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Monday, June 1, 2015

Untold stories of Biafra: UK medical doctor releases shocking memoirs


The aftermath of any war invites contrary prospects. Triumphant generals speak of their conquest in multiple decibels. Defeated commanders tell the tale of gallantry at warfronts and paints pictures of overwhelming odds. Creative writers give us bizarre depictions, emotional distraught and rare acts of perseverance by characters.

Diliorah Chukwurah neither wielded the club nor pulled the trigger at any foe during the Nigeria civil war. As a 9-year old boy, before hostilities began, his siblings, his parents and himself were living happily in Jos, in the Northern Region. As bloodletting became the order of the day, they fled to the Eastern Region.

The non-fiction, The Last Train to Biafra: Memoirs of a Biafran Child...(Constellation Book, Ibadan), just released, is his recollection of the infamous endgame, nay how he and fellow Biafrans became a mockery of humanity while the 3-year war lasted. "I must have written the first few chapters of the book fifteen to twenty years ago. I was involved in other time-demanding activities, and couldn't complete it as early as anticipated," he chats with Arts and Heritage from his UK base.

You can hardly find any Nigerian civil war chronicler who was just a child when the war started. Most of them were already adults during the war. Having to rely on the hazy memory of a 10-12 year old to write this book is quite astounding. But, was he conscious of writing this book someday, as a child, while the war was going on?
He responds, "I came to the decision to write the book about two decades after the war. I was privileged to have witnessed or be part of some mind gripping experiences that one could not easily forget, such as surviving a rocket explosion which claimed the life of my little sister and almost killed my father; experiencing life in the refugee camps; walking across some notable battle fields; and not knowing the where about of my parents for 4-5 months. There were countless such remarkable experiences in my life in Biafra." He admits his mother filled some gaps in the stories.

The title of this book was inspired by an unforgettable incident in Jos. "My parents boarded the last train that departed Jos rail station for the Eastern Region," he recalls. "They were very lucky to have caught that train. It was the last train to enter the Eastern Region before the outbreak of the war. Considering that the departure of that train was preceded by almost a week of anti-Igbo pogrom in Jos, it was a very symbolic train journey for me, my parents and other people who were affected by the events of that period in the North," he adds.

More than four decades after the war ended, many Nigerian authors are still publishing civil war stories. There are, however, some Nigerian who think they could be fanning embers of hatred. Achebe, for one, was accused of such in There was a Country by his critics.
He thinks differently: "A memoir such as this contributes to our history. We are saddled with the history of the pogrom and civil war, and cannot run aware from them; rather we should learn from them. We ignore the lessons of historyat our peril." Last train to Biafra, he hints, was being edited by the time Achebe's There was a Country was published. "The two books dwell on different aspects of the Biafra," he explains.

From the narrative, he and his family had a swell time before the Araba killings began in the north. Nigerian leaders then, he said, could have done more to protect the lives of ordinary Igbo citizens living amongst fellow Nigerians, especially in the north. "It was their lack of sensitivity to the plight of this group of people that drove them to agitate for secession and to support the war effort.

"I witnessed so much suffering in Biafra, especially at the last refugee camp where I spent about five months. I never came across anyone who regretted that Biafra took up arms to resist Nigeria. That ordinary Biafran people could cling so tenaciously to their belief that they were fighting a just cause especially at that particular refugee camp where human life was degraded beyond description was very inspiring. I am proud to have been part of that experience; and to have witnessed such resilience of the human spirit."

The Last Train to Biafra pays witness to harrowing sufferings of Igbos on the way from Jos back to the east. Which of the experiences was quite unforgettable to him? He replies: "The scene at Otukpo rail station, where some wounded passengers had disembarked from earlier trains from different parts of the north to be treated at the local hospital.

"In Jos I had come across Igbos who fled from other northern towns and cities and had lost their relations in the killings and all their possessions. It was at Otukpo, however, that I first had an idea of the scale of casualties from the severity of the injuries on the Igbo people at the rail station, including those who boarded the train in which we travelled."
Another touching story in the book is his trials and tribulations at refugee camps and having had to move from place to place within the Biafran territory. How traumatic was the experience, and how has he managed the trauma ever since?

