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Biafra, Nigeria wasted Chiemeka

Boys became men through no fault of theirs. Many of them went to battle chanting ‘Biafra win the war’. Chiemeka Ernest Iwuoha was a teenager when   Nigerian fighter jets, made in Russia and piloted majorly by mean Egyptian pilots killed his father in 1968.

Those of us who lived in Biafra will never cease to tell this story because those Egyptians who could not stand Israel turned their anger on hapless Biafran civilians. There is no account of the North African cowards challenging Biafran pilots in the air.

The killer pilots targeted Biafran towns, villages, markets, hospitals, churches, funeral processions and even Memorial Parks. Only a mad pilot would attack the dead. Those airmen from the land of Pharaohs and Pyramids did just that.

Biafran Army Chief, General Alex Madiebo painted a graphic picture of those criminal pilots. “ The Jets were so ruthless that on one occasion, two of them attacked and completely destroyed a wounded soldier who was walking back across the beach ( Ndiba Beach, Afikpo) to receive medical treatment”.

Nze Eleazar Iwuoha, Chiemeka’s father was bombed to pieces with hundreds of other civilians at Ama J.K. Owerri in 1968. Ama J.K. is the city centre, ever bubbling with activities. The Nigerian Third Marine Commandos were pushing from the ground.

Chiemeka was just 17 and the first male child of the family. Ordinarily, he should have stayed back home to take care of his other siblings. He could not. Death had taken shine off life. And the bombs never ceased to drop on a daily basis. The teenager joined the Army.

Chiemeka survived the war which truncated his education. Dad was well to do before his untimely death in 1968 but the Nigerian government’s slogan of ‘ no Victor, no vanquished’ was on paper. Those who belonged to Biafra were deliberately pauperized.

The former soldier had to survive. He journeyed out of Nigeria and landed in Israel. You would think that he went to learn one or two tricks from the Israelis on how to deal with Egyptian troops. No, Chiemeka went in search of peace through education.

When he returned to Nigeria, writing was what he did all through. You could argue with him on any topic under the sun and leave with the impression that this man deserved a place in one world class university as professor. While many around him were chasing worldly pleasure, Chiemeka sought knowledge.

Many who did not think deep could not look beyond the facade. Chiemeka was seen as a chain smoking bundle of emotional energy. Far from it. He was a chain smoker but kept to his books, magazines and robust debates and did not play office politics.

I must say that until his passage, I never knew Mr. Iwuoha’s age because he did not carry it on the head. We were quite close and I called him Chiemeka oblivious of the age difference. I only saw the Civil War, he fought it. And my greatest regret now is that I did not accord him respect as a combatant.

He was not given to too much talk except you ignited a debate. One day, I found a photograph in one of his books. I was shocked to see him with my uncle, Emma Nwosu. The picture was taken in Israel. Prior to that, the last time I set eyes on my mother’s younger brother was in 1976.

My uncle, a damn good footballer, also fought for Biafra and was badly wounded in battle after a bullet tore through his stomach. That did not stop him from going back to   the war front. His mom, my grandma, died without seeing her son.

Nwosu left Lagos in 1978 for Italy before relocating to Israel. While Chiemeka headed back to Nigeria, my uncle moved to Australia where he lives till date. He has not set foot on Nigeria all these 43 years and has not recovered from the Civil War.

A few years after Chiemeka showed me that photograph, I travelled to Sydney, Australia in 2000. We had not heard from my uncle in a long while. With the help of one Sam Mbakwe, a prominent Nigerian in New South Wales, I found his number.

He lives in Melbourne about 80 minutes flight away. He was glad to hear my voice and invited me over. When he arrived the airport with his Fijian wife, I asked him to look out for the only black face around. The last time he saw me I was still a school boy.

Our conversation was in Igbo which thrilled his wife. Then talks of the Civil War came up. His European wife left over what would appear to an African as a minor issue. She always wanted them to go camping in the bush.

Mr. Nwosu was not excited having spent most of his time in the bush fighting as a Biafran. For a man coming from the tropics, he had seen enough of forests and did not fancy it as adventure. The white woman did not reason that way.

Chiemeka had a son from, I guess, a Dutch woman. He is Michael Wemekamp. Circumstances made it impossible for them to meet until much later, about 16 years ago when the man visited his father in Lagos where Chiemeka worked.

Chiemeka had no wife until he departed. His father’s death and inability to see his son until late combined to keep him away from serious relationships. Then he was owed so much by his employers. Life was not fair in Biafra. He fared worse in Nigeria. Chiemeka Iwuoha died on May 23 and was buried in Umuenyi, Umunkwo, Imo State on August 13, 2021.


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