They fire me through the window

My name is Ali Yahaya. I was born 1950, January eighth, 1950. [In] Enugu. Egweti Barrack. My father was a soldier.

[In] 1966 [when the coup and the killings happened], I was here, in Kaduna here.

Ali Yahaya remembers the Nigerian-Biafran War. Photo by Chika Oduah

I was a student. I’m from, I was attending this thing, em. This military school there. Around that roundabout. Um. The school was inside the barrack before. But now it is taking out to, after NEPA.

Command Children School. I was in Class 4.

[I was about] 17 years old.

There is [was] heavy killing. They killed so many Igbos for Doka there, inside Doka.

During that killing, they said that they should divide the country into two.

They killed so many Igbos here. They said that they should divide the country. I heard that when my father was saying ‘E be like say war want to happen.’

He’s telling the other soldier. Some of his friend wey be army. Him dey tell them say, ‘E be like say heavy war would happen. So I heard them saying so. But all of them they are retired o. They are not a soldier. They are all these people who fight First and Second [World] War. They are ex-servicemen, [including my father].

Later, we come see say soldiers, then come do parade along this Igabi road. This very street here near that mosque.

Yes. That street here. Down there. They lay their all arms- armor, tank, with their uniform. They lay down, everybody come dey look.

After a week, they [Nigerian soldiers] start beating people along the street. They said they don’t want to see three people staying one place or six people staying one place. They don’t want that one.

I am among of those whom they beat, sef.

What happened, they said they don’t want to see a group of people there. That if they saw una gather, that is you are planning to make coup, you are planning a coup. That is the causes of it, so after a week, they said that they want to recruit people.

I was, that was in the evening. I was walking along the street. Along this road, sef, by myselfThe cloth that I am wearing?

Nah this Hausa shirt, long one like this. I was coming to house. I’m from school. Islamic school and I am coming back on my father house.

They [the soldiers who beat me] were in the uniform. All of them. They wear uniform.

They have koboko on their hand. They just begin, dey beat people anyhow. It’s only one. I am to run away nah, for my life.

I tell them [my parents what happened when I went home].

My father was no there but my mom, I tell my mom. She asked me say why do I go there? Wetin I go find there. I tell her that I am coming back from school.

I saw one Igbo man alone, he is living- even that Igbo man marry Hausa woman, at Kakanda road there.

Him children dey there now as I am saying, but the Mama don die. I saw that Igbo man. They kill him.

The killing is that those Hausa boys wey used to kill Igbos. They went to that man house. The wife say he is not there.

He fall down and die

The Igbo man climb the ceiling and hide. The wife say, when they come to the compound, the wife say he is not there then somebody outside the compound, one man say, ah, I saw this man just now now and the woman is telling us that he is not there. The next thing, they enter inside the house. They start to look on the ceiling. They saw a hole there. Some of them want to enter inside the hole. The man just bust the zinc and drop. When he drop down, he begin to dey run along the street. From there, they follow him and hit him with stick there. They hit him with stick at the head. He fall down and die.

Just like that.

Ali Yahaya. Photo by Chika Oduah

I was on the street standing very close to my Islamic school.

[The wife] she see her husband’s dead body.

[After this happened] I went to house now.

Yes, after killing that man, I was standing there. I saw when they kill the man. Then I later go back to the house. From there, the killing is going on inside the town. For Doka there, inside Doka. They kill so many people and most of the Igbos, some of them Hausa hide them inside the compound, because I know many wey they hide. They [some of the Igbo people who hid] are still with us now.

If you see them you no go know say na Igbo.

If you see them you no go know say they are Igbos.

We don’t [didn’t] have any Igbo along our street. It is only one ex-serviceman. He is an Igbo man. He has house there. When the killing wanted to start, my father alert him, then the next thing he asked my father say he want to stay in his house- that my father should bring somebody for him. My father went and contact one of him friend. The friend, he is the one- my father’s friend, he is the one who buy, bought the house from him, then the man enter motor and go away.

But all of them they are retired o. They are not a soldier. They are all these people who fight first and second war. They are ex-servicemen.

