There is no respect for others without humility in one's self (Henri Frederic Amiel)
Pride and vanity, the opposites of humility, can destroy our spiritual health as surely as a debilitating disease can destroy our physical health (Joseph B. Wirthlin)
Our attitudes control our lives. Attitudes are a secret power working twenty-four hours a day, for good or bad. It is of paramount importance that we know how to harness and control this great force (Irving Berlin)
s noted in the preceding part of this article; the three Divisions of the Nigerian Army, during the war, were commanded by ruthless and merciless human beings; infact, those commanders were sub-humans judging from their actions during that war, they had genocide tendencies. Out of the three, Muritala Muhammed had the worst genocide instinct, and he used it during his military onslaught. Dr. Luke Nnaemeka Aneke reminded us that apart from the Asaba Massacre, it was this same Muritala Muhammed and Theophilus Danjuma that oversaw the killing of over 300 Igbo Army officers and men from July 29 to August 1, 1966 (prior to the war).
Muritala Muhammed was not a war success story. Cols M. Shuwa of the 1st Infantry and Adekunle ("Black Scorpion") of 3rd Marine Commando respectively were more successful commanders. Suffice it to say that Muritala Muhammed, unlike the other two Commanders, was a failure at the battlefront. His act in Asaba was unimaginable; he massacred Igbo males there, and he wanted to wipe out the entire Asaba people. In Onitsha he met his match. He tried, at least twice, to take Onitsha, but was beaten back, and he took in heavy casualties. He then assembled the greatest motorized army at the time, and tried again to take Onitsha from the northeast. The result was even more crushing: The famous "Abagana Ambush". The devastation was so intense that many wondered if there was more to it than just fighting a war. Biafrans were determined to make him pay for what he did to their Asaba brothers and sisters. But he miraculously escaped and was later airlifted away from the complete carnage.
I will tell you what happened to Muritala Muhammed in Abagana: When Muritala was cornered there, he was almost killed there. He ran, and one man from Abagana took Muritala in and hid him in his house. When the Biafran soldiers pursuing Muritala came to the house and asked the man whether he saw a Nigerian soldier around, this man lied, swore never to have seen anybody. Muritala was saved and was later airlifted out of Abagana by the re-enforcement that came to rescue him.
Now look at how nemesis works. I narrated this story in one of my articles in 2007, but for those who missed it then, let me narrated it again here: When Muritala Muhammed became the Head of State; he repaid this Abagana man who saved his life, during the war, with a job at the Nigerian office at the United Nations in New York. There in New York, the man and his wife had their children who were American citizens by birth. The first son of this man was a friend but much younger than me. Unfortunately, he died many years ago in New York; may his soul continue to rest in peace, Amen!
I came to know him through one of his maternal uncles, a Veterinary Doctor, who is also my friend since our UNN days, and was also in Germany before he left for California, USA.
I still mourn the death of a friend. This is a person that read English at UNICAL, in the mid 1990s, and after his Youth Service, he came to Germany to hustle, because his maternal uncle - my friend - was also here then. He stayed briefly at my place. Unfortunately, the German Police accosted him on the street, and not believing that his American Passport was genuine, took him in. It took the personal intervention of the then United States Ambassador to Germany to effect his release (I doffed my hat). With this sad experience, he decided to go over to New York, where he was born and where his mother was still living.
Then, two years later, I heard he died. The vehicle he was travelling in, with four of his friends, had an accident and caught fire, and they got burnt beyond recognition. This young man, more than two meters (more than 6ft) tall, handsome and a quiet, reserved person, went away, just like that, without even enjoying the fruits of his labour at UNICAL. What a loss!
What I am saying in effect is that Muritala Muhammed and his men were killing the Igbos, but, one Igbo man, from Abagana, had the gut to save his life, when the death of Muritala Muhammed would have changed the whole war game. If Muritala Muhammed was captured and killed in Abagana, Biafra would have succeeded, because the entire Nigerian forces would have been demoralized, and Biafran Forces would have capitalized on that to achieve the emancipation of their people.
Muritala Muhammed was saved by the father of this my late friend for whatever reason(s) I still can't fathom. Muritala Muhammed had nothing with him when he ran into hiding in this man's house. From there he was able to call for reinforcement and was airlifted to safety to re-arm and to continue his quest to wipe the Igbos out. Nemesis comes to those who asked for it. I remember what I went through during the war as a child. The ugly memories are still haunting me uptill date, but a family in Abagana deemed it right to be the "savior" of one of the main protagonists of that genocide.
