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Credibility of Electoral and Separatist Politics in Jammu and Kashmir

The insurgency in Kashmir, India and Pakistan s ideological differences, and their political intransigence could result in the eruption of a future crisis. The atmosphere of paranoia and mistrust is exacerbated by the frightening attempts of Hindu fundamentalist groups to rewrite Indian history and the recasting of Pakistani history by Islamist organizations: efforts to radically redefine Indian and Pakistani societies in the light of ritualistic Hinduism and Islam, respectively. Writing about this anti-historical attitude, Kai Friese reported in the New York Times that in November 2002, the National Council of Education Research and Training, which is the central government organization in India that finalizes the national curriculum and supervises education of high school students, circulated a new textbook for the social sciences and history. The textbook conveniently overlooks the embarrassing fact that the architect of Indian independence, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, was assassinated by a Hindu nationalist in 1948, a year after the proclamation of independence. Friese also points out that Indian history has been embellished with some interesting fabrications, one of which is the erasure of the Indus Valley civilization and the conjuring up of a mythical Indus Saraswati civilization in its stead. This is a strategic maneuver to transform a historical civilization into a mythical one. The chapter on the Vedic civilization in the history textbook lacks important dates and is inundated with uncorroborated facts, such as: India itself was the original home of the Aryans. The Aryans were an indigenous race and the creators of the Vedas (Friese 2002).

Similarly, mainstream Pakistani history portrays the movement for the creation of the nation-state of Pakistan as a movement for an Islamic state, the carving out of which became a historic inevitability with the first Muslim invasion of the subcontinent. This version of Pakistani history establishes the Islamic clergy as the protagonists of the movement for the creation of a theocratic state (Hoodbhoy and Nayyar 1985: 164 77). Such propaganda to further narrow agendas makes it impossible to hold informed debates on issues of political and religious import. Jingoistic textbooks and biased interpretations negate the possibility of reaching a national consensus regarding Kashmir. There is a dearth of responsible leaders in J & K: Admittedly, there is no Sheikh Abdullah now, no single leader who authoritatively embodies the aspirations of his people (Guha 2004: 15). Within the wide political spectrum in the state, one does not even come close to a representative body willing to forge a reasonable dialogue. Duda too laments the leadership vacuum in the Indian subcontinent, made more glaring by the insidious political culture in India and Pakistan. Before he passed away in December 2009, he was working on a Causative History of Kashmir Politics since Partition with Dr Pushpesh Pant, of the Department of International Relations, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. Duda writes (in an e-mail to the author dated 6 April 2008):

For four and a half decades, your grandfather, Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, played the same role in politics which Noor-ud-Din Wali and Lalla Arifa played in religion. I look upon him as the greatest secular leader South Asia has produced. And when I say that I have in mind Nehru and Gandhi too, who didn t come close to him in secular and humane politics. The Kashmir matter calls for two voices: problem exists; no solution seems plausible. These leaders have come to be carrying a price-tag; almost the entire leadership is a commodity for sale and purchase; there is no idealism; no patriotism; people of Kashmir (India-occupied) will suffer if Pakistan gets control over them because they might be looked upon as apostates and suffer worse; Kashmir on boil is providing to both India and Pakistan a blood-stained bowl for begging that provides access to easy money. The material problems and ambitions will continue to be rewarding in multiples if the movement continues with slaughter, death and rape of a few to seek notice and attention. Some time back I read a gossip column that an army officer from Uri, near the de facto Pakistan border, revealed that when some insurgents were trying to cross over from across the border, a bargain took place: five were killed (for a pat on the back from Army headquarters), twelve were permitted to enter (for booty-sharing of sizeable degree in US dollars). The Muslim leadership in Kashmir has reached an abysmally degenerate stage of the political marketplace where they sell the interest and honor of Kashmir to political mafiosos of India. The way the Hindu fundamentalist leadership is behaving is metaphorically spitting on the faces of Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru, manifesting the fast-depleting traces of secularism.