I was 17 years old. I don’t know anything there again…I am [was] not afraid because I don’t feel as if something like that [a war] go happen, sef.

Yes, I remember because that time wey the killing of, that time wey dey killed- Aguiyi-Ironsi was the head of state. So later, Aguiyi-Ironsi changed the whole commander, those Hausa commander, he changed them. He replaced them with Igbo. So later, 1966, they killed Sardauna [Sardauna of Sokoto Ahmadu Bello], they killed Tafawa Balewa [prime minister], killed Okotie-Eboh. Killed so many people like that. So the rest of the officers in the army like Gowon [Yakubu], Murtala [Murtala Muhammed], and Hassan Usman Kaduna, and other officers, and Sani Abacha, they sit down and they say “Ah ah, why is it they killed all our people and”…

I joined the army in 1967. After training they take me to Kakuri here. [I joined] because they announce, they said they need anybody who like to enter army, he should report for Mogadishu 5 Battalion.

From the radio station [I heard the announcement].

We were so many [those who wanted to join]. I didn’t think anything. That time, we just like to join the army like that. It’s because of that beating wey den beat me sef. That made me to join army.

I went to the recruitment [by myself] and they take me.

I didn’t tell anybody. Just like that. My father is in the war front. He don’t even know whether I join army. My mother don’t even know whether I join.

[My father was retired] but they called them back now.

They were called back. They said that all ex-servicemen they are needed. They should report inside the barrack. [My father went] to war front. They follow Enugu side. Along Enugu. That was ’67. Before I joined the army, he went.

He didn’t tell me oh [that he was leaving].

I learned how to kill

Yes, I am the first son. He didn’t tell me he was going. But my mother know about it. The training in the army, it was only one month but them go train you well well. Fine fine. You will understand everything.

[During the training, we did] parade, bush attack. Nearly everyday, we did bush attack everyday. Bush attack is to learn how to fight war against others. I learned how to kill. How to lay down when they are firing. You lay yourself on the ground before God if you don’t want to die.

I learned so many gun. They learn us so many gun. I learn SMG. I learn G3. I learn CETME and Beretta.

I learned ancillary, also.

The reason why I joined the army is because I just like it. I just like to join the army, that’s why. It’s because I want to protect the land. I want to keep Nigeria one.

Ali Yahaya. Photo by Chika Oduah

Anyway, it’s not good to blame. We all are one. We don’t have to break ourselves. If we break now, that shows that there is no peace.

After one month training they take us to Kakuri here. We stay there one week. They pay we salary. After a week, they brought a train. The train pack us to Lagos. Ikeja Barrack. We drop down there. We stay for Ikeja for one week. From that one week, they brought cars, long long cars, army vehicles. They take us to Bonny camp [Lagos]. We stayed there a week. After a week, they took us to war. From Wharf, we entered ship.

There is two Bonny. One Bonny dey Lagos. The other one dey for Rivers [State].

I am on the ship. When we entered inside the ship, they issued cooking ration, those thin ration. I think you know them, inside carton. Everybody one, one carton. They issued that ration for us.

Inside the box there is garri, tinned garri, tinned sugar dey. Matches dey. Small stuff dey. Very small like this. Beans dey. Rice dey. Cooked one. So if you want to eat the rice, you light the stove, you put the rice on top, the thing on top. If that fire of that stove off, that shows that the rice, e don done. When you throw away that stuff, there is so many of the stuff inside the carton.

[The ration lasts] just two days. It’s just two days because from here to Port Harcourt it’s just two days. To Bonny.

I went to Bonny. We don’t even go to Bonny direct. When the ship come, between we and Bonny will just be like here to television. So when the ship come, there is two ship wey carry us. One ship carry 2,000 soldiers. The other one carry arms and ammunition with this Land Rover. So many things like that. So when we are very close to Bonny, it’s just like from here to television. The ship stop in the night around 12. You know, that sea. If day break, the sea move to the west. I think this is west, to the western side, then in the evening, the sea again come back to the east. Yes. The water no dey move straight like this. One way. In the morning, the water move to the west. Then in the evening around six, the water come back again and move to the east.

