On this fateful and historic day, 6 July 1967, federal troops under the command of Lt. Col. Yakubu Gowon, crossed over to Gakem which was then part of Biafra land, and fired the first shots at unarmed civilians at “Ushara Hills” and consequently ignited a bloody civil war that lasted for 30 months.
Gakem is a community in Bekwara LGA in Northern Cross River State. The demarcation between Gakem and its Benue neighbours, Vandeikya is a line of Melina trees popularly known as the “Lugard Wall”, named after then Colonial Governor-general, Lord Lugard, during whose reign the trees were planted.
In his book, The Forgotten Lunch Pad: Old Ogoja Province and the Untold Story of the Nigerian Civil War, Nkrumah Bakong-Obi drew attention to the abandoned relics that dot the epicentre of that war in Gakem Bekwara.
According to Bankong-Obi, “These relics are potential incoming spinning resources that self-imposed blindness, denial of our past and short-sightedness have prevented us from tapping into. I have challenged Nigerian leaders and indeed others who have managed this country in various spheres to tell the world why Gakem, where the first shot was fired has remained a desolate town. Virtually all parts of the defunct Ogoja province still bear scars of the war that swept through the area. The trenches are filling up, the Elekpa pond which the soldiers appropriated from the natives and other scars of war are still in Gakem, Obudu, Yala, Yakurr and other places in the former province. The implementation of the reconstruction, rehabilitation and reconciliation policy didn’t get to Ogoja where the physical trouble began. No form of rehabilitation – physical or psychological has been extended to the area to help fix the problems that the war created.
“It is disheartening that over fifty years after the civil war ended, not even a brick has been laid in Gakem to symbolize the recognition of that unfortunate event. It is even more sobering when one thinks that the bacons demarcating Northern from Southern Nigeria are still interred in Gakem, Ogoja, Obudu and other peripheral areas of the present Cross River State. It is only intelligent to say that Gakem is the symbol of Nigeria’s unity. Unfortunately, Nigeria has not deemed it important to honor the memory of this historic town.”
Someday, we know that the deed will be done….
Citizen Agba Jalingo.
Citizen Agba Jalingo is the publisher of CrossRiverWatch and writes from Lagos State.
NOTE: Opinions expressed in this article are strictly attributable to the author, Agba Jalingo and do not represent the opinion of CrossRiverWatch or any other organization the author works for/with.
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