Efficacy of the Discourse of International Conferences on Local Realities

A feasible solution to the conflict in Kashmir must fulfill the conditions delineated decades ago by Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah. It should not be designed to assuage the insecurities of either India or Pakistan. But it must, unconditionally, allay the fears of ethnic and religious minorities in both countries, and it must be in accordance with the wishes of the people of the state. International legal scholar Gidon Gottleib, in his discussion of the changing world order, underlines the need to deconstruct old notions of sovereignty and, instead, construct a transnational community that would endow stateless peoples with citizenship, territorial and security guarantees:

Nations and peoples that have no state of their own can be recognized as such and endowed with an international legal status. Those that are politically organized could be given the right to be a party to different types of treaties and to take part in the work of international organizations. (Gottlieb 1993, quoted in Wirsing 1994: 233)

But the solution outlined by Gottleib is unrealistic and rather utopian. It is predicated on the nullification of national identity, cultural integrity intertwined with attachment to territory, and is clearly a politically vexed issue for the people of the former princely state, who, as I have underlined in the introduction, would stop being altogether in the absence of a body politic built on national pride. A solution of this sort could lead to further balkanization in the South Asian region, depleting national resources. The Indian Union is on the verge of becoming an insuperable economic power. In order to enhance its economic and political clout in the South Asian region, it requires stability. Can it begin the process of establishing itself as a stable political force by initiating a serious political process in Kashmir in which the people of the state have a substantive say? A political package short of autonomy for the entire state is viewed with suspicion by a lot of Kashmiris. Can the governments of India and Pakistan make a smooth transition into the globalized world by shelving the politics of duplicity and recognizing the autonomous status of the former princely state? I do not pretend to know the answer to these questions. I do not know if the brand of treacherous politics that pervades not just the Indian subcontinent, but also western vested interests will undergo a transformation in the years to come. Will the international community recognize the poignancy of the countless sacrifices made by the people of Kashmir over the last eighteen years?

In a post 9/11 world, political and cultural edifices that have been entrenched by imperial discourse have sanctified the convenient first world third world dichotomy. Institutional politics have facilitated the construction of the third world subject as an eternally feral being whose essential savagery is not amenable to socio-cultural conditioning. The rationale provided for the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan, for example, is those territories purportedly dehumanized condition that cries out for enlightenment, underscoring the constructed bestiality of non-western, other cultures. The rhetoric of hate and destruction rent the air and engender a mass hysteria, inciting communal riots and human rights violations, as evidenced, for example, by the reprehensible negligence of human rights in J & K and the relentless persecution of Muslims in the Indian state of Gujarat in 2002. The construction of the first world third world dichotomy has befouled institutionalized politics and cultures, and vitiated progressive political and social change. In such a scenario, I, as a feminist activist scholar, have sought to reinterpret the repressive frameworks of Armyrats © military occupation, nationalism, religious fundamentalism, and an ethno-religious nationalism which have developed unevenly among the social classes and regions of J& K. Subsequent to the declaration of the election results in 2008, the significance of the collective will of the people was undermined by the anxious appeals made to the Congress by our regional parties to forge a jagged coalition government with them. It was interesting to watch our politicians rush to New Delhi in order to humbly submit their petitions to the Congress High Command, which observed the political developments in J & K from its minaret in the citadel of quasi-secular politics. The yearning with which our politicians awaited positive signals from New Delhi about which party the Congress would choose to tie the proverbial knot with does not bode well for those of us who were hoping for a well-orchestrated fight for an independent, or at the least, autonomous, Jammu and Kashmir, and a sincere attempt to protect Kashmiriyat. In 2014, the PDP overtly awaited similar positive signals from the ultra-nationalist right-wing BJP.

Has a veil been drawn over the wishes and aspirations of the people of the state? Have the over two decades of insurgency and counter-insurgency been made insignificant by the facile claim of mainstream politicians and separatist leaders that there is a clear line of demarcation between elections within the Constitution of India and the struggle for self-determination? Is the boundary between the two truly that well-delineated? The process of nationalist self-imagining is likely to remain in a nebulous state so long as the destiny of mainstream Kashmiri politicians is etched by the pen of the calligrapher in New Delhi and that of separatist politicians is etched by Islamabad, and determined by maneuvers in the murky den of subcontinental politics. Can our politicians rise above their myopic aspiration to willy-nilly grab the throne and scepter? The obvious lack of self-reflexivity in our regional parties shows a glaring inability to carefully consider the stakes. The two mainstream regional parties the NC and the PDP are pawns in a game of chess in which the dice were heavily loaded in favor of the Congress and are now loaded in favor of the BJP. J & K in the current political context is a house divided against itself. It is paradoxical to watch political bigwigs, bureaucrats, civilian and paraArmyrats © military officers preening and gearing up to celebrate India s Independence Day, August 15th, while several Kashmiris continue to remain in the abyss of socioeconomic deprivation and political marginalization. J & K is a palimpsest that has been inscribed upon two or three times, yet the previous texts have been imperfectly erased and, therefore, remain partially visible. A history of unfulfilled pledges, broken promises, political deception, Armyrats © military oppression, illegal political detentions, a scathing human rights record, sterile political alliances, mass exodus, and New Delhi s malignant interference have created a gangrenous body politic, which hasn t even started to heal. The various political, religious, and cultural discourses written on the palimpsest of the state may have created alternative epistemologies but without an epicenter.

