I drink my piss…I shit maggots

Donatus Nsionu shares his Nigerian-Biafran War Memories. Photo by Chika Oduah. 2019.

My name is Donatus Nsionu.  Dem born me 1933 for Awkuzu here [a town in Anambra State]. You no sey the time wey dem born us, everywhere neva open like that. Dem born me for backyard. Na for olden days [Laughs]. Na from our nights, the day wey dem born us carry Nkwo for Nteje [a town in Anambra State]. You no sey Awkuzu get Nkwo and Nteje. Later, dem fight because of that boundary. That place wey dem get garage now, na where Dem dey treat lepros [sic] and chicken pox. All dia bodi go dey peel like this. Dem no dey near where people dey live. So, na that time we and Nteje people fight because of the boundary. Awkuzu come win them and dey come do for here.

I dey for Port Harcourt [the capital of Rivers State] when the war start. The thing wey I dey do, I dey do carpentry and building construction. I never marry that time. Na later after the war. Na war make me no marry in time but after the war, when I survive, I come back, I marry wife.

Okay my sister, the way the war start, I dey for Port Harcourt dey do carpentry works. So Hausa people come dey kill the Igbo people wey dey for North. When dey kill dem, they pack am come for war never reach here. So na later wey war come start. When I dey Port Harcourt, I join army. When I join army, dem keep me for Port Harcourt. I dey there when oyibo [white person] from London fight come for war. I dey for 18 Batallion.

That time, fight don reach everywhere. Even when I join army, I no see any of my people at all, at all. That time, na from there I enter. When I come back, na after the war.

The thing make I join army, be sey Hausa don come here occupy everywhere. I think you understand me. So na from there I come join army instead wey dem go capture me for hand [instead of being conscripted]. I come enter Biafran army na for Port Harcourt.

The people wey they train that time na for Elele [a town in Rivers State] wey we dey there because Hausa don enter. Because many people wey dey for our house, we no no sey the whole people wey dey sell kola nut and shoemaker na army. So, we go carry dem keep for house. For midnight, as e start for Port Harcourt dem begin dey kill Igbo People wey dey there.

…we fight for Abagana sector well well

I dey Port Harcourt war enter. Hausa people carry war come for our Port Harcourt here. In short na there I join Biafran army because dem dey Port Harcourt before Hausa come enter. That time wey them come for war.

My training reach almost three months before I enter the army. When we dey for Elele, after we do training finish, dem send me for Abagana sector. Na there wey dem throw me. So na we fight for Abagana sector well well.

…we dey crawl like snake

Dem train us well as we dey crawl like snake. We dey also crawl like monkey so that if you raise your head up, them go catch you. Anyhow wey bullet dey fly dey go, you bend yourself, e no go touch you. And when e dey too much, we dey go trench, when dey come for attack. Like for Abagana where we dey, dey face them for Enugu, by that time, dem never cross. You no sey when the war dey tight very well, Hausa collect Abagana Midwest.

Them teach us AKR…and Mark 4. Na dem gun we get dat time. We get hand get hand grenade…we get all those things. My rank? Captain Ogbuagu.

When they send us for war front, we collect gun and everything wey dem dey take fight. Them carry us deploy us for locations. The thing wey I learn na wetin dem they call infantry. And since wey I enter the army, only one month I get salary. The place wey dem they post me, I no fit collect even 10 naira ’til three years.

I go Abagana [a town in Anambra State]. From Abagana, I go Bendel, that is Asaba. Na where dem dey keep the battalions that time. later, dem pursue us come back again. Dem send me come Nkwelle Ezunaka [a town in Anambra State], near for Abagana. Na there wey I go.

The thing wey happen for Abagana be say this people, this our enemy, dem come, carry armored car face us. You no sey that time when e dey like that dem never get materials to fight. The one wey we port to come to us, from wetin dem they call am, Cameroon. Dem seize our everything for Cameroon. Guns wey dem bring for us through Cameroon, dem seize am. Na so e dey. Na later [Chukwuemeka Ojukwu] Ojukwu bring gun again…

Dem [Nigerian soldiers] just enter for Abagana to cross to go Onitsha and to Bendel. But we no gree them. But when firing armored car, Buffer and everything dey too much, we retreat, go back. Na him make dey occupy Enugu, from Ogwu Hausa, to Enugu, to Abagana, to Onitsha to Bendel.

