Olubunmi Okogie at 84: “My War Front Encounter With Black Scorpion, Others”

Olubunmi Okogie at 84: “My War Front Encounter With Black Scorpion, Others”

Tuesday, June 16, 2020 11:47 pm


 

The late Brigadier Benjamin Adekunle (Black Scorpion) and Anthony Cardinal Okogie, now 84

His Eminence, Anthony Cardinal Okogie is 84 years today, 16 June, 2020. Okogie was born to a royal family of Uromi in Edo State. His parents, according to information aggregated from different sources by Wikipedia, were Prince Michael Okojie – who was himself a son of King Ogbidi Okojie of Uromi – and Mrs Lucy Adunni Okojie (née Afolabi). His father was Esan and his mother was Yoruba. Okogie was ordained priest on 11 December 1966. “He holds a licentiate in sacred theology, and had planned to study in Rome, but was called to Nigeria where he was a curate at the Holy Cross Cathedral. He was drafted into the Nigerian army, and served there as a chaplain.”

At the war front, he experienced suffering and saw soldiers having worse experiences. In the “Archbishop Olubunmi Okogie: Devil or Saint” by Sir Steve Omojafor (STB & Associates, 1992), he narrated his encounter with the gruff General Benjamin Adekunle, alias Black Scorpion, who was the boss at the Third Marine Commando.

Part of the narrative goes thus: “On sighting Governor Diette Spiff, Adekunle walked to him and in apparent ridicule blurted out: ‘So you want to travel with me, Governor? Governor my foot! You know without me here you’re as good as dead.’ After thoroughly enjoying himself, he allowed everybody on the aircraft.

Just before the aircraft took off, Brigadier Adekunle asked: ‘Where is the Roman Catholic Chaplain? You must sit with me here.’ So Anthony (Okogie) sat beside the Black Scorpion.

‘What would you like to drink?’ He asked. Anthony replied ‘soft drink.’

They served Adekunle beer and meat and he joked, ‘Before I drink my beer, I want Father to make it holy. After all, Jesus turned water into wine. If you cannot do this, it means you are fake.’ Sensing the mockery in his voice, Anthony refused to bless the beer and Brigadier Adekunle, noticing Anthony’s reluctance, said ‘Well, if you don’t bless it, it is blessed.’”

This encounter was when Okogie finished his tour of duty in Pot Harcourt and was returned to Lagos. After another period of service at Holy Cross Cathedral, he was an instructor at King’s College. In 1971, he was, as contained in the information gathered by Wikipedia, consecrated Titular Bishop of Mascula and Auxiliary of Oyo, and in 1973 named archbishop. As Archbishop, Okogie was the president of the Christian Association of Nigeria, and, from 1994 to 2000, headed the Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria.

“He was proclaimed Cardinal by Pope John Paul II in the consistory of 21 October 2003, and holds the title of Cardinal Priest of Santa Maria del Monte Carmelo a Mostacciano (or in English Blessed Virgin Mary of Mt. Carmel of Mostacciano). During his cardinalate, Okogie was one of the cardinal electors who participated in the 2005 papal conclave that selected Pope Benedict XVI.”

Below is the narrative from when he was sent into the war front and his return. It was also published on Nairaland

March to the war front

 

“It was during Rev. Father Moran’s era that Anthony met Monsignor Pedro Martins, his former teacher at St Gregory’s College, who had now been seconded into the Nigerian Army.Monsignor Martins, accompanied by a gun carrying orderly, had burst into Anthony’s little office at the Holy Cross Cathedral Mission and said to him…”What are you doing here wasting your time and your youth? You should come into the army and make yourself more useful”. Anthony was rather shocked and just replied, “Monsignor I am not cut out to be a soldier, but if you insist, tell my boss”. Monsignor Martins was furious and shouted back at him…”Shut up! What do you mean by boss; who is your boss?”

