Daddy's Biafran war story...

Shared by Ifeyinwa Echezona on 11th December 2018

I originally wrote this story in keeping with "Biàfrá at 50", it was culled from all the stories daddy told me of the war. I have decided to share this story in memory of daddy and what the Biafran war meant to him.

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On the 30th of May 1967, when Ojukwu declared the Sovereign State of Biafra (The declaration was an off-shoot of the Igbo Pogrom, the pogrom too was a spin-off of the alleged "Igbo coup" of 1966), Dad was just a wide-eyed teenager of about 16years who was overly excited about the war and the prospects of fighting on the Biafran side ofcourse. My grandpa had just died and was buried, leaving behind a retinue of wives and a few dozen children. My grandma was his last. He was wealthy though, at least by the standards in those days and could afford to maintain all of them (So I heard). His name "Idigonweluego" is at least testament to the fact, but he wasn't there to provide any sort of guidance for his family at the outbreak of the war.



So, on the 4th of July 1967 when Enugu, Awka and towns along that axis fell to the hands of the Nigerian Army ( My hometown Ogidi inclusive, as it is a town situated along the Onitsha-Enugu Expressway), my grandma took her children and deserted Ogidi for Umuoji because the hinterlands were more shielded from the war than roadside towns which had now become soft-targets for soldiers from the Nigerian side who pillaged villages, raping women and girls, taking hostages, brutally maiming those useless to them and leaving behind a bloodied trail of horror.



Relatively safe in Umuoji, Dad's family was housed by a relation of grandma. Dad never gave up his dream of fighting the war. Severally, he voluntarily requested to enlist in the Biafran Army but was turned down as he was under-aged.
Months went by and as the hunger and fighting became more intense, so did the body count rise. The Biafran Army needed more soldiers. With a shortage of eligible volunteers, underaged fighters became very attractive. Finally, Dad was allowed to join the Biafran Army in 1968 at Nnewi, although he was still not of age, he was however not conscripted like many boys of his age were at the time. Training commenced almost immediately at the S of I (school of Infantry Ihiagwa Orlu) and lasted for only two weeks. Commissioning followed and he proudly donned his "Uganda-donated" Biafran Uniform, courtesy of President Milton Obote of Uganda. Dad was deployed to Nwaniba Beach, where he got his first war exposure. He fought gallantly in 20 battalion, 58brigade, 12 division of the Biafran Army.



As the war progressed the Biafran side lost grounds from Nwaniba to Uyo to Ikot-Ekpene. Ojukwu put his best fight in Ikot-Ekpene providing surplus ammunition, food etc to the Biafran soldiers fighting there as he desperately didn't want to lose Ikot-Ekpene to the Nigerian side, which happened unfortunately.
Subsequently, Aba too fell on the 26th of August 1968. On that day, Dad sustained minor injuries but suffered from shell-shock popularly known as "Artillery" or "Arti-mgbo" at the time. Lol.
Shell-shock is a condition associated with temporary deafness. He was taken to the MDS hospital for a complete Psychiatric evaluation and while in recovery he got news through his Uncle, Dr. Izuora  (who coincidentally was in charge of the psychariatric department where Dad was at MDS) that his older brother Lawrence Echezona had died at the warfront in Aba.



Dejected but not deterred at the news of his brother's demise, Dad's resolve grew stronger. He couldnt wait to get better and quickly return to the war front. The war had to be won at any cost and being active at the warfront was for him his own "win the war" effort.
Shortly after he got back into action, in early 1969, 12Division was disbanded for failing to prevent Aba from falling into the hands of the enemy. At the time he was a 2nd/sub lieutenant and was transferred to 15Division Umuahia from where he continued to contribute his "win the war" quota in the special and more vibrant 15Division force. Umuahia unfortunately fell on the 28th of April 1969 and 15Div force was moved to Umudike. From Umudike he fought to Ahiaekendume which was the  Attack "tack" Headquarters of 20battalion. Ogbanankata a town not far from Ahiaekendume, was the forward line for his battalion. A town Dad would never forget...