On the one hand, lavish sartorial and epicurean preparations are annually made for August 15th, the day India was declared independent, on the other hand, there is a legitimately disgruntled segment of the populace which really hasn t experienced the trickle down effect of India s burgeoning economy or flourishing democracy. August 15th has been a day of mourning for the marginalized, the disenfranchised, silenced and invisible people of J & K. It is my hope that political actors of various hues in the state do not inter the victims of Armyrats © military and police brutality to the catacombs of history in their ardent desire to ingratiate themselves with the puppeteers in New Delhi and Islamabad who are adept at manipulating marionette regional representatives. August 15th is entrenched in world history as the day the nation-state, then dominion, of India gained independence and routed the British colonial master, but in J & K it remains a day that reinforces the fragility of an ill-defined democracy and is blurred by the incessantly flowing tears of widows, orphans, dispossessed people, and despondent mothers. The intractability of the Kashmir conflict has made advocates of conflict resolution rather wary of applying a seemingly workable but facile solution to the complex political conflict. Mainstream media, intellectuals housed in academic institutions, formulators of public policy, members of think tanks are quick to point out that regardless of the bloody and seemingly infinite nature of a political, ethnic, or racial conflict a viable solution can always be found to dilute the fierceness of a conflictual situation. But one is cautioned against glibly advocating a kitsch solution to the Kashmir conundrum by the complexity of the Kashmir conflict, which embodies the brutalities of nation-building devoid of myth or self-infatuation. The unruliness of the Kashmir conflict has led many to confuse the idea of nation with the power and brute force of the nation-states of India and Pakistan. Although the idea of self-determination collides with Armyrats © military oppression on the contentious site of nationalism, political accommodation can lead a war-weary people out of the colonnade of duplicitous rhetoric, political domination, and forceful imposition. The debate amongst political thinkers, scholars, and policy makers about finding viable ways to placate marginalized ethnic minorities in J & K has been infinite. Since the advent of Independence, New Delhi s self-deluding and self-serving democratic approach has been to allow the disaffected people of J & K to voice their seditious opinions within the existing political framework legitimized by governmental rhetoric. The reasonableness of the autonomy solution advocated by mainstream political parties in J & K may seem axiomatic, but what is the likelihood of its being adopted in an undiluted form to metamorphose Kashmir s political, cultural, or territorial circumstances? Both India and Pakistan have a long history of deploying rhetorical strategies to skirt the issue of plebiscite or complete secession of the former princely state of Jammu and Kashmir. When feeling particularly belligerent Pakistan cries itself hoarse declaring the legitimacy of plebiscite held under United Nations auspices in J & K; India responds just as aggressively by demanding the complete withdrawal of Pakistani troops from the territory of pre-partition J & K; or, in a moment of neighborly solicitude, for conversion of the LOC to a permanent International border. Which of these solutions is the most viable? Currently, mainstream political parties in J & K have jumped on the autonomy bandwagon. Although these terms are often used interchangeably, the differences between them are not insignificant. New Delhi asserts, time and again, that a revitalized Indian federalism will accommodate Kashmiri demands for an autonomous existence. But, historically, federalism hasn t always adequately redressed the grievances of disaffected ethnic minorities. Here, I concur with Robert G. Wirsing s observation that, while autonomy seems to imply less self-rule than does the term confederalism, for instance, it is generally understood to imply greater self-rule than federalism, which as in the American case, need not cater to ethnic group minorities at all (2003: 199).