A few weeks later Anthony was summoned by the Papal Delegate in Nigeria and given the marching orders armed with only £50.00 to report at the warfront; to serve in the 3rd Marine Command under Brigadier Benjamin Adekunle (The Black Scorpion). Anthony, confused and petrified, rushed back to report to the Archbishop; but the Archbishop whom Anthony had hoped would be his saving grace just replied: “Is that so? Then you must prepare to go to the warfront. The people there are human beings like you”. For once, Anthony felt his God had forsaken him and for the first time almost regretted his decision to become a priest.

When Anthony broke the news to his mother, she burst into tears. If she had her way, she would not allow her son to go to the warfront. She was not the only one who shared this strong view however. Even his friends, fellow priests and his parishioners advised him to refuse to be “drafted” to the army. Anyway, Anthony’s mind was made up to take the challenge if that was God’s wish.

Having received the Archbishop’s blessings, he packed up his suitcase, including his “Mass Box” and phoned up Monsignor Martins for further instructions. Anthony had just begun to speak when, Monsignor Martins bellowed:”Are you still there?” As if Anthony was already part of the army. “I don’t know where to go”, Anthony replied. “Report to Tamado Barracks”, Monsignor Martins told him and before Anthony could utter another word, he banged the phone.

Anthony did not even know where Tamado Barracks was located. He decided to brave it and so, asked a driver to take him to Apapa. When he got there he dismissed the driver. No sooner had the driver driven off than Anthony came face to face with some security men who halted him to search his belongings. Anthony was casually attired in shirt and trousers and not in his priestly robe as he had earlier been advised. He was treated as a trespasser. He was subjected to the most humiliating search with his personal belongings scattered all over the ground with the bayonet of their guns.

When the security men finally finished with him and allowed him into the barracks, Anthony went in search of Monsignor Pedro Martins. After some moments of wandering around, Anthony summoned the courage to enquire from a stern-looking soldier. At the mention of Colonel Martins, the soldier’s facial expression changed to that of fear and uncertainty. After a moment of sizing him up, the soldier enquired what business Anthony had with the Colonel. Anthony explained that he was a priest being drafted into the army.

The soldier relaxed and took him to where he could see Colonel Pedro Martins, who unfortunately was at a meeting. Anthony had to wait. After a long while, he was ushered into House Number Seven on Point Road Apapa – the official residence of Lt Col (Monsignor) Pedro Martins – the Army Chaplain. On coming face-to-face with Pedro Martins, Father Anthony was not quite sure what their new relationship was going to be. He attempted a simple greeting and Monsignor Martins barked at him. “Oh yes Father Anthony, the first lesson you learn here is to respond ‘Yes Sir’ to every instruction you are given, okay?”

There was no equality here and there was no time for rubbish.

Came next question – “Have you eaten?” “No Monsignor”, Father Anthony replied. “You see?” Monsignor Martins exploded, “I said ‘Yes Sir’ to every question, right or wrong”. Anthony quickly replied “Yes Sir” even though he hadn’t had a bite all day. Monsignor Martins asked his steward to prepare a meal for Anthony.

In a more cordial tone, he asked “Have you said mass?” Father Anthony replied “yes Monsignor” and Monsignor Martins flared up again “You this boy, you will never learn. For the last time, you say ‘Yes sir at all times”.

This he repeated three times, banging his swagger stick on the center table. Anthony was visibly shaken as he repeated “Yes sir” three times. Under normal circumstances and outside this sort of military setting, Anthony would never say “Yes sir” to anybody.

For the first time since he came into Monsignor Martins’ sitting room, he was offered a seat and invited to take breakfast. Anthony moved to the table and poured himself a cup of tea. Just as he was about to take the first sip, Monsignor Martins stopped him. “When you go with the soldiers to the battle field, you will have to learn how to crawl on your chest. Do you know how crocodiles move?”

