year of fraternizing among boxing aficionados amid the convivial setting of the
Dick Collins Hall in North West London. Chas Taylor’s Annual Boxing Memorabilia
Fayre run for more than a decade and a half now, brought out boxing figures
such as John H. Stracey, Britain’s former world welterweight champion; Sylvester
Mittee, former British Commonwealth welterweight champion; Winston Spencer, former British Southern Area champion at lightweight and welterweight divisions and Rocky Kelly, former British
Southern Area welterweight champion.
Book I purchased on the tragic Freddie
And another; the autobiography of Henry
Cooper, Britain’s much loved heavyweight
Nice photo of a young Smokin Joe
Frazier which I purchased from Chas
With the man who makes it all possible,
Adekunle as a colonel during the Nigerian Civil War (PHOTO: Getty Images)
Brigadier Benjamin Adekunle, the 'Black
Scorpion' of Nigerian Civil War fame was a man of great complexity and as a
military leader he generated fierce, polarized controversy among both his
federal army colleagues and the Biafran opposition which included the European
mercenaries who came up against him in the battles which raged among the creeks
and mangrove forests of the southern Nigerian terrain with his Third Marine
He provided a lot of ‘copy’ for the
foreign journalists who covered the conflict which officially endured from July
of 1967 to January 1970, but which was an extension of the concatenation of
violence which had racked the former British colony in 1966. Two army mutinies
and a succession of pogroms against mainly members of the Igbo ethnic group led
to the declaration of an independent state of Biafra by Colonel Odumegwu
Adekunle was the commander of a Garrison
at the time of the onset of the troubles.
in the largely Muslim northern Nigerian city of Kaduna to a bi-ethnic marriage
–his father, Thomas Adekunle was a Christian from the Yoruba Western Region
while his mother, Theodora, also a Christian, was from the northern Bachama
group –the 22-year-old Benjamin Adekunle enlisted into the colonial
administered Nigerian Army in 1958.
was trained in England at Mons Officer Cadet School and at the prestigious
Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst and after graduating was commissioned as a
early army career included stints in the troubled central African republic of
the Congo where as part of a United Nations peace-keeping mission, he served as
a platoon commander in the Queen’s Own Nigeria Regiment. In 1962, he served as
the aide-de-camp to Sir Francis Akanu-Ibiam, the governor of the Eastern Region.Back in the Congo in 1963, and newly
promoted to the rank of captain, he was appointed as the staff captain of the
Nigerian Brigade Headquarters.
He returned home where he was posted to
Army Headquarters to serve briefly as Adjutant General until his appointment on
the eve of war at the Lagos Garrison.
The expansion of what was a small
garrison of troops into two battalions to form the Third Infantry Division
under Adekunle’s command, was due to the prevailing political circumstances of
The fractures in the Nigerian Army had
occurred along ethnic lines; this, the result of a wider rivalry between the
Hausa and Igbo tribes. As events shaped into a confrontation between the
Igbo-dominated Eastern Region and the rest of the federation, it was felt
necessary to establish a larger presence of the Yoruba group in the army, an
institution within which they were underrepresented.
The great level of personal drive and
single-mindedness that were his signature traits played a significant part in
the successful exploits during the war of this military group which would later
be dubbed the ‘Third Marine Commando.’
But first he effectively built up the
division from scratch by actively involving himself in the recruitment of a
largely Yoruba pool of infantrymen from a range of civilian backgrounds:
tradesmen, students, street thugs and even former prisoners.
It was this division which was charged
with the seaborne assault of the town of Bonny in July of 1967; a strategic
necessity in the overall federal objective of encircling Biafra.
The significance of this operation cannot
be underestimated. As the Nigerian political scientist, B.J. Dudley wrote in
his book Instability and Political Order:
Politics and Crisis in Nigeria (1974):
After Nsukka, the only other notable
success of the federal troops in July was the capture, on the 26th,
of the oil terminal in Bonny in an amphibious landing which was described as
“brilliantly planned and executed” and the first of its kind ever to be
attempted by African troops. The fall of Bonny to federal forces commanded by
Lt. Col. Benjamin Adekunle was important. It not only gave the Federal
Government control of the main river leading to Port Harcourt, but it also
deprived the rebels of one of their principal counters in any bargaining with
the oil companies that they might have envisaged.
