“Major Francis Fajuyi opened a new page in the history of our Army. By his gallantry and leadership, he became the first Officer of the Royal Nigerian Army to be so honored. Major Fajuyi led the ‘C’ Company of 4 Queen’s Own Nigerian Regiment and on November 27th 1960, carried out an attack against a large band of hostile tribes men in Northern Katanga. Knowing that the majority of his men had never been under fire before, he personally led the advance.”
– Royal Nigerian Army Magazine, Vol. 2 May 1962.
At the other sector flank involving the Nigerian Army against the Katangese, Major Conrad Dibia Nwawo like an Israeli Major was leading his own company firing a machine gun in front. Suddenly Nwawo was surrounded by enemy troops and captured alive. Just as he was tied up to be slaughtered, the Nigerian Company under him fought to death and subsequently affected his release. Conrad Nwawo was not the type his men will abandon in the field of battle! Until his death at 93, he was the most senior of the enlisted Officers of the Nigerian Army with the iconic number NA 10.
As recounted in 1961, Nwawo was part of the Nigerian Army Peace Keeping Force in the Congo. Colonel Nwawo was ferocious in the battlefield. A clear genetic characteristic earlier exhibited by his forefathers; the Eze –chimes and the indomitable Ekumeku. Those historic exploits in the Congo earned him the highest British recognition for gallantry. Since that unprecedented award of the British Military Cross shared by him and the late Colonel Adekunle Francis Fajuyi, no other Officer in the Nigerian Army has so far been decorated with such a medal!
While the Eze-chimes his ancestors over the centuries, through their various campaigns contributed to the building of the Benin Empire, it was his direct forbearers, the Ekumeku, great tacticians in guerilla warfare, awesome, dreaded and gifted in the disappearing and recasting acts of lycanthropy who indeed inspired Colonel Nwawo’s battlefield chess games. The fighting leatherneck like his role models the Ekumeku, would never in the face of flying bullets bulge or concede an inch of territory to any enemy. Ask Muritala Mohammed 2nd Div. that was killed on the Niger or General Shuwa 1st Div. which was frustrated from setting foot on Nnewi by Nwawo’s legendary Biafran 11th Army. (See Major General Chris Alli, the Federal Republic of Nigerian Army, Lagos 2001).
Away from the battlefield to the Diplomatic theatre, Colonel Conrad Nwawo was the pioneer Military Attaché, Nigerian Embassy at St James Court, London. When Nigeria was embroiled in crisis as a result of January 15, 1966 coup, Major Kaduna Nzeogwu who was in total command of the North was on his way to collide with the Supreme Commander, General Aguiyi Ironsi who was in command in Lagos. Suddenly from London landed the Colonel with the Nigerian iconic Army number NA 10. Respected on both sides, he was able to restore peace and discipline as Nzeogwu would listen to nobody else but Colonel Conrad Nwawo. When the actors in that emergency could not keep to the soldier’s honor and words, the country degenerated to more killings and Nigeria suffered a traumatic civil war.
His legendary accomplishments in the Congo established Nigerian’s prominence as a foremost Peace Keeping Power not only in Africa but also in the world. Hence tomorrow at the Grand, the Paradise on the Niger, the Nwawo memorial theme celebrating the Life and Times of this patriot, would climax with the staging of the Colloquium, titled, NIGERIA, OVER HALF A CENTURY OF PEACE KEEPING ROLES IN AFRICA AND IN THE WORLD.
Colonel Nwawo would be celebrated as a pioneer career Officer of the Nigerian Army who after the civil war dedicated his remaining life to finding solutions to the multi faceted problems and misfortunes visited on his rank and file after the cessation of hostilities in 1970. As a true Commander he did not abandon his troops in the camouflage sun badge. Here, the former President General Olusegun Obasanjo, Brigadier Ogbemudia etc. would be expected to pay tribute to his tenacity which resulted to the payment of the first installment of these Officer’s entitlement.
The Nigerian Army has an edifying tradition which stipulates that the Army at the end, undertakes to give its Officers a befitting burial with full Military Honors. Our Invitations to the President, to the former Supreme Commander, General Yakubu Gowon, General Olusegun Obasanjo, His Excellency, Brigadier Oluwole Rotimi, General I.B Babangida, General A. Abubakar, General Ike Nwachukwu, General Alex Madiebo, Admiral Ndubisi Kano, Col. Bello, Ebitu Ukiwe, Brigadier Modupe Johnson, Commander Diete-Spiff, General Zamani Lekwot, General IB Haruna, General Alabi Isama, General David Ejoor, General Onyekwelu, General Cyril Iweze, Col. Alphonsus Keshi, Major Asoya, Col. Ude, Col. Morah, General Gold Eburu, General Ogbemudia etc are invitations we expect to be honored, for the Army to be able to give befitting last respects to its fallen comrade. Significantly, May 26th and 27th would be celebrated as an epochal Memorial for the late colossus of the Nigerian Army. To that end, we expect the serving top Army Brass, selected retired Generals to troop down to Asaba, Onitsha Olona, join in the Last Parade and the Last Salute to the Last of the Mohicans!