The deaths of these two men did come much as a surprise to me, of a truth both men were old enough to understand that death could come calling anytime soon. But there’s a thing with we mortals, particularly we who hail from these climes , we are very much at home with hope and will glide on it against even the starkest presentation of reality.
Alexander Madiebo who died recently at the age of 90 was a soldier’s soldier, a military officer who rose through the ranks of the Nigerian and Biafran Armies, eventually becoming General Officer Commanding of the Biafran Army before traveling with Odumegwu Ojukwu to the Ivory Coast leading to the collapse of the Biafran struggle for independence.
Madiebo, who like Ojukwu had obvioulsy played no major roles in the upheavals that had led to the civil war had thrust upon him the duties of keeping the Biafran nation alive through the eventual command of the Biafran Army.
According to numerous accounts Madiebo demonstrated ample leadership which resulted in Biafra withstanding a number of vicious onslaughts on the battle field for a miraculous two years and a few months. Jaded by the several factors, such as the lack of arms, poor training, the heavy reliance on mercenaries as well as the obnoxious intrusion of bloody civilians in running the army, it is very much surprising that the Biafran Army recorded a number of upsets and should be a case study for institutions that teach on warfare and strategic studies, with some credit going to Madiebo who led on the battlefield.
Madiebo was to go on to pen his memoirs of the Civil War and to the best of my knowledge was the only Nigerian Author who did a thorough job of recasting events through a firmament of non bias. Madiebo did not write that book, titled, the Nigerian Revolution and the Biafran Civil War as an ex Biafran Combatant but as one who wanted to leave for generations yet unborn lessons of immense value. In the book’s epilogue, Madiebo asked salient questions as regarding the timing of the declaration of Republic of Biafra, procurement of Biafran arms, diplomacy and even the fallout of the coups of both January 15 and July 29, 1966. Again, in writing such a book Madiebo did what the two principal actors in Emeka Ojukwu and Yakubu Gowon had very much failed to do —- give us a vivid account of whatever happened in the background of events that led to the war, Madiebo’s book offers us such immense insight and scholars on the civil war as well as historical buffs like us will always appreciate such work.
For Professor Osayuki Godwin Oshodin, a scholar and former Vice Chancellor of the University of Benin was an administrator per excellence. I came across Oshodin as a student of the Great University of Benin, he was then a senior lecturer and he would always regale us with stories of his numerous running battles with the other side of student unionism and cultism. A natural academic, Oshodin would lecture for hours without a recourse to his notes or a textbook. As an administrator, his stints as Dean of Student Affairs, Dean of the Faculty of Education and finally the Vice Chancellor of the University of Benin remain sterling. Oshodin from all I knew and heard about him was incorruptible, little wonder that under his watch as Vice Chancellor the University not only witnessed a tripling of its infrastructural base but also a jump in its ranking.
Born on the 9th of August 1950,
Oshodin was to attend Western Boys High School, Benin City, Federal School of Science, Lagos State. In pursuit of the Golden Fleece, he was to further his studies with Central State University Ohio, and, then, proceeded to Columbia University of New York city, United States where he was conferred a doctor of education degree (Ed.D) from Teachers College, Columbia University of New York city in 1980.
Returning to Nigeria in 1981, Oshodin was to begin his lecturing career as a research fellow rising through the ranks to become the first Vice Chancellor of Bini extraction in November 2009.
As vice chancellor, his tenure was one that towered over previous and succeeding Vice Chancellors, his vision of the University of Benin was indeed superlative, culminating in the University experiencing what many would call “Its finest hour”.
A fair man and very principled Oshodin travelled all his life through the path of justice, it did not matter who the oppressed man was or his ethnic origin. Oshodin also never used his office to enrich himself as many are wont to do , he had a modest view of life as he very much disliked any idea of an ostentatious life, he was much unlike his peers who used every avenue or opportunity to stupendously enrich themselves much to the detriment of the academic environment, staff welfare and academic excellence.
As both men ride into the sunset, it is my prayer that God will give their families the fortitude to bear the loss and men and women the wisdom to uphold their legacies for all to see.