The Speaker of the Nigerian Parliament recently ordered a minute silence on the floor of the Parliament in honor of late Brigadier General Benjamin Adekunle the Black Scorpion.
Majority of members deferred to the Speaker but a sizable number of Igbo honorable members simply refused to observe the one minute silence in honor the Yoruba General because they condemn the role he played in the Biafran war as the pioneer commandant of the Third Marine Commando, the best fighting machine in the entire war.
I thought that was very rude of those members and I thought a few of their Yoruba colleagues and other members from other states of Nigeria including those of the South/South should have risen in defense of the general who was one of the heroes of the Biafran War if the truth must be told.
I know a little bit about that war and General Adekunle that I would like to share in this write-up. My first posting in the Federal Public Service of Nigeria from January 3rd 1968 to December 1969 was to the Defense Headquarters on the first to the tenth floor of the Republic Building on Marina Lagos.
I served there as Administrative Officer grade II or Assistant Secretary (Army) under a gentleman named S.A Ogunleye, a brilliant Economist from Ijebu-Ode and a workaholic Senior Assistant Secretary who ended his career as Director of the African Development Bank.
Our two bosses in the Ministry of Defense at the time were Deputy Permanent Secretary, B. G. Popo an Itsekiri man from Warri and late Yusuf Gobir, a dapper don lawyer from Ilorin who was the Permanent Secretary.
I recall serving at the time with an Aqua Ibom colleague named T.P Enodien and another Senior Assistant Secretary, a Bendel man named Vincent Bello. Enodien and Bello were in the Air Force Unit while Mr. Ogunleye and I were in the Army Unit.
Major and later General Agbazika Innih was Military Secretary while Captain and later General I.O.S. Nwachukwu was his Deputy. Lt Col Murtala Mohammed who later became Head of State and General was Chairman of the Recruitment Panel for commissioned officers into the Army while I served under him as the Civilian Secretary to the panel.
I had no idea at the time that many of the top officers at the time were to be shakers and movers of policy as power brokers in Nigeria. I was on a first-name basis with many of them.
I used to see late Colonel Alao from Ogbomoso, the then Head of the Nigerian Air Force and Lt Col Benjamin Adekunle visit my office quite often for one transaction or the other so I came to know Alao, and the diminutive Benjamin Adekunle very well as two of the heroes of the Biafra war.
I fell in love with Colonel Alao, so to speak, because he was the first Yoruba officer I ever met with tribal marks like those of Samuel Ladoke Akintola. The man was 6 feet 4 inches tall and he was a very handsome man.
To me at the time, Colonel Benjamin Adekunle was the opposite of Colonel Alao’s in his persona and charisma but I could not help but notice the black scorpion because of his reputation or notoriety as the most valiant of our war commanders for whom the great Ebenezer Obe had waxed a record titled, “Konel Benja Adekunle ku ise” which was top of the chart at the time.
(O tu won ka nibi ton ti ndana iro) meaning “the no-nonsense General that no one dares to double-cross on the battle field.) With that kind of popularity, I deliberately went out of my way to cultivate his friendship using my vantage position in the Ministry.
I actually chatted with him a few times and I came away with the impression that he was not such a vicious and unforgiving character and disciplinarian that many Nigerians hearing about him from a distance, used to think he was. He was as smart and intelligent as they come, but always in a hurry to get things done within his own time frame. He shared that same attribute, in my opinion, with Murtala Mohammed who I knew very well.
Both of them acted, all the time, as if they had a short time to fulfill their destiny and they were not going to allow anyone to slow them down. That was my experience with Murtala Mohammed who wanted the minutes of every meeting ready half an hour after the meeting.
He was a slave driver to the chore, but he drove himself twice as hard as he drove his subordinates. The black scorpion was like that too. I got along with both of them because I am also very impatient with people till now.
Benjamin Adekunle did not look to me like a womanizer who could have let down his guard with Iyabo Olorunkoya, the woman his rivals like Obasanjo used to blackmail him to clandestinely replace him as the Commandant of the Third Marine Commando, that eventually took much of the credit for that war.
As Assistant Secretary (Army), I was privy to much of what took place in the war front and in the Head Office because I had access to some classified materials as an administrator in the Army Unit.
