The tone of the cruelty in Biafra was best described by Commander Benjamin Adekunle of the 3rd Marine Commando Division, Nigerian Army to French radio reporter, he said, ‘’I want to see no Red Cross, no Caritas, no World Council of Churches, no Pope, no missionary and no UN delegation. I want to prevent even one Ibo from having even one piece to eat before their capitulation. We shoot at everything that moves and when our troops march into the centre of Ibo territory, we shoot at everything even at things that do not move."
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In spite of this, one of the remarkable weapons used by Nigeria during the 30 month civil war that claimed the lives of over 3.5million Biafrans was starvation. This tool was allowed because it is the case of a Black man; as brutal as the second war was, starvation was never used. This condition, forcibly led even an unborn child to the battle field, the newly born sucked a dry flat breast, lizard and rats became rare meats and salts were sold in tea spoons. This was the birth of Kwashiorkor, a disease that has never found its way to this nation as far as history can tell.
Kwashiorkor is a severe form of malnutrition, caused by a deficiency in dietary protein. The extreme lack of protein causes an osmotic imbalance in the gastro-intestinal system causing swelling of the gut diagnosed as an edema or retention of water. This became the invisible soldier, killing mostly women, children and the elderly. It turned to be Nigeria’s most dangerous tool to further exterminate Biafrans. The world looked on, the world was silent, we suffered in anguish, died miserably and according to Philip Emeagwali ’’ We unceremoniously buried dead children (and adults) at the bushes behind our refugee camp. My niece "Baby" Okwuosa and my paternal step-grandmother were buried without a funeral’’.
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Gen. Alex Madiebo, on July 1968, saw the condition on Biafrans and lamented: ‘’I saw several hundred of Zombie-like creatures -men, women and children, lying, sitting or squatting in the midst of others who were dead. The living ones were completely reduced to skeletons and could not talk. I was seeing for the first time, kwashiorkor. Frankly, I took fright, I believe that any foreign troops from anywhere in the world occupying Ikot Ekpene or any other town in Biafra would have shown much more sympathy.’’
Today, this invisible soldier has found its way to the Northern part of Nigeria. Kwashiorkor is presently decimating children in most Northern states, they are dying of starvation in their own land. According to the Borno Emergency Management Agency, about 450 children (aged between one and five years) have died of malnutrition in 28 Internally Displaced Persons’ camps in Borno state in 2015.
Dr Sule Mele, the Executive Director of the Board, reported this in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Maiduguri. He said ‘’more than 209,577 children have been screened for various illnesses, including malnutrition, malaria, diarrhoea and vomiting. About 6,444 severe cases of malnutrition was recorded in the camps, 25,511 have mild to moderate symptoms, while 177,622 among them were not malnourished’’.
The above is just an instance in Borno, Kwashiorkor has also extended its tentacles to Jigawa, Kastina, Kebbi, Zamfara and Yobe States. According to report from ‘’Working to Improve Nutrition in Northern Nigeria’’, WINNN, (funded by the UK Department for International Development), about 370,000 children with severe acute malnutrition in Northern Nigeria required lifesaving treatment.
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Dr Mohammed Liman, National Programme Manager, WINNN, said that the rate of malnutrition in these aforementioned states is as high as about 58 per cent. “As a result of malnutrition, 58 per cent of children under the age of five in these states suffer from stunting, meaning that their physical and mental developments have been impaired. An estimated 370,000 children with severe acute malnutrition in these states will require lifesaving treatment this year, without such treatment, some 70,000 are likely to die,”
The North claims to be the food basket of the nation, but Kastina has a whooping 2.4 million almajiri beggars, begging not just for money but mainly food. The nation currently imports about 90 per cent of the rice she consumes, tomatoes are grown in Plateau (not North), cows too are currently imported from neighboring countries. No fertilizer has been distributed to these northern farmers in the past 12 months to grow the beans and groundnut they are known for. Things have suddenly fallen apart for the north, they are fighting this invisible soldier.
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So when you see their children today with a pot-belly, they are not a drunkards; when you see them with altered hair texture, they did not dye it in a hair salon; when their legs and arms are swollen, they did not sustain any injury -they are battling the invisible soldier, Kwashiorkor.
The North boasts of about 70 per cent of the top positions in Nigeria, and ironically, she can boast of 70 per cent of the nation’s poorest people too. The North boasts of feeding the nation, but cannot feed herself. They occupy all government seats but are still the nail cutters, shoe polishers, truck pushers and waste pickers. In Nigeria, the name ‘’Aboki’’, no longer depict its real meaning, but simply means ‘’a low life’’. Nature has again brought these British slaves to where they belong.
The invisible soldier has arrived! Kwashiorkor has taken over the Northern Nigeria! What goes around, comes around. Adieu ‘’One Nigeria’’.
Written By Chinedu Ewulu.
Published By Nwosu C.S
For Biafra Writers.