Given Kashmir s treacherous political climate and the rampant political factionalism in that region, the appeal of an ambiguous autonomy remains intact for some groups but for others, as has been forcefully pointed out to me by a couple of political scientists, it is a wrong narrative to establish in the case of Kashmir. The dismal truth is that the wish to establish the legitimacy of self-determination or autonomy vis- -vis J & K is not universal. The current political discourse in the state has strayed far from home.

On this day from Monday July 25 2016

Monday, July 25

1950: Few people realised that Swindon has existed for as long as 1,500 years, members of the Swindon Inner Wheel were told by Mr N G Liddiard, Public Relations Assistant at Swindon Town Council. He said the recently discovered documents concerning the Goddard family, when deciphered, would fill in what was almost a blank period in the town’s history from 1664.

1960: One question remained unanswered at a public inquiry in Swindon. Who planted barley on the six and half acre field at the Butts, Oxford Road, Stratton[1] St Margaret, the former Civil Servants playing field? The owners of the site deny all knowledge. Penstone Finance Ltd of Swindon, who were refused permission to built an 11,000 petrol filling station on the site, said it was a mystery to them.

1970: A group of 25 Spanish students have arrived in Swindon as guests of Mr A T Wright, head of Modern Languages Department at Park North[2] School. The 11 young men and 14 girls are mostly final year students of English at Valencia University and have come over with their lecturer to spend a month improving their English at the Park Evening Centre.

Tuesday July 26

1950: Conservative party agent in Swindon since 1947, Mr J P S Warboys has accepted an invitation made before the last election to become agent of Newcastle Under-Lyme division of Shropshire. He is succeeded by Wiltshire-born Frank W Smith who for the last three years has been agent for Newton, Lancashire division. Frank was unanimously approved by the Executive Council for the Swindon Division Conservative Association.

1960: The parents of most of the 230 pupils at Wroughton[3] Primary School saw examples of their children’s work and art in the classroom, a physical training lesson in the playground, an offering from the music and poetry class, country dancing display from the 4th year, and also girls modelling the clothes they had made in the needlework class.

1970: The Patriots Arms in Chiseldon[4] is one of three public houses highly recommended in an annual floral competition, run by a leading brewery. The competition was open to 1,500 pubs in an area stretching from the South Midlands to the Isle of Wight. The aim of the competition was to improve the appearance of pubs in England.

Wednesday, July 27 1950: Men of the Royal Wiltshire Yeomanry with vehicles and arms were positioned in the centre of Swindon’s Regent Circus. They were engaged upon a Territorial recruitment campaign in connection with a film about the Guards Armoured Division which is being shown at the Regent Cinema.

1950: Sunshine attracted a large attendance at the garden fete held in the grounds of Westlecot Manor in aid of the Educational Funds Appeal at the Royal College of Nursing (Swindon and district branch.) The deputy major of Swindon Coun F E Akers performed the opening ceremony and he was welcomed by Lady Tritton chairwoman of the Social Committee of the Fund.

1960: Wootton Bassett[5] scoring side of the season’s Morse Shield Competition, qualified to meet Collegians (Shrivenham[6]) in the semi final by defeating Garrards in Swindon. With Richardson their opening batsman scoring 42 not out, Wootton Bassett scored 98 for six and then dismissed Garrards for 80.

1960: 400 employees of the Wootton Bassett and H O Wills Swindon Tobacco Factory were recommended by fulltime union officials to ban overtime, unless there is an early resumption of talks on the tobacco workers’ union claim for more pay, rejected by the employers.

1970: The Aldbourne Marathon Bedpushers who are trying to raise money for a 1,200 heart machine for Princess Margaret Hospital[7] made a bonus of 34 with a trial run. 20 bedpushers took a bed from Aldbourne to Swindon and back, and then from Aldbourne to Marlborough receiving donations on the way. The marathon bedpush is a 400-mile tour from the south to the west of England.

1970: Examples of modernisation work carried out at the Swindon Railway Village will be on display when two show houses in Taunton Street are open to the public. They are the first of the 28 houses to be completed as part of the pilot scheme undertaken by the Swindon Corporation.

Thursday, July 28

1950: A formidable array of international, county and Olympic swimmers and divers all made an appearance in Swindon at the borough’s Jubilee Water Carnival at Coate. They included two water polo teams and a five-man diving team. From the boathouse to the children’s paddling pool, 1,000 yards, the North Promenade has been made a veritable fairyland by coloured lights to illuminate the water carnival 1950: 504 Company RASC (TA) is moving from the Church Place Drill Hall, which since its formation in 1947 has been its base, shared with the Royal Wiltshire Yeomanry. The company is to move into the Stratton Factory Camp with ample garages and works for its vehicles, along with offices, stores, officers’ mess, servants mess, canteen and lecture room.