…my hand don chop finish

We wey be infantry, we dey bush. Road no dey for us. Na bush we dey. We can from here for bush, reach Umuahia with leg. We are moving for night anywhere wey fight dey too much, we go camouflage ourselves. When e reach night, we go see heavy rain they fall, na the time wey we dey move, we and them go quarter. At times, we dey one place, two weeks we still dey fight.

Donatus Nsionu. Photo by Chika Oduah. 2019.

That time, Achizie [my commander]. That man na Umuahia man. But after, for Abagana where him dey, we no sey Achizie na saboteur. Na him carry Hausa enter. Many of our boys wey we deploy no no sey Hausa don dig bunker, cover am with, I no no how dem they do am. You go pass, after we pass finish, they come capture us. Na so our members finish. Dem finish all of them. So, we and Achizie dey quarter that time. [In Abagana], I am using K-82 after 82 I come get Steamer [sic, Madsen dey hot. I no dey use Madsen one hour, my hand don chop finish. You no see my finger. Na gun.

Hungry worry us well well

Dem [Nigerian soldiers] no kill me. But I kill people. I kill people well well because my own training, I learn am well. I no dey pursue woman for war front. I no dey loot anybody now. Na that people wey sey me I no go stay my father’s compound. Na dem wey I face. I think you dey hear me. Any bullet no touch me. but I no get 10 naira. 10 naira. Dem no pay me before war stop. I just suffer like that. But I thank God that my life dey. If to say I die for war front, this wife wey I marry, I for no marry am and nobody will remember me. What of for other peoples? That time wey we fight, I dey see human being like this like san san. When war dey to much like this, When we dey for battlefield, we dey lie for dead body, them jump us pass, think sey we don die. Yes. Dey hear me?

Hungry worry us well well. When dem pursue our people for the location where dem dey cook, our boys dey chop, I no dey chop. Later, de come no sey we dey chop am, that is Biafra, dem come put poisen, na there our boys finish. If to sey I chop the food, I for die. This my head, as dem tell me, na him dey important.

I say when we dey for war front, dey do attack attack, bullet no touch me. But the day as him dey ask me wey I think sey I don die. I get the day wey war dey too much. Dem pursue us from Iyi-enu [a town in Anambra State]. We run from there enter bunker before shelling land. If to say we no for that bunker, if for cut my head. Me too, I, just inside the trench cover my self. E land. When e land, e dey cover everywhere. Anything wey e touch, anything na human being touch, immediately it don kill you, e turn black. Or e no touch you, the sound dey near you, you don get 106 [mm] artillery. You no go hear something again. You go dey behave like mad person. Na so e be.

I piss, drink my piss

They get something where dey do like gutter. When you reach Iyi-enu, na there we do the bunker. We stay more than one year [in the bunker], because of that road, Abagana to Enugu. Na we hold am that time…No road. No road dey there. I piss, drink my piss. Unless you go see water drink when rain fall. We go drink water for gutter. No food for us. No chance to go.

We chop corn, raw corn well-well

No dis is dry season. Piss, we take cup, everything dey complete for your body. Everything dey. Take cup with piss, carry san-san, put am, small time e don change. We chop corn, raw corn well-well. Raw corn. We dey chop am. Dey chop raw cassava. I no no sey e no dey kill person oh [raw cassava]. And e dey sweet us like sugar. Na only God do that one. E no dey do me anything. Na even one day [we come out the bunker] unless wey we dey go attack for night. We go and e dey near our bunker. You see am?

Donatus Nsionu’s hands. Photo by Chika Oduah. 2019.

Come outside, na fight we dey come fight that time. You go keep yourself for location, that is bunker, to cover yourself. We fit dey inside for that bunker or Hausa go dey shoot you now because they know direction una day. But immediately you raise yourself up, e don carry you. Bullet don carry you… No smoke. No light. Light, dem tell us light na target. Anywhere you put light for night, dem go see you. but you no go see the person. We no dey smoke.

