Home OPINION COLUMNISTS Colonel Nyam: Exit Of A Bad Boy By Yawe Emmanuel

Colonel Nyam: Exit Of A Bad Boy By Yawe Emmanuel

YaweI remember April 22 1990 vividly. I was set for church service with members of my family on that Sunday morning when a friend called; he wanted me to tune to my radio as there was a coup in the country.
I tuned on my radio but what I heard was no coup speech. Even with my limited understanding of Nigeria, I came to the conclusion that this was nothing but a declaration of war! What to do in far away Yola with my little children? I sought divine intervention, pretended there was nothing a miss, dropped my family in the church and sped off.
At the Governor’s residence in Yola, I met the Military Governor, Group Captain Salihu Abubakar and some other top government officials discussing the strange developments. The military chaps present with our governor knew the officer making the declaration of war. They gave sketchy details of his career and expressed surprise at his rather bizarre action.
I also knew him. Gideon Orkar was the young lad we called Gwaza when we attended Apir Primary School together. His father, Mr. Orkar Chi was from Yaikyo village and our teacher at the Primary School. Gwaza went to Gindiri while I went to Bristow, schools that were run by American Missionaries. His senior brother, John Ngusha Orkar was a Phd student in America at the time and the missionaries sent him to teach our class at Bristow African history.
As I listened to Gwaza’s long, winding, senseless speech, I kept asking myself what could have turned my childhood friend into such a bad boy. Is it the injection we were told they administer on soldiers that turned his head?
His father was a God fearing and peaceful man-same with John, the historian. How could a child from such a Godly background declare war on his country, just like that?
Gideon Orkar was a Tiv man from the middle belt of Nigeria. His rambling declaration of war in Nigeria tried to advocate a case for the middle belt and the south. He was obviously trying to cash on the good will of the middle belt struggle of the late fifties and early 60’s. But he got it all wrong.
The middle belt struggle which was led by JS Tarka, a Tiv man did not call for dismemberment of Nigeria. The British charged him to court for ‘levying war against the Queen of England’ – the first and the last Nigerian to be so charged – but the charge could not hold. The call for a middle belt state was rational, patriotic and popular because the old north was too large and unwieldy as an administrative unit. In fact it dwarfed the other two regions put together thus making the federation lopsided and unsteady.
The decision by Orkar and his group to expel Sokoto, Borno, Katsina, Kano and Bauchi, states that have a predominant Muslim population from the Federal Republic of Nigeria was an indication that the coup was against Islam. On the other hand, the middle belt struggle of Tarka accommodated Muslims. In fact, when Ibrahim Imam, a Muslim and radical politician from Borno could not contest elections in his home state, Tarka brought him to Benue, gave him a Tiv name and a constituency where he contested and won. My big brother and friend in my Yola days, Ibrahim Jalingo, a Muslim, was National Secretary of the UMBC. No, the middle belt struggle of Tarka and the Tiv was not a struggle against Islam. It was a struggle for the fundamental human rights of all oppressed people of the north – Christians and Muslims.
If Orkar’s declaration of war on Nigeria was against the tenets of his family and his ethnic group, where did he get the poisonous idea? A few days after the failure of the coup, the names of the other coup makers were published. One name there – Col Nyam – caught my attention. I thought he was a Tiv man as Nyam means meat in the Tiv language. But he turned out to be a man from Cross River State. When he got wind of the imminent failure of the coup, he took to his heels and fled. I understand Gwaza had a chance to tow that line of cowardice but decided to face the music.
Col Nyam has never regretted the havoc he and his group caused the corporate existence of Nigeria by their lunacy of April 22 1990. From his exile, he kept rationalizing and even justifying the insanity of April 22.
On his return to Nigeria after state pardon, he has neither renounced the madness nor apologized to those who were unfairly murdered by his group. I understand he made peace with General Babangida whose bedroom he invaded that night and nearly killed the man and his lovable wife. If Babangida has forgiven him, that is their own problem. The man has been overwhelmed by his name that is literally translated to mean a man with a big heart.
Some of us who have no other country to run to and have no big hearts still have one or two issues with Col. Nyam and his promoters. Does he believe that this country is for all of us, Muslims, Christians, believers in various African traditional religions?
From all his pronouncements in exile and return to Nigeria, he appears not to give a damn about Nigeria as one country.
If he does not believe in Nigeria, why did President Goodluck Jonathan put him on a panel to discuss the future of Nigeria? And having watched him trying to engage Comrade Adams Oshiomole in a boxing bout in public, what stopped the President from giving him the sack?
Did the bad boy let the cat out of the bag, perhaps too soon?

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