Remembering Biafra
The Biafran Crest, mainly sewn to the upper arm of
military uniforms
Me and my siblings during the Civil War; back row, from left to right
are my older sisters, Mercy and Rosalyn; front row, from left to right
are Charles, Valentine, Francis, and me
Ikot-Ekpene, southeastern Nigeria, at the onset of the
Civil War.  In front, from left to right are my younger
brother, Francis, on tricycle; my cousin, Nneka; me,
standing right behind Nneka; and my older brother,
Charles.  Behind, from left to right are Nkechi, my
cousin, and my elder sister, Mercy.
My younger brother, Francis, during the Civil
War, in the background is an air raid bunker
My father and my mother, during the
Civil War in Umuahia
My  father and mother,during the Nigeria-Biafra  
Civil War in Umuahia, 1967/68.
Temporary asylees in Ireland after the
Civil War, from left to right--Rosalyn,
Charles, Valentine, Me, Mercy
Biafran Airforce emblem
Biafran officers rank insignia
Biafran scarf
Umuahia with dad, two older sisters, and two
older brothers; I am first from left, kneeling
The hat dad wore as a major-general,
retrieved from the family compound in
Ikot-Ekpene
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Biafran Flag
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Left, a Biafran tie over 40
years old, testimony to the
ingenuity of its designers.

About Biafra

 

Several sociopolitical factors led to the Nigeria-Biafra Civil War (1967-1970), including upheavals in Nigeria’s Western Region and Middle Belt in the mid-1960s; the first military coup carried out on January 15, 1966 to allegedly curb the deteriorating state of corruption and conflict; a countercoup mostly led by northern officers who perceived the first coup as ethnically biased; and the subsequent massacre of eastern (mostly Ibo) officers, men, and women primarily in Lagos and northern Nigeria. The ensuing forced relocation of thousands of easterners to the East engendered tensions between the Governor of the Eastern Region, Lieutenant-Colonel C. Odumegwu-Ojukwu and the new Head-of-State enthroned by the countercoup, Lieutenant-Colonel Y. Gowon. The inability of both leaders to reach an agreement on future administrative and military issues resulted in a decision by the Eastern Region to secede from the rest of the country. In response, the Nigerian military government launched a "police action" to retake the secessionist territory and this escalated to a 31-month civil war that officially began on July 6, 1967.

 

Aside from the huge advantage that the federal side enjoyed in terms of regional size, it received tremendous support in arms and other military supplies from the likes of Russia, Egypt, and Britain, and also utilized tactics like the bombardment of civilian facilities, the shooting down of relief planes, economic blockade, and the deliberate destruction of agricultural land, which caused mass refugee problems and starvation of the populace. It is estimated that two to three million people died in the conflict, mostly through starvation and illness.

 

When the collapse of  Biafra's military was imminent, General Ojukwu fled to Côte d'Ivoire, after which his Second-in-Command and Chief of General Staff, General Effiong, assumed leadership of the young ailing nation on 8 January, 1970. On 12 January, Effiong called for a ceasefire and an end to hostilities. Three days later, on January 15, he led a Biafran delegation comprising civilian and military officials to Lagos, then Nigeria’s capital, where, in a ceremony at Dodan Barracks, he officially delivered the instrument of Biafra’s surrender to General Y. Gowon.

 

For my family, the war began in Lagos after the countercoup of July 1966. For security reasons, we relocated to another section of Lagos where we were accommodated by the family of Colonel R. Trimnell. We eventually escaped to Enugu where we were when the war commenced in full. With each incursion of the enemy, we relocated to different towns. From Enugu we moved to Ikot Ekpene and then to Umuahia. We fled Umuahia when it was on the verge of falling into the hands of the enemy and ended up in Ifakala, a rural town, where family friends accommodated us for several weeks because we were homeless. From Ifakala we relocated to Owerri after Biafra recaptured the town from the enemy. We were still in Owerri when the enemy’s final onslaught took place, forcing us out of the town. About three days before Biafra’s final collapse; me, my mother, two brothers and a cousin fled Biafra in a seat-less cargo plane while my father stayed back to handle the young nation’s final surrender. 

 

"The Biafrans have now suffered the same kind of
rejection within their state that the Jews of Germany
experienced.... We therefore recognize the State of
Biafra as an independent sovereign entity, and as a
member of the community of nations."

Late Julius Nyerere, former President of Tanzania