Adekunle proved himself to be a talented
and quick-thinking battle commander who combined imaginative planning with a
boldness of execution.
The success at Bonny was repeated three
months later with the capture of the city of Calabar. The liberation of the
whole of the south eastern area was completed by April of the following year
and in May of 1968, the fall of Port Harcourt, a coastal city in the delta area
effectively cut Biafra from any access to the Atlantic Ocean.
Adekunle’s management of the war was
accompanied by much commentary in the media. His conduct as head of Three
Marine Commando typified the belief held by those covering the war that the
divisional commanders wielded absolute power and authority in their prosecution
of the war; much to the extent that the man who was nominally their supreme
commander, General Yakubu Gowon had enormous difficulty in controlling them.
The extent of such autonomy was
illustrated by the fact that each division had its own international arms
buying representative. Adekunle himself was consistent in his quest to secure
the best in terms of materiale for his troops; tenaciously overseeing
acquisition and payment to the minutest detail.
His commitment to the welfare of the men
under his command was also matched by an almost tyrannical form of leadership.
He inspired both fear and respect from his troops.
His detractors have continually alleged
that Adekunle bore responsibility for the commission of war crimes and point to
his now notorious comments to a Dutch correspondent in 1968 as evidence that he
sanctioned indiscriminate killing and genocide:
I don’t want to see no Red Cross, No
Caritas Aid, no World Council of Churches, no pope, no missionary and no United
Nations delegation. I want to prevent even one Ibo from having even one piece
to eat before their capitulation. We shoot at everything; even at things that
They were words which were redolent of
the harsh invective frequently employed by military leaders such as U.S.
Admiral William ‘Bull’ Halsey’s famous wartime exhortation to “Kill Japs, kill
Japs, kill more Japs. You will help to kill the yellow bastards if you do your
They were also suggestive of a
mean-spirited relish at the brutal subjugation of an enemy on its knees as was
Air Force General Curtis LeMay’s recollection of having “scorched and boiled
and baked to death more people in Tokyo on that night of March 9-10 (1945) than
went up in vapor at Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined.”
Yet, there is much evidence that Adekunle
acted humanely and with gallantness when dealing with the populaces of the
territories that he had conquered as well as with the treatment of Biafran
prisoners of war.
Markets, hospitals and schools were
re-opened and orphans taken into care. And the fate of many captured Biafran
soldiers was not that of the firing squad or the kerosene-drenched pit but
absorption into the ranks of Three Marine Commando.
After he had secured the southern and
eastern borders of the secessionist state, his division began moving into the
Igbo heartland with the capture of the cities of Aba and Owerri.
His battle-field successes accompanied by
his media relations management turned him into something approaching a national
hero. Both man and exploits became mythologized.
However, Adekunle’s feisty character
which accommodated much in the manner of braggadocios statements and other
ill-considered comments before the international press did not bode well for
A remark to a foreign correspondent about
how he expected one day to fill the mantle of (supreme) army commander alerted
Gowon, whose tenure at the top was consistently threatened by his rivalry with
another divisional commander Colonel Murtala Muhammad, to the possibility that
the mercurial Adekunle, who as leader of Three Marine Commando controlled a
great swathe of Nigerian territory might attempt to overthrow him.
This, along with the general difficulty
Gowon had in keeping his main commanders in order, were the underlying reasons
why on May 12th 1969 he removed Adekunle and Colonels Ibrahim Haruna
and Mohammed Shuwa from their command posts. The re-capture of Aba by Biafran
forces was ostensibly part of the reason for his redeployment.
However, it is likely that Adekunle was
the main target and that the two others were sacrificed so as not to make it
appear to be a tribally motivated act against a soldier who was enjoying an
unprecedented level of popularity among his Yoruba kith and kin.
Gowon replaced him with another officer
of Yoruba origin, Colonel Olusegun Obasanjo, a future Nigerian ruler as
military head of state and civilian president. It was Obasanjo who accepted the
instrument of surrender from Colonel Phillip Effiong, the soldier who succeeded
Ojukwu as Biafran head of state after Ojukwu fled into exile, in January of
Adekunle’s division had been responsible
for the capture of an estimated 70% of Biafran territory and had he remained in
his post would almost certainly have overseen its eventual capitulation. It was
a blow from which many insist he never recovered.
