Them kill am, then shoot am

Esther Imasogie remembers the Nigerian-Biafran War. Photo by Chika Oduah

My name is Esther. My father’s name is Imagosie. Esther Imasogie. I am 92 years old and 10 months. I was born in 1924.

During the [Nigerian Biafran] war, I was at Sapele with my husband and my family. I heard that there is war. Biafra, they call it Biafra War. So war. Then all the Igbos that are working in AT&P those days, they all left. They go back home.

AT& P. African Tuber and Plywood Ltd. They went back home, so after we hear that the war is fierce. That’s what we heard.

We heard [some Biafran soldiers cross the water] to Sapele. That’s how everybody hide himself inside the house. We no go to market again. We no go anywhere. So, suddenly we just see them. They enter the town. Igbos, soldiers. The Biafran soldiers. They begin to seize– because women of that area, even in Benin, Warri, they used to wear coral beads in the hand, put it in the neck, and they used to tie one, put it in the pin the head.

“They begin to seize…”

They begin to seize all, pick all the coral beads. That’s why you see coral beads plenty now for East [southeastern Nigeria]. Na from Bendel state, in those days, they seize all. They’ll take am for the head! Imagine a soldier take something from you. You are helpless.

Esther Imasogie. Photo by Chika Oduah

I didn’t have any corals on my body. When I heard, where am I going when we are hiding inside the house, to use coral beads? They have no chance to take my own. But I learned they take many from other women. We hide in the creek, inside the bush. Who didn’t hide. They kill some. But, we were in AT&P quarters. After few months or few weeks, they said the war is over.

When the war was over, then some of the Igbos had fled from their work. Some returned. Some already they die ’cause they will load their car, their big lorry, high to the sky. Many go outside and die. That’s how that time my daughter was preparing to go back to university or so in Lagos to go and finish him college.

They harass people. But they never harassed me. They were friendly to me because I was selling stuffs. I have a small, this thing at the front of, along the main road I was selling some provisions. They come there, they buy snuff from me. They come, I give them. I make their own if buy two shillings, I can give them almost 5 shillings for two shillings.

So that’s how they were friendly with me. The Biafran soldiers.

But of course we don’t know the difference whether it’s Nigeria or Biafra, we don’t know because they all wear uniform soldier. That time when they saw the federal troops was coming, all the Biafrans run away. They run away. I learned after they run, they bomb the [River Niger] bridge from Asaba to Onitsha so that those federal troops will not see chance to catch them. That’s all I know.


You know Ojukwu told the Igbos to come back home from anywhere they are, we don’t know which is which. We no know the one wey dey kill people. Soldier is soldier. Nobody goes to the market ’till we hear say federal troops don come liberate us.

We just go from your one place to another in the quarters there. Not to the market, at all because they killed many people. When you see tipper, that time, they see some tippers with dead bodies. They will bury, when federal troops come, they will bury people from one grave. One Alkali road, you no go see one single person. You will be afraid. Na so. That’s all I see.

“Soldier is soldier”

They don’t kill any of my relations. God forbid bad thing.

But, ah ah, imagine. I was more than afraid. Even that time, my husband was not feeling well, he was sick. Admitted in the hospital. And from our place to the hospital, very far. I can’t leave my husband alone there. I was afraid, because I have never seen war before.

But when it was over, we are very happy. Na so.

I remember one war song:

We are soldiers

fighting for the nation

By the name of Jesus

We shall conquer

We are federal

Fighting for the nation

By the name of Jesus

We shall conquer

We are soldiers

Fighting for the nation

By the name of Jesus

We shall conquer

I hear them singing. When the federal people came, there was a house, one Igbo lady, who has a hotel in our area there. Na those people na, when the federal people come, somebody told them about the woman. Then dey go there. Then when they come, they meet the woman in her house. They tell the woman anybody there, come out. Come out, come out. They take, and him brother, who is the manager of the hotel. Only that one I see when they kill. I see him dead body. Not in my presence, them kill am. Then, shoot am.

“…them kill am. Then, shoot am”

Esther Imasogie. Photo by Chika Oduah

So, they carried the woman, I think one of him son, dey Lagos. Na Yoruba man him born for. Then say look oh. The wife they should not kill am. So they carried the woman to Lagos. They [Nigerian federal troops] burn her house because she kept the Biafra soldiers there.

Then they use the hotel use as they like. Then her brother wey hin bin manage attend to them, cook for them, do everything, then kill am. Na so. Na only that one I see dead.

Esther Imasogie. Photo by Chika Oduah



*This interview was conducted in Esther Imasogie’s home in Kaduna State, Nigeria


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