“The Federal soldiers on the morning of October 8, 1967 were touched by the sheer numbers of wasted humanity. Hurriedly, they brought earth moving machines and buried those decomposing bodies in a mass grave. Shot and killed in that horrific Ogbeosuwa holocaust were the following legendary pathfunders: Michael Ugoh, by 1967, the richest black man… Paymaster, NA Army, real estate mogul, transport magnate; pioneer Nigerian importer and exporter….Leo Okogwu: the first and last black resident, Kaduna Province and father to the late Nigerian First Lady, Maryam Babangida….Sydney Asiodu, Olympic Comet, Nigeria’s greatest athlete since Emma Ifeajuna.”
See Blood On the Niger, Gum Slam, New York, 2019, Pg. 234.
His sublime contribution, missionary accomplishments continue to elevate our history and impact on our civilisation. Shockingly at 90, Prof. Chike Edozein is strong, resurgent and as recognised by his august visitor, Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osibanjo, “HRM, is mentally more alert than those of us who are 40 years younger than him.”
Even though I had compared HRM’s intellectual eclecticism with those of his extra-gifted siblings to the resounding profound depth of the Kuti family, the Okigbos, many cannot help but admire the new energy, focus and the overwhelming charge HRM has taken since his return from his three year sojourn in the US.
In his welcome address to the Vice President, the Agu congratulated the visitor on his election, and praised the President for the Federal Government’s Second Niger Bridge project. Agu hoped that the government would extend to the Asaba community what the Ministry of Works and Julius Berger have done to other communities, found near the construction sites. It is an acceptable social responsibility obligation of the Federal Government, the contractors, Julius Berger. Indeed, the Italian giant, Dumez, the contractor of the old Niger Bridge did not wait for any promptings before they did the needful before the war. Dumez on its own built the beautiful Osadebay way (old Jarret) from the Traffic Ezenei intersection to meet the bridge linking the now Benin-Asaba express. Dumez paid due compensation to Asaba and not to the settlers, most of whom have no roots on this side of the Niger!
Bracing up like Caesar, the Asagba of Asaba, without blinking turned to his visitor and made his last demand after he asked for more power so that the power denied 70% of Asaba working force would return to production.
HRM was of the view that the slaughter of Asaba in October 7, 1967, and the eventual apologies of the then Commander of the Nigerian Armed Forces was not enough, nor does it establish any stamp of official Federal remorse.
He asked that a federal university be established in Asaba as part of the beginning for Federal Government acceptance of the genocide wrought to her defenseless, innocent citizens in October 7, 1967. The Veepee was struck by the Asagba’s last statement and went forward to suggest that the state Governor and the Anioma legislators work in tandem and move for a Bill for the Federal University of Asaba to be established.
On the other hand, we most argue that Asaba is the only state capital of the 36 states of the Nigerian federation that has no university, no polytechnic! The 11 universities that the Federal Government built under Ngozi Iweala and Jonathan did not go through any legislative procedure. One was given to Jonathan’s hometown, the other given to political associates call! Another nine under Buhari were recently established with one of them going to Katisina after one of the best universities in the country was built by Yar’Adua in the same state when he was the President.
Mr. Veepee, according to Wole Soyinka in The Man Died, “Asaba 1967, about this time, a Corporal was sent to Lagos to be court martialled. He had shot 13 detainees in Asaba in cold blood. They had been kept in a stockade and he was on guard. A young man, a Yoruba, a nice boy, admitted shooting them. He said they were talking in Igbo and he had ordered them to speak English. So he turned his machine gun on them and killed them. He was released few days by the Office of the Chief of Staff. It is only part of the same show of extermination process. A free-for-all epidemic. That young man has done his bit he is set free.”