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Patience Chukura oral history interview

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Material Information

Title:
Patience Chukura oral history interview
Series Title:
Asaba Memorial oral history project
Uniform Title:
Holocaust & genocide studies oral history projects
Physical Description:
1 sound file (44 min.) : digital, MPEG4 file + ;
Language:
English
Creator:
Chukura, Patience, 1939-
Bird, S. Elizabeth
Ottanelli, Fraser M
University of South Florida Libraries -- Holocaust & Genocide Studies Center
University of South Florida -- Library. -- Special & Digital Collections. -- Oral History Program
Publisher:
University of South Florida Tampa Library
Place of Publication:
Tampa, Fla
Publication Date:

Subjects

Subjects / Keywords:
Massacres -- Nigeria   ( lcsh )
Crimes against humanity   ( lcsh )
Asaba (Nigeria)   ( lcsh )
History -- Nigeria -- Civil War, 1967-1970   ( lcsh )
History -- Personal narratives -- Nigeria -- Civil War, 1967-1970   ( lcsh )
Genre:
Oral history   ( local )
Online audio   ( local )
Oral history.   ( local )
Online audio.   ( local )
interview   ( marcgt )

Notes

Summary:
Oral history interview with Patience Chukura, a survivor of the Asaba Massacre, a mass killing of civilians which occurred in 1967 during the Nigerian Civil War. Mrs. Chukura and her husband had been living in Benin when the war started and returned back to their family in Asaba. The day the massacre took place, a messenger came to the house where they were staying, telling them that soldiers would be coming around to look for Biafran troops. As the family was on its way back to the Chukura house, Nigerian soldiers pulled Chukura's husband and brother-in-law aside and allowed the women and children to return home. Mrs. Chukura then went to look for her husband, was sent home again, and then took a different route to the police station, where she found that he and several hundred other people had been shot. In this interview, Mrs. Chukura shares her memories of her husband and of the massacre. Her brother-in-law, Emmanuel Chukwara was also interviewed for the project.
Venue:
Interview conducted December 10, 2009.
Statement of Responsibility:
interviewed by S. Elizabeth Bird and Fraser Ottanelli.

Record Information

Source Institution:
University of South Florida Library
Holding Location:
University of South Florida
Rights Management:
All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
aleph - 025742575
oclc - 690960136
usfldc doi - A34-00008
usfldc handle - a34.8
System ID:
SFS0021961:00001


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Full Text

PAGE 1

COPYRIGHT NOTICE This Oral History is copyrighted by the University of South Florida Libraries Oral History Program on behalf of the Board of Trustees of the University of South Florida. Copyright, 20 1 0 University of South Florida. All rights, reserved This oral history may be used for research, instruction, and private study under the provisions of the Fair Use. Fair Use is a provision of the United States Copyright Law (United States Code, Title 17, section 107), which allows limited use of copyrig hted materials under certain conditions. Fair Use limits the amount of material that may be used. For all other permissions and requests, contact the UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH FLORIDA LIBRARIES ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at the University of South Florida, 4202 E. Fo wler Avenue, LIB 122, Tampa, FL 33620.


