On October 5, 1967, during the bloody civil war, federal troops occupied the peaceful town of Asaba, Nigeria, on the west bank of the Niger River. They accused the people of supporting the retreating Biafran army and for two days rampaged the town killing hundreds of innocent, unharmed citizens.
At the crux of this genocidal act, on Saturday, October 7, 1967, thousands of the people of Asaba, came together screaming ”One Nigeria, One Nigeria,” believing a show of support for the Nigerian government would pacify the situation. Instead, after the separation of the women and children from men and adolescent boys, the bullet-hungry soldiers gathered the male folks in the centre of the Ogbe-Osowa village and turned their machine guns on them.
More than 700 died with many seriously wounded. Most families could not retrieve the bodies and the dead were buried in mass graves. At the end of that week, more than 1000 civilians were killed, raped, molested, threatened and Asaba laid in ruins. Many fled never to return until the war ended in 1970.
Colonel Murtala Mohammed was the commanding officer of the 2nd division which was responsible for the legendary beating back of the Biafran Army from the Mid-West Region, as well as crossing the River Niger and linking up with the 1st Division which was marching down from Nnsuka and Enugu.
Whether Murtala ordered the massacre or not, it was his division and must therefore take full responsibility.
The casualties were not soldiers or combatants. They were not caught by friendly fire or accidental discharge. They were gathered together and gunned down in what remains one of the most callous incidents of the Nigerian Civil War.
The males who survived the war were those who were sick or too old to come to the square, those who were lucky during the shooting and those who escaped.
Interestingly, the Asaba story was never told as the starving children of Biafra dwarfed the gory event in Asaba.
After the soldiers left, leaving blood and death behind, the stinking unidentified bodies were buried in a mass grave by the lucky survivors.
For decades, Asaba has lived with this horrific and traumatic experience in silence. Most Nigerians have never heard of the fate that befell Asaba people on October 7, 1967. Ironically, those who led this massacre rose to become national heroes, with monuments named after them and beautiful stories told about them.
It is therefore pathetic that those who murdered unarmed civilians in Asaba have never been reprimanded in life or in death, neither has the Federal Government of Nigeria admitted that its troops murdered its citizens, who pledged unflinching loyalty, without provocation is a dent on Nigeria’s image and a shame to a country ”where peace and justice” is supposed to reign.
We must know our history.
Delta State Governor, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa has said the media has major roles to play in resolving the crisis in the Niger Delta region.
Governor Okowa who stated this on Friday 09/09/16 in Lagos when he paid a visit to Mr, Sam Amuka, Publisher of Vanguard Newspapers limited to rejoice with him and his family on the recent robbery attack said that the press was vital in seeking resolutions to the Niger Delta crisis urging media houses to do more in proffering far reaching solutions.
“The press has a lot of roles to play in resolving the Niger Delta crisis and we thank God that Vanguard is doing a lot in that regard,” he said, adding, “we have been in prayers with you, though we have not come to see you since the unfortunate incident, we thank God for sparing your life and keeping you for us.”
“As a state we appreciate the roles your newspaper has been playing in the dissemination of our activities as well as opinions and editorials on ways to resolve the Niger Delta crisis, we thank God that in partnership with the Federal Government peace is gradually returning to the region,” the governor accompanied by top government functionaries added.
The Governor who condemned the attack on the elder statesman, advised youths to seek meaningful venture rather than engage in nefarious activities, saying, “It is most worrisome that some youths who should be involved in productive ventures have become agents of destruction to the extent of attacking an octogenarian who has impacted so much on the society.”
Managing Director of Vanguard Newspapers Limited, Mr Gbenga Adefaye thanked Governor Okowa for identifying with the Amukas and assured him of the utmost support of the newspaper in disseminating activities of the Delta State government.
Oprah, Denzel Washington and Jesse Jackson could not hold back the tears of Joy; Colin Powell and Condoleeza Rice stood in raptured wonder in the presence of a millennial phenomenon; the rest of the world watched transfixed in magical realism, as Barack and Mitchelle Obama redefined and dismantled the age long prejudices of the United States of America and indeed the rest of the world…
I never dreamed I would live to see, in this my lifetime, the day when a Nigerian President, neatly groomed and elegantly attired in a Dinner Jacket, complete with Bow-tie, and his Wife, resplendent in a flowing Dinner Gown, coiffured and sophisticated, joined together hand in hand in a ball dance, swaying gracefully to the exotic tunes of a Nigerian highlife grandmaster, in the presence of millions of Nigerians, would be beamed live to the rest of the world…
Patience and Goodluck Jonathan; President and First Lady of Nigeria. The age long ethnic Nigerian prejudices have indeed been redefined and dismantled forever. The Transformation is indeed complete.
