Vanguard Newspaper 03 February 2018
22—SATURDAY Vanguard, MARCH 3, 2018 Achuzia: More Biafran an after Biafra They nicknamed him ‘Air Raid’ simply because Col. Joe Oseloka Achuzia probably killed more Biafran soldiers than some Nigerian troops. He so believed in Biafra that soldiers who ran away from battle were summarily executed by him. According to Biafra’s Army Chief, General Alex Atta Madiebo, the name Air Raid came on a day Administrator of Okigwe Province, Sam Onunaka Mbakwe, visited the frontline. Mbakwe’s official car looked exactly like Achuzia’s so when the soldiers saw the vehicle approaching they scampered for safety thinking it was the latter. Mbakwe, wearing the rank of colonel found out that the shout of air raid was not to dodge enemy jet fighters but to run from Achuzia who was fond of shooting his boys without any restrictions. One soldier who escaped Achuzia’s bullets, Sasa Nwoke, of the Eighth Commando Brigade under Major Juventus Ojukwu and a crew of the Armoured Vehicle, Corporal Nwafor, would later eulogise the officer. Nwoke wrote: “The man, Air Raid Achuzia, was a soldier to the core, a Spartan who would rather commit suicide than surrender. To him retreat was tantamount to surrender or worse still to cowardice. The man simply loathed cowards. In him I saw a soldier who had no respect or regard for bullets in flight and he seemed to have married a heroine of a wife, the daughter of a German general, I presume. I remember seeing her, a couple of times, arrive in the company of her ten-year-old son adorned in a colonel’s apparel in the thick of battle. She would stand and chat with her husband and son for a while oblivious of the raging battle, a hair’s breath away.” Achuzia actually tried to kill teenage Sasa in Uzuakoli, where Major Ibrahim Babangida got a bullet in the leg and was replaced by Maj. Mamman Vatsa. At the end he said the boy was lucky not be turned to Uzuakoli manure. Achuzia also earned another cognomen, Hannibal. His Land Rover with registration number, BA[Biafra Army] 7 was very well known by troops. He began with the Biafra Militia and ended up as Commander of 15 Division. At the end of the war, Achuzia was the one who led Nigerian Army officers to the peace table before the formal surrender. General Emeka Ojukwu was the power behind Achuzia, using him to check and balance regular and more seasoned officers. And the colonel played to the gallery effectively. He fought all over Biafra, from Onitsha as a company commander to the Midwest, to Owerri and to Okigwe as commander of a division. He single handedly changed the 13 Division to 15 Division on the grounds that the number 13 carried along with it some ill luck. Achuzia also took over the “S” Division from Col. Tim Onwuatuegwu. Both officers never saw eye to eye and once tried to kill themselves in the presence of Madiebo. One of the seasoned Biafran soldiers and a member of the “S” Brigade, Richard Magana,[Nwa Lawyer] believes Achuzia did not do so much to win the war. It was alleged that due to his inexperience, Maj. T.I. Atumaka, was lost in Owerri. Atumaka was the first commander of the “S” Brigade which grew to a division. Achuzia was not the only Hannibal in the Biafra Army. There was a younger officer, Hannibal of Carthage, Okpani Nkama. An all round sportsman at the Government Secondary School, Afikpo, he was also at the Nigeria Military School[NMS] Zaria. His Afikpo mates included Reverend Precious Omuku and Tete Mbuk. The quartet of Herbert Obi Eze, Paul Ndimele Omeruo, Bernard Akpunonu and Lorderick Emejuru moved to Afikpo from Zaria when war broke out and distinguished themselves as young officers. Achuzia claimed to have fought for the British in the Korean war from 1950- 1953 using the name George Taylor. Some accounts say he arrived Nigeria on July 29, 1966 during the counter coup and was indeed saved by Lt. Col. Murtala Mohammed. In Korea, the United Nations raised troops led by US General Douglas MacArthur. Most of the UN soldiers were Americans who pushed beyond the 38 th parallel before they were beaten back by communist backed North Korea in a war that cost about 4.7 lives. It was under that circumstance that Achuzia, an engineer, survived although records of his involvement have not been tendered publicly. Madiebo did not see Achuzia as one of the best officers on the Biafran side. Achuzia was commissioned Major by Madiebo based on the recommendation of Brigadier Conrad Nwawo. Strange enough, the same Achuzia with no formal military training became one of Achuzia remained an Ojukwu loyalist until the Ikemba passed on about seven years ago. He also became actively involved in matters of Igbo interest speaking not just as an Igbo from Asaba but as Secretary Genearal of Ohaneze Ndigbo Ojukwu’s trusted officers and was even placed above Nwawo. Madiebo said:”Achuzia realized as soon as he got into the Army that the two vital requirements needed by an officer to win the admiration and respect