By The Nation
Nnamdi Azikiwe ADC, Military Aide To First President Of Nigeria, Col David Chukwuma Okafor Exposes Obasanjo
In this interview with Emma Elekwa and Nwanosike Onu, 89-year-old Retired Colonel David Chukwuma Okafor who hails from Amawbia in Awka S. LGA of Anambra state speaks about his years in the army and his relationship with ex-President Obasanjo.
See interview Excerpts:
YOU were an ADC to the first governor-general of Nigeria. Can you share your experiences with us?
I was an ADC to Governor-General of Nigeria, Nnamdi Azikiwe in 1963. The main duty of an ADC in those days was to keep the diary of events his principal had to perform. When the time for such events approached, I normally did a memo to the Governor-General, informing him of such event. I also did such memo to his wife.
There was also a police ADC in the person of Sunday Adewusi, but he was particularly looking after the wife. Each time we had an outing, both of us must go with the governor general. That was one of my functions. Another function was – if at any time the governor general invites people for lunch or dinner, I would prepare the table, plan where the guests would seat. I would in advance, know the personalities coming and their status and where they would seat. I was also there for the governor general’s safety.
I became the ADC in January 1963. I wasn’t anywhere near Lagos. I was serving in Zaria when the Governor General wanted an ADC. The army will on its own invite a number of captains, which was the rank at that time. I think six officers were invited from different places. We reported at the army headquarters to see the Army Chief, then an English man named, Welby Evarat. He looked at the officers and removed those he deemed not fit. Two were removed, remaining four of us.
Thereafter, we went back to our station. Then in December, we were called back to Lagos. The Governor-General started interviewing us one after the other. It took him between 11am and 4pm. He wouldn’t even tell you that you have been taken. Again, we went back to our unit. Around January, they sent a signal message to my unit in Zaria that I had been selected to be ADC to the Governor-General. I prepared and came down to Lagos and replaced the old ADC. It was a thing commander of units took proud in.
My Adjutant Captain, Bassey, called me and embraced me saying excitedly, “Now I know I have an officer.” He took me to the mess and brought drinks that we celebrated with. I later went straight to the State House. The then ADC was Col. Mike Ifenso. He handed over that very day and left the following morning. I used the handover note to commence work.
When were you recruited in the army?
February 6, 1952. Obasanjo was not in the army then. They came direct from their college cadet then before I went to officers training. I went in as a recruit with my Cambridge (certificate). It was after our training that they said I would be an education instructor in Ghana. That, I did from 1952-1953. In 1954, I was sent for a refresher course and was made a sergeant thereafter. I held that office till I was sent to Zaria towards the end of 1956. I reminded one Col. Mash that I had passed the RWAFF (Royal West African Frontier Force) Exams but he denied ever knowing me.
In 1958, he was posted out. I was even crying, thinking I was going to begin afresh, until one Col. Mountain came. After about three months, the education officer with us, a European, Captain Costable, called me, saying I would be going for COs intervene, also called COs order.
If you were told about such interviews, you would be shaken. Funny enough, he did not tell me what I was going for. He simply said I was going to see the Company Commander. I went and he confirmed I was going for the COs order. He requested I dressed properly. When I came, the RSM stood. They would blow the biggon two twice. When we stood in line, the RSM named Anmakin from Borno asked me what I was there for. I said I did not know and he got annoyed and started pushing me with a stick.
Then Adjutant Captain Aley Guvy quickly intervened and asked him to leave me alone. Even with that, I was still afraid. The Adjutant later went inside his office and called me, Okufo (ie Okafor). I was still afraid, asking what my offence was. He ordered me to march on, and asked me to look at him while he introduced himself. He later told me that he was going to make me an officer. That was when I knew what I was in for. That was how I became an officer in 1959.
I became the ADC to the Governor-General in January 1959. We moved on till October 1963 when Nigeria became a republic. Then the Governor-General became the president. I continued with him till May 1964. In essence, I was the only officer in the Nigeria Army that served under both a Nigerian Governor-General and first president.
