From Obinna Odogwu, Awka

Many Nigerians, especially Ndigbo and people from other ethnic nationalities that made up the defunct Biafra Republic, gritted their teeth in pain when they heard that Major General Alexander Madiebo (Rtd) has passed on.

Madiebo, a native of Umuokpu village in Awka, the capital of Anambra State, was Aide-De-Camp (ADC) to Nigeria’s first Governor-General, Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe. He later became the General Officer Commanding (GOC) of the Biafran Army during the Nigeria-Biafra war that lasted between 1967 and 1970. He was the author of the book, ‘The Nigeria Revolution and the Biafran War’, adjudged the greatest and most objective book about that civil war. The gallant military officer passed away on the June 3 this year at the age of 90. His family, in a statement issued by Dr Chukwuka Madiebo, said that he passed on after a brief illness.

Born on April 29, 1932 at Umuokpu in Awka town, Madiebo got married to Mrs. Ifeyinwa Madiebo and that marriage was blessed with four children, namely: Maureen Obiageli Nweke, Dr Chuka Kenneth Madiebo, Uchenna Peter Madiebo and Richard Nwora Madiebo.

Unmasking the General

One of General Madiebo’s sons, Uchenna, gave Saturday Sun further insight into the life and time of his father who he described as a great icon; saying that the late General gave both Nigeria and the defunct Biafra his all.

“Major General Madiebo (Rtd) was a foremost Nigerian Army officer. He joined the Nigerian Army in May, 1954 as Officer Cadet and had other trainings.

“He was the General Officer Commanding of the Biafran Army and commanded the Biafran Army from the start of the Nigeria – Biafra war from 1967 until the end in 1970. He flew into exile with General Emeka Odumegwu Ojukwu and returned to Nigeria in 1980.

“He was a student of the famous Government College, Umuahia (in present day Abia State); a school that produced some of the finest and most gifted people in the world.

“He had his military trainings at the Regular Officers’ Special Training School in Teshie, Gold Coast (now Ghana) along with General Yakubu Gowon, with whom he also trained at the legendary Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, England, and the United States of America.

“From Ghana, Major General Madiebo proceeded to Europe for further studies at Eaton Hall Officer Cadet School in Chester, England. When he joined the Nigerian Army in May, 1954 during the colonial era as an Officer Cadet, Major General Madiebo after a series of military trainings was commissioned Second Lieutenant in December, 1958.

“Before the outburst of the Nigeria Civil war, he was promoted to become the first indigenous Regimental Commander of the Nigerian Army Artillery.

“When Nigeria secured her independence in 1960, he was made the ADC to Nnamdi Azikiwe, the then Governor General of the independent Nigeria.

“In 1967, when the civil war broke out in Nigeria, Major General Madiebo became the Commander of Biafra’s 51 Brigade after narrowly escaping an alleged massacre in the Northern part of the country. He was in this position for two months before assuming full command of the Biafran Army with the rank of Major General, from September 1967 to the end of the war.

“At the heat of the civil war, he was promoted by General Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu to become the General Officer commanding the entire Biafran Army, a position he held until the end of the war in 1970. Major General Madiebo returned to Nigeria from exile in Ivory Coast in 1980 and wrote his book, ‘The Nigeria Revolution and the Biafran War’ a book that is seen as the greatest and most objective book about the Nigeria-Biafra civil war.

“During his days as a battalion commander, then Brigadier Commander and Major as Chief of Staff of Biafran Army, Major General Madiebo put everything on a daily basis in his diary.

“In his book ‘The Nigeria Revolution and the Biafran War’, he gave a very detailed first-hand, eyewitness account of the Nigerian revolution and the two coups of January and July 1966, the coups that claimed so many lives in Nigeria.

“A revised edition of the book was published in April 2022 by ARTRELATED Limited and was launched on his 90th birthday, April 29th 2022. The Nigerian Revolution and the Biafran War… The Aftermath is divided into four different parts: The Revolution, The War, The Aftermath and The Epilogue.

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“Part one of the book captures in detail everything that happened before Nigeria’s independence and immediately after the independence. Part two is the war; while part three and four are the aftermath of the war and the epilogue, respectively. In the book, Major General Madiebo spoke about the Nigeria-Biafra civil war, the reason for the conflict, the problem ahead, the struggle to restore Biafra and what Nigeria should be doing in present Nigeria, among other sensitive issues”, Uchenna narrated.