If ammunition finish for your hand, you don finish…

Ojukwu dey come for our location, drop something for us. No be food oh. Na ammunition. We go carry am na [the ammunition]. When him come, no be for night oh, he dey come in the afternoon like this, drop am. He dey drop am for main road… Immediately dey drop am, him go fly go. We dey carry am immediately. We no waste time. But food no dey reach us.

Yes, he dey come himself [Chukwuemeka Ojukwu]. No be every time. We dey see am na. You know sey e get phone wey dey that time, no be ordinary phone. E be like [satellite]. When you talk, you dey talk like this for, na him dey use dey go for war front.

[When Ojukwu came] him no dey talk. Him no dey stay na. Immediately him land, him go drop am go.

I suffer for war front

Eh heh na [I was happy to see Ojukwu] because that ammunition na him be our life. If ammunition finish for your hand, you don finish for that. But the thing wey help me be sey that time when we Hausa dey do these things, gun wey dem give me I no like am. Na gun wey I capture for warfront, SMC, carry am like this, jack your bullet, e go dey heavy you. when you dey shoot am, e go dey draw you dey go, you go balance well- well, dey shot dey go. Bullet go dey turn like this. If you lose am, e concern you, your own don finish. Na him be your life. And na me wey dey here, eh, I suffer for war front. None of my people wey I see before war end.

You mean my father? Him dey that time na. Him never die. But I no tell am [my parents that I joined the Biafran army]. They no dey, na, they don run before I come. I dey Port Harcourt to join army. As I dey Port Harcourt, join army war don come too much. Nobody dey for this Awkuzu, e no man’s land. Me I no no dem run go. I think you understand?

Na when I come back I no see anybody. But when I since enter amy, dey for war front, battlefield. I no reach house. They [my parents] never see me. Na when I come back wey I hear sey my father don die for where dem run go. No so e dey. Na my mama wey I meet, my mother and my brothers.

No friend for battlefield… Everybody face e own line. I no get friend for war front. I no get one. But I know sey some people wey me and him for battle, for battalion, some die. I think you understand?

I no carry anybody [fellow Biafran soldier that died on the battlefield]. I dey carry only myself. Everybody dey defend him head na. I no carry person. I no carry anybody.

We dey leave am na. Dem dey dey there rotten na. When you dey hear person die, eh, two battalion can finish at a time. Two battalion at a time. Eh heh. Some of them, the thing wey dey kill some of them na mortal bomb or helicopter or Saladin, enter, that armored car. E no say e dey set by set. No so e dey. Na so bullet dey come out. From little small pikin to the ending. This one wey I kill for Ogbunike [a town in Anambra State], when they reach for Ogbunike…big gutter. You go see one armored car wey dey there, na me do am. When we dey for bridge…that man just bring head, I throw am, e enter. E enter that gutter, all of them finish. E dey till war end, na after the war, you no sey road no dey. Motor bomb bomb bomb bomb bomb bomb bomb from Enugu to Onitsha, oh, plenty. I think you understand?

Donatus Nsionu. Photo by Chika Oduah. 2019.

Na we get ogbunigwe. Ogbunigwe when you bring am e dey be like bucket. We dey call am Ojukwu Bucket and dey set am with battery. With battery. When dey set am, you no go see am sef. Any people wey pass where e dey, e just be like sey you take e gun powder pour, na sound e go make pshewwww. Everybody dey there, e just finish them. But e get button where you dey press and press am. Where the head dey. E be like switch, e like be this light now. Wetin I  dey do now? When I wake up, I go where switch dey. Dey off am. But e no off am, set am. You go dey watch the time wey dey go come. Immediately, they pass there, we don press am. Massacre…

Sleep? Sleep na make them catch you. As you dey look me so, na so we dey look every day…As for our own time, we wey be infantry, we dey sleep for where? House dey?

Inside trench wey water full, potopoto, potopoto. Because Biafra dey draw rain well-well…Hausa dey fear rain. Na that time, when they take dey fight them.

You see human being, my brother, mud. I think you know mud, na dey trench.

When we commot na after I come back, my leg dey peel like eh, this thing. This my leg dey peel, completely, more than one year as war done finish because of that boot wey dey your leg steady. That boot wey dey for your leg steady, no changing.

