IF NOT FOR GOD

SYNOPSIS

This book is a potpourri of events in the life of Septuagenarian, Charles Okenyi, a child born into a home where infant mortality was high and considered normal. Though born in a rural Weppa Wanno community in Edo state of Southern Nigeria, he was smuggled out to urban centers early in life so that he could survive to an older age. He was used, rose and fell a dozen times but kept fighting.   

EXCERPT

MY KNOWLEDGE OF NIGERIA POLITICAL HISTORY

1960 – 1970

 

I had the privilege to be very close to my elder brother's PYE Radio that kept us informed on world events from December, 1959 when we settled down fully in Enugu.  World News from the British Broadcasting Corporation, BBC, and Voice of America (VOA) were never missed.  There was steady electric power supply to homes in Enugu and I knew all the times for News Broadcast, local and foreign.  All the events from the first General Elections on December 12, 1959 to our Independence on October 1, 1960 we followed religiously. Agitations for the creation of Midwest Region was passed by the Nigeria's Parliament and the Region took off on 9th August, 1963.   We monitored this as my brother was a member of the Executive Council of Weppa Wanno Union, Enugu Branch.

Nigeria had true Federal Parliamentary democracy where each of the Regions had their Constitution and managed their resources to develop themselves at their chosen paces.  The Western Region had the highest budget while the Eastern Region had the least before Midwest was created.  There was no hydra-headed corruption in Nigeria.

The political crisis in the Western Region that led to the imprisonment of Chief Obafemi Awolowo and some members of his Action Group Party, we also monitored through Radio Broadcast in Enugu.  Schools asked questions on current affairs then in all their examinations in Eastern Nigeria and I excelled in them.

I was always spending my holidays in Enugu while I was at school in Agenebode.  This ensured that I was not lost on events all over the world. Many thought I would be a politician in life.  I was in Agenebode when the military took over power on January 15, 1966 immediately after Nigeria hosted the Commonwealth Heads of Government.  Midwest mourned Chief Festus Okotie-Eboh who was the Federal Minister of Finance and hailed from our Region.  He was the arrow head in our agitation for Midwest out of Western Nigeria.

I was in Enugu when the second Military Coup d'etat of July 27, 1966 took place.  It was during our long summer holidays. I witnessed the mass exodus of Easterners from the Northern Religion following the pogrom over there in which about half a million souls were reportedly killed.  It was a very sad scene one day in August, 1966 when an elderly Baba Hadiza from the North, who lived at No. 83, Owerri Road, Asata, Enugu was killed and burnt in front of his residence by irate protesters.  With the mass movement of Northerners away from the East, my brother as a non-Igbo citizen,had to seek a transfer to Ibadan from Enugu.  The Railways granted his application and we moved out of Enugu by the end of August, 1966 to Ibadan.

 

Internal crisis in the 'wild' West then were doused by the sudden appearance of the Military in the governance of Nigeria. Ibadan with its vague house numbering system was not as well planned as Enugu.  My brother got accommodation in No. SW58 of a street in Mokola, Ibadan.  He moved with his last woman in Enugu, Christy, to Ibadan where they had Philo Agionomoesi and Peter.  They were later transferred to Makurdi from Ibadan where they had four daughters and then moved to Kafanchan where he finally retired from the Nigerian Railway Corporation after 35 years of meritorious service with the rank of District Superintendent in 1989.

In July 1967, the Biafran troops occupied Midwest Region.  Some of them came to our school while we were writing our final exams in Class Three.  They were mainly undergraduates who had to enlist into the Biafran Army by force by fire, patriotic or not of the Biafran cause.  Some of them went home with me and met with the King, my father.  We both spoke fluent Igbo language with the soldiers to make them open up to us on their mission.  During that period, the Federal troops were shelling bombs from Idah into Agenebode but none exploded upon landing.  This was interpreted by our people to mean that “Ise”, their local river goddess worshipped by the people, made the bombs not to explode.

The Biafran soldiers did not stay more than a month in Agenebode before they fled from the superior fire powers of the Nigerian troops.  The fleeing solders abducted some prominent sons of Weppa Wanno along with them who they murdered as they fled.  Mr. Martin Apebuame Odidi, a distant maternal nephew to Chief Okenyi was one of the unfortunate victims. I was quizzed by the Federal troops after they took over our town following reports that I was always in the company of Igbo soldiers.  'See me, see trouble', Nigerians will say.

The movement of the Igbo Biafran troops en route Lagos was a mis-adventure by Ojukwu, their Head of State. It was reported that there was an agreement entered into by Southern Nigeria leaders to break away from the North if the East succeeded in seceding.

The troops got as far as Ore town before they were halted by the Federal troops headed by Southern War Commanders.

The Biafran's resistance was mild and the Federal troops committed blunders when they got to Asaba by trying to cross the River Niger into Onitsha in Biafra's territory.  Murtala Muhammed who led the onslaught had his stars to thank for his miraculous escape from the fire power of their opponents.  They shamefully massacred the civilians of Asaba town in retaliation.  The people of Asaba still mourn their lost brothers and sisters every year since 1967.  Only their beautiful girls who were taken by force by soldiers as wives survived that onslaught by Nigeria's soldiers.  Murala and Taiwo suffered the same fate from coupists in 1976.  Law of Karma, some would say.

 

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