Asaba to mark civil war massacre
The Asaba October 7 Memorial Group has decided to mark this year’s landmark anniversary of the sad event.Chairman of the Memorial Group, Alban Ofili-Okonkwo, affirmed that since the sordid incident, a sore thumb in the annals of the Nigerian civil war, indigenes of Asaba have, for six years running now, marked the anniversary of the massacre of its indigenes by federal troops during the Nigerian civil war, a crime that has easily become the darkest chapter in the history of the town.
This year’s anniversary has as theme “Remembrance & Forgiveness.” Ofili-Okonkwo justified this year’s planned commemoration of the sad event thus: “At this turbulent time in the life of our nation, Asaba people have chosen to rise above the pain and anguish of the past and explore forgiveness. It is time to heal and to bring closure to this sordid event. It is against this backdrop that indigenes of Asaba, who witnessed the horrific ruin of their land and people, are convinced of their duty to ensure that such a tragic incident never happens again anywhere in our country and the world.”
According to a statement, the memorial, planned to be four days of choreographed activities, will commence with sensitisation and citizen engagement programmes in order to achieve healing and closure which will “signal the collective resolve of Asaba indigenes to leave behind the memories of their tragic past and walk resolutely into a more promising future.”
The statement added: “The activities will separately and collectively pay deserved tribute to the dead and also designed to help galvanise Asaba people towards rebirth and healing.
“The commemorative activities will commence on October 5 with a one-minute silence for the Asaba martyrs at noon. It was on that day 50 years ago that Federal troops stormed Asaba ransacking homes and killing civilians who they claimed were Biafra sympathisers. Other commemorative activities include media briefing, canon shots heralding traditional burial rites for the dead (known in Asaba culture as egwu ota). Also planned are service of songs and candle light procession to Ogbeosawa gravesite for tributes to the dead, interdenominational service, exhibition of artefacts, documentary and presentation of awards to honourees.
“A major highlight of the anniversary, he further disclosed, would be 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 distinguished historian Prof. Fraser M. Ottanelli both of the University of South Florida. The book in its scholarly exertion is bound to unearth novel facts that will bring to fore new insights about the horrific event. The book presentation will, however, be preceded by the hosting of
“A Colloquium on the Asaba Massacre, with the theme: ‘In Pursuit of Rebirth.’ Eminent scholars, statesmen, renowned industrialists and other distinguished citizens of the world are expected to attend the activities marking this year’s anniversary. The activities will be rounded off on Sunday, October 8 with thanksgiving service in churches all over the world.”
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