Victor Banjo in Enugu
By: Deji Yesufu
On September 18th, 1967, Brig. Victor Banjo received a call from Col. Emeka Ojukwu. In the long discussion over the telephone, Ojukwu explained that he had discovered certain saboteurs of the war effort (in the Midwest) and that he intended to make Banjo his new chief of staff. Then Ojukwu requested him to return to Enugu to take up this position.
At this point Banjo called his chief of staff, Major Adewale Ademoyega, informing him that it appeared the forces undermining him with the Commander (of the Biafran nation) had been defeated. He handed over all the money for operations and went to Enugu. Before he left, he instructed that the Liberation Army vacate Benin and move to Agbor, lest they should be cut off from Enugu completely by the Federal forces advancing on Auchi.
A little over fifty years after the incidence relayed in text above, which is an excerpt from my book: Victor Banjo: An Untold Account of the Nigerian Civil, Victor Banjo would again be returning to the city of Enugu. This time he is coming to the city as a story that must be told. The Crater Library and Publisher and Enugu Literary Society shall be hosting me to two separate book readings. The subject of discussion shall be Victor Banjo and the way forward for a new Nigeria.
I wrote Victor Banjo as a response to the agitation by the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) for an independent nation state. It all started in May 30, 2017, when IPOB ordered people in Eastern Nigeria, the region that once constituted the heart of the Biafran nation, to sit at home to observe fifty years of the declaration of the Sovereign State of Biafra.
On May 27, 1967, Col. Yakubu Gowon had divided the Nigerian nation into twelve states. He did this to clip the arms of the rising influence of Col. Emeka Ojukwu in the Eastern region. So that what was once the Easter region was further divided into three states: East Central, Cross River and Rivers State. This action plunged Col. Ojukwu into a quagmire because Gowon had quickly given self recognition to tribes both in the Niger Delta regions and the Ogoja area of the country. Worse still, what was left for Ojukwu was a landlocked state called the East Central State.
In retaliation, Ojukwu, who had been pussy-footing about the idea of full secession, declared the Sovereign State of Biafra. The very next day, the Federal Government, led by Gowon, declared police action in the country. The civil war had officially begun in Nigeria.
So when Nnamdi Kanu and the IPOB began their secession quest, I reminded them of the story of Victor Banjo. It began first as an article I published on Facebook on June 1st, 2017 – an article that went viral on many social media platforms. Then I got more information on the story and thus published a full book on Banjo in June 2018.
My debate in my book, besides the historical narration in it all, is this: a call to secession is a call to war. And before you begin to beat the drum of war, you want to count the cost very carefully. War takes away the best minds in the land. That is the summary of the tragic story of Victor Banjo.
So a few weeks ago, Nnamdi Kanu emerges from his self imposed exile in Israel. He has promised to return to Nigeria to continue the struggle. Thankfully his rhetoric are better informed now as he is calling government to conduct a referendum with his people. He understands better that the international community would not recognize an independent nation – except one that emerges through due process, like a referendum. When struggle for self determination begin to take the form of discuss, rather than war, we are approximating more to how rational persons do things in normal climes.
For me the most challenging thing about visiting Enugu would be realizing that that is the city Victor Banjo is buried in. His remains lie in an unmarked grave there. While writing the book and in the process of obtaining oral narratives from members of Banjo’s family, I discovered that this fact was the most difficult for the family to embrace. All that is known of Victor Banjo’s death is Nelson Ottah’s narration in his book “Rebels Against Rebels”. The Nigerian Army he worked for has never officially informed his family of his demise. He seem to have just vanished into thin air.
Among other things, I have written this book with the hope that someone in authority might lead the effort at unearthing the remains of Victor Banjo and the three other persons executed along with him that dark afternoon on September 24, 1967. At the least, it would help the family reach closure; something that has been denied them for half a century now.
My Enugu Book Reading Schedule:
- Saturday, 3rd October, 2018 with The Crater Library and Publisher in Collaboration with Centre for Memories, Enugu. RSVP: 08060011469.
- Saturday, 10th October, 2018 with Enugu Literary Society. RSVP: 08031552555.
- In between the two weekends I would be visiting media houses to discuss the book.
For copies of the book, Victor Banjo, reach me privately at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 07065254425.
This article was first published this day in 2018 on mouthpiece.com.ng