So when the ship brought us, we stopped there. When we stopped, the captain gave us life jacket. We all jumped into the water. The water begin to move with us small-small, small-small. Before daybreak, around four, we reach Bonny. While those enemy at the Bonny, they are looking at the ship, because there is light. The light in that two ship, it just be like refinery. They are looking at the light, they don’t know that we are very close to them.

When we reached Bonny like this, we reached at the bank, the water bank. We begin to open fire. Serious firing. That is how we capture Bonny. [I was using] G3 and that G3, the son of Mamman Shuwa, 1 Div commander, his son is the one who issued the rifle for us. The G3.

One of his son, Mamman Shuwa, a commander who was killed by Boko Haram in Maiduguri, he is a captain.

It’s [took us] just two days [to capture Bonny]. Bonny is a small land.

We captured the Bonny. We entered the, the, beside Bonny, there is coconut there plenty. When we captured the main – where they stole all those oil. We captured there. Then we moved to the coconut. We captured that place. We defend that place intact. Then from there, they bring our ship. Small- small ship. We entered inside the ship. We begin dey patrol everywhere…. Them dey fire us, we dey fire them. That’s how we take capture Bonny. We defend that place almost two weeks. From there, we move to one place. I forget the name of that village. From that village, we move our, we move with our leg. We drop from the canoe, we drop at the village.

Then we move with leg. We go round to Itu junction. We jam those people from Itu junction coming from Calabar. 14 Brigade. Enh, 12 Brigade. 13 Brigade. 14 Brigade. 15 Brigade. We met them there. Itu junction.

That time we have eh 12 Brigade, 13 Brigade, 14 Brigade, 15 Brigade, 16, 17, 18 Brigade and 19 Brigade.

[Bonny was my first battle experience].

Na [I was] confident na. I don’t think. There is two things- either death or you stay alive. That’s two things.

[During that time, I didn’t see any children in Bonny.] It is only Biafran soldiers. [No mothers.] Nobody. All of them enter inside the canoe and move into the sea to go and hide themselves.

[Next] when we met those brigades, they share us- 15 Brigade, stay one side. So, we don’t fight,  the whole brigade don’t fight like that. They have to get a company. A battalion. Out of those battalion, they use company to fight. So after some weeks, they will change that company and bring another company again. That is how we enter Eleme. We stay Eleme for almost one month and that Eleme na Chinese dey there oh. No single Biafran soldier. It is only Chinese we met.

Chinese. Proper Chinese. Those short, short people from China, na dem full dat place. They are fighting us. Ojukwu brought them na. Chinese people, fighting us proper with guns at Eleme. After a month, we capture Eleme.

They [the Chinese] are very difficult o because most of them climb palm tree to camouflage themselves from palm tree.

Them go just aim at somebody for head and kill him. So many of our soldiers in Eleme, most of the wound, is head, head, head, head. Chest. Head. There is one captain Hamma. He just hear firing. He look at the trees see smoke. He say okay. He asked all of our soldiers to dey fire palm tree. Any palm tree we see, we fire. You see Chinese fall down with the gun. All the Chinese, all the gun, both the Chinese fall, all they fall down together with the gun.

That’s how we kill all the Chinese in Eleme.

Ali Yahaya’s hands. Photo by Chika Oduah

We enter Eleme, the next day. When we enter Eleme, they divide us. They sent me to Eleme waterside.

So, I stayed there two days. They later bring Land Rover. They come pack us. We are seven. The waterside now, it just be like from here to central market. Then, after two days na they bring, they brought Land Rover. They said that we are going to advance to capture Port Harcourt. The Land Rover pack us. We joined our people.

So we advanced, reach near rail line, where the railway line pass. We stop. We pin down there. Daybreak, we move to Port Harcourt. And as we enter Port Harcourt, them divide us. 15 Brigade, follow left. 14 Brigade, follow airport. That’s how we enter Port Harcourt.

15 Brigade, enter wharf. We stay inside wharf for 2 weeks. So after two weeks, we are inside the wharf. Our commander, General Akerede, he asked us to enter our ship. We went and captured Bakana, Degema, Buguma, Abonnema, Tombia, inside the sea.

