Lt. COL. JOSEPH AKAAHAN.
For the record, Lt. Col. Joseph Ronald Ityowua Akaahan Agbo Kpire, Nigeria’s first war-time Chief of Army Staff, who died in active service.
He hailed from Mbakaange, Kunav in what was then Gboko Native Area Council (presently in Vandeikya LGA)
died in a Helicopter crash somewhere close to Wannune, not so far from Joseph Sarwuan Tarkaa’s hometown (mind that JS Tarkaa was another prominent Tiv song actively involved in the war, being the Federal Commissioner of Transport) in May 1968.
At the time of his death, he was the Chief of Army Staff and by implication, the head of the Federal Troops fighting against the Biafran fighters.
Grandma Juliana Aernan Agbir told me that, His helicopter wasn’t shot down by the Biafrans, and I asked who/what then was responsible for the helicopter crash?
Chris Anyam my big brother narrated to me that the night of his “disappearance”, anxiety spread across
the land, and when it news broke out that he was dead, the whole nation was plunged into grief, and the Federal troops were thrown into fear of losing
Forget the narrative that portray the Biafran fighters as almost constantly being on the losing side- they probably wasted over 3 million Nigerian lives (especially of Benue-Plateau, Kwara and Bendel states).
His loss was made worse by the appointment of an “inexperienced” successor.
So, if the Biafrans were planning to kill the Army Chief of Staff, why would anyone ever think that they were not responsible for his helicopter crash?
Going by that you must know my disposition, which it is most certain that Lt. Col. Joe Akaahan was murdered! Yes, ASSASINATED! But, by who?
Lets row back a little bit to before the war, and who this man really was- his primed position in the
According to my uncle Iligh Mhen , Joe Akaahan was one of the most brilliant minds in the whole of the Nigerian military before the war began.
He belonged to the young brilliant, enlightened, idealistic and very outspoken class of the military, of which not so many soldiers from the Northern Nigeria belonged.
See, at this time, the most learned soldiers were predominantly of the Southern origin: the Ojukwus, Nzeogwus, Fajuyis etc.
In the whole of the Northern part of the country, barely.anyone could match Akaahan, because, he wasn’t just brilliant and bold; he was both a master
strategist and a good orator (the later endearing him to all he led).
His influence upon the Nigerian troops was so strong that to win the war, the Biafrans had it a key
point to have him killed, thus, when he got killed in that crash, celebration ran across “Biafra land” while gloomy clouds fell on Nigerian land.
My father Terkula Saaka was then in primary school and what I love by my dad he can narrate the story to the end with their names and reference of event
one by one.
My dad told me that the Federal troops, most of whom lost hope of winning the war. In fact, this was one of the times in the war when the Biafrans almost won the war.
That was how powerful Lt. Col. Akaahan’s personality was. But, let us look at Akaahan in the mix just before the war- in the under (over) play that led to the war. Remember the first military coup that took place in Nigeria, and the
sentiments which arose from it: that coup led by Maj. Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu and Maj.
Emmanuel Ifeajunwa (Igbos) saw leaders of the
Northen and Western extraction killed while the Eastern leaders just somehow escaped being killed in the North, Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa (Prime Minister) and Sir Ahmadu Bello (Northern Premier cum Sardauna) were killed, while in the west, SL Akintola.
In as much as a few Northerners i.e. Maj. Ademoyega, Lt. Atom Kpera, Capt. Jalo, Lt. Katsina were also participants in the coup, and the Finance Minister, Festus Okotie-Eboh (south) was also killed, it couldn’t erase a feeling that it was an Igbo agenda of domination through military instrumentation.
My Dad again told me that the second military coup which took place in July of the same year was a reactionary one, purposely aimed at the Easterners.
Let us understand that before the January coup, the North (Hausa/Fulani) seemed to never really care about ruling through the instrumentation of the military.
The most learned and intelligent ones of their stock were primed into politics and Federal Civil Service i.e. Balewa, Bello, Kano, Maitama, Mai Bornu etc- all men of great education and foresight.
Those who took to the military were seemingly.“uneducated”.
Why was this so? I believe the World
Wars were responsible for this unwritten mindset.
The January 1966 coup was therefore a rude shock to the North which called for a reactionary measure.
Whatever it was that they had to do, they had better chosen their very best military men.
That was where somebody in the capacity of Lt. Col. Joseph Akaahan came in.
His first test was commanding
the 4th Battalion which had refused obedience to Maj. Nzefili (an Igbo man) after the first coup.
His ability to restore order and lead all Northern soldiers mentally proved a point.
He became the Arrowhead of the North in the counter coup which saw Aguiyi-Ironsi and so many soldiers of Eastern origin killed.
Lt. Col. Akaahan was the one who spoke the minds of the North in the aftermath of the coup. When Lt. Col. Yakubu Gowon was ascended to the Head of the Supreme Military Government, the most competent person to head the Army was none other than Lt. Col. Joseph Akaahan.
However, Akaahan was not appointed to this position until it had become very evident that a war was looming, and just days after his appointment, the war broke out!
But I now ask this worrisome questions
Now, if Lt. Col. Joe Akaahan was of such great relevance to the North (first) and the Federal Government, why would he suddenly die in a helicopter crash and there would be no investigation into the cause of the said ‘crash’? Take to heart these key points:
1. Eye witness reports said there was a big bang in the air which erupted into a big ball of fire followed by the crash of the “helicopter parts”.
2. It is alleged that there was a bullet hole through the under ‘panel’ of the helicopter (obviously shot
from inside the helicopter).
3. His kinsman, Joseph Sarwuan Tarkaa, the Federal Commissioner of transport who was also in Gboko when Akaahan visited had in dissuading
Akaahan from flying at dusk asked him if the Biafrans, or by the Federal Anti-Aircraft missiles if mistaken for an enemy aircraft.
4. The Army Chief was on his way to meet with Kam Salem, the Chief of the Nigerian Police in Makurdi.
We shall look deeper into the possible reason why Lt. Col. Joseph Ronnie Ityowua Akaahan Agbo Kpire was seemingly “ASSASSINATED”.
But, in the meantime, let it be known that in his death, the Tiv nation lost her rightful position in the power-flow of the Nigeria that emerged from that war!