INSECURITY: DON’T PUSH NIGERIA TO WAR –COL. NWOBOSI

Insecurity: Don’t push Nigeria to war –Col. Nwobosi

Colonel Emmanuel Nwobosi was one of the young military officers that changed Nigeria’s course of history by truncating the nation’s first republic in the January 15, 1966 coup. Now, described as the last of the titans, Nwobosi who recently turned 80, no doubt represents an era. In this exclusive interview with Saturday Sun team of MAGNUS EZE and ALOYSIUS ATTAH in his Obosi, Anambra state country home, the octogenarian who holds the traditional title of Ogene Obosi, (the Gong of Obosi), opens up on the real reasons why they struck. He talked virtually about everything regarding the civil war except those  he decided to hold back for his memoirs coming out soon. He also spoke about the Ruga programme and insecurity in the country, warning that the drums of war from across the country are ominous signs all is not well with the Nigerian federation.

We congratulate you for attaining 80 recently. How do you feel at 80?

Simply put, I feel 80. And when I say I feel 80, I am first and foremost happy that having lived a chequered life and very rough and tough life as it was, I’m happy that I was able to make it to 80 because in my Obosi community, we have that, and I think it is Obosi so far in Igbo land that observes what we call in our native parlance, Ito Ogbo and once you get to that age, octogenarian, you will always feel you’ve made it. I feel accomplished and I pray God that I stay a little or a lot longer because there is nothing as good as life. Like the Lotus Eaters we read in the secondary school, while God gives me longevity, I will pray that He gives me perpetual youth. When I say youth, I don’t mean when I was a youngster and like my old friend, General Nasko once  said to his daughter (because I came to visit them when I came back from exile) in Lagos, that time he was a federal minister. I brought in some old photographs that Nasko and I took when we were junior officers, the daughter came and looked over his shoulders and shouted “look at daddy when he was young” and the father shouted, “I’m still young shut up” (laughs). So, in that context, I’m still young because I’m young at heart.

Going back to the experience of 1966, once you mention coup in Nigeria, names like Nwobosi, Nzeogwu and co come to mind.  Looking back sir, something gave rise to that coup, one of them was the issue of 10 percenters etc; will you say the objective of that coup has been realised?

Not at all! At that time, we were worried and it became an open secret that most government deals that time had a price tag, the ten per cent that one has to put upfront before you can secure contract and if you didn’t have the ten per cent and the connection to put you through, you had no chance.  That was not achieved and has not been realised till today.  Then, there was the political problem of a ruling class at the time trying to dominate the rest of the country. And when I say this, I’m referring in particular to the ruling party, the NPC, Northern People’s Congress headed by Ahmadu Bello who on a number of times, during public appearances always boasted that he was going to dip the Quran into the sea. Simply put, if he was going physically to dip the Quran in the sea, nobody could have stopped him, he could have driven to the sea, dip it there and nobody will disturb him because it’s none of our business but what he actually meant by the statement, was that he was going to conquer the rest of the South and conquering the rest of the South was in furtherance of the policy of Othman Dan Fodio, his predecessor. And of course, one doesn’t have to look so far back to see what happened in Western Nigeria down to Kwara State, Ilorin where they overran the place and removed the king (Oba) at the time and installed their Emir because it was traditional with them because they have to conquer the people first by deceit, second by treachery and by all manner of deceit and manoeuvring, and at the end, they will install their emir. They were trying to do this at the time and some of us who were politically conscious, and when I say that, I refer to the boys of Jan 15, 1966 revolution, we had the presence of mind and were noticing the manoeuvring  and we felt this was going too far . They wanted to extend their conquest in the West through Ibadan and Lagos to the sea, of course that meant that the next or utmost target would be the Eastern region. If you say no, it is none of my business today, tomorrow, it would be. And by that time, it would have been too late.

