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Nigerian spouse, Biafran spirit

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By Emeka Obasi

Professor Adebimpe Olorunsola Ike deserves more than condolence messages from those who stood with Biafra during the civil war. The professor of Library Science, is all alone today in Ndikelionwu, Anambra State following the loss of her husband, Prof. Chukwuemeka Ike.

Liverpool fans say, ‘You’ll never walk alone.’ That is exactly the best words for Ezenwanyi Ike. When the war started in 1967, she had her husband and their only child, Osita. Now husband and child are no more.

As Mrs Bimpe Ike, she saw herself as a Biafran and went through war. Born an Abimbolu, from Ijebu Igbo in the South–West, love was all she had for her husband who was forced back to Biafra after the genocide of 1966.

When the going got tough, Mrs Ike had opportunities to run back to Nigeria. She did not. Vincent and Osita meant everything to her. She chose Biafra. Bombs did not scare her, hunger could not deter her.

Prof. Ike and family survived the war and were just lucky not to have toads for supper. They moved to Accra, relocated to Jos and ended up as royals. He died as the Igwe of Ndikelionwu.

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There was another cross border romance that involved an Ike. Edith was so close to the Nigerian leader, Gen. Yakubu Gowon, that they had a baby, Musa Ngonadi, together.

Edith’s elder sister, Violet Ifeyinwa, knew Gowon and his friend, Gen. Chukwuemeka Ojukwu, as regular visitors to their house in Kaduna. As young officers, they wined and dined together at the Samaritan club.

Violet chose a Nigerian, Ambassador Simon Gboko Yough, as husband. Some Biafrans did not like this and were ready to pounce on their father for not restraining his daughters from marrying enemies.

Ojukwu waded in and protected the old man all through the war years. It would have been nice to ask Biafrans why they did not torment Chukwuemeka Ike for marrying a Nigerian.

After Edith, Gowon went back to Zaria to pick Victoria Zakari. Edith moved on much later with Dr. Chu Okongwu, before she found Mark Odu. The story gets more interesting here.

Odu was a sophomore at the University of Nigeria Nsukka when the war broke out. The young man displayed exceptional bravery when he hijacked a Nigeria Airways flight with Capt. Ibi Brown, Sam Inyagha, Onuorah Nwanya, Goddy Ikwuazor and Allison Okeke.

The F-27 aircraft was the first on the fleet of the Biafra Air Force. The plane took off from Benin and was heading to Lagos when it was diverted to Enugu. Mark spent all the civil war years at Kirikiri Prison.

His crime was more than hijack. The 22-year-old Estate Management student, from Nguru Mbaise, was caught with explosives in Ibadan on his way to Jebba to destroy the Niger Bridge.

Odu’s elder sister, Elizabeth, was in pains all through. She lived with her children in the United Kingdom but found her brothers fighting for Biafra while her husband supported Nigeria.

Sunday Dankaro and his brothers, John and David, played soccer in Jos. John was a member of the 1949 UK Tourists squad and the first Northerner to play in Britain. He featured for Leyton and Romford. Sunday was NFA Chairman some years after the war.

The Dankaros were from Takum in the North, just like Yakubu Danjuma who was a Lt.col on the Nigerian side. His course mate at the Nigeria Military Training College, Kaduna, Paschal Jacob Odu, is Mrs Elizabeth Dankaro’s elder brother.

Lt. Commander P.J. Odu led a Biafran warship in sea battle against Nigeria’s NNS Ogoja commanded by his friend, Commander Akin Aduwo.  It was a tough one, but Aduwo won and offered his buddy protection. Odu rejected it and escaped.

Aduwo himself was married to Bekinwari, a Kalabari woman from Obuama in Biafra. She became a Lt.col. in the Nigeria Army. Her husband was not alone but did not know.

As he led the Nigerian Navy to bomb Bonny, Col. Benjamin Adekunle did everything to stop him. Aduwo was shocked. It became clear when they berthed in Bonny and the Army officer went to town to rescue his family.

Adekunle’s wife was formerly Comfort Akie Wilcox, an Ibani lady whom he met while serving at First Battalion, Enugu. She was a niece to Chief Harold Dappa Biriye.

Adekunle’s course mate at Teshie Military Academy, Accra, Patrick Amadi, was on the Biafran side and both became Divisional Commanders. Amadi’s wife was also an Amadi from Owerri, named Irene.

Irene’s sister, Angelina, was married to Ignatius Ngwu Obeya, an Idoma from Okpoga. He was a Lt.Col in Adekunle’s Third Marine Commando Division. The man who took over from Adekunle, Col. Olu Obasanjo, later settled for one of the Amadi sisters, Evelyn.

Mrs Obeya’s brother, Ambrose, was a Biafran Air Force Pilot Officer. Her brother –in-law, Maj. Robert Omakwu Obeya, was also a Marine Commando. So she was uncomfortable all through.

Ambrose did not survive. He crashed his bike in Oguta, 1969. Robert survived but died in a car crash in 1972. Some accounts say, Maj. Muhammadu Buhari took his body to the Obeya family. There is a Commodore Robert Obeya in the Navy now.

Sub Lieutenant Nicholas Ohiaeri of Biafra was captured in Bonny and sent to Kirikiri. His wife was, Kofo, first daughter of Oba Adeyinka Oyekan of Lagos, a Second World War veteran who worked as a pharmacist in Amachara and Umuahia. She lived in Biafra until 1970.

Maria Okogwu lost her father, Ogbueshi Leo Okogwu, in the Asaba massacre. She married Maj. Ibrahim Babangida in Kaduna in September 1969. IBB’s Best Man, Maj. Abubakar Waziri, chose Ngozi as wife.

Mrs Babangida’s cousin, Capt. Garba Duba, went for Ifeyinwa Ogbogu. IBB’s friend, Mamman Vatsa, married Nwaeza Onwuka, formerly Mrs Ebu-Mordi from Ebu.

In Europe, there was BiafraNigerian romance. Emeka Anyaoku did not leave Olubunmi, a Solanke, from Abeokuta.  Modupe Smith, Herbert Macaulay’s granddaughter, did not abandon Chike Edozien.

The women saw the future. Anyaoku became the first African Secretary General of the Commonwealth. Edozien is the Asagba of Asaba.

There is a huge lesson from this. War cannot quench the fire of love, love conquers all.


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