On the night of May 12, 1968 in Ogbanankata, Dad had a dream that he was shot at and he didn't survive the gunshot wounds. The next morning, filled with the premonition of death and having made peace with what might yet befall him, he took his "bats boy" Vincent Nzekwe with him to the HQ at Ahiaekendume to respond to the call of a superior officer and they slept-over at Ahiaekendume. While there, Dad briefly shared his dream with his bats boy who dismissed it as just a mere dream. Both men(boys) laughed, but knew deeply in their hearts that it was just "okwunkasiobi". Death at the warfront had become part of their daily lives; a sight they had rapidly grown accustomed to. Dad says he remembers being more worried about not being able to fight than being dead. He was determined to fight to victory. He fiercely believed in Biafra, his faith has remained unwavering.
The morning of the 16th at about 6:00am, Dad had returned to Ogbanankata where they were regrouping for war. Captain Ohaga had arrived with Ammunition and other provisions for the troops, the arms' bearers distributed bullets to the platoons. Dad was a platoon commandant and was tasked with collecting the bullets for his platoon and distribution. All was set for war and he was moved to the frontline which at that time of the morning had only occassional romps.



At approximately 11:00am, the war had started in full swing, both sides were only 200 yards away and clearly visible to each other as there was sparse  vegetation (only shrubs) in the war zone. Dad was still on the frontline, the exchange of fire grew intense with each passing minute. After tens of minutes of sustained intense fighting, Dad was struck in the knee. Dad recalls thinking it was someone next to him who got hit by a bullet when he heard the swishing sound of the bullet. He only realized it was him when saw himself on the ground and unable to stand, let alone walk. He had just been hit in the tibia bone, his tibia was in fact shattered. His "bats boy" seeing what had happened made his way to help him as soon as he could. He offered to carry Dad on his head but Dad declined citing the danger in holding him up in the line of unfriendly fire and  instead elected to be dragged through the shrubs. Smart move! Well, he's really smart like that.
He was dragged into the bush and carried afterwards when it was safe to Ahiaekendume, there he lost consciousness but later woke up at Military High School Mbawsi. His wounds healed considerably in four months because he was really young at the time. He was discharged but he had his Plaster of Paris for 5months and by the time he was completely healed and ready to continue with his "win the war" effort, the war was sadly over.



Dad had several corrective surgeries on his knee, the last was shortly before my elder sister was born, more than 20years after the war ended. He felt occassional pains in that leg and the mark was still visible till his passing. I remember as kids we'd always ask what happened to daddy's leg and he'll patiently tell us the story over and over again. He survived the war, many didn't.

  1. May Daddy rest in peace and may we all be comforted by our memories of him.
Shared by Evaleo Echezona-Eze on 12th December 2018

Daddy the perfect husband to our pretty mum

Like he would always call her; Guzzy or Guzzitra,dad never ceased to amaze us at how much he loved our mum and made her the envy of all including us the children, he never stopped giving her the attention, treats, praises, care and any other good things you could think of.

 Dad loved his wife more than he loved himself. I can never forget the numerous times myself and my siblings would protest not being taken along their numerous treats and getaways and mum would pout her lips and reply "are u jealous", I must add that daddy would always carry her purse or hand bag for her and made it a point of duty to open the door for her to enter or alight from the car.

How can I forget the countless times he in a bid to please and surprise his wife, displayed his culinary skills, especially his unique recipe of egusi soup wish we all enjoyed in all its richness and orishirishiness, wish I could have a taste of your soup again dad.

I still remember the numerous times he came back with mum to discover we were listening to his favorite tracks especially Michael Bolton, dad would just stop there, rock the tracks with his wife before any other thing. He was quite the romantic and loving type.

I remember the many times he felt so lonely because mum had to travel for a few days, I remember how he practically begged that I fly home with my new born baby then, for the omogwo things because he didn't wanna spend the weeks without his darling Guzzitra, and if you called him during those periods, the sound of his voice said all there was to be said about he he felt.

Dad always wanted his wife beside him and stopped at nothing to flaunt his beautiful and precious gift, even when he felt his health was failing he would always look at his wife and thank her for being his and taking good care of him. I could go on and on but words are not enough to express how much you..... Your in-laws can testify to how much you loved and cared for your wife through the different seasons you went through together.

Dad thanks for making your wife our mum the queen of ur heart, your empire and everything around you, thanks for giving her a peaceful and blissful home and for making her ageless and always beautiful because of the way u treated her, we would always love and cherish you for these and many more, we grieve that You are no more but I pray mum finds the strength to pull through

Ur daughter Ada Euro like my Siblings will always call me, O.G.O like You used to call me I'm saying, We love You DAD. Sleep on till that glorious morn.

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