Saturday 18 October 2014

Annual Boxing Memorabilia Fayre (2014)

Another 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 Mills
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, Chas Taylor

Sunday 12 October 2014

About Brigadier Benjamin Adekunle

Benjamin 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 Commando Division.

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 Ojukwu.

Adekunle was the commander of a Garrison at the time of the onset of the troubles.

Born 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.

He was trained in England at Mons Officer Cadet School and at the prestigious Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst and after graduating was commissioned as a second lieutenant.

His 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 day.

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 don’t move.

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 job well.”

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 his future.

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 1970.

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. Sorry!

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 insubordination.

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 here.”

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.

Benjamin Adekunle 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 children.

(c) Adeyinka Makinde (2014)

Adeyinka Makinde is a London-based writer and law lecturer with a research interest in intelligence and security matters.

Saturday 4 October 2014

Putin's Useful Idiot? Au Contraire

Vladimir's Lenin and Putin
It is obviously the case that when one weaves an argument, particularly in areas shrouded in emotion and controversy, that one will face criticism.

The views 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.

It 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.

But 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.

Anyway, 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.

A 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 "useful idiots".'

That 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.

I will re-produce the poster's comment later and my riposte further down but first things first.

Any 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.

My approach is based on an objective collection of historical and contemporary data which is then synthesized into an argument.

The 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 Vladimir Putin.

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.

In 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.

However, 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?

The 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 intellectual limitations.

And not least, they often betray a certain amount of pre-existing anti-Russian prejudice.

They 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 totalitarian socialism-communism.

One 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.

The 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.

In 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.

Think about that.

Germans 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.

How 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.

How 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 beyond me.

Cold empathy, rationalization as well as an objective and pragmatic approach to specific issues ought to be the order of the day.

Opposition 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.

The 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.

I 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.

It would be interesting to find out just who "Cammy White 1878" is.
The report of my Voice of Russia radio interview at RIA Novosti's website:

'Expert: NATO Enforcing US Financial, Commercial Power Globally'

Cammy White 1878:

Nothing that the EU might do to Ukraine can ever exceed the horror of the Soviet era.

Millions starved to death in the 1930s after the Soviet state seized harvests and inflicted famine on the people in what became known as the Holodomor.

I wonder if Adeyinka Makinde is one of those opinions-for-hire - a modern version what Lenin called "useful idiots".
My intended response (I had wanted to sign up, tongue-in-cheek, as 'Nikolai Vatutin', a World War 2 Soviet general  assassinated by Ukrainian partisans):

“Nothing that the EU might do to Ukraine can ever exceed the horror of the Soviet era.”

What is the logic of this entry?

The Russia of today is not the Russia of the Stalinist period or the Russia of the Khruschev-era.

On 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.

EU-IMF austerity would lead to a cut in pensions, a cut in childcare, devaluation of the currency and so on.

If 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?

Think about it. The reference to the Holodomor implies that the EU’s package amounts to “genocidal austerity” –only not as severe as the Ukrainian famine of the 1930s.

Methinks that “Cammy White’s” purported analysis makes him -or her- a craven idiot!