We saw one Igbo guy killed

Amina Gambo remembers the Nigerian-Biafran War. Photo by Chika Oduah

I am Hajiya Amina. Ibrahim, that is my father’s name, Gambo, my husband.

I was born on the thirty-first of December 1949 in Adamawa Song Local Government in a small village just about nine miles from Song, a village. I went through my education. From my village to the district where I attended my primary school, it’s like 20 miles.

I can remember the Nigerian-Biafran War. Before the war, I can reflect that my mother’s sister, that’s when I was in primary school, she used to tell us that she will be traveling to Umuahia [in southeastern Nigeria]. She will be taking our cows on foot to Umuahia every year during dry season when we don’t have fresh grass on our farms and all that. When she traveled to Umuahia on foot, with cows maybe six or seven on foot. They don’t use trains, they don’t use buses. That is where they would feed their cattle for maybe three, four months.

Amina Gambo. Photo by Chika Oduah

So I said where is that Umuahia? And since [hearing] that name, I thought it was in Saudi Arabia until later in my education I remembered that Umuahia is in Imo State.

That was before the war. We were living in peace in Nigeria.

My daughter reminded me, of a story I told her from back in 1966, 1967. That was when I was in Maiduguri attending to Women’s Teacher’s College. You know we had very few Nigerian teachers. American, British teachers. So during the Biafra, I remember there was a day when we went out behind the classes, the compound, we saw one Igbo guy, killed. Why, because when they learned that they were killing different tribes and so on, that’s why the Maiduguri people, women they will get into their houses, killing them too.

So this is how they tried to run. The police caught most of them, put them in their command, you know they have a very big place where they kept them in rooms, the Igbo guys. So I remember, also, this American lady. She used to make us cook, making rice and stew, making okro soup or whatever. We used to carry it to the police offices, whatever you call it, where they will give the Igbo guys [the food] until when they get a bus to be taken back to their states [in the southeast]. We used to cook for them. We would even buy lots of bread. We will take to the Igbo guys, who were caught. Most of them were killed. So, the ones that escaped are the ones that we used to cook for.

Amina Gambo. Photo by Chika Oduah

They [the Igbos] were killing us [Northerners] so when they [Northerners] heard about it [the killing of prominent northern leaders during the January 1966 coup], they [the Northerners] tried to send them [Igbo people living in Maiduguri] out of Maiduguri also, killing them.

I remember, Gowon, you know it was during the war that he was the leader then, so Gowon. That’s “go one with one Nigeria.” “Go on with one Nigeria.”


Amina Ibrahim Gambo granted this interview to Chika Oduah from her home in Abuja, Nigeria.

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