The Nigerian Civil war also known as the Biafran war began on the 6th of July 1967 and ended on the 15th of January 1970. No, I wasn’t born then, But my GrandPa was.
I remember many years ago, at his feet we’d sit in awe of his Biafran tales of war, and he’d tell of guns, shrapnel, bombs going off and throwing him off his bike. He’d go on and on about air-raids, and people eloping, and we’d laugh when he got to the part about scarcity of salt, (can you imagine salt Scarce?) people eating lizards, the absurdity of it all, we’d laugh cos it was super-funny! We never got tired of those stories, and even now I see him in my mind’s eye, seated clad in a T-shirt and a wrapper, hands behind his head, eyes closed in reminiscence, straight-faced.
I remember it all now like it was yesterday. Not once during those ‘Funny story sessions’ did he break to smile. I recall now the pain, agony and anguish he went through every time we’d ask him to tell us those same tales, asking him to relive those horrific moments all over again detail by detail. He never turned us down – we were kids, what did we know? I can hear him now, getting to the part of his tale when they heard over the radio that the war was over and people came out from hiding in their numbers, only for the shelling and air raids to begin again. People were massacred and livelihoods lost.
Now I wish I had understood all those years ago the underlying lessons of life he was teaching us, the essence of life and the opportunity of having it, the grace of being born in lands not torn apart by war and the hope of never witnessing one, but we were kids – what did we know? I understand now the horrors he went through, reliving those tales at the expense of more pleasurable memories.
I wish I could look him squarely in the face and let him know how those stories have impacted my life and improved my understanding of Life, its essence. Grand Pa passed on before I got the chance to say those words to him but I understand now that a part of him never really came back from the Biafran war. I understand now that a part of him was lost in it forever. He had gladly stayed trapped in those memories to see his Grandchildren walk free of them. My Grand father was a mechanic during the Biafran war, He was a hero, but we were kids – what did we know?
(If you’re looking down at me somewhere in those skies, I hope this makes you smile and you’re happy with my life)
– based on a true life story
– In Memory of Late Pa John Egbuna