Capt. Amos Iyari Monye (retd.) tells MATTHEW OCHEI how despite risking his life in the Nigerian Civil War, being shot and working with three senior officers who later became Heads of State/Presidents, he lives in poverty and begs to feed
What was your service number in the army?
I am Capt. Amos Iyari Monye (retd.), with number NA/1239. I was born in 1944 to the family of the late Pa Okoh Monye of Aligwe Quarters, Owa Alero, Ika North East Local Government Area of Delta State.
What schools did you attend?
I started primary education in 1952 and finished in 1958. I started secondary education in 1959 at C.M.S. Modern School, Agbor, Delta State and completed it in 1961. Thereafter, I was employed as a teacher at C.M.S. Primary School, Alihiagu in 1962. In April 1963, some of my colleagues and I were laid off because we were not Grade 2 teachers.
When were you enlisted into Nigeria army?
On September 27, 1963, I joined the Nigeria Army in Ibadan, Oyo State and was sent to the Nigerian Army Depot for recruitment training where I underwent a six-month recruitment course. I passed out in April 1964 and was posted to 2nd Battalion, Abeokuta. In August of the same year, the whole battalion was moved to Ikeja Cantonment, Lagos State
I served under three senior officers who later became Military Heads of State and presidents of this country, one of whom is Nigeria’s incumbent President, Muhammadu Buhari.
What was your experience in the army?
In January 1966, while still at Ikeja Cantonment, I was given 19 days off to take the London General Certificate of Education examination. On January 15, 1966, the coup led by Major Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu took place. On September 15 of the same year, there was a counter-coup led by some Hausa soldiers but spearheaded by Gen. Murtala Mohammed. There at the barracks, the Hausa soldiers began to shoot and kill Igbo people.
And because many of them thought I was an Igbo man, I was shot in the hand and taken to a guard room. There were many of us in the ‘guardroom’ (common term for small cell). Igbo, Yoruba and soldiers from other ethnic groups were tortured and brutalised.
How did you escape?
On the 10th day of our incarceration, while we were waiting to be executed, Ahmadu Finger came and assured me that nothing was going to happen to me. He convinced other soldiers that I was not Igbo but a Mid-Westerner. That was how I escaped being killed. Shortly after Ahmadu Finger left, Lieutenant Mohammed Nasarawa came and called out names of those to be released and I was among them.
How have you been coping now?
It has been very difficult. We have no house of our own and cannot rent a place because of lack of funds. I live in a one-bedroomed apartment given to me to stay by one of the persons whom I was good to while I was in service. There is no bed, so I sleep on a couch, which is the only piece of furniture I have.
Where are your two surviving children presently?
They are with me, still struggling to survive. They have degrees in engineering and computer science but they are jobless.
Today, many people who took vows to die for their fatherland are ravaged by poverty and there is no help from the government. The fourth and fifth lines of our National Anthem say: “The labour of our heroes past, shall never be in vain…’’ but my own labour seems to be vain.