Forty-sixty-year-old Mrs Lilian Obiechina, popularly called ‘Ada Ide’, is a native of Ogidi in the Idemili North Local Government Area of Anambra State.
Her looks expose the doggedness in her participation in the struggle for Biafra which she told our correspondent was strengthened by what she termed by the ill-treatment of Igbo in Nigeria.
Obiechina said, “I was more of a Nigerian than an Igbo but as things keep happening, one keeps hearing news of what is going on and one watches one’s people being pushed to the wall. One then asks oneself ‘who am I?’ Are you more Nigerian than an indigenous person? I am Igbo.’’
“When you watch others, you see the northerners when they react or do their things; you see the Yoruba how they do their things and now you are sitting back watching your own people being pushed to the wall. You ask yourself, why are you not there? Why are you not where your people are?
“Getting to that consciousness spurred me into getting involved in what is happening to me as an Igbo woman. As an Igbo person, that was what actually motivated me into the struggle.”
She noted that if the Igbo got what they felt they deserved in Nigeria, there would be no need for struggle, adding “Why won’t we (Biafrans) govern ourselves – like other states that broke out of a larger country?’’
Obiechina, who adorned her hair with colourful beads, said there was nothing wrong for Biafrans to govern themselves within Nigeria.
“Is anything wrong with Biafra being an autonomous state from Nigeria? Why can’t Nigeria move on and allow Biafra to move on or any other indigenous people that want to move forward? Why?
“Must all of us be dragged together at Nigeria’s pace? How can somebody who has learnt how to crawl, walk and run wants to fly, and you that is crawling is holding the person down? Is that right? We want to govern ourselves; we, we want to man our place. We want to take charge of what is happening to us, whether we get it right or we don’t get it right, it doesn’t concern any other people.”
She explained that they were not after other tribes’ domains, stating that even if they were in Nigeria, there was nothing wrong in Biafrans getting what was due to them.
Strong for Biafra
According to her, harassment by security agencies emboldens her to do more for the Biafra struggle.
She said, “You actually grow a thick skin and you will even get to learn great strategies because you have met them this way you keep learning new strategies and improving. We are actually improving. The more they come, the harder they will fall because we keep improving and finding ways to engage whatever they throw at us.”
She stated that anyone in a struggle would only withdraw if he/she wasn’t aware of the reasons for the struggle.
“One can only chicken out in a struggle only if one doesn’t understand the reason for the struggle. It is when you don’t know why you are in a struggle that when you are slapped or your clothes thorn you will say you are no longer participating in it,’’ she added.
Obiechina said when you were in a struggle, you should consider yourself dead even while alive.
She said, “You come to that point that nothing thrown at you will make any impact on you. Many times, I was stopped by security forces on the expressway and asked to lie down. Even if they asked me to stand up later, I would tell them to let me be that I was comfortable that way.”
She disclosed that her husband supported her joining the struggle as it was not meant for men alone.
She added, “Every man who is a husband should actually be at the front and his wife and children will line up behind him. This is all we have and I don’t think a man who is a man is fighting for himself alone. He is fighting for his generation and coming generations.’’
Also speaking, Eberechukwu Anigbogu, popularly called Ada Biafra, told Saturday PUNCH that she was nicknamed ‘Ada Biafra’ because of her contribution to the struggle as an ‘authentic’ daughter of the land.
“I am from Igboland, my father, mother and brothers are all Biafrans. I don’t have any mixed blood. I am a daughter of the soil.”
She said the struggle for Biafra many years after the civil war was borne out of injustice.
Anigbogu added, “Biafra lived for three years as a Republic and we were defeated. When people said we didn’t lose the war, I quarrel with them. We lost the war and we became the weaker vessel because that war was not just fought between the Biafra people and Nigeria.
“Whenever I talk about Biafra and Nigeria, I will always tell people that God, the ‘Chukwu Okike’ gave us the land that is flowing with milk and honey. Without this land, Nigeria will not survive. Without the land of Biafra, Nigeria won’t survive. Why did we even come together? My people resisted the white people – the people that came to trade.
“They bastardised my religion, tradition and everything. They brought in a vague religion. They forced religion on us because they have the gun and they have the mirror. It was the gun and the mirror that they used to deceive my people. We resisted them when they came and they saw what we had.’’
