Judgment is left to be done by God

Eh, Sergeant Garba. No, put Mada instead. Yeah, because no one really knows me by the other name [Garba]. I was born in Zamfara state. I am seventy eight years old. I was a policeman…um, I was born around 19, around 2, 87 on August 15. I was, at the time, when Nigeria got her independence I was 27.

Sergeant Garba remembers the Nigerian Biafran War. Photo by Chika Oduah

I was an engineer with the 15 Arms Soldiers. At the time I was in Kawo, here in Kaduna. When the war started I was in Alaiyadi, Anka [a locality in Zamfara State, Nigeria] when the war started…

I was an instructor in the Nigerian army. We trained fresh recruits from the army before they went to the war front. They were brought to us so we supplied and shared weapons with them. After giving out the weapons, we trained them well and then sent them to the next one.

At the time? We were present when that happened [the assassination of the Sardauna of Sokoto, Ahmadu Bello] When I heard it, I felt devastated. It felt unfair, I was angry and upset. I didn’t feel as if I was myself for a long time. I was a policeman at the time. I heard about it with my own ears because I was on duty that time. It was at night on a Friday. I was in Zamfara working as a policeman- a corporal. I was at my duty post when I received the information. Garo Maimalali asked of my whereabouts. He said that people were going to come so I said okay. At the time I didn’t even know who he was. I was the commander.

I wasn’t married then. I was very strong at the time.

I was not in support of it [the secession of the southeast region]. When a country is divided, it wouldn’t just affect me. It would affect everyone. Some might like it, while others don’t. I don’t know. In my opinion, I don’t think countries should secede. We’re better off together as pagans, Muslims, Christians. If the country separates then we wouldn’t live in peace. I didn’t like the idea of the secession.

…tried to stop the chaos

Judgment is left to be done by God and God alone. I was a corporal at the time so I didn’t have a say in deciding whether they should be persecuted for their crime [of killing Ahmadu Bello, the Sardauna of Sokoto].

Sergeant Garba remembers the Nigerian Biafran War. Photo by Chika Oduah

They should be given punishment and an investigation should be carried out to really find out what motivated them to undertake such a thing, if something is wrong with them.

…When people started opposing the killings [of leaders such as the Sardauna of Sokoto], I was on duty. On Friday, around nine o’clock, Maimalali told me to be careful. He told me what had happened. He asked me whether I knew what had occurred and I told him I did not. He told me Sardauna has met his maker, and I felt so devastated. I said “May Allah grant him repose.” At the time, people were protesting. You know we didn’t have guns… so we picked up wooden [sticks] and tried to stop the chaos.

At the time, it was eight in the morning and then things subsided. The noise and protest had reduced but then soon heard that in Sokoto the people were protesting and saying “we do not agree, we do not agree.” Zamfara followed suite with that and we [police officers] were sent to [contain the crowd.]

[I saw Igbo people leaving town and returning to their homeland in the southeastern region.]

Well, thank God. In Tudun Wada [a locality in Zamfara State, Nigeria], Sabon Gari [the capital of Zamfara State], and Jengebu in Gusau [the capital of Zamfara State], I was the one who who drew the attention of the authorities that people [the Igbos and others from the southeastern region] should not be allowed to leave their local governments with cars and their belongings. Imaging leaving the chaos here and going to meet an even worse one on the road and eventually dying? What have you done, then?

No one [among the Igbo and other people from southeastern Nigeria] was touched. Those [among the Igbo and other people from southeastern Nigeria] that stayed were protected. I do not know what happened to those that did not stay behind. We set up a camp for those that stayed and assigned policemen, about ten in each classroom to guard them. Whoever trespassed into the camp was going to be arrested and punished. No one [among the local population] came to harm them. Not a soul was killed. [We protected them in the camp] for about two months twenty days.

At the time, our superior, the highest in command, Wakili Dan Amu asked, “Corporal Garba, where are the people under your custody?” So I took him and Captain Momal to see where the people were camped. So I asked the people in the camp to come out. When they came out, they were told it was time for them to go home, as things had subsided. They were transported via trucks back into town. Anyone who spotted their home would inform us of their home and we would stop to drop them.

Sergeant Garba remembers the Nigerian Biafran War. Photo by Chika Oduah

When a person identifies a home, their photos were taken and their full information would be noted down for record purposes. The person would then be asked to enter into their house and prove it is their house. When they do so, they were asked to check if anything of theirs was damaged or stolen. So from then we would move to the next person’s house until all of them were safely back in their homes.


*Sergeant Garba granted this interview to Chika Oduah from Kaduna, Nigeria



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