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My Biafran Story

My Biafran Story .org website is a collection of eye witness accounts of the Nigerian-Biafran civil war.
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DISARMED IN A TRENCH - PART 2

DISARMED IN A TRENCH - PART 2

Ojukwu never knew this until 1976 when we met in Washington DC at the reception the late Nchewi Imoke gave him. After I told him how I saved his life, he said he would like to meet Reginald whenever he came to Nigeria. But we never did.

Immediately Ojukwu’s plane took off, a long distance shelling started raining from Awommama and we could see the canons flying past the airport. The Nigerians had miscalculated, so the shelling hit a village and killed people there. In between this shelling an International Red Cross plane from Caritas arrived and instead of landing on the air strip it lowered and poured its food supplies on the tarmac. We loaded some in our van to send to my parents. Because of the shelling a lot of the evacuation flights were cancelled. After Ojukwu’s departure, Colonel Achuzia took over the podium and started calling people to board for evacuation. He called Captain Anuku. Anuku entered. Called Colonel Timothy Onwuatuegwu, but he was absent. Meanwhile, the pilot of the plane was already panicking because of the shelling that had just taken place. As people forced themselves in, the staircase broke and every person on it fell off. The pilot panicked and took off without closing the doors. One person fell off and died. A young girl had her head crushed by one of the tyres of the plane. She was about 7 years old and the daughter of a prominent Nigerian.

We kicked off with our jeep loaded with food. Many people had come to board the planes but could not, so there was an exodus of people leaving the airport. You can’t believe that from within that massive crowd I heard the voice of my youngest brother, my mother’s last child. He was shouting the name of my sister, “Echika, Echika, Echika.” I told Reggie that I just heard Ugo’s voice calling Echika, and he said, “Lambo, how can you hear Ugo’s voice in this crowd?” I said, “Driver, stop, let me go down. You can continue. If you don’t see me again, tell the story but I will not live with my conscience if I don’t investigate this voice.” Immediately I got down my brother cocked his Kalashnikov and ordered everybody down. He took over the wheels and we started driving slowly backwards, and who did we see? My last sister, Echika, holding my two youngest brothers. She was only eleven years while Ugo was four. He had fallen down and bruised his leg that was why he was calling out her name. We put them in the vehicle and took them straight to my parents.

What happened was that my mother had handed three of them to Colonel Anuku and asked him to take them overseas. Colonel Anuku put them in a vehicle with an orderly and driver with instructions to take them to the airport. Then he took his own children and rode with them in another vehicle. When the shelling started, the driver carrying my siblings panicked and fell into a ditch, brought the children out of the vehicle and fled. My mother cried and cried. Reginald cried also and said he’d never dispute anything I said again. It was providence.

Many children got lost or separated from their parents that way. It could have been the same with my siblings. If they had evacuated them to Gabon or Ivory Coast they would have been sent to an orphanage and who knows what their fate would have been afterwards. My mother was the head of the Red Cross in Owerri and because there were so many abandoned children on the streets, she was helping people adopt these children. She would give them documents which they would take to their local governments and register the adoption.

During her funeral in 2000, a woman came with a huge cow, many dancers, and a young lady. During the presentation, she told the congregation how my mother knew she had been pining away from childlessness and asked her to adopt a child, who was one and half years old at the time. That was the young lady with her; all grown up. She told the crowd it was because of that her adopted daughter that she wakes up every day to face face the world.

Everybody applauded.

[Photos taken from the internet]

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Dr. Achiugo Lambert Agugua is a Consultant and Businessman.

Recent Comments
Guest — PJay
My heart bleeds reading these recounts of what happened during the war.
Thursday, 24 May 2018 13:10
Guest — Okoli C.U
War stories that melts the heart. We need this and more to know about the past, appreciate the present , then plan for a better fu... Read More
Friday, 15 June 2018 06:51
Guest — Ọbụmneke
This melt my heart. Each time I read this sort of recount, I feel I was part of the war. I have struggled to study why it is so wi... Read More
Thursday, 26 July 2018 17:53
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DISARMED IN A TRENCH - PART 1

DISARMED IN A TRENCH - PART 1

Before the fall of Port Harcourt in 1968, there was a long-distance shelling from the high seas. The shell was falling so rapidly on Port Harcourt and became a threat to life. Prior to this time my younger ones and my mum had been evacuated to Nkwerre. I was working with Directorate of Petroleum at the time, so I stayed back in Port Harcourt with my father.

When we decided to evacuate PH, we carried a few items that were valuable, such as our Television, to a neighbour’s house. He was Mr. Graham-Douglas, a lawyer at the time, and he kept those things for us until the end of the war. We then loaded as much property as we could into my father’s car. I had a parrot I was very fond of but there was no room for it in the car so we simply opened its cage and let it out. We set off and the parrot also took off. It kept flying over us and when there was a hold-up it would hover close to the vehicle. It tracked our vehicle until we passed Elele and lost it and carried on.

It was around here that we saw my cousin, Mmagwu. She had her luggage on her back and was carrying her baby in her arms. There was no place for her to sit in the vehicle so I said to her, “Mmagwu, let me have the baby and when you come home you can take her from me.” But she said, “No, no, no! I won’t. Ebe m nwuru ka nwa m’ g’anwu - wherever I die, that’s where my child will die.” She made it to Nkwerre on foot and I was glad to see her a few days later.