of the people of Biafra were publicity and playing to the gallery. He, in short, saw the vital need for doing and saying what the people wanted to see or hear whether those things impeded the war effort or not. Like a few others, he discovered the magic of speeches of glorious intentions among the Biafran public, even if these were not followed up by action.” Achuzia remained an Ojukwu loyalist until the Ikemba passed on about seven years ago. He also became actively involved in matters of Igbo interest speaking not just as an Igbo from Asaba but as Secretary Genearal of Ohaneze Ndigbo. He also took the title of Ikemba Asaba and spoke out against marginalization of his people by successive Nigerian governments. At almost 90 years he remained a strong defender of Igbo interest and was willing to fight again if the opportunity offered itself. Achuzia lived, fought, survived the war and died 48 years after. From Chibok to Dapchi: Sad tale of the girl child It would seem that the pun about Nigerians now waking up, daily, and wondering what exactly will be the next bad news, seems to be sticking, no longer as a joke but reality. And so it was that last week Monday, February 19, 2018, the nation woke to the tragic news of abduction of 110 girls from Government Girls Science and Technical College, Dapchi, Yobe State, again by members of the Boko Haram terrorist group, which government had severally said had been decimated. In the same state of Yobe, about four years ago, members of the same terrorists’ sect had invaded the Government Secondary School, Buni Yadi, where they murdered scores of male students of the school. Also, the Chibok, Borno state incident of 2014, where about 272 girls were kidnapped from their school by the terrorists group, is still fresh in our memories. Though in the Chibok incident, which presents similar scenario with the Dapchi abduction, some of the girls reportedly managed to escape from their captors. And while about 100 were freed, in exchange for Boko Haram militants following a negotiations said to have been brokered by the International Committee of the Red Cross, over 100 others are still held captive by the Boko Haram. Incidentally, both abductions happened shortly after security operatives stationed in those locations, were said to have been withdrawn. But how these terrorists easily disappear into thin air, without a trace, after successfully carrying out such operation, remains a puzzle yet to be solved by any group. Instead, what one gets to hear after the deed must have been done is likely an outright denial, followed by blames and counter blames as observed in the latest incident between government, police and the Army. Immediately news of the Dapchi abduction broke early last week, Nigerians were told that no girl was missing. Later on, the story changed that the army had rescued about 50 of them and it didn’t take long for Yobe state government to also make a U-turn, apologising to the people that earlier information on rescue was false. The dimension also introduced by the Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, to the effect that the abduction was meant to embarrass President Muhammadu Buhari, did not make things any better. Then came the story of 100 jets being deployed, Wednesday, to search for the girls, an aspect that actually made the whole thing sound like one huge joke. And social media, naturally, made mincemeat of it. If that story were to fly, it would mean one fighter jet per one missing girl, which is good. But whether Nigeria could afford 100 fighter jets in the skies at the same time left many wondering what the APC-led government wanted to achieve with the bogus claim. It also left many wondering who actually are involved in these abductions, and for what purpose? A member of the House of Representatives from Bauchi State, Mr. Mohammed Sani-Abdu, actually suspects sabotage in the manner the Dapchi abduction took place, pointing accusing finger at the security system. “This is a big shame to Nigeria because this incident took a pattern that indicated that our security system is in a serious trouble,” he said. Another lawmaker from Akwa Ibom State, Henry Achibong, hits harder, describing the Dapchi abduction as “failure of government to cater for the citizenry.” In fact, he said it might just be a diversion created by government to take the attention of Nigerians away from the killings being carried out by the “rampaging” Fulani herdsmen. His argument really is that if as we are told that the military has practically defeated Boko Haram, how then is it Despite other factors militating against girl-child education in the north, not many parents would gladly allow their wards to go back to school in an environment they are constantly attacked and abducted possible they could abduct this number of girls from a school? The debate followed after the member representing Dapchi community in the House of Representatives, Mr. Goni Bukar- Lawal, had