I cannot claim to know what transpired in the war front, because I was not physically there, but I regularly saw most reports and dispatches on the conduct of that war and the role of some of the commandants like Benjamin Adekunle, Obasanjo and Murtala Mohammed in particular who led the Abagana Disaster where many Nigerian soldiers were ambushed and killed by the “Ugbunigwe” landmine traps set for them by the valiant Biafra soldiers who gave the Nigerian side one hell of a fight in that particular battle.
Frail looking Brigadier Benjamin Adekunle was a lion in uniform. I once joked with him about him looking to me like a carbon copy of the late Haile Selassie the diminutive Emperor of Ethiopia otherwise known as the King of kings and the Lion of Judah because of his Jewish ancestry.
The general just smiled and he told me that “the hood does not make the monk” and that I should be careful not to judge a man or a woman by his or her look or physical frame or build.
I took that to mean that he himself was aware he was tiny in stature, but behind that frame was one hell of steel that would freeze you up if you get on the wrong side of him.
A lot of stories were told about his heroic activities and escapades during the war and his ability to cheat death so many times by miraculously disappearing from one sector only to appear in another in a split second.
But I do know that he did most of the heavy lifting in that war before his indictment and removal after he was implicated and irredeemably damaged in the Iyabo Olorunkoya drug scandal in a way that demystified his role in that war and his accomplishment as a brilliant and patriotic war hero.
It was clear some of his colleagues like Obasanjo were jealous of him and would not hesitate to cut him down to size at his back if they had the chance.
The black scorpion fought on the side of the federal troops and he risked his life just like many of his comrades-in-arms like Murtala Mohammed, Theophillus Danjumah, and Obasanjo all of whom used their role in that war to attain accelerated promotion and greater heights in the country’s ruling class.
Murtala Mohammed became Head of State after a bloodless coup against Yakubu Gowon while he was away in Uganda with the collusion of Joseph Garba the Commanding officer of the Brigade of Guards which was stationed in Dodan Barracks to protect the Head of State.
Murtala chose Olusegun Obasanjo as Chief of Staff, Supreme Headquarters. Murtala was assassinated in broad day light at Alagbon Close Ikoyi by Colonel Dimka after 200 glorious days as Head of State.
Obasanjo who was very good at kissing ass and positioning himself as the greatest champion of the status quo in Nigeria and the most dependable ally of the North from the South saw an opening and he took full advantage of it .
The Northerners swallowed the Obasanjo bait hook, line and sinker by allowing him to take over from Murtala Mohammed in a “quid pro quo” kind of arrangement.
That “quid pro quo” catapulted Obasanjo to being the longest-serving head of State
in Nigeria beating Yakubu Gowon and Ibrahim Babangida to second and third places in the history of Nigeria.
Obasanjo made Theophillus Danjuma another war hero from the Biafra war his right hand man bringing him back from retirement where he was chairman of many Fortune 500 companies in Nigeria. The Federal Government allocated to him several oil blocks in the Niger Delta making him the richest veteran of the Biafra War till tomorrow.
Obasanjo brought the same Danjuma back to serve as Defense Minister and as the most powerful Nigerian in his cabinet for all of the years he was Head of State. If Obasanjo feared any of his colleagues in the Military, it was Danjuma and not IBB at all. By the same token IBB the evil genius never wants to ever get on the wrong side of the two general because he is scared of them.
The black scorpion who performed much better than Olusegun Obasanjo when they both went to Sand Hurst in the UK and who led the Third Marine Commando before him was relegated or despised by Obasanjo because Adekunle was a no-nonsense man and he refused to kiss anybody’s ass.
He probably died a pauper because he was never honored and pampered in retirement like many of his colleagues and junior officers in the Military. He maintained his independence, honor, pride and self-confidence by staying away from politics till he made his transition a few weeks ago at the age of 78.
Some of his colleagues in the Army like Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu who actually led the rebellion against Nigeria were fully rehabilitated after returning from his voluntary exile in the Ivory Coast. The Ikemba and Eze Igbo, a man I respect for his bravery and conviction died with his honor and prestige fully restored.
He was buried like a national hero and his wife Bianca was made an Ambassador to show how grateful Nigeria was to her husband for almost tearing Nigeria apart when he was convinced the Federal Government did not treat his people right and he took up arms against Nigeria to protect his people.
The Yorubas began to distrust the Biafra soldiers when they made incursions to the Midwest and actually threatened the Southwest with their troops going as far as Ore on their way to extending the Biafra Empire to Lagos and the whole of the West. That was the last straw that broke the camel’s back for the Yoruba’s decision to think again... Even Philip Effiong who took over from the Ikemba and signed the surrender documents with the Federal Authorities was not as alienated and victimized like the black scorpion who could easily have been dismissed from the army but for the kindness of Yakubu Gowon the only man of God in uniform among them.
