THE fourth and fifth lines of Nigeria’s National Anthem read thus: “The labour of our heroes past, shall never be in vain…’’ How far these words make meaning to Nigerians and those in authority is a question begging for answer.
Many of our heroes who risked their lives and died for our nation may be weeping in their graves as their families have been left to suffer without care or support from government and Nigerians in general.
How much are those privileged to be alive remembered beyond the little stipends some of them receive as pensions and snacks shared to them at Armed Forces Remembrance Day arena? Today, many who took the vow to die for their fatherland are being ravaged by poverty and lack without any help from government.
In a recent encounter with Captain Amos Iyari Monye (rtd), one of the heroes who risked his life and youth for the unity of this country but now survives on alms and charity, he explained how he was unjustly and unceremoniously sacked from the Nigerian Army for daring to complain that monies meant for them were embezzled by their superior.
During his sojourn in the military, he served under three Senior Officers who later became Military Heads of State and Presidents of this country, one of who is Nigeria’s incumbent President, Mohammadu Buhari. Today, Captain Monye (rtd) lives in abject poverty without a house of his own, lost his wife and four of his children to hardship. He has two surviving children with several degrees but jobless. He is a beggar today with impaired eyesight.
Captain Monye (NA/1239) was born in 1944 to the family of Late Pa OkohMonye of Aligwe Quarters, Owa- Alero, Ika North East Local Government Area of Delta State. He started primary school in 1952 and finished in 1958. He started his secondary school education in 1959 at CMS Modern School, Agbor, in Delta State and completed the three-year course in 1961. He was employed as a teacher in CMS Primary School,Alihawgu in 1962. In April 1963, he and some of his colleagues were laid off because they were not trained Grade Two teachers.
SOJOURN IN THE MILITARY
On September 27, 1963, he joined the Nigeria army at Ibadan and was sent to the Nigeria Army Depot for recruitment training where he underwent a six-month recruitment course. He passed out in April 1964 and was posted to 2nd Battalion, Abeokuta. In August of the same year, the whole Battalion was moved to IkejaCantonment, Lagos State.
In 1964, shortly after the general elections, 38 soldiers and one officer from 2nd Battalion, Ikeja, took them to Benin City, Agbor and Asaba, respectively, for football matches. As a very formidable football er in the military, he was among those selected to play football in those matches.
After the football match in Benin, they were moved to Agbor for the next game. There, he pleaded with his superior to be allowed to visit his home which was a stone throw from the match venue so he could see his parents but his request was turned down. He managed to put a message across to his father to come to the primary school where the football match was taking place at Agbor.
His father, who was there to watch him play, called him aside after the match to discuss and prayed with him. Amos ceased the opportunity to introduce his father to the soldier in charge of security in the barrack, Ahmadu Finger who hailed from Maiduguri. Prior to this time, his colleagues had always believed he was from the Eastern part of Nigeria. It was this introduction of Ahmadu Finger to his father that convinced Finger that he actually came from Mid-Western Nigerian, although this was not too important to him at that point in time until a later date. After the third football match which took place in Asaba, they returned to Ikeja Cantonment in Lagos.
In January 1966, while still at Ikeja Cantonment, he was given 19 days off to write his London GCE examination which he had enrolled for. On January 15, 1966, the coup led by Major Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu took place. In the same year – July to be precise- there was a counter coup led by the Hausas but spearheaded by Gen. Murtala Mohammed. There at the barrack, the Hausa soldiers began to shoot and kill the Igbo people. “Because many of them regarded me as an Igbo man, I was shot in my hand and taken to the guard room. There were many of us in the guard room, the Igbos, Yorubas and soldiers from other tribes were tortured and brutalized”.
On the 10th day of their incarceration waiting to be executed, Ahmadu Finger came to the guard room and assured him that nothing was going to happen to him. He took it upon himself and convinced other soldiers that he was not an Igbo but a Mid-Westerner. That was how he escaped being killed. Shortly after Ahmadu Finger left, Lieutenant Mohammed Nasarawa came to the guard room and called out names of those to be released and Amos Monye was among them.
After their release, Major Gen. Yakubu Gowon visited the 10 of them and admonished them not to run away but stay and work with other soldiers. “The next day, nine out of the ten of us that were released ran away. They could not trust them due to the inhuman treatment meted to us.
But I decided to stay back because of my love and zeal to work for my fatherland”, he narrated.
Months later, he and some other soldiers were taken to Kaduna but he was not comfortable being alone in the midst of people, some of who wanted him dead. So, he went to plead with his then commander, late Captain Isah Buka, who was later executed during Dimka’s coup, to give him an official posting to Benin but he was denied with a stern warning never to make such request again or risk being treated as an Igbo man.
