Exactly 50 years ago, on Saturday, the 7th of October 1967, over a thousand civilians in Asaba, mostly men and young boys, were murdered.
Having reclaimed much of the Midwest Region and forced Biafran soldiers back across the River Niger into Onitsha, the Nigerian Army arrived in Asaba on the 5th of October 1967 to find that the bridge between Asaba and Onitsha which they had hoped to cross in pursuit of the retreating Biafran army, had been blown up. They took their disappointment out on the residents of Asaba.
Though on hearing that the war was approaching the town, many indigenes had fled across the Niger, a good number remained because the town was not part of Biafra, not even on the Biafran map. They were Nigerians, many of whom were professionals and civil servants working in Benin before the war. However, because they spoke the Igbo language, Nigerian soldiers vandalised, ransacked and burnt down homes, and killed civilians claiming they were sympathisers to the Biafran cause despite the fact that even today, Asaba people are not considered to be “real Igbos”.
In an attempt to end the violence, Asaba people, men, women and children dressed in ceremonial Akwa-Ocha (white dress), assembled in the main street, singing, dancing, and chanting “One Nigeria.” Armed Nigerian troops separated men and young boys from their mothers, wives and sisters and Major Ibrahim Taiwo, (who in turn was murdered during a failed coup 9 years later) gave the order to fire.
In Memory of the lives lost on the Saturday, 7th of October, 2017
Thursday, October 5th
10.00am: Press Interviews – TV, Radio, Print
12.00 pm: One Minute silence for the Asaba dead
1.00pm: Canon shots
Asaba Traditional Rites for the dead (Egwu Ota)
4.00pm: Canon Shot heralding
Full Asaba Traditional Remembrance rites
Friday, October 6th
9.00am: Courtesy visit of the Colloquium participants to the Asagba’s Palace.
10.00am: The Colloquium on the Asaba Massacre
Theme: In Pursuit Rebirth
Venue: Grand Hotel, Asaba
Participants: Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah, Prof.E. A. C. Nwanze, Dr. Getrude Okogwu- Ogunkeye, E. O Okotcha; Prof Liz Bird, Prof Fraser Ottanelli, Rt Rev Dr. Patrick Isichei
Rapporteurs: Dr. Mrs Edith Azinge, Fabian Oweazim, Mrs Mary Uraih
1.00pm: Lunch Break
3.00-4.30pm: “The Dance of the Dead” – Drama place written by Ugo Chukwuedo
Venue: Grand Hotel
5.00pm: Candle light Procession from Grand Hotel to Venue of Massacre.
5.30pm – 6.30pm: Service of Songs
Venue: Ogbe Osowa
Saturday, October 7
9.00am: All villages converges at the Arcade for the interdenominational Service
Procession to Ogbeosowa
Tributes at grave site at Ogbeosowa
1.00pm: Venue: Event Center, Asaba
- Guests Arrive
- Recognition of Dignitaries
- National Anthem/ Pledge
- Opening prayers
- Welcome Address by Chairman of Planning Committee – A. Ofili-Okonkwo
- Chairman’s opening Remarks
- Address of Chief Host – His Excellency Governor Senator (Dr.) Ifeanyi Okowa
- Goodwill messages by special Guests of Honour H.E Dr Alex Ekwueme, Distinguished Sen. Ike Ekweremadu; H.E Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, Prof Wole Soyinka, Bishop Hassan-Kukah, Chief Nnia Nwodo, etc
- “What Led Us to Asaba” – Prof Elizabeth & Prof Fraser Ottanelli, Authors of The Asaba Massacre; Trauma, Memory and the Nigerian Civil War
- Book Review – Chuks Ileogbulam
- Book Presentation
- Victims Speak
- Unveiling of Architectural model of My Place of Birth Hopital
- Vote of Thanks by Chief Dr Ngozi Allanah Ododi Akpe of Ahaba
- Closing Prayer
Sunday, October 8
Thanksgiving in all Churches
The unfortunate killing of that Saturday morning isn’t just about Asaba people, it is a significant part of Nigerian history and a reference to our humanity. I would suggest that if you are in Asaba you try to attend and if you know anyone who might be interested in participating in any of these activities, please share.
I'm Red and I like to read, write and shoot a few great pictures. A constant learner caught in wanderlust, I'm always looking for new ideas, destination or adventure! Best part it, I tell everyone about it on my blog.