Tributes in Honor of General Philip Efiong
(November 18, 1925 - November 6, 2003)
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1925 - 2003
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The entire nation shares your loss for, as you know, your father played an active role at a decisive moment in our nation’s history.  His place in the annals of Nigeria’s evolution as a nation is assured.

 

He will be warmly remembered by his immediate community for his leadership, by the Nigerian Army for his professionalism in service and by the entire nation for his exemplary courage and initiative, which saved many lives.

 

In my interaction with him over the years, I was opportuned to observe at close quarters the sterling characteristics that marked him out as a leader of men and worthy ambassador of his people.  In transition, he has bequeathed this honourable legacy to you and subsequent generation of Nigerians.

 

Chief Olusegun Obasanjo

President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria

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Tribute to General Philip Efiong:  A Biafran hero is gone

 

The boom sound of artillery shook the land

Staccato echo of rifle fire permeated the still air,

As the rancid smell of death hung eerily over the air

More are cut down by hell fire from the wicked

 

The blood of the innocent here repose

Spilled with sadistic glee by those who oppress

Like hungry vultures they lie in wait

Final assault on departed souls on their minds

 

Moved by the holocaust unfolding

And palpable inaction by the world community,

A solemn oath in his mind he took

To see justice served in time

 

Stoic and unwavering in his belief;

Eyes set on victory and triumph of the oppressed,

Lust for power not his style;

Betrayal of brethren not on his mind

 

When hopes diminished and all seemed lost;

The onerous mantle fell on him

His life at stake and the world watching

A dignified end to the genocide he assured

 

A true soldier of our generation he was;

Gave all he had so many would live

Selfless service to a nation in need

And selfless quest to see justice done

 

Egalitarianism for all he sought

A fight he fought with zeal and vigour

But the wicked jaws of death came calling

With a damper on the gains thus made

 

But success is not always measured

By what the human eye can see

Intent and sincerity of purpose do count

He gave it all to the Land of the Rising Sun

 

The Biafran hero with the heart of gold is gone

A reverent place in the hearts of many he occupies

The General who saved the lives of many

The brave General with grace, dignity and candour

 

Adieu General Philip Efiong

 

Alfred Obiora Uzokwe

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           

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Excerpts from OBONG (General) PHILIP EFIONG: A TRIBUTE TO AN UNCOMMON NIGERIAN (Parts 1 & 2)

General Efiong’s life is significant for a number of reasons, which include but are not limited to:

 

a.       His wise and masterful handling of Biafra’s surrender

b.      His efforts in ensuring the return of Ojukwu from exile

c.       His efforts at securing the rights and privileges of former members of the Nigerian army of eastern origin

d.      His efforts to preserve the facts of the civil war from intentional and dubious adulteration and revisionism

e.      The hostile and unfriendly attitude of Nigeria’s federal government towards him, including denial of his military entitlements

f.        His determination and conviction that his civil war role was for the good of the country and therefore refusal to be intimidated by the subsequent post-war federal governments

g.       His post-war relationship with the Igbos.

 

General Efiong’s handling of Biafra’s surrender is one of the most tactical and devoted maneuvers ever seen on the Nigerian scene.  Those who do not appreciate the depth of it may not have appreciated what was at stake as Biafra capitulated.

 

But beyond Efiong’s tactical and dexterous handling of the surrender that ensured maximal salvage of Igbo lives at the end of the war, the Akangkang Ibiono Ibom did not relent in his efforts after the war to set the records right.  He did that with superb success.

 

General Efiong’s zeal to defend the true facts of the war never diminished, even to his last breath.

 

Again, beyond his roles in Biafra’s surrender and efforts to set the records right, General Efiong spent a great deal of effort trying to secure the military benefits and entitlements of the former Nigerian soldiers of eastern origin who fought on the Biafran side.  Obviously, like many others after the war, it would have been easier for General Efiong to go behind and try to use whatever connections he had in the army to secure only his own benefits.  But true to his form, he thought it a mark of betrayal and insensitivity to fight only for his own benefits while the rest of the affected eastern officers were left in the rain.

