Soyinka, Kukah, Duke, others for Asaba genocide colloquium
• Organisers roll out projects to immortalise victims
Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, Bishop of Catholic Diocese of Sokoto, Matthew Hassan Kukah and former governor of Cross River State, Donald Duke, are among eminent citizens to speak at the ‘Asaba October 7 Memorial’ colloquium in Delta State capital.
The event, holding from tomorrow to the seventh of the month, is part of activities to mark the 50th anniversary of the mass killing of over 700 indigenes by federal troops during the civil war, an incident now referred to as ‘Asaba Genocide’.
At a press conference in Asaba to kick-start the events, the chiefs and other eminent citizens disclosed that the soldiers stormed the city on October 5, 1967, accused it of being Biafra-sympathetic before unleashing the mayhem.
Chairman of the Organising Committee, Alban Ofili-Okonkwo, explained that the event, with the theme, Remembrance and Forgiveness, would witness the erecting of monuments in remembrance of the tragic incident.
According to him, a world-class medical facility, My Place of Birth Hospital & Maternity, will be built at the location of the massacre to serve as a symbol of life. He disclosed that a college of midwifery was also proposed at Ogbe-Osowa, venue of the holocaust.
Okonkwo noted that the facilities would be accessible to all Nigerians and citizens of other nations.
He noted that the challenge of grappling with the traumatic memories of the event was the major reason it took 50 years to institute the memorial project.
His words: “The wound is still fresh. We are yet to recover from the shock. However, we believe it is time to tell our story and strengthen ourselves to move forward. We are mourning the past, but celebrating our present. We forgive those who perpetrated these atrocities against us, but we will never forget. That is why we want to erect a monument of life – a world-class hospital and maternity with an outstanding college of midwifery.”
He said the first day would be devoted to traditional activities that will “shake the land for the dead to know they are not forgotten.”
The highlight would be the presentation of a book on the carnage entitled, The Asaba Massacre – Trauma, Memories, and the Nigerian Civil War, co-authored by renowned Anthropologist, Prof. S. Elizabeth Bird and distinguished Historian, Prof. Fraser Ottanelli, both of the University of South Florida, USA.
In his remarks, the Traditional Prime Minister, Chief Goodluck Onyeobi, who spoke on behalf of the Asagba of Asaba, Prof. Chike Edozien, said the occasion was to reiterate the community’s resolve for the peace and unity of the country by telling its story.
Onyeobi, who spent 20 months in detention after the war over trumped-up charges, advised that government must operate on the platform of justice to avert future wars.