moved a motion on urgent public importance to bring the plight of the schoolgirls to the attention of the House. Bukar-Lawal, who said several abductions of pupils by Boko Haram in Yobe State had taken place in the past, unreported, wondered why the military withdrew its men from the area prone to attacks. And pronto, the school was attacked shortly after. And in line with Speaker Yakubu Dogara’s view, the traumatic experience of the Chibok abduction should have served as a warning to security agencies to provide adequate protection to all schools in the North- East. To think this is happening in states listed among those with worst girl child education, simply means more apathy to school enrolment for the girl child. Despite other factors militating against girl-child education in the north, not many parents would gladly allow their wards to go back to school in an environment they are constantly attacked and abducted. Such a situation, no doubt, will worsen the already alarming rate of female illiteracy in the area that produces the highest adolescent girl marriage, highest under 15 childbearing and highest risks of maternal death and injury, all of which constitute factors that retard development of any nation.
SATURDAY Vanguard, MARCH 3, 2018—23 People credit Itsekiri with powers it doesn’t have in Delta —Alex Eyengho, Itsekiri opinion leader By Emma Amaize, Regional Editor, South-South AN Itsekiri opinion leader in Delta State, Mr Alex Eyengho, says some persons from other ethnic groups in the state ascribe to the Itsekiri ethnic nationality influences it does not possess due to inferiority complex. Eyengho, who spoke to Saturday Vanguard on claims that Itsekiri people stopped the siting of the capital of Delta state at Ughelli, abhor the development of other tribes in the state and Niger Delta region among other sundry issues, said: “The Itsekiri position was clear and in the public domain. Most times, people, out of inferiority complex ascribe powers that the Itsekiri do not have to them” His words: “Paul Bebenimibo (A Niger Delta Development Advocate who pointed finger at Itsekiri in an interview, last week, with this paper) also lied by claiming that the Itsekiri stopped Ughelli from becoming the capital of Delta State. Perhaps he was too young then to know the historical trajectory of the creation of Delta State with all the intrigues and interests. I advise him to consult his elders for the true story.” “How can Itsekiri have such power over Urhobo, Ijaw and Isoko to dictate to the authority that Ughelli (an Urhorbo town) should not be made the capital of Delta state? Yes, the Itsekiri had land dispute with the Okpe as it concerned Sapele and when the courts ruled in favour of the Okpe, they accepted the verdict in good faith and live happily with their Okpe neighbours in Sapele today. “In the same vein, the Itsekiri won their case up to Supreme Court as it concerns Ugbolokposo in Uvwie Local Government Area of Delta State. The Itsekiri people are obedient to the law and this is the civilized way of living. Can my Ijaw brothers say the same thing about Aladja, Gelegele in Edo State, etc? “He should stop throwing stones because he lives in a glass house. For me, these things can be handled through dialogue and certainly not careless, abrasive and insensitive statements,” the Itsekiri opinion leader added. Eyengho said it was absurd for any Ijaw person or indigene of any other ethnic group to harbour the thought that Itsekiri people do not like development of other ethnic groups, adding: “Any Ijaw man or woman or indeed person from other Niger Delta ethnic nationalities, who think this way or say such words is guilty of hate speech against the Itsekiri.” Most friendly ethnic nationality According to him, “One of the most hospitable, receptive and accommodative ethnic nationalities in Nigeria and indeed the world is the Itsekiri. Itsekiri philosophy is live and let us live and I know that the Itsekiri protect jealously their people, land and crown, popularly referred to as the ‘Itsekiri Plc.’ Even at that, they put human face to their dealings with everybody, particularly their immediate neighbours, who in this case are the Ijaws and Urhobos.” He asserted: “Buried in the gene of an average Itsekiri person, particularly in dealing with fellow human being is the principle of equity, justice and fair play. So, it is absolutely untrue to say Itsekiri hate the development of Ijaw or other ethnic groups in Niger Delta. That is why I see it as preposterous, abrasive, careless, ridiculously stupid, warped reasoning, idiotic and foolish for someone like Paul Bebenimibo to perceive the Itsekiri that way in his recent interview.” “Rather than try to set Itsekiri against their Ijaw and Urhorbo neighbours and indeed other ethnic nationalities in the Niger Delta, he should join me in preaching the gospel of peace. He should stop stoking the fire of hatred among the Itsekiri, Ijaw and Urhorbo. I denounce