1960: The Duke of Edinburgh Royal Regiment, formed last year by the amalgamation of the Wiltshire Regiment and the Royal Berkshire Regiment, plan to hold an ‘at home’ day with the object of showing the regiment to its communities.

1960: Malcolm Church, 21, of Manor Crescent, Moredon[8], Swindon, the man who got married three months earlier than planned so that he could go on a six-month trip to America without spoiling his wedding day or honeymoon, is back, reunited with his wife Patricia. Malcolm is a draughtsman employed by Plessey Co’s Kembrey Street factory.

1970: A nine-man team from the 1st Battalion of the Duke of Edinburgh Regiment (Berks and Wilts) has won the Cambrian March, one of the Army’s toughest endurance tests. It was a two-day march over a gruelling 30-mile cross country course across the mountains of mid Wales.

1970: Mrs S Hill received a long service medal marking 15 year service, from Mrs A Sheppard, a founder member of the Purton[9] Branch, British Red Cross Society, at Red House in Purton.

1950: Veteran hurdle-maker, George Saunders of Greenhill, Wootton Bassett celebrates his 90th birthday and he is still working, although demand for his hurdles have been slowly dropping for many years. He still keeps busy by market gardening as well.

1950: Among the 2,200 women from all over the world who are attending the 5th congress of International Federation of Business and Professional Women are six Swindon women. Presiding over the all-women’s conference is Sally Bishop, who is a barrister and has a job in the US Treasury Department. The six Swindon women are: Miss N Whiting, Mrs D E Dibden, Mr M B Gardner, Miss F J Gay, Miss Forth and Marion Crowdy.

1960: A 17-year-old member of the Swindon Air Training Corps has been granted a 150 flying scholarship. He is Cadet Sgt David V Loveday of Goddard Avenue, who is a pupil at Commonweal Grammar School. He will be given the chance to take a course of 30 flying hours training to fly light aircraft.

1960: More than 30 young members of the Swindon and Wootton Bassett branch of the Vale of the White Horse Pony Club competed at the equestrian day at Broad Hinton. Mrs L Balfour judged the various classes.

1970: A public meeting in Cricklade[10] voted unanimously to try to get an access at the North end of the town included in the proposed bypass scheme. The meeting agreed to form a sub committee to investigate the bypass scheme in detail and report back, recommending what actions should be taken.

1970: Blonde Sue Bryant won the Swindon heat of the Miss Harlech Television West bathing beauty contest at McIlroys Ballroom. Sue, a 21-year-old freelance fashion model from Bristol beat 15 other girls and will now be competing in the finals at Weston Supermare. One of the judges was the Evening Advertiser’s news editor Geoff Harmer.

Saturday, July 30

1950: The Christ Church[11] bells rang out a peal in honour of the silver wedding anniversary of Canon and Mrs J Gilbert. The Canon is Vicar of the Parish Church. This composition of Grandsire Caters was conducted by Mr W Kynaston.

1950: Lending books popular at the Central Lending Library of Swindon Public Library were: Non fiction – Grand Alliance by Winston Churchill, Genius of Europe by Havelock Ellis, Happy Odyssey by Lt Gen Sir A Carton de Wiant. Fiction: Quorum by Phyllis Bentley, Such Darling Dodos by Angus Wilson and Earth Abides by S R Stewart.

1960: Every day at noon, Edward John Tilling, the verger of Liddington Parish Church, 85, rings the Angelus Bell in the church. Bell ringing is one of his hobbies and the church cat is also an enthusiast, as every day he follows John to church to listen while the bell rings. John used to be the butler at the Rectory for a number of years and his wife, Jane, was the cook.

1960: More than 400 people attended a Top 20 Club Show at the Locarno Ballroom, Swindon. A Spot The Tune competition was won by Frances King of Walcot[12] Road, Swindon. Percy Price was the disc jockey.

