Carl Gustaf von Rosen was born on August 19, 1909, in Sweden. He is best remembered as the humanitarian pilot who joined Biafra for free-flying relief material to Uli airport on a DC-7 from Sao Tome and eventually raising a squadron of fighters.A protestor gestures as he takes part in a demonstration in Durban, South Africa, on May 30, 2019 during a Freedom March for Biafra held worldwide and organised by the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) to mark the anniversary of the unilateral declaration of independence in 1967 that sparked a brutal 30-month civil war in Nigeria. (Photo AFP)
He would have clocked 110 years last Monday but von Rosen died on the ground in Gode, Ethiopia 42 years ago during the Ogaden war between Ethiopia and Somalia. His remains lie in the Horn of Africa.
Two days to what would have been von Rosen’s 110th birthday, Ndigbo in Germany organized ‘Iri ji’ [yam festival] in Nuremberg [Nurnberg]. This is instructive and Igbo leaders must take note.
President General of Ohaneze Ndigbo, Nnia Nwodo, was billed to attend. Former Deputy senate president, Ike Ekweremadu, arrived in high spirits. No one reckoned with the Independent Peoples of Biafra [IPOB] led by Nnamdi Kanu.
It turned out to be a bad day for Ekweremadu when some members of IPOB stormed the venue and treated him like a common criminal. It was not a good sight for they could have stripped him if he did not escape the mob.
While some have described what happened to the Enugu senator as a desecration of Igbo values others think IPOB took a bold step and should be commended for going after leaders who do nothing while their people are treated with disdain.
I am not going to praise IPOB for descending on Ekweremadu. As a boy who survived the civil war, I detest injustice. Mine is to rather see this as a clarion call. There is a need for the Igbo to come together for good.
This is time to sit down, say things the way they should be said and if the younger ones have been forced by events to descend on their leaders, something must be done to change their perception of events. The truth is that Nigeria is not working.
When von Rosen offered himself to Biafra in 1968, Nigeria was in crisis and innocent Biafran children were allowed to starve to death by the world. The Swede wanted justice and had been part of the crisis in Congo.
The United Nations Peace Keepers were commanded by a Nigerian, Maj. Gen. Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi. Van Rosen was attached to the UN Secretary General, Dag Hammarskjold, as pilot.
Hammarskjold died in a plane crash on a day von Rosen could not fly him due to indisposition. Yakubu Gowon, Emeka Ojukwu, Conrad Nwawo, Adekunle Fajuyi, Murtala Mohammed, Olusegun Obasanjo, Yakubu Danjuma and Emmanuel Ifeajuna, all these men, were in the Congo.
We must always fall back on History to understand events. Nuremberg is in the Bavaria part of Germany. It is that state’s second-largest city after Munich. There is something about von Rosen and Nuremberg.
The first pilot he knew was German Field Marshal, Hermann Goring. A few years after the First World War, Count Eric von Rosen, a Swedish doctor was being flown on a Swedish airline by Goring from Stockholm to his castle.
The weather was inclement and Goring had to spend some time with the von Rosens before the return flight. That was how he met Carin von Kantzow whom he later married.
Carin’s sister, Mary Fock, was married to Eric von Rosen. They were Gustaf’s parents. The import is that the senior von Rosen became Goring’s brother-in-law while the younger von Rosen was Mrs Goring’s nephew.
Goring was tried with other top German commanders after the Second World War in what has become famously known as the Nuremberg Trials. Condemned to death with such top officials as Alfred Jodl, Hans Frank and Julius Streicher among many others, Goring dodged execution.
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On the eve of the execution, Goring committed suicide by drinking potassium cyanide in his cell. He could not stand the humiliation of being hanged like a common criminal.
Gustaf von Rosen was not a Nazi. He once volunteered to fight for the British Royal Air Force and his second wife committed suicide after being freed from the German detention camp.
The pilot did fight for Biafra as a volunteer. He assembled five Malmo MFI-91 fighters, which became known as ‘Biafran Babies’ and attacked Nigerian Air force locations in Enugu, Port Harcourt and Benin on May 22, 1969. Nigeria lost half a dozen MiG fighters and Ilyushin 11-28 bombers.
While Ndigbo were celebrating new yam festival in Nuremberg, 86-year-old Rolf Steiner, sat in his Munich home in the same Bavaria State. That man also fought for Biafra and was given command of the Fourth Commando Brigade as a Lt.Col
Jews will always remember Nuremberg. Ndigbo and Jews have a lot in common. In their languages, ‘Aziza’ means broom. ‘Ara’ stands for madness, ‘sobe’ follows me and ‘zaam’ is answer me.
In 1298, Jews lost 698 souls in Nuremberg. In the 1349 pogrom, many were burnt at the stake and some were forced out of the town. That was so many years before the Igbo suffered pogrom in Northern Nigeria.
About 90 per cent of Nuremberg was destroyed during the Second World War, just like about 95 per cent of Igbo land was under siege during the Civil War.
Nuremberg’s Hospital of the Holy Spirit was built in 1332, it also housed lepers. That reminds me of the Uzuakoli Leper colony. By the way, Goring’s daughter was called Edda. There is Edda in Ebonyi State.
Nuremberg should send signals to the Igbo. IPOB must come to the table and listen to Ndigbo. Their grievances are noted.
I would want the President, World Igbo Assembly, Dr. Nwachukwu Anakwenze, to get in touch with Chairman, South-east Governor’s Forum, Engr. Dave Umahi to set up a peace committee.
Ohaneze should be involved as well as Alaigbo Development Forum and IPOB. Ndigbo in Rivers and Delta States must not be sidelined. Sir Mike Okiro, King Dandeson Jaja and Omu Anioma, Martha Dunkwu, are available.
A committee that includes Obi Nnaemeka Achebe, Igwe Lawrence Agubuzu, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, Gen. Azubuike Ihejirika, Prof. Maurice Iwu, Dr George Obiozor, Chief Chukwuemeka Ezeife, Engr. Emeka Okwuosa, Diokpa Mike Ejiofor and Dokubo Asari, among others can work things out.