Asaba Massacre: Seeking Healing 50 Years After


October 5, 2017

When the Nigerian troops pushed out the Biafran troops from the Midwestern Region during the war, the Biafran troops retreated across the River Niger and broke the Niger Bridge. The Second Division of the Nigerian Army, led by Lt. Col. Murtala Mohammed, entered Asaba on October 4, 1967. Between October 4 and 6, there were reports that the Nigerian soldiers killed men and boys of Asaba, on the allegation that they were sympathetic to the Biafrans or collaborated with the Biafran soldiers. In a bid to stop these killings, the elders of Asaba decided to embark on a parade through Asaba streets on October 7, which would culminate at the Ogbe-Osowa Square, to pledge their support for “One Nigeria.” The towncrier went round the community to inform the people, to come out dressed in their traditional white attire called akwa ocha for the ceremony.

The Asaba people have decided to commemorate the 50th anniversary of this ugly incident in a way that will galvanise them towards rebirth and healing. Accordingly, the Asaba October 7 Memorial Group, led by Mr. Alban Ofili-Okonkwo, plans a four-day anniversary that will start on October 4 and end on October 8, with its theme as “Remembrance and Forgiveness”. The high points being the October 7 colloquium featuring Nobel laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, and Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah as keynote speakers as well as the presentation of a book on the carnage entitled, The Asaba Massacre – Trauma, Memories, and the Nigerian Civil War, authored by renowned anthropologist, Prof. S. Elizabeth Bird and co-authored by historian, Prof. Fraser M. Ottanelli, both of the University of South Florida.

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