Flashback: Benjamin Adekunle’s interview on the Igbo sparks hot debates

Flashback: Benjamin Adekunle’s interview on the Igbo sparks hot debates

Tuesday, November 19, 2019 2:47 pm


Benjamin Adekunle 1 Photo by Terry Fincher

Benjamin Adekunle 1 Photo by Terry Fincher

The journalist, Randolf Baumann, interviewed Benjamin Adekunle, (head of the Third Marine Commando on Federal Side) in Igweocha during the Nigeria-Biafra War for Stern Magazine, and the interview was published on August 18, 1968. When Uzor Maxim Uzoatu put it on social media, it sparked hot debates. The interview is published below:

 

“I have to kill the Ibos—sorry”

Stern reporter Randolph Baumann spoke with the General of the Nigerian front troops.

“If you want to get to know the devil of Africa, just ask for Adekunle. He is the man who is responsible for the death of 100,000 Ibo people”. The man who provided this tip to Randolph Baumann, the Stern reporter, was Mister Ikpa, the official representative of the Republic of Biafra in Lisbon. Mister Ikpa knew even more: “Adekunle does not like journalists. He had a man from England who disagreed with him shaved bald, do an hour of push-ups, and write one-thousand times: I am a crappy Englishman and don’t have a say in Nigeria”.

Having been thus forewarned, the Stern reporter flew to Port Harcourt, a big Biafra harbor city in the midst of a swamp and in the oil field of the Niger-delta, and requested an interview from the “devil” Benjamin Adekunle.

Major Adekunle, 28-years old, General of the Nigerian troops on the South front sat enthroned behind the General’s desk of the Shell administration, which he had made into his main station when he took the Ibo-city by storm on May 18. Now he stated: “I am convinced you will report objectively and keep to our orders.” We confirmed that.

“Okay,” he beamed, “the Germans just know how war works. Tonight there is a front-party in my headquarters. You will come! An order is an order!”

This interview with the most important man in the Nigerian war took place at night. Whisky and beer were abundant, uniformed go-go girls played DJ, Adekunle danced and petted his mascot, a small mountain goat named “Ojukwu”.

STERN: Your friends in the federal government of Lagos call you the “bloodhound of Nigeria”. You are chasing a whole people. You kill everything.

ADEKUNLE: Europeans are awful. They always generalize. My troops have kept prisoners. You have had a chance to convince yourself of this.

STERN: I only saw one prisoner, a fifteen-year old boy.

ADEKUNLE: There you are! In addition I want to emphasize that we do not murder all people who no longer want to remain members of the Nigeria Federation.

STERN: Does that mean that you do not want the extinction of the Ibos?

ADEKUNLE: The nation which the Ibos founded under the name of Biafra on May 30, 1967 is not a pure Ibo-federation. You Europeans should really know that by now. Seven million Ibos and five million other population groups are living now in the 80% overpopulated Biafra: Ibibios, Ijaws, Kalabaris, Ekios, Efiks, and Annangs. These minority populations in the Ibo nation have always hated the Ibos. Therefore they jubilantly welcome the liberation of their areas through federal troops.

STERN: What are your troops doing when they march into a town around Port Harcourt, an area where most of the farmers are not Ibos?

ADEKUNLE: We aim at everything that moves.

STERN: Small children tend not to stay put for very long.

ADEKUNLE: I know. I have two myself.

STERN: What will your troops do when you get to the Ibo heartland, that is, to the place populated by Ibos only?

ADEKUNLE: There we will aim at everything even if it is not moving.

STERN: Are you racist?

ADEKUNLE: You should know exactly where racists are. There is no such thing as racism in Nigeria.

STERN: But why are you refusing to discuss this war with a European?

ADEKUNLE: Let me tell you something: When the Russians surrounded Stalingrad did you request a land corridor from them so as to better feed your soldiers who were stuck in the pot there? Of course you didn’t and I can tell from your face that you think the thought of a land corridor to bring in food for the captured German soldiers in Stalingrad is a bad joke. Me too. Where and when, …………., was there a war in which the loser was re-nourished one more time before the final loss? Why are you just calling for a land corridor for Biafra? Why aren’t you calling for a land corridor for the Viet Kong? I have to declare: You Europeans are simply not competent!

STERN: What is happening to the European Humanitarian Assistance programs which were authorized through your government?

ADEKUNLE: In the section of the front that I rule—and that is the whole south front from Lagos to the border of Cameroon—I do not want to see the Red Cross, Caritas Aid, World Church delegation, Pope, Missionary, or UN delegation.

STERN: Does that mean that the many thousands of tons of food that are stored in Lagos will never get to the refugee camps in your section of the country?

ADEKUNLE: You are a sharp one, my friend. That’s exactly what I am saying.

STERN: But you said yourself that most of the refugees in the part you captured are not Ibos.

ADEKUNLE: But there could be Ibos among them. I want to avoid feeding a single Ibo as long as this whole people have not given up yet.

STERN: Do you sometimes feel sympathy for the Ibos?

ADEKUNLE: I have learned a word from the British, which is “sorry”! That’s how I want to respond to your question. I did not want this war but I want to win this war. Therefore I have to kill the Ibos. Sorry!
The End.

Some of the angry reactions:

Francis Banji: No wonder they call him the Black Scorpion!

Nkanu Egbe When we read stories about the holocaust we don’t demonise them, do we. The story of the civil war needs to be told to all and of all. Perhaps, when the truth is all out, we can begin to truly reconcile.