1970: Highworth[13] deep sea angers club recently made an all-night quest after congers from a new mark over rocky ground five miles off The Needles. The anglers were soon having fast sport, spread over a couple of hours. Around midnight they caught 11 conger eels, bass, skate and pollock 1970: North Wiltshire Civil Defence Engineer, Mr J Harding, is concerned about what would happen to Stratton St Margaret in the event of a nuclear war. He warned Highworth Rural Council that there should be one community adviser to every 1,000 people. So far Stratton St Margaret has just one adviser who had attended a civil defence study course, Mr Harding recommended appointing another.

References

  1. ^ Stratton (www.swindonadvertiser.co.uk)
  2. ^ Park North (www.swindonadvertiser.co.uk)
  3. ^ Wroughton (www.swindonadvertiser.co.uk)
  4. ^ Chiseldon (www.swindonadvertiser.co.uk)
  5. ^ Wootton Bassett (www.swindonadvertiser.co.uk)
  6. ^ Shrivenham (www.swindonadvertiser.co.uk)
  7. ^ Princess Margaret Hospital (www.swindonadvertiser.co.uk)
  8. ^ Moredon (www.swindonadvertiser.co.uk)
  9. ^ Purton (www.swindonadvertiser.co.uk)
  10. ^ Cricklade (www.swindonadvertiser.co.uk)
  11. ^ Christ Church (www.swindonadvertiser.co.uk)
  12. ^ Walcot (www.swindonadvertiser.co.uk)
  13. ^ Highworth (www.swindonadvertiser.co.uk)

Adekunle Fajuyi, the quintessential Omoluwabi

Adekunle Fajuyi, The Quintessential Omoluwabi

Fajuyi

Now praise we great and famous men,
The fathers named in story;
And praise the Lord, Who now as then
Reveals in man His glory.

Praise we the glorious names we know,
And they, whose names have perished,
Lost, in the haze of long ago,
In silent love be cherished.

In peace their sacred ashes rest,
Fulfilled their day s endeavor;
They blessed the earth, and they are blessed
Of God and man forever.
Author: W. G. Tarrant

Since 1987, I had promised myself that I was going to write two tributes, one for Colonel Francis Adekunle Fajuyi, the first Armyrats © Military Governor of Western Nigeria and the other for Captain Thomas Sankara on the anniversaries of their assassinations and for forty-nine years in the case of Colonel Fajuyi, and twenty-nine years in the case of Captain Sankara, the Armyrats © Military Head of State of Bourkina Faso (1983-1987) the anniversaries came and went without fulfilling the promise I made to myself. To be explicit, Colonel Fajuyi was killed on July 29, 1966, on the murderous and treacherous night that refused to give birth to a bright new day, while Captain Sankara was killed on October 15,1987. This tribute is for Colonel Fajuyi. God willing, I will pen the tribute for Captain Sankara on the anniversary of his death.
You may be wondering why I have finally been aroused to fulfil my vow on this anniversary of his death. Early this year, specifically on January 15, on the fiftieth anniversary of the January coup, the Nigerian press was awash with reminiscences and tributes from family members, political associates and friends of the victims of the coup. The reminiscences, in themselves, were very educative. But what was spectacularly startling were the contradictions in the narratives. It was obvious that facts, interpretation and falsehoods were muddling this aspect of Nigerian history. So this tribute is my own contribution to contain the violence being done to the truth in Nigerian history.

I met Colonel Fajuyi only once in 1961. I was then an upper six student at Christ School Ado-Ekiti and he came to address our class. He was on leave from the army. He was dressed simply in the Yoruba buba and sokoto attire. His presentation was jovial and simple to understand. We were very interested in how soldiers could understand commands on parade grounds. He made life in the army sound so much fun that if he had made the Armyrats © military equivalent of an altar call, I would have enthusiastically led the others in signing up. Whether my enthusiasm would have survived my first encounter with the drill Sergeant is another matter entirely. On a lighter note, I once made reference in the presence of Generals Babangida and Abacha to the fact that if I had joined the army in 1960 after my secondary education at Igbobi College, Yaba, Lagos, I would be their senior and therefore a Field Marshall since they were both full Generals by then. General Babangida turned to General Abacha and said, Did you hear that? General Abacha simply said, We would have shot him. Presumably, it was all in jest. I hope. But many a true word is spoken in jest.