Father Anthony said “No Monsignor”. Monsignor Martins made as if to hit him on the face, so Anthony quickly corrected himself “Yes sir”.

Monsignor Martins said “Haven’t you got ears?” Then he went down on his tummy and crawled like a crocodile. He got up and said “Now do the same”. Anthony tried it and Monsignor Martins said “Now you can have your meal”.

But just as he was about setting the fork in his mouth, Monsignor Martins came up again. “Now, one more thing – the frog jump. Anytime you see the boys do it, do just that, otherwise don’t blame me or anybody for whatever happens to you”. Then he handed Anthony a big brown envelope which he advised him to give to his commanding officer at the warfront. “This is your life, this is your life, I repeat, this is your life”. And to his orderly, he shouted “Now Major, take him away!”

Anthony was dumbfounded. He took a look at the dinning table and at the Monsignor, but the Monsignor ordered “Come on, keep moving!”

Father Anthony wanted to explain to Monsignor that he had not even tasted his food, but as he attempted to complain, Monsignor Martins screamed “shut up!” In this place, there is nothing like Monsignor or Reverend Father. All you must learn to say is “yes sir” and with that, he dismissed Anthony who still couldn’t get over the shock of being invited to breakfast and not being allowed a bite.

But he knew he had to leave there and then, if even with an empty stomach. From then on, Anthony learnt to obey instructions and prepared to move to the theatre of war. The trip was by boat, M.V Azikiwe and his destination – Port Harcourt.

When he boarded the boat, Anthony found a large crowd, even university students on vacation. They all looked hungry and angry, especially the sailors. One soldier collected Anthony’s suitcase rather curtly and dumped it in a corner. Father Anthony was angered by this careless attitude and he screamed at the soldier “why did you dump my luggage just like that?” The soldier, not being sure of who Father Anthony was, as he was in mufti, cautiously replied “where else can I put it sir? The whole place is full sir”.

Anthony seized this opportunity to establish his authority and ordered the soldier to “shut up”. “Where’s my cabin?” He asked. When he saw how quickly the soldier jumped at this command, it dawned on the young priest that he was joking with his life ordering an army officer around. For the first time he wondered what would happen when the soldier found out who he really was. At this stage, fear gripped him and he prayed “Jesus help me, Mary save me!” Though scared, Anthony had however learnt something new about soldiers – they would obey you only if you shouted or screamed at them. With this in mind he decided to try his luck again at lunch time.

Again, he picked on the same soldier he had an encounter with earlier in the morning and asked him “where is my lunch?” “I don’t know sir” replied the soldier. “What do you mean you don’t know, can’t you go and ask one of the sailors?” The soldier scurried off and came back to report that the sailors had refused to attend to him. Father Anthony began to treat the soldier gently and decided to make a friend of him. so he asked him “Aren’t you a Yoruba man?” And he spoke Yoruba to him. The soldier immediately felt at ease. He told Father Anthony how much suffering the soldiers had to go through. “You are an officer sir, you will be treated well, but us, even water we would not get”, he lamented, still convinced he was speaking to a senior officer.

Anthony spoke to the next sailor that came his way. “Excuse me sir”, “Yes?” the man replied. “When is lunch?” The sailor took a hard look at him wondering whom he was, asking such a stupid question. But Father Anthony persisted. “Where is the dinning room?” The sailor mellowed down and gave him directions. Anthony went as directed and finally found the dining hall but alas it was empty. Not a single soul. Was he too early? He stood wondering for a while and eventually decided to take a table near the entrance, so he could get out quickly if it became necessary.

He was thus the first to be served but he hardly commenced eating when officers in sparkling and well-ironed uniforms started filing in. Father Anthony was the only one in mufti and without being told, he knew he was in the wrong place. One of the officers noticed and took a long look at him. Anthony immediately sprang to his feet, made to dash through the door, but changed his mind. He observed the officers making signals and whispering among themselves. All eyes were on him, but nobody said a word. He summoned up courage and sat down again to finish his food quietly, while watching the officers depart one after the other with the corner of his eyes.

