As a child, the story of the Biafra war never struck me as a tragedy or a very sad tale.
I guess my mind was never able to grasp the full import of the war or what really happened in Biafra.
My Mum was rather young when the war was fought; 8 years when it started and 11 years when it ended but she was old enough to have experienced the terribleness and would always say: agha ajoka, wars are bad.
She would describe the bombings, imitating the sounds of the planes called “fighter na bomber” gbum gbum gbum gbum.
She also talked about Bunkers, the underground escape houses where they usually ran in to hide when the bombings started.
The houses were like wells, dug into the ground and the top covered with palms branches scattered all over such that it looked like a farm. My maternal grandpa had one of those in his house.
But the best part of her stories was the song, the song they sang during the war. It captured a bit of the sufferings of the people while conveying a bit of their sentiments at that time.
The first four lines of the song talks about eating stockfish and corn meal, while asking that cassava leaves be included in the soup to help prevent Kwashiorkor; a protein deficiency disease prevalent during the war. The Nigerian soldiers had blocked the food supplies of the Biafrans hence a lot of the children had protruded bellies, big heads and very skinny bodies, all signs of the illness.
The 5th line was a cry against Red Cross, the society was said to have worked with Nigeria against Biafra during the war, though they were treating Biafran wounded soldiers.
The sixth line referred to the long trips to Aba to bring food items like Garri. I remember stories of my Dad trekking from Anambra to Nsukka, a journey of several thousand miles to get beans and then resell.
The 7th, 8th & 9th lines convey prophetic doom on the Hausa soldiers from Nigeria, Gowon and his wife, declaring solemnly that she would get pregnant from Kwashiorkor and give birth to Fighter and Bomber jets that would be used to destroy Nigeria.
Unu elisigo Okporoko
Unu elisigo corn mealu
Welu abuba akpu sielu anyi ofe
Maka Kwashiorkor emee tu anyi o!
Red Cross gbakwa oku
K’anyi jee n’Aba bute nni garri bunye ndi Kwashiorkor
Ogbunigwe chuba ndi Hausa, Gowon agba kpuo na Bunker
Bunker zedo Gowon
Nwunye Gowon atua ime Kwashiorkor
Ife o ga amu fighter na bomber
A ga-eji tugbu ndi Nigeria
Aha ya anti-kwashiokor
Not the kind of song you would want to sing but this showed the predominant thoughts of the oppressed Biafrans during the war and beyond and I’m certain that anyone who lived through or heard stories of that Civil war or any war at that would not desire another.
May peace reign in our country Nigeria, Amen.