They were still in Kaduna when Gen. Yakubu Gowon created 12 States to replace the regions in 1967 by Military Decree. In the same period, Ojukwu declared Biafra. Along the line, Amos became ill and was taken to the Military Hospital where Army and Airforce doctors attended to him but he never got better. He was then taken to one Dr. Oshodi who diagnosed his condition to be psychological and recommended in a letter to the Commander that he should be posted to a more convenient place. The commander called him to commend him for his courage and assured him that he would write to the record officer at Apapa, Lagos to repost him officially to Benin.
While waiting his posting, it was announced that his battalion was moving to the boundary. He was expecting to be among the ‘Rear Party Men’ (aged and sick soldiers who normally guard the barracks when the soldiers were out for fight) but unfortunately, when the list of Rear Party Men came out, he did not make the list. He felt so bad because he needed to take care of his health.
He approached Muhammadu Buhari, who was the Adjutant then (an Adjutant is a military officer who acts as an Administrative Assistant to a senior officer) and told him that he was ill and was awaiting his posting letter. Buhari told him it was too late. So, he had no choice but to move with the battalion to the boundary between North and South where they settled them in Adikpo village located in the present Benue State.
WORKING UNDER BUHARI
On July 6, 1967, the war started. On the first day of the war, Amos had Buhari as his company commander (a company is a body of soldiers, especially the smallest subdivision of an Infantry Battalion, typically commanded by a Major or Captain). After the liberation of Abakiliki in November 1968, Buhari recommended Amos for an examination that would qualify him for a short service course at the Nigeria Defence Academy (NDA) as an officer not only because of his GCE qualification but also having gained the trust of Buhari.
When General Yakubu Gowon wrote a letter stating that soldiers should be given two weeks break to go home and see their families and come back to the war front, they were reluctant fearing that he might desert. Amos gave Buhari his word that he would return at the end of the two weeks break and he fulfilled his promise. Buhari was later posted to Enugu 1 Division, Nigeria Army and Amos was taken to the regional headquarters at Abakiliki, where he took and passed the first examination. He was then taken to Enugu for the second examination.
MILITARY SOJOURN WITH OBASANJO
After he passed the examination at Enugu, he was taken to Lagos for the final examination, which was organized by Olusegun Obasanjo and he also came out in flying colours. With this result, he was admitted into the NDA in 1968 to begin the Officers’ Course. He passed out in August 1969 and was commissioned as Second Lieutenant. Thereafter, he was posted to 3 Marine Commando in Porth-Harcourt where he met Olusegun Obasanjo as his General Officer Commanding (GOC); then Obasanjo was a Colonel. Second Lieutenant Amos was later posted to the 12th Brigade at Azumiri in present Abia State which was under the charge of Major Isamade. After few months at the 12th Brigade, Amos was made a Battalion Commander.
Usually, in the Nigerian Army, a Battalion commander ought to be Lieutenant Colonel. When Amos joined the army, his Battalion Commander then was Lieutenant Colonel Njoku. When he also moved to Ikeja Cantonment, his battalion Commander was Lieutenant Colonel Gawa. But Amos’ case broke the protocol as when he became a Battalion Commander as a Second Lieutenant. He was asked to command a battalion of about 1,200 soldiers because it was war period and the number of battalion soldiers was very high whereas, there were only 25 field officers available with no knowledge of war as none of them attended the NDA.
‘’So, everything was on me and in that vein, I was ordered to conquer Ogbo hills in Aba to Umuahia, which was 35 miles circumference with those officers’’. After seven days of intense battle, they got to his former Battalion at Umuahia from where he left for the NDA.
Trailers were sent to pick him and his soldiers and they were moved to Ochokocho near Port-Harcourt. When he got there, Olusegun Obasanjo was still his GOC. Obasanjo gave him another assignment to conquer all the villages from Ochokocho to OwerriNta Bridge. He fought through those distances and got to OwerriNta Bridge.
Amos and his battalion crossed the bridge at OwerriNta and entered Aba; he continued to fight until he conquered all the villages in that area up to Ogugu village, which was located between Owerri and Umuahia. On January 10, 1970, as he was fighting to conquer Orlu Amikure, he was shot under his arm and was taken to the hospital. The next day, the war ended.
After that day, Amos and his battalion were moved to Aba and camped at Girls’ College, Ovom 1, between Azummiri and Aba. As the Commander of the battalion there, Olusegun Obasanjo visited him twice to inspect the battalion and also commended him for work well done. Later, Amos was posted to another battalion at Aba but after a year, he was posted to 31 battalion, Aba. In May 1973, his battalion was moved to Taku, a village after Kastina River. He was there for a few months and was later posted to Markurdi to be the Deputy Assistant Adjutant Quarter Master General (DAAQMG) of the 31 Brigade. In October 3, 1973, he was promoted to the rank of captain at Makurdi.
