A retired Brigadier-General and Chief of Staff, 3rd Marine Commando, during the Nigeria civil war, Godwin Alabi-Isama, has disclosed that former President Olusegun Obasanjo was not only clueless during the war, but acted as a weakling in many instances.
According to General Alabi-Isama, Chief Obasanjo exhibited a lot of weaknesses that did not portray him as a gallant soldier throughout the period he served the army during the war.
In an interview published in the current edition of TheNEWS magazine, our sister publication, the retired General punctured a lot of claims in My Command, a book written by the former President chronicling his experience in the war.
According to him, Obasanjo never wanted to be part of the war. He was so scared of death that he evaded every opportunity to go to the battle front.
He disclosed that retired General Alani Akinrinade picked Obasanjo to lead the troop after Benjamin Adekunle was dropped as the commander following an alleged unethical conduct.
“Gowon was not sure that Obasanjo would want the job of replacing Adekunle because he was an engineer…Gowon said we should contact him.
“When we met Obasanjo, we told him our mission and gave him a comprehensive briefing on the situation at the war front. We went with maps and explained to him the defects of Adekunle’s plan to attack the Igbo heartland.
“We aso told him about Operations Pincer 1, 2 and 3 and explained that if Pincer 2 was adopted, the war would end in 30 days.
“We spoke for three hours without food or drink. Obasanjo simply listened.
“And when he spoke, he said he was an engineer and he was not going to the war front. He also said we wanted to have him killed by nominating him for a spot at the war front,” the retired soldier said, adding that this comment got him angry and that he reacted instantly by reprimanding Obasanjo.
He said he reminded Obasanjo at the venue of their meeting how he and his engineering corps were unable to blow up the bridge in Ore when the Biafran army were advancing to Lagos and how the situation was salvaged by Mr. Akinde of the Public Works Department at Ibadan, assisted by men of the Ministry of Works.
“I was so incensed that I continued to pour venom on him,” he added.
Alabi-Isama said as against Obasanjo’s claim that he ordered the bridge to be blown up, the idea actually came from the wife of then Governor Adeyinka Adebayo. He explained that she was the one who suggested to Obasanjo that the action be carried out.
When Obasanjo eventually took over as the Commander of the 3rd Marine Commando, Alabi-Isama said he and Akinrinade gave him a comprehensive briefing, but that he refused to listen because of the grudge he haboured from his first encounter with Alabi-Isama.
As a result of this, his first battle experience, according to Alabi-Isama, was a disaster.
Emphasising Obasnajo’s cluelessness, he said the first decision he made when he took up the leadership of the troop was to start paying the soldiers on the battle field by allotment.
“He ordered an attack on Ohoba, some 40 kilometres from Owerri, just four days after taking over from Adekunle. He did not even know that we had to plan,” Alabi-Isama explained, adding that Obasanjo lost 1, 400 men in the attack, something that never happened before he took over, because he refused to listen to advice.
In another incident, the retired General said Obasanjo ran away from the scene of an attack claiming he was heading to Port Harcourt, an eight hour journey, to get ammunition for the same battle when he could ordinarily radio the army headquarters.
He described Obasanjo as completely incompetent and inefficient, saying the former President never went to battle even as a commander during the war.
“For instance, he went to inspect Colonel Iluyomade, but when he got there, there was shooting. He quickly got into his jeep and ran away.
“He was shot in the buttocks while running. A general will be shot in the chest, and not in the buttocks,” said the army general, who is set to launch a book titled The Tragedy of Victory: On-The-Spot Account of The Nigeria-Biafra War In The Atlantic Theatre, his own version of the war experience aimed to counter some of the ‘lies’ by Chief Obasanjo.
The book will be presented to the public in Lagos on Thursday, 18 July, 2013