Mr Laz: A Biafra Story
A lot is going on in the world right now, and I’m rife with emotions this morning.
Chelsea won the Champions League last night.
But today is #BiafraRemembranceDay
At this moment, I don’t know if I should talk about my father who was born in the middle of the war.
Or I should talk about the constant persecution of the Igbos.
Or I should talk about the time when I was in Primary 3 when Igbos in Ikom, Cross River State were attacked, people maimed, their shops burnt, goods destroyed, families separated, people killed, lives never to be the same again.
This happens all over Nigeria every year.
But today, I’ll talk about Mr Laz.
In 2016, I was an intern at VON in Abuja when I met Mr Laz.
I was living with a relative who attended the same church as him. He came for oil prospecting and we all stayed in the same house for months.
I keep a lot of notebooks, jotters and diaries where I write about a lot of random stuff I’m thinking about.
Even my mother insists on taking jotters as souvenirs when she attends weddings, just so she can give them to me. Lol
Mr Laz was probably bored one day, and he started reading some of them.
I have no idea why.
I come back home from work one day and he tells me he has been reading some of my stories. I’m so embarrassed!!!! 😆
But then he starts lavishing me with compliments and telling me they are quite good, and he had no idea I had an artistic side. I start blushing ☺️
Over time, we bonded over stories and then one day he tells me a story about his childhood. A story about Biafra.
Mr Laz was born in the North (can’t remember the exact state). But he told me he was a child, say between 5 and 7 when the war broke out.
His mother was able to smuggle them out and they managed to get on a train headed to Igboland.
They thought they were safe and everything was behind them as they arrived Benue.
Benue is in the Middle Belt, and those who travel to the North from the Southern part of Nigeria know it’s a gateway to Enugu and Cross River.
But what they saw at Benue was unbelievable!
People were lying in wait killing every male that stepped out of any train coming from the North.
Imagine escaping the North and reaching Benue, only to be hacked to death. I mean, you can smell the okpa they sell at Enugu from Makurdi.
You could smell your home, but you’d never reach there. Onwu ejituogi n’uzo.
So, how did Mr Laz survive?
His mother had to dress him up like a girl.
Oh, it was easy.
Mr Laz is a very handsome man. You can only imagine how he looked like a child.
Add a dress, eyeliner and scarf, and you have a beautiful girl.
They hacked down every male – old or young.
Who knows, they might have found him out if some Biafran soldiers who heard about what was going on didn’t pull up at Benue with automatic weapons and dispelled the murderers.
That was the only way the rest of the Igbos running from the North could pass into Igboland.
Imagine a child living through these horror stories and having to remember and retell them every time?
They’ll tell you it was a civil war, but don’t let anyone fool you.
What they did to the Igbos was a GENOCIDE!!!
They didn’t kill you because you were successful or domineering or diligent or hardworking or an overcomer.
They killed you because you were IGBO.
They killed you because an Igbo is all of the above and more.
And even though I have certain reservations about the current state of the Biafra Movement, I choose to know my story.
Know your story too.
Because one day we’ll all tell our stories.
Maybe yours truly might even make a movie.
#Ozoemena But until then… #Echezona
PS: Who knows, maybe my father or Mr Laz might have been one of the children in this picture.
“Until the lion learns to write, every story will glorify the hunter.” – Chinua Achebe (Things Fall Apart)