The Nigerian troops had entered Asaba on the 4th day of October 1967, in pursuit of Biafran soldiers who had earlier crossed Ore after taking Benin and dislodging Nigerian troops there.
But because the Biafran soldiers had blown up the Niger bridge to make it impossible for the Nigerian side to pursue them, Nigerian soldiers led by Lieutenant-Colonel Murtala Muhammed simply settled in Asaba where they started going from house-to-house killing people of the town who were accused of aiding the Biafran soldiers.
On the 7th day of October, after the house-to-house killing had gone on for days, the leaders of the town, in a bid to convince the Nigerian troops of their loyalty and support, summoned their people to come out in the street.
Hundreds of men, women, and children obeyed the summon and came out, mostly dressed in ceremonial Akwa Ọcha attire, singing, dancing, and chanting "One Nigeria". But the moment they got to the Ogbe-Osawa village square where the Nigerian troops were gathered, the soldiers separated the men and boys of 12 years and above from the women.
Orders were shouted. The guns were raised. The men and boys were showered with bullets, cut down in their prime. At the end of the bullet festival, more than 2,000 of them lay lifeless. There were dead bodies everywhere.
Most of them were later buried in a mass grave while the Nigerian troops still occupied the town, hunting down men and boys who escaped the October 7 massacre, and raping and forcefully “marrying” off women and young girls.
Ironically, those who led this massacre rose to become national heroes, with monuments named after them, and beautiful stories told about them.
However, for the Asaba people, the horrific and traumatic experience of the October 7 massacre still haunts them, even in silence, to this day, unless “something” is done and quickly.
It Muritala Mohammed who carried the killing.
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