Fther Anthony waited for all of them to depart. He seized this opportunity to stuff all his pockets with left over bread and meat. These he parceled to his new found soldier friend who devoured them like a caged hungry lion. Father Anthony was full of sympathy for him and his type. For the first time he was coming in contact with real hardship military style.

Having accomplished his first mission – filling his stomach, he decided to go in search of a drink. He headed straight for the kitchen where he met a cook who sized him up and asked what his business was there. “Water” Anthony quickly replied, when in actual fact he was dying for a cup of tea. The cook told him that the kitchen was a forbidden zone. He was advised to go for water where his mates got drinking water.

Anthony who could never believe himself being denied water now began to see life outside the protection of the mission compound and began to dread what lay ahead of him on this journey. He tried another line on the difficult cook. “Look my friend”, he said, “we are all the same. You don’t know me, I don’t know you. This is war time you know!” The cook looked at him again and said “Alright, don’t lecture me, just take water and go” . so Anthony grabbed a bottle and disappeared without bothering to take a drinking glass with him.

In the evening, Father Anthony attempted to return the bottle and maybe grab another one. On his way to the kitchen however, he ran into the captain of the ship for the first time. He certainly wouldn’t have recognized him, but for his uniform and the way the boys addressed him.

“What the hell are you doing here, your place is on the deck!” The captain said:
Father Anthony stammered “I’ve only come to return this bottle sir.”
“What bottle/ who gave you that bottle anyway?” Anthony was afraid to disclose who had given him the bottle. Instead he just turned around and left without one word. The next morning, he decided to try his luck again with the bottle. He was able to make it to the kitchen this time. He wanted a real drink, so instead of asking the cook for water, this time he asked for tea. To Anthony’s surprise, the cook gave him a mug of tea which he drank with relish.

Finally, they arrived Port Harcourt and a driver took him to a military camp. The driver dropped him off at the entrance and drove of without a word. Two soldiers he attempted talking to just refused to utter a word. He decided to wander around on his own. Around him were men and women in smart khaki uniforms walking about briskly. Then he saw the danger sign hanging in the door of an office on which was boldly written in white and red “ENTER UNDER PAIN OF DEATH”.

Beside the door was stationed a well fed monkey jumping from one end to the other. Anthony kept all his sense at alert, watching every movement suspiciously. He observed that everyone passing by the door all looked straight on, not daring to look towards the door. Anthony thought this was rather queer, but decided to walk up to the military policeman stationed by the door. The policeman ignored him so he turned to another gun-carrying soldier nearby who did not even blink an eyelid. At one end of the compound, however, Anthony noticed heaps of locally made weapons which must have been recovered from rebel troops.

Finally however, Father Anthony was able to gain entrance into what looked from the outside as the House of Death. Seated in a large office was a Military Colonel by name Godwin Ally, who turned out to be the Chief of Staff at the camp. Father Anthony now stood before Col. Ally clutching the big brown envelope that Monsignor Pedro Martins had given him

“Yes, what can I do for you”, the Chief of Staff asked. “Good afternoon sir, I’m from Lagos”, Father Anthony replied.

“Yes, I know you’re from Lagos, but who are you?” Col. Ally asked again. Anthony handed him the big brown envelope. Col. Ally quickly ripped it open and brought out a tiny piece of paper, about 2”x2” in size. Anthony was surprised. He would not believe that that was all he had been carrying like a treasure in the big brown envelope all the way from Lagos.

“Oh, you’re the Roman Catholic Chaplain from Lagos”, the Chief of Staff asked. “How is Martins?” “He’s well sir.” Anthony replied. Then Col Ally brought out from underneath his large table his beer mug and sipped the content, looked at Father Anthony, twirled his whiskers and smiled.