I was in Kaduna and one of the officers operating and setting up the first field battery, the Nigerian artillery. Major Alex Madiebo was our commander and eventually, the Nigerian Army decided to upgrade the Artillery into a Regiment and they bought some new guns, one of 5mm, took them to Abeokuta and I was appointed to go and set up that second field battery and run the unit. I left Kaduna and went to Abeokuta and started building up the unit. Meanwhile, all these were going, the political manoeuvring by the political parties of the day and we were watching and the next thing was the Western  region crisis and I was in the thick of things at the time because those rioting, killings and burning of political opponents’ properties, they had to ask for the army’s help because it had gone beyond police control. And in our Abeokuta barracks, we had two military units, there was one of Army Engineers headed by Major Obienu and the second one, the Artillery headed by myself and so often, they would call on us to send units not just to Ibadan but the entire West. I remember on one occasion, one of my soldiers, a lance corporal, there was an accident with the military vehicle and he died and we had to conduct the burial back in the barracks. I felt so hurt; this was one of my finest soldiers who just lost his life for the foolishness of politicians. While we were still planning and fine tuning our coup and we had not fixed a date yet, we started getting intelligence information that the West was the next target.

Samuel  Ladoke  Akintola who was then the Premier of the West was always flying to Kaduna almost on daily basis and information revealed that the Sarduana of Sokoto was trying to use Akintola to destroy his people and take over the West and when we eventually found out and confirmed they were going to launch this operation on the 17th January, we found it necessary to  act sooner in order to forestall this calamity that was coming  and if ‘Operation Wetie’ had succeeded, then our coup would have been of no use. Our talking of corruption, highhandedness and other issues would be made nonsense of. So, we had to do the needful to stop these people. So, January 15, 1966 coup was hurried because we wanted to put an end to the operations in the West before it was too late. That was how Jan 15 came about.

What was the eve of that January 15 like for you?

I can say it was just like any other day.  I will tell you one story to illustrate what I’m saying. Even that night when we left the barrack with my convoy (myself and my soldiers); to move to Ibadan for our task, we knew what we were going for and one would have expected that we were all tensed up but when we got on the road within Abeokuta, I noticed a man and a woman standing by the roadside. Because that time, curfew had been imposed and the woman, when you see her, she was heavily pregnant and about to deliver.  I was in the leading vehicle and the entire convoy stopped. I came out from the front seat and Lt. Igbikor was with me in the seat, we helped the woman into the front seat and told the husband to join to take her to the nearest General Hospital for safe delivery. When we got to the junction, I instructed the convoy to wait for me there. When we got in, the nurse I met on duty, I asked her, who was the doctor on duty. She said the doctor wasn’t available. I instructed her to call the doctor and ensure that nothing happened to the woman. I told her I would be back the next morning and if anything happened to the woman, I would hold her responsible. I did that just to scare her because I knew I was going for a bigger task and I bet you, she must have done her best even though I never had the opportunity of going back to the hospital. I believe this answers your question because if I was tensed up, I would have brushed aside, the sight of that woman.

Just before we take your mission to Lagos, that putsch or intervention by your group has always been seen as Igbo affair. What was really the situation? Was it really an Igbo coup?

Well, when people say certain things, you look at it and decide for yourself whether the statement or assertion could have been correct. Let’s put it this way, if it was an Igbo affair, it means that Major Ademoyega must have changed his name, because my understanding is that it is a Yoruba name. Lt. Bob Igbikor, a Benin chap must been an Igbo too, there were quite a number of them like that.  Now, if it was an Igbo coup, then we must have planned to put either Zik or Okpara as the next Prime Minister of Nigeria, they were there but instead, we decided to put Awolowo. Why? Not because he was Yoruba, not because there was no Igbo person to put there but Awolowo had a track record, because when he ran the West, his administration was good. He made a revolution in the place that everybody was envious of and we wanted him to replicate that in the whole of Nigeria and that was why the choice was Awolowo.

What was your mission to Lagos after you had discharged your task in Ibadan?

