“They hold it atrocious to kill a fellow creature; therefore, war is in their eyes incomprehensible and repulsive, a thing for which their language has no word.”
– Description of the Inuit people of Greenland by Norwegian explorer Fridtjof Nansen, 1888.
Being bombed by Russian fighter jets, whether in Aleppo, presently, or in Biafra during the war, is an unspeakable shattering experience. The screech of the overflying jets would first alert you to the danger. Then the speedy throttle to nowhere is heralded by the sharp report of the meek Biafran rifle fire response on the ground. Then more desperate deluge of confused humanity pour out to jam the streets. Some would be standing still as many others would no longer hold it. Grown-up men and women would openly unzip urinating on themselves. Besides, some pretenders seek cover by trying to shade their trembling heads beside the huge lamp posts and intersecting green trees stretching down the city’s boulevards.
Still hovering overhead in shimmering bombastic chill and arrogance, the Russian air messengers from hell would instantly draw sharper reports of rifle fire, ahead of the crude defense anti-aircraft arsenal on the ground. Blazing away in a cacophony of dry melancholic laugh the giddy Biafran rifle staccato spurt would in a few moments be drowned by the entry of the heavy bass. Suddenly, the orchestra of death, the flying messengers from hell, would storm the Biafran ground defenses: the heavy machine guns, made-in-Biafra anti-aircraft rockets, the Ajuala ground-to-air missiles. The confrontation produced a deafening Tsunami echo Armageddon.
The Biafran rocket fired by its own scientist veered right and for a while was racing up in the direction of the menacing jets. Just as the trembling flock was kneeling in prayers the rocket, still carrying its powerful warhead, divorced from its weapon of mass destruction and both the rocket and its warhead detoured and started plummeting towards the jam-packed mass! The brilliant Biafran scientist was the first to be roasted on the ground.
Aware of the huge technical disparity and holding on to its instrumental advantages over the Biafrans, the Russian Ilyushin and Mig fighter pilots swooped on the mob.
Ask the survivors of the Umuahia, Aba blitzkrieg, and again call any Syrian survivor of the Russian carnage of Aleppo. There is nothing more frightening than the sound of mad aircraft. Transfixed and hopelessly heading to no distinct destination, the wobbling group formations on the street started to collapse. Grown men whimpered like toddlers. Women went hysterical and children forgot how to cry. Again the Armageddon deafening Tsunami sounds of the Russian Ilyushin sirened the mob alert. This time, young ladies who found the energy were running without their manners, poise and their tight underskirts and pants were torn to pieces, held up to give their legs more room to maneuver. Domestic animals in the ensuing race for life collided against their equally traumatic owners. Flying very low and without any more Biafran resistant staccato dry spurts, the evil Arab pilots could be clearly spotted in their cockpits laughing and enjoying the death theatre on the ground.
The death messengers stretching the tragic plot would swoop from the North-west to the North-east, tumble down and up, circling the gasping swathed mob target. The screaming, disorganised street mob would stop dead and head in the opposite direction. In a jiffy the deafening death sounds from hell would boom from the East once again. In their utter confusion nobody told them that the wicked jets were faster: A second tumble down the skies the encased foolish mob screamed like hell.
Realising in that fleeting moment that the race from hell to death on the ground was unequal and there was nothing to it than to stop. The ‘schadenfreude’ Arab pilots were clearly enjoying the death theatre on the ground, playing with Tilapia. Allowing the fish play around the sand before the barbecue roasting!!
All through the war, major civilian centres of Biafra, including Aba, Umuahia, Owerri, Ihiala, Ozubulu, Oguta, Orlu, Ikot Ekpene and also the Biafran market centres were deliberately targeted and civilians decimated. Engr. Nwabufo contributed his own story, which would be published full with others in our 50 Years After the Genocide documentary by the October date of the anniversary. “In 1968, we were refugees in Umunya, present Oyi Local Government. I was 10 years old and on that Oye market day, I strolled into the market with other children. Suddenly, there was air raid, dropping of bombs inside the market filled with the young, the old, men and women, boys and girls.”
On the other hand, the humanitarian groups, the Red Cross, Caritas, World Council of Churches, rushed in to save thousands of dying and critically wounded victims of this genocide from the air. In his own testimony, the co-founder of the Doctors Without Borders, Patric Aibrard, testified that, on their arrival, volunteer doctors from all over the world who rushed into Biafra to save humanity met a health and emergency administrative structure never before experienced anywhere in the war zones of the world. Inasmuch as the Biafran enclave was facing total annihilation, the regime as far back as in August 26, 1966, had established the Biafran Rehabilitation Commission. Originally conceived to rehabilitate eastern Nigerians who ran home after the massacre of 1966, at the outbreak of the war on July 6, 1967, and with the Nigerian Army advancing inside the Biafran hinterland resulting in the displacement of civilians, the law establishing the commission was amended. The amendment extended the commission’s responsibility to include the care and welfare of refugees. There were seven core members who were called Commissioners. The relief agencies, Caritas, World Council of Churches, International Committee of the Red Cross and the Biafran Red Cross, were co-opted as members of the commission. The directorates of food supply and production, fuel supply, medical supply and housing were also representatives of the commission.
In view of the high death rate caused by starvation and air raids on civilian targets, the Rehabilitation Commission in cooperation with the Biafran Ministry of Health, voluntary medical agencies and relief organisations established the refugee medical services and converted a lot of public schools and village halls, into emergency hospitals. Gravely wounded victims of those horrendous air raids were rushed to these hospitals and most were operated on, sometimes under darkness.