What role did you play in the peace keeping mission?
I was in Cameroon in March 1960. I served there in the company located at Ndo, very close to Northern Cameroon.
What happened about 1964 and the war?
When I left the State House, I went to Britain to do All Arms Division course. I came back and was promoted to the rank of major. I stayed in Zaria. All of a sudden, in 1965, I was sent to Ibadan to take over the 2-I-C fourth battalion at Ibadan. The officer 2-I-C was an Igboman. In the process, he left for Lagos around January and was killed in the hotel. I was sent to London were I was promoted to Lt Colonel to become Defense Adviser.
How did you retire?
I stayed in London till the military sent me a signal that I should report at camp in December 1966. I was told that my services were no longer needed. I may not say I regretted leaving the army because that was how God decided it. I was commissioned in 1959 and served till May 1966, roughly 7 years. I had risen to the rank of Lt. Colonel, which was not common then. Because the army was very small, to get to that rank was not easy. My rank number then was N/74.
How old are you now and how come you’re not married?
I am 89, I got married and had a child, but my wife is late. My child is 50 years old. I intend to remarry, as long as I can find any woman who can stay with me. What makes marriage work is that spirit in the woman. The woman you intend to marry must first attract you and that is why even if she is far away, her spirit will still attract you. I have not seen any yet because I hardly go out.
How do you intend to see the wife when you don’t go out?
That’s a good question. But you know the solution. It is not the person that looks for a wife that brings it. Even you can find someone that fits into my quality, and you can recommend her to me.
Why do you want to re-marry at this age and what are the qualities she must possess?
Majorly, because it is not good to be alone. God who created people know that it is not good to stay alone. Apart from that, the woman would even gain. There are certain welfare package a dead officer is entitled to and the one meant for a Lt. Col. is reasonable, which a woman would be happy with. Besides, the woman must be somebody that can cook good food. It is not a question of giving an old man a stale food. I don’t even believe in eating food from fridge. I like eating fresh food. I don’t know of you people. My mother taught me how to cook. Even till now I still cook.
The woman must also believe in herself and not one that will be looking at others. She must be a woman that thinks about the welfare of elderly persons, that is how she can flow with me. Since I was 85 years old, I haven’t fallen ill; in fact since I grew up, I have never known what is called headache since I grew up to know my left from my right. Though I used to have malaria, but it does not give me headache. But since I started taking Moringa seriously, I have never been ill.
Moreover, I make sure I have my breakfast regularly. People don’t know that breakfast is a very important meal. There were times I used to go to Lagos in the 70’s and 90’s doing some business. I was born in Enugu and I lived there. I used to wake up around 3am, cook and eat before I leave. I never skipped my breakfast. In fact, there’s a bag I used in carrying my food. I was driving Citroen till every Citroen died, but mine was still there.
What are your favourite foods?
I eat Okro soup, Onugbu and Egusi soup if well prepared. There is this one called Njaya, if you eat it, you know you have eaten soup. You can’t find water in the soup (laughs).
At 89, do you still have feelings for sex?
I think the last time I had feeling was when I got to the age of 80. Not that I do not necessarily have erection, but I can’t. I told you that in our days, women came to us. Who will I see that is more beautiful than those ones? If it is possible to parade my girlfriends, you will marvel (laughs). I went to London, I had two girlfriends in Britain who were undergraduate, very beautiful girls. Even now, when I was a Defence Adviser, I was a bachelor until I got married in 1966. I married at age of 36.
Your wife died at 82. So why the urge to remarry?
I had a girl living very close to me, who had interest in me; that was when she was still in the college. Even the mum wanted her to marry me, she was from Enugu-Ukwu. In fact, I agreed, because I felt I did not go after her, rather she came to me. There was a time I led Ijele age grade in my town and the little girl would spray me with all the money on her while I displayed. Eventually, the mum died.
