A Flashback To 1967 In Igbo History

In October 1967, Nigerian troops under the command of General Murtala Mohammed entered Asaba, a principle Igbo town in the Midwest, an ethnically diverse region west of the Niger river that did not secede along with Biafra. In a chain of events known as the Asaba Massacre, the army rounded up and indiscriminately executed nearly a thousand non-Biafran civilian males, sparing neither the young nor elderly. Their bodies were dumped into mass graves, and to this day, there exists no national memorial in their honor, no formal recognition that the event took place at all by Nigeria, nor have the perpetrators of these heinous crimes been brought to justice.

In 2010, a team of researchers from the University of South Florida travelled to Asaba to help Asaba sympathizers, community leaders, and survivors spearhead an Asaba Memorial Project Initiative, in order to forever immortalize the hundreds of innocent victims of aggression and erect a permanent museum in their honor.

The researchers visited numerous individuals and families at Asaba and collected first-hand eyewitness accounts from survivors in the hopes of amassing adequate documentation before evidence of the event would vanish from history. “We were also privileged to meet Obi (Chief) Esonanjo Awolo, who lost two younger brothers, as well as many other family members, in October 1967. His brothers, Harry and Joseph, were gunned down by soldiers while attempting to flee as federal troops entered Asaba. He was able to bring them home to the compound; one was already dead, while the other died shortly after. Igbo people traditionally do not bury their dead in cemeteries, but in their own home compounds, following customary ceremonies. Many people who lost family members were never able to retrieve their bodies, which made the loss even harder to bear.

Chief Awolo, whose status is marked by his robes, red cap, and other regalia, showed us the spot where he buried his brothers. He explained that he planted a small pepper tree on the site, which has now grown quite large over the last 40 years.” 

Credit: Igbo History

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