By Adewuyi Adegbite
The demise of Brigadier Benjamin Maja Adekunle, the commander of the 3rd Marine Commando of the Nigerian Army during the civil war between 1967 and 1970, has exposed further the hypocrisy of the Nigerian elite. History is replete with the exploits of Adekunle in the war, but for his truculence, the war would have dragged on for years. However, he was not acknowledged by the government of his days because of his larger than life personality, his brilliance, and fame, which overshadowed those of his peers and superiors in the Army. His unceremonious retirement might have resulted from envy rather than allegations levied against him. Unfortunately for him, he was neither here nor there after the cessation of hostilities, because the Nigerian side, which he laboured to keep one, did not reward him, and the Biafran side, which he helped in taming, detested him.
The refusal of some Igbo members in the House of Representatives to observe a minute silence to honour him was symbolic of hatred for him, even in death. In actual fact, Adekunle belongs to the class of Nigerian heroes and heroines who were denied recognition by the State for their lofty contributions to the development of the nation. Inversely, many Nigerians of shady characters with no clear cut contributions to the development of the nation except being political office holders or close to the corridors of power, either at the state or federal level are honoured with the national awards.
What an irony?
Eulogies and tributes trailing the demise of Adekunle from eminent Nigerians are surprising because he had been bedridden for quite some time, with very few people paying attention to him. But for one of his juniors in the military, Gen. Alabi Isama, who brought his pathetic condition to the open through an interview he had in some national dailies, Adekunle would have died in solitude, and this is the way the hypocrites would be hailing his dead body.
It is pathetic that providence had foisted on Nigeria its second eleven in major positions of responsibilities. The travail of Adekunle in the hands of the military and the government of his day could be understood in the above context.
One takes solace in the words of the ex-Cuban leader, Fidel Castro, in a letter he wrote to Luis Conte Aguero in 1953, "Epitaph is not at the moment a monument to the martyrs who have fallen. We cannot even speak of peace for the dead in this oppressed land, but posterity which is always more generous with the good will build these monuments in their memories, and in due time, future generation will revive the tribute/honour owed those who saved the fatherland's honour in the time of infinite shame".