completely all what he said in the interview as figment of his imagination. He is not more Ijaw than I am! But we all have to be fair and circumspect in our utterances at moments like this. “That the Gas Revolution Industrial Park (GRIP) and the Deep Sea Port (DSP) have not taken off today is not the fault of the Itsekiri. These are Federal Government projects. In fact, the Itsekiri need the projects more than the Ijaw. This is why the Olu of Warri, His Majesty, Ogiame Ikenwoli demanded for its immediate take-off, when President Muhammadu Buhari played host to the Warri monarch and his delegation recently at the Aso Rock, Abuja,” he said. Omadino’s petition on NMU overlooked Eyengho noted: “Similarly, the Itsekiri people have never at any point resisted the siting of the Nigerian Maritime University (NMU) in its present location. No! They have only requested that the Federal Government must recognize the ownership of the community according to history and law. That was why the Omadino people reacted to an acquisition notice put up by the Delta State Government in 2013, stating their ownership of the place with historical and legal facts. They were ignored then for obvious reasons.” “The GRIP and DSP are Federal Government projects and Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, an Ijaw man, was the then President. So, it was easy to use the Federal might to muscle the then Governor of Delta State, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, an Itsekiri man into looking the other way. “That was how the compensation for the acquisition was paid to the wrong party, in the face of the law. Remember that Nigeria President is perhaps the most powerful President in the world in terms of wielding power to do and undo. This was the genesis of the Itsekiri agitation over the ownership and name of the location of the NMU, which has lasted till date,” he added. Supreme Court verdict on Okerenghigho still tenable He chuckled at claim that the Supreme Court judgment that Itsekiri people of Omadino are the owners of Okerenghigho, which Ijaws call Okerenkoko, saying: “This, to me is a laughable question. Only a Paul Bebenimibo would reason this may or make such laughable statements. We are not living in the jungle or a banana republic where might is right. This is the 21st century, where law and order is the way of all human beings all over the world, including Nigeria. “ “Human beings are not animals. As human beings, we must submit ourselves to law, •Alex Eyengho The only alternative to this is to resort to threats of war and other forms of violence, which tends to remind one of the sad era of the Hobbesian state of mankind when life was short, nasty and brutish, when might was right order, due process and due diligence. You and I know that the Supreme Court is the highest court in Nigeria and o t h e r countries. Once the Supreme Court rules on an issue, the aggrieved party can only appeal to God in a decent society. The only alternative to this is to resort to threats of war and other forms of violence, which tends to remind one of the sad era of the Hobbesian state of mankind when life was short, nasty and brutish, when might was right. “I have never heard of how events can overtake a Supreme Court judgement. I need to be educated on this. I love to learn. The Supreme Court judgement is what it is. It is supreme for life! This is why the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami based his advisory memo to the National Assembly (NASS) on this same Supreme Court judgement. Malami advised the NASS, and rightly so too that based on an existing Supreme Court judgement, the right name of that community is Okerenghigho and Omadino, an Itsekiri community, owns it. “He concluded by further advising that the University sited in the community should be called the National Maritime University, Okerenghigho. Nobody, not even the NASS have faulted the basis of this advisory memo from the Attorney General of the Federation to the NASS. That is the way I see it. “Not even Paul Bebenimibo could fault this solid rock legal foundation. He even made another laughable statement to the effect that court does not grant land to people. Really! If two parties are in dispute and have irreconcilable differences over a parcel of land, the sure place known to civilization they go for arbitration is the courts, where both parties will present their case with historical facts and other documents. The judges give a final verdict and grant the land to the appropriate party. “This process can go from High Court, to Appeal Court and ultimately the Supreme Court. This was what happened in the Okerenghigho suit. All the legal analysis Bebenimibo laboured very hard to justify a non-existent re litigation of a valid Supreme Court judgement amounts to nothing. He even contradicted himself in various ways. But going forward, there is always room for jaw-jaw to settle issues Read more on www.vanguardngr.com C M Y K