They are inside the sea. Small-small islands. If we capture this island today, we go stay there like one week, we relax, for one week.

Then after a week, if we don prepare, we went and capture another place. That’s how we capture all the land. We land at one place called Okikiri.

Eh, we eat, when we see plantain, we do eat plantain, banana, garri, most of the Igbo, when we meet there, like that river, that Bakana, Degema, Buguma, Abonnema, there is no one of them inside their village. All of them enter inside the sea and go and hide themselves.

So after two days, anywhere we capture, after two days, they will come back with canoe. They will bring plenty fish and dash us. No, I didn’t do [ever inside their farms to steal food] that since I there. Never in history.

I have one friend in Degema. When we left Port Harcourt, we capture Bakana. After one week, we enter Degema, so I have one friend there, from [Degema]. One River man. Every afternoon, he go fry plantain. He go roast plantain with one kind fish. It’s just be like, eh, fish, small-small one like this. He go fry am, bring that plantain and thing for me. Every afternoon. The man survived.

Eh, we captured Port Harcourt. From Port Harcourt. From Port Harcourt, we moved to Igrita. From Igrita, we moved to Ozuzu, uh Chokocho. From Chokochu, we moved to Okehi County Council. We stayed for Okehi County Council.

No, not difficult [to capture Port Harcourt] because we met a stronghold in Eneme. That is where we fight for complete a month with the Chinese people before we overpower them. Hence we overpower them, we enter Port Harcourt easy. I think from Eleme to Port Harcourt is twenty miles. No firing. Nothing. So when we enter Port Harcourt, we started to dey hear fire, when some houses inside Port Harcourt, e get some Biafran wey hide themselves inside. They go dey fire one, one, one, one in the night like that. One by one.

We get trench. We sleep inside the trench- we don’t sleep. We always watch. We are not people like those soldiers- nowadays soldiers. We are very, very intelligent and vigilant.

We don’t sleep, we watch well, well, because, you see before they see you. We build a trench. In Port Harcourt, [we build a trench] for wharf, inside wharf.

Yes, I move from Port Harcourt, our flying boat come from Bonny. E pack us. We get more than twenty flying boat.

Yes, flying boats. Twenty. More than twenty. Most of them carry arms with soldiers. Some carry only soldiers.

That’s how we capture Bakana. Bakana, Degema, Buguma, Abonnema, Tombia down to Okikiri, that is the land.

My mother didn’t know whether I enter army, or not. Na after the training, when we finished training, they asked us to go house and come back. Go and salute our people. I come back house, I tell my mother that I don join army. She say okay no problem. My father say he is a soldier, by the grace of God nothing go happen with me.

Then I went to one of my father’s friend. He is at Bachama Road here. I tell am say I don join army, now. We are going to war front. He say him go give me some talis [talisman] make I put for my body. I tell am say me I no want that one. Just pray for me only.

[My father] no know [that I was moving to all these places with the army].  But we meet 1970. We meet the same battalion, me and my father. I was under his own company. We meet the same place. That is 27 batallion after Afikpo….very far.

In my own unit batallion, we have refugees in my batallion. Plenty. They do give them food.

Every morning, afternoon, evening. Morning, afternoon, evening. There is a time when Gowon bring money. They said everybody have Biafran money, make them change am to pounds. That time we was using British pounds. That’s how we were changing Biafran money to pounds.

They don’t allow soldier to enter them oh [to talk to the refugees]. They don’t allow.

They camp them one place. They only give them food only. They stay in one camp. They camp them one place but we, we are inside trench. And there were military police guarding those refugees. They don’t allow any soldier to step into their side.

Yes, there is that one [looting and raping girls]. You know soldiers, we have some bad soldiers.

Ali Yahaya. Photo by Chika Oduah

We have good ones. E get some, some of them good. They enter inside Igbo house, keep on looting, packing this and that, but we asked them say where are you taking this all to? Remember you are fighting oh. Where are you taking them?

