It was at the Rangers Awards Night sponsored by Ben Osi Umunna ( father of British politician Chuka Umunna). The senior Umunna was Chairman of the Flying Antelopes.

One interesting aspect of the night was that Ezeh’s successors, Emeka Omeruah and Nnaemeka Akonobi were there, dressed in the now very famous Ishi Agu attire. And the three of them were Biafran officers who were taken back by the Nigerian military.

I could connect so much.

Akonobi was Ibrahim Babangida’s mate before the war. IBB did not forget him. At a time, Akonobi was commander, One Brigade Sokoto. Omeruah was Tunde Idiagbon’s mate in Pakistan and his younger brother, Paul Omeruo was made military governor of Kogi by Sani Abacha, another of Akonobi’s mates.

Of course, at the Rangers Awards Night, many did not realise the Biafran connection. A player like Austin ‘Jay Jay’ Okocha who was still a greenhorn and would spend only that season with the Coal City Team, might not have known that the name Rangers had something to do with the Civil War.

I had a good laugh recently when Arthur Ebunam reminded me that when Head of State Yakubu Gowon queried Jerry Enyeazu in 1970 for naming the team Rangers, the reply was that the name was taken from Glasgow Rangers.

Ezeh also loved Nigeria until he died and chose to live in Kaduna.

I think he stayed around France Road, Kakuri. The Artillery officer would have been disappointed that the town named after crocodiles has become notorious for banditry.

His country home in Ogboro, Ubahueze in the Awo Idemiri part of Orsu, Imo State is known as Ikemba Villa. I would not know if it had anything to do with his former Commander-in-Chief. That is also going to be Eze War’s final resting place on November 11,2021.

His passage must not be overlooked by the government’s of Anambra, Enugu and Imo respectively. Ezeh lived in Enugu, his deputy Vincent Aniago hailed from Anambra and Orsu is a stone throw from Governor Hope Uzodinma’s Oru palace.

I am sure the NMS children of Chemistry Master and later Commandant, Maj. Gen. T.B. Ogundeko are planning a grand farewell for one of their best. For those of them who also belong to NDA Regular 3, it is double tragedy. They also lost Gen. Tunji Olurin.

Col. Ezeh loved education and continued to expand his sphere of knowledge. Like  Omeruah, he advanced to add Doctor to his CV. The man was not all about mortar and shelling.

Ezeh saw war, he fought many battles and survived. Idiagbon once said he (Idiagbon) owed the nation just one bullet. He never got it. Ezeh fired so many artillery shells. He dodged bullets. Now at 73 years, the retired colonel has released the final bullet.

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