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Oral history interview with Patience Chukura, a survivor of the Asaba Massacre, a mass killing of civilians which occurred in 1967 during the Nigerian Civil War. Mrs. Chukura and her husband had been living in Benin when the war started and returned back to their family in Asaba. The day the massacre took place, a messenger came to the house where they were staying, telling them that soldiers would be coming around to look for Biafran troops. As the family was on its way back to the Chukura house, Nigerian soldiers pulled Chukura's husband and brother-in-law aside and allowed the women and children to return home. Mrs. Chukura then went to look for her husband, was sent home again, and then took a different route to the police station, where she found that he and several hundred other people had been shot. In this interview, Mrs. Chukura shares her memories of her husband and of the massacre. Her brother-in-law, Emmanuel Chukwara was also interviewed for the project.
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text Elizabeth Bird: This is Friday, December 10, 2009.  This is Elizabeth Bird, and I am interviewing Mrs. Patience Chukura.  As we said, were interestedwed like to talk about several stages of the history of this event.  And one of the things we wanted to start with was if you could, justtake you back to the days before anything happened, before October 6 [1967].  Life as it was then.  If you could describe a little bit about your life in Asaba with your husband and family and what you were all doing and howlife was about.
1
00:00:45.5
Patience Chukura: I was twenty-eight.  I was twenty-eight, just before.  I was twenty-seven, married, with three children, and pregnant for the fourth time, and life was interesting.  With me, my husband, and the children, andnormal life, interesting life, happy life, until the outbreak of the warthey talk about the problems in Nigeria, political problems, and it went into the army coming in.
2
00:01:36.3
EB: Okay.  So we were talking about life before
3
00:01:40.2
PC: It was an interesting life, happy life, with my husband and the children, and I was pregnant for thefour months pregnant, for the fourth child.  It really was normal.  I felt as a private person.  The political issue was going on; we never knew it was going to affect individuals.  And it happens like that: you think its politician talking to politician, at the end of the day they make it up.  But this wasnt so, because it went into the secession.
4
00:02:24.8
Im from Asaba, where (inaudible) comes from, and Asaba is in the Western region at that time.  The demarcation is the Niger [River] between Asaba and the Eastern side of the country.  It was North, SouthNorth, West, and East.  And this started from Kano, from Lagos.  The initial massacre was the Northerners; they didnt want the Southerners.  Nobody knew it was going to get into the political issue of everybody being killed.
5
00:03:6.5
We were in Benin, the main city.  I dont know if you know
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00:03:9.6
EB: Yeah.
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00:03:10.5
PC: We drove down through here in Nigeria.  When in Benin, I was working with Nigeria Tobacco Company as a secretary.  My husband was in business.  And within this period, there was secession in the East.  You must have heard of Ojukwu.
8
00:03:32.2
EB: Oh, yes.
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00:03:33.3
PC: There was problem in the army, problem inpolitical problem, personal problem, and as a tribal.  It went into tribal: who was going to rule, who would be there.  And there was a secession from the Eastern side, getting into themselves and declared the state of Biafra, which didnt go well with the other Nigerians.  Nobody supported it because we know Nigeria to be one, and suddenly somebody said he wants to be on his own.  That was allwe felt it was just something to be settled at any moment, but that wasnt so.
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00:04:19.6
Next, we hadwe were in Benin.  Next one we had was atthe federal government had taken over and declared a state of emergency in the East, and the federal troops now set out to crush the Biafran soldiers in the East (inaudible).  For them to get to the East, they have to pass from Lagos to Ijebu Ode to Benin to Asaba.  And what divides Asaba and the Eastthe other side is Onitsha, this side is Asaba.  The other side is the Eastern Region, where this Ojukwus law was in operation.  From my own side, which is Asaba, we are under the federal government.  Nobody was into politics.
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00:05:16.0
As the days went on, we noticed that people were running to their states, because not only was it soldier to soldier: individuals were taking it on themselves now to molest civilians.  So wea whole lot of us decided to go back home and stay there until we knew what the situation was going to be.  That was how we went to Asaba.
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00:05:50.6
EB: When did you leave Benin for Asaba?
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00:05:52.8
PC: We left Benin for Asaba in Septemberend of September.  No, first week of September.
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00:06:5.7
EB: In sixty-seven [1967].
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00:06:6.9
PC: Nineteen sixty-seven [1967], the first week of September.
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00:06:9.8
EB: You had a home in Asaba to go to?
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00:06:12.3
PC: We hadwe were so young that we hadnt built a house.  So, we went to stay with our brother-in-law.  Thats a family house: my father-in-law, and the other children, and my brother-in-law.  My brother-in-law retired at Ibadan, so he went home.  So we went home to stay with them, as a young couple with our young children.  So, we had a home in Asaba, so we decided to go home.  Its not even going home: we had to run home, because the soldiers were advancing, and we were told from advices that when theres something like that, its not the person they are looking for that theyre going to attack; it could be anybody.  So we decided to go home, leaving a lot of our things behind, because we couldnt carry much.  We went home to Asaba.