There is one among of us.He begin dey carry boxes, radio, bicycle, this and- clothes. When I ask him, he say, “Eh, where are you taking this thing wey you dey pack?”

He said wetin concern me? That is how I quiet. I shut up my mouth, but you know say den kill am oh.

Yes, plenty [of rape took place]. Plenty of them. Make I tell you one thing that happen to me.

I attend court martial during the war. We was in Okehi County Council, them carry us to Akwa, near Asa County Council.

One village called Akwa. From Chokocho to Akwa, e no far. That is where they carry us go. That place, it is 17 Brigade that occupy that place. But that Akwa is a village and there is water from Aba Bridge cross like this to Akwa, so they carry us there to block that water in case of enemies, so when we was there, I have one staff, him name be Emmanuel. The staff name is Emmanuel. My name is Ali Yahaya. I am a sergeant. He is a staff sergeant.

One day him ask me say make I lead am go Akwa. I tell am say wetin happen, he say nothing.

I don’t know exactly what is going on. Him carry bicycle, I carry bicycle. When we get to Akwa, he said that we should enter one compound. I tell am say that is not how them teach us in depot. What they teach us: if you want to enter compound one person enter, one remain outside… He say it’s true. He enter inside the compound, and there is one Igbo man inside the room, frying garri.

He was frying garri. The Igbo man was hearing wetin I talk. The staff say make I enter the compound, I say no. That is not how they teach us. If you want to enter inside the compound, one man will enter, and another will stay outside. The Igbo man write am down. Then, after the staff enter, I brought a cigarette from inside my pocket.

I light cigarette. I was smoking. The Igbo man write am.

So after staying like one hour, I didn’t hear firing, nothing, nothing. Staff said we should go. We went back. The next thing now, after two days, I see soldier, more than one soldiers, from 17 Brigade. They come to arrest us because that Igbo man went and report that we came to village and kill everybody.

They are Nigerian soldiers. Most of them they are Hausas. They are Nigerian soldiers. All of them are Hausas. There are some Yoruba people, very small, among them.

And that- where from they come is 17 Brigade. We are from 14 Brigade.

So luckily, I was feeling water, I was feeling to drink water. I fired coconut. The coconut fall down. I carry one dey drink water. The next thing where I go hear, they said, “Stop, you! Stop there. If you move, I’ll fire you.” I just look at right. I saw soldiers coming.

I throw the coconut, I put my rifle to rapid. Automatic firing. So that before they came -they are many- if they come- there are many of them. I am only one. I know I go die, but if I open fire rapid, I go kill so many of them.

Because they said if I move, they go fire me. I was told they are not Nigerian soldiers, so I stopped. They come and meet me. The next man wey he go talk to me na one Hausa man, one officer. A captain.

He said who are those people who went to that village and kill everybody two days ago?

I tell am say I am among of those who went to the village. We are two. And nobody die there.

When we went there, the staff said we should enter inside the compound. I tell am say no, that is not how them teach us in depot. In depot, they say if you want to enter inside compound, one man should enter inside the compound, one stay outside because anything can happen.

Then I stay outside. The staff enter. I brought a cigarette in my pocket and light the cigarette.

The officer said you are a good man. He said where is, where is the staff?

The staff was inside the trench very far from where I stand. About twenty people went and bring the staff. Twenty of them. When they bring him, them begin dey ask am question.

The staff dey talk this, talk that, talk this and that.

They carry us go. They collect our rifle, give our people the rifle. They carry us go to Asa, waterside, where 17 Brigade stay. When we went there, their motor brought food. They give me food, with big, big meat, three.

That army meat. Eat-and-die. Na so we dey call the meat. Na cow meat. E big. Three of them.

They give me 3 meat, rice and beans. Staff, they tie him hand, because he don’t want to tell the truth. Na so staff stay till daybreak, no food, nothing.

You went and killed everybody

Daybreak, they brought food, them give me food, I eat. I enter water, I bath, I wear uniform. They took us to 17 Brigade. When we went to 17 Brigade, from here, the battalion arrest am come. He ask military police to double us. We double well- well, till eight. We double. Go and come back. Double. Till eight.