My task in Ibadan was successful in all accounts and we started heading to Lagos and the whole idea of heading to Lagos was to go and reinforce the Lagos group and help in mopping up. There was no obstacle on the way, nobody knew we were coming but the people we were going to help were expecting us. We got into Lagos and I drove straight to Dodan Barracks because there was a Garrison there headed by Major Don Okafor. When we got there, I drove straight to the officers’ quarters to offload my cargo because I had a precious cargo then in the person of Chief Fani Kayode, the Deputy Premier then. I captured him and he offered no resistance and there was no plan to kill him. In fact, I’ve read recently what his son, Femi Fani-Kayode wrote about that night, how I saw him and  put my hand on his head, he was very young then and I assured him that nothing was going to happen to his father. He said he was grateful that I kept my word. Well, if anything like that happened, I am equally grateful that he appreciated it but we had no plan to kill his father. So, I got to Dodan Barracks Officers’ Quarters, pulled that one up there, woke up a young officer; told him to take all he needed for the day because I was commandeering his room. So, I put Fani Kayode in and put a soldier to take care of him. Then we moved for our main task into Dodan Barracks. When we got there, the place was in all round defence and I was impressed. I mean you could see soldiers with their rifles guarding the place. There was one heavy set RSM, I knew him because he was with the engineers in Kakuri, Kaduna when we shared barracks with them. There was also a Second Lieutenant Tarfa; so, I asked them where Major Okafor was and from the answer they gave, I had a feeling that something was amiss. He said they didn’t know his whereabouts but that General Ironsi was there early and was the one who gave them orders to go on all round defence. By my own calculation, Ironsi should have been dead by that time and he had no reason being in Dodan Barracks to give instruction. That he was awake and alive and gave that instruction meant that something had gone wrong but with my quick thinking, I told my soldiers, let’s go, trying to bluff my way out and the RSM said “sorry sir”, he saluted and said the General had given them instruction that if anybody came into the barracks, they should tell the person not to leave until he came back. My soldiers cocked their guns; you know soldiers are quick to action especially people who had just seen action in Ibadan; I as the officer commanding them knew that if we killed the RSM and Lt. Tarfa and there was another Sergeant, if we kill them, how do we get out of the barracks? These people will make mincemeat of us, so, I told them to stop and that was the end of the journey for me and my men but it was better to stay alive and plan for the future. We were rounded up. My career did not end there because eventually we were put in prison at Kirikiri by Ironsi and after that, a lot of things happened overtime but that was the beginning of the end of my career with the Nigerian Army.

So, at what point did you join the Biafra struggle?

Now, I tell you, I would have to jump so as to get to this stage. With many political developments when we were in prison; at about 1967, I was with the group in Owerri prison, because from Enugu prison where all of us were taken to initially, Ojukwu started spreading us to other prison because they felt that if we were bundled into one place, we stood a major risk. The good thing about our being detained in the East that time was that we were moved away from that moment to avoid the  risk of anything going wrong because while we were in Kirikiri, there was that possibility that anybody could have come in and opened fire at us in prison there and of course, anybody could come after we were dead and gone to make excuses or start telling long stories about what happened. So, while we were in the East, we felt a little safer but after a while in Owerri prison, news started going round about the disagreement between Ojukwu and Gowon, they were arguing over seniority and all sorts of things and the significant thing that happened was that they had changed the structure of the army because they had the Eastern command, Western command and all sorts of commands, in other words, decentralised it but Ojukwu refused the leadership of Gowon claiming seniority over him. But all these were all political arguments. There was real breakdown in the political structure at the time and the prison officials were quite reasonable to us. The Prison Superintendent called in a medical doctor who was to take care of us and in the process first, the doctor knew a couple of officers with me there in detention and we complained about the feeding and the doctor prescribed better diets like baked beans were added to our menu and we sat there and started making sense out of life by at least eating well. Eventually, we were all recalled to Enugu from different prisons; Abakali, Oron and all that and Ojukwu addressed us and brought us up to date with the current events. And of course, we knew that this would lead to something because the tension was building up and Ojukwu himself had to plan his own defence and we would be essential. We said okay because it would be better to go back to your work and get ready for fight rather than stay in detention where you are defenceless and all that. We were bidding our time until one day, Ojukwu decided to release us, this was done by Ojukwu not Gowon and he did it in his own interest and we all appreciated it. As we were released, we were told to report at Army headquarters in Enugu for briefing. That time, Col. Njoku was the commander of Eastern command, he briefed us and told us we had two days off to go and see our relations and families and report back which we did promptly.

