- Olayinka Omigbodun has opened up on why she feels her father, Victor Banjo, was betrayed by Ojukwu
- She said 50 years after, she is still pained that her father was treated unjustly by the people who arrested him, took his properties without returning them till date
- According to her, her father and Ojukwu were really close and she does not know why he (Ojukwu) decided to kill his friend
Victor Banjo died on September 22, 1967. He was a colonel in the Nigerian army who ended up in the Biafran army during the struggles between Nigeria and Biafra.
Victor Banjo was mistaken for a coup plotter against the Nigerian prime minister Tafawa Balewa, by the government of Aguyi Ironsi and was imprisoned. He was later freed by Ojukwu.
However, he was again alleged to have staged a coup plot against Biafran president, Odumegwu Ojukwu, and was executed as a result.
There has been no third party verification of Victor Banjo's involvement in the Nigerian coup nor Biafran coup and many believe he was wrongly accused.
In an interview with The Nation, his daughter, Olayinka Omigbodun, a professor of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at the University of Ibadan, spoke on her father and why she feels he was betrayed by Ojukwu.
She said: "........ I still feel that pain that 50 years after my dad’s death, we do not have any official notification about his death from his employers.
"I also feel pained that my father has been treated very unjustly by the people who arrested him, people who kept him in prison, who took his things and had not returned those things even up till now.
"And by those who treated his immediate family so unjustly by denying us so much while keeping our father unjustly in prison.
"But I still believe in this nation. I had the choice of staying elsewhere than coming to live and work in Nigeria. I spent years in the United States and the United Kingdom training and schooling.
"I have had the opportunity to lead international organizations abroad. I’ve been severally offered opportunities to apply for international jobs. But I am a firm believer in Nigeria.
"And people close to me will tell you that I am passionate about this country. I am actively involved in nation building irrespective of what the country did to my father."
When she was asked about the circumstances surrounding Col. Banjo's death, she said: "I never had the opportunity to meet one on one with Ojukwu before he died. But from my father’s letters which he wrote to us from prison and from what my mum told us, Ojukwu was my father’s friend.
"They were one of the very few graduates in the Nigerian army at the time, so they were close. I really don’t know why he decided to kill his friend.
"But from what I gathered like I said from my dad’s letters and the many things I read about the incident, my father was a patriot who meant well for this country.
"He also meant well for the Igbo. In fact, from some of his letters to my mother back then, he spoke out clearly against the massacre of the Igbo back then.
"His letter of November 14, 1966, which is on page 128 of the book I published for him, he lamented the killings going on in the east.
"He said he would not change the principles he lived for. He said justice and fairness to all should be the basis on which the country should be based on. He said he cannot fail to condemn what he described as the vindictive and vengeful killings of easterners.
"He warned that unless the killing stops, the bloodshed will be prolonged for a longer time. He warned the Yoruba of the West not to keep quiet on the killings saying they must not think that they are temporarily safe.
"So, I will say, just like my brother said in one of his write-ups on the social media, Ojukwu used my father as a scapegoat.
"That is the only imaginable reason why he wasted such a fine soldier and loving father. In September 1967, the Liberation army, which my father led, had retreated to Enugu and Ojukwu needed to explain the defeats he was suffering to the people of Biafra."
Speaking on the trial that followed, she said:
"He conveniently blamed Banjo and three other men. Lt. Col Ifeajuna, Alele and one other for sabotaging the Biafran efforts.
"He needed to tell the people who were losing faith in him something new as a reason for the defeats. His fear about the imminent fall of Enugu was also driving him to do something.
"So, on trumped up charges, my father and three other men were tried by a Kangaroo court and killed by firing squad in 1967.
"The trial did not reveal any evidence linking Banjo with any act of treason against Ojukwu or the Biafran government.
"In fact, it took a second military tribunal to convict Banjo because the first tribunal stated that the evidence presented to it was insufficient to prove Banjo’s guilt in the case. Unsatisfied and not ready to let my father off the hook, Ojukwu constituted another tribunal speedily.
"Apparently, it was a clear case of sacrificing someone as a scapegoat because while my father was looking forward to assisting Ojukwu further with the Biafran war in spite of the huge risk and sacrifice involved for him as a person, Ojukwu was looking for a way of implicating him for sabotage so as to retain the control of the region. Ojukwu betrayed my father by killing him.
"It was clear from his letters that my father has been assisting Ojukwu even while he did not believe in the secession.
"His idea, based on the letters he wrote to my mother, was to fight against, and remove the northern domination of other parts of the country and ensure a free, fair and equitable country where no arm is dominating the others."
PAY ATTENTION: Watch more videos on NAIJ.com TV
Meanwhile, the former chairman and founder of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Chief Chekwas Okorie said that the late Odumegwu Ojukwu never said that the unity of Nigeria was not negotiable contrary to President Muhammadu Buhari’s statement about his meeting with Ojukwu.
50 years later: Is Biafra really achievable? - on NAIJ.com TV.