In 1972, Adekunle was promoted to the
rank of Brigadier. His problem-solving skills were put to good use by the
military regime who appointed him as the administrative czar tasked with
relieving Lagos port of appalling levels of congestion; a mission at which,
according to John de St. Jorre, he was “immensely successful”.
He nonetheless continued to have problems
in the army where he was impeded, Adekunle claimed, by “rivals”. This alluded
to a group of officers who laid the basis for the future domination of the
higher echelons of the Nigerian Army by those of northern Muslim heritage.
In any case, his penchant for stepping on
toes and according to a declassified U.S. State Department dispatch from 1976,
his tendency to “excesses that have turned many against him” led to his
compulsory retirement from the army in 1974.
Adekunle’s name had been mentioned in the
London trial of a Nigerian society woman, Iyabo Olorunkoya, who had been tried
and convicted for smuggling marijuana into the United Kingdom.
Adekunle, who had been suspended prior to
his retirement, claimed that he had been set up and not given a fair hearing by
the army authorities who were influenced by an “Adekunle must go” campaign
orchestrated by his rivals in the service.
In later years, he privately admitted to
a journalist that he had been involved in a plot to overthrow the government of
General Gowon. This claim has not been corroborated.
However, it is accurate enough to state
that rumours of anti-Gowon coup conspiracies involving Adekunle were common at
the time and the ‘Iyabo Scandal’ provided an effective route by which his
enemies could effect his downfall.
Adekunle drifted from the spotlight, only
coming into public view when the ever thorny subject of the Nigerian Civil War
was debated in the national media.
He did continue to maintain high-level
contacts in the military regime which succeeded Gowon. In February of 1976, he
appears to have played a part in negotiating the sale of jet aircraft, military
equipment and also massive quantities of food to the MPLA faction in Angola.
But as time went on, his contacts within
successive civilian and military administrations diminished. He did not enter
the political arena and was not appointed to any prominent public position,
instead he lived quietly dividing his time between homes in the Surulere
district of Lagos and in his hometown, the northern Yoruba city of Ogbomosho.
Many continue to vehemently insist that
he was a “hater” of the Igbos. An interview conducted by Randolph Baumann for
the German Stern magazine which was
published in August of 1968 put his infamous wartime comments into context:
I don’t dislike Igbos. But I learnt one
word from the British and that is “sorry.” I did not want this war. I did not
start this war-Ojukwu did. But I want to win this war. So I must kill Igbos.
To the best of anyone’s recollections,
Adekunle had not betrayed any hint of an antipathy towards Igbos. In fact he
put himself in danger when during the brutal purges of Igbo soldiers by their
Hausa counterparts in the counter-coup of July 1966 he promised safe passage to
a group of Igbo army officers.
An ambush had already been set for these
unfortunates, several of whom were eventually murdered, and the then Major
Adekunle was himself saved only by the intervention of a northern officer,
Captain Gibson Jalo.
Ever candid and forthright in his views,
Adekunle surveying the contemporary circumstances of a perpetually
dysfunctional and corrupt state, and doubtless ruing the manner in which he had
been continually marginalised during and after his army career, opined that he
regretted fighting to keep Nigeria together as one nation:
Personally, now and for some time, I feel
so ashamed to have killed people to sustain the unity of Nigeria. I feel so sad
to have shed blood for the unity of Nigeria. While some of us were dying in the
battlefield for the restoration of one country, some people have their eagle
eyes on one particular subject: oil; the livewire of the economy; the new
fulcrum or pendulum of power. While we fought for one country, some people have
been reaping where they did not sow. They have been reaping from bogus
population figures fashioned to suit their selfish purposes.
This thinly veiled attack on northern
Muslim domination, albeit vastly reduced since the return to civilian rule in
1999, did not win him many friends. Not from the north and certainly not from
many Igbos who like the late Chinua Achebe, whose reminiscences in the civil
war memoir published shortly before his death, remain hardened in their views
on the man.
