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BIAFRA: From Boys to Men

 By Dr. M.O. Ene

Special to USAfrica The Newspaper, Houston
USAfricaonline.comand NigeriaCentral.com

"My contention is that we went to war to keep Nigeria one and tous there was no Biafra and therefore we cannot talk of the leader ofthe rebellion as the Head of State of Biafra (1967-1970)."~ Gen.Yakubu Gowon, rtd: African Concord, 1992

"Ido not deny the fact of secession in 1967...that is a historicalfact.What I deny is that the Igbo community to which I belong hasbeen planning for secession. Secession is not like Cocaine... it isnot addictive. Today other people are feeling the pangs of what Ifelt twenty-five years ago. These people have my sympathies. Thesepeople not having the guts to say so have continued to murmur in thehope that I will take up the refrain. I will not. Today I have morereasons to seek a better Nigeria than I did. ...I have invested soheavily in Nigeria."~Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, former head ofstate of the Republic of Biafra: TSM, 1994

Biafra was my rite of passage. One day, I will tell the fullstory. But I'll begin here. The horror. The senselessness. Thesacrifices. I missed growing up in my family, the parental love kidsmy age were getting, but I grew up faster and painfully too. Killinganother human can be terribly traumatic. I found solace in theinfinite wisdom of Igbo idioms. "Let it be said that my dog devouredthe neighbor's dog, instead of: "his dog savaged mine'." grandpaChima's words taken out of context, but it helped me come to termswith wasting of human lives like unwholesome Christmas chickens.

I saw a Commonwealth Games silver medalist wasted. A fineofficer.I was in trenches with wasted people; I saw "enemies" wastedwith hot leads. I still believe the particular bullets didn't comefrom my gun;good Catholic boys don't kill! I saw my platoon commandershoot himself in the hand to keep a date. Yes. Bloody coward. I onceraced to our company rendezvous to request for supplies in the heatof a nasty battle and saw a highly regarded officer doing to a duskydamsel what I thought only babies did with their mummies' mammary. Iwaited. Many fine boys wasted in the battlefield across the RiverNmam in Awlaw before he struck milk! Enough milk for his coffee.Yuk.

It was sheer madness. It took three years for the top dogs toagree that it was an expensive mistake, a callous calculation made tolook good.Game over. No ceremonies, not even a discharge paper. Nothank you, no handshakes. No passing out parades, no nothing. Ihitched a ride, ran and walked home a hero.

They called me names: "The dry meat that fills the mouth." "Thegame that chews its cud while the hunter aims...." "The fire thatrages and consumes the desert!" "The boy who washed his hands anddinned with elders!" I felt wanted; I felt important.

It was not all war in Biafra. many had their share of thefun,drinks and Sex, even with the risk of contacting "Bonny Special,"a dangerous strain of aggressive gonorrhea. 'Wee-wee' (Indian hemp organja).Cheap Mars cigarette. I drove cars, fast and furious (most ofthe time on locally refined palm oil). I commandeered cars frombloody civilians to win the war, a fight to finish for the defenseand continuation of Umunna (the agnates) and for the pride of ourwomenfolk. I beat up people for fun. I got the feel for raw power inBiafra.

Gowon, we once sang, had gone to beg Ojukwu :

 

"Ojukwu, you have won."

Gowon has gone to Ojukwu to beg:

"Ojukwu, you have won.

"I shall go to Ojukwu to ask for his pardon,

"My army and I are tired; you have won.

"My bullets are spent

"My funds are spent "The devil pushed me into fighting you.

"My bullets are spent "My funds are spent

"The devil pushed me into fighting you."

"Ojukwu soldiers: Major, Major, Major, Major.

Odumegwu-Ojukwu: Another savior."

The next day, we were lined up and taught to sing a differenttune.One tedious teacher came up with the worst psycho-denial, bootlicking verse anyone could dream up in the immediate postwarEnugu:

"Ojukwu wanted to separate Nigeria, But Gowon said Nigeria must beone. We are fighting together with Gowon. To keeping Nigeriaone."

We felt insulted. It sounded daft too. We tied the old man up andnearly choked him to death. I was singled out and expelled. I wasmad. If we had won the war, the principal would not dare.

I cried for Biafra. I was mad. I was suspended from school. Biafrawas history. In all wars. children suffer and are the true victims ofthe madness of war. I wonder how many twelve-year-old boys in Angola,Bosnia, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Iraq, Israel,Liberia, Somalia, Sudan,Saharawi, Sri Lanka and others share the experiences of the childrenof Biafra, 1966-1970.

*Dr. Ene contributes editorial viewpoints to USAfrica on socialand public policy issues. This article appeared exclusively, first,in USAfrica The Newspaper, Vol 3#7, June 1996.


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USAfrica The Newspaper voted the "Best Community Newspaper" in the 4th largest city in the U.S., Houston. It is in the Best of Houston 2001 special as chosen by the editors and readers of the Houston Press, reflecting their poll and annual rankings.

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