Thursday, May 30, 2019

Civil War: South East Igbos did not fight in Rivers State- Benjamin Adekunle

Written by Chibuzo Ihuoma

For too long many have castigated South East Igbos for things that happened and didn't happen during the Nigerian civil war. One of these things is the claim that they committed atrocities against Rivers communities, a claim the Igbos of the South East have vehemently denied and seem to have no recollection of. Truth seems to be on the side of the South East Igbo as Colonel Benjamin "Black Scorpion" Adekunle, who led the federal operations on Rivers State, reveals that the South East Igbo, or rather East Central Igbos, were anything but the Biafrans that fought against his troops in Rivers State.

Benjamin Adekunle was the commander of the 3rd Infantry Division of the army. The division covered 150 miles of area, extending from the Orashi river to the Cross-River. Adekunle was a controversial figure, but one thing was peculiar to him: his bluntness, his audacity to challenge his superiors, and his truthfulness, not minding if it was in his favor or not. The late revered Biafran soldier Colonel Joe "Hannibal" Achuzia said this about Adekunle in a 2014 interview with The Eagle Online, "He was a young dedicated military officer, even though he was overzealous in the discharge of his duty. It was this overzealousness that informed his confrontation with his superiors in the military. " and "But of a soldier, he acted in the best interest of the professional system of the military and held the profession in high esteem of efficiency and dedication, even though he fought against Biafra...I won’t delve into his activities during the Biafra."

In his book titled "The Nigeria Biafra War Letters: A Soldier's Story", Adekunle presents an intelligence report which reveals that the Biafran soldiers who engaged Nigerian troops in Rivers State (apart from the Ogoni Biafran soldiers) were almost wholly from the Ahoada District, which was the Igbo area of the state:

 Image result for The Nigeria Biafra War Letters: A Soldier's Story


The image below is from a River State Government booklet from the early 1970s displaying the various districts of the state as well as Port Harcourt Municipal. I decided to post this image to show the ethnic make up of the Ahoada district as well as prevent any move of the usual revisionists to claim Ahoada was in Imo State or that their own particular tribe was not under that district:


From the above we can see that the only non-Igbo groups of the Ahoada district are the Engenni and the Abua. The Engenni are of Isoko descent and classified as an Edoid group. On the other hand, the Abua are a group related to the Akwa-Cross groups. The Port Harcourt Municipal, although ethnicity not apparent by name, consisted of the Ikwerre and Okrika.

One of the techniques used by some to hide that their tribe were wholly both militarily and patriotically is to use the late Ijaw figure Isaac Boro and build a false image and narrative that "The Rivers people backed Boro against the Igbo" as we can see from the Black Scorpions' memoir that was never the case. In fact, the date on the intelligence report reads July 28, 1968. Isaac Boro was killed two months prior on May 9, 1968. This shows that the people of Ahoada were never behind Boro and continued the fight for Biafra even after his death. Even during Boro's time on the battlefield, after his troops helped capture Port Harcourt they were later pushed back out of the municipal and into the Okrika County by Biafran soldiers, who most were natives of the Biafran stronghold, the Ahoada District. In his book, "The Tragedy of Victory", retired civil war vet Brigadier-General Godwin Isama-Alabi wrote the following:

"Yes, Boro died at Okrika but not because he went on a private visit. He had just received his battle orders from me for the final push into Port Harcourt. It was on his way back from my HQ at Aletu Eleme, at 6:00 am, to his HQ at Okrika that he was shot."

Another technique used to paint a picture that Rivers Igbo fought on the Nigerian side and not with their fellow Biafrans the use of single individuals such as Elechi Amadi as "The Example" that their group supported the federal side. The previous evidence already dismisses this falsehood but just to emphasize how ridiculous their logic, if we are to go by their logic, then the Igbos of the East-Central State (South East) also fought against Biafra for the fact that Ike Nwachukwu, Anthony Ukpabi Asika, Philip Asiodu fought on the side of Nigeria. Such logic is play ignorant. Lets not make a caricature of ourselves. Amadi was just a dissident from the Port Harcourt Municipal who was unhappy with the development of his native Port Harcourt, in which the ancestral lands were rapidly being sold and occupied while the natives displaced, in the same way the natives of the Eastern Region capital, Enugu City, were displaced. The Ikwerres that supported federal troops, although few, were from there and had the same reason. But even at that, as the intelligence report shows, some of the most dedicated of them towards the Biafran cause were the Ikwerres of Aro descent. Many of them went to their kingdom in Arochukwu to make attack plans and solicit the help of their king and brothers there.

In summation, the story that the Igbos of the South East "committed atrocities" or "committed genocide" against the "Rivers people" are all lies. The attacks by Biafrans in Rivers State was carried out by Rivers natives themselves and only a few non-Rivers Biafrans whose mothers were from Rivers State. There are always claims but no proof. So if there were any unprofessional acts committed by Biafran troops against a Rivers group or people, as alleged, it makes most sense that it was committed by individuals from Rivers whose clan or group were in land battles with people of that particular area and saw the war as an opportunity to settle the score.  


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