1. My dear Country men and women
2. This is a new dawn!
3. Our nation has spoken. At the end of intense and hard fought campaigns by all the political parties, our people spoke through the ballot. In every city, town, village, ward and voting unit, Nigerians stood in the sun, some in the rain, some walked long distances and all waited patiently, to vote.
4. With a heart full of gratitude to Almighty God, I want to thank Nigerians for the great sacrifice and overwhelming national mandate you have just given to me, to preside over the affairs of this nation for the next four years.
5. We have, by this election, reaffirmed our unity as one nation under God; reiterated our faith in democracy; and underscored our determination to fully join the free world where only the will of the people is the foundation of governance. We will not let you down. We will not let Nigeria down.
6. My brothers and sisters, fellow citizens, we are all winners. In this context, there is no victor and no vanquished. Nigerians have proved to the world that we are capable of holding free, fair and credible elections. With the evident national spread of our victory, we have demonstrated that even in our diversity, the progress of Nigeria remains paramount to all.
7. This is a victory for the sustenance of our democracy; a victory which all Nigerians irrespective of creed, ethnicity, or state of origin should celebrate. It is a triumph for our common destiny as a people with shared ideals, shared dreams and shared hopes.
8. I congratulate the candidates of the other political parties. I regard them not as opponents, but as partners. Indeed, some of them have held high public office in the past.
9. Let me pay particular tribute to General Muhammadu Buhari, Governor Ibrahim Shekarau, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu and the other patriots and their running mates. They all did well and the nation expects their continued demonstration of leadership and commitment to our efforts at nation building.
10. The elections are not yet over. We still have to elect our Governors and members of our State Houses of Assembly. We must approach the remaining elections with the same level of enthusiasm and seriousness.
11. We have to remain vigilant. On our part, we continue to assure you that the mechanisms that were put in place to assure free and fair elections are maintained.
12. When I declared my intention to run for the office of President under the ticket of the Peoples Democratic Party, I reflected on my humble background and the long journey that brought me to that moment.
13. Eight months later, I stand before you as the winner of the 2011 Presidential election. I am humbled by your overwhelming mandate.
14. During that declaration, I said that I had no enemies. Let me say it again, I have no enemies to fight.
Indeed, I reassure all Nigerians that we would continue to run a government that is committed to fairness, equity and justice for all.
15. The progress we seek for our country is in our collective hands. I am confident that with this new spirit of national reawakening and our sense of collective ownership of the Nigerian project, a firm foundation has been laid for participatory governance and progress.
16. Together we will build a new economy that is strong and dynamic and underpinned by a patriotic work ethic. Together we will remake our society to emphasize the most noble of our national values, and together we shall recreate a great nation welded in unity and harmony; a nation marching towards collective progress in which no one is left behind.
17. This election is the renewal of hope. As we march towards our centenary as a nation in the year 2014, this election will be remembered as that which reaffirmed our faith and strengthened the bond of our union. We found within ourselves the basis for our national confidence. We demonstrated that we are making great strides in consolidating democratic governance. This election is further evidence that Nigeria is secure, that we are stable; and most of all, that the future of Nigeria is bright.
18. Now, we must all unite. We must quickly move away from partisan battlegrounds and find the national common ground. We must show the world that this nation of many people will always find the love, the courage and the path to move forward as one. Let us join hands to build a prosperous nation. This is the challenge of our generation. This is our unfinished task. On my part, I promise to run an all-inclusive government.
19. It is on this note that I am greatly pained at reports of incidences of unnecessary violence and loss of lives and property in some parts of the country over the past twenty four hours.
20. I enjoin our political and religious leaders, in their usual sense of patriotism to call on their followers to eschew all acts of bitterness and violence. As I have always stated, nobody’s political ambition is worth the blood of any Nigerian.
21. I thank all the nations of the world, their leaders and our friends for their goodwill. I thank our friends from the national and international media, religious leaders, civil society, voluntary organizations, development partners and our talented diaspora Nigerians that are reporting, monitoring or participating in our elections. We have benefitted from their fair observations.
22. My special thanks go to all our public services, security agencies, academia, members of the National Youth Service Corps and emergency services. These men, women and youth are making huge sacrifices towards the success of the 2011 elections.
23. I wish to express my profound thanks to Vice President Mohammed Namadi Sambo. He brought strength and commitment to our ticket. I am equally grateful to the leadership and members of the PDP; the governors of the 36 states of the Federation; members of the Presidential Campaign Council and all our supporters across the nation for their great sense of dedication, faith and exemplary conduct.
24. Now is the time for all Nigerians to reach out to their neighbours. I want all of us to join hands in brotherhood, party affiliation or preferred candidate not withstanding. We are all Nigerians and I will President to all. This is the new dawn we crave. What is now required is a new commitment, national solidarity and rededication to service.