When you say we, may we know some of the prominent names of those of you imprisoned?

I was there, Majors Nzeogwu, Ifeajuna and Ademoyega, Capt. Ben Gbulie, Lt. Bob Igbikor, Lt. Oyewole, Lt. JC Ojukwu, Lt. Cyril Azubogu and some others I can’t recall now.

Are there any significant things you want to say about Biafra, milestones, from your own perspective?

The war in Biafra, call it civil war, Nigeria-Biafra war, or anything, the basic thing was that Biafra was preparing for her defence so that it will not be taken by surprise or swallowed by Nigeria.  Biafra was at this point preparing herself when suddenly, the Nigerian troops, that was after so many provocative statements by people like Hassan Katsina and others who said that Biafra will be overrun in two weeks, in 48 hours and things like that, then suddenly, there was shooting in Gakem in Ogoja and that was when everything changed. We all were taken by surprise; the defences were there but those of us back in Enugu suddenly heard there was firing in Gakem, Ogoja area and that put us on warpath. The point I’m trying to make is that it was Nigeria that attacked Biafra first because I’ve read in some places where they twisted facts that it was Ojukwu that attacked Nigeria and that doesn’t make sense. In fact, looking at the size of Biafra, it doesn’t matter whether you have nuclear weapons or so, we hoped that there would be no war but if there was one, that we would be able to contain it and not to say that Ojukwu, (remember they continued to call him war monger as if he lived by war and all type of things) wasn’t a war monger. He was not a war monger; he made some of those speeches because he wanted to be seen to be strong and to keep off the enemy for as long as possible.

As one who played critical role then, will you say the objective of the war was realised?

Nobody gained anything from the war. The Nigerians and the Biafrans gained nothing. Biafrans lost quite a lot in terms of human lives, damaged infrastructure and in terms of pulling us back. You know that wherever Biafrans moved in the whole Nigeria, they helped develop those areas. We developed Northern Nigeria and some of the West at the expense of our own part of the country and the areas that were developed were destroyed by the Nigerian troops in the war. I will say we did not achieve anything substantial except that we proved to Nigeria that Biafra was not a walkover.   They won the war but we gave them a bloody nose. I had a friend in the college, incidentally, he is from Kwara State, Aremu Yahaya is his name. One time, one chap, Fidelis Idigo by name from Aguleri picked up a fight with him and Fidelis was much bigger than Aremu and they started fighting in the dormitory. It was a jigsaw battle, blowing and all that, Aremu would come in like a ram with his head and push Fidelis down to the bed and they will start fighting. At a stage, you could see both of them were tired and this Aremu got up and said “at least, by the time you beat me up to 70 per cent, I will beat you 30 per cent”. Fidelis Idigo will not be so keen to start up a fight with Aremu not like before because he knew that Aremu was capable of beating him 30 per cent and that was a bloody nose for him.

Several inventions were made during the war and one would have thought that Nigeria would build from there. What actually happened?

We did not learn any lessons but it wasn’t intentional. During the war, out of necessity most of our scientists started developing war equipment because our capacity to buy arms and ammunition was limited so they started developing rockets; the Ogbunigwes in different forms; the bucket Ogbunigwe. And by the way, Ogbunigwe is an Igbo word which means that it kills in large numbers so our people developed this and got Ogbunigwe and it saved us a lot because at one time we had to build our own war tactics around Ogbunigwe that you will go in front of Ogbunigwe; attract the enemy to start pursuing you and when you run behind it into your dug in defences, you set off the Ogbunigwe which you do by connecting the other end of the battery.  It will kill them and you’ll see some limps hanging on branches and so on. By the way, I remembered a joke by the end of the war because I went into exile and came back in 1984; one day I was driving from Lagos down to the east in my 505 saloon car. I had brought a bucket that’s toilet seat where you use the bucket toilet but this one was a dug in latrine in Asaba; so, I promised them I’ll get that seat from Lagos. I had it made by my friend in PZ with Formica, so, I put it at the back seat of the car.  I was alone so, I stopped at Shagamu. I saw police checkpoint and I always stopped for them, so I stopped. The police looked and asked, what’s that at the back seat? I looked and said ooh that’s Ogbunigwe. If you see the speed with which the policeman moved back and when he moved back I burst out laughing then he knew it was a joke. I didn’t have to tell him who I was.