It was typical Adekunle, although whether
representing a final, settled view on the matter of Nigerian unity is
debatable. He was from all accounts as ever the provocative, cynical and
impulsive man in his later years as he had been as a young man.
At Sandhurst where he admitted to making
only one close friendship among the three hundred cadets during his two year
stay, his debates with the officer-instructor of the political science module;
based on Adekunle’s objections at what he felt was the over glorification of
Western culture and the denigration of Africa, were considered acts of
They led to him receiving sixty four days
of restrictions with hard labour, a punishment record he continued to believe
for second year cadets.
Adekunle was on many occasions the epitome
of cheekiness and effrontery. When after the first military mutiny, the
Nigerian ruler, Major General Aguiyi-Ironsi who had been targeted by the
mutineers had called him to his office to enquire whether he had been among the
plotters, Adekunle had replied: “Sir, if I were part of the coup, you would not
be seating where you are seated now, because I don’t like you.”
While on a visit to Nigeria in March of
1969, Prime Minister Harold Wilson made a request to visit Adekunle at his
headquarters in Port Harcourt, and true to form, the ‘Black Scorpion’ took the
opportunity to reproach Wilson for not having sent British troops to the then
Rhodesia to crush the rebellious government of Ian Smith.
His cynical and biting wit was often on
display. Adorning the walls of the offices which he inhabited during the war
years was a quotation from Dante’s Inferno: “Abandon hope all ye who enter
His hard-as-nails demeanour was broken
only a few times. He once offered the revelation of having cried for the last
time in his life at the funeral of a young officer who he had been mentoring in
his division during the civil war.
The young man had been buried in a coffin
which up until his death had accompanied Adekunle while executing his duties on
the frontlines; it being earmarked for his own use in the event of his demise.
But aside from the complex and
eccentrical behaviour of the man was the soldier. The memoirs of many of his
colleagues, even those who did not claim any fondness for him, acknowledged his
vast level of competence as a battlefield commander and his rightful mantle as
the best army leader during the civil war.
His opponents said no less.
Rolf Steiner, the German mercenary who
commanded the Fourth Commando Brigade of the rebel army, admired his “quick
mind” and wished that he could have faced him at the helm of equally matched
armies, while Ojukwu himself paid him the ultimate compliment when stating that
he wished that he had "an Adekunle” on the Biafran side.
died on September 13th 2014. He was born on 26th June in
1936. He was married to Folake Adekunle by whom he is survived along with their
(c) Adeyinka Makinde (2014)
Adeyinka Makinde is a London-based writer
and law lecturer with a research interest in intelligence and security matters.
is obviously the case that when one weaves an argument, particularly in areas
shrouded in emotion and controversy, that one will face criticism.
expressed in my essays and interviews are widely disseminated on the World Wide
Web and one cannot police every website or message-board at which an essay or
article of mine is reproduced.
should be said that the overwhelming majority of such re-posts on websites or
links supplied by posters on social media sites such as facebook and twitter
are done by sympathetic organisations and persons.
if a disagreeing party wishes to supply a critique then all is well so long as
it is based on logic and not on an inflexible political mind-set or on tribal,
racial or religious sentiment as a lot of views tend to be predicated upon
whatever the protests of many protagonists.
someone posted a reproduction of a report by the Russian news agency, RIA
Novosti about my recent interview on the Voice of Russia radio international
regarding my views of the Ukrainian crisis, onto a Nigerian message-board.
different poster then followed by posting a link wondering if 'Adeyinka Makinde
is one of those opinions-for-hire - a modern version what Lenin called
term, coined, it is said by Vladimir Lenin - although the precise evidence
justifying this is lacking- is used to denigrate those who supposedly
propagandize someone or something without being cognizant of the full
objectives of the person, cause or ideology.
will re-produce the poster's comment later and my riposte further down but
first things first.
person who is corpus mentis and who has read my essays on the Ukrainian crisis,
NATO policy in the Middle East and on Israel-Palestine will be aware of the
factual justifications which I outline.
approach is based on an objective collection of historical and contemporary
data which is then synthesized into an argument.
