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Sunday 9 April 2017

BIAFRA: BOOK LAUNCH: “LET MY PEOPLE GO” ...Ruth Onwurah Biafra Poem

BOOK LAUNCH: “LET MY PEOPLE GO” ...Ruth Onwurah Biafra Poem 

10th April 2017

The 32-page book, “LET MY PEOPLE GO,” is a nice and tactful work that depicts the story of the Biafra genocidal war in a poetry format. Authored by a UK-based Ruth Onwurah, a medical doctor who grew up in the South-eastern part of Nigeria, Onwurah takes us back to the Nigerian-Biafran war in an unusual perspective, employing the good use of oxymoron and hyperbole to explain the true life story of the 60s.

I grew up learning that poems and/or poetry are like a mirror through which our inner emotions are expressed. It is viewed as an art through which emotions are displayed in ways other outlets cannot and so when we clearly see this description in Onwurah’s poem and the manner in which she passionately portrayed the suffering, agony, and anguish of children who passed through the war, especially in the piece titled, “Biafra Baby,” I perceive emotions running through her to fully bring out the true meaning of what happened.


In that wonderful piece, “Biafra Baby”, the artistic poet, senses that the agony of children born during the war was so enormous and over boarding that not even a treatment or a drug which she referred to as “penicillin”, as captured in the second stanza of the poem, can heal the deep wounds of the Biafran children who have been starved for weeks without “pap to drink nor bone to chew.”

Malnourished Biafran Children

Onwurah was trying to explain to the world in that poem that the sufferings and agonies of the children that witnessed the war, led to their unfortunate development of various ailments such as Kwashiorkor with stunted growth and falling hair. That is the prize the innocent Biafran children, who, on arrival on earth already have enemies, paid for demanding for their freedom.

She concluded in that wonderful yet interesting piece by urging Biafrans (the younger generation), who are now over fifty years after the war to remember the sufferings of those innocent children, pray and stand strong for them so that they rest in peace.


Not stopping on that, the poet went ahead in another captivating piece titled, “Son of Biafra”, to depict the unhealthy condition he has experienced due to the lingering war, asking him if he has any chance. Onwurah explained that due to the rate of malnutrition prevalent during the war, the Son of Biafra was almost dying of hunger without any hope for a remedy.
Images of Biafra Genocide

She stated that he suffered from Beri-beri– a disease caused by the deficiency of vitamin B1, and that “his legs grew knobbly and knocked out, his ribs protruding and painful, hair stringy and scarce, nails brittle and bronze, lips crushed and cracked, and his stomach cavernous and cold. Due to lack of nutrition, the Biafra Son has suddenly become bony as his father has gone out to fight and his mother, praying all night. 

This expression tells us the kind of strife and agony Biafrans had to endure during the war. With a stoic brevity, Onwurah’s strangest expressions of sorrows, terrors, and horrors, offers affecting interludes in her masterpiece.

Onwurah never failed to remember the two great Biafran Warlords, Gen. Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu and his second in command, Philip Effiong, whom she referred as the Akangkang of Ibiono Ibom, in the poem. My skull was literally blown off at this juncture, on the historic remembrance of these two great leaders who gallantly fought to die for the freedom and independence of their people and region. Their passionate sacrifice for their people is legendary.

MUST READ: Biafra: Pregnant Nigeria Will Give Birth to Another War If Kanu is Tried Under Sharia Law

According to the poem, Ojukwu had to resolve the issue of the continuous massacre against Biafrans, saying, “Let my people go! So many of us have died! To all these abuses we say No!” That was a great artistic line Onwurah employed there.

Onwurah enthused that General Effiong was a man full of wisdom and ready to fight for his oppressed people and that was the sole reason he joined forces with Ojukwu. She wrote that Effiong yearned for fairness, equality, and justice of which was lacking in the Nigerian State. She concluded by bidding the great Ikemba of Nnewi farewell, and rest in peace in the world beyond.

The remembrance of the great literary icon, Chinualumogu Achebe, in the poem, is a sign of eulogy. No writer is better placed than Chinua Achebe of blessed memory, to tell the story of the Nigerian-Biafran War from a cultural and political perspective.

Posterity will find it hard to forget this great literary icon for the prominent role he played during the days of the Holocaust and conflict that nearly tore Nigeria apart in the late 60s. This was succinctly captured in his engrossing all time best selling memoir, “There Was A Country.”

So, our dear sister, Onwurah, thought it wise to render her unreserved respect to the great Iroko of Ogidi town; a gifted Igbo student and enthusiastic reader cum writer who rubbed shoulders at top institutions under the tutelage of Oxbridge colonials.


Readers, often, can tell a thing or two about a writer’s beliefs or ideology from his works and so it is with “LET MY PEOPLE GO”, and it is undisputable that the people being referred here are the Biafran people presently in the geographical expression of Nigeria, who has gone through the most terrible and devastating genocide in the world and till presently are still yearning for freedom and sovereignty. 

Onwurah has indeed proven herself to be committed to the struggle by promising to personally contribute her quota with the money realized from the sale of the book. The poem, “LET MY PEOPLE GO,” is a seminal attempt to tell the Biafra holocaust story from another dimension. Though a lot of books about the war have been written in the past, but this particular book provides an impetus for others to start chronicling the societal ills that led to Biafran war and the inhumane dispositions of the then Nigerian Military Government and thher British ally against the innocent and defenseless people of the Eastern extraction.

Written in a narrative form, simplified language and mastery of poetic devices, the book comes highly recommended for tourists, historians, lovers of freedom and history, and anyone interested in understanding the agonies and challenges encountered by Biafrans during the war. 

In many ways, the horrors and terrors of our ancestors’ lives during the war, mirrors on Onwurah’s masterpiece. It will surely serve as a memorable reading piece for everybody.

By Chukwuemeka Chimerue
Published By IkeChukwu NwaOrisa
For Biafra Writers |


  1. that is what we encourage in this struggle, very soon mine will be released.

  2. CONGRATULATIONS to Ruth Onwurah for writing such an important book. I surely pick up a copy from Amazon. Keep up the great work!


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