Brigade commander come, General Alani. They ask us to wake, we wake up.

They match staff inside office. Brigade commander ask am question. Then they brought him out. I entered inside. Brigade commander ask me say you went to one village two days ago. You went and killed everybody.

I tell brigade commander. “There is nothing like that sir. We didn’t kill everybody. I was inside the trench. Staff say that we should go to, I should lead him to one village. He didn’t tell me anything. I lead him to the village. When we get to the village, he said we should enter inside this compound together. I tell am say, that is not how them teach us. The way them teach us in depot, one man enter, one stay outside.” When I dey talk those things, brigade commander dey shake head like this. The paper wey they brought, if he read am, he go shake head.

Then the brigade commander come ask again, after staff enter, I brought a cigarette. I light. That Igbo man write everything. So after staff stay one hour, he come out. He went back. The commander, General Alani [Lt. General Ipoola Alani Akinrinade] ask me say did you hear any firing? I tell am say nothing like firing. Staff didn’t fire anybody.

The next thing, Akinrinade say I’m discharged and acquitted. Staff- immediately staff went out from the office, they take him to front line. One frontline, they call that frontline- “you go today, tomorrow you die.” That is the name of that frontline. When Staff, they take Staff to that frontline. It’s not up to five minutes. They fire him belle here. All the intestine come out. Them push am, they back tie the belle, take am to hospital. They stitch am. Staff went.

So myself, they brought a vehicle that take me to my unit.

They discharge me and tell me and I acquitted. The whole soldiers, that they are paid. They begin dey give me one, one pound. Dash. Na so my pocket full. When my unit, 14 Brigade, they never pay. They take me to Asa waterside. From there I trek for leg, go back to my unit.

When I went back to my unit again, the Igbos where dey for that village, because they like me- this one bring yam, this one bring fish, this one bring this and that. Because, why they dash me something, because I am too good for them that time.

We had one Igbo boy, called Amana Yebo. Yes, he is from that Akwa village. Amana Yebo. Amana Yebo is from that Akwa village. So, when we eat, they brought food for us, we eat, we give Amana Yebo to wash our clothes. One day, our brigade, 14 Brigade, they said they want recruit soldier. I am the one who told Amana Yebo to go 14 brigade. He went there and they take him. [This was] Ikwerre.

So Amana went to the brigade and luckily them take him. They train him there. After, they take him to frontline. They take him to 38 battalion. You go today, tomorrow you die.

Most of our soldiers enter village. The village wey we attack and pass. You know most of the Igbos will come back to the village. They will come back and stay. We, we have already went. We have already gone. Because any village wey we catch, we go move like two miles and pin down.

Ali Yahaya. Photo by Chika Oduah

At times, we can even trek to five miles and pin down. It depends on how the fight be for that place. So most of our soldiers will sneak out and go to the village to find women, capture women. That’s how- and some of the refugees again if they come out, from there they get women. They take them as their housewife. The same thing with some officers.

[I didn’t take any woman as my housewife].

I marry Igbo 1970 and na marry, I marry her. I paid 7 pounds. You know wetin pounds is. The father say that woman is from Emeabiam. Owerri. Emeabiam. Nkasi. Emeabiam. I marry her. I pay 7 pounds and that 7 pounds, them use am train one of her brother called Emma. He don become a big man now.

I married her and paid.

They will come to our battalion. Those girls do come to our battalion.They come to find boys na. Any person wey want them, he take them. It’s from that battalion I saw her. Where I saw her, it is in one of our office, military police. They come to judge case. There is one boy wey want to marry her. She refused.

So one of my friend say, come see one girl. If you want am make you carry am na. Na him I talk to her I tell am say I want to befriend you. She said okay no problem. That I should follow her to their village. So that time I was in, what’s the name of this place? Okehi. Maybe Okehi. I have forgot the village. It’s within that Owerri side. I forgot the village…I forgot that village. So when I follow her to the father, and I saw the mum, even last five years I come to the village.

