The road will kill you

Kenneth Ezenifite. 85 years old. Born here in Awkuzu [a town in Anambra State, Nigeria]. I was at home. I was going to farm when the war started. I was more than 13 years old then. I was up to [older than 20 years] then.

Kenneth Ezenifite shares his Nigerian-Biafran War Memories. Photo by Chika Oduah

How we go to know that war had started was that we were at home when the confusion started. The war came from the North and we were sent away from our homes. It was here [in Awkuzu]. We left from here.

We were at home when the war started and we packed our things and ran away. I was not married at that time.

They were many [my relatives who led the North and came back to the east] including my brothers and other people.

They came back from Sokoto. My brother was doing hand work in Sokoto. He was not looking good because he did not even come back with anything. He did not say anything. He only said that everybody was protecting themselves.

If he remained there [in Sokoto], they would have killed him.

[When the war came here] we ran to many place, including Onitsha]. Where I ran to myself was Nkwelle Ezunaka. It was our legs we were using to run. It took a long time to reach there. When we are going and night comes, we rest and continue the next day. Anywhere you saw, you slept, inside the bush.

If the bush does not kill you, the road will kill you.

I was in Nkwelle Ezunaka for two years. I stayed in Umunya [a town in Anambra State, Nigeria] for one year. In Nkwelle Ezunaka, there was no house anywhere. If you find any place, you clear it and look for something and lay on it. My brother himself later died. He could not run away [because he was was old so he stayed and died in Awkuzu].

…they wanted to be free

We did not bury him, those that buried him were war fighters [Biafran soldiers] from our place. They said [told us later after the war] they buried him somewhere around our house but I don’t know the exact place.

We were listening to what they were saying on Radio Biafra. They were saying that they wanted to be by themselves [secede from Nigeria]. The song they were singing was that they wanted to be free. The songs they were singing were much. They were singing,”if there set did not go to war, who will go the war?”

Another war song was- I can’t remember.

They will just carry you [conscript] and go. At that time, every grown up guy must go to the army. I went. There was no grown up person like us that did not go to the army.

Kenneth Ezenifite. Photo by Chika Oduah

We were in Nkwelle. There [was a Biafran army] station was in Nkwelle. I went to the war front.

What I was doing then was going to carry things. If they say I should go and bring box that contains bullets, I will go and get it. I was made sergeant.

[During the training] they thought us how to move during attack and how not to let our enemies get us. Each time we see our enemies, there is how [a way] we move. The training was up to two months. We use to go march to where others were. If you come out in the morning, they will call you, if you know where they send you to, you go there immediately. When the train lands, you leave. We begin the training in the early hours of the day. When it is two in the afternoon, we go out. You go to anywhere they send you. If they don’t send you out, you find somewhere and hide yourself. Where we were marching was in Nnewi. We use our legs and not motor. Who will give you motor? The color of our uniform looks like that clothes. [Points to a green fabric].

I was forced to join the army. It was by capture. They came at night and caught people [conscription]. You cannot move when they come to catch you. I was sleeping when they came and caught me. What can you say, since you have been caught already? There use to be plenty [of soldiers who would come together at once to conscript]. They were breaking the door and coming in. I tried to run. If you come out of your house, they seize you immediately and point gun at you.

Those that joined the army wanted to join the army. There was no other option. But I was not prepared for the army yet. They did not come back, those friends I had that we took picture together [in the war].

Someone who stayed in the bush, you don’t need to ask me if I suffered. No food. They gave me gun but I returned it at the end of the war. There were too many guns. It was not just one person that was carrying them.

We never received anything like relief materials.

Kenneth Ezenifite. Photo by Chika Oduah

I use to stay in the camp they gave us. We used to guard other things in the camp. That was our job.

We see Nigerian soldiers. The only time we saw them was when we came down to this place [Awkuzu].

They did not come to Nkwelle Ezunaka.

They announced that the war had ended and that people should start bringing [returning] their guns.

[Chukwuemeka] Ojukwu…he was going around. I didn’t see him.

When the war ended, I used my leg from where I was staying and came back home.Everywhere was bushy. I saw dead people lying on the ground. Our compound was okay. My dad died before the war.

[During the war] there was nobody that was strong; [we all had fear]. We did not have bunker.  I am still supporting Biafra.

 

 

 

 

 

Kenneth Ezenifite granted this interview to Chika Oduah from his home in Anambra State, Nigeria. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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