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Remembering Victims of Igbo Genocide: Asaba, 7 October 1967

Recently many in  the world paid tribute to the Igbo Genocide victims that were murdered from 1966-1970. The Asaba genocide  killings ordered by murderers Muritala Mohammed, Ibrahim Haruna and Ibrahim Taiwo was discussed in Emma Okocha’s book Blood on the Niger (TriAtlantic Books, 2006). Nigerians particularly the Igbo ethnic group continues to deal with the psychological effects of the Igbo genocide on their people. Nigeria as a country has been unable to deal with the divide arising from the genocide, as a matter of fact some Nigerians are still in denial about these horrendous crimes and murder inflicted on the Igbo Ethnic race and other Eastern tribes. The new Biafra push for independence is an indication that Nigeria is a heavily divided and fractured country in turmoil.

Asaba genocide 2 Africa Business WorldMany Nigerians are still in denial, and the nation through some of its actions continue to fan the anger over the genocide. For instance Nigeria named the Lagos airport after one of the genocidists Muritala Mohammed who was later assassinated in a military coup several years after the end of the civil war. Should the Lagos airport be named after Muritala Mohammed the killer? Some people have begun questioning the wisdom in naming the Lagos Airport after Muritala Mohammed. Nigeria has known no peace since the end of the war. Sharia riots killed over 25,000 people. There are killings in every part of the country, Jos, Odi Massacre, Niger Delta, and now Boko Haram has killed nearly 20,000 people, last year alone Boko Haram killed over 6,000 people, and today the killing continues !

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London Guardian, October 11, 1968, wrote “The Federal Troops murdered Innocent men, women and children in their thousands at Asaba. Asaba lost in few months university graduates, PhD holders… among them were Permanent secretaries, medical doctors, lawyers, teachers, professionals, clergy men and missionaries. It remains the only war and genocide of such magnitude without a monument of remembrance………United Nations Observer, Canadian M.P, Stephen Lewis, London Guardian, October 11, 1968”.

Igbo genocide: Asaba, 7 October 1967

Today, Wednesday 7 October 2015, is the 48th anniversary of the mass execution of 700 Igbo male, boys and men, in Asaba (twin Oshimili River port of Biafra) by genocidist Nigeria military brigade commanded by Murtala Muhammed and Ibrahim Haruna and Ibrahim Taiwo. This was during phase-III of the Igbo genocide which Nigeria launched on 6 July 1967.

Emma Okocha’s Blood on the Niger (TriAtlantic Books, 2006), a compulsory reference in the study of the Igbo genocide, meticulously catalogues the savagery and aftermath of this massacre. Okocha, who lost most of his family during the slaughter, survived the execution as a 4-year-old.

(Emma Okocha: onye amuma ndi Igbo)

Hundreds of other Igbo boys and men were also slaughtered by the Muhammed-Haruna-Taiwo brigade in several other towns and villages in this Anioma region of Biafra, west of the Oshimili, as Okafor Udoka has shown (Okafor Udoka, “Lest we forget the genocide of Asaba”, Skytrend News, 6 October 2014). Ifeanyi Uriah, now 61, another survivor of the Asaba execution, recalls, in an interview with Udoka, the haunting memory of 7 October 1967:

I cannot tell this story without tears in my eyes … They [genocidist brigade] ordered everyone to come out to the [Asaba] town square … They were honest with us. They told us they were going to kill us. They took us to the mounted machine guns. Then it dawned on us that it was true. I was standing with my older brother at the edge of the crowd. He was holding my hand. He had always taken care of me. We shared the same bed. He was the first to be dragged away by the soldiers. He let go of my hand and pushed me into the crowd. He was shot in the back. I could see the blood gushing from his back. He was the first victim of the massacre. Then all hell let loose. I lost count of time. To this day, I live with the smell of the blood of my brethren that night. Even the heavens wept for the victims of this holocaust. Finally the bullets stopped (Udoka: 2014).

Nigeria murdered 3.1 million Igbo people or one-quarter of this nation’s population during the three phases of the genocide – 29 May 1966-12 January 1970. This genocide, the foundational genocide of post-(European)conquest Africa, inaugurated Africa’s current age of pestilence.

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The world could have stopped this genocide; the world should have stopped this genocide. To understand the politics of the Igbo genocide and the politics of the “post”-Igbo genocide is to have an invaluable insight into the salient features and constitutive indices of politics across Africa in the past 50 years.

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