Again, General Godwin Alabi-Isama, while celebrating his 80th year on earth spills what really happened ‘in the popular surrender’ of Biafra to Nigeria during the war.
General Godwin Alabi-Isama was the Chief of Staff, Third Marine Commando, during the Biafran War.
Standing his ground on pure history, the war veteran said Biafra soldiers never surrendered.
This was part of his epic reply when asked by ADEMOLA ADEGBAMIGBE and NEHRU ODEY to compare the army of his days with what we have now,
“It’s not comparable because I trekked from Calabar to Port Harcourt – 180 kilometers – not on a picnic but fighting for every inch of land. And today, you probably have a helicopter, a jeep. You have a Land Rover, probably even have Carriers or something. But at that time we had no vehicle. The story is also in my book. We had no vehicle. And we were fighting. I think we had only three vehicles. One one would carry food, one would carry the dead and the wounded. When we landed at Oron in our advance going to Port Harcourt, we landed at the waterside at Oron. And we knew Ikot-Ekpene there and Umuahia, Biafra would come. So I came in from there and caught then up. I told the airforce, “Please don’t bomb. I just needed the vehicles. By overflying the area they will abandon their vehicles and they would escape. Then I would pick up their vehicles.” That story is also in the book. Again we call it the Strategy of Trust. Again, going further than the question you asked me, Biafra captured Ekot-Ekpene. Biafra defeated us at Aba. Biafra defeated us at Orlu. Biafra defeated us at Owerri. But the thing about it was that from where they were recruiting – from the civilians that they were recruiting – we had started our “Strategy of Trust,” where we would give them food, we would look after them, we opened the market, we opened schools, their children did the West African School Certificate Examination, their girl-children were also in the boarding schools, we were feeding them, we were paying the teachers. And so they trusted us.
So while Biafra was still announcing on the radio, “Nigerian soldiers are coming. They would rape all your children. They would kill all of you.” We let them listen to Biafra radio and counter that. And that was how the war ended. Not that Biafra surrendered. In my book, Achuzia came with a flag to the front troops. They took him to the commander of the front troops, which was Akinrinade. And Akinrinade followed him. They brought kolanut and all that, all this Ibo tradition, and all the officers were seated, waiting. Not that Biafra hands up to say, “We surrender.” It didn’t happen that way. So what then happen was after the officers had surrendered to Akinrinade, then we called Obasanjo to say the Biafrans had surrendered. Now, here was the point again. Obasanjo was not there. We told him when they changed Adekunle that the war will end in exactly 30 days.
But for six months we were roaming around, he did not know what to do. And he had an ego. You see, Adekunle would have said, “Right, what do you think. We want to go and attack Port Harcourt. What do you think?” He would pick your brain. Obasanjo’ ego did not let him do that and he didn’t know what to do. And soldiers were dying. In fact, in his book, My Command, he said 1, 500 soldiers died in one hour of battle. I lost only eight people and two officers, from Calabar to Port Harcourt- 1, 500 is a disaster. He wrote it in his book like that. And so when they told him that the war had finished and the Biafran soldiers were waiting to meet him and all that, he didn’t know where to go. And he had written in his book that the soldiers did not know Alabi Isama, they did not know Akinrinade. But he then asked the soldiers. He wrote it in his book. He said he stopped and asked some soldiers, “Where are my officers?” And they said if you reach under that tree, turn left you would find them sitting down there. If they didn’t know us, how will they know where we were.