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Madueke: The cat with nine lives is 80 years old today — By Chuks Iloegbunam

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An Igbo saying goes like this: If a man’s chi (personal god) is not a party to the scheme, death will not kill him. On the morning of July 30, 1966, Midshipman Alison Madueke, boarded a KLM, Royal Dutch Airline plane for London, via Amsterdam. He was on his way to officer training at the Britannia Royal Naval College in Devon, England. The plane started taxiing for takeoff. But midway, as it gathered speed, the attempt was aborted. The pilot addressed the passengers through the intercom: “This is the captain speaking. Will the three Naval officers flying to London please alight? They are wanted by the military authorities.” Down on the tarmac, Alison was seized and manhandled by Northern Nigerian military officers and men. The July 29, 1966 countercoup, the bloodiest putsch in African history, was underway.
By sheer miracle, Madueke survived the coup that took the lives of 40 Igbo officers and 128 other ranks. He eventually got to the Naval College. After a course that lasted a little over a year, he was commissioned as Acting Sub-Lieutenant in September 1967. He was declared the Best Commonwealth Midshipman in Home Waters. At this time, the Nigerian civil war had started. Rather than return to his formation, he crossed the English Channel into mainland Europe and headed for Lisbon, Portugal where Biafra had an accredited representation. Assisted by Biafran officials, he made a beeline for Port Harcourt, where he joined the Biafran Navy. He saw action in the Niger Delta Creeks and on the River Niger, near Onitsha.
Despite sustaining three injuries, he survived the war. He returned to the Nigerian Navy in 1972, still marking time as an Acting Sub-Lieutenant. Despite this, he became 21 years later, the Chief of the Naval Staff (CNS) in the rank of Rear Admiral. As the Naval Chief, he was a member of General Sani Abacha’s Provisional Ruling Council. He and the late Major General M. C. Alli, the Army Chief of Staff, were thrown out of the PRC and retired. General Abacha could not stomach their contrary views to his June 12 stance. Their exit led to orchestrated reports that the duo had planned to topple Abacha’s junta. He survived the sinister schemes.
Admiral Madueke went into the shipping business and, thereafter, into the communications industry. His international passport was seized for the eight years that the Truthful Lie was in power. During this period, he wrote his autobiography titled Riding The Storms With God In My Sails. (Eminent Biographies, 2019.) This book of 509 pages gives a comprehensive account of his life from birth until 2019. From it, we learn that he had attended the Our Lady’s High School, Onitsha. This school has produced countless national figures, including Professor Ben Nwabueze, Eze (Professor) Green Nwankwo, Professor B. I. C. Ijomah, Senator Uche Chukwumerije, and Justice Ezebilo Ozobu. It was established by a Grade Two teacher, Sir Peter Chukwurah from Abatete. He also built the Fatima High School in Aguobu Owa and was a member of the Eastern Nigeria House of Assembly. In 1962, Madueke passed the School Certificate examination in Division One. We also learn that he was the Military Governor of the old Anambra State from January 1984 to September 1985, and the Military Governor of the old Imo State from September 1985 to July 1986.
The book contains Admiral Madueke’s long list of achievements in Anambra and Imo States. Only two will be mentioned here. The administrations he headed built the Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium in Enugu, and the Sam Mbakwe Airport in Owerri. This article will conclude with a word on the Owerri Airport. Suffice it to say that, of all his achievements, none ranks higher than his autobiography. The book is a treasure trove of information that everyone, especially rampant commentators on national issues, will do well to read. Unfortunately, the country seems not to have discovered the value of knowing its history and the great importance of biographies in historical development and archiving. There is hardly a major American, Asia, or European politician or military officer whose story has not been written by himself or by someone else. There is hardly a journalist from those continents who has practiced for a decade without the account of his stewardship in book form. Yet, there is neither a biography nor an autobiography of a personage like Commodore Okoh Ebitu Ukiwe, the former Nigerian Chief of General Staff. There hardly is a biography of any Igbo traditional ruler. Why shouldn’t there be a biography of a great bureaucrat like the late Alhaji Shehu Musa?
We must extend the questions. Where are the biographies of Brigadier-General Zakariya Maimalari, Lieutenant Colonel Joe Akahan, and Lieutenant Colonel James Yakubu Pam? Mazi Mbonu Ojike, a preeminent pre-Independence politician and statesman, was the Boycott King. Why was he so called? If there was a biography of him, the answer would be in it. There is no biography of Sir Peter Chukwurah. His schools have produced professors, judges, governors, senators, military officers, and much more. If someone wrote his biography, he may discover why governments took over his schools decades ago without paying his family as much as a single Kobo in compensation to this date. Where are the biographies of soccer legends Albert Onyeanwuna and Tesilimi (Thunderbolt!) Balogun?
It was to help fill this nasty chasm that I decided to strike a blow in recording contemporary history in my own little way.  (I have so far written three biographies – those of General Aguiyi-Ironsi, Eze (Professor) Green Nwankwo, and Mr. Peter Obi.) That was why I published Riding The Storms With God In My Sails. That is why my publishing house is currently working on three different biographies. There are other biographers, of course. But many more are urgently required. It is the reason I urge Nigerians to introduce fresh and heightened interests in the noble business of documenting and disseminating the stories of our people. Books engender far more education than the mere structures that are otherwise known as schools.
Now back to Admiral Madueke’s stint as the Military Governor of Imo State. He wrote that his administration constructed the Sam Mbakwe Airport, Owerri. Admiral Madueke tells the story of how he built that airport from page 279 to page 295 of his book. It contains five photographs related to the project. These are (1) The picture in which he and some of his officials posed with the traditional rulers of Logara-Obiangwu and Umuohiagu on whose lands the airport is situated. The picture was taken when the foundation stone of the airport was laid. (2) The picture where Admiral Madueke (then a Captain) was laying the airport’s foundation stone surrounded by his officials and some dignitaries. (3) A group picture of Madueke and the six members of the Airport Task Force. All their names are listed. (Behind them can be seen the peering head of Lieutenant Dele Ezoba, Madueke’s aide de camp, who later became the Chief of the Naval Staff in the rank of Admiral. (4) The fourth picture is of Madueke presenting a bowl of kolanuts to Admiral Augustus Aikhomu, the Chief of General Staff, who attended the launch of the Imo Airport Appeal Fund at the Aba Sports Stadium. (5) The last picture is the front view of the airport’s terminal building.
Shortly after Madueke’s book was launched in 2019, I as its publisher, started receiving angry calls from friends who said that, given my posture as “an honest man,” they could not understand why I subscribed to the fallacy that the Imo Airport was built by Alison Madueke. Some even spoke at me. Had any one of these accusers read the book? Hardly! But some of its readers told them that they encountered the lie’s repugnant face within the book’s covers!
Well, Rear Admiral Alison Amaechina Madueke is alive and well. I am certain that he is willing to answer those who publicly state their disagreement with his Imo Airport story. His book has not run out of stock. Some bookstalls still have it. Besides, it is always available at the annual Lagos International Book Fair which takes place during May. People should read the book and make up their minds. Not only on the matter of a facility at which aircraft take off and land. But also, on the numerous questions raised in the book that can still do with the joined issue.
For today, this is from me to Admiral Madueke: Many Happy Returns Of The Day!

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