? By Ahmed Adoke

I commend the time/painstaking by Brig. Gen. Godwin Alabi Isama memoir of the Nigeria Civil War, 1967?70 THE TRAGEDY OF VICTORY and rejoinder to his interview of Saturday Nation Newspaper dated 13th July 2013 pages 20, 21 and 47 and the presentation of the book recently at NIIA, Victoria Island, Lagos State published in the News Magazine 19, August, pages 52 and 53

Straightening of historical records should be the concern of patriotic Nigerians and we should learn to appreciate efforts of our leaders at all levels of governance. Our dead leaders should not be castigated particularly those who fought for Nigeria to remain one indivisible country.

The assertion by Brig. Gen. Isama that Murtala?s error caused death of 1,500 Federal troops in a day as a result of crossing the Niger Bridge is not true. The first crossing was a total failure but no single soldier died on the bridge the faithful day.

I physically followed the troops on the foot advancement with Late Murtala leading the troops to Onitsha on Niger Bridge. Truly, Brigade Commanders with whom we went on surveillance under the Bridge on Asaba side of the River ascertained that the bridge has been mined and troops should not cross through the Bridge.

Field commanders universally have their own style of executing the war. Those with dictatorial tendency(s) always ignore intelligence to the peril of the troops but ultimate goals achieved. We should not forget that as human we have our weaknesses and such weaknesses should not be capitalized upon to disregard the positive side of such leaders.

The first crossing through the Niger Bridge was an amazing story of the frightened Biafran soldier mandated to blow the bridge when Nigerian troops had got to the tail end of the bridge or possibly allow sizeable numbers into Onitsha town.

The Biafran Soldiers seeing the size of the troops matching on both sides of the bridge with a faret in front got frightened and blew the bridge 5 pillars from Onitsha end. The photograph is very explicit.

The loss of the assumed 1,500 troops was during the second crossing by Ferry with attached boats.  Late Gen. Murtala himself accompanied the troops to Onitsha water side, hoisted Nigerian flag after deploying the troops on both flanks of Onitsha water side. He ordered that no single soldier should move an inch from position of deployment until re-enforcement lands and position taken.

But to the dismay of the General Officer Commanding (GOC) Late Gen. Murtala Ramat Muhammed, one Company Commander, of same ilk with Brig. Gen. Alabi Isama disobeyed the order of stay put in your position and ordered that a company strength of the deployed troops should fall in. They fall-in about 15 ft from their position. The morta bomb shelling from Asaba combing Bridge from position before the Federal troops advances, drop in their midst killing and badly maiming majority of those on fall in.

On the left flank of the deployment facing Onitsha town proper, Soldiers also disobeyed order by succumbing to the enticement of the nude female members of Biafran Organization of Freedom Fighters (BOFF), some rushing to the Onitsha Market for looting and some picked the poison beer placed by the roadsides.

The Biafran Soldiers set fire on the Onitsha Market when they saw that almost 300 Nigerian soldiers have entered the market to loot.

The re-enforcement left Asaba jetty at about 4.50am but landed Onitsha side by 6.00a.m.  On arrival at Onitsha side, most of the deployed troops had been overran and the Biafran shot the ship captain. The brave ones among Nigerian soldiers brought bad wounded soldiers into the ferry-made ship and Late Major T.K. Adamu managed the ferry back to Asaba at about 10am.

Some Nigerian Soldiers who were not brave and patient enough jump into the river while some swam to safety to Asaba side. As it is, how do you blame Late Murtala alone? But for the disobedience of superior orders, losses would not have been sustained to the magnitude of assumed 1,500 troops. The other area I disagree with Brig. Gen. Isama is the assertion that the Yorubas won the war. The war was won by collective efforts of all true Nigerians from the North, Mid West, Western regions respectively and overt and covert contributions.


