Nwokoyeac’s Biafra war account

Before I start my “My Biafran War Story”, I have to give credit to Professor Okey Ndibe whose article “My Biafran Eyes” published in the Nigeria Village Square, inspired own my story. I have been contemplating writing this for a long time, until I ready Ndibe’s account. That was what speeded up my own account and brought back memories of my encounters with some other people that gave more details to the story.


Many people reading the title of this article would conclude that this is a war story or a “Rambo style” hero story. I did not directly take part in the Nigeria/Biafra civil war. But unlike Prof. Ndibe, I was not in existence as a ‘viable’ human being during the hostilities and relied on information gathered relating to certain things that affected me. However, the war in some ways affected my life and that of my family both directly and indirectly. The aim of telling my Biafran story is for people to know that it is okay to open our minds to what people went through in that war on both sides of the controversy. This will go a long way to heal the wounds and smootens the scares of the war, and maybe pacify the gods and the victims of the war whose bloods are crying to heavens for vengeance. I would like anybody reading this real life story to read it with open mind.

Having taken that big gorilla off my back, let me state that there are many events of the war that directly or indirectly affected my family and me in some ways as to shape my life. As Bertrand Russell, an English philosopher has said: “The circumstances of men’s lives do so much to determine their philosophy, but conversely, the philosophy does so much to determine their circumstances.”

I was conceived at the Biafra/Nigeria war, born at peacetime on a serene Wednesday morning of 4th February, grew to become a peaceful man that is yet unafraid to bear arms…..or levy war. The circumstances of my birth was what led to my name “Chukwudi”-God really exists. I was able to get all these information because there were lots of things that I observed that did not make sense to me while growing up. As a little child, I noticed that out of my parents’ ten children, I was the only one that has no pictures taken as a baby. Again, another question “Why was I born at Joint Hospital, Ozubulu, instead of the St. Joseph Hospital, Adazi Nnukwu; where most of my siblings were born?”


“It was because of the civil war” was the only explanation I got from my parents. The whole war story started getting pieced together after my encounter with a classmate of my mother, one Chief Enemuo. I was on my way back to school at Awka when he stopped to give me a lift. “You must be Bridget Chukwuka’s son”. I nodded my head in affirmative. He referred to my mother’s maiden name. He smiled and informed me that he was my mother’s classmate in Primary School. He then went on and said: “Your mother’s father; that is, your grandfather was a very good man. He was the most intelligent man I have ever known! I don’t think that you were born at that time before he died” He shook his head and didn’t go further about the cause of his death or the circumstances under which he died, as he appeared reluctant to continue with the whole story. He dropped me off at Awka and I thanked him for his kindness. It was after this encounter that I started probing further and asking a lot more questions about how my family fared during the war and what happened to my grandfather. I was able to get more information for my ‘war story’ and below is my story.

My parents already had seven children before I was born. When my home town, Nri, was about to fell to the federal forces; the whole town evacuated and my family fled to my maternal family of Ozubulu, in Nnewi Local Government Area (now Ekwusigo Local Government Area). At the time, my father had a prized bicycle. With his bicycle, he loaded all the little ones that could neither trek nor run. He also had to load most of the family properties. The older of my siblings at the time had to hump along with their own share of loads. I was told that as he struggling to get the family evacuated, a certain woman came up to him and said; “I chere na o bu imukosi umu ebe nile bu isi, o lu kwaanu”-you think that it is making babies everywhere that is the issue, now is the time for you to see what you did to yourself. To which my father was said to have retorted; “nwanyi, o nwelu oge m yolu gi ka I nyelu m aka nekota umu m”?-woman, mind your own business, have I ever asked you to help me take care of my kids?

My maternal grandfather had eight grown children received my family with open arms. Out of the eight children that he had, only two were males. The rest were females. His two sons were of age and were drafted into the Biafran Army. After they were gone, my grandfather, a renowned headmaster and church catechist became very sad. His two sons were gone to the army and to his mind, they were gone forever! There were rumors that many young men from Ozubulu and other neighboring towns drafted the same way as his sons had died already. So his fears were real and losing his sons was a matter of time. In most parts of Nigeria, especially from the eastern parts, male children were and still are valued, as they are seen as ones to keep the lineage going. Male children keep the family name from going extinct, and the thought of that weighed heavily on his mind.

My grandfather fully supported the war effort, which was to him a fight in self-defense and a fight against injustice and oppression. It was also a fight for self-determination. However, the thought of losing not one, but the two male children that would have preserved his name was a huge price to pay. The war was a life and death issue. Their chances of survival, in his mind, were minimal. However, his sadness was not detectable. He was hurting on the inside but he maintained his charm and his friendly disposition. He did not show any sign of depression and he was never withdrawn. He carried on like everything was normal. He did a good job of hiding his worries.

For people that knew him, my grandfather was the most intelligent man they have ever seen. He was nicknamed ‘dictionary’ because he was like an encyclopedia. Ask for any English or Latin word, and ‘dictionary’ would tell you the meaning. To be a headmaster and a catechist in those days was like being a thin god. People looked up to him for counseling and for resolution of their disputes. Many people sent their kids to live with him and for mentoring. Natives saw him as their own version of the white man. There was a story about his role on the day there was eclipse of the sun. At the time, he was posted to Nri in Anaocha Local Government Area, which happened to be my hometown. People thought that the world was coming to an end. People all over town ran to the church where he lived with his family. They wanted to be baptized so that they would increase their chances of going to heaven. He dutifully explained to them that the world was not coming to an end, but that there was an eclipse of the sun. He still baptized them and reassured them that even though it was great to seek salvation on time, but that the world continues.

But being faced with the possibility of losing his precious ‘seeds’ to war, in his mind, he had no one to run to. This was a case of “physician, heal thyself”. A few weeks later, he committed suicide! My grandfather did not die by hanging himself on a tree which was the usual method of suicide. He went out with his loaded gun on the pretext of going hunting as usual. But a few minutes later, the sound of a gun was heard very close to the house. When my brothers rushed to the scene to get the game he killed…behold he was game! With a squeeze of the trigger, he emptied the pellets on his own head.

To Be Continued….