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Nigeria's Black Scorpion, Benjamin Adekunle, dies at 78. Obasanjo, others mourn..

BRIGADIER-GENERAL Benjamin Adekunle, Nigeria's most mythologised soldier, is dead. As announced by his wife, Folake, the Black Scorpion joined his ancestors in Lagos yesterday morning, aged  78.

To anyone familiar with the Nigerian Civil War discourse, the name Benjamin Adekunle evokes deep feelings. Adekunle, who was compulsorily retired from the Nigerian Army in 1974, pioneered the 3rd Marine Commando which spearheaded the end of the Civil War in January 1970. He was very outspoken, brutally frank, and temparamental. By his own account, even British officers at Sandhurst could not come to terms with his attitude:  "Before I left Sandhurst, our College Commander invited me for an interview. He examined me closely about my 'unorthodox' political positions, my views on his institution, and my opinion of the training that I had just completed. In our final report, Sandhurst cadets were required to make a self-assessment of their officer qualities, which was then graded by their instructor. My final report and grade contained some of the two familiar complaints about my 'attitude'. Since the report had already been written (and passed me, notwithstanding) I felt at liberty to give the Commander an unedited piece of my mind on every subject he raised. Far from being satisfied with my responses and desirous I think, of modifying my views, he suggested an extension of the 'interview' over dinner. We talked far into the night, and I conveyed my amazement that an institution would teach a course which mutilated the pride and self worth of some of the cadets and yet expect no reaction."

Born in Kaduna in 1936, the Ogbomoso, Oyo State native had secondary education at the Government College, Okene, and enlisted in the Nigerian Army in 1958 shortly after completing his school certificate examinations. Trained at the  Royal Military Academy Sandhurst in the UK, he was commissioned 2nd Lieutenant on December 15, 1960. In 1964, he attended the Defence Services Staff College at Wellington, in India and, on his return, was briefly appointed Adjutant General at the Army Headquarters in May 1965, before being posted back to the Ist Battalion in Enugu as a Company Commander.

But it was during the Civil War (1967-70) that he made his name. Mandated to lead two new battalions (7th and 8th)  to conduct the historic sea-borne assault on Bonny in the Bight of Benin on 26 July 1968, Adekunle was promoted to Colonel after the Bonny landing. Left with only the 8th Battalion at Escravos a short while later, he protested to Army Headquarters and had the Lagos garrison upgraded to brigade status through the creation of the 31 and 32 battalions. This formation was officially designated the 3 Infantry Division, but Adekunle renamed it the "3 Marine Commando (3MCDO) because he felt  "3 Infantry Division" was a misnomer. The Black Scorpion was widely considered as the most controversial, celebrated and mythologised figure in the civil war. His boys, including, most notably, Major Isaac Jasper Boro, seized Escravos, Burutu, Urhonigbe, Owa, Aladima, Bomadi and Patani, Youngtown, Koko, Sapele, Ajagbodudu, Warri, Ughelli, Orerokpe, Umutu and Itagba.

In his book My Command, former President Olusegun Obasanjo, one of Adekunle's most notable rivals in the Army, claimed that at the 3 Marine Commando (3MCDO), "Col. Adekunle, at this point saw the war not only in terms of crushing a rebellion, but also as a means of building himself up for any future political position or responsibility which he might wish to seek, I knew of people of Western State origin who had felt politically victimized and who saw in Col. Adekunle a saviour and told him so, and he believed them…. At the entrance to my office (Adekunle's former office) there was a warning signboard 'Enter at the pain of Death'. I removed the notice and flung it some fifty metres…"

In one of the several weekly meetings with Gowon as the Chief of Army Corp of Engineers, the then Colonel Obasanjo had reportedly told Gowon that the Black Scorpion was "tired mentally and physically" and "needs to take a rest," according to US documents.  It is no wonder that Adekunle attributed his problems during and after the war to his rivals in the army. In various interviews, he alleged that various rumours of coups were linked to him until the army authorities felt the need to get rid of him. Adekunle was promoted to Brigadier in 1972 and put in charge of decongesting the Lagos port, but he was sacked on August 20, 1974.

A key champion of the food blockade to Biafra during the war, Adekunle notoriously told Randolph Baumann of Stern Magazine in August 18, 1968 that " In the section of the front that I rule—and that is the whole south front from Lagos to the border of Cameroon—I do not want to see the Red Cross, Caritas Aid, World Church delegation, Pope, Missionary, or UN delegation… I want to avoid feeding a single Igbo as long as this whole people have not given up yet…I did not want this war but I want to win this war. Therefore, I have to kill the Igbos. Sorry!" He was hated by many Igbos with a passion.