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00:07:4.9
EB: What was it like in Asaba in that period in September?
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00:07:8.9
PC: Normal life, happy life, everybody was happy we were going home.
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00:07:13.8
EB: What were you hearing about what was happening, about the soldiers, aboutbecause the Biafran troops came in first.
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00:07:19.4
PC: Yeah, that was the problem in Asaba, because they dontthe BiafransI dont know how to describe it.  Its like you cross the River Thames, one side of the Thames to the other, in England.  Thats the Niger: you cross from there to there.  It didnt take them time to cross over, and the bridge was there; you just went.  So, the Biafran troop came into Asaba.  The fear of the federal government was that they were advancing through Asaba, so the best thing was to come down and stop them from coming in.
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00:07:57.4
EB: What was it like when the Biafran troops were there?  Did they give trouble at all?
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00:08:1.2
PC: They werent giving usthey were just minding their business.  But I dont thinkI cant say nothing.  They are minding their business; if they are minding their business, they shouldve been on the other side of the Niger.  But their coming over was a sign of hostility.  So the federal troopwe heard that the federal troop was coming.
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00:08:21.8
EB: Was everyone happy that the federal troops were coming?
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00:08:25.4
PC: They were happy somehow, thatsI heard there was goingthey are mighty.  The smallBiafra was just a state, or many towns.  We thought that as they come they are going to face them soldier to soldier, and maybe they will drive the Biafran troops to the other side.  Mind you, the difference in languages wasnt much.  So they mixed up and they were there.  A lot of people were happy that the Biafrans came over.
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00:09:2.0
But within this periodthat was early September [they] went through.  Before then, we were hearing stories of what was happening in Lagos.  It turned into, um, tribal.  Yoruba man doesnt want to see Igbo man, Igbo man doesnt want to see Hausa man, Hausa man in the first place started it all over.  They have been killing all the Southerners.  And we happen to be from Asaba, all right, but the same language with those on the other side of the Niger, we speak.  So they came in.  It didnt matter, it didnt bother us.  Were not politicians, were not soldiers; we are just minding our business.
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00:09:52.1
EB: Try, maybe, to start talking about, if you could, the days immediatelywhen the federal troops came in, and then from then onwards.
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00:10:2.3
PC: Were toldwe heard over the news that the federal troops were coming.  We didnt even know, but we decidedbecause we live on the express road of Asaba; we call it Nnebisi Road.  Thats where we were staying.  Then my brother-in-law knewour own living, its not like the English way.  Once you are eighteen, you are on your own, but no matter what happens, its a family, like the Italians do.  Its a decision that, Oh, lets go to settle some place.  We decided to move to a house that we felt was safe, outside where even if the soldiers come down that street, they are going to pass us along.  And we went there: myself, my three children, the house girl, my husband, my mother-in-law, my brother-in-law and his wife, and eight childrenthey had eight childrenand, um, decided to go and stay in my fathers house, where we thought wed be safe.  My father was in Ibadan, my parents were in Ibadan, so the house was empty.  We decided to go there, in the village not far from there.  This was on the endtowards the end of September, the end of September.  Then on thewed left home on that expressway to go to the house that we felt was safe on the fifth of October, the fifth of October, with the children.
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00:11:52.2
Then on the sixth of October, on the sixth of October, somebody came looking for my brother-in-law and said that the federal troops had come into Asaba, and they were burning houses.  This was the message we had.  They were burning houses, and they said, unless they see people who occupy the houses and tell them that they are not involved with the army, and you open the door and tell them that no Biafran troop was there, that the house would be burnt, everything would be burnt.  And my brother-in-law said the best would be for us to go back to the house if thatthat was the propaganda.  Everybody should go back to his or her house and open your door.  The federal troops have come, and when they come tell themlet them know that theres no Biafran troop there.
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00:12:46.4
So, we decided to go back home.  This going back, its a matter of about ten minutes, or say fifteen minutes, walk across the main route.  That was how we decided to go back home.  As we walked back, just across this main routethis is the other side of where we went to stay, and thats the side of where the house we left was on, the house we were going to stay in and to make sure that nothing happened.  As we were about to cross the route, we saw that the federal troops had actually come into Asaba because they lined the whole street, a long stretch of the expressway in Asabawe called it Nnebisi Road.  They were all there, left and right.  And it didnt bother us, because we thought they were friends, making peace.  We decided to cross the route to go to our house.  That was when one of the soldiers stood up and said, Those two men, come.  Im just telling you the kind of thingwhat happened.  Said, Those two men, come.  We looked, there were the two men that were with us and the children, so they both stepped forward to see what they wanted, to hear what they wanted to say.  And they said, Follow us.  That was it.