Somebody was about to marry her. She refused. I don’t know whether she collect money from the man oh. The man say him no gree, she must pay the money. So they take them to military police office. It’s from there the military policeman say anh anh, it’s not by force na. The girl say he don’t want to. What next again? You leave her. That’s how they separate them. Then one of my friends say whether you want to marry her. I say yes.

That was 1970. I say yes I want to marry her. I talk to her. She said I should follow her to her village. Around Febru- ah. Around March. War was over. Then I take her to the village. I talk to the father. He said no problem.

Ah, when the war end, I was at, near, Umuahia. I forgot the village. There is water passing there. I forget the village.

So this is where all our soldier for 3 Div we went and jam. Very big village. There is general hospital there. So we enter market. We start buying something inside the market. I just see that Emma wey den do all that for- me and him- for 17 Brigade.

I see somebody just hold me. I say, “Ah, Emma. Where are you?”

He said, “My brother! I nearly die oh.” He said, “That day wey den take- where they did court marshall for us, as soon as he come out from brigade, them push him inside Land Rover. They take him to the frontline. It’s not up to five minutes, them fire am for belle. All the intestine come out. Then they take him back to hospital. Them treat am, he well. He come open the belle. He show me where bullet tear the belle like this, go round. See the stitching.

[There was a day during that war that me, I nearly died.]

They fired me three times. I have the bullet now for my belle here. Right now. It’s inside. If I give you touch am you go hear am. There is bullet here. They fire me here, the bullet enter. The doctor remove am and stitch am. The stitching is there.

…they fire me through the window

This fire, I was in back of palm tree, one big palm tree. One Igbo man, he was inside house, through window. I think they fire me through the window. So as soon as he fire me, the bullet hit a tree. So the running rate of that bullet, e less. The bullet hit me here. Blood start to rush. So the next man near me he said, “Ah, oga. Blood dey commot for your hand oh.” I put hand, I remove the bullet, then I went to the medical this thing, RV, where den dey treat us.

Ali Yahaya. Photo by Chika Oduah

That time, there was a heavy firing. You cannot even stand because as soon as you stand, you are a dead man, unless you bend down or you crawl.

That is how I commot and move to the RV, then treat me. I come back to the frontline.

Me I don’t feel anything [like guilt] because that person, I can’t kill an innocent man. I kill person wey carry gun, that wanted to kill me, but an innocent man. If a soldier surrender, he surrender himself come out, I will not fire him. And any person coming out, refugees or anybody, small pikin, women, men, old man, I don’t touch anybody.

Second division [was in Asaba]

1 div [was in Abagana].

I’m from Commando. We follow the sea. You know, from that eh, Akwa, when I tell you say we was with one Igbo man. When I tell him say to go and join the army? He went and joined the army. He went to the frontline.

They fire am for hand. From there, they take him to Port Harcourt. From Delta to Port Harcourt, they put him for plane down to Kano. They take him to Kano hospital. From Kano, he went to Kano. They treat him, treat the hand, he come back. The next thing, when he come back to the brigade, he trek with leg, come back to our unit. He enter inside the- I was in Akwa.

We was in Akwa, so there is ship, there is so many ship coming from China with AK47. All the ship carry AK47. Almost- whether na three or two ship. Something like that. Nigerian army seize the ship and seize all the weapon. So they brought all the weapon to the frontline and shared all the weapon to every soldier. Each brigade, everybody, everyone of our soldier get AK47. Then they collected G3. If you are having CETME, they collect CETME and give you AK47.

If na G3, they collect G3 and give you AK47. Anything wey you have.

Everybody [had AK47]. I use grenade well=well. I am a master of grenade because had it been my picture dey, I for show you. I use grenade very well during the war.

I didn’t see anything like market during the war. There was nothing like market. [We were just attacking] inside the bush and we don’t attack civilian. We attack those Biafrans. They attack us, we attack them.

[After the war] I stay at Owerri. Imo state.

Okujwu [Chukwuemeka Ojukwu] was in Ihiala. It is 1 Div that have get Ojukwu, but him don fly.

Ali Yahaya. Photo by Chika Oduah




*This interview was conducted in Kaduna State, Nigeria


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