February 24, 2024

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My Biafra War Experience -Igbo Elder Statesman

9 min read

In remembrance of the Nigeria – Biafra war which ended about 50 years ago, an elder statesman spoke with EDITH CHUKU in this exclusive interview, on the losses incurred. He also discouraged any form of war, called for the unity of the southern regions among, other issues.
It’s been over 50 years after the Nigeria-Biafra war, looking back from 1967 till date, as one who witnessed the war, how do you feel?
1967, 68 that war broke out, we were all younger ones. I was 17 years as at then, still in Port Harcourt. I was in new era technical school, 200 level. When war started, Port Harcourt was to fall to the hands of federal troops; some of us who came from other states, like I came from Anambra State had to leave. I rode my bicycle from Port Harcourt to Owerri and I witnessed some parents who were trekking, they didn’t have bicycle, they didn’t have vehicle and most of them were carrying their children, after one mile, two miles, they will drop the child, so we that used bicycle were like people with private jet, that’s why we could reach up to Owerri but couldn’t go further because we needed something like trailer to reach our town.
The war wasn’t an easy thing, there was bombing, fighting everywhere. Though I didn’t go to the army till 1970 when the war ended, but there was conscription everywhere in Biafra land those days, they conscript you, they give you two weeks training and send you to war but I was lucky as a very young man they couldn’t conscript me; I managed to stay after the war. In 1970 after the war, I went back to school, 71, 72, 73, I had my school cert, came back to Port Harcourt and started my business and till today I will say that God helped me.
But was that war actually necessary?
What caused the war was intimidation and what we call federal character, which started for a long time. If you look at how things are going in Nigeria today, the Eastern region that comprises South-South and South East are badly cheated up to today.
They produce oil in Rivers State, Imo State, Akwa Ibom, Delta, but all these states I have mentioned there is no road to go to these places. What we have are terrible, our roads are in worse conditions, no road anywhere. I left to Warri the last time to Port Harcourt, I went towards Anambra to Warri, after staying for two days on my way back through East West road, it was terrible, and this is a project that started over 10 years ago, nothing is working. From here to Owerri, no road, from Port Harcourt to Enugu, Aba, Umuahia, no road, from Onitsha to Port Harcourt, no road, Onitsha to Enugu no road. This is a place you can ply in 45 minutes, one hour. Now, you can’t make it even in four hours. What are we enjoying now? That was what caused the war; that was one of the things that caused the war and up till today, you say you are one Nigeria.
You can imagine what they call the service chiefs in the federal character, where do we belong to? I don’t want to talk of people who claim that Biafra is for only South-East, it’s not so, the so called Biafra then, is the South-South. Afterall, Major General Effiong was the deputy to Ojukwu, he is from Akwa Ibom, he was the deputy, he handed over Biafra to Gowon. But up till today, why are you denying the people where you get resources that Nigeria use to live, leadership?
Whenever you remember the Nigeria – Biafra war, considering the way things are going in the country today, what are your major worries?
My worry is, nothing has changed, the thing that caused that war is still there, they said no victor, no vanquish but there is victor, there is vanquish. Gowon and Ojukwu as young men then, 30 years they were, when they came back, the war was a turn down agreement they had with Ankra.
My position is that, what caused the war is still on, nothing has changed, even that Aburi Accord wasn’t even implemented, it was just on paper. Gowon didn’t implement it, they told Gowon that the best thing, if Biafra wants to go to war, let him have economic blockades against Biafra, they blocked Biafra, nothing will come in, no food, nothing and it happened like that. Kwashiorkor started worrying so many people, people were eating lizard, some people were eating rat, rat became a very big meat in Biafra land.
Having witnessed the Nigeria – Biafra war, considering the agitation by the Indigenous People of Biafra, do you think war is an option?
For those of us who saw with our eyes, the agony, pain, anguish, suffering, mourning, tears, sorrow, hunger, displacement the war brought about, we do not wish nor even dream of such again. Those who did not witness, people like you who were not born will not understand, wars terrible, the killings, destructions, misplacement that war brings about is devastating, irreparable, you won’t even wish it for an enemy. That is why we are saying that this situation must be corrected; the sufferings of the people must be brought to an end. Only those who didn’t see war are chanting war songs. We suffered, people suffered, I will never want to see war in my lifetime again, both my children, not even an enemy. I will not, I don’t want anybody to suffer what we suffered. That’s why I am saying that war is not the way out, many people died, many Nigerians died. Let me tell you, the moment you integrate an Igbo man into the system, Nigeria will market out so much that will make other countries depend on Nigeria, but they took basket and covered everybody, those with the vision, passion for the betterment of Nigeria are not in the position, na only to share money, borrow money here and there, now they are borrowing 30 billion dollars, do you know what is 30billion dollars, you go fit pay am till you die?