At the end of the war and for people that lost the war; if we had ended the war and succeeded, Biafra would’ve set up an industry for those research and production boys. But Nigeria was jealous and scared of them, so, they did all possible to stop it. I remember when I came back from exile, in Enugu; they had what they called PRODA. What the hell has PRODA got to do with Ogbunigwe? I went to visit them, I saw nothing to write home about but that was the type of brainwashing they were trying to do to calm us down; so, we gained absolutely nothing. I said that was not truly the fault of the engineers of research and production because a lot of them were still alive at the time and they were not happy that they were not being made use of.

 What was your relationship with your colleagues on the other side during the war?

When I came back from exile in 1984, I met my good friend Momoh Remawa by then he was a Brigadier. We were in Lagos drinking and chatting and he said that one thing kept crossing his mind when they were entering Enugu Ezike side.  He was wondering if he should see me what would he do; his reaction. I said you’ve a problem there? I said I don’t have any problem; if I saw you, I’ll shout the hell out of you. That was joke. Now, the reality was that we’ll not like to see each other under these circumstances but when you see soldiers moving in battle field even if it’s your brother standing by the fence with his camouflage dress and all the things he has on; you won’t recognise him. That’s the thing; so, this side is the friendly side; the other side is the enemy side. The person you have to blame is the person who committed the troops to fight.

As the war started, who were your four friends on the Nigerian side?

I start with General Bali, who was my very good friend; but he was my junior and my 2i/c. Then there’s this Remawa I talked about; he was my course mate, we went through Sandhurst together. I know him too well. There was Lamorde; I used to have common joke with him. He ended up in Nigerian Intelligence Service. There was General Gado Nasko; he was my friend in the artillery.

Then what was your relationship with those of them who survived the war after?

My relationship was that these ones I mentioned, they survived the war; that’s why I could sit and drink with Brig. Momoh Remawa but he has since been late. Gado Nasko; he survived the war. I believe he’s still alive because I’ve lost contact with him. The last time I visited him in his home town; Nasko town, like I answer Nwobosi; he answers Nasko but not Dan Nasko like in Hausa; I visited him there, he was doing very well, he was into a little bit of mining and farming. General Bali survived the war; he’s still around but he’s not feeling too well. Then General Obasanjo, I told you we worked together in the same barracks in Kaduna. Obasanjo was my senior but we became very good friends; and when I came back from exile, I went to visit him. I think I visited him twice and my son who just got married visited him not long ago. Once he heard it was Colonel’s son, he received him.

 What was life in exile like to you?

President Reagan made a 100-day speech; that’s after being president, he said time moves fast when one is having fun. In my own case, the time didn’t move fast because I wasn’t having fun; it was not easy but again I tell you, I won’t categorise it as hell. It was better than being at war. I had to move from one country to the other for different reasons during my exile; I ended up in Canada, stayed there long enough and eventually became a Canadian citizen. During that process, I moved to US. Life in these countries was good but you had to work very hard to sustain yourself and family; that’s why I said it wasn’t hell but it wasn’t rosy.

What about your relationship with Ojukwu?

