“Boy Soldier- Tales from the war”
Chapter 2:- One Direction
“My name is Onyedikachi sir… Umunnakwe Austin Onyedikachi, son of late Colonel Umunnakwe Ifeanyi!!!” These names could be heard across 400m in radius of the Ikosi Jungle.
I had wandered through the night in search of shelter and help from nearby villagers after escaping a night raid by the famous 3MCDO.
3 Marine Division Commando Operations, was one of three Nigerian Army units, charged with recapturing the Biafran territories and maintaining unity. They seemed so fearless and organized. We lacked food but they had ‘female’ cooks in camou with them. Yes!!! Female soldiers. I had never seen anything like it before, but it seemed as though Adetunji was right, some people were really passionate about Nigeria’s unity.
Mother had gone back to her village Calabar, with Nneka, 10 and Anwurika, 5, leaving me with uncle Nzeogbu. She hasn’t been convinced about the idea of me staying with him due to the fact that he was a drunk weakling, but someone had to take care of him. Unlike Papa, and the now famous, Major Chukwuemeka Kaduna Nzeogbu, who so happened to be uncle’s namesake, Uncle Nzeogbu was a coward who crept into his hole whenever trouble arose.
That fateful day, we woke up to warning shots from the Nigerian troops, which called out the Biafran soldiers and urged us to run! Uncle needed no reminders, he had fled long before me. All I had was a pair of shorts and a worn out singlet to match… That was all I needed. I raced all night before I arrived at the Ikosi jungle, some miles away from our village.
“Who are you?!” Came a voice. I turned sharply in fear and surprise, to see the huge and bold figure of the fabled Ikemba of Biafra. He wasn’t at the war front, he was here in the open where any intruder could kill him. “Ikemba!” I shouted, in surprise. Just then, thousands of soldiers appeared out of surrounding bushes – dousing every iota of fear of a surprise attack on Ikemba’s life – with barrels pointing towards my head. I guessed their lack of sufficient bullets might have prompted a strategic headshot plan.
“When I ask a question, you reply without hesitation!” Roared Ikemba, his voice sounding somewhat like the popular actor, Idris Elba, only with a little more royalty and elegance.
“My name is Onyedikachi sir… Umunnakwe Austin Onyedikachi, son of late Colonel Umunnakwe Ifeanyi!!!” I replied. The echoes were loud and thunderous. I didn’t know whether it was pride or fear that my action, but I was surprised by my own voice. “Ahh! Ifeanyi… You’re Ifeanyi’s young chap ehn?! The son of a soldier… ” ” is a soldier!” Came the voices of over 10,000 soldiers. “Welcome Ifeanyi, your father would be proud” Ikemba said, reassuringly.
This event marked the turning point of my life. Two years after Papa’s death and he was still revered and referenced by Ikemba himself. I expected to hear words like “which of the Umunnakwes?!” Or “from where?!” This showed that Papa was truly great. I wanted to be great too. But I didn’t just make up my mind to join the Army, there were events that prompted my action. Two years of helplessness, two years of heartbreak… What happened in the past two years?!