"I am not sure what the answer is and I am not sure that I have been able to manage the trauma. I still weep over Clementina, my little sister, who was killed by a rocket in Port Harcourt. Her memory remains vivid, perhaps because we couldn't bury her and left her body to live vultures that were waiting for us to leave the scene of her death. We had to leave as our lives were also in danger. I still weep when I recall others experiences of the war, and that has made writing about the war sometimes very difficult," he rues.

The author's father was adamant to leave Jos at the outset of the civil war and later disappeared with your mum sometime during the war, leaving him to his fate. "I had to fend for myself and for my three younger siblings. Looking back, I managed very well. I am optimistic and daring; and I have an acute sense of what is just or unjust. I may have acquired these attributes from my experiences in the war," he says on a positive note.
A certain subconscious nostalgia about Biafra could be deduced from the author's tone. What is it about Biafra that he still holds most dear to his heart? He says, "An elaborate glowing image of Biafra was painted in my mind as a child by the adults around me. It was the image of a self-reliant nation that had a lot in common with a modern industrialised western nation. Superimpose Biafra's technological endeavours on that image and you could see why I and many others were so optimistic about Biafra. I believe we saw ourselves at the verge of something magnificent."

A surprising twist to the tale was when, after the civil war, the author and his parents returned to Jos. "My father, in his trade, had a good clientele base, and his friends in Jos were happy to see him after the war. The indigenes of Jos were relatively accommodating to the Igbos," he reveals.

45 years after the end of the war, echoes of marginalization still rend the air in Igbo land. For the author, there has been some progress since the end of the military regime starting from Obasanjo's second term as the president. "That the military ruled the country for so long was highly detrimental to Igbo progress and reintegration," he says, adding, "No group of people in Nigeria should be made to play second fiddle to others," he says.
Though the suffering of the Biafran people drew the attention of the world to Biafra, "one rarely finds a practical account of that aspect of the Biafran struggle in books that have so far been written," says the author. Some years ago, at a hospital in England, a doctor took a look at a malnourished child and said that the child looked like a Biafran child.

"The statement was made in my presence, and I felt very touched that the world hasn't forgotten Biafra. Some of our fellow countrymen have ridiculously tried to trivialise the suffering in Biafra. It is my hope that the account rendered in this book, devoid of politics, will inform them otherwise. Biafra is, unavoidably, part of our history, and we have to embrace it. I also wanted to share some stories of triumphs and the tenacity of the human spirit that kept Biafra alive for 30 months," Chukwurah says.

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I am an Igbo, I was born an Igbo, I live the life of an Igbo, I come from Igbo, I speak Igbo, I like to be Igbo, I like to dress in Igbo, I eat Igbo food, my heritage, culture and tradition is Igbo, my parents are Igbo.

Am sorry I cannot help it if you hate my lineage. Am sorry I cannot help it if you detest Igbo, am sorry I cannot help it if you hate me because am Igbo. Igbo is who I am, my name is Igbo and I must die an Igbo.

You see Igbo as a threat, why? You call Igbo rapist, criminals, ritualist, prostitutes, kidnappers. You attribute all negative vices to represent Igbo? Why do you do that? You do because you feel threatened that Igbo might outrun the rest of the tribes. Why do you hate Igbo and despise us? You do that because we are creative, enlightened, hardworking, industrious, genius, intelligent, smart, rich, beautiful and amazing. But its difficult for you to admit it because you feel jealous of my race.

Igbo do not own politics, Igbo do not control the economy neither do we control the natural resources and the common wealth of the nation. You do, we don't and yet, despite the fact that you own everything, we still remain one indispensable race that has outshined the other race in all ramifications.

You fear us because you want to exterminate and annihilate our race, you deny us many things and yet we are stronger, richer and mightier. You fear us because we are everywhere. You fear us because no matter how rural a place might be, when Igbo steps in, they turn it into a Paradise. We have our own resources, which lies in resourcefulness, we do not bother you and your control over the polity, but yet when we cough you and the other race begin to shiver.

Am proud being an Igbo, am proud of my heritage and culture. Igbo means high class, Igbo means independence, Igbo means hard work and strength, Igbo means riches, Igbo means resourcefulness, Igbo means self belonging, Igbo means self esteem, Igbo means pride, Igbo means swag.

Udo diri unu umunnem.
# IgboAmaka
# AnyiBuNdiMmeri

Michael Ezeaka

This is beautiful poetry ...

In response to Alaba Ajibola, the Babcock Lecturer Hate Speech against Igbos.


