The Evangelist News edition, Tuesday September 11, 2023. By Emeka Obasi. Kindly like share the link.
One man who worked behind the hype to truly reconcile and heal the wounds of war, Chief (Dr.) Eyo Ita Esua, deserves to be celebrated. He died four years ago with many oblivious of his role in bringing Gen. Philip Effiong and Brig. Benjamin Adekunle together in Lagos.
Effiong was the last president of Biafra. Adekunle commanded the 3rd Marine Commandos Division of the Nigeria Army until 1969. Both men were brave but suffered ignominy after the war. Abandoned and forgotten, they must be full of regrets in their dark, cold graves.
Esua’s fourth child, Offiong, let me into what transpired when Effiong and Adekunle met after the formal end of hostilities at Dodan Barracks through the receipt of instrument of surrender. There were no harsh words, friendship and drinks ended the night.
Offiong said : ” I remember the cocktail that Dad had in Lagos for Effiong and Adekunle at the end of the war. They had other friends in Dad’s living room. Effiong and Adekunle held hands. It was an emotive moment. Dad joined in, they sang songs.”
It was probably the only party organised in honour of Effiong and Adekunle. They were heroes of the Civil War but never recognised. The general who was commissioned in January 1956, was senior to Generals Yakubu Gowon and Emeka Ojukwu.
Ojukwu avoided Gowon by hurrying to Cote D’Ivoire ‘in search of peace’. Effiong had to do the belittling job of surrendering to his subordinates, from Col. Olusegun Obasanjo to Gowon. He was thrown away after that. Ojukwu returned as a hero in 1982.
Adekunle did the hardest part of the job during the war through his sea landings that almost turned Biafra to a landlocked territory. He captured the Port Harcourt Refinery and Afam Power Station. The war hero was thrown out in 1969 and sent to Army Headquarters as Director, Planning and Training. In 1970, Black Scorpion became Port Military Commandant.
Then, retirement came so early after the Iyabo Olorunkoya connection. Those who looted Central Bank office in Benin and committed genocide in Asaba were rewarded with promotion. Adekunle, N/126, belonged to the Sandhurst January 1959 Intake, alongside Sam Adegoke, Humphrey Chukwuka, Jacob Esuene and Emma Udeaja.
Dr. Esua was also in the Army. He joined the Armed Forces Medical Services ( AFMS) six months after Dr. Henry Adefope. Their Director – General was Brig. Adeniyi Austen – Peters.
Esua’s wife, Olufemi Olufunmilayo, was the first child of Jibowu, the first Nigerian High Court judge.
Adekunle and Esua were good friends. The former was a regular face at the latter’s Adeniran Ogunsanya, Surulere home where they would sit on the fence and have someone pluck guava for them or just stay together discussing life.
Dr. Esua’s home was always full of visitors from different backgrounds. There were top officers like Brig. Zakari Maimalari, Col. Adeyinka Adebayo, Olufemi Olutoye, Alani Akinrinade and Paul Omu. Victor Uwaifo was known with a Red MG Sports, Bobby Benson, Victor Olaiya were regulars. During one of such gatherings, Maimalari got a shocker. Mama Ita Kose, a senior member of the Jibowu family, spoke Fulfude.
” At a dinner at our residence, Maimalari stated that a maternal aunt, Mrs Austen – Peters,was the first Yoruba woman he met who spoke Fulfude fluently”, Offiong Esua told me recently, from his Houston, United States base.
The story of the First Republic is all about politicians who got independence from the British on a platter but failed to do better than their colonial oppressors. Partly because of this failure through flawed elections, the military struck in 1966.
Chief Eyo Ita Esua, the First General Secretary of the Nigerian Union of Teachers ( NUT) was also the First indigenous Chief Electoral Officer. As Chairman of the Federal Electoral Commission, he conducted the 1964 elections. Politicians failed him and the road to crisis was widened.
Col Esua refused to play politics as a professional soldier. He was an officer of 123 Guards Battalion during the Gideon Orkar Coup of 1990. Officers around him were involved. Lt. Emma Okekumatalor, played an active role. So did Lt. Patrick Chidi Obasi of 242 Recce Battalion. All of them were at Dodan Barracks.
Capt Victor Tolofari, N/7501, was promoted on March 15, 1990. On April 15, he was visible as one of the plotters. Esua faced his job and would later serve in Liberia as part of ECOMOG NIBATT 1.
The infantry officer also saw action in Sierra Leone and Angola respectively.
He holds a post graduate degree in Political Science from the University of Aberdeen, Scotland. Now retired, Col. Esua was Aide de Camp to Gen. Paul Omu, the last military governor of South – Eastern State.
Offiong Esua traveled to Calabar through Benin, after the war with his dad and siblings, accompanied by Dr. Vivian Ene, who later became Chairman of Sharks, Port Harcourt. The sight of Uli Airport hit the kid. “I wonder why the government didn’t keep that runway intact. It would have been a major Tourist Attraction,” he said.