Soyinka, Duke, Kukah, Nowdo, others for 50th memorial of Asaba Massacre - TREAT P WORLD


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Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Soyinka, Duke, Kukah, Nowdo, others for 50th memorial of Asaba Massacre

IN a concerted effort to overcome the psychological and emotional
devastation of the October 7, 1967 massacre in Asaba, the present day
capital of Delta State, indigenes of the town have organised a three-day
event to celebrate the victims of the horrific event with a focus on forgiveness
and rebirth.

The event, which coincides with the 50th anniversary of the sordid event, will
hold from tomorrow to Saturday, in the ancient town and will have Nobel
Laureate Prof. Wole Soyinka as Special Guest of Honour with Bishop of
Sokoto Diocese, Matthew Kukah as Guest Speaker while former governor of
Cross Rivers State, Mr Donald Duke, will chair the event. Other speakers
include President-General of Ohaneze Ndi Igbo, Chief John Nnia Nwodo, and
former External Affairs Minister, General Ike Nwachukwu (retd.).

Addressing a world press conference in Asaba, the Asagba of Asaba, His
Royal Majesty, Prof. J. Edozien, said that the town decided to commemorate
the event because the people love Nigeria and want it to remain united and

The Asagba, who spoke through the Iyase (Traditional Prime Minister) of
Asaba, Chief Patrick Onyeobi, urged Nigerians to strive to evolve a system of
government that will guarantee justice to all.

He said: “We, the people of Asaba, have decided to collectively come out and
tell the world the story of our unfortunate and tragic experience 50 years ago,
which left many of our people badly traumatised. We are telling the story
because we dearly love our country Nigeria and want it to remain united and

“We will not like the same mistakes that led us to the unfortunate Nigerian
civil war (1967-1970) which produced the Asaba massacre of October 7,
1967 to be repeated so that history does not condemn us, particularly the
present generation of leaders of our country as history has done the
Bourbons of France, who history recorded as having “learnt nothing, forgotten
nothing and mastered nothing from their history. “We must strive to evolve
a system of government that guarantees justice to all.”

Chairman of the Memorial Group, Alban Ofili-Okonkwo, who reeled out the
anniversary programme, said the event will involve sensitisation and citizen
engagement programmes in order to achieve healing and closure which will
“signal the collective resolve of Asaba indigenes to leave behind the
memories of their tragic past and walk resolutely into a more promising

He added: “The activities will separately and collectively pay deserved tribute
to the dead and also designed to help galvanise Asaba people towards
rebirth and healing.

“The commemorative activities will commence on October 5 with a one-
minute silence for the Asaba martyrs at Noon. It was on that day 50 years
ago that federal troops stormed Asaba ransacking homes and killing civilians
who they claimed were Biafra sympathisers. Other commemorative activities
include media briefing, canon shots heralding traditional burial rites for the
dead (known in Asaba culture as egwu ota). Also planned are service of
songs and candle light procession to Ogbeosawa grave site for tributes to
the dead, interdenominational service, exhibition of artefacts, documentary
and presentation of awards to honourees.”

He further stated that the anniversary activities will include the presentation
of a book on the carnage entitled “The Asaba Massacre- Trauma, Memories,
and the Nigerian Civil War” authored by renowned Anthropologist, Prof. S.
Elizabeth Bird and co-authored by distinguished historian, Prof. Fraser
Ottanelli both of the University of South Florida.

“The book presentation will, however, be preceded by the hosting of A
Colloquium on the Asaba Massacre, with the theme: “In Pursuit of Rebirth”.
Eminent scholars, statesmen, renowned industrialists and other distinguished
citizens of the world are expected to attend the activities marking this year’s
anniversary. The activities will be rounded off on October 8, with
thanksgiving service in churches in Churches all over the world,” Ofili-
Okonkwo said.

He disclosed that Noble Lauret, Prof. Soyinka, Catholic Bishop of Sokoto
Diocese, Kukah, and President-General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo were among
dignitaries that had confirmed that they will be part of the event.

He stated that the campaign messages for the aniversary include: //
WordsnotWar; //AsabaRebirth; //WeRememberWeForgive; //
MyplaceofbirthAsaba; //remembranceandforgiveness.

The press conference was well-attended by Asaba chiefs and elders who
narrated in tears their experiences of the massacre and how they became the

According to their narrations, a recap of the gory story was that in 1967, at
the thick of the fratricidal war, the Nigerian federal troops forced the seceding
Biafran troops back across the Niger, into Onitsha, which lies directly across
from Asaba. In a bid to stop the enemy’s pursuit, the Biafran’s blew up the
eastern spans of the bridge on the Onitsha end. The triumphant Nigerian
troops would soon become a kill joy for Asaba indigenes for no sooner did the
federal troops entered Asaba that they began ransacking houses and killing
civilians at random claiming they were Biafran sympathizers.

In a bid to stop the rampaging troops, Asaba elders and leaders quickly
summoned their people to assemble on the morning of October 7, hoping to
end the violence through a show of support for “One Nigeria.” However, after
hundreds of men, women, and children, paraded along the main streets in
support of a unified country, men and teenage boys were separated from the
women and young children, after which the federal troops opened fire, killing
the people in cold blood. It is estimated that more than 700 men and boys
were killed, some as young as 12 years old. This number excludes the many
who were killed in the preceding days. The federal troops went ahead to
occupy Asaba for many months, during which most of the town was
destroyed, women and girls raped or forcibly “married,” and a large numbers
of citizens fled, many not returning until the war ended in 1970.

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