What steps can the South-East and South-South take to unravel the situation?
Well, first of all, before we get what we deserve, what we want, we must unite ourselves. Look at what the South Westerners did of recent, by having security apparatus for all the states in the South-West, six states and now a whole Attorney general of the federation said it’s illegal, but in the North, there are so many vigilantes that joined to fight Boko Haram and all that, those ones are not illegal, and they know that things are going wrong all over. Why did you declare such thing illegal?
All the state governors met and have their civilian security and put them on better salary so that they will help the police, because in the police, if you transfer a Yoruba man now to this place to start work, where does he start from? He has never been to Port Harcourt and you transfer him to Port Harcourt to start a job as security work, where will he start, if some civilian security cannot give him information? Like in my town too, we have security, they go and tell police, inform police on what is happening, why did they declare such project illegal? That will show you that there is a sort of intimidation in this country. They said that there will be restructuring of Nigeria, why did the Northerners say they won’t do it, Why? So that me and you will be free.
What you are saying is that after 50 years…?
(Cuts in) What I am saying is that after 50 years, the same problem is still on, and you say no victor, no vanquish but actually there is victor and there is vanquished. After 50 years of Biafra war, nothing has changed, our children will finish University and come out, they can’t get a job. Before a northerner will finish, them don keep am for NNPC, them no dey give them small job oh, your own you might be looking for a job of 30,000 to 40,000 but their own na 200,000, 300,000 for start.
The federal government knows, like president Buhari who is on seat today, he was part of those who fought that war, he is not suppose to be told, if you talk of former president Goodluck Jonathan, maybe he didn’t fight the war, but Buhari was a military man, he wasn’t less than a lieutenant colonel as at the war, up till today, he knows what to do but he rounded himself with his Fulani people and doing whatever they like, so the people are still suffering, people from South-South, South-East especially are suffering seriously.
The 2023 general elections are approaching. It is believed that the presidential slot should come to the South –East. What is your opinion?
South-West has produced president, South-South has produced president, if they allot president to the south, it is the turn of South-East, if really we are one Nigeria. There is no moral justification for a Yoruba man coming back to be president, the presidency Obasanjo went, Ekwueme was supposed to be there, he formed G34, he sent letter to Abacha at Aso Rock, he was to be killed, he ran away but finally came back, Obasanjo was in prison, he didn’t know how PDP was formed, he wasn’t part of PDP, he came out, some of his northern friends ganged up and said to reconcile the West because of what happened to Abiola, let him do one slot, Ekweme will come and do one slot, immediately Obasanjo finished first tenure, Babangida even invited Ekwueme in Mina and said declare your intention, because it was Babangida then who put Obasanjo there. Ekwueme declared his intention in Minna and went to Jos convention and he was booted out. Obasanjo finished second term and wanted third term. Is that not greediness? And when Jonathan finished his term with Yar’Adua, all of us supported him. In fact, the South-Easterner gave Jonathan 90 per cent more than the South-South because we still believe that even if nothing, he is one of us, as far as South-East, South-South is concerned. As he wanted to go for another four years, we gave him 90 per cent, said he should stay there, Obasanjo and his collaborators brought him down, brought Buhari and now he is crying wolf everywhere.What Buhari is doing, if he had known he would have allowed the man to continue.
As far as we want to be one Nigeria, there is no victor, there is no vanquished, after 2023 election, the presidential candidate is supposed to come from the South- East. It is an undisputed truth, since the inception of Nigeria, the South- Easterner, Zik was a ceremonial president, Aguiyi Ironsi came as a military president, they killed him after six months. So, what has the Igbo man done? In fact, in the whole federation, I am not talking as an Igbo man, tell me any part of the state you go that you will not see an Igbo man working for the development of that state. Even in Sokoto, even in Borno, even in Kwara, where? That will show you that immediately you give Igbo man presidency, the whole problem is closed, you see wonders in Nigeria. I am not talking because I am an Igbo man, I’m a good mixer. My best friends are not Igbos but this is nature, reality, you can’t cheat nature. Why are they afraid? They say if you give Igbo man presidency, he will declare war or bring Biafra? Igbos are not interested in war, for some of us who saw what happened in Biafra, we are not talking of war, we don’t want war again, we can’t even imagine or dream of such a thing. It’s people who didn’t witness war, even some that did not are frightened by the story, so they don’t, we don’t want war, war is not the best, but let equity, let’s follow things how it’s supposed to be.

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