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Gibson Nwosu: Heroic soldier of many feats, stickler for peace in Awka kingdom

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MOST people had no idea that Obi of Awka, His Royal Majesty, Obi Gibson Nwabueze Nwosu, Eze Uzu II, trained as a soldier. Not many know that he studied Mechanical Engineering and trained as first class military Pilot. He was one of early intellectuals at the Nigeria Railway Corporation. He was part of the nucleus unit that laid the foundation for today’s Nigeria Air force. Many are unaware that he was equivalent Chief of Staff of Biafra Air force during the Nigeria civil war.  

Paramount to Obi Gibson Nwosu is for solemn peace to reign in Awka kingdom. Peaceful coexistence that will accelerate Awka’s transformational development initiative. But unfortunately, external forces interference manipulates some people against the community progressive path. He advocates respect for the rule of law as nobody is above the law. Everyone of Awka origin should adhere to Awka’s constitution he maintains. However anyone’s status, no one should politicize issues to truncate that as that amounts to initiating trouble. The monarch believes that if the people can get the interference checkmated, Awka would accelerate faster in every index of human and capital development.

Royalty to Obi Nwosu is a call, design for anyone by nature; an act of God. Not born of royal blood, at birth, his father not knowing that he would be a traditional ruler someday gave him the traditional Igbo name of Nwabueze – a prophesy of a later day. Thus for Obi Nwosu, what God has destined can’t be upturned by any human or force.

Born in Awka, Obi Gibson attended St. Martin’s Primary School, Ihiala.  For his secondary school education, he had his first stint at Bishop Shanaham College, Orlu, Imo State. He later transferred to St. Theresa’s College, Nsukka, where he did his Senior Secondary Education and A levels. He proceeded to Yaba College of Technology in 1957, where he obtained Higher National Diploma (HND) in Mechanical Engineering, with special reference for locomotive engines. Graduating from Yaba College of Technology, Nigeria Railway Corporation engaged his service.

On the quest for adventure, he left Nigeria Railway Corporation to join Nigeria Air force in 1962 as a cadet Pilot trainee. He was among the 16 youths selected by Nigerian government to train in Canada to form nucleus of Nigeria Air Force. Nigeria had signed a contract with Royal Canadian Air Force to establish the Nigeria Air Force. Because there was misunderstanding between Nigeria Minister of Defence and his Canadian counterpart, the contract to train the nucleus of the Nigeria Air Force was cancelled.

“When we came back, we were young with no experience to start the Nigeria Air Force. Four of us were picked to go for further training in then West Germany Air Force, the rest stayed at Kawo, Kaduna, the only Air Force then in Nigeria. The West Germany Air Force built the nucleus Nigeria Air Force.”

“While in Germany, the civil war started. I couldn’t return to Lagos or Northern Nigeria. I took a flight to Cameroun, took regional flight to Calabar and return to the East by road, and eventually got to Enugu. I saw the ingenuity of Igbo people, just like Israelites, God created us not to be vanquished. It was in Enugu that I and my colleagues who returned from other parts of Nigeria formed the Biafra Air Force on declaration of Biafra by Gen Odumegwu Ojukwu. If Nigeria has not treated ndi Igbo the way they did , Nigeria would have been different.”

At the twilight of the war, with no victory in sight, I was among some Biafra Air Force officers that “were air lifted from Ihioma Air Base in present day Imo State in the last plane that came into Biafra, just a day the federal troop entered Ihioma, the base was the only Biafra Air Force base not to have fallen to the federal forces. Airlifted to Sao Tome and Principe, then Portuguese colony, Portugal though sympathetic didn’t want to be accused of supporting Biafra, we were declared persona non grata but helped facilitate our movement to Gabon.”

Gabon had official Biafran Representative, so they were allowed to stay in Gabon. By chance, he ran into Rev Fr Butler, while at a church service. Fr Butler was his principal at St. Theresa College, Nsukka, where he did his Higher School Certificate.  At the end of the mass, he approached Fr Butler, “He shivered saying he thought I was dead. I told him of my plan to get to Tanzania. Tanzania because Julius Nyerere was one of the African countries that supported Biafra. In the course of the war, President Nyerere sent his Chief of Defence Staff, Maj. Gen Zachariah to enquire of the assistance he has been rendering Biafra. While seeing Maj. Gen Zachariah off at the airport, he told me that if the war did not favour us as he perceived that I should come to Tanzania to help build the Tanzania Air Force.”