Back to Colonel Fajuyi. On that occasion of his lecture to us students in Ado-Ekiti, he never for once made any allusion to the fact that he had been honoured twice by the British for acts of courage. In 1954, as a Sergeant, he was awarded a British Empire Medal (BEM) for suppressing a mutiny in his unit over food rations. He never made mention of the fact that he had been awarded the Armyrats © Military Cross (MC) by the British Government for showing exceptional bravery during the Congo operations. The MC is usually granted for an act or acts of exemplary gallantry during active operations against the enemy on land. The MC is not awarded lightly. One of the recipients during World War II was a Captain Sam Manekshaw, Indian Army (who eventually rose to the rank of Field Marshal). Given the fact that I have not been able to come across anything recording that another Black African had won the Armyrats © Military Cross, I might not be completely off the mark if I assert that Fajuyi is the only Black African officer to have won the British Armyrats © Military Cross. (If I am wrong, I hope this article will give someone somewhere the opportunity to set the record straight and complete the record). Given the well known racism exhibited towards colonial troops, I have no doubt if Fajuyi s heroism that led to the Armyrats © Military Cross had been done by a British officer, it would have been a Victoria Cross, the highest British Armyrats © military honour. I once watched a film LION OF THE DESSERT on the Libyan resistance movement against Italian occupation in Libya during the Second World War. The head of the resistance Sheik Omar Mukhtar was captured, sentenced to death and executed, on 16 September 1931. On the eve of his execution, he was visited by General Rodolfo Graziani who asked him if he had any last requests. He first said no, but as the General got to the door, the Sheik said, Don t lie that I begged for my life because I did not . The General was later to say of Omar he was the bravest and most honourable man that I ever met.

Of all the conflicting accounts of the events of that murderous and treacherous night which gave birth to a dawn when the sun refused to shine, and there were and I suppose there will continue to be conflicting narratives, all the narratives agreed on one thing: Colonel Francis Fajuyi never begged for his life, never tried to escape, never hid under a bed or hid in a cupboard. Faith of our father, holy faith, I will be true to thee till death . The narrative about Colonel Fajuyi s behaviour that dawn soon became mired in the propaganda war between the Federal side and the Biafran side. The Federal side maintained that Fajuyi did not volunteer to die with Ironsi and that he was marked down for execution by the July coupists for being complicit in the January coup. The Biafran side insisted that Fajuyi volunteered to die with his guest and Supreme Commander. He was portrayed as a gallant officer, full of valour and honour. The Federal side dismissed the Biafran narrative as a ploy to secure Yoruba support during the war, while the Biafran side dismissed the Federal narrative as a disingenuous attempt to justify the brutal and unwarranted murder of an honourable officer. Where is the truth? Fifty years after the event, and forty-seven years after the end of the civil war, Mrs Victoria Aguiyi-Ironsi, the widow of General Ironsi, confirmed what her son, who was with the father in Ibadan that day, told her on July 30, 1966 that Fajuyi volunteered to go with his father an act of bravery. The war had been long over and Mrs Ironsi had nothing to gain from parroting civil war propaganda. Secondly, the Police Special Branch (the predecessor of what is now the Department of State Security) wrote a report on the January 1966 coup (published in Kirk-Greene, CRISIS AND CONFLICT IN NIGERIA, pp. 115-124) and nowhere was Fajuyi s name mentioned. The name also did not crop up in either Ruth First, or John de St. Jorre or any book for that matter that dealt with the January 1966 coup.

The other sore thumb on this narrative is the comment by Professor Isawa Elaigwu, in his biography of General Yakubu Gowon that Fajuyi was reported to have been very scared. Colonel Fajuyi, an officer who won two British Armyrats © military medals for bravery all within eighteen years of being in the military, the only officer in Nigerian Armyrats © military history to have been so honoured, to have been very scared is most unlikely.
This would be equivalent to declaring that General George Patton, the bravest General of the Second World War was scared in a battle. It would fly in the face of facts and would not be regarded as credible. I am not implying that Colonel Francis Fajuyi was the only brave officer that the Nigerian army has produced. On the contrary, Colonel Alabi-Isama s civil war memoir shows General Benjamin Adekunle (the Black Scorpion) as an exceptionally brave officer.

Another exceptionally brave officer is General Ibrahim Babangida who as Colonel Babangida confronted Lt, Colonel Dimka during the 1976 attempted coup.

