- A paralyzed Biafran soldier who joined the war when he was thirteen has shared his experience
- The 63-year-old man has resorted to writing memoirs since he cannot move around again
John Chukwuemeka Oliwe, a 63-year-old Nigerian man who joined the Biafran army when he was barely thirteen years old, has revealed his ordeals through the memoir he has been writing.
Oliwe who is now paralyzed has over twenty files of manuscripts of two books he is writing. These books contain most of his experiences during the Biafran war.
The incapacitated man stated that his age made it difficult for him to join the Biafran army. However, he was accepted at the Militia Armed Forces of the Biafran army before he was eventually absorbed into the main army.
“I sneaked out from home to join the army. I was very young then. But they said I was too small,” he recalled. “It was in 1967 that the militia armed forces accepted me. They were not strict and their recruitment was liberal,” he had said.
In 1968, Oliwe had a terrible incident that left him badly injured. The poor man and the others had succeeded in pushing the federal troops from their lines. Due to the fact that it was dark, they had to form a makeshift camp to pass the night. Their calculations were wrong as the federal troops saw two of his fellow soldiers who had gone to ease themselves. They shot wildly at them.
“Some of our boys, who went to answer nature’s call, were seen by the federal troops and they fired at them. That was how they knew our position and started attacking us with mortar bombs and shelling,” he said.
Oliwe was struck by mortar bombs shrapnel. When he was eventually rescued by his fellow soldiers who took him to the hospital, the doctors said he had partial paralysis. His spinal cord was affected and he had been sitting on a wheelchair for the past forty nine years.
Doctors had told Oliwe that his body still has some mortar bombs shrapnel. “As at the last count, I have about 12 mortar bombs shrapnel still in my body and they have their own complications,” he said.
“On two occasions, two of them came out on their own. One morning, I finished taken my bath and when I was rubbing cream, I felt a sharp cut in my body and when I removed it, it was a shrapnel. At times, when I bend down, I feel like something is hooking me down,” he said.
Against all odds, he went back to school even though it meant he had to beg during the weekends as the scholarship scheme set up for the wounded Biafran soldiers did not fall through. Through hard work and determination, he was able to earn his first degree in English from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka.
“It was terrible going back to school. You cannot go into a classroom unless you are lifted or someone helps you out. But I was glad I completed my studies,” he said
His first book is titled ‘Lest we forget’; it is about the war and how his military career went down. The second one is a speculative fiction. When asked how he felt upon the neglect they received from the Igbo race, Oliwe said he suffered disillusionment as the Igbo race has failed to see them as their own people.
Watch the NAIJ.com TV video below to learn about the experiences of another Biafran soldier who joined the force when he was twenty one: