By Izunna Okafor
IT WAS an evening of tributes, reminiscence, ratiocination on Tuesday, as intellectuals, veterans and doyens in different fields of endeavours stormed Awka, the capital city of Anambra State, to celebrate the life, works and personality of ex-Grand Officer Commanding (GOC) of the defunct Federal Republic of Biafra, General Alexander Madiebo.
Tagged ‘The General Alexander Madiebo Colloquium’, and themed ‘The Concept of Biafra Then and Now’, the first-of-its-kind event, was organised by the Awka Literary Society, in partnership with National Light Newspaper, Anambra State Signage and Advertisement Agency (ANSAA), Anambra State Ministry of Information, and Anambra Broadcasting Service.
Introducing the event, a co-founder of the Awka Literary Society and MD/CEO, ANSAA, Mr. Odili Ujubuoǹu, who scored Gen. Madiebo’s hometown, Awka, high in arts and cultural preservation, further explained that the colloquium was primarily aimed at keeping the memory of the Biafra War General alive.
Anchored by Prof. Chike Okoye of the Department of English Language and Literary Studies, Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, the event featured panel discussion, poetry renditions, tributes, and interactive session, among other highlights.
The event also featured special readings by grand children of Gen. Madiebo — Sochikaịma Alexander Madiebo and Miss Nkemjika Nweke— as well as veteran Nollywood actor and Special Adviser to Governor Soludo on Entertainment, Leisure and Tourism, Sir Bob-Manuel Udokwu, who all read from various chapters of Gen. Madiebo’s well-documented masterpiece on Biafran War, titled ‘The Nigerian Revolution and the Biafran War’.
Reacting to the questions of what Biafra was all about, and what the consciousness of Biafra has been like from then till now; the discussants, Prof. Chimalum Nwankwo, Prof. Greg Mbajiogu, Barr. Sam Okeke, and Chief Ejike Anyaduba, individually shared their views on the Nigeria—Biafra War and attributed the emergence of Biafran ideology to quest for freedom, and resistance against injustice and cruelty; while also admitting that there has been a few significant changes in the consciousness of Biafran ideology between then and now.
Speaking at the event, the Anambra State Commissioner for Information, Sir Paul Nwosu, represented by the MD/CEO of Anambra Newspapers and Printing Corporation (ANPC), Sir Chuka Nnabuife described the event as one of the best in recent time, even as he further dissected the rationale behind the Nigerian Revolution and the Biafran War.
Sharing his war experience, a Biafran war veteran, Chief Sabi Nwaeke, who narrated how he was shot on the chest at the warfront on October 7, 1968 (when he was just 17), said he stayed in the hospital for three months and went back to the warfront, thanked God for saving his life; and also revealed that there were no more than 10 buildings and no more than 30 buildings in Awka and Onitsha, respectively when he came back from the war in 1970.
Chief Nwaeke however expressed repugnance with an honour done to Murtala Mohammed, after whom an international airport was named, arguing that he deserved not to be immortalised.
On his own part, the MD/CEO, Anambra Housing Development Corporation, Mr. Chike Anyaonu said he went to war at the age of 11 in November 1967, and recalled how he was persuaded to join the war when they went to supply food to their Biafran brothers fighting war in the bush, only to discover that they had all been killed by the Nigerian Army. He described the war experience as horrible.
In their separate remarks, the children of the late General Madiebo, Mrs. Maureen Nweke (Nee Madiebo), Mr. Uchenna Madiebo, and Mr. Richard Madiebo (who is also the Chairman of the Anambra Internal Revenue Service) described their father as a quiet, resourceful and courageous man; hinting that he lived and died for Igbo people; and further revealed that he did not get justice in life, but got it in death.
While expressing joy for such an honour done to their father in his hometown, Awka, the trio appreciated everyone who participated or contributed in one way or the other to the success of the event.
The well-attended event was graced by academics, literary enthusiasts, and top government functionaries, including the Transition Committee Chairman for Nnewi South Local Government Area, Mr. Ikenna Aniagbaoso; a co-founder of the Awka Literary Society and author of ‘Dispossessed’, Mr. James Eze; author of ‘God of Poetry’ and ‘How Not to Be a Nigerian’, Mr. Uzor Maxim Uzoatu; and Barr. Chinwuba Chukwura of the Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu University, Igbariam, among others.
Alexander Madiebo (April 29, 1932 – June 3, 2022), who hailed from Umuokpu Village in Awka, was an outstanding soldier who served as Aide-De-Camp (ADC) to Nigeria’s first Governor-General, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe; and the General Officer Commanding (GOC) of the Republic of Biafra during the Nigeria-Biafra War (1967—1970). He was the author of ‘The Nigeria Revolution and the Biafra War’, adjudged to be one of the greatest and most objective books ever written on the Nigeria-Biafra War.