Soyinka: A Biafran memory of Asaba by: Emma Okocha

Through those cruel trench ex- changes, cold blooded massacres and the trauma of parents watching helplessly the final seconds of their chil- dren starving to death, the Biafran granite resistance remained stoic and stubborn. Of all the colossal losses suffered by both sides, there were few exceptional calamities. For, the Federal Second Division, the Abagana Fiasco, and the disastrous Niger cross from Asaba, was like the Oguta and the Owerri final offensive of the Third Codo Division, landmark reverses which at the end of the day, returned the initiative to the desperate secessionists.

On the Biafran side, the stop at Ore; the poisoning and the consequent wipeout of the Biafran Expeditionary Army by their Bini hostesses; the loss of the entire Midwest; the fall of Port Harcourt and its Refinery; the loss of Azumiri, Egbema, Ohaji, Uzuakoli and, for that matter, the Biafran food basket axis of Ngwa land, Akwette, Aba etc, were heavy reverses that were never contained till the bitter end.

As the Biafrans took more punishment, the death on July 29, 1967 at Obollo Ofor of the charismatic Major C.K. Nzeogwu almost brought the war to an early end. In the exclusive chronicle of the last hours of Kaduna Nzeogwu (See pp 45 of the book Blood on the Niger), we noted that the imme- diate impact of Nzeogwu’s death was devasting across the lines. His death led to the emotional loss of Opi junction, which as he had predicated, led to the eventual loss of the war. He had advised Ojukwu not to declare seces- sion as that would pull the OAU to the Federal side. His death diminished the potentials of organising a Southern command Tandem and his trusted lieu- tenants, Majors Obasanjo, Ogbemudia and Atom Kpera abandoned their neu- tral stand and went full circle, carrying the Federal flag to war.

In his own battlefield testimony, former Press Secretary to the Head of State and Daily Times War Correspon- dent, David Attah, stated in the Sunday Sun, January 22, 2011, that “When Ma- jor C.K Nzeogwu was killed, the wail- ing of the Nigeria Officers shocked me. An enemy Officer was killed and I could not believe their tears. They had lost a Comradeinarms, a man who believed very much in the Nigerian Revolution.” On the orders of the Fed- eral Commander, Nzeogwu was buried in Kaduna with full Military Honours.

Col. Charlie Archibong was the lead Commander at Ore ahead of the invading Biafran forces that struck the Mid West, August 9, 1967. He had His Excellency’s special Orders to blitz through the West and sack Dodan Barracks in 48 hrs.! He was ordered to stop and from Ore the Brigadier Ban- jo’s inexplicable Retreat Orders led to the Federal recapture of the Midwest. Charlie Archibong was to see more action at Ikot Ekpene and after one of those his risky officer-led Recce op- erations, his Command Headquarters waited in vain for his return.

A Federal well organised ambush had spotted the Biafran officer, ensnared and trapped him into a double obstacle. In the mad rush to recover his body, the Biafrans lost the strategic Ekot Ekpene town and the entire sector. No other Biafran Officer apart from Col. Nsudo also from Akwa Ibom, fought the war with such incomparable zeal and sacrifices as Charlie Bazooka!

Another heart breaker for the Biaf- ran came with the shocking news of the death of Major Adaka Boro. Like in the ironic case of Major Kaduna Nzeogwu, both friends and foes cried at his funeral. General Alabi Isama, in his book, went further to produce the photograph of the Biafran Straggler who shot the Major at the PortHarcourt sector of the war. Adaka Boro’s death put Biafra in mourning as most of the Biafran field Commanders were followers of Boro. Issac Boro was many things to many people, but as the President, University of Nigeria Student Union, in the early ‘60s, he was the epitome of the golden age of Nigeria Student Revolution. The soldiers. fanned out from their bush locations to salute the fall of a fine Officer.

While the Biafrans were able to re- turn to their trenches after the funeral rites of those officers, they were in inconsolable grief on learning of the “death” of Nigeria’s Paragon of Integrity, Crusader against Genocide and Africa’s Leading Voice against man’s Inhumanity to Man  At the 2010 Harvard International Conference celebrating the works of Christopher Okigbo, Achebe with Professor Soyinka seating beside him, once more, recalled the reaction of the people of the Sun to the sad news of the  “death” of the activist. “ We learnt that our friend and Dis-

sident, Professor Wole Soyinka had died in prison custody… the whole en- clave erupted in solidarity and a new energy and a Spartan resolve to fight to the finish was unleashed”.

And, for the Biafran memories, Professor Wole Soyinka was the first cou- rageous voice to relate the gruesome death of King’s College handsome Alumnus, Gogo Nzeribe.


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