From Chris Anucha and Paul Osuyi, Asaba
THE remains of the late Biafran warlord and one of the first generations of the Nigerian Army Officers Corps, Colonel Conrad Dibia Chukwujimje Nwawo, have been laid to rest at his home town, Onicha-Olona in Aniocha North Local Government Area of Delta State.
The war veteran who died at the age of 93 was given full military honours during the burial by the Nigerian Army, and the casket bearing the body of the gallant officer covered in Nigerian flag. The burial rites, however, witnessed poor presence of the political elite. But retired officers of the Nigerian Army, Navy and Air Force were well represented. The heavy presence of serving officers of the Nigerian Army from the 4 Brigade led by Col. Etim E. Etim speaks volume of the respect and regard which the military has for the late Col. Nwawo, especially for his exploits in Nigeria’s peace keeping mission in Congo, which earned him Military Cross (MC) from the Queen of England, Elizabeth the II in 1963.
So far, only Nwawo and the late Col. Adekunle Fajuyi had the honour of the prestigious MC from her Majesty, the Queen of England. Nwanwo’s corpse arrived St. Peter’s Anglican Church, Onicha-Olona, venue of the funeral service, in a grey- colored military ambulance, and was led into the church by military officers.
Bishop of Asaba Diocese of the Anglican Communion, Rt. Rev. Justus Mogekwu, in his sermon emphasized the need for reconciliation of all stakeholders, who participated in the Nigerian civil war, whether on the side of Biafra or on the side of the Federal Government. According to Mogekwu, the spirit of reconciliation and unity must be upheld, if the nation must move forward. He noted how Nwawo and other gallant officers had suffered neglect by government for fighting on the side of Biafra during the war. His words: “Col. Nwawo was one of the few Midwesterners we were very proud of.
He was among the ten highest ranking officers of his time. I first heard of him in 1966, when the atmosphere was charged, following the massacre of the Igbos in Northern Nigeria. He was a man of honour, valour and worthy of an army officer”.
Colonel J D Bambur, who represented the Chief of Army Staff, Major General Tukur Yusuf Buratai, also described the late Col. Nwawo as an “articulate, dedicated, loyal and hardworking officer, saying “in recognition of his meritorious service to the nation, he was honoured with the symbol of Passed Staff Course.”
High point of the occasion was the firing of 21 gun shots by the military, which heralded the lowering of the casket into the mother earth.
Among those who attended the burial ceremony was a one-time military spokesman under military president, Ibrahim Babangida, Brigadier General Fred Chijuka and his wife. The Sun