Biafra song? Eh, that time done tey sef. I no go remember am. But what I know we sing, eh, eh, Hausa, Hausa. E get as we dey speak am that time. Hausa go, go, go. So, we dey sing but I can’t remember again. Even one. It don tey. It done tey. E don pass forty years now.

We get plenty songs wey we get plenty.  I don chop am for garri finish.

[Laughs].

I don forget some of them. 

[The day the Nigerian army entered Port Harcourt], that time, na that time wey I don go for army because Hausa don occupy Port Harcourt. As I tell you before say we no know sey the whole people wey dey…army, army, we no know. Just one day for land like this. Biafra army dey already. Wey am the person where dey call, eh, eh, na him be our demonstrator for Port Harcourt. Aguma. Na him be our demonstrator Port Harcourt that time. So, when these people enter, kill person, na army, fight, dem shoot. Na him make dem dey Elele.

I dey Port Harcourt dey do my carpentry before Hausa enter am. I from that Port Harcourt wey I dey go Elele. Dem block everywhere. Road no dey. No road. Na Hausa block everywhere. So any Biafra dey for Elele. If you wan join army, you join. Or… you go Enugu. Dem take you.

I no afraid at all [during the war]. My mind strong well-well… I get strong mind. How I go dey for my house here and Hausa… come here, pursue me for my house. Na him be my annoyance. I no dey lie for you. I do war…

Dem dey kill our people, for North dey there. Civilians wey dey there, dey finish them. Pack dem for motor dey come drop am for boundary, our boundary for their own…No be small thing oh.

What I know be sey any enemy wey I see for my front, I know dey leave you… God give me mind for that one.

I no see am [soldiers raping women], but e dey happen. E dey happen. Biafran soldiers, you know I know dey talk about Hausa own. Hausa own, what I know be sey the people wey dem capture. Like the civilians people, they carry them. Me, I no dey know where dey carry dey go. Whether dey marry dem, or dey kill them. I don’t know, both man, dem dey carry. But anyone dey catch, dem dey finish am.

I no rape any woman

Okay, when dem dey for trench, when others start dey go attack, some soldiers dey carry woman follow that trench come and carry something, give them. Dem dey carry property wey dem loot. Like I dey tell you, some people wey leave their things, run. Go to Biafra, go to Nigeria. Anybody wey dey for that side dey sell something, like person wey dey sell boutique, better things, some boys go enter there carry give. Woman, carry, go. That is why I tell you sey me, I know do that kin thing.

Donatus Nsionu shares his Nigerian-Biafran War Memories. Photo by Chika Oduah. 2019.

I no want am. Where I go carry am go. I know anybody? Even if I know anybody, na the thing wey I come for? I know carry anybody property. I know loot anybody thing. I no rape any woman.

I know say anything (when I saw my comrades carrying women). Nothing concern me. Na dem know the thing wey dey do. By the time wey dey come, shelling dey kill dem. Shelling…mostly the women.

Aria [also known as afia] attack, the people wey dey go carry salt, stock fish, and food like rice them. We no know how dem dey manage go buy am with- Hausa oh!

I see all these people for my eye. I talk to them say una go die, na Hausa get near… dem go block road…they carry money. Go. Hausa dey buy am, dem dey buy Hausa own, the money. I no know how them manage. They struggle that one.

Eh, the sick, to tell you my pikin, God dey do wonderful oh. Only injection wey dem give me when we do training finish, I never take injection again, I no sick, due to sun and rain wey dey beat me day and night. You know e be like say, I no dey feel am. The only thing wey dey do me be say, when food no dey for us again, I dey weak. When I carry gun…God dey give me strength when we start attack, I dey get strength, stand, work well-well.

[The initial we received at the training in Elele] I don know [what it was for] just when we finish, dem line us for line, give us injection, one by one, everybody. No be only me. Everybody wey dem train. The following day, dem call us.

The injection? They give me injection for here [points to his side]. Only once oh. Dey no give me two times. The following day wey dey give injection finish, dey send us for war front. I never take another one. I no sick kwanu.

