By Nehi Igbinijesu.
For getting to Kaduna a day earlier than his colleagues, Paul Osakpamwan Ogbebor became the first Nigerian cadet to be enlisted into the 1st Regular Course at the Nigerian Defence Academy on January 19, 1964. The hope of reaching the zenith of his career more than anything subconsciously motivated Ogbebor’s early arrival at the school I suppose.
History has it that the 60s were desperate times for young people all over the world; from the tirades about racism in America to the tyranny of communism in the Soviet Union. And Nigeria had not been left out of its fair share of social pandemonium starting with the arrest of Awolowo in 62, the multiple general strikes of 64, the political unrests of 65, the coups of 66, culminating in the breakout of civil war in 67. Our public and military services simply swelled with many like Paul, looking to purpose or distraction in the spur of those moments.
Having graduated from the defence academy later in 1964, Second Lieutenant Ogbebor held a few command positions before being thrust into the civil war which he help see to an end at Owerri in 1970.
Ogbebor’s name did not come to the foray of history until after February 13, 1976 when the Head of State, General Murtala Mohammed was assassinated in a coup led by Colonel Bukar Dimkar.
Now a Colonel and the Commanding Officer, Nigerian Army Corps Ikeja, Ogbebor was drawn into a witch-hunt when he visited with the Chief of Staff in defence of a senior colleague, Brigadier Samuel Ogbemudia, who had been falsely accused of being instrumental to the execution of the February 13 coup. Colonel Ogbebor’s offer to prove Ogbemudia’s innocence had been misconstrued by the military hierarchy as an attempt to save his ‘brother’ since he and Ogbemudia were kinsmen. He was remanded at Ikoyi Prison after his arrest on March 19, 1976 and later moved to Kiri-Kiri Maximum Prison from where he was discharged from the army in September 1976.
In his memoir, Colonel Ogbebor is thankful that his career was truncated and not his life, having had his name struck out of an execution list at the last minute. But for General Domkat Bali’s intervention, Colonel Ogbebor would have been shot in error for a crime he did not commit.
Colonel Ogbebor, now a septuagenarian, went on to do very well in construction. He currently lives in Benin with his family and has plans to start an alumni association for the NDA.