When Omieba Dan Princewill died in an air crash with Ibrahim Abacha and 12 others 24 years ago, a member of the Dan Princewill family was emphatic about keeping the apparel their son wore. That was to show that even in death the young man was brave.
In 1968, Corporal Nwafor died, fighting for Biafra at Ugwu Nwasike, Ogidi. A captured Saladin Armoured vehicle was named after him. One remarkable thing was that during his funeral in Umuoji, a Nigerian Air Force bomber attacked the church.
The officiating priest asked everyone to remain calm preaching that God would protect his children. The mourners obeyed. One man waved off the prophecy and ran out. He was the only casualty.
Fifty years after the civil war, I am sure many 50-year olds in Umuoji do not even know anything about Corporal Nwafor. In the next 50 years, many in Buguma and Abonema will still talk about Omieba Dan Princewill.
I visited Congo in 1992. At the Hotel M’bou M’vou Mvou, Pointe Noire, Finance Director, Barthelemy Kibonguy-Saminou, was more interested in history than anything else.
He told me the hotel sat on water hence the name. The land was reclaimed. Kibonguy-Saminou also took time to lecture me on the slave trade. Many slaves were shipped to America from that part of Congo. That was how it became Pointe Noire [Black Point].
In 2002, I was in Narita, Japan. I spent two nights in a traditional Nippon Guest House known as Kirinoya Inn. The proprietor brought out a Samurai helmet which belonged to his ancestors.
The Jap was so proud to display it. I wore the helmet and took photographs. Samurai is a military class. In Japan, to lose a war does not sound nice at all. A general was expected to commit suicide ‘harakiri’ or ‘sepukku’ [belly cutting] if he lost a battle.
Here was I, a Nigerian Igbo in Japan, where atomic bombs were used to end the Second World War in 1945. Hiroshima and Nagasaki were almost wiped out by America but the Yankees have not stopped Japan from keeping relics of war.
Those of us who were Nigerians then became Biafrans in 1967 before turning Nigerians again in 1970 have failed those who died for us during the Civil War. It is like we have forgotten what happened.
Ndigbo must wake up from slumber. Nigeria has not stopped Ndigbo from remembering all those who died on the Biafran side. You cannot beat a child and prevent the baby from crying.
Ndigbo seems to have forgotten. I will not forget. There are those who will join me in not forgetting our past. This is a burden and we must join hands in cleansing this collective amnesia.
Questions should be asked why in the contraption called Nigeria, the Igbo are worse off today than they were in the first decade following the Civil War. Before the war, the Igbo spoke with one voice through the Igbo Union.
Onyeka Onwenu reminded us of that recently. In the past we had men of quality. Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Sir Akanu Ibiam and Dr. Michael Okpara showed the way. Sir Louis Ojukwu and Chief M.N. Ugochukwu were wealthy but not as lettered.
These great men worked together for good. Sir Louis did not oppress people with his millions. His son, Chukwuemeka Ojukwu, chose to hide from dad’s wealth. With an Oxford degree, the younger Ojukwu joined the Army as a recruit while school leavers were entering as Officer Cadets.
Today, one backstreet boy from Ochanja or Ariaria will wake up and young graduates will be running after him as bag bearers. Like magic, he becomes a governor and starts looting the treasury.
Ndigbo must do away with Ogbete and Omata leaders. Leaders with sound academic qualifications are the key to national recognition. From the State Houses of Assembly to Abuja, all half baked representatives must be voted out as from 2023.
What are we doing to remember and recognize Major Jonathan Uchendu? On March 31, 1968, he led troops of the Biafran 39 battalion to almost wipe out the entire Second Division of the Nigeria Army commanded by Col. Murtala Mohammed.
In what Biafrans called Abagana Sector, Uchendu’s men, excised from Maj. Assam Nsudoh’s 18 battalions, fired an Ogbunigwe rocket on an advancing convoy. It hit a petrol tanker and what followed was a massive explosion.
Murtala showed he was more than human when he miraculously survived, escaped to Nawfia before flying out in a chopper. That was how his campaign ended.
Maj. Uchendu, from Umuonyia, Umualamaku in Ehime Mbano, did not survive the war. He died in another battle.
Maj. Kevin Megwa was one of the first officer casualties of the war. He died around Eha Alumona on September 16, 1967, in the battle to drive Federal troops back to the North.
Major T.I. Atumaka was trained in the United States and commissioned Second Lieutenant in June 1963. Among his mates were William Walbe, Isa Bukar, Yemi Alabi and E.A. Utuk.
Atumaka died in Owerri where Utuk distinguished himself, surviving encirclement for over seven months.
Ibi Brown died barely a week to the end of the war. His ‘Biafran Baby’ went down in flames around Awka on January 7, 1970 after a successful mission to Ugheli. Alex Agbafuna was also lost.
British couple, Mr and Mrs Savory of the Red Cross lost their lives after the fall of Okigwe. Marc Goosens, a fighter from Belgium died in Onitsha. Pat and John Okwuosa, were killed in Onitsha. Their cousin, Philip Emeagwali, survived.
Jewish American student, Bruce Mayrock, set himself ablaze before the world in 1968. That did not move U Thant of the UN.
Nnena Elendu Ukeje is an Amazon in the House of Representatives. Ben Murray Bruce made sense in the senate. Her father, Elendu Ukeje, was one of Biafra’s ‘Kamikaze’ pilots. His brother, Willy Murray Bruce, performed wonders in the air with a ‘Biafran Baby.’
Something must be done as a memorial for these lost souls. I, Emeka Ikechukwu Obasi, will do my bit. They all died so that many will live. Anyone who shares this passion should contact me.