Tuesday, December 15, 2015


So it came to pass, that after about an hour of trekking from where the bus I was travelling in had to stop due to traffic somewhere in Asaba, Delta State, I reached the Asaba end of the bridge over the River Niger, connecting the Niger Delta/South-South Nigeria with the Southeast popularly called HEAD BRIDGE (or is it Bridge Head now?). At this point traffic seemed to be slowly moving as a few men of the mobile police force were on hand to control the traffic, sometimes conducting a search especially of some private vehicles.

We (band of trekkers) soon learnt that there had been a protest by members of the Indigenous People Of Biafra, IPOB the day before with intention to hold a mega demonstration (demanding the release of their leader Nnamdi Kanu, presently in detention on charges of treason, terrorism, amongst others, for demanding a sovereign state of Biafra) same day I made to enter Onitsha en route Port Harcourt. I wasn't perturbed by the presence of heavily armed members of the security services since I had nothing to hide, though I suspected that my huge backpack may arouse some suspicion within them about me, so rather than walk away from them, I walked towards them.

I was glad to find that moped taxis were allowed through the bridge, and though crossing the bridge didn't appear longer than the distance I had already covered trekking, I was already tired and my legs now too heavy to lift, so I did the next best thing by getting one of the bikes to ferry me across the "Head Bridge" from the Asaba end, to the Onitsha end, a journey which took less than five minutes to navigate as we left stranded vehicles behind in the hold-up till we got to the Onitsha end where I had to alight, raise my hands (because I saw others doing same) as we passed by the stern-faced,  gun totting military and mobile police men. I had experienced this sometime in 2007 in the heady days of militancy in the Niger Delta, when I visited Port Harcourt from Bonny on my way to a friends'. I noticed to the left of the road, where most of the vehicles of the different arm of the security services present were parked, a man lying facedown into the sand and watched over by about three soldiers, wondering what crime he must have committed to have found himself in such a position. I meant to walk up to the soldiers to ask them what the man had done to deserve such a cruel treatment, but I thought better to walk away as it didn't seem the armed men had any intention to be civil that morning.

I soon walked by the statue of DIM CHUKWUEMEKA ODUMEGWU OJUKWU, the late Igbo Icon, who remains to many a demigod (even a god to some others), and I stood awhile, to not only stare at the harmattan-dustied work of art (a shadow of what it was at its unveiling, which I thought should've been better sculpted), but also to take in the legacy of what the man stood for while he lived. It was for the actions of this man, for his beloved people, when Nigeria turned it's back on the Igbos, seeing in them objects for target practice and game only, especially in Nigeria's North, that the then Colonel Ojukwu on the 6th of July, 1967 after due consultations with relevant stakeholders, in what was then Eastern (Now part of South-South/Niger Delta and all of Southeast) Nigeria,  agreed to pull out of Nigeria.


For the three years Biafra fought to free itself off the clutches of Nigeria, to which it had been joined/amalgamated by the colonialists since 1914, the dream of a utopian land of the free was nurtured, birthed but never weaned, due to the war. Igbos never forgot, much like the Jews never forget the Holocaust, and despite what others may say about Ojukwu, he remained the Hero of the Igbo, up till his death four years ago.  

A few Igbo sons have played upon this sentiments (that has remained an idea and ideal for the Igbo, as I elucidated in my treatise on BIAFRA | madukovich's cogitations https://madukovich.wordpress.com/2015/07/16/biafra/) to once a while attempt to recreate or force into being conditions (not necessarily with the bloodshed that birthed the call for secession the first time) under which Biafra can once again be actualized, and because most of these weren't properly thought through, their actions ended up dead on arrival. Some of the agitations for Biafra in recent times have been of and from youths, many of which weren't born ay the time the war was fought (and lost on the Biafran side). This one by the Indigenous People (The Igbo lay claim to being one of the aboriginal groups in Nigeria, unlike some other tribes whose geneology link them to other regions of Africa, even of the world) Of Biafra, IPOB led by Nnamdi Kanu who used to head the media arm of the Movement For The Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra, MASSOB (led by Chief Ralph Uwazuruike, who has since denounced Kanu's activity and gone ahead to float another pro-Biafra group) via RADIO BIAFRA based in the United Kingdom, is different in the manner in which it has been able to galvanize in so short a time Igbo youth mainly to protest, even in the face of intimidation, arrests, even deaths; and also managing  to grind to a halt, activities in major towns in the Southeast (notable for commercial activities, where traders find it difficult to lock their shops even for late siblings or in respect of later close relatives, and rush to open same shops minutes after Catholic morning mass on Sundays) and a few towns in the South-South/Niger Delta region (where the reception, unlike in the former was lukewarm to slightly antagonistic, especially by state governors of the region).