Abdul Oroh: Both Adekunle and Ojukwu are in heaven. I interacted with both Ojukwu and Adekunle when they were alive. I interviewed Adekunle with Nduka Irabor, my Editor at The African Guardian. Adekunle’s reply to allegations of brutality and being a psychopath was: “how old was I? A 24 year old Brigadier with a division to command and a war to win.” He confessed he personally executed a cousin for cowardice.They went to war straight from the finest and reputable British military institutions. The various commanders knew themselves very well. They were also competing against each other.
My reading of that was, they were ready to sacrifice anything.They wanted to prove they were better than their rivals. I believe they were also victims of the system that threw them up.
Let’s work to make Nigeria worth the sacrifice of all the victims. In the words of John pepper Clark ” we are all casualties.” No more war in Nigeria.

Brian Jatto: Is there any beautiful war? Wars are better not the first or any option at all! The atrocties committed on both sides are better conjectured than seen or experienced. During the civil war, 1967/1970, I was 12/13/14/15 years old and can recollect graphically, what I saw and experienced at fringes of the unfortunate war in Benin City.

Chidi Ezeoke: “All acts of indignity against human persons, against human society debase the perpetrators more than the victims”. (The Vatican council)

Frank Halim: When are we going to get past the civil war of 46 years ago and get down to the serious business of being united as one – as Africans. The Black Diaspora is waiting.

Sam Amadi: Frank you get past something you have fully comprehended

Allison Oguejiofor: Please Maxim, wherever you can find this kind of story, bring them up and publish them much more extensively. This is not rabble-rousing. No. It is a necessity if only for its and liberating and corrective effects. Kudos men!

Ebere Uzoatu: The mad man Adekunle and his bad verses. One was very gratified that he died in abject penury and a highly frustrated Country Bumpkin pipsqueak. The records have it that Adekunle died as one of the psychotic homo sapiens of this century. Let him rot in the hottest part of hell for what one may care.

Paul Austin Ogechukwu Aginam: If this man Adekunle did all these, then Awolowo is no different with his hunger approach to war over innocent kids and women.

Ayo Olesin: Those who think the civil war has ended better wake up. It has continued albeit undeclared in many parts of the country in the guise Boko Haram, MEND, Fulani cattlemen versus farmers on one side and a more sinister version between the thieving elite and the rest of us. It will only end when we go back to where we started from…agreeing to stay together peacefully on terms or just going our separate ways. I am one of those who believe that our present claim to nationhood is deceptive and has not brought about the prosperity we all desire for the simple reason that we do not have a common national aspiration to propel us forward. What we have engaged in essentially is a macabre dance of all motion no movement…as we compete to control the centre.

For those who blame Adekunle for his vile words. Well war is a killing party.. rules can be bent at will… he was acting under orders and it is not the job of soldiers to sympathise with the enemy… which is why we must work to avoid a repeat of that sordid episode and end the ongoing mini wars

Ed Keazor: He was acting contrary to orders and did so consistently. When the patience of his Commanders was exhausted, he was relieved of his command. His successor did not follow in his footsteps- thankfully.

Toni Icheku: Ayo Olesin, no part was asking for any sympathy, there are rules and conventions governing wars which is why you find the Red Cross in war situations. Adekunle was simply evil, just like Awolowo.

 

Oritsejolomi J Isebor I interviewed Odumegwu Ojukwu in 1986 as a THISWEEK reporter in his Apapa residence. The interview was canned by a ‘Biafran’ editorial supervisor. I guess the editor’s indiscretions are final! The agonies of a civil war is deeper than what meets the eye. And the stories will be told from all angles of comprehension. It is like watching an entertaining masquerade; you enjoy the gyrations from vantage positions.

Emeka Uzoatu: This was the same man that knelt down in the office of an Igbo officer years later to plead for the retrievance of his pension papers.

Kanayo Esinulo: Rebellion started on May 29, 1966 and properly rounded up on July 29, 1966. In his morbid nationwide broadcast on August 1, Yakubu Gowon was to announce the secession of his North from Nigeria but was hurriedly, and if you ask me regrettably, stopped by Sir Francis Cumming-Bruce. That was the only condition that Gowon said would appease his men. When this was communicated to Enugu, Emeka encouraged the Brigadier, a Yoruba, to please allow them to go. Two, I have a copy of the book, Tragedy of History, and would want to be referred to the page or chapter where the author described his origin beyond his attachment to Ibadan and Ilorin. I bought the original, not pirated, copy from Editor Steve Osuji. Please, on which page or chapter? I wait.

Abdul Oroh: Nze Kanayo Esinulo. You are right to say Brigadier Alabi Isama was raised in the Ibadan -Ilorin axis. However, he mentioned his attachment to Utagba-Uno in today’s Delta state. He was, because of his ancestry ,compelled to return to the 4th Brigade of the Nigerian Army as a Mid-West of Nigeria officer during the early days of the crisis. When Midwest was captured by Biafra Army, he fled Asaba to Utagba-Uno where he hid amongst his people. He was received by his step mother. Later when Biafra intelligence got to know he was there, he was aided by his people to escape to Benin through Warri. That is the much your reporter can file today .Until you rescue me by publishing your eye witness account I have no choice but to rely on the ‘heroic’ feats of the generals. I have both the pirated and original copies purchased at the same shop at the airport in Lagos. I guess they are both in Abuja.

Babatunde Ogunsanya: What happened during the Civil War in Nigeria will not be allowed in 21st Century; leaders of the country will be dragged to The Hague,

We pray we don’t see war again in Nigeria, that is why President Buhari the Changer in chief should change his attitude and stop the killing by Fulani cow farmers because if he doesn’t people will react and what is that?

Babatunde Ogunsanya War . AK 47 that Fulani cow farmers are carrying up and down our country is not part of equipment approved for grazing of animals or animal husbandry.

Credit: FB walls of Uzor Maxim Uzoatu and Pa Ikhide. Published on TheNEWS platform too on 25 August 2016.

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