25. Come, join me, let’s continue on the road of national transformation.
26. Let us all thank our merciful God for this day. Let us all continue to pray for God’s guidance in the years ahead.
27. I thank you and May God bless Nigeria.
INAUGURATION ADDRESS DELIVERED BY HIS EXCELLENCY, THE GOVERNOR OF DELTA STATE, DR. EMMANUEL EWETA UDUAGHAN, ON MONDAY, JANUARY 10, 2011, AT THE CENOTAPH, ASABA, FOLLOWING HIS VICTORY AT THE RE-RUN GOVERNORSHIP ELECTION ON JANUARY 6, 2011.
My dear people of Delta State, Today, I stand before you grateful to God, for again, giving me the opportunity to serve you. Today, I am humbled that you the people of Delta; the good people of Delta – the Finger of God of Nigeria – have again found me worthy of your trust. Four days ago you overwhelmingly voted for me to return to office as your Governor: I will not disappoint you. Four days ago, we were divided as brothers competing against each other; Deltans competed against Deltans, in an unprecedented electoral contest, following the annulment of the governorship election by the Court of Appeal after over three years in office. It was an electoral competition where the vast majority of you, our people, renewed your confidence in my administration and restored us to office. I must tell you that the results of the election and the pattern of voting across the state have highlighted few areas of concern, but it also happily delivered a strong message of hope and support for our vision in making Delta State great. Let me say that voters from across the state, in the small towns and in the big cities, from our riverine areas and our rural communities; voters who have over the years been neglected by past governments massively voted for our return. I am happy that our focus on the downtrodden people of Delta through our programmes such as the Microcredit Schemes, Free Maternal Healthcare, Youth Empowerment Through Agriculture (YETA), Peasant Farmers Support Scheme, DESOPADEC, and the subsidized air-conditioned buses paid off, as they came out en-mass to vote for us. To our people in the riverine areas, this victory belongs to you. To our people in the rural communities this victory is for you. To all those who voted for us I say thank you, I will not disappoint you and for those who did not vote for us I thank you too. Over the last two months as I consulted far and wide on the rerun elections, we spent time assessing and understanding the issues and the challenges that confront our people, we heard your concerns loud and clear and we will do more to earn your trust. In the coming days we are going to focus on rebuilding trust between the government and the governed and deepening reconciliation between our various ethnic nationalities. Therefore, our common goal is to rebuild our state, devoid of ethnicity, devoid of strife and rancor. Today, we must stand together, to reunite our people. I must say that I bear no ill feeling whatsoever, howsoever against my opponents or those who voted against us. From now on we must return with greater vigour to the people’s work founded on our three point agenda of Peace and Security, Infrastructure Development and Human Capital Development. I assure you that this will not be business as usual. We are going to do things differently in order to achieve our common objectives. This is time for action. And to all members of my administration, this is a time for action! I want to also let you know that I will listen more, do more, and work more with you in making Delta a better state as we aggressively pursue the delivery of our campaign promises. To reach me directly you can do so through my email account firstname.lastname@example.org. You are also free to reach me on any matter through the short message code number 32815, or through these phone numbers: 081-2777-0002, 081-2777-0003 and I promise that I or a senior member of my team will return to you within 24 hours. Fellow Deltans, let me share with you something about myself. My needs are very simple: I have a wife and two children, and was happily practicing medicine when I was called to service. I have no ambition for wealth or material trappings, so I have no need to be corrupt and I assure you that my administration will be systems driven, transparent, accountable and corruption free. It is also important for me to say a few things regarding the resources of the state and its management. I have a burning desire to provide rapid development, economic growth and reduce poverty of our people. These challenges require significant investment of money, time and sacrifices from all of us and therefore do not allow room for frivolous spending or waste. The good news is that we are on the right path for a greater, brighter and secured future for us and generations to come. I must express my deep gratitude to the President, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan (GCFR) and Vice President Namadi Sambo, who led a powerful team in support of our rerun election. The Presidential visit was a great boost to our efforts. I wish to also thank the National Peoples Democratic Party leadership led by Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo for their support and encouragement in backing us to victory. I must also thank the state party leadership led by Chief Peter Nwaoboshi for tirelessly working to rally our people to support us. My further appreciation goes to the Rt. Hon. Sam Obi, the Acting Governor of the state for providing strong and robust leadership during this period. I have to also thank the members of the House of Assembly for the wonderful support they gave to the Acting Governor. I cannot end this address without showing our appreciation to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for conducting a free, fair and widely accepted rerun election. Finally, to our party members, leaders and elders, I charge you to remain disciplined and committed as one family to the vision and mandate of the party, especially in this period of elections. We must not relent in our efforts to reach out to our people, or underestimate the challenges ahead of us at this time. I thank you for your kind attention.
God bless you all!
Office of the Governor, Government House, Asaba Delta State.
January 10, 2011