Pen Pals

A Soldier’s Story

by Joseph Osueke, Sr., Dallas, TX

Nneka: Tell me bout the time where you, uh, you said after the war…when you were in the jungle for two weeks.

Joseph, Sr.: Mhhm, that was the part of the country we were fighting, eh?
N: Mhhm.
J: I was in the jungle, and the–we didn’t know the war…because there was no type of, the communication was not that…like, you have phone, you have, uh radio and all. But after two weeks, the war has ended…two weeks, we’re still fightin’. Until we heard the news that ‘the war has ended everybody should lay down their arms.’
N: Mhhm.
J: So we, we…two weeks after the war has ended, so we just lay– we had our…we started walking. It was like, um, just like from that place you are in California now, like to Dallas, here. No, like to–from Houston–no. Like, eh Houston, from here to, where will I say? Was it just another city, though.? So we..
N: Umm, maybe like from Houston to Hunstville?
J: Eh?
N: From Houston to Hunstville?
J: No, Da–like from Houston to Dallas, here. So we had to…
N: And you walked that far?!
J: Yea, we–not even. We walked that far–I had…all [our] clothes were tattered. So, In the daytime we would go into the bush and sleep…
N: Oh, man.
J: So in the…in the nighttime we would get up and start walking home again. So it took us, that number… about four to five days to get home. So by the time, like, eh the war has ended at the part of our home, our place. So my father and all my sisters, they con– two weeks and hadn’t seen me–they concluded that I…I was dead. Until one night I just slipped into my [village]–that was my ghost. [He knocked on the door, and his father thought it was his “ghost”]
So, I told him “no.” He still persisted, so…I slept in the eh, in the, what we call, veranda.
N: Mhhm.
J: Outside the house. So my father opened the door early in the morning and woke me up, he saw me. So, he shouted the whole village. So he had his beard, he hadn’t shaved his beard for a long time. Yeah, so the first thing he did was to go and shave his head…because you know, like, when your loved one dies in our place…
N: Mhmm.
J: …you got to, either mourn–you say, mourning–either you shave…there are a certain number of months or years you will not shave and that… So my father went that time and shaved, he started shouting, got the whole of our compound, village. And I was real skinny.
N: Oh.
J: Real skinny. Eh-heh. No food. Nothing. Yea, we had to eat some cassava leaves. (chuckles) To survive. It was no fun. It was not fun–maybe that’s what…what toughened me up.
N: Yeah.
J: It prepared me for, for coming here. And when I came here, I had no help from anybody.
N: Mmm.
J: I had to wash dishes in the hotel, pay for school to get money to pay for your school. (Yawns) SO that was the way…it happened. It was no fun. War is no fun, anyway.
N: Yeah.
J: It’s not.
N: Tell me umm, so who was the war between? Explain that, the war and the cause of the war.
J: Oh the the thing is that, it was between the Eastern—it was a war, what I call…civil war.
N: Mhhm.
J: Yeah, so you know the Northern part of Nigeria is mainly Muslims.
N: Mmmhm.
J: And the Southern part of Nigerian is mainly Christians.
N: Yeah.
J: So, the Muslims, eh, the Hausa started killing them, you see?
N: Mhhm
J: So they started, most of them started coming back, and the Hausas, they would relay them and kill them. So that’s, that’s why the Eastern Nigeria said they will not be with Northern Nigeria again to be one Nigeria. So it went on for months and months until war broke out.
N: Oh wow.
J: So the North started fighting the East to force the East back into Nigeria.
N: Mmhhm.
J: So, did this have anything to do with Nigerian Independence?
N: No, no. You know Nigerian Independence, we had it…independence [on] October 1st, I think, 1960.
N: Yea, 1960.
J: Yea, but still, it was the British people. They messed up the whole country.
N: Mhhm.
J: All they come was to tap our resources back to their place and…left–leave the country in eh, ragged form.
N: In turmoil, yeah.
J: Yeah, that’s what they did.

 

photo courtesy of www.cnn.com

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