Anigbogu explained that why women were involved in the struggle for the restoration of Biafra was because after the war, the three Rs: Rebuild, Reconstruct and Reintegrate which she said was promised to Biafrans as a condition to end the war, were not kept by the government.
“After the war, it was declared No Victor No Vanquished. It is better said than done because it was during that war and shortly after the war that they mastered a plan on how to subjugate us, on how to continue to rule over us till today.’’
She noted that she was three-month-old when her father was killed during the Biafra war, adding that she had to join the struggle for Biafra.
“Since the bird that sang at the time still sings today, I have no reason to sit on the fence. Rather, I will try to see if there is anything I can do to liberate my people. That is why I am in the struggle . I will not stop; it is either two things – either I live the struggle and Biafra is restored or I die.”
She stated that the arrest of female Biafra agitators would not deter her from the struggle. She added, “What happened last year in Imo State where women were arrested and detained for days in prison will not deter us from the struggle? Somebody like me and many others are not afraid. If you kill Eberechukwu Anigbogu, you will see another Eberechukwu Anigbogu.
“We were disgraced in Imo State. They stripped us naked but that is the good thing about the struggle. Have we stopped? We cannot stop. The majority of us have gone to prison in Nigeria because we said we want to go back. But we have not stopped even if they come here and want to kill us, let them kill us, new women will join the struggle and continue. It is either two things – they give us Biafra or they restructure and allow us to be.’’
‘Our husbands, families support us’
Ada Biafra told our correspondent that her husband was a Biafran, noting that whatever affected her also affected him.
“Of course, you remember how the struggle started. Have you forgotten the Aba Women Riot? Those women that started it had husbands.
“My husband supports me fully and I have told him any day I leave the house for protest or to say anything concerning Biafra and Nigeria just consider me dead. If I come home alive fine, but if not, no problem. He understands that and supports me.
“There is no going back because it is forward ever and backwards never. There is no going back until Biafra is restored,” she said.
A mother of five and widow, Mrs Stella Nneamaka Chukwuma, is not hiding her determination for the struggle.
Chukwuwa, who is a native of Inyi in the Oji-River Local Government Area of Enugu State, said Biafra could not be wished away as long as people were ready to defend it.
Chukwuma said that she was in the struggle to preserve her identity, children and children’s children ‘regardless of the security challenges and intimidation.’
“I will take you back a bit because some people disapprove of the term, Biafra. They link Biafra with the Biafran war. They have forgotten that Biafra existed even before the Nigeria/Biafra war.
“Biafra is a landmass stretching from Southern Nigeria. All those living there are Biafrans. Then somebody will wake up one day because there was Nigeria/Biafran war, and say Biafra has been wished away. We are indigenous people living in this area.’’
She said before the death of her husband, they were both in the struggle. “In fact, it is a collective fight. It is a fight that everybody, except you don’t know what you are fighting for, should join. My children, everybody, they are all involved in the struggle because they know they are Biafrans.”
A businesswoman, Mrs Joy Emmanuel, is another female in the struggle for Biafra. From Umunneochi in Abia State, Emmanuel told our correspondent that she joined the struggle because of the ill-treatment being meted out to the people of the South-East
She stated that with her family’s support, especially her husband, Uwa, whom she described as an activist and a part of the struggle, nothing would make her abandon the struggle not even brutality, killing or imprisonment of members of Biafran groups.
Emmanuel stated, “I can tell you that only death can stop me from the struggle. Even in death, my spirit will continue to fight for the liberation of my people. I am not afraid of security forces. I am ready to die because of Biafra because its realisation will bring hope for the future of our children. Those sharing the resources of the country will never allow restructuring to benefit Nigerians. In this kind of hopeless situation, what do you do?”
For Mrs Chinenye Nwosu, a tailor from Arochukwu in Abia State, her involvement in the struggle for Biafra was to give a future to her children.
“I want the future of my children to be secured because as it is, there’s no hope for the younger generation. With Biafra, we will secure a better future for them.”
Nwosu stated that her family was in full support of her involvement in the struggle.
She said, “My family is firmly in support of my involvement in the struggle and my husband is very supportive. He is an IPOB member and I usually encourage him to remain in the struggle. My spirit always tells me that my husband shouldn’t back out or we will mortgage the future of our children to oppression.”
Nwosu noted that their struggle was legal, saying, “I am not afraid of arrest. Even if I am arrested, I will still come out of detention. Biafra is the heaven on earth we are seeking.’’