Father Anthony seized the opportunity to quickly look around this big room that served as office. There were heavy blood stains all over the walls and on one side of the room hung the map indicating the war zone. Anthony ran his eyes from the wall up to the ceiling. The roof was half blown off, it was a sorrowful sight. All of a sudden, Col. Ally jumped off his chair and ordered Father Anthony to stand up. Anthony sprang up with his back to the door, while Col. Ally stood facing it. from the look on his face, Father Anthony guessed that a superior officer must be at the door.

Just then a voice rang out – “who is that man”?
The Roman Catholic Chaplain from Lagos Sir” Col. Ally replied.
“What is he doing here”.
“He was sent by Col. Pedro Martins Sir”.
“Tell him Jesus Christ died long ago”, the mystery voice said again and disappeared. Col. Ally relaxed, sat down, got out his mug again and took a long sip.

The Chief of Staff sent for the Protestant Chaplain, a major and introduced Father Anthony to him. “Oh, it’s the Priest from Lagos?” The major said.

“Precisely so and now, I hand him over to you, show him everything there is to see, tell him what to do and how to behave”, the Chief of Staff concluded.

When they were alone outside, Father Anthony intimated the major that he had been briefed that his duty was to cater for the spiritual well-being of the troops.

“How about a car?” Father Anthony asked.

“Car? Did I hear you say car? Well my dear friend, you have to commandeer your own vehicle”, the major replied.

“But how can I go on the street and seize a car just like that?” Anthony protested.

“Well you will learn, nobody will teach you.” And that was all the reply the major volunteered. Meanwhile Col. Ally passing by picked a bit of their conversation and asked the major why he would not apply to the General Officer Commanding for a car for the priest. The major replied that he had earlier done so and that the GOC’s response was that when Jesus Christ was alive, he never rode a car.

Father Anthony asked if he could take a ride in the major’s car. “Why not?” the major replied – “you’re now one of us, you are stuck here, there’s no escape.”

When they entered onto the car, Father Anthony told the man that if he had his way he would tell the GOC that true, Jesus Christ never rode a car, but that there was none in his time and that even then, Jesus rode on one of the best means of transportation available, a well-bred donkey! At least he rode into Jerusalem on one. . .

“Do you think you can face the GOC and say that?” The major asked him.

“If need be, why not?” Father Anthony replied.

“That’s the life of a Catholic priest” the Chief of Staff who was riding in the same car with them remarked. “You see how they reason?”

Then he turned and faced the Major from the back of the car. “You people attend the seminary for three or four months, you come out and say you’re priests. Look my friend, I’m a catholic, you hear that?”

This disclosure that Col. Ally was a catholic brought unimaginable relief to Father Anthony, who now believed he had a friend. At this point, the Chief of Staff dismissed the major and drew Father Anthony nearer.

“Now Father, listen . . . . to make life easier for you, I will release my personal military jeep and driver for your use everyday. You are entitled to one soldier and two orderlies to guard you anywhere and anytime.” Then he summoned a military police officer to show Father Anthony to the vehicle.

Anthony was asked to be taken to Shell Quarters and the bloody sight he found was better imagined than believed.

His impulse on getting to Port-Harcourt was to sneak around and asses the extent of damage around the town. About an hour and a half later, the Chief of Staff came in search of Father Anthony. To his dismay, the young priest was nowhere to be found. So he sent a search party after him.

When Anthony finally showed up, he asked him where he had been and Anthony merely replied – “surveying”.

The Chief of Staff looked at him in shocked disbelief – “I hope you realize where you are and what’s happening around you. I hope you don’t get yourself surveyed pretty soon.”, he said. He took Anthony to his house and gave him a drink while he had his cold beer. “If there is anything you want, feel free to ask, but don’t over-reach yourself. If you go against orders, I’ll deal with you ruthlessly. Don’t forget you are now one of us”.

That was how Father Anthony commenced his military life at the soldiers’ camp.

