Civil War: How Bajowa Bailed Me out of Trouble in Bonny- Akinrinade

Civil War: How Bajowa Bailed Me out of Trouble in Bonny- Akinrinade

Tuesday, January 5, 2021 11:52 am


Generals Olu Bajowa, left, and Alani Akinrinade

…cited other instances of Bajowa’s bravery

General Olu Bajowa, a former Quarter Master General and Adjutant General of the Nigerian Army marked his 80th birthday on 27 December 2020 in Igbotako, Okitipupa Local Government Area of Ondo State.

Apart from former President Olusegun Obasanjo who, at the occasion, testified about how Bajowa saved him from Lt.Col. Bukar Dimka’s bullets on coup day on 13 February 1976, another retired General, Alani Akinrinade, has narrated other instances of Bajowa’s goodness and bravery.

Akinrinade revealed that during the civil war, when he was in trouble in 15 Commando Brigade, Bonny, it was Bajowa who showed him some bias. “You gave some extra training to the recruits you ‘smuggled’ to us without Army headquarters authorisation.”

Akinrinade revealed this in a tribute he wrote on Bajowa.

Bajowa was also with Akinrinade in Second Division as a Battalion Commander, 6 Infantry Brigade for a short stint in the Mid-West.

Akinrinade said of Bajowa again: “You mustered the likes of  Adeyemi Alabi, Sunny Adenihun, Adeniran, Ichohol “the bandit” etc to handle the logistics of cobbling together that rag tag all-comers, strange bedfellows into a fighting force and got us to Okene in some miraculous 24 hours from Ikeja, when I left my headquarters to Ike Nwachukwu.

“Twelve hours later, your battalion had joined the battle and recorded spectacular successes.”

In fact, Akinrinade wrote about Bajowa’s abiding urge to perform beyond the call of duty, that “unquestionable loyalty to your friends, colleagues, country and willingness to give all.”

Bajowa, as revealed by Akinrinade, displayed this in Auchi “when you showed up at the blown-up bridge on our approach to the town, with high fever and measles that afternoon, my heart sank. It was not only because anything including death could be the end result but the loss of your services to a brigade we were just starting to build in dangerous circumstances. I said to you before the mini-mock that will take you to Ibadan moved, that you must return soonest. You cried and said, ‘Egbon mi, you know, I cannot leave you alone’ and left.”

Below is Akinrinade’s tribute:

To Olu Bajowa at 80

By Alani Akinrinade

It was a dusty, harmattan haze mid morning on December 21, 1962, at the Ibadan airstrip that we met and you smartly saluted and announced to me that you were there to get me and would look after my welfare from then on. I was a JJC returning from the Officer Cadet School. I immediately noticed a well-turned-out, smart, intelligent, respectful, dutiful, meticulous young officer proud to wear his uniform. You ensured I was well-briefed on the situation our unit was, just returning from a stint in the Congo. My interview with the Adjutant Captain, Hans Anago, and the Commanding Officer, Lt. Col. Kur Mohammed, the next day contained no surprises, thanks to you.

We had no complaints about our work, but we had untold difficulties with our interaction with some officers who did not quite understand why Isama, Olu, Joe and Akin were always happy, finding the extra energy to paint Ibadan red, too many invitees to dine in the ladies’ room, raised the officers’ mess swimming pool from the dead and always encouraged the other junior officers to learn how to swim.

It used to be the abode of our British officers, which was allowed to decay when they left. When I was whisked to Army headquarters as temporary Captain, you were also posted to 6th Battalion, Ikeja. It was there you refused to sign the mandatory column that you were obliged to sign on your annual confidential report. It was a brave, confident and reckless undertaking. Your refusal was reported to my boss, Lt. Col Yakubu Gowon, the Adjutant General. He discussed you with Major Aniebo, the military secretary, who advised that your Brigade Commander should be brought into the matter. Brig. Zak Maimalari had known you and your worth personally at the 4th Battalion.  It is one instance amongst some others where I realised, that it is not only a duty, but also an undertaking worth laying down our lives for: the defence of all our subordinates. That was the first threat to your career and your own record and the unbiased judgment of your seniors saved you. It was my second hint that Nigeria is a delicate place where you cannot take professional solidarity for granted.

Every officer you worked for held you in high esteem and I know for a fact that most, always almost, didn’t bother to supervise or doubt your judgment.

You were with me in Second Division as a Battalion Commander, 6 Infantry Brigade for a short stint in the Mid-West. You mustered the likes of  Adeyemi Alabi, Sunny Adenihun, Adeniran, Ichohol “the bandit” etc to handle the logistics of cobbling together that rag tag all-comers, strange bedfellows into a fighting force and got us to Okene in some miraculous 24 hours from Ikeja, when I left my headquarters to Ike Nwachukwu. Twelve hours later, your battalion had joined the battle and recorded spectacular successes. I will always remember, as if it were yesterday, the tears that rolled down, even though unmilitary most say, when 2/Lt Sanni, a new arrival from Sandhurst, became one of our first casualties. You are very easily distressed and more determined whenever anyone else is in trouble or suffers a loss. You talk like a Prince, but deep down is your humanity, willingness to let go of anger to substitute reality, the abiding urge to perform beyond the call of duty, that unquestionable loyalty to your friends, colleagues, country and willingness to give all.

When you showed up at the blown-up bridge on our approach to Auchi, with high fever and measles that afternoon, my heart sank. It was not only because anything including death could be the end result but the loss of your services to a brigade we were just starting to build in dangerous circumstances. I said to you before the mini-mock that will take you to Ibadan moved, that you must return soonest. You cried and said, “Egbon mi, you know, I cannot leave you alone” and left.

I thank you for the bias you showed me when I was in trouble in 15 Commando Brigade, Bonny. You gave some extra training to the recruits you ‘smuggled’ to us without Army headquarters authorisation.

My regret now is that we are retired, old with lots of time to spare and we do not have the privilege to create enough time to flock together, do the old banters and demonstrate that we can still play pranks with all our families and friends

Olu, or is it Olubaj as those rascals call you, it has been a fulfilled life and I assure you that all around you are proud of your achievements and your carriage as an officer and gentleman. I am particularly proud and happy to have a friend so divine.

Aduke, Princess and all my children, from Yetunde, Babatunde who doesn’t look for me, and your band of brothers and sisters, I have you to thank for the good life you gave my friend, for flying the family flag with pride and diligence and allowing him to hold his head high in probity in these rotten circumstances. I wish you all well.

On behalf of Omowale and all our children and family, I say Happy Birthday, my friend.

Many happy returns. Igba odun, odun  kan.

The champagne will keep popping for many years to come.

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