 

Whether Igbos like it or not, Major General Philip Efiong has become a part of the nuclear fabric of Igbo history.  Any presentation of Igbos history that lacks General Efiong’s role is incomplete and probably written by an enemy.

 

This is after all one who is not only a friend of the Igbos but one that has given his sweat and blood more for the Igbo cause than indeed that of his own people, and who believed that the inability of the eastern people to present a common front has left them divided and looted by being pitched against one another. 

 

May the Akangkang Ibiono Ibom rest in peace and may another like him rise to take his place.

 

Nnaemeka L. Aneke, MD

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Death, how dare you?

 

Death, you are a coward; you sneak in when everyone is preoccupied with other life struggles

 

Death, you are mean

 

Death, you reap where you did not sow

 

Death, you are a thief

 

Death, you steal the most precious thing in the house

 

Death, you are wicked, you take the best and leave the worthless

 

Death, you take the honourable and leave the dishonourable, you take the contenders and leave the pretenders, to parade around as leaders.

 

Chei aru emela.

 

People’s General Efiong is a different breed; Peoples General Efiong came from the old school.  He is from my grandfather’s time and generation.  People’s General Efiong is from the time when men were still called honourable and they merited the honour.  Efiong is from the generation when one could explain the source of his wealth, not go to Lagos and come back six months later a multi millionaire.  The People’s General comes from a time when stealing made you a thief, not a 419er.  General Efiong came from a time when men were men, when the owner of the house could shout to an armed robber “who is there?” and the Armed robber would run, not the other way round.  Philip Efiong was a soldier’s soldier.  He was in military service when the military was considered a noble profession, not a means of dipping one’s hands into the public treasury, or a quick route to riches.  Major General Philip Efiong earned his stripes the old fashion way, he earned it, not steal it, when that rank “Major General” was earned in battle field not by political connection or federal character. In the days of Efiong there was no federal character, only merit.

 

My heart is heavy today; I shed tears not because this honourable man, larger than life has been snatched away by death.  My heart is heavy because I watch dishonourable men like Obasanjo occupying government houses.  My heart is heavy because cowards are parading around with motorcades and orderlies all over the place.  

 

Philip Efiong is gone, but he will live in our hearts and in history forever. 

 

Nnamdi N. Nwuda

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As a Nigerian, I want, by this small piece, to join the masses of Nigerians in mourning the passing and transition of a great Nigerian, General Philip Efiong, the impact of whose life is yet to be fully appreciated.  There is no doubt in my mind that by the time history fully analyses and appreciates the impact and significance of General Efiong’s life, few Nigerians would be able to match his historical contribution to the country.

 

As an Igbo, I will continue to be indebted to General Philip Efiong for his masterful handling of the surrender in 1970, his efforts in the return of General Ojukwu from exile, his relentless effort to secure the rights and privileges of former Nigerian officers and men of Eastern origin and his quest to maintain the true facts of the civil war from adulteration and pollution, the last of which we have not seen….

 

What a vacuum that cannot be filled. 

 

Adieu!

 

Nnaemeka L. Aneke, MD

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…that your father was a great man can not be overemphasized and that he left behind a great legacy in history and in his children does not go unnoticed….  

 

'Goke Omidiran

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…His place in Nigerian history is assured and rest assured that the good Lord has also reserved a place for him in Heaven….

 

Ben, Ime and Debra Edokpayi

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It is sad to know that a great and gentle icon of Nigerian history is dead.  May God be with you and the whole family at this time of need.

 

Nkem Okoro

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It is a general feeling that he was a good man and by God’s Grace that will be HIS verdict as well.

 

Chichi and Emeka Nwandu

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Papa will never be forgotten.  He will always be remembered for living, and not for dying.

 

Chineme

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General Efiong was a great noble leader and a true general who never turned his back on his people under any circumstances.  We thank him for his noble leadership during and after the war and we also pray that his soul would be in the hands of Almighty God who already has a special place in His kingdom for him.