Most evenings, Father Anthony would stroll down to the fighting forces camp. Those residing there were absolutely prohibited from coming near the officers’ camp. Anthony would sit among st them and chat with them far into the night. At times they would sing and play games around bonfires. Sometimes he would buy them beer from his meager allowance. They loved him very much for that. Gradually he won their confidence and some nights he would get one or two of them to accompany him on walks around the streets.

From time to time Anthony would drive down to Diobu with the soldiers. They would visit orphanage camps, organize prayer sessions as well as present food items to the inmates. Some catholics amongst them also helped in arranging catechism classes for the war victims.

In no time, young Father Anthony had settled down to the harsh life of the military camp and accepted realities of the situation. His only anxious moments were whenever he had to accompany the troops to the warfront. The fact that he was well protected at the rear did not completely insulate him from danger.

Most mornings he had to report at the headquarters to the Chief of Staff – Col. Godwin Ally. One day however, Anthony ran into the GOC – the BLACK SCORPION, Brigadier Adekunle himself, who asked “What is that man doing there? Ask him to report at 18 Battalion”. Later, Anthony gathered from a military orderly that 18 Battalion was in the heart of the military offensive. The orderly warned him “Oga, don’t go, that place fire dey o!” but Anthony knew that he had to go.

Very early the following morning, about 5:00 am, Anthony joined the troops to the warfront. There he was able to observe the difference in fire power between the Federal troops and the Biafrans. While the Biafran gunshots sounded like toys to him, the Federal troops’ firepower reverberated throughout the entire neighbourhood. from the sound of the guns you could know the position of the opposing troops.

Anthony’s duty was to minister to all the casualties at the warfront. one strange thing that he experienced at the front and which he reported to the Chief of Staff was the case of two soldiers who were very good friends. one got fatally injured and surprisingly, all his friend did was to search his pockets, remove everything therein and take off. Anthony witnessed this on about two or three occasions and just couldn’t understand. When he reported this to Ally, he simply replied that there was nothing unusual in this. “Sir, I don’t think it is charitable”, Anthony said.

“What? You talk about charity here? If an enemy caught up with our wounded men, they would still be shot to ascertain they are dead before removing all they have on them and whatever ammunition found on them would still be used on us. You don’t discuss charity. This is war”. “Sorry sir”, Anthony said. After this, he learnt to keep his mouth shut. Understandably, all is fair in war!

On Sundays Anthony would offer Mass for the troops, at the end of which he would listen to their complaints – both personal and professional. It was generally believed among the fighting forces that he could intercede on their behalf with the authorities. This he did whenever he could.

Father Anthony also made himself available to take the soldiers confessions. At the warfront however, confession was heard at the oddest locations, and a lot of times, while in motion. Wherever the soldiers caught up with him, they just stopped and shouted “Father, Father, confession.” Before he was ready, they would recount their transgressions and speed off, not even bothering to wait for absolution. He always sent this after them.

One day he had gone to the market to pick up a few things for the camp. He came upon a pretty lady struggling with a broken down vehicle. Then as he made to get into his jeep, a soldier dashed over to him and said the lady had ordered him to surrender the vehicle.

“Which madam? Your madam?” Anthony asked, suspecting that the lady was a girlfriend of one of the top war commanders.

“No, Oga’s madam”, the soldier replied.

“If you don’t get out of my sight…” Anthony shouted like a senior officer, “I will deal with you and your madam!” The soldier retreated like a frightened rabbit. Before the soldier could get back to the lady, Anthony jumped into the jeep and ordered the driver to race off.

One Christmas eve, a short truce was declared and Roy Chicago and his band were brought in to entertain the troops. At the height of the entertainment, Brigadier Benjamin Adekunle took the microphone. He certainly was in one of his light moods as he addressed the troops.

“Now, this war, if all goes well, will end before January 1st!”

All the soldiers shouted “HURRAH!”

