One Calabar man we buried alive

Samuel Ajamekwe remembers the Nigerian-Biafran War. Photo by Chika Oduah

Samuel is my name. Samuel. Ajamekwe. I am 65.

First, I fought in the Nsukka sector. From Nsukka sector to Eha Amufu, from Ihamufu to Calabar sector.

Eha Amufu. It is in Enugu state, but now they are under Ebonyi state and from there to Calabar sector.

[These were the] brigades. I was in 11th division of the Biafran army. Just that I was small, so I went for recruitment in Enugu here. I beg them before they recruited me, but the war was starting. I was around 25 years old. We were enjoying soldier that time, so one Captain Angie. He is a Ghanaian but he is in Nigeria. He fought for Biafra. He took me as his person. I followed him, so-

I beg before I join the army.

I begged them. I bribe before they take me. That time everyone want to enter army. In the early time, everybody want to enter army. You know, when we saw some soldiers who came out from the war front, the Calabar war front, the Nsukka war front that time. When they kit up, we enjoyed. So everyone were rushing to enter.

We were cheated because the northerners killed so many of our people, even the pregnant women. That is the reason why Ojukwu declared Biafra. So that is why I decided to join army.

I was in my secondary school that time [when the war broke out].

I was in In Orlu, Imo state.

I can’t remember the date that the war was declared. I didn’t listen to the radio. People were telling me that they declare Republic of Biafra. That is why I decided to join army.

I was going to school from home. My parents told me there was war. My father know. When I wanted to join army, I didn’t tell them. I decided to-I told my father, my father refused. I force myself, and I stayed there throughout till the war ended.

It was very tough that time, the training. We were training at Okigwe. one secondary school in Okigwe, but I cannot remember the name of the secondary school. Okigwe in Imo state.

It was very tedious. We were exercising. They trained us two months. They were feeding us well that time. They were feeding us any time. We eat garri, rice, beans. We eat 3 times a day. We were sleeping in the training camp.

The camp was very okay because the war was very okay because the war just started that time. Things are very good. We get everything we need, even the army uniform. Good army uniform. Good boot.

We learned how to use this Mac-4. Later, they gave us one new weapon. They call it Madison. 30 rounds.

I wasn’t in the bomb station, [so I didn’t learn to use bombs.]

Later, we find things very hard. Early time, but later, we were in the trench. Sometimes they give us food without salt, we sleep- you know what I mean by trench? They normally dig it. Like bridge. We sleep there. We suffered that time. We suffered a lot.

They started beating him, beating him, and killed that man

I stayed there throughout. Even when the war ended, even my division didn’t even know the war had ended. We were in Arochukwu, from Calabar, we were in Arochukwu. After one week before we know the war is over because they surrounded us. They wanted to break corridor. We entered bush, the whole division. Inside the bush ,we are trekking. I trekked from that Arochukwu into my town Orlu.  When we heard that the war had ended, we threw away all our guns.

Samuel Ajamekwe. Photo by Chika Oduah

I knew that when I was going, I was going with one lieutenant with his wife that time. As we were going, the man refused. He still hold his gun. When we get to Okigwe side, Nigerian soldiers meet him, say “Why are you with a gun?” They started beating him, beating him, and killed that man. Threw him inside trench. And I started coming with his wife and one of his child.

I witnessed everything with my eye. They kill that man. As we were going, when we meet army camp, Nigerian army camp, they give us the food that remain, then we eat.

Yes, they give us their food.

I was sad because we lose the war. I was very sad. [Chukwuemeka] Ojukwu and my wife is from the same family. From Nnewi. I see him face to face during the war. We met at Orlu township and after the war I saw him in Nnewi.

We lose so many Biafran soldiers. So many people die. Some of my friends. There was a friend that I was with him at Calabar sector. They call the boy from Umuahia. Wilson Nkwize. I was staying in trench with him. Bullet meet him. He died. He’s a very good friend.