 

Mr. Dominic Anah

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History looks not only at how a man conducts himself when given the mantle of leadership, but how such individuals have been able to handle the post and the potential intoxications of power.  That being said, General Efiong could have clung on to power by needlessly prolonging the war (and thus the suffering of the Biafrans) but he chose to forego any such trappings.  He saw a greater good in accepting the inevitability of Biafran defeat and hence he opted to spare us further agony.  Since the end of the war, little has been heard from General Efiong.  He stayed away from the rigours of everyday political chaos that has seen the deterioration of civility in Nigeria.  By so doing, he lived to be remembered for his gallantry.

 

On behalf of all people who suffered the horrors of the Biafran war and in remembrance of a time when all south-eastern Nigerians acted with a sense of common destiny, I bid farewell with a twenty-one gun salute to Late General Philip Efiong.  A gallant man to the end.

 

A.C. Mekkam, M.D

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General Philip Efiong was a true Biafran and I am glad to have served under him as a soldier.  I will never forget his contributions to the efforts of the people of Biafra to become a sovereign nation, a nation of peace loving men, women and children.  We were robbed of that effort but posterity will never forget those who truly believed.  Take heart and May God continue to guide and protect you (Mrs. Efiong) and your family.

 

Ephraim E. Oduche, a true Biafran Soldier, Always

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…allow me to express my sincere condolence on your father's passing – an unsung Ibibio and Nigerian hero.

 

…the shared experience of Biafra and the fact that your father offered my half sister, Dara Utit, sanctuary and protection during the War, serves to add profundity and impact to your father's passing.

 

Bassey Utit

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It's with deep regrets and heartfelt sympathy that we received the passing away of the most honourable and loyal Army General in the entire universe.  The late General Efiong was obviously a rare breed in his principles and convictions as well as in his generous gift of foresight.  He'll be very much missed.  With the privilege of hindsight, wouldn't it have been good to have started an NGO that would groom the future generations of Nigerians on the above qualities of his while he was still with us?

 

As an Ibo man in the US it would be hard to miss the opportunity to express my sympathy for the death of a rare human personality.  MAY THE GOOD LORD ACCEPT HIS SOUL IN HEAVEN AND GUARD AND PROTECT THE LOVED ONES HE LEFT BEHIND!

 

Emman Nwatah

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The Igbo community in Canada is planning a “Biafra Memorial 2004.”  They were making plans to bring General Efiong to Canada as Guest of Honour for the occasion…until they were told that General Efiong died.

 

It is gratifying that our people in Canada wanted to bring General Efiong to Canada to recognize his gallantry, leadership, integrity and sacrifice during the Nigeria-Biafra War.  For me, Biafra is a group of oppressed and terrorized people seeking safety, security, justice, freedom, peace and progress.  I vividly remember discussing with General Efiong about Biafra and…the War.  Like me, he cannot stand injustice and the massacre of innocent people for any reason.  We shared exactly the same principles and values for which we were prepared to die if necessary like Nelson Mandela.  It is a rare quality to see an African who stands up for principles and would not sell-out for money and status.  He is a Biafran Hero.  After the war, while many people were busy currying favours with the Nigerian power elite, General Efiong remained true to his principles and “suffered” materially for it.  Even his pension was not paid by Nigeria.  But I know General Efiong was spiritually a wealthy and blessed man.  History will remember him as a Hero while the present unprincipled Nigerian power elite will be forgotten.  A Godly man never dies, so, General Efiong's spirit will never die.

 

The Efiong family should know that General Efiong is being appreciated and honoured in Canada.

 

God Bless.

 

Emeka Njoku (London, Canada)

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...I am writing to express my deepest sympathy to you and your family for the death of your beloved dad, “The man of the people,” General Philip Efiong.  He is the type that Africa or Nigeria needs but also the type agents of mediocrity and evil hate to see alive.  He is the type that deserves national honour which the Nigerian Government would prefer to give to crooks and rogues, those who have ruined the country and those who are even murderers.

Emefiena Ezeani