The great Colonel Adekunle Fajuyi who sacrificed his own life in the interest of the Yorubas in an effort to save the life of Aguiyi Ironsi, his Commander-in-Chief was hardly ever given the full posthumous national honor he truly deserved till tomorrow.
The only honor done to him, a statute at Fajuyi Park on Iworoko Junction, Ado Ekiti, was bestowed on him by the Ondo State Government when Ekiti was still part of Ondo State.
Somebody has to let the Igbo members of the Nigerian House of Assembly who disrespected Benjamin Adekunle understand that they were wrong to do that. Benjamin Adekunle would forever remain a national hero whether they like it or not because he has earned it.
Their disrespect of the General is carrying their epithet of “I before others” to an unacceptable level. Other parliamentarians who refuse to call their Igbo colleagues to order on the spot were wrong. They have sold the whole country short by keeping quiet.
It was nice to know that President Jonathan issued a statement eulogizing the general and his contributions to Nigeria’s survival as a nation. The President got that right and I commend him for that.
But for commanders like the black scorpion, the support of the international community and the financial wizardry of Obafemi Awolowo as Nigerian Finance Minister, there is no way in the world that Nigeria led by the Northern Generals alone could have been able to defeat Biafra. That is the plain truth.
Putting all the blames for the death of the millions of the Igbos who died in the war on the black scorpion is a total misrepresentation of history and a travesty. The black scorpion fought gallantly on federal side as he was supposed to do just like Odumegwu Ojukwu fought gallantly for the Biafran side and rightly so I might add. Colonel Banjo another Yoruba man who had to sacrifice his life fighting on the side of Biafra was another Yoruba man like Adekunle Fajuyi who should be appreciated, and not disparage or humiliated by our Igbo brothers if they want to be fair and objective.
I reject the insinuation or any suggestion or cheap blackmail by revisionists that the black scorpion was a villain who should be blamed for the plight of Igbo people in the Biafra war. I have noticed that Igbos are always quick to blame Obafemi Awolowo for doing his job during the Biafra quagmire.
I challenged Chinua Achebe when he made the same insinuation in his last book before his death. Yorubas are no enemies of the Igbo people. I can tell you that as an Akure man who voted for Azikiwe otherwise called “Aisiki Iwe” in Akure in preference to Obafemi Awolowo. Dr. Azikiwe was on his way to becoming the first Premier of Western Nigeria in 1954 because the Yorubas voted massively for his party, the NCNC.
Who says the Yorubas do not like the Igbos? I don’t want to hear it. Let any Igbo man reading this tell me anywhere in Nigeria where the Igbos have done for the Yorubas what the Yorubas have done for the Igbos. If they cannot do that, let them keep their mouths shut forever.
Yoruba heroes like Professor Wole Soyinka, late Tai Solarin and late Professor Samuel Adepoju Aluko were few of the Yoruba sons who spoke out in favor of the Igbos while they were being butchered like rams by the northerners in most of the major cities in the North before the war.
We must never forget that. I love and respect the Igbos for who they are as a people and for their resourcefulness and business acumen, but I hate their guts to never see anything good in any other in Nigeria other than their own as pointed out by Professor Osuji Ozodi in many of his write-ups on the Internet and as confirmed by Alex Omeke in so many of his writings.
Igbos are particularly resentful of the Yorubas even more than they are of the northerners because they see the Yorubas as their competitors and rivals in Nigeria. They think the northerners do not pose any big threat to Igbo domination of Nigeria.
That is the plain truth, but I am saying that needs not be the case. We should all be able to live and let live, and we sure, can get along better, if we choose to respect one another and tell the bitter truth about our relationship as two of the dominant tribes of Nigeria who can go our separate ways and still do very well just like our brothers to the North of the River Niger and Benue.
I rise in defense of the black scorpion and I pray that his soul should rest in peace. The world is only a stage as reminded us by Shakespeare. We are all in it as actors. We come, play our part and leave the stage for others to play theirs and the world continues without end as predicted in the Bible.
General Benjamin Adekunle the black scorpion has played his part to the best of his ability and he deserves eternal rest, and should be spared of all the insults and disrespect on display at the floor of the Nigerian Parliament by a few of our Igbo brothers as captured in this article.
I rest my case.