I moved to Umuahia and joined the DMI. One day there was an air raid by what I thought was a very vicious Egyptian pilot. It was as though he was targeting me. I ran out from the Peugeot 404 I was driving and ran under a tree just as bullets started raining on the tree. One of them came towards my forehead but instead it hit a branch, cut the branch, fell on my shoulder and burnt me my right shoulder blade. I was shouting, “Oh my God, is my time up?” At that moment of my dismay, a petrol station exploded close by - kpoooo! People had their hands amputated. Many died. Later, I picked up the bullet and gave it to my friend who was going on a mission to buy weapons for Biafra. I asked him to show it to my sister in London. I wanted her to see the bullet that almost killed me. Many years later, I found out who flew that plane. It wasn’t an Egyptian pilot as I had thought. It was a retired Air Commodore and we are members of Full Gospel Business Men’s Fellowship. The day I gave the testimony, he got up and apologised and said he was the one who flew that plane. He said that every description I gave was correct, and that they were targeting the fuel station as part of actions to stifle the Biafran nation.

After this incident I joined the Biafran Navy and was sent to the School of Infantry at Bishop Shanahan College, Orlu. I passed out sometime in 1969 and was posted to Defence Head Quarters which was Head Quartered at St Catherine’s Secondary School, Nkwerre. I became a liaison between the School of Infantry, the Navy and the Defence Head Quarters, so I was communicating to Captain Anuku, the Commander of the Biafran Navy, and Lt. Col. Timothy Onwuatuegwu, the commander of the School of Infantry.

For some reason, which I attribute to God’s design, Nkwerre was the only place in Biafra that could not be hit during air raids. The Nigerian Air Force could hit Orlu and Atta but couldn’t hit Amaifeke, Abba, and the areas around Nkwerre. After the war I asked a pilot friend of mine, the late Ibikari Brown, the reason for this. He said from the air Nkwerre is in a valley, which is like a curvature, and when you are trying to hit a target inside that curvature the wind drifts it to one end of the curvature and that’s where it’s going to fall. You invariably miss the valley itself. Whereas if you use a missile, which the Nigerian Air Force wasn’t using then, it will pierce through the condition of the wind and go straight down to the target. So the wind shifts the movement of the bombs and drifts them from meeting the target. That is one of the reasons why the banks, hospitals, training schools, etc, were located at Nkwerre.

As a matter of fact, how I knew the war was about to end was that, on the 11th of January 1970, I had instructions to go and tell the late Colonel Timothy Onwuatuegwu, who was the Commandant at the School of Infantry in Orlu, and late Captain Anuku, the Commander of the Biafran Navy, to proceed to Uga Airport for evacuation out of Biafra. The Biafran government attempted to evacuate prominent people who could either be killed or arrested by the Nigerian soldiers after the surrender. I searched everywhere for Colonel Onwuatuegwu but I couldn’t find him. I was so distraught when I was returning from Ihioma but, all of a sudden, I saw a command vehicle parked on the road. It was Colonel Timothy Onwuatuegwu. I came out of my Q-movement vehicle, saluted him and said, “Sir, I have been looking for you.” He said, “What are you searching for me for?” I said, “I have a message from the DHQ that you should report at Uga Airport for evacuation.” He got very angry and said to me, “Don’t you bring me this kind of message again. A na-eme evacuate for what? Where are we going? All these children that we deceived, what will be their fate? I will die here. Go and tell H.E. [His Excellency] that I’m not going anywhere. I will die in this country. I have already signed my death warrant. Umuaka n’ine anyi deceive ru, ma ndi nwuru anwu, ma ndi di ndu, why are we running away – All these children we deceived, the ones who died, the ones who are alive, why are we running away? We should stay here and die with them.” He refused to come with me. By the way, at the end when General Effiong handed over and Colonel Onwuatuegwu knew he was being sought for, he tried to escape through Cameroon but they caught him at Calabar and killed him. That’s how he died – a very brilliant, nice human being. Anyway, I proceeded to Oguta and informed Captain Anuku to proceed to Uga. He agreed. I then called my younger brother, Reginald, who was a Major and said to him, “There’s a movement tonight. Ojukwu is leaving Biafra tomorrow night. Let’s go to the airport for that evacuation.”

We took one Major Asuquo and a couple of others with us to the airport. We went in a Quarter Master Movement Vehicle, which was in charge of all supplies from Defence Head Quarters. There was chaos at the airport. The check point was manned by the Commander of the Biafran Air Force, and when he was searching our vehicle, he flashed his torch on my face. I squinted and his orderly cocked his gun, demanding to know why I was frowning at his master. Angered, my brother cocked his own Kalashnikov and insisted the Commander should stop flashing the light on my face. Tensions were high and at that point we all knew it was no longer child’s play. Major Asuquo ran out of the vehicle and placated everybody, saying that any shots fired would result in a blood bath, an extra-ordinary implosion, as every uniformed person at the airport was armed to the teeth. They lowered their guns.

We went inside where Ojukwu was addressing people to keep the faith. Then he walked into the flight. I started searching for my brother and somebody said, “He’s in the trench over there.” He was actually there, aiming his gun at the fuel tank of Ojukwu’s plane. It was a Kalashnikov and it had tracer bullets. I ran to him and grabbed him. I said, “Reggie, Reggie. Why, why?” He said to me, “How can this man tell us we will fight to the last man and if we all die the grass will fight on our behalf, and now he wants to be the first to leave? Lambo, do you know the number of people who have died? No, I’m not going to allow him and if you touch me I will shoot you because I know I’m going to die here today.” I let go of him but I said, “You and I don’t really care whether we die here today or not, but the fact is that if you gun down this plane they will go and kill papa and mama, and all our brothers and sisters.” I started naming all our siblings one after the other, and he broke down and started crying. That is how I disarmed him in the trench.

[Photos taken from the internet]

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Dr. Achiugo Lambert Agugua is a consultant and business man.

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