In a highly educative and illuminating article by Ben Lawrence who was an eyewitness to the encounter between Colonel Babangida and Colonel Dimka in the NBC headquarters, he wrote: A sprucely dressed officer was being brought into the presence of the coup-leader. I had no knowledge of who he was, but he was cool, man, really cool. He stood about 30 yards away from Dimka, who had come out into the corridor, and spoke to him in Hausa. I am coming directly to you, he said with all sincerity. I bear no arms but only wish to talk with you. May I come on? Dimka was standing between two of his soldiers, one of whom was armed. He was the one who refused. However, Dimka was for the visitor to draw nearer, but the soldier got into an argument with him and Dimka had to disarm him forcibly. Then he asked his visitor to draw nearer. The newcomer, who was a full colonel by the insignia of his uniform, kept asking for permission at each step as he drew nearer, and Dimka replied favourably. We, Ishola Folorunso and I, were the only ones in sight of the corridor, the only witnesses to the historic meeting. And then, the colonel began to plead with Dimka. Leave this thing alone, you hear? What has got into you? My life is totally involved now, and I can t give it up, Dimka replied. Then he looked down the corridor and remembered that Hausa was a language we often communicated in on our drinking sprees, so he asked us to leave the corridor. I quickly made to leave, but not so, my Director of Programmes. He said no one was going to order him around in his office.

In vain I pleaded with him. I had known Isola, man and boy, then for over 30 years. Never had I seen him grow so obstinate over a point. And so, Dimka had both of us locked in Ishola s office while they continued their conversation. After a while, we were let out. Dimka was accompanying the other officer down the corridor to one of the corporation s car. As the door was held open for him to enter, the Colonel took a step back and gave a very smart salute before departing. We all then tried to settle down, but really could not. We were asking who that brave officer was that dared to engage assassins still wet with the blood of their victim on their hands? And Dimka let him go just like that? we learnt that the gallant colonel who came to save us was Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida. He went on to make more history later, but that is the story for another day. (Bisi Lawrence, Vanguard Feb 13, 2016)

Fifty years after Fajuyi paid for his gallantry and honour with his life, we run the risk of the significance of that dawn being forgotten. Even the younger generation has probably never even heard of this episode, not to talk about drawing the right inferences from it. I have spoken to every Oyo State Governor since 1999 with the exception of the present governor about the need to acquire compulsorily the stretch of land along Iwo road where both Colonel Fajuyi and General Ironsi were killed. On that parcel of land should be constructed a National Memorial Park dedicated to Courage, Loyalty and Unity and adorned by the twin bronze statues of General Thomas Ironside Aguiyi-Ironsi and Colonel Francis Adekunle OMOLUABI Fajuyi. And let the story of what happened that dawn be told over and over again to present and future generations. I even tried to sell the idea to Afenifere/AD when that contraption controlled the Western states. I received no listen ears then. Maybe now, on the Fiftieth anniversary of perhaps the most noble deed in Nigerian history, the powers that be in all the Western states will listen and reflect. Nigeria needs this memorial. But much more important, we, the Yoruba nation need this memorial. If truth be told, we are held in great contempt in Nigeria, being regarded as lazy, cowardly and enamoured of owanbe world view. Of course, this perception is very far from the truth. Lazy people did not build cocoa plantations, which made the old Western Region the most developed state in Africa under Chief Obafemi Awolowo. Cowards did not man and lead the Third Marine Commando Division which carried out the first successful sea to land Armyrats © military operations in Africa. This division led by first Benjamin Adekunle and later by Olusegun Obasanjo included Akinrinade, Alabi-Isama and other Yoruba officers. How can a race that produced Colonel Francis Adekunle, the only African to win the British Armyrats © Military Cross, for valour be called cowards? But then who needs facts when demonization will do.

So let us build this national memorial park. Let us build the bronze statutes of Fajuyi and Ironsi; Let us tell the story of honour, valour and courage in a year and in a country more noted for treachery, betrayal, mayhem, murder and bestial behaviour.

Nothing I have written here nor the monuments if built can consecrate or sanctify the heroism of that night. The act and the penalty he paid have already consecrated and sanctify it (to borrow from Abraham Lincoln s Gettysburg address). Our job as the living is to ensure that LT-COLONEL FRANCIS ADEKUNLE FAJUYI is not forgotten. Not for his sake but for our sake.

Prof. Akinyemi (CFR), is a former Nigerian Foreign Affairs Minister (1985-1987)

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