Retired Lt. Fola Oyewole, a former Nigerian military officer of the Yoruba stock, fought on the side of Biafra during the civil war. Before then, the 77-year old was imprisoned in Lagos and Enugu because of his role in the first coup 50 years ago but was released by late Lt Col Ojukwu.
Q: In your book, you wrote that after the coup, you were detained in Lagos and then transferred to the East but Ojukwu released you. We wonder why you didn’t run away?
A: Where do you want to run to? In Nigeria I was absolutely persona non grata, is it heaven you want to run to? Apart from that I and other Yoruba colleagues had the fortune of having a chat with Chief Obafemi Awolowo when he came to the East. He and leaders of south east I can’t remember all of them. On behalf of Nigeria, they came to plead with Ojukwu and we had the fortune of meeting him (Awo) because my late uncle, M. A. Oyewole was Awo’s friend. So when he was leaving Lagos, he jokingly told him, you must come back with my son. So when he came to the east, Awo started looking for me. Eventually he left a message where I would meet him and I did. I told my colleagues and we all went and we saw him and in the course of the discussion, we did ask if we could come home and he said ‘not now, don’t try it’. So what do you do? And the easterners were not chasing us, so why not stay where you are accepted? So we stayed.
Q: You didn’t run away. But why did you decide to fight on the side of Biafra?
A: Now there was a trade I learnt – that is soildiering. What will I be doing in Biafra if I did not fight? I only practiced my trade. It is as simple as that. You could not just be walking around town doing nothing.
Q: But Ojukwu asked people who wanted to leave to go to the federal side.
A: That is before the war. If you remember early 1966 before the war till late 66 during the pogrom, by the time the war started, non-easterners were in the east, they had not gone.
Q: In the book you said you do not believe in secession.
Q: Despite that, you wrote in your book that Ojukwu had genuine grievances, yet you fought on Biafran secessionist side, help us reconcile those positions.
A: You might have your objections but the powers that be, this was what they wanted, you have no choice. Mark you, I was not the only one who, given the chance, didn’t believe in secession, more so because we were not ready, we did not have enough arms. We had manpower, yes, credible manpower was there, but manpower alone doesn’t do it.
Q: You were at a point, according to your book, with Captain Adeleke, another Yoruba soldier, who was he?
A: He was a colleague. He is the one who said he wanted to consult the family and we were friends, we both worked in Apapa before the crisis.
Q: I want you to describe what happened to other Yoruba people or non-Igbo who fought on the Biafra’s side – Lt Col. Victor Banjo, Major Wale Ademoyega, then Major Kaduna Nzeogwu an Igbo from Opanam in Delta?
A: They were detained like myself, and Nzeogwu was detained, that was a common factor.
Q: In your book, you applauded Ojukwu’s performance in Aburi, explain to us what actually happened because there is this argument that he bamboozled Gowon.
A: If you listen to the Aburi accord or the proceedings as a whole, you will duff your cap for Ojukwu whether he is a villain or whatever you want to call him, call him. He really dictated the pace of the discussion, he was prepared for it, he kind of put together all the things and if you listen, the moment he started talking, others kept quiet and when he finished, they will say ok, ok, ok. To give you a full grasp of what the theme was, you need to read the comment of the super perm sec who led us to where we are today.
Q: Was it Philip Asiodu?
A: The group – Asiodu, and the rest. Their recommendations, what they brought back from Aburi was agreed to be implemented but when they came here they tore it to pieces.
Q: Ok, was after the agreement was signed in Aburi? They came back to Nigeria….
A: To put it in whatsoever you can say political implementation. They desired to analyse it, it was an agreement not suggestion, that’s where our problem sort of started.
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