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Sunday, 17 June 2018

6TH EDITION: FAMILY WRITERS PRESS IN TOUCH WITH HISTORY--CONTRIBUTIONS OF YORUBA SOLDIERS TO THE BIAFRAN GENOCIDE (PART 2)

6TH EDITION: FAMILY WRITERS PRESS IN TOUCH WITH HISTORY
CONTRIBUTIONS OF YORUBA SOLDIERS TO THE BIAFRAN GENOCIDE (PART 2)

Nwafor Somtochuku Aloysius
For Family Writers Press

Colonel Benjamin Adekunle, notable Nigerian war hero, had by this time, earned for himself, a reputation at least amongst Biafrans, for cruelty and sadism. After a number of provocative public statements, illustrating his zeal for warfare, in addition to his verbal clashes with foreign journalists and observers, Adekunle became the subject of both local and international spotlights. His conduct subsequently became a source of worry and embarrassment for Yakubu Gowon's wartime cabinet.

Colonel Benjamin Adekunle's  criminal statement during the war was: "Biafran aid is misguided humanitarian rubbish..... If children must die first, then that is too bad, just too bad."

Colonel Benjamin Adekunle
The American Jewish Congress reported: Some Nigerian commanders notably Colonel Benjamin Adekunle maintained that the denial of food to Biafran held areas and to Igbo people in the federally controlled areas, is a legitimate and necessary strategy. As Colonel Benjamin Adekunle himself told a Dutch Newspaper; "I want to see no Red Cross, no Caritas, no World Council of Churches, no Pope, no Missionary and no United Nations delegation. I want to prevent even one Igbo having one piece to eat before their capitulation". This quote was in Baum, American Jewish Congress Memorandum, 27th December 1968  from London Economist of 24th August 1968, as cited in the Village Voice of 17th October, 1968.

The above cited statement caused such an International uproar that the Federal Government of Nigeria found itself in a very disadvantaged position of having to tender unreserved apology for the actions not only of Colonel Benjamin Adekunle but also of Colonel Ibrahim Haruna (leader of Asaba gruesome massacre) in concert with the General Officer Commanding (GOC) 2nd division of the then Nigerian army, Colonel Murtala Mohammed, who felt humiliated by the Biafran/Mid-Western offensive.

Unknown to Colonel Benjamin Adekunle, a quiet retirement package for him from the Nigerian army was already in the offing. Thirty four years later and precisely in the Guardian Newspaper publication of 25th July 2004, an article captioned "I Did Not Dislike Igbos But I Had A War To Win" by Adekunle himself, was released. He provided his perspective on his duties as a soldier for the federal forces. Continuing, he asserted "I Do not Dislike Igbos. I learnt one word from the British and that is 'Sorry". "I did not want this war. I did not start this war, Ojukwu did. But I want to win this war, so I must kill the Igbos, sorry".

Unfortunately, thirty four good years after the civil war had ended, Benjamin Adekunle remained an unrepentant sadist, highly economical with the truth and an irredeemable tribalist. And just like his brother Awolowo, he hated Biafrans, particularly the Igbos with passion. Their hatred for the Biafran Igbos was reminiscent of a rejected suitor, loaded with caustic bitterness for the damsel that "dumped" him for another "catch".

To avert more of this "Adekunle recklessness and embarrassment" to the army therefore, he was withdrawn as a General Officer Commanding (GOC) the 3rd Marine Command. Olusegun Obasanjo, his fellow tribal kind, was called in for his replacement. Benjamin Adekunle was retired from the military by Yakubu Gowon but his colleagues - Murtala Mohammed and Ibrahim Haruna (who masterminded the Asaba massacre) remained in the service. They were "Princes" of the feudalists that "cannot be touched". What a paradox?

Ironically, Colonel Benjamin Adekunle died with no accorded federal recognition. He died as a "no-body". The Yorubas who are his kinsmen lamented fruitlessly over the shoddy treatment meted out to him by the federal government he staked his life and career for. Poor Adekunle, he will be weeping profusely without consolation in his grave, gnashing his teeth in regrets for being a pawn in the chessboard of the Hausa-Fulani Oligarchy. He was used against his Southern folks and unceremoniously dumped into the waste bin of history, to the scrapheap of forgotten tyrants.

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