Let me ask Brig. Gen. Isama how the Yorubas won the war? 1st Division of Nigerian Army was led by one of he finest introvert officer, Mag. Gen. Muhammed Shua aided by co-fine introvert officer Lt. Gen. T.Y. Danjuma and host of other officers mainly from Northern Region. The gallant infantry men were from Northern Region especially the Middle Belt ? the Bachamas Godogodos and other fierce looking special height natured soldiers.

The 2nd Division which was hurriedly set up to check mate the Biafran incursion into the Mid West led by Late Gen. Murtala Muhammed, backed at the rear by Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo before been re-deployed to 3rd Marine Commando, five weeks before the end of the war.  There are other officers of various ethnic belonging that assisted the GOC Colonel Adekunle to win the area of his command in River State.

The most hostile terrain was the Eastern region which Gen. Shua/Danjuma commanded successfully without heavy causalities as compared to the friendly areas occupied by Biafran Soldiers.

The last straw that contributed to the total wining of the war was when the Nigeria Currency was changed at the advisory instance of late Abdulazeez Attah, Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Finance to his boss late Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Minister, Federal Ministry of Finance. The many positive contributions to national growth by minority ethnic group is normally acclaimed by majority ethnic group that is why late Abdulazeez Attah was not given due recognition for the advise that brought about Biafran surrender.

Four months after the change of Nigeria Currency, starvation set in affecting the whole area under the command of Biafran Soldiers. As the hungry man is an angry man, high combat orders were fragrantly disobeyed and confusion set in any time ration were sent to each Brigade area of the Biafran Military outfits. The other ranks disobey their officers and often physically combat their officers hence the Biafran highest command had no option to advise their acclaimed Commander In Chief Colonel Odumegu Ojuckwu to run away and subsequently his subordinates arrange a surrender to the Nigeria Authority under the headship of General Yakubu Gowan on 12th January 1970.

Those alive among the combatants when I was covering the civil war front are, Former Head of State, Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar, Brig. Gen. Zamani Lekwot, Maj. Gen. David Jemibewon, present Emir  of Gwandu, Colonel Muhammed Jega, Gen. I. B. M. Haruna, Brig. Gen. D.D. Joradam, Gen. Ike  Nwachukwu, Lt. Gen. Akinrinade and host of other officers.

As a war correspondent of unpropagated quiet note, I have the privilege of covering the first crisis that masterphone into political crisis ? coup ? The Wild Wild West ? operation wet e (Agbe-Koya) I covered the operation for Nigerian citizen, Flamingo Magazine and freelance with some foreign media (print/electronics).

I thereafter the coup of 15th Jan, 1966 covered the 7 days Israel ?Arab conflict of July 1967.  On arrival home (Okene) on 17/7/67, the Biafrans invaded Okene, I was arrested by the Biafran Soldiers but the sympathy grace of God saved me.  Three days after the Nigeria Troops arrived Okene from where I accompanied the troops to the end of the civil war on 12th January, 1970.

But for lack of backing from any quarters, there is no war correspondents that are as rich as I do in pictorial stories from the 3 war fronts. I rove around, give intelligence and propagated the Federal troops to the best of my ability, reasons for which I was conscripted into the Army and commissioned as non-regimental Captain. My training at the school of Ideology in Ghana 1964, Diploma Certificate in Criminology obtained from Cairo University (through correspondence) my field practical experience of coverage of operation  Wild Wild West tagged ?operation Wet?E? crisis , Western Region 1965, and  seven days coverage of Israel/Arab conflict (July 1967) was among reasons I was considered for the position of Captain.

The unfortunate end result of some Nigerians who patriotically serve Nigeria end up unremunerated, unrecognized, forgotten, neglected by present Administrative Military Officers. This present total unpatriotic pose the reality of weather most Nigerians are ready to die for Nigeria.

Only few of those who really fought that Nigeria remain one indivisible entity enjoy so, please Brig. Gen. Godwin Alabi-Isama, let the sleeping dog lie alone, those who truly fought for Nigeria are suffering silently.

Ahmed Adoke,

Km8 Okene ? Lokoja Road,

Nagazi Uvete, Adavi LGA,

Kogi State.


E-Mail [email protected]


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