Posted by News Express | 28 January 2013 | 8,211 times
A fresh revelation on how a tactical blunder by former President Olusegun Obasanjo allegedly cost Nigeria 1,000 troops in one hour during the 1967-1970 Civil War has emerged.
Reporting on the incident this morning, the Abuja-based Blueprint newspaper said:
One of the commanders who saw action on the frontline, Brig-Gen. Alabi Isama (rtd), recalled the tragic incident at the weekend during a radio interview on Splash 105.5 FM radio, monitored in Lagos.
Isama, who was Chief of Staff to Brig-Gen Benjamin Adekunle, the commander of the 3rd Marine Commando during the war, said Obasanjo was appointed by the then Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon, to take over from Adekunle after the latter started suffering some reversals.
He said: “Gowon sought the opinion of some of us when he wanted a replacement for Adekunle. Gowon said he didn’t want to replace Adekunle with another Hausa officer so that the war won’t look like one between the Hausa and the Igbo. I remember, it was Akinrinade who mentioned Obasanjo. I didn’t know him until then.”
The 72-year-old war veteran, whose account of the 30-month civil war would soon hit the bookshops, said though Obasanjo never had any command experience before he was asked to take over the division, other commanders gave him the benefit of doubt.
“Obasanjo crafted the script of the Ihiala operations. We went into that operation without any intelligence because Obasanjo, on assumption as head of the division, disbanded the women who we were using to gather intelligence about enemies’ movement and location. That outing was a disaster as we lost 1,000 troops in just one hour.
“From that point the commanders realised that Adekunle was a better strategist and ignored Obasanjo’s battle plans in subsequent operations.”
Isaba also revealed that even though Obasanjo received the instrument of surrender from Col Philip Effiong, he did not play any role in ending the war.
Instead, he gave the credit of crushing the secessionist bid to I.D. Bissala, Alani Akinrinade and IBM Haruna, who launched the final offensive without an input from Obasanjo.
He said it was Akinrinade that the rebels surrendered to.
“Obasanjo was far away from action. He was only invited by Akinrinade for the surrender ceremony and he even missed his way to the venue.”
Isama said Obasanjo was given that honour by Akinrinade because he was the boss. The civil war veteran also revealed that Obasanjo was scared of the frontlines. “He was forced to go to the front. He was always hiding under the cover that he was an engineer, but then, I remember, many brilliant engineers were in the front, building bridges and playing other operational roles. But Obasanjo was always avoiding the frontlines.”
Isaba defended the blockade mounted against Biafra and berated those who condemned it, including Chinua Achebe in his latest work on the civil war.
“We decided on the blockade because we wanted a quick resolution of the crisis. We are talking about war, not a riot of schoolboys and not a clash between two communities over a piece of land.”
Isama said he would soon publish his memoirs and pledged to donate proceeds from the sale to his former boss, Gen. Adekunle, to take care of his medical bills.
He lamented that Adekunle was being abandoned in his very difficult moment even though he played a major role in the civil war.
Isama joined the military while in his 20s after he left Ibadan Boys High School in the early ’60s.
He saw battle in many sectors in the civil war.
He was unceremoniously retired from the army in 1977, a development that left him bitter because he never saw it coming and had no any other experience to use.
After working as a farmer, he travelled to the United States of America where he eked out a living and later became a successful businessman.
Isama’s book, called ‘The Tragedy of Victory,’ has been in the works for a long time.
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