BIAFRAN MEMORIAL: RE-IMAGINING BIAFRA AND BIAFRAN BOFF A two-year book project by Prof. Awa Uma 

 

Professor Awa Ama

A former Biafran Youth Soldier Remembers events of the Genocidal war against Biafra & challenges the UN and Policy Makers to do more to protect the Youth

Introduction
With the emergence and proliferation of Biafran agitation groups and associated multiple operations and operatives aimed at achieving Biafra, the thought of Biafra, when it was a country, brings re-creations of past images and imaginations of what the future may bring.

Those of us who participated in the war should do more than just remember fallen and
gallant Biafran soldiers and freedom fighters. We should be able to re-imagine Biafra and
its organizations such as the Biafran Organization of Freedom Fighters (BOFF) that
provided the platforms for our past heroic deeds. Hence, the remembrance activities of
today by Biafrans all over the world should be complemented with not only powerful old
and never-before-seen viral pictures and videos but also with in-depth stories from first
hand knowledge that would represent needed historical bridges between the past and the
future.

While looking at the past history and evaluating the present situations in order to predict
the future, it is important for those who participated in the past Nigerian-Biafran war to tell their individual stories. Having participated in and divinely survived the war, it behoves me as a former Biafran freedom fighter who joined BOFF voluntarily at my early teen to give a
personal account of my experiences from the beginning to the end of the war. Though I
was too young to know the importance of keeping records, my recollections of many
events and incidents that happened in Biafra would be beneficial to my readers.

Section 1: Inside Biafra from May 1967 to January 1970

The Biafran Nigerian war began during my first year in high school at All Saints Secondary
Technical School, Aba. From school, I attended the Biafran declaration rally at the famous
Aba stadium during which General Ojukwu with his entourage made the case for Biafra to
be declared as an independent country. We learned a song at the rally that may be
regarded as the first Biafran National Anthem. When Ojukwu asked if we wanted Biafra as
an independent country, the crowd shouted yes and sang the following song which we had
just learned:
We shall not, we shall not be moved.
We shall not, we shall not be moved just like a tree that is planted by the water, we shall
not be moved.
Ojukwu is behind us, we shall not be moved.
Nzogwu is behind us, we shall not be moved just like a tree that is planted by the water,
we shall not be moved.

Some days after the rally, we started seeing Biafran Soldiers with military vehicles plying
along major Aba roads. Once Biafra was declared, schools within the newly established
Independent State of Biafra abruptly closed and we were asked to go home. I went back to
the village not knowing that I would never see some of my class and school mates again as
would be detailed in this book.
The first year after the Biafran declaration was a busy and fun time for us youths. The
relocation of students from different parts of Nigeria back to their villages brought about
the first wave of socializations in Biafran villages without the technology media and
medium of today. It brought many youths back to the villages and created opportunities for
the formation of peer groups and friendships. Foreign musics became part of the new
addition of music known by youths in the village. Youths met in Churches, and other places that created social outlets like sports, choir, fishing and hunting birds and animals. Many went with their relatives to cultivate crops, plant yam tubers, tend and harvest crops etc. There was no idle time which helped youths to cope with the situation and make up for the lost school activities.

I was too young to understand the situation and never anticipated that I would some day
participate fully in the war as a freedom fighter trained by Israelis, one of whom we
nicknamed Abba Eban, at Amuru Abam BOFF camp where Ogbunigwe were also primarily
researched and produced. While carrying a “Baby Ogbuniqwe” to the Abiriba sector for
deployment, I remember receiving the shocking news of the death of my cousin killed in
the war front. I immediately found myself in a state of strong ataraxia and after that
operation, I never feared death again in Biafra. I remember guarding a now famous
evangelist (name withheld), who was thrown into a cell at the Ohafia BOFF Headquarters
for extorting village women of their farm harvests. With these past memories, I feel for Igbo youths of today who are vulnerable and facing similar dilemmas comparable to what we
faced when the news came to us that Nigeria had planned to kill all Biafran males from
seven years up.

The youths of Biafra, no matter how rational and cautious, had no place to
hide. You either bravely join one of the available Biafran outfits created for youths such as the Boys Company and the BOFF or die as a coward. Another option was conscription into
the Biafran army. I must add that I was once conscripted by a group of soldiers and on our
way to the training camp, I was chased away by Captain Blood who knew that I was too
young to be enlisted in the army. Nevertheless, we the brave Biafran youths believe that:
If we had not defended Biafra, many of our parents and siblings would not have been
alive today. If we had not fought for Biafra, many children born of Biafran parents after the war would not have been born. If we did not defend Biafra, our own children and grandchildren may not have been born.