But I remember one thing; the girl gave me a flower vase and her elder sister gave me something too. It was like two of them had interest. Later she gradually started withdrawing. Maybe they asked her what she saw in an old man like me. She later got married to an Nnobi man, but it took her time to tell me.
This same girl, after marriage, came here. I told her before my son’s wife. ‘You rejected me, what are you here for?’ She had nothing to say; she just laughed. This year again, she came, after they relocated from Lagos to Awka and started phoning me. That’s not more than 2 months ago.
You led the team that rescued the Swedish doctors; you were among the first contingents that went to Congo?
I was the first Nigerian to go there. When we went there, we were stationed at a place called Bukavo. I was in the advance party with one Alex Maduebor. We took over from Irish soldiers before our battalion arrived. Our first task was to release the Swedish doctors imprisoned by the Congolese. That was where I had this wound. I led the platoon.
As a very young officer, I didn’t know I would get to the Lt. Col rank. They took very good care of me, including treating the wound. But that wound came up again when I fell from the horse because I used to ride horse at Zaria. In those days, there was discipline and seriousness, not what we have today.
Aguiyi Ironsi was the commander of the battalion because the British people wanted their officers but the Nigeria government said no. They wanted full-fledged Nigerians. They put in Major Guliva as 2-I-c to Ironsi but he later drove him away. Europeans never forgave the Igbos for that.
What are your hobbies?
I do things myself. Nobody assists me, except a lady that comes around to help me. I can still drive though doctors said that I shouldn’t drive. I can still drive from here to Awka. Even now, I trek to everywhere I’m invited in this Amawbia. But as a very young man, I had hobbies. I was in the Nigerian Signal Squadron. I played football very well, even at the college. When I look at the boys play now, I see that they are not serious. It’s a battle. Rev. Fr Fox who taught us football around 1940-1942 insisted on strength and speed. If these qualities are lacking, you can’t win because it is only speed that can help you take the ball away from your opponent and it is the same speed that can make your enemy succumb.
Do you have female children?
I have only one child, his wife is pregnant now.
Do you have any regrets?
My regret now is that I have not remarried. What hasn’t God done for me? In those days, we had only five battalions and you are capable of being a Lt. Col. It wasn’t a mean feat. They were still forming the six battalions while I was in London.
What were you doing after your retirement?
After they left us, I taught of work to do. I told you I was using Citreon then. I noticed that eggs were costly in Enugu, but very cheap in Benin and Lagos. You can’t believe it. I would drive my Citreon from Enugu to Benin, fill my booth and rear seat with eggs. Once I am back, I would make money, serious money. I sold them very fast. In Kingsway Stores, Enugu, the people selling eggs beside the supermarket would quickly clear them and I will move again.
I was never in need of money as such. I was living in a flat, although it wasn’t a business I did for long. What rather gave me money was an overseas indent contract I did for the Army. They were looking for people who would supply their mess with cutleries. It was our Quarter-master that gave me that contract, one Raiz Dumuje from Warri. He was with me in second battalion when I came back from my last trip to London.
When we were retired, Obasanjo was commanding the troop then/ the inquiry was carried out by then late Major Gen Adebayo. But I did not hide anything from them, including my not being promoted in the Biafra Army. They asked why I did not come back to the Army; I told them that I did not want to die in no man’s land. They saw the sincerity. Obasanjo gave us a week to defend ourselves. I brought a file I used as Defence Adviser. My sincerity brought about my recommendation to be paid pension which I still receive.
Does Obasanjo still remember you?
Eeeh…. I’m sure if you people publish this, if he sees it, he will ask is David still there? Obasanjo was under me then in Congo. He was a second Lieutenant. Though he was commissioned before me as a second Lieutenant while I was commissioned full LT. We were in the same company B5th Battalion. Our commander then was Mai Malari.
What is your assessment of Obasanjo?
Obasanjo was very intelligent and well educated. Very intelligent man. He took first in some of our exams.