How Omu Ifesimehone Repelled Murtala Muhammed, Saved Onicha - Olona From Civil War Massacre - THE DAILY CRUCIBLE



Tuesday, December 21, 2021

How Omu Ifesimehone Repelled Murtala Muhammed, Saved Onicha - Olona From Civil War Massacre

The Daily Crucible | Tuesday, December 21 2021

By Emeka Esogbue

What is underreported even by Anioma writers of the Nigerian Civil War are roles played by the Omus of the Anioma people in preventing their communities from the massacres tied to the 1967-1970 civil war. It is this perspective of Omiship that this Author is finding interest in documenting Anioma history enthusiasts.

The gruesome massacres carried out in the defunct Asaba Division but concentrated in Asaba were repellently frightful. In Igbodo, it was a combination of the old and young. In Isheagu, the concentration was on the aged, especially the chiefs and traditional leaders of the community, and in Asaba, it sweepingly involved the old and young with the youths s targets. Subsequently, Asaba was denied viable young men for a very long time. 

That of Ibusa, a community, only 6 miles from victimized neighbouring Asaba, was more of terrorism, with Nigerian soldiers invading and occupying available houses, from where they extended their uncontrollable attacks while the people fled into different forests, prominently the Ngbotukpe. Unfortunately, the Ibusa people have done nothing to establish an imposing monument on Ngbotukpe site of the forest that housed the majority of the natives as a war remembrance.

Much earlier, in the history of the war, the Banjo-led Biafran Army had violently and adventurously occupied the Midwest Region and Anioma was not spared. It was in the bid to clear the communities that also produced some of the brightest Biafran soldiers that the Army quickly mobilized and took a more fearful invasion and occupation of Anioma communities, leading to the massacres they inflicted on Anioma by Murtala Muhammed and his soldierly group. These massacres, the first in the history of Africa were no child play. 

Asaba massacre led by Col. Muritala  Muhammed

With a thin line of hope, a repetition of Asaba version of the massacre was prevented from Ibusa by young Rev Fr. Kunirum Osia, the Parish Priest of St. Augustine's Church, Obi Okocha Mordi and Oliewunaji gang of militants, established to defend the community against Biafra and Federal Troop. 

The Anioma area has never been a stranger to attacks of this nature. As Kunirum Osia later documented, "There have been moments and events in the lives of the Anioma people that seem to have more power than others. They have changed the course of their history; such events serve as a baseline by which all others are measured."

The British attacks on the people which led to Ekumeku that lasted 31 years are probably more severe than the effects of the civil war

After the Asaba massacre in 1967 carried out by Murtala and Ibrahim Taiwo, the Murtala 2nd Division Troop headed for the Onicha-Olona home of Col C. D. Nwawo but the natives had heard of the Asaba incident and were prepared for them as they were not ready to take chances. 

Nevertheless, it was the bold and courageous Omu Ifesimehone Amambiwemdi Okoh, the Omu of Onicha-Olona that would summon her Council and went to stop the troop. 

A prominent researcher from Onicha-Olona, Felix Ifeanyi Nwabuokei, who reported the episode in his book (unpunished) narrated: 

"Omu Ifesimehone Amambeiwendi Okoh mobilized a team of medicine men that included Nwania Onwueze and prevented the Nigerian Army from coming into Onicha-Olona. On seeing the Army, Omu opened her traditional ark known as Nze-Ojine, and legions of bees came out to chase away the soldiers. Thereafter, the bees curbed in a tree and never returned to the ark. The tree, which was located along Idumuje-Onicha-Olona-Issele-Uku Road became an object of worship until in recent times when Christianity changed the religious idea. Moreover, it was also the site of worship of the Omu until everything changed. The Nigerian Army was to later return to Onicha-Olona but there was the Omu Ifesimehone who also returned to make their stay uncomfortable hence, they fled."

The Omu opened her Nze Ojine, something resembling Omu Ark, and bees came out of it and chased the Army away from Onicha-Olona. 

Her Royal Highness Omu Ada Ifesimehone Amambiwemdi-Okoh was born in 1906 and hails from Idumugbe, Ogbeobi in Onicha-Olona. She reigned as the Omu of Onicha-Olona from 1963 to 2007. She died in 2007 at the ripe age of 101. She was interred on Saturday, October 13, 2007.

Hon. Emmanuel Chi Oweazim Jnr., from Onicha-Olona is the grandchild of the Omu and is also the only APC Councillor in Delta State.

Emeka Esogbue is a historian and blogger

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