…I dey shit, na maggot

But something wey I get later after the war. I no dey eat, I no dey chop, nothing. As I come back, I no dey ‘gree chop. I no dey ‘gree sleep for house. When I enter for house, e be like sey dem tie me something because that fight dey my eye. Nothing dey hungry me. But one day I try. Mama give me food, I chop small. Eat soup. I go toilet the following day. The thing wey I dey shit, na maggot. E dey fall like sey na bunch bunch, we dey small small small, dey tiny. Na e be the thing wey I dey shit. Na God no as him manage do, e stop.

Okay when we dey for that training. We eat. The day wey food enter our mouth finish. The day dey send us for battle field, nobody come back again. The place wey we camp, food dey come. But immediately that camp enter bush, no more food. Because war dey too much. No be sey dem no get. Na people wey dey outside dey chop. You know fit carry food come for war front….

[I was in Abagana camp, then I went to Bendel camp.]

..because no be you go talk sey see where I go go. Na the oga send you the location where una go go.

Nke Abagana ka mma. [The camp at Abagana was better]. The thing make I like Abagana be sey e dey near for my house. Eh, make I like that place and I can never take my hand sey see the battalion wey I go enter. So anywhere wey send you na dey I go dey… One, two three, four, five…come out. You don come out. Ngwa, jump inside the motor. Dem carry you. Follow.

No, chance no dey [for me to leave Abagana camp and visit Awkuzu.] I know try am at all…From that place wey dey locate me, na there I dey steady.

…I never marry that time.

…Chance no dey come [to listen to the war propaganda and updates on the radio, like Radio Biafra]. You no dey hear wey I dey talk? I say as since we do training finish, locate us to the location wey everybody dey go. I never come out again. I tell you sey na one month salary wey I chop since three years. I no chop money because we never come out. No road to come out. I no dey go anywhere. To battlefield wey I dey steady.

No. No radio for us. Chance no dey. Na people wey dey outside, like people wey for DHP. Na dem dey do that one. All this people wey dey telephone dem. P&T dem dey that time. Na the phone wey dem dey use. We wey dey for bush, who go gree to bring for us. We just dey like that.

When I dey Abagana, we dey go Enugu. Enugu. At times, we sey make we go Onitsha. I think you hear me. From there I cross to Bendel. That time, I dey 18 Batallion. So na Abagana sector wey I dey. Although I go this Eket, near Calabar. I go Eket. I fight in Eket.  Na big-big fight na.

I capture Hausa Man…I kill am

Fight. The thing wey dey there, na fight. Very big water dey there. So they carry us cross that water….Na God help. When dey pursue all the battalion wey go attack, some enter water finish. Some wey get na rope, for big river oh…Yes, I tell you sey I no dey leave my materials…

Donatus Nsionu shares his Nigerian-Biafran War Memories. Photo by Chika Oduah. 2019.

All the thing wey I dey do be say that bullet e no go stop for my body- I capture Hausa Man…I kill am.

…where I dey? War end? That Abagana wey I dey na there I dey. Yes. War end, I take my leg, marched, come back for my house. Nobody dey. Na army na full there…the day wey war end sef- we still dey fight oh! Two days. We no know sey war don end, till later. Na go we come here sey war don end.

As we don stop war na, I carry my everything bury for my bunker. Go my way.

Na people. Soldiers, Nigerian soldiers. Na them dey announce, they come from war front, sey ‘war don finish, war don finish.’ We still dey shoot. Make we no shoot, na our own brother. Me I no know now. I still dey shoot. But dem no dey answer us again, na him I know sey war don end. Dey no kill anybody.

The time wey war end, even when we dey for war front, people dey talk sey war stop, sey that our enemy, we go be the same brother again. Me I never see that kin thing na even when war end. That thing wey dem dey talk for war front na true. But I know ‘gree near dem. Even if something wey dem bring, I no dey chop. I think you understand?

…Ten naira, except the money wey dem pay us dey do training. One month. When dey send us for bush, I no come out for bush again till war end. No be only me oh! As we dey get our location, no chance to come outside. No road. I tell you sey I dey piss dey drink my piss. Dey chop cassava. Dey chop raw corn.

 

 

 

 

 

Donatus Nsionu granted this interview to Chika Oduah from Anambra State, Nigeria.

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