I will not name names here to avoid reopening old wounds. What I am saying is that we all have to be careful with our attitudes, because the repercussions might not come up immediately. My people say "it's not the time that a tree was cut (down), that it withers". Nobody should, for any reason, sacrifice the emancipation or safety of his people on the altar of greed or pity or selfish aggrandizement. The man with a gun advancing towards you is not coming for a picnic.
While we blame the Nigerian Army for the genocide against the Biafrans, we should also condemn the attitude of this Abagana man who saved Muritala Mohammed who oversaw the Asaba massacre, and was one of the commanders of the Nigerian Army that carried out the genocide against the Igbos. Also, we should condemn the Igbo saboteurs, who betrayed the cause then by sabotaging the efforts made to win the war. Those saboteurs helped in derailing the actualization of Biafra; some of them were those given money to buy weapons for the Biafran army then, but, they absconded with the money or supplied guns without the magazines (ammunition cases). Some other saboteurs were those who torpedoed the Biafran effort by crossing over to the other side or by passing sensitive information to the Nigerian side for pecuniary gain. These saboteurs never said why they betrayed their kith and kin at that critical juncture in their history. If all those who betrayed Biafra, in any way, didn't do it, many of the more than three million Ndiigbo who were slaughtered, in one way or the other, by the Nigerian forces, would have survived. Who knows?
May I also condemn the attitude of the governor of Imo State, Rochas Okorocha; he's a modern day saboteur. He has bought up Owerri for himself, his family and his friends. His family now owns Imo State. I heard that you can drive more than 20 kilometers within his private residence in Owerri. The worst is that he has just unveiled a statue of Jacob Zuma, the estranged president of South Africa, at a price of about N500 million, when he owes civil servants in his state for about eight months, and haven't paid pensioners there for almost a year also. What was the sense behind that Zuma's statue? What the governor did was a first class stupidity.
Azuka Onwuka ended his piece by noting that those who murdered defenceless civilians in Asaba have never been reprimanded in life or in death, neither has Nigerian government acknowledged that its troops massacred its citizens without provocation is a dent on Nigeria's image. It is never late to do a good thing.
Apologizing for the massacre in Asaba and the genocide against the Igbos will be the start of the healing process, just as David Petraeus (1962) said that "There is nothing I can do to undo what I did. I can only say again how sorry I am to those I let down and then strive to go forward with a greater sense of humility and purpose". I concur with Onwuka and Petraeus, and in one of my article, I wrote that although the genocide "ended" in 1970, but still, Ndiigbo are living through psychological and political genocide till today. Some Nigerians, from other tribes, still see the ascendancy of an Igbo man as the president of Nigeria, as a dream that will fizzle when the morning comes.
Imagine a northern bigot, who was a Second Republic lawmaker, Dr Junaid Mohammed, alleging that Igbos are using the agitation for Biafra to blackmail the North into conceding the 2019 presidency to them. Speaking with THE SUN recently, Mohammed said Nigerians will not vote for Igbo because they "are being irresponsible." He said, "Now, the Igbo are clamouring for an additional state, one of the reasons they are now talking about Biafra, even though the real reason is that they want to blackmail the North, to concede presidency to them. By this means, they will never get any hope for presidency because democracy is a game of numbers. You cannot tell people to vote for you because you are being irresponsible. You caused the civil war that claimed over one million people, you will now come back and demand as a right that you must have a president.
Let me make it clear to Dr Junaid Mohammed, and all those thinking like him, that Igbos are not interested in Nigeria's presidency any more. All we want is the restructuring of the country, so that we can revert to the regional system of government, where each region will develop at its own pace, and will contribute to the centre based on its ability. If restructuring becomes impossible, the Igbos will have no other option than to support the call for the peaceful dissolution of the entity called Nigeria, as a last resort
Finally, Nigeria should apologize and atone for the atrocities its forces committed in Asaba, and in the whole of Igbo land. Just as I wrote before: monuments should be erected to the slaughtered Ndiigbo, in all major Igbo cities, with the inscription "tomb of the unknown". Then, every year, churches should hold commemorative services in honour of the dead Igbos. All these will put the spirit of the dead, whether from Asaba or from the Igbo mainland, at rest. This atonement coupled with the eradication of injustices and inequalities from the landscape, through the restructuring of the entity, would then bring positive changes, and Nigeria will then be the great country it's supposed to be. Until the dead are appeased, Nigeria will continue to fail (watch out for the next article, it will touch on this).