My relationship with him started as my commander-in-chief to the man in charge of operations; when I say that, I mean before then, we knew ourselves from a distance. He was my senior in the Nigerian Army and of course, in Biafra. Then during the Biafran war when I got my spine injury for which I was hospitalised, and came back to war but then I wasn’t fit to go back to the battle, so, I reported to the Defence Headquarters to General Philip Effiong, he took me to Ojukwu to help me redeployed as a senior officer. When I met him; he was happy to see me and he put me in a branch of his office which had to do with military operations and that time the person in charge was Col. Patrick Anwuna. I was there to help Anwuna but it turned out that I was there to understudy him because after a while Anwuna was redeployed back to defence headquarters and I was to run the operations; very sensitive too, not only sensitive, you didn’t have any time of your own. Certain nights and days, it’ll be quiet but when it’s hot, it could be hot for days and nights depending on how operations were going and you’ve to be awake to be on the ball. Ojukwu and I developed such relationship at the time that we had a hotline between his office and mine, and this hotline was because of the necessity; not because of our closeness. Now, that relationship went on and of course, the war ended the way it did, we went into exile the same night but he was in a different flight. So, he ended in the Ivory Coast, Yamoussoukro; while I ended up in Libreville, Gabon, from there I started my moving around in search of greener pastures to settle down. I eventually settled in Canada.

Now, the second part, when I was still in Canada, of course with the change of government and so on, Ojukwu got pardon from President Shehu Shagari and came back. That time I had moved to the US; I remembered the manoeuvring of Chuba Okadigbo and the rest; they kept me informed. Before then, I had visited Ojukwu at Ivory Coast; he had moved from Yamoussoukro up north down to Abidjan. So, he told me that he was going back to Nigeria in two weeks’ time and he wanted me to join him. I did not feel like because I was not ready. I had to take care of my family and all that at that time. So, I told him, ‘sir, I’m not coming’ and wished him good luck. He returned and was well received; he played politics and all that which I was not interested in. I know if I had gone back with him, he would have tried to drag me into politics. I would not say that I would not be good in politics but somehow, I don’t fancy it. It doesn’t tickle my fancy anyway. So, in 1983, when General Domkat Bali as Minister of Defence came to Washington DC and we got in touch, we spoke at length and he asked, Emma, what are you waiting for, your mates are coming back, come back home. I said listen; it’s easy for you to say, because you’re there. I can’t just pack and go. He said why; I said I need a clearance so that I will be sure of what I am doing. He said, is that all; how can he get it? I gave him an idea. He came back to Nigeria, organised it and I got my pardon. So, by March 1984, I was back. Having come back from exile, one day, I went to visit Ojukwu, to let him know that I was back. He was happy, it looked that he was happier than I was to be back. We ended up talking about if I could join him. Of course, that time, I was unemployed. So, I said ok, and that was how I came to Enugu and we got together and I started working for him as his Chief of Staff; this time, civilian. Our relationship was good; actually, it was then that we started developing closer personal relationship.

 But if he had asked you to join politics at the time, would you have disobeyed him?

It wouldn’t be an order; he would have asked me and I would have argued my way out. But if it was in the military, and it was an order; mine would have just been a thundering ‘Yes sir!’

Mistakes were made in the course of Biafra, what were those mistakes?

There was quite a number of them and some of them; I would put it this way, if you consider our ages at the time, Ojukwu was about 31; I was 29. I believe I didn’t make too much mistakes because I was carrying out orders. Don’t mind me; I was just kidding (Laughs). There were mistakes on both sides-the Nigerian and Biafra sides. There were certain advantages we thought they could have taken but they missed them. We could have done a lot better, but we did not. Ojukwu as a leader made a number of mistakes but I am not here to judge him because it’s not my duty. I would have maybe blundered, if I were in that position. And sometimes you see people with their hindsight or in the comfort of their offices or roles, and they start telling you, no, Ojukwu didn’t do this, he should have done that. And there where they are sitting, you could notice that they’re messing up with their own responsibilities. So, a lot of mistakes were made including by Gowon and his people.

So, was the civil war a mistake?

The civil war was a mistake and like I told you, Biafra did not start the war. The mistake was made by Nigeria, to think that they would defeat Biafra in two weeks or 48 hours as some of them boasted. These were mistakes that were accumulated and ended up in destroying lives.

And now, the drumbeat of war is on again; how does it sound in your ears?