During his period of his captainship, he said, “there was an allegation of embezzlement of funds meant for the soldiers leveled against the Brigade Major of the Battalion, Captain Omoniyi, who was our superior via a written petition by some soldiers claiming that Captain Omoniyi embezzled the money given to him to share to the soldiers.
“A panel which comprised Late Capt. MammanVatsa, Late Capt. Dada and Late Capt. Ojokojo was set up to investigate the allegation. Without proper investigation and for inexplicable reasons, Capt. Omoniyi was exonerated in the report of the panel which claimed that no money was given to Capt. Omoniyi”.
Unjustly, three officers from the South-South who had nothing to do with the said embezzlement, including Captain Amos, (Delta State) and his two other colleagues, late Major Mayi (Bayelsa State) and Second lieutenant Akpan (Cross River State) were dismissed from the Army unceremoniously in the year 1975.
They were sacked on the insinuation that they might have instigated the soldiers to petition against their boss, Captain Omoniyi for allegedly embezzling the money meant to share to the soldiers. “The money in question was supposed to be shared to us who were officers under Captain Omoniyi and the soldiers. Surprisingly, Omoniyi who was accused to have embezzled the money was exonerated and those of us who were supposed to be given the money were dismissed. This was one of the greatest injustices I have received in my life from a country I risked my life for”, he lamented.
Every effort made to prove their innocence through confident conviction on the said allegation proved abortive as they were not listened to. ‘’Again, we had no godfather to back us up on our appeal. We had no other choice but return to our various homes without compensations or support of any kind’’.
LIFE AFTER DISMISSAL
Battered by war expeditions, judicial brutality, injustice and denial, Capt. Monye has been at his native home, Owa-Alero in Ika North East Local Government Area of Delta State, a neglected, dejected and depressed man who begs to eat irrespective of the fact that he fought in the Nigerian Civil War, attained the rank of Captain in the Nigerian Army and also became a Battalion Commander who spearheaded the conquest of some parts of the South-East during the war.
Capt. Amos worked with Gen. Yakubu Gowon (former Head of State), Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo (former Head of State and Democratic President) and also Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (former Head of State and the current President of Nigeria). But Buhari was the closest to him of them all. He knew almost, if not everything about his war expeditions.
When Buhari was the Head of State from 1983 -1985, Amos said he made efforts to see his former boss but before he could raise funds to visit him, General Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida’s coup got him out of office. Afterwards, he visited Buhari in Kaduna where they discussed at length in his living room. During that visit, Buhari who knew his labour, efforts, his life’s risks to keep Nigeria as one and the truth about his unjust dismissal from the Army, urged him to keep the communication channel open by visiting him regularly as he would love to work with him in future as if he knew he would pilot the affairs of this nation in future. Unfortunately, since then, he has not been able to visit him for lack of funds and connection.
ORDEAL AT HOME
Amos who got married on October 1, 1971, a few years before his dismissal from the Army , was blessed with six children comprising three males and three females. But he lost all his three sons for lack of funds to provide them the necessary healthcare. He also lost his first daughter to high blood pressure due to lack of funds for adequate healthcare. In October, 2019, his beloved wife, Elizbeth Chinedu Monye, who hailed from Ngwa, Abia State, passed on.
Today, Capt. Amos has no house of his own neither can he rent one because he has no source of livelihood. He lives in a bed room apartment given to him to stay by one of the persons whom he was good to while in service. With no bed, he sleeps on a couch, the only piece of furniture he has.
At 76 years of age, Amos lives by begging as his two surviving children who hold several degrees in Engineering and Computer Science are jobless.
Amos is appealing to the three Generals he served under, General Yakubu Gowon, General Olusegun Obasanjo and General Muhammadu Buhari to come to his aid, bearing in mind that they knew all they went through in the war front to keep Nigeria one.
He said he was unjustly dismissed without a penny or any reward for risking his life while most of his mates in the army retired as Major Generals. He also appealed to well-meaning Nigerians to come to his aid and not to allow him die in his current abject condition. He desires to have a house of his own and a means of livelihood. In his words, “I am appealing to well-meaning Nigerians, His Excellencies, former Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon, former President Olusegun Obasanjo and President Muhammadu Buhari, to come to my aid.
“I risked my life for the love I have for this country. I took bullets so that my country could be saved from disintegration. The reward I got was unjust dismissal. I feel dejected and abandoned. Currently, my eyesight is impaired as I cannot dare cross the road without being aided. I need eye surgery which doctor said will cost N800,000 , but I can’t afford it. Even money to buy eye glasses, I don’t have. I live by begging. I don’t even have a bed to lay my head on. Look at me at this age, I sleep on the chair every day. Please, I am begging in the name of God, help me and rescue me from this suffering.
“President Buhari assured me when I visited him many years ago that he would help me. I know that if I have the opportunity to see Buhari today, things will change. My problem now is the connection and fund to reach him. My phone number is 08061335440”, he lamented.
BY ROSEMARY NWAEBUNI