In Igboland women live apart from their husbands and neither cook for them nor enter their husband's quarters when they are in their period. They are seen as unclean. Even up till today such practice is still applicable in some parts of Igboland especially by the traditionalists. Before a woman can enter the palace of Obi of Onitsha, she will be asked if she is in her period, if yes, she will be asked to stay out.

Leviticus 15: 19-20
When a woman has her monthly period, she remains unclean, anyone who touches her or anything she has sat on becomes unclean.

An Igbo man's ancestral heritage, called “Ana Obi” is not sellable, elders will not permit this. If this is somehow done due to the influence of the West the person is considered a fool and is ostracized by the community.

1 Kings 21:3
I inherited this vineyard from my ancestors, and the Lord forbid that I should sell it, said Naboth.

Igbos have practiced the taking of a late brother's wife into marriage after she had been widowed until the white men came. Now it is rarely done but except in very rural villages.

Deuteronomy 25:5
A widow of a dead man is not to be married outside the family; it is the duty of the dead man's brother to marry her.

In Igboland, there is a unique form of apprenticeship in which either a male family member or a community member will spend six (6) years (usually in their teens to their adulthood) working for another family. And on the seventh year, the head of the host household, who is usually the older man who brought the apprentice into his household, will establish (Igbo: idu uno) the apprentice
by either setting up a business for him or giving money or tools by which to make a living.

Exodus 21:2
If you buy a Hebrew slave, he shall serve you for six years. In the seventh year he is to be set free without having to pay you anything.

In Igboland , the yam is very important as it is their staple crop. There are celebrations such as the New yam festival (Igbo: Iri Ji) which are held for the harvesting of the yam. New Yam festival (Igbo: Iri ji) is celebrated annually to secure a good harvest of the staple crop. In the olden days it is an abomination for one to eat a new harvest before the festival. It's a tradition that you give the gods of the land first as a thanksgiving.

Deuteronomy 16:9
Count 7 weeks from the time that you begin to harvest the crops, and celebrate the harvest festival to honor the lord your God, by bringing him a freewill offering in proportion to the blessing he has given you. Celebrate in the Lord's presence together with your children, servants, foreigners. Be sure that you obey my command, said the Lord.

In Igboland it's a tradition that the male children are circumcised on the 8th day. This tradition is still practiced till date.

Leviticus 12:3
On the eighth day, the child shall be circumcised.

In Igboland, there is a practice known as "ile omugwo ". After a woman has given birth to a child, a very close and experienced relative of hers, in most cases her mother is required by tradition to come spend time with her and her husband. During which she is to do all the work of the wife, while the new mom's only assignment to the baby will be to breastfeed. This goes on for a month or more. In the Igbo old tradition, at this time, the new mom lives apart from her husband, would not cook or enter his quarters.

Leviticus 12:1-4
For seven days after a woman gives birth, she is ritually unclean as she is during her monthly period. It will be 33 days until she is ritually clean from the loss of blood; she is not to touch anything that is holy.


The Igbo tribe is in a serious problem and danger of extinction for the following reasons:

50% of Igbos are born outside Igbo land. Meaning that those children are not likely to live and work in Igbo land and cannot speak Igbo language but foreign language (Yoruba, Hausa, French, English).

40% of Igbos girls between the age of 25 & 45 are single with no hope of marriage because 35% of Igbo boys live overseas and they have all married white ladies.

75% of Igbo youths leave Igbo land every year in search of opportunities in Yoruba, Hausa land or overseas.

85 % of Igbos have family houses and own investments outside Igbo land. They strongly believe in one Nigeria but failed to know that NO Yoruba or Hausa man has a family house or investment in Igbo land.

Igbos are the only people who believe that living outside their land is an achievement.

Igbos are the only tribe that celebrate their tradition outside their land e.g. Eze Ndi Igbo, Igbo Village in America and this is because they have family homes in foreign lands.

Igbos have failed to know that the children you have outside Igbo land especially overseas will never think of living in Igbo land. So what happens to the properties you are building for them when you are gone?

Igbos are the only tribe who see their land as a place to visit or a tourist site than a place to work and live.

Igbos are the only tribe who instead of promoting and appreciating their culture through movies and documentaries they have sought to ridicule it by portraying rituals, killings, wickedness, love for money and other social vices which were not originally inherent in our culture thereby cursing more harm than actually promoting their culture.