He was next to me when he died. You know, the trench we normally stay two in a trench.

Bullet hit him. Wilson Nkwize. He’s from Umuahia.

He died in my presence. There’s nothing I can do. We carried his body out, our battalion headquarters. He was buried there.

Me, I was a gallant soldier. [I didn’t fear for my life.] Honestly, when you fear that, when you see people die. As a human being you will feel it, say maybe the next one will be your own turn.

We start shooting and clear the village

I’ve killed. I’m sure of one. One Nigerian soldier I’ve killed at Akamba, where they call Akamba in Calabar.

That is war now, that is war, that is war. There’s a village in Calabar. They call the village Akamba. These people supported Nigerian soldiers.

So they prepare there, that’s where I killed somebody. When they prepare they waiting for Nigerian soldiers to receive them. As we are coming, they’re all shouting “One Nigeria, One Nigeria, One Nigeria.” They know that the Biafran soldiers is coming. So the captain ordered us to kill. We start shooting and clear the village.

They were supporting Nigeria. As we are coming they are shouting “One Nigeria, One Nigeria, One Nigeria!” They cook and prepare food they even. They started waiting for Nigerian soldiers. They call the village Akamba in Calabar.

So our Biafran soldiers started shooting, started shooting.

Sometimes when we stay in a war front, some of their men will go and take the Nigerian soldier or police man, they will cut us off.

That’s why we decided to kill them, the civilians.

There was one Calabar man we buried alive. We just shoot him and buried him alive. He came for recce to discover where we are staying so that he’ll go inform Nigerian soldiers. You know, they them come and cut us off, they’ll finish all of us. When we get him, late in the night we shoot him in his leg and buried him alive.

Hmm, something happened during the war.

That time, you know throughout I stay in war front. After the war is the time I came back to my village.

Throughout the war, that three years, I’m in the war front. It’s only God that saved me. I could have be a victim. After the war ended that I came back, even though my people don’t believe that I’m alive. After one week or two weeks sef, when the war ended, I came back, I came back, when my mother saw me hold me and hug me.

Some Biafran children were sent to other countries like Gabon, that is people having kwashiorkor. They send them to Gabon.

One of my brother went and later after he came back. Yeah, there’s the time they came back, that is after the war. Up to five years after the war, they bought some, they asked people to come and see whether there is, my uncle, at one point they brought out from that place. They send him to Gabon that time.

We went and picked him from Mgbede. Because though they keep the records, the place they pick them, the local government, at the time when he go he fill the local government and your name and your surname.

I wasn’t home that time they took my brother to Gabon. I think it was the Red Cross that took him.

There was one Calabar man we buried alive

War is not good. The war, war is not good.

If they give us food, but the problem is salt. You know at Calabar we eat, we kill, we keep fresh fish and eat everything but we eat it without salt.

In Calabar there’s fish there, fresh fish.

[But when I was a soldier in the trenches,] I didn’t miss anybody. I didn’t miss anybody. There was no contact with them at all for three years, no contact. They don’t know that I’m still alive. As I came back when the saw me everybody was surprised cause when I came back I added weight. It’s my face make them to recognize me.

Igbos, we, are not regretting fighting the war. No regret at all. Even tomorrow, tomorrow if I’m asked to go, I’ll go.

Samuel Ajamekwe. Photo by Chika Oduah

We fought anytime, during the rain whether rain or sun. Whether in the night. Sometimes they normally attack us in the night- late in the night.

And when it was time to sleep, you will just sit, sit throughout the night.

They don’t put anything light because when you put anything light you’ll be exposing yourself. So you just sit. Alert will be on, waiting, whether they will come. We know what we are fighting so that time we are happy. Nobody was frowning.

I’m a happy survivor. I’m a happy survivor. I never finished secondary school. I didn’t go back.




*This interview was conducted in Aubja, Nigeria



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