“Don’t annoy me now”, Adekunle said. “What are you shouting hurrah for?” Then he digressed and said “I can see some people are just sitting bone to bone and I don’t like that. I want you to sit ‘bone to flesh’. Anytime Brigadier Adekunle made such remarks, the drums would roll to cheer him. as if this was not enough, he decided to go on inspection to fish out any soldier sitting’bone to bone’.

For fear of running foul of the Black Scorpion’s orders, Anthony got up quietly slid beside a lady and so did everybody else. But the Black Scorpion had not finished with him. he took the microphone again and announced – “Now I want the gentleman and lady that I will call out to come and open the floor – The Roman Catholic Chaplain from Lagos”. Anthony almost fainted, but Brigadier Adekunle, sensing his great discomfort, quickly summoned about six couples to join him and this provided Anthony the opportunity to sneak out and go into hiding. Soon, the merry making was over and it was back to business.

At about 4:00am that morning, the bugle sounded, signaling the end of the truce. Anthony walked up to the Chief of Staff and reminded him that he had just eight days left in the camp. Col. Ally threatened that he wasn’t going back, but instead will be commissioned into the army as an officer. Anthony didn’t argue.

In his free moments, Anthony would visit Commander Alfred Diette Spif, the then Governor of Rivers State. The governor, being a catholic, found a lot of solace in his religious discussions with Father Anthony. Governor Dietter Spiff was not known to be too friendly with Brigadier Benjamin Adekunle.

Eventually, his last day at the warfront arrived and he submitted his discharge papers. After the usual formalities, he was released and driven straight to the airstrip. That very day, Brigadier Adekunle was also on his way to Lagos for consultations. On arrival at the airstrip, true to character, he ordered everybody out of the aircraft, including even the military governor of the state – Diette Spiff. He announced that he intended to fly to Lagos alone in the aircraft.

On sighting Governor Spiff, Adekunle walked to him and in apparent ridicule blurted out: “So you want to travel with me, Governor? Governor my foot! You know without me here you’re as good as dead”. After thoroughly enjoying himself, he allowed everybody on the aircraft.

Just before the aircraft took off, Brigadier Adekunle asked: “Where is the Roman Catholic Chaplain? You must sit with me here”. So Anthony sat beside the Black Scorpion.

“What would you like to drink?” He asked. Anthony replied “soft drink”.

They served Adekunle beer and meat and he joked, “Before I drink my beer, I want Father to make it holy. After all, Jesus turned water into wine. If you cannot do this, it means you are fake”. Sensing the mockery in his voice, Anthony refused to bless the beer and Brigadier Adekunle, noticing Anthony’s reluctance, said “Well, if you don’t bless it, it is blessed”.

On their arrival in Lagos, Governor Diette Spiff drove Anthony back to the Holy Cross Catholic Mission. At last he was back to peace and sanity. The warfront experience remains ever fresh in Father Anthony’s memory.

All considered, Anthony felt that the experiences at the warfront were very valuable. It re-equipped him both emotionally and psychologically and memories of wounded and dead soldiers always brought back flashes of the graveyard experience his father put him through during childhood. Both events had the effect of preparing him for the unknown life ahead of him.

Back in Lagos, Anthony noticed that his attitude to life had changed tremendously. For one, he observed that his voice had assumed a much higher pitch. He now shouted. The short military life had obviously rubbed off on him. He now enjoyed shouting orders. His immediate boss, Father Moran, who was then the administrator of the Holy Cross Cathedral, had to remind him often times that he had left the warfront and that he didn’t have to shout that much anymore. What was more, he even walked differently from his pre-military service period. Now he marched rather than walk. Even his table manners became less formal. But with time, Anthony had to return to his priestly “civillian days”.

-Culled from “Archbishop Olubunmi Okogie: Devil or Saint” by Sir Steve Omojafor (STB & Associates, 1992).

 

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