Biafra: 30th May; Why We Must Sit at Home

By Nelson Ofokar Yagazie | 15 May 2019

The first man my father trained in school, Francis Agboeze, died in the war. Francis, classmate to Joe Nwodo, fought under the command of General Joe Achuzie. Till date, the younger brother, Remigius Agboeze, still shed tears at the mention or thought of Francis.

My mother told of how Uncle Francis would visit them in their refugee camp with food and other relief items. Sometimes he would visit alone, and at other times with a detachment of soldiers; never sitting down, his brave eyes darting here and there like viper’s. It was Francis who first showed her what a grenade looks like. She wouldn’t fail to mention how elegant and heroic Francis looked in his full Biafra military regalia.

And then, Francis stopped visiting. “In his place, the news of his death arrived,” mom would say in a melancholic voice, tears coursing down her cheeks to drench her blouse. Her gaze now distant, and a heavy sigh escaping her lips, mother would drift into a tale of woes – a tale of what Britain, working through Nigerian arch genocidal soldiers, did to Biafrans.

There was terrible hunger and starvation in the land. Markets, refugee camps, and even hospitals were air-raided by Egyptian, British and Soviet machinery pilots. Farms were destroyed to forestall attempts on food production. Even relief materials were intercepted and destroyed.

Mom would tell how she and other women would prepare dishes and sneak into fields to supply Bifaran soldiers. When there is no food, they would roast corns, crack kernels and take them with water to the fighting soldiers. She recounted the urgency with which the soldiers accepted the items and the pleased look in their eyes as they ate. “They fought on empty stomach,” mother would intone.

“They were outnumbered,” dad would add. But for the locally made armaments which came later, they fought practically with bare hands. They would lay in wait for the enemy, and when the opportunity presents itself, sneak in on them, overpower and take their weapons. “That’s how Biafran soldiers acquired their fighting arms until Biafran scientists began local arms productions,” Dad narrated.

Yes, Ojukwu lumped together his father’s wealth into arms purchase, but the world powers, fearing Biafra would emerge a Japan of Africa, conspired together and refused us arms deal while supplying the Nigerian side. And there was Ukpabi Asika factor too. Asika and his likes that were entrusted with the fund to pursue arms deal, thought a luxurious life abroad more valuable than the war and the dying Biafrans, and so they pocketed the money and left to enjoy themselves in some foreign countries. This is similar to our politicians and Ohaneze Ndigbo taking money from Nigerian government and looking the other way as Fulani herdsmen rape and kill us today.

Armless, outnumbered and blockaded they fought for three years, rebuffing the genocidal army and preserving Biafra from annihilation. Many of them died in the battlefield; many were terribly injured, resulting in amputation, loss of sight, and many other terrible deformations.

The finest of brains were there among the dead. Think of Christopher Ifekandu Okigbo – the best thing that ever happened to African poetry. Think of Dr Imegwu, Joe Uchendu, Amamchukwu Okeke, Nathaniel Okpala, and many others.

How about the one million children that were starved to death? What offence did they commit? Scientists were among them; medical doctors were there too, and so were legal luminaries, Economists, Agriculturists, pilots, journalists, writers, Engineers, educationists, miners, film makers, footballers, musicians, choristers, bankers, and industrialists like Innoson who could produce cars and jets. They were all starved to death for no offense of their own. Think of where they would have been today in the society; think of the contributions they would have made to the societal growth.

Think of people like Philip Emeagwali, Bath Nnadji, Ngozi Okonjo-Iwealaa, Kanu Nwankwo, Genevive Nnadji, Phyno Fyno and all the names that propel the economy, stir technological advancement or entertain you. If they were starved to death or crushed by sheer brutal force of genocide, would we have had the advantage of benefiting from them? If you value the aforementioned folks and their contributions to the society, wouldn’t you grieve at their demise? If you would have, then join the sit-at-home on May 30 as we grieve their likes who were starved to death by Nigerian government.

We want to grieve the untimely and forceful demise of their kind during the thirty month genocidal onslaught visited upon our people from 1967 -1970. We want to tell them that we value their sacrifices and miss what they would have contributed to our growth as a people. We want to recognize and honour them.

I started this article with the story about my uncle, Francis Agboeze. I didn’t know him but from the stories told about him, my parents’ account and loving memories of him, I came to value and miss him. I miss a man I never met. This is because he was of value to the society while he walked the earth. He died defending his fatherland.

There are many Francis amongst us. Just ask around and you will hear of them. They all died defending our parents. If they didn’t stand against the aggressors, would your parents have lived to give birth to you? Denying ourselves social, economic, academic and religious activities for a day in honour of their sacrifices is not too much of us. Remember, the world over, people celebrate and honour their dead.

Again I demand you ask around. Ask your parents, and if your parents are no more, ask your uncles and aunties. There was a Francis Agboeze in your family; there was a Francis Agboeze in your neighbourhood. There is no family or neighbourhood that did not lose a soul in the war. Will sacrificing a day in their honour keep you from prospering? I don’t think so. Therefore, keep a date with them on May 30.

May God bless, nurture and sustain you all as you sit back home in honour of our dead.


Publisher: Chinwe Korie
Twitter: @ckorie17



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