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Tribute to Major General Madiebo: A great Biafran icon

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By Sylvia Tochukwu-Ngige

LATE Major General Alexander Attah Madiebo (rtd) was a foremost Nigerian Military Army Officer. He joined the Nigerian Army in May 1954 as Officer Cadet and had other training. He was a former Chief of Staff of the Biafran Army and commanded the Biafran Army from the start of the Nigeria – Biafra war in 1967 until the end of 1970. He flew into exile with General Emeka Odumegwu Ojukwu and came back in 1976.

  The late Major General Madiebo hailed from Umuokpu Awka in Awka South Local Government Area of Anambra State. He was a student of the famous Government College, Umuahia, a school that produced some of the finest and most gifted people in the world.  He had his military training at the Regular Officers’ Special Training School in Teshie, Gold Coast, now Ghana, along with General Yakubu Gowon, with whom he also trained at the legendary Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, England, and United States of America.

  From Ghana, Major General Madiebo proceeded to Europe for further studies at Eaton Hall Officer Cadet School in Chester, England. A course mate of General Yakubu Gowon, both of them enlisted in the army and attended all the training courses together in Nigeria and overseas.

  When he joined the Nigerian Army in May 1954 during the colonial era as an Officer Cadet, General Madiebo after a series of Military training was commissioned Second Lieutenant in December 1958. Before the outburst of the Nigerian Civil war, he was promoted to become the first Regimental Commander of the Nigerian Army Artillery. When Nigeria secured her independence in 1960, he was made the ADC to Nnamdi Azikiwe, the then Governor General of independent Nigeria.

  In 1967 when the civil war broke out in Nigeria, General Madiebo became the Commander of Biafra’s 51 Brigade after narrowly escaping an alleged massacre in the Northern part of the country. He was in this position for two months before assuming full command of the Biafran Army with the rank of Major General, from September 1967 to the end of the war.

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  At the heart of the civil war, he was promoted by General Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu to become the General Officer commanding the entire Biafran Army, a position he held until the end of the war in 1970. General Madiebo returned to Nigeria from exile in 1976 and in1980 wrote his book, ‘The Nigeria Revolution and the Biafran War” a book that is seen as the greatest book about the Nigeria-Biafra civil war. During his days as battalion commander, then Brigadier Commander and Major as Chief of Staff of the Biafran Army, Major General Madiebo put everything on daily basis in his diary. In the book, he gave a very detailed first-hand eye-witness account of the Nigerian revolution and the two coups of January and July 1966, the coup that claimed so many lives in Nigeria. 

  The 466-page book was published by Fourth Dimension Publishers and divided into four different parts: The Revolution, The war, The Aftermath and The Epilogue. Part one of the book captures in detail everything that happened before Nigeria’s Independence and immediately after the independence. Part two is the War, while parts three and four are the Aftermath of the war and the Epilogue, respectively.

  In the book, General Madiebo spoke about the Nigeria-Biafra civil war, the reason for the conflict, the problem ahead, the struggle to restore Biafra and what Nigeria should be doing in present Nigeria, among other sensitive issues.

  Late General Madiebo in the book told the story about how his course mate at the United Kingdom Elite Military Academy, Sandhurst, General Gowon had tried to get him out of harm’s way by pencilling down his name for a course abroad at the height of the 1966 crisis. Being a very smart and wise man, he turned down the offer because he felt he needed to be around to protect his wife and children as the uncertain events of 1966 unfolded.

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  He also told another story in his book of how he advised an Igbo officer to leave the Kaduna Army Officers’ Mess at the Army Barrack in 1966, after the counter-coup because of mutiny by ‘Northern’ soldiers against the Southern colleague. Madiebo left but the Igbo officer who refused to heed his advice was later that night arrested at the same officers’ mess and killed. Another interesting narrative full of wisdom and strategy by late Major General Madiebo is his story of how he escaped from Kaduna to the Eastern part of Nigeria in the water tank of a train after hiding in the bush.

  A Biafran icon, a good manager, a great writer and a historian, late Major General Madiebo used his managerial acumen to manage the army under his command during the Nigeria-Biafra civil war. With these traits, he was able to face a better equipped Nigeria Army with his hungry and ill-clad troops during the civil war. The situation was so bad then that his soldiers were made to share assault rifles and bullets rationed in such a way that fighters did not pull the trigger unless they were sure of hitting the target. One bullet per combatant a day becomes the norm. Being an intelligent man and a strategist, he looked inward and relied on Biafran engineers who came out with homemade rifles, bombs and even armoured cars to fight in the civil war.

  On the 11th of January 1970, a day to the end of the civil war, late Major General Madiebo left Biafra through the Uli airport and flew with General Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, Dr M.I. Opara, Mr N.U. Akpan and Mr C.C. Mojekwu in a Biafra Peace Mission to Ivory Coast leaving the Head of State and Biafran Army Commander and the Biafran Army to continue to fight under General Philip Efiong. 

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  Late Major General Madiebo fought two battles; the Congo crisis and the Nigerian Civil war. The Congo crisis was a period of political upheaval and conflict that happened between 1960 and 1965 in the Republic of the Congo, presently known as the Democratic Republic of Congo.

  Born on April 29, 1932, at Umuokpu Awka in Awka South Council Area of Anambra State, late General Madiebo (Nzeamalu) was married to Mrs Regina Ifeyinwa Madiebo and the marriage was blessed with four children; Mrs Maureen Obiageli Nweke (Nee Madiebo), Mr Kenneth Chuka Madiebo, Mr Peter Uchenna Madiebo and Mr Richard Nwora Madiebo (the current Chairman/Chief Executive of Anambra State Internal Revenue Service).

  On June 3, 2022, the Biafran icon departed this planet at the age of 90 years. According to the family, the remains of late Major General Alexander Attah Madiebo (Nzeamalu) will be interred at his home, Umuokpu Awka, Awka South Local Government Area in Anambra State after a funeral service at St. Paul’s Anglican Church, Umuokpu Awka.

  May the soul of the late gallant soldier, Major General Alexander Attah Madiebo (Nzeamalu) rest in peace, Amen.

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