Igbos are the only people who without hesitation believe their history and description when it is told or written by an enemy or a foreigner. E.g. that you do not love yourselves or that you love money.

Igbos are the ONLY largest tribe on earth who fought for their independence and failed to achieve their freedom after 40 years.

Igbos are the only tribe who fails to honour their brave heroes and heroines especially the innocent children starved to death during the Biafran war.

Igbos are the only tribe who embraced their enemy after a bloody civil war and subsequently become slaves.

Igbos do not find it necessary to teach their own version of history to their children.

Igbos fight for marginalisation in Nigeria but has no collective strength or teeth to bite.

Igbos how long are you going to fight for your relevance in Nigeria?

How long are you going to fight for a functional airport, rail networks and other structural establishments that underpin sustainable development?

How long are you prepared to wait for your enemy to guide you to your destiny?

Oh Igbos!
Where are your leaders?

Unfortunately, none of them live and work in Igbo land. If you wish to save the future of your children, your identity, your generation and your race then you need freedom and that freedom is Biafra.

Ukpana Okpoko gburu bu nti chiri ya!

By Chime Eze

The Igbo: We die for causes, not for personalities

Written by Emeka Maduewesi

~on fb. 28th September, 2016.

The Igbo will never die for anyone. We will not even riot for anyone. But the Igbo will die for any cause they believe in because the Igbo have a true sense of justice and a determination to obtain it.

The Igbo will not riot because one of their own lost an election. Operation Wetie was the Western response to a massively rigged 1965 election. The Yoruba doused fellow Yorubas in petrol and burnt them alife. Properties were burnt with occupants. The Igbo will never do this.

In 1983, the Yoruba went on a rampage again over the massive rigging by NPN. Lifes were lost and properties destroyed. The riots were over personalities.

Contrast that with Anambra State where Chief Emeka Ojukwu was rigged out by his own NPN, who also rigged out Chief Jim Nwobodo. The Igbo did not protest because the goat's head is still in the goat's bag.

In the North, ba muso was the battle cry when Sultan Dasuki was imposed on the Sokoto Caliphate. The riot and protest lasted for days and crippled economic activities.

The Igbo will riot over issues and causes. The Aba Women Riot was over Tax. The Enugu coal mine riot was about conditions of service. The Ekumeku Uprising was over British colonialization.

Those of "Ekumeku" ancestry - Umu Eze Chima and Umu Nri - were at the forefront of the struggles for Nigerian independence, with people like Dr. A A Nwafor Orizu and Chief Osita Agwuna serving prison terms. Any struggles the parents could not conclude is continued by the children by other means.

The Biafran war was a response to the genocide. The war in fact was brought upon us. The battlefield was Eastern Region. The war ended in 1970 but the issues and causes were not resolved. That is where we are today.

The Igbo will also jointly rise to fight evil in their midst. They did it in Onitsha in the 1980's, Owerri in the 90's, and with Bakkassi in the 2000.

The Igbo will not die for any man. But the Igbo will stand by any man who symbolizes their cause and their pursuit of justice. Even if the man dies, the struggle continues, and like the Ekumeku warriors, the children will pick up the baton from their parents.

This is the Igbo I know, the Igbo I am, and the Igbo we are. This is my story. Feel free to tell yours.


"My boy, may you live to your full potential, ascend to a dizzy height as is possible for anyone of your political description in your era to rise. May you be acknowledged world-wide as you rise as an eagle atop trees, float among the clouds, preside over the affairs of fellow men.... as leaders of all countries pour into Nigeria to breathe into her ear.

But then, Chuba, if it is not the tradition of our people that elders are roundly insulted by young men of the world, as you have unjustly done to me, may your reign come to an abrupt and shattering close. As you look ahead, Chuba, as you see the horizon, dedicating a great marble palace that is the envy of the world, toasted by the most powerful men in the land, may the great big hand snatch it away from you. Just as you look forward to hosting the world’s most powerful leader and shaking his hands, as you begin to smell the recognition and leadership of the Igbo people, may the crown fall off your head and your political head fall off your shoulders.

None of my words will come to pass, Chuba, until you have risen to the very height of your power and glory and health, but then you will be hounded and humiliated and disgraced out of office, your credibility and your name in tatters forever...”


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