The thing is that they said that if you don’t learn from the history of war of the past; something will repeat itself. That thing they said would repeat itself is what is about to happen now. The latest is with this Ruga, which would surely set Nigeria ablaze or bring it to its knees. Sometimes, I would like to think that Buhari has lost control of the Government like he said the other time that he didn’t know about the Ruga idea. If it’s true that he didn’t know about it; then he must be asleep on the wheels, if not, I would think that heads should have started rolling because this Ruga programme has given him such a bad name. It’s not easy to wipe it off and as if he’s not attempting to learn any lesson; the fact that Ruga is just about dying down, and they’ve started this one they said, is electronic registration of illegal aliens. I don’t think that one has come out in the media as Ruga; not too many people know about it. We are still talking about what was done and even more dangerous steps were being taken. I really don’t know because Buhari had been really very eager to go back to the seat after his military administration. He did everything; and there were different opinions as to why he continued trying. Some said; those who wanted to use him to achieve their aim were so dogged that even if he was tired or not ready to risk it; they were pushing him. I cannot imagine what is going on now; it’s either things have gone amok; he’s lost touch with reality or he is still in control but wants us to believe he’s lost touch. Whichever of them, it’s not good for the country. You know, sometimes when Nnamdi Kanu talks about Jibril from Sudan, I try to think whether there is some truth in it; after a while, I said no, if it were Jibril, he would have betrayed certain things.

What’s your relationship with IPOB?

You would have probably heard that I went to Israel to see Nnamdi Kanu. My relationship with him is good; IPOB is doing a fine job and I said it in my video, that how he managed to organise such a group, all over the world, Biafrans fighting for their right. It’s a legitimate organisation. They’re not armed; they do not fight and as far as we know, they do not kill or commit atrocities. The fact that the government has proscribed them does not mean that we would say, since the government has said that they don’t want them because there are so many things we don’t want but the government doesn’t stop them. But let them start with these everyday things before we start talking about IPOB.

Did you know anything about Nzeogwu’s last days?

I read what the sister said in an interview and other accounts. We were both in the Nsukka front and I was seeing him on regular basis. He was good in going on raids. He preferred raids as a tactics at the time to frontal attack because of the superiority of the Nigerian Army in weapons. With all the number of stories; the one that is most credible was that he went on this raid around the university campus where the Nigerian soldiers were camped and as usual; he would haul grenades. If he had about four or five soldiers; they would sneak in and haul grenades. By the time they explode, they would disappear. So, we understood that was when he went on this raid and on his way back, unfortunately, he ran into an enemy ambush. Ambush can come up in different ways-some are set there on the road because they expect enemy to pass through there. But in their own area, such an ambush from the way we saw it, would have been a quick ambush because if four of us go on attack; be it raid, ambush or whatever, and on our way back, if we are able to hear some sound, we stop and take cover. If I notice that those people coming are the enemy; I would make signs to all of you. And as soon as they come, we would open fire and I would open fire first to make sure that they are within range. That was what we thought would have happened. Now, you will say, how did we get this? No, the enemy will not come and tell you how they did it. So, you have to deduce.  From the account we heard, his body was taken to Kaduna and given full military honours. If that happened as they said’ it’s because Nzeogwu was liked by even the enemy; those who knew him personally, he was a likeable person. One story I heard the other day was that they plucked his eyes before taking his body to Kaduna and I said, this doesn’t sound right because, if they were meant to pluck his eyes, I don’t think they would have that consideration of taking his body for full military burial because that sounds like respect.

Your advice to Nigerians?

My former commander; Gen. Alex Madiebo would say ‘Goodbye’. I would not say goodbye but I would tell Nigerians that it’s high time we woke up because we are drowning. We’ve played our role; we’ve tried to put things right, but sometimes when you talk to the younger generation to go right, they say, ‘ok sir’ and watch them; they’ll go left, what do you do? Do you go and tie a rope on his waist and pull him to the right? So, we are making ourselves almost obsolete. This is a God-given country; if anybody comes and tells you no, and you know that what he’s saying is wrong; try and stand your ground. Don’t always say I’m afraid; I didn’t want him to hurt me or kill me. Cowards die so many times before their death and that’s one of the principles they teach you in war.

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