Adekunle was persistent in his criticism of Gowon, and rejected the Supreme Military Council's efforts to delegate some of his duties to Lt Col. John Ariyo, the Calabar Garrison Commander and his second-in-command.  Speaking to the press shortly after the transfer of command to Obasanjo at the Ikeja Airport on 17 May, 1969,, Adekunle, re-assigned as Director of Planning and Training at the Supreme Headquarters, said Nigerians were too "fractional to recognise the truth and had no sense of objectivity." He noted that "There were factors unknown to the public" in his re-assignment.

In the book, The Nigeria-Biafra War Letters: A Soldier's Story (Vol. 1) compiled and edited by his son, Abiodun A. Adekunle, the Black Scorpion revealed many sordid details about the war. According to the editor,  "General Obasanjo made many claims about his brief tour of duty at the tail end of the war as Commander of Third Marines. It is a historical fact that by the time he took over the Division in mid 1969, all the major campaigns of the war had already been waged. It is legitimate to ask what role may be fairly attributed to my father in bringing the war to its conclusion. Nigerians and more particularly the Yoruba, have perhaps been fortunate that Obasanjo has always been available to fill the roles of other fallen comrades, such as my father after his loss of command, Murtala Mohammed after his assassination and again MKO Abiola, after his premature death. Over the length of his career, from the very start until the present, General Obasanjo seems to have displayed an uncanny ability of reaping where others have toiled."

In My Personal Recollections of the War, the Black Scorpion said: "I considered my selection for the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst to be an honour and a privilege. To my mind, Sandhurst was the best military institution in the World. Not all the Mons graduates were so privileged – for example, while Adegoke, Idiaja, and Chakuka and I was selected, Obasanjo was not. He finished at Mons and returned home. In later years, I attributed some of the actions of my former course mates in the national arena, especially with regard to their colleagues, to the need to assuage feelings of inferiority which many have sprung from having been publicly adjudged and labeled inadequate in the midst of their cohorts.

In a 2012 interview, Delta State governor, Dr Emmanuel  Uduaghan, recounted that he took care of Adekunle's  boots: "They (Biafran soldiers) were there for some weeks until the Federal soldiers came to liberate Sapele. Since the whole family had gone to the village, I was the only one living with him in the barracks. Opposite where we were staying was the Inspectors' House which Brigadier-Gen. Benjamin Adekunle took over and was staying there. For the few days he stayed there, he would bring his boots out and I would go and pick it and clean it and shine it, because he said he loved the way I used to shine my father's shoes."

The Black Scorpion will never be forgotten.

He will always be remembered  —Jonathan
President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan has extended sincere commiserations to the family of  late Brigadier-General Benjamin Adekunle, who passed away on Saturday.

The President joined the family and other Nigerians in mourning the very courageous soldier who achieved national fame during the Nigerian civil war for his gallant leadership of the 3rd Marine Commando in the successful effort to defend the unity and territorial integrity of the country.

President Jonathan expressed the belief that General Adekunle's civil war heroics, which made him easily one of the most celebrated military commanders of his generation, had ensured that he would always be honoured and remembered as a valiant soldier who served his fatherland  exceptionally well at a very trying time in its history.

As the Black Scorpion's soul returns to the Almighty Creator, President Jonathan enjoined his family, friends, former military colleagues and all who mourn his passing to also give thanks to God for blessing the nation with fearless soldiers and patriots of his calibre who stand ready to lay down their lives for the peace, unity and progress of their country.

President Jonathan prayed that God Almighty will  comfort the grieving family and associates of General Adekunle and grant his soul eternal rest.

Adekunle's death shocking  —Obasanjo
Former President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, has said that the late General Benjamin Adekunle(retd), will forever be remembered for his contribution during the Nigeria's Civil War, describing his death as shocking.

Obasanjo in a statement made available to newsmen in Abeokuta on Saturday, said:"I received with shock the news of the death of my colleague, friend and course mate, General Benjamin Adekunle today. I can recall with found memories what he was able to achieve as a course mate at Teshi, Accra, Ghana.