Father Butler organised relief material from Gabon, he was flying with the aid of World Council of Churches to Biafra. Fr Butler helped me with air ticket to Tanzania but then I had to pass through Zambia. While in Zambia, I met some Igbo people, who persuaded me to stay that the country offers more opportunities than Tanzania. While this happened, I had no visa to Zambia. Late Joe Onyeso, then head of Nigerian Community in Zambia, facilitated my stay in Zambia. With that, President Kenneth Kaunda personally sent for me. That was how I stayed in Zambia in 1970.”

President Kaunda integrated him into Zambia Air Force as a civilian and later deployed him to Zambia Air Services Training Institute (ZASTI), as the Vice Principal of the school as his rift with the British Officers at Zambia Air Force grew in particularly because of his closeness with Zambian air Force officers, who quite learn more from him than from the British officers. Gen Olusegun Obasanjo visit to Zambia in 1979 would open another chapter in his life, besides his job at ZASTI, he was also the head of Nigerian community in Zambia. Before Gen. Obasanjo returned to Nigeria, he asked him to return home that nothing would happen to him as other Igbo people have integrated into the country. He spent another three years setting his feet in Nigeria in 1982 but left for Zambia again and came back home finally in 1985, after 15 years, sojourn in Zambia.

A two-time Chancellor of Usman Dan Fodio University, Sokoto, until 2015. Obi Nwosu was crowned the monarch of Awka in 1998. The royal father is a firm believer in the culture and tradition of his people.

“Awka is known for blacksmith, the Governor of West Virginia gave 30 hectres of land to Igbo community to develop as Igbo Village, because Igbo people constituted the greatest number of slaves that worked in tobacco in the state. I applied for space and with the assistance of a wealthy Nigerian medical doctor in that state, Dr Nwachukwu Anakwenze from Abagana, and American Attaché in Lagos, I got a portion of land and built Uno Uzu, to showcase the culture of Anambra but Awka in particular and with the help of the government and present administration, I shipped some blacksmiths tools and equipment to the United States. The place is a huge tourist attraction, it a legacy to bequeath to posterity.

Obi Nwosu traces the major challenge militating against his kingdom on religion. “The issue that the former traditional prime minister capitalised on was when the Catholic Bishop of Awka Diocese said if someone is a true Catholic, the person must perform dust to dust funeral rites, a man for the wife and vice visa. Some people protested against it and he organised a meeting of Awka community that I must come to declare my stand. He knows that I will not deny Catholic Church. I took along Awka’s constitution to the meeting.”

“Our constitution says that if anybody dies he must buried according to his faith. I went to that meeting and asked them if they have seen me contravene any law, That I must not play with my Catholic faith. If I die today before my wife, she will put sand in my grave and that applies if she dies before me. Where have I broken the law? This is the issue some strange characters saw and started initiating trouble but they are wasting their time. That was the genesis of the crisis that orchestrated to undermine my royal stool.”

“Both the federal and state governments are on my side. All the traditional rulers except a few he has managed to bribe are on my side. He cannot go to a function where the federal or state government is involved. His president general is not a member of Anambra Association of Town Union (ASATU ) and cannot participate in their meetings. I don’t have time responding to ditractors. Some people sometimes answer on my behalf I told them to leave him. Some people who are not happy with Awka. My understanding is that that some wealthy individuals who wanted their towns to be capital are unhappy that Awka is the capital. They teamed up and financed him.”

The royal father described his wife as the greatest influence in his life. “When I arrived in Zambia, she was Head of Catering Department of Evelyn Hone College. I came across her as she came back from Norway where she had studied. It was love at first sight. There were so many Zambians, including senior military officers who were after her that wanted to marry her. Her father was Seventh Day Adventist pastor.  As a pastor in the church who marries people in their church, he wouldn’t want to do anything with me. Here is her first daughter wanting to marry a non-Zambian and much more, a non-Seventh Day Adventist member.

“She told her father she had known me not for too long that I was her idea of a man she would want to marry.  She told her father that if she didn’t marry me that he should forget about her marrying  that she would  live and die in his house. That changed my heart. The father asked when she wanted to get married, that very day or the next. My love for her and her love for me is unquantifiable. Whatever that happens today and I remember that she is my wife I take solace. A humble woman, she has the greatest influence in my life. She brought up our children in the fear of the Lord.

Obi Nwosu is a major in the Knight of St. John of the Catholic Church and Officer of the Order of the Niger (OON), he is married to Mrs. Nora Nwosu with four children.

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