When Biafra was about to surrender, I left the BOFF headquarters in search of my family.
On reaching our compound in the village of Ebem Ohafia, I found every door locked and
knew that my family had moved to our farm land in the bush where my father built a four
bedroom house. On my way to the farm house, I met a group of Biafran soldiers from my
village having a meeting on how to handle the situation. They practically recreated the
scenes of when Ohafia used to go to wars. On the discussion table, for example, were the
names of some young men and women to be killed to avoid possible incidents of
saboteurs. Prostitution and stealing were some of the crimes used to determine those who
would easily turn into informants and therefore deserve to be eliminated. The crimes of
stealing fowls and eggs were among those mentioned as would be detailed in this book
Luckily for those blacklisted, the war ended abruptly.

When I got to our house in the bush, I met multitudes of people gathered together with my
father, who was a retired headmaster and an influencial Elder in the Presbyterian Church,
for a night prayer. After the prayer, people retired and found nice areas to sleep. The daily
prayers which took place in the evenings and mornings were conducted in front of large
yam barns in which the owners slept inside. There was a small river nearby which made it
easy for people to fetch water for cooking and bathing. With the crowd and cooking smoke,
it was obvious that Nigerian soldiers would locate them very easily and I knew right from
the time I got there that my people were at the mercy of God.

After meeting my family, I left the next day and went back to the village to join my
colleagues and soldiers. The next event was the advancement of Nigerian soldiers from
Arochukwu sector. The Nigerian soldiers were stopped all around Ohafia borders as such
they never entered Ohafia until Biafra surrendered. The saying, “Ohafia Fall, No Way”, was coined by Ohafia soldiers as a reassuring mantra.. At the end of the war, the Nigerian
soldiers came through the main roads from Arochukwu to Ohafia and entered Ebem.

I remember that a few of us went to Akanu/Abam junction in Ebem Ohafia to meet the Nigeria soldiers. Among them was Captain Fire of the Nigerian army who assured us of our
safety. My encounter with the army battalion that first came into Ebem will be detailed in
this book.

Though I survived the war, I am still heavily bordered and burdened with the notion that
many of my colleagues did not make it. Many died, individually and collectively, as a result
of indoctrination, conscription and conviction among others. The most devastating was an
age group from Abam that, after indoctrination at the BOFF camp, collectively volunteered
into the Biafran army. They all perished on the battlefield. It is my plan to detail how I and
few other friends had volunteered with the Abam age group but were divinely saved by a
Pastor who removed our names without our knowledge or consent. It is also my plan to do
some research to locate the families or children of fallen heroes. My efforts will hopefully identify some families, friends, relations, children and those villagers who may have known some of the fallen brave heroes from my village and Abam and bring the stories to light for historical documentation. The unique Ohafia and Abam age grade systems will be detailed for people to understand the gravity of the human losses.

The book will dwell very much on youths who are vulnerable and prone to making
irrational decisions in both peace and war times. The world must do more to protect
youths. The world has millions of eyes to see but the thousands of leaders who have the
ability to effect positive changes have failed us. The magnitude of the failure is exemplified
by the United Nations’ ineffective policies and was magnified by Bruce Mayrock who
immolated himself right at the United Nations. More than fifty years after, the United
Nations still exhibits very weak policies by incompetent decision makers and leaders.

The book will highlight the plight of youths in Biafra and all over the world and look into the
reasons why in the continued absence of practical and effective youth policies and
strategies, world leaders and world public agencies are not to be relied on.

Other sections centered on youths to follow:
Section 2: Inside Nigeria from January 1970 to January 1980
Section 3: Inside The United States of America from 1980 to Present.
© May 30, 2021


Prof. Awa Uma is a technocrat who studied Technology education as well as Industrial technology, engineering, and management. He has taught at 3 universities and worked at 3 fortune 500 manufacturing industries. In the late 1980s, he was one of four doctoral students recruited nationwide by the U. S. Dept. of Labor, Washington D. C. and the only one contracted to develop Competency Based Education (CBE) for Job Corps programs. Back then, he advised visiting African Ministers and together with Hon. Emma Okocha (Journalist and author of Blood on the Niger), led a trade mission comprising of 12 American investors to Nigeria. He regularly writes professional and newspaper articles. He has made many presentations at the national conference of the Association of Technology, Management, and Applied Engineering (ATMAE) and is presently working on a project to establish Industrial Technology in African Universities based on one of his presentations titled: Achieving International Technology Transfer to Africa with Modified Industrial Technology Programs.

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