If you die, you say ‘bye bye’

Lawrence O. Akpu, the president of the Disabled Veterans of Biafra, remembers the Nigerian-Biafran War. Photo by Chika Oduah

I am Lieutenant Colonel Lawrence O. Akpu. I am one of the disabled veterans of Biafra, quartered at Okigwe in Imo state.

1966, I was at Lafia [in present day Nasarawa State]. I was a trader. So we, since because of the war, that I left Lafia and come back to Biafra land, Igbo land. That’s 1966. So I entered army in Enugu.

Because we were in the market when the riot broke out


Yes, I was a trader there [in Lafia]. Because of killing of Igbos, 1966, that made me to run away from there. I left everything I got there. I am selling, everything I left there, because they are killing our people. So I left there.

Even my own people, five of them [were killed]. The other people, Nsukka people or Awka people, because we are many there. Many have been killed.  Because we were in the market when the riot broke out. So everybody run away. If he find anywhere you can take to escape, he just get their own way. Some didn’t reach even the place they live. That’s in the house they live. They just left everything. So we come back to Biafra land, empty handed in 1966.

The riot was so much that it is not controlled. So, everybody had been killed, in short, including pregnant women, them kill them.

And when we come back to Biafra land, they still come back to Igbo land to fight us. We didn’t reach Hausa land there at all, at all. It is in this Igbo land that throughout three years, of the war, we fought it.

And that is why I entered army because I cannot stay running up and down from North to your own house. They come and kill you. It is better you enter army. If you die, you say bye bye. If God help you, you’ll be alive. Like I am staying on wheelchair because of the wound I got.

It is better you enter army

I cannot remember the date but in that 1966, that I told you, we were in the market when everybody started running up and down. And that is, from there, we left everything we have.

They come with every dangerous thing, some with arrow, some with gun, some with cutlasses. Some with iron, anything they can handle, they can handle it and begin to kill Igbo people and we don’t know that such a thing will happen that very day. It was a plain attack by them. It was in the afternoon like this.

Lawrence O. Akpu. Photo by Chika Oduah

I started running away. So when I see motor running away, I enter motor. I didn’t reach the house where I leave. I didn’t reach anywhere. That is why I said I left everything. I had even come back with anything. Nothing at all.

I just joined big lorry that I see running to eastern road, heading to Enugu state. I just wave hand. They just stopped small like this. I enter. Likewise, many of us, not only one person. And whenever you wave hand, if an Igbo person is driving the car, he will stop the motor, knowing that you are running and you have nothing in your hand. Even when we reach Gboko, they started killing our people there, Gboko, Benue state. So we lost our people, so much in the North.

They come with every dangerous thing, some with arrow, some with gun, some with cutlasses

I joined the Biafran Army on 14th August, 1967 at Enugu Garisson but unfortunately we did not finish our training before Hausa people started from Nsukka, shelling Enugu Garisson.

We run to on secondary school. The following day, the shelling continue so we take night and run away to St. Aquinas Okigwe Girls’ Secondary School. We came there around 2 o’clock from Enugu. That is where I finished my training and they post me away to Onitsha sector.

…They started shelling to the Army Barracks, Enugu. Second Divison. So everybody find their way. We quartered at the secondary school. After some two days later, they started shelling everywhere, so we moved in the night to St. Aquinas Okigwe here where we finished our training and everybody can be posted to anywhere. I, myself, I was posted to Onitsha, 11th Battalion.

I injured on 13, April, 1968. That is the day I got this my wound.

Bullet wound, look at here- at my chest. if you come, see it here. The bullet, flying bullet. Some people got wound. So we called the vehicle. When the vehicle come, we put them inside the motor, carry them to hospital. So I bend down to carry my rifle on the ground. Immediately I carry it, just to wake up like this, bullet come hit me at chest. I fall down. That’s how everything started. Since that day, I was on wheelchair.

Two of my legs, paralyzed.

Ojukwu? No, I never met him. Even when Ojukwu returned, by then we were at Uju river, at old road, waiting for him to stop. When he is passing, he saw us. He stopped. He start greeting us. After greeting us, he moved to his hometown. After a week, we sent a delegate for our men to go and see him at Nnewi residence. But unfortunately, people were so much there, so he didn’t see us. So after that year, the following years, when we are on the express, he do pass there. At times he stop just to greet us. During the war.

Okay. Yes, I remember. I know Hausa people, the Nigerian army. You know they get supporters from outside. We have nothing to fight with.

Even two of my brothers, they died in the war front


There was a day, the Hausa- the Nigerian army, when we were at Onitsha, they carried their own people because they had been bombing everywhere in Onitsha.

Lawrence O. Akpu. Photo by Chika Oduah

They take through the sea. They carried their women, their children, come to Onitsha. And when we challenged them, they went back. And there they killed us, we killed them. But the sea, uh the boat they come with, unfortunately they run away. That day was very, very hot. That is what I can say.

Too much. [I lost too many friends during the war.] Even in our own town. In my own town. Not talking of those that we live together with in the North, in my own town, I lost six of them. Even two of my brothers, they died in the war front.

I suffered so much. We have no food during that war. We have nothing eating. Rain have been beating us. Even cloth, we have no cloth. There is one cloth called Kampala, that is the cloth we are using. It is through when we fight, we got some uniform from Nigerian army. You can pull it from them and wear it.

Otherwise, everywhere was blocked by our enemies.

You know we have enemies.

They block- we have nothing fighting for. Even bread. It very hard to get bread to fight for. So we fight almost empty handed. Only that God is with us, fighting [for] us.

Apart from saboteurs who have put their wrong hand in Biafra, Biafra have tried so much. Otherwise they have no weapons. The weapons we have is manufactured by Biafrans during that war ogbunigweand other things.

Like I told you before, I would be very, very happy if our people Igbos can change their mind to seek Biafra.



*This interview was conducted by Chika Oduah in Lieutenant Colonel Akpu’s home in a settlement designated for the Disabled Veterans of Biafra in Imo State, Nigeria


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