By Emeka Obasi
Things are taking shape and at the end I am sure the country will be smelling sweeter. The recent moves by different geo-political zones of Southern Nigeria show that with one voice, so much will be achieved.
It is interesting to see South-East governors jaw jaw with their South-South counterparts. There is a thin line of difference between the Igbo and their Ijaw, Ibibio, Annang, Efik and Ogoni brothers. They were together in the old Eastern region and understand themselves so very well.
The different Edo groups also share a lot in common with the Igbo even if they were part of the Western region and later Midwestern region. The Urhobo and Isoko may not feel the same way, but fact is that within Ndi Oshimili and Ukwuani, you will see the links. Now is time to put politics aside and work together to ensure sanity in the polity.
The civil war divided the South and it is taking this long to come together once again because that is the only way to keep this country breathing again. Our nation is on life support, let us not shy away from the truth. And if our leaders do not get it right now, they will not have anyone to lead. They may be signing their death warrant.
And we must not allow some of our elders to continue to sow the seed of discord. General David Akpode Ejoor keeps me thinking anytime he attacks the Igbo because of the January 15, 1966 coup. It should be noted that at no time did the Igbo as an ethnic nationality sit down to plan that military take over.
Gen. Ejoor must be told that one of the plotters, an Igbo, later confessed that their plan was to release Chief Obafemi Awolowo from prison, appoint him Prime minister and make then Lt. Col. Ejoor, Chief of Army Staff. And the Urhobo Chief has failed to note that one of the subalterns was Second Lieutenant Harris Eghagha, his kinsman.
It is strange that Gen. Ejoor prefers the humiliation his junior, General Yakubu Gowon, meted out to him to the lift the so called Igbo brothers wanted to give him. Gowon joined the Army in 1954, and was commissioned in December 1956. Ejoor enlisted on November 15, 1953 and was commissioned on July 27, 1956 with officer number N.17.
As Head of State, Gowon appointed Joe Akahan, Army Chief in November 1966. An officer with number N.98 whose career began on September 4, 1957 and was commissioned on February 11, 1959 spent only seven years to head the Army. After Akahan came Iliya Bisalla who was commissioned in 1960.Hassan Katsina, commissioned in 1958, succeeded Bisalla. It was after Hassan that Gowon considered Ejoor fit to lead the Army.
The Igbo majors were wrong in looking the way of Ejoor in 1966, if they wanted to follow the rules. And one could be right to say that probably was their reason for eliminating such tough seniors as Brigadiers Samuel Ademulegun, Zakariya Maimalari, Colonels Raph Sodeinde, Kuru Mohammed and Abogo Largema.
Ejoor was junior to Brigadier Babafemi Ogundipe, Colonels Wellington Bassey, Adeyinka Adebayo, Adekunle Fajuyi, Conrad Nwawo, George Kurubo and Philip Effiong who were spared. Gen. Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi was lucky to escape ambush laid by Major Don Okafor and his mutineers.
And Ironsi favoured Ejoor by appointing him the First Military Governor of Midwestern Region after the coup. Nwawo was senior to Ejoor yet the new leader overlooked him for the same Ejoor. These details must be exposed so that when those who should preach unity try to heat up the polity, we should not go to bed.
Gen. Ejoor’s nephew, Navy Captain Temi Ejoor, would later become Military Administrator in the two Igbo States of Enugu and Abia. When he appointed his kinsman,Tony Urhobo, Team Manager of Enyimba Football Club, Aba, it was a proper decision for the former National Athletics coach was also well versed in soccer.
One of those who kept Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe and the National Convention of Nigerian Citizens (NCNC) going was Chief Festus Okotieh-Eboh, an Urhobo man also known as Omimi Ejo. As Sam Edah, the big spender owned Bata football club just like Zik established an Athletics club in Lagos. Unfortunately, the first coup consumed the NCNC treasurer.
Honestly, the Biafran occupation of the Midwest created a lot of bad blood. When Brigadier Victor Banjo set up the 101 Division of the Biafra Army, there were few experienced officers to handle the soldiers, many of who were using weapons for the first time. The 12th Battalion then was led by Lt. Col. Festus Akagha. The 13th Battalion was commanded by Lt. Col. Mike Ivenso, heading the 18th Battalion was Lt.Col. Humphrey Iwuchukwu Chukuka while Lt.Col Wale ‘Cyintomen’ Ademoyega was in control of the 19th.
In Benin City, Oba Akenzua had to complain about some of the unruly soldiers. The same complaints came from the Warri/ Sapele seaside. The appointment of Major Albert Okonkwo,a Midwest Igbo medical officer, as Administrator of Benin did not go down well with the other groups especially considering the fact that Ejoor rejected the post when offered by Banjo.
Some wild, trigger-happy, young Igbo officers could have created a lot of harm. Biafra was severely punished for by Nigerian Army officers of Afenmai, Bini, Esan and Urhobo background. It is always good to learn from the past. Common objectives must be pursued now.
In Bini language, mouth is unu. In Igbo it is onu. Monkey is enwe in Igbo, in Bini it is eme. Dog, according to the Bini is ekita, in Igbo it is nkita. Sebastine Brodericks-Imasuen, the pioneer Eaglets coach is a Bini son. He speaks fluent Igbo because he spent time in Onitsha playing for Ikpeazu Redoubtables with Wonderboy Paul Hamilton, an Ijaw man.
The Esan call fufu akpu just like the Igbo. In Uromi, there was Sylvanus Enwerem, Eze Ego of Omuma who owned Sylvanus Bakery. All his children today, speak more Esan than Igbo. Senator Hope Uzodinma lived in that town. Senator Chuba Okadigbo was at Irrua as much as Mr. Felix Ohiwerei passed out from Government College Owerri.
This renewed love must not die. More attempts should be made to educate the younger ones who know not History.