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AGONY AND PAIN

Posted by By MATTHIAS NWOGU, UMUAHIA on 2008/02/02 | Views: 626 |

AGONY AND PAIN


The World War II and the Nigerian civil war may have ended long ago, but for one man, the wars are still raging. This is because the pains of war are still with him as he has bullets lodged in his right arm that have not been extracted 62 years after the war.

•World War veteran lives with bullets lodged in his arm for 62 years

The World War II and the Nigerian civil war may have ended long ago, but for one man, the wars are still raging. This is because the pains of war are still with him as he has bullets lodged in his right arm that have not been extracted 62 years after the war.

When the Biafran war broke out, Major Kalu Ijeomanta (rtd) could not resist the drums of war and like other able bodied World War veterans, he joined the Biafran Army out of sheer patriotism. Though, he came home after the Biafran war without a wound, he is nursing the wounds of losing his two sons in that fratricidal war that lasted for 30 months. In this encounter with Daily Sun, Ijeomanta shared his experiences in the wars he fought, expressing bitterness against the government for abandoning him and his fellow war veterans.

World War II
Nigeria as a colony of the British Empire joined in the World War II to fight on the side of her colonial master and the allied forces. As a young man then, I was recruited in the Nigerian Army and sent to Burma in 1942 for training. After the training, I was posted to the Signals (dispatch riders). I was a dispatch rider, sending information to those in the war front and other formations. I was one day on my motorcycle to some dispatch when the Nazi soldiers cut us off and broke the bridge.

The alternative was to break through the ambush or risk being captured as a prisoner of war. I acted on my instinct made a U-turn and rode straight through their ranks and in the process knocked down some of them. It was in that process that they fired sporadically and hit me on my left hand but I managed to escape with the wound. From Burma, we went to New Delhi, India and in 1949 we came back to Nigeria after the victory parade at Kensington.

I must say that the British appreciated our sacrifice to defend them against the Nazi. That was why after they demobilized us, they gave directives to the then district officers to be paying us. After the disbandment, those of us who suffered disabilities were placed on special allowance - hardship allowance. The others who had no disabilities were paid off.

Turning point
We were receiving the allowances even after independence. With it, we took care of ourselves, our families and had a sense of belonging as ex-service men. But when the Biafran war broke out, the payments stopped. We thought it was temporary but several years after the war, nobody paid us anything. We were told that our files were missing.

It is unfortunate that our counterparts in the North are being paid till now but here in the South-East, they said they cannot trace our files. That is how they have left us to suffer in our old age.
It is unfortunate that our sacrifices in our youths were not being remembered in our old age. How much is it that our government cannot pay. How many of us are still living.
It is just that we do not have a culture of appreciating services to one’s nation in this country.

The legion
We only hear that government makes some subvention to the legion but it does not trickle down. We also hear that the Abia State government gives a monthly subvention of N200,000 to the legion but most of us do not get a kobo.
We expect the government to be taking care of us having used our youthfullness to fight for the defence of our fatherland. We, the World War veterans, are not alone.
Our colleagues that retired from the Nigerian Armed Forces didn’t pass through difficulties before being paid their pensions.
Our expectation is that the government should have considered us as old persons and given us the equivalent of what other countries do for their aged ones, putting them in old peoples home and taking good care of them.

During the Armed Forces Remembrance Day, since it is our day, the government should be able to finance our entertainment, knowing how much we value it as we come together to remember our good old days. But that is not the case. I tell you what ever we eat today are from our contributions. We paid our transport fares to the place. We expected a better treatment.

The legion transport company
Let nobody be deceived by the buses that have on them: “The Nigeria Legion.” They do not belong to the legion. People just bring their vehicles and get them registered there to free themselves from police or other harassment. If our associations have all those vehicles, then we would not be complaining. I made enquires from Abuja and I was told they were yet to give us a vehicle. So, whatever money is realized from Remembrance Day is for the organizers and possibly a little to the association.

Self help efforts
We have organized ourselves in our local government areas in the form of welfare association. We contribute when any of our members dies for his burial.
As old men, that is the only project we take so seriously and which we can afford to contribute to, given the level of our penury. My appeal is that government should establish old peoples home, so that some of us can have shelter and food, while those of us who have wounds or disabilities could be taken care of.

Biafran/Nigerian war
I took active part in that war. I was in charge of Oguta in the present Imo State with Col Timothy Onwuatuegwu. We did a lot of exploits in that sector and captured a lot of weapons from the other side.

Family life
I had two sons and one daughter. I lost the two of them in the war. My only daughter is in Geneva where she works with the United Nations (UN). The loss of my sons was sad and part of the supreme sacrifice for my people.

Advice
After the war, I was the Chief Security Officer at the State House, from Dodan Barracks to Abuja for 11 years.
I was replaced by Mustapha. When I was there I suggested to General Ibrahim Babangida to promulgate a decree for compulsory military service for every youth, at least, for two years.
That is what obtains in India. The military training instills discipline that enables them grow up disciplined citizens. It helps prepared them for patriotic service for their country.

Lance Corporal John Onyenucheya, another World War II veteran, said that a soldier should be paid for life, considering his sacrifice of fighting for his nation.
“I was demobilised after the war and what we are paid now is N600 a year which is not even regular. I want the government to review the peanut, which translates to N50 per month. Is that the value for the sacrifice we made for our nation?”

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