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Ilaro: Memories Of “Operation Wet-E” And Civil War Years

June 11, 2012



The Book “Ilaro” is the authentic record of the complex interplay of events at the crucible of the Nigerian Civil War. The crucial importance of “Ilaro” lies in detailing the roles that the principal actors played in the proceedings leading up to the war, during and after. This is a must read account of the foremost event that had shaped the fortune and misfortune of the State of Nigeria up till date.

The Author

The Author

Tunde Akingbade, a distinguished Nigerian environment journalist and play wsright was the winner of “2008 Distinguished Environment Person Award.” Author of many books, Akingbade won many international awards including  Vermont Studio Centre, USA Artists Angel Award in 2001 for non fiction writing. He is also the Nigerian Merit Award Winner of Segun Osoba Prize for Journalist of the Year 1992. He won the United States Young African Leaders Award/ IVLP in1993 and many other international awards

The Story

Chapter One
Chief S.L. Akintola’s Visit and Crises

The security put in place everywhere was tight. There were great expectations. The year was 1963 chief Samuel Ladoke Akintola a.k.a SLA, the Premier of Western Region was billed to visit Ilaro, the capital of Egbado Division. The venue was Orona Hall, the defiance erected around the vault where orona the great warrior and savior of Ilaro people entered the bowels of the earth. As a kid, barely three and a half years old, I had wondered in m mind why some people would have cried wolf to lure Orona out of his abode underneath the earth when there were no wolves .Oral tradition has it that Orona  had always led the people of Ilaro to war against their enemies. With Orona brandishing his sword in front, he had always won those wars. Then came a time, just as powerful ancient African warriors used to show their mystical powers, prowess and potency of their charms, Orona decide to pass through a vault to the earth crust where he intended to live. But when his people pleaded with him not to leave them at the mercy and peril of their enemies, Orona assuaged them that he would always be with them in time of trouble.

“Anytime you are in trouble and you need my assistance, just pull the chain that I am using to descend to the bowels of the earth and I will respond promptly,” Orona reportedly said. With this assurance given everyone was happy and Orona journeyed into the earth crust. However, one day the people went to the hole where the chain furiously. Orona felt his pull and thought his people were in danger. He ascended angrily from the earth with his sword in hand. He began to massacre all those in view. By the time the ancient and mysterious warrior looked at the faces of the dead, he found they were his own people, with their tribal marks! The invitation to war was unwarranted, it was sheer mischief.  

Orona   realised there was no war. Some people had just gone to test if the warrior would respond to the call of the people as he had promised. In anger, Orona descended through the vault into the earth and swore to come out again. The Ilaro people left the chain intact as a symbol of remembrance and in modern times, built the Orona Hall where Chief S.L. Akintola, the Premier was to meet the people that day.

Ilaro was eighty-eight miles to Ibadan, the capital of Western Region. In those days, Chief Akintola, the Premier was at logger heads with his erstwhile boss Chief Obafemi Awolowo. The crisis that the leadership tussle created had permeated all strata of the society in Western Region and spread to the federal level.

I had never seen Akintola nor Awolowo physically except on the pages of newspapers. Their voices had been heard on the Re diffusion (radio) boxes (the huge radios) that were connected with wire like electricity, lines from only God know where, to subscribers’ houses. Very privileged homes had these boxes in those days. We had planned in our family to go and see the Premier physically. My sister got a flag which bore the insignia belonging to the Federal Republic of Nigeria to wave at the visiting Premier.  This was also to be waived by all the other school children to the Premier s they lined the routes through Ilaro town to Orona Hall, which was a very good place for social engagement, performing arts and reception. The crowd around Orona Hall was huge. There was traditional rulers; Chiefs, Local Authority Officials and of course the police, both Federal and Regional officers. The Local Authority Police Officer used to put on brown khaki shirts and on black trousers. Because of my small height, I was sometimes carried on the shoulders to see what was happening above the sea of adult heads in front before the stair case that led to the inner chamber of Orona hall. I could not make anything out of the long wait to see Premier and kept wondering “when our long wait under the sun be over and we would return home” Suddenly there was a thunderous uproar.

The Premier had arrived. There was a convoy of vehicles and a host of aides, all dressed in flowing Agbada. The praise singers and traditional drummers began to play their expected roles. Quite a number of people clustered around the Premier and he began to climb the stair case as he was being ushered in to the reception Hall. Chief Akintola beamed with smiles and was obviously in high spirit. Suddenly, something went wrong. There were commotions. Baton charging and tear gas came from the police. Blood began to flow and the wailing as the crowd ran helter skelter. A thick cloud of dust and tear gas engulfed the entire area and one would have thought that tan apparition had gain pulled the Orona chain round the corner and the ancient warrior’s spirit was at work. I did not immediately know the cause of the riot. The only thing I realized was that my mother had strapped me on her back and taken to her heels. My sister went one direction while my cousin Dare went through an unknown route. We finally arrived home panting. The Premier’s visit had turned  Log in or…  .Compare Prices to continue inside the book  

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