"He made no mean contribution for the Nigerian civil war. His efforts would be forever remembered and  may his soul rest in peace. I am very shocked about by this news today. His vacuum will be difficult to fill in the family, but I pray for them to have the fortitude to bear this loss."

An unforgettable hero  —Gov Uduaghan
Delta State governor, Dr Emmanuel Uduaghan, has described the late General Benjamin Adekunle as an unforgettable civil war hero whose exploits would continue to be celebrated.

In a reaction signed by Felix Ofou, his Press Secretary, the governor extolled the courage and brilliant initiative of the late general which, according to him, helped to fast track the end of the Nigeria civil war.

"General Adekunle was a maverick. His courage and brilliant initiative helped to speed up the process that led to the quick end of of the unfortunate Nigerian civil war. That's why history and Nigerians will continue to celebrate his exploits," he noted.

Dr Uduaghan remarked that it was the sacrifices by the likes of the Black Scorpion as General Adekunle was called and other veterans of the civil war that further underscored the importance of the unity and indissolubility of thecountry, adding that they set themselves apart as great patriots of the country.

"In their sacrifice and willingness to lay down their lives, they confirmed that the unity of Nigeria cannot be compromised. Their patriotic zeal remains a reference point and reminds us that what binds us together is greater than any sectional or parochial cleavages," he enthused.

The governor commiserated with the wife of the deceased, Folake, his children as well as others directly affected by the death and asked God to grant them the fortitude to bear the loss.

He was committed to Nigeria's unity  —Omisore
By Oluwole Ige-Osogbo

AS the nation mourned the death of Brigadier-General Benjamin Adekunle (rtd),  the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)'s standard-bearer in the August 9, 2014 governorship poll in Osun, Senator Iyiola Omisore, on Saturday, described his demise as a great loss to Nigeria.

In a personally signed condolence message, he noted that the deceased's passion and commitment to the country's unity came to the fore during the nation's 30-month civil war, recalling that he fought gallantly to protect and sustain Nigeria's sovereignty and corporate existence.

Describing his exploits as legendary during his stint as the Commander of 3rd Marine Commando, Omisore said "I received the news of the death of the civil war veteran, Brig-General Benjamin Adekunle who died today in Lagos at the age of 78 years, with rude shock."

The condolence message reads in part: "It is unfortunate that Brigadier Adekunle who fought the gruesome 30-month civil war to keep Nigeria together as one, had to take a bow when his service is most needed at this moment of our nation's history.

"His exploit as the Commander of 3rd Marine Commando was legendary. Brig. Adekunle, working with General Yakubu Danjuma, General Olusegun Obasanjo and other military top brass, ensured that they fulfilled the vision by the then Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon.

"I, however, want his family, associates and colleagues, especially former President, General Olusegun Obasanjo, who took over the command of 3rd Marine Commando from him to take solace in the fact that Brigadier Adekunle distinguished himself as a thoroughbred professional army who came, saw and conquered.".

He prayed  that God should give Adekunle's immediate family, colleagues and Nigeria, the fortitude to bear the loss.

He was a courageous soldier—Aregbesola
The governor of Osun State, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, has joined well-meaning Nigerians in commiserating with the family of General  Benjamin Adekunle (retd), popularly known as 'Black Scorpion,' who passed on to glory on Saturday.

The governor, in a statement by the Director, Bureau of Communication and Strategy, Mr Semiu Okanlawon, said the death of Benjamin Adekunle has closed a long chapter in the history of the nation as it relates to the Nigerian Civil war.

Aregbesola said Adekunle played a crucial role in the civil war that almost liquidated the Nigerian nationhood.

The governor noted that irrespective of what some people might believe or not believe about the deceased, Adekunle played a vital role in making sure Nigeria remained a united country.

"We receive with heavy heart, the death of one of Nigeria's finest soldiers, who fought for the unity of his country.

"No doubt, he was a soldier of soldiers and commander of men. He distinguished himself in his chosen profession both at home and abroad.

"Adekunle led the 3rd Marine Commando Division during the Civil war with such great courage and determination.

"Up till today, his war exploit in the command of the Third Marine remains subject of discussion across Nigeria and beyond.

"The history of post-independence Nigeria and the crises that threatened the young nation's existence will be incomplete without a chapter for this courageous soldier.

"We, the government and people of Osun, convey our heartfelt condolences to the immediate and extended families of Adekunle, and the government and people of Oyo State.

"We pray that God repose his gentle soul in paradise," Aregbesola said.

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