facts and the arguments I put forward are clearly not proselytizing any form of
ideology or validating, in this case, every action and policy undertaken by
I have noted, for instance, that there are indications that he
has amassed a large fortune inconsistent with his presidential salary. I have
also written about suspicions of his government's perpetrating a false-flag
atrocity in order to prosecute a brutal war in Chechnya.
contemporary Russia, the rule of law continues to be severely challenged,while the gangsterism which had its
underpinnings in the Soviet system and came to full-blown glare in the wild and
reckless years of the Yeltsin era continues to undermine the evolution of a
genuinely civil society.
is one therefore compelled to assent to the reckless, aggressive actions by the
US-NATO alliance -directed by neo-con agitators such as Senator John McCain and
Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland- to which ANY sane and competent
leader of the Russian state would react?
critics of those who rationalise Putin's reactions in regard to these specific
matters themselves betray their own psychological hang ups as well as their
not least, they often betray a certain amount of pre-existing anti-Russian
have been duped by the incessant anti-Putin propaganda that has been the
standard fare of much of the Western press for some years now. They are swayed
by tribal-nationalist attitudes and motivated by anti-Russian sentiment held
particularly by those who were under the domination of the old Soviet Union.
Also, their blanket disdain for Putin's reactions is ideological: a resentment
of Russia based on its role as the standard bearer -China notwithstanding- of
thread of thinking bubbling in my mind is that a lot of anti-Russian sentiment,
understandable to a degree because of Tsarist and then Soviet dominance of
their nations, is that the resentful 'tribes' and nationalities in central and
eastern Europe, never got to exact revenge against Russians in the manner that
they did against German populations after the Second World War.
irony is that those who blame Russia and Russians to this day for 'inflicting'
communism on their nations may be the first to object to those who spin the
thesis that Jews were the overwhelming force behind the political leadership of
early communism and the barbarities perpetrated against what they term
"Orthodox Christian Slavic" communities by the state security and
gulag system of the Bolsheviks.
fact, many of these eastern European and Baltic states were complicit in the
Nazi persecution of the Jews precisely because of such identification. This
includes the sort of people the US-NATO have put in power in Kiev.
were pogromized, ethnically cleansed and raped on masse; the fate of the
Sudetan Germans being one example. The Red Army itself perpetrated the mass
rape of millions of German females as it conquered German territory from the
Eastern parts of the Nazi state.
any sane, rational and objective person can fault Putin for his actions over
Crimea after the US sponsored a coup which put into power a government composed
of neo-Nazis and ultra-nationalists is truly beyond me.
any sane, rational and objective person can fault Putin for his draconian acts
against certain oligarchs and actually venerate criminals such as Mikhail
Khodorkovsky as pro-democracy 'victims' of a dictator after the likes of
Khodorkhovsky LOOTED Russia in the post-Cold War era with the aid of
businessmen and academics from the US and other parts of the West is also
empathy, rationalization as well as an objective and pragmatic approach to
specific issues ought to be the order of the day.
to Putin in the West is simply down to Russian resistance to attempts to
destabilize and balkanize it; make it more pliant to the military and economic
supremacy of the United States.
Anglo-American world fears the rise of an independent set of powers in Eurasia
which would end its lengthy global domination. It is as simple as that.
have tried to sign into the website but it has such an inefficient mechanism
and terrible administrative support that I have been unable to post this reply
which I prepared a few weeks ago.
would be interesting to find out just who "Cammy White 1878" is.
intended response (I had wanted to sign up, tongue-in-cheek, as 'Nikolai Vatutin', a
World War 2 Soviet generalassassinated
by Ukrainian partisans):
that the EU might do to Ukraine can ever exceed the horror of the Soviet era.”
is the logic of this entry?
Russia of today is not the Russia of the Stalinist period or the Russia of the
the contrary, the economic deal between Ukraine and Russia allows for a range
of state subsidies; most importantly in the area of gas. Removing this will
make the cost of gas double or even quadruple. And Ukraine has been a deadbeat
so far as paying its dues to Russia is concerned.
austerity would lead to a cut in pensions, a cut in childcare, devaluation of
the currency and so on.
the result of an austerity program will lead to old people dying of
hypothermia, increases in the child mortality rate, less spending on education,
unemployment and so on, what good will all of that do?