Why I wrote the book on the bloody war

In a recent interview he granted Channels TV before he passed away, Madiebo told his interviewer that he wrote the book to reveal the hidden truth about the war which claimed millions of lives. That interview was aired on Wednesday June 15.

He said that he kept a diary with which he noted down everything that happened from the beginning of that war to the end of it, saying that the book was a true account of that bloody battle that lasted for about three years. Asked to give a summary of the book, Madiebo said: “The book is very detailed about why Nigeria had to fight; the economic, military, political and almost all aspects of the Biafra problem. I wrote it as a military paper.

“In a military paper, you say the reasons why you have to fight, then you compare the functions and draw conclusions from each factor. I mentioned all that and then also I overemphasised basically the fact that Nigeria was too imbalanced to be of any sure of surviving for any length of time. I believe that we can do better if only we can sacrifice a bit,” the nonagenarian noted.

Family, kinsmen, Anambra govt, Nigerians mourn

Without doubts, the late General’s family has been distraught about the demise of their patriarch. First son of the family, Chukwuka, described his father as a patriotic Nigerian who served the country well.

“Papa was a patriot who served Nigeria diligently as the ADC to Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe, setting up the first indigenous command of the Nigerian Artillery, and participated actively as the Commander of the Biafran Army during the Nigerian civil war.

“Papa will forever be remembered for his sacrifices, boldness in telling the truth and his love for Nigeria, his family and everyone that came around him,” Chukwuka added. The state governor, Prof. Chukwuma Soludo, also mourned the death of General Madiebo. He expressed deep sadness over his demise while describing him as a courageous soldier who did his job diligently while in active service. Soludo, in a statement issued by his Press Secretary, Christian Aburime, regretted that General Madiebo died at a time his wise counsel was needed in moving the state forward.

“On behalf of my family, the government and the good people of Anambra, I express my sincere condolences on the passage of a great patriot, courageous soldier and officer gentleman, General Madiebo.

“Though we would have loved him to still be with us, we take joy that he lived a life of service and accomplishment. His contributions to nation building and development of his immediate environment remain strong reference points in patriotism and nationalism.

“He put his life on the line in protecting his people when it mattered most. It is gratifying that while in the battle fields, he kept notes that enabled him write one of the greatest books about the Nigerian civil war “The Nigerian Revolution and the Biafran Civil War. We will surely miss his wise counsel and exemplary life of service to the fatherland.

“It is my prayer that the good Lord will grant his noble soul eternal rest. May his immediate family and other relations have the fortitude to bear the pain of his exit, knowing that he led a worthy life,” the statement reads. Former Representative of Awka North and South Federal Constituency in the National Assembly, Chief Anayo Nnebe, described Madiebo as a great son of Awka Kingdom who loved his people.

“General Madiebo was a great man. He was an epitome of peace, love. He was very caring. He represented goodness in all its ramifications. And by his transition, Awka has lost a great son.

Nnebe, an Awka indigene who was also the former Speaker of the Anambra State House of Assembly told Saturday Sun that despite Madiebo’s achievements, he never forgot where he came from. He revealed that the late General remained very close to his people and was once the chairman of his village, adding that he held the position for many years.

“His funeral will not be an Awka funeral. It is a national funeral but Awka as a community and Umuokpu as a village and Ajalla as a kindred where he was from will do everything to make sure that he has a benefitting funeral and have an enduring and lasting memory. So, there are plans to immortalise him”, Nnebe stated.

Two historians – Major General Akintunde Akinkunmi and Emeka Keazor, while speaking on Channels TV’s Book Club, described Madiebo as a professional military officer who served Nigeria very well.

Akinkunmi said: “I think the easiest way to describe him is that he’s one of the first generation of Nigerian Army officers. His book on the war is a valuable contribution to the body of literature as has been alluded to. It is recommended.” Keazor said: “Madiebo was a specialist and a professional. His book on the Nigeria – Biafran war is magnum opus; it is a crucial landmark in the historical field of not just the Nigerian military but the Nigerian political history to the extent that the Nigerian military was an important factor or stakeholder in the political process, an invaluable addition.”

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