Unlike in the period MASSOB held sway and Radio Biafra broadcasted via shortwave with their message available only to a few who could tune in using transistor radios, IPOB has managed to move to FM and also online, with several efforts by the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation, NBC to block its signals hitting the brick wall, and even when they were able to block one, floated signals elsewhere on the FM bandwidth with ease much to the discomfort and disgrace of the government agency charged with the responsibility of tracking and ending signals from the renegade station. The messages from Radio Biafra has being largely responsible for the way some youths who have been inundated with the messages have gone on, not only to show support but also to be involved in demonstrations, initially asking for a separate state, and much later (as when I passed through) asking for the release of their detained leader.

But all I wanted to do once in Onitsha, was get to a bank and afterwards eat something. I was fortunate to find a bike/Okada rider to carry me to the nearest bank branch whose debit card I carry, so that if it turned out that I still have ATM issues I could walk into the bank and sort it out, of course not without throwing some insult, the way of any bank staff within reach, for the trouble I passed through with the debit card their bank issued me. Fortunately, I was able to withdraw the much I needed, and with another Okada rider made my way through traffic, past military checkpoints with arms raised, away from the main Onitsha road to the motor park on Owerri Road, with intention to make for Port Harcourt, as it was looking like the day will be quite rough, with the impending demonstrations by IPOB youths with the force at Head Bridge looking ready to thwart any attempt at disturbing the peace for that day.

I jumped into the first bus to Port Harcourt I met on ground, once I got to the park on Onitsha-Owerri Road. At which point the rumble in my stomach reminded me of my sorry state of hunger, but that wasn't because I hadn't attempted to get something to eat. I had in fact approached a lady at a stall while trekking from Asaba towards the Niger Bridge, and asked her if she had bread. From the nook where she was eating bread and stew, she asked if I could see bread as part of the things she displayed for sale, I responded in the negative, and she turned back to her food, while I walked away feeling like an ass.

I was the second passenger in the bus. The only thing I could find to buy for food that I was sure won't cause me any trouble was AKI N'UKWA (coconut and fried breadfruit seeds) snack, which I


bought and feasted upon while waiting for the bus to load for Port Harcourt. Time was of the essence for me, not because I had an appointment particularly fixed for that day in Port Harcourt, but rather because I wanted to be out of Onitsha as soon as possible, as what I saw at the Head Bridge earlier that morning at Onitsha could possibly not mean well for anybody who remained to see how things will unravel.

Only one other passenger joined us after about an hour since I boarded the bus. I had by now become very impatient, and began to wonder what was in Port Harcourt that I wasn't meant to see or meet that everything since I started the journey to that destination conspired to delay me. I alighted from the bus, trekked further to the next opening from where the bus I had earlier boarded was, only to discover the "real" park, and that where I'd been was no park, but just a space where unregistered buses stayed to "hustle" passengers, and may be there for a whole day without getting filled, compared to the real park, where three buses headed for Port Harcourt where at different levels of being filled, in fact one needed just one passenger. That was how I went to the "fake" park to appeal to the sensibility of the so called "park manager" to kindly refund my transport fare, or at most give a part of it back. 

- http://www.nigeriamasterweb.com
- http://www.nigerianmonitor.com
- http://www.naijatreks.com

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