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00:14:25.4
When I turned back, I saw anothermy mother-in-law said, Okay.  Then we crossed over and went to the house to stay with the children, with my sister-in-law and brother-in-law.  And my sister-in-lawthats the wife of the othermy most senior brotherwe went home with the children.  I said, Okay, let me go with them and see what was going to happen.  I had the baby, Angela.  I had the baby at my back, and nobody knew I was getting pregnant anyway, because when it happened I was four months pregnant.  So with the baby at the back, I followed them, and had even the load we are carrying.  When I got halfway, I put the backpack down and followed them.  I followed them from that point, about one pole, getting to the front of the cathedral at Asaba, St. Josephs Cathedral.  You may havein fact, they may want to take you there.  By the time I got there, one of the soldiersthey were still lined upcame out and said, You, woman, get back.  I remember my brother-in-law turned back and said, Go home.  Well be okay.  That was what he said.  I then left them and wentI was going back home.
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00:15:49.0
As I was going back home, I saw this (inaudible) Murtala Mohammed, the Head of State at that time, and a passenger, the former Nigerian.  They were in thethe passenger was in the army.  I saw them in a car, they were heading there.  I was hysterical, telling them that they are taking my husband and they said, Dont worry, nothing will happen to them.  So I went home.  And when I got homethis was within fifteen minutes, thirty minutes.  I got home, I couldnt stay.  I told my mother-in-law, I said, I have to go back.  I want to know what is going to happen to thisI dont want anything to happen to them.  Because the man that came out of where he was came out with his gun and drew anddid a stretch that, If you cross here, Ill kill you.  That was what the man said.  Because I insisted going over there, he said, If you cross this bar, you will be shot.  So I went back home.  When I got home, I told my mother-in-law that I wasnt at peace with myself; I would like to go back.  She said, Okay, if you insist.
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00:17:8.2
Because I grew up there, I knew the other road to take to get to where the soldiers were going.  But behindas I was going back, I saw a group of not less than four hundred people taken from the village, from the houses.  They were taken from their houses on the line, were marching them to the same place that my husband and brother had taken on the main route.  As they were moving, this other soldier would say, You are like a Biafran soldier.  They are civilians.  [He would say,] You are like a Biafran soldier, come out of the line.  They take them to the field as they were going and shoot them.  They shot.  So, that was what prompted me when I got home.  I hoped this route home would be safe because I went earlier.  So I wentI came back and went to the other route, getting there.  They had been shot.
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EB: All of them?
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PC: My husband and his brother.  And all thoseabout four hundred people who were following them, they were shot in front of the police station at Asaba.  That made me hysterical again.  I held onto the person I saw, the soldier.  I said, Why did you kill my husband?  And I dont want to remember what happened.  The man with the buttthe butt of the gunhit me on the chest and said, Woman, if youre not careful, youll get killed as well.  At that point, I went home.  I got home to tell them that they had been killed.  Three days after, we are nowI became a widow overnight, same as my brother-in-laws wife.  Helpless, we are now home, a lot of people, nobody knew what was happening.  Papathats my father-in-lawwhen he heard that his two sons were killed, he went out, and before he go out, he said, What happened?  They shot him.  They killed him.  Federal troops.  It was shelling between Asaba and Onitsha.  We were in fear of repercussions, that they were going to killthat they were going to wipe out everybody in Asaba, especially male children.  You remember what happened?  That was whatmy son, I had to put him in his sisters clothing for people to think he wasnt a boy, that he was a girl.
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EB: How old was your son?
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PC: Pardon?
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EB: How old was your son then?
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PC: He was born in 1965, August sixty-five [1965].  This was happening in, uh
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EB: Sixty-seven [1967].
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PC: Sixty-seven [1967].  He was a year, almost two years.  Then the sister, his seniorest sister, was about just one year.  Thats the one I had at the back.  That wasthats my son, two year old son.  I had a girl before him, and then the girl after him, they had girls clothing.  I was not worried (inaudible).  If they camethey were all over the place.  If they came they will know that, Oh, this isnt a boy, nothing will happen to him.  And those maids we had, we had to hide them on the roof, because we heard that anywhere they went to, they could rape anybody.  That was the fear we lived in, in Asaba.  That was on the seventh, on the sevenththats the seventh.
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My mother is still alive; shes ninety-three.  Her brothersshe had five brothers.  The first one was her senior, the oldestthey were all killed on that day.
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EB: On the sixth?
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PC: On the sixth, on that sixth.  Everywhere they were killingwhen they look at any man, they say, You look like a Biafran, and they were all civilians.  Of course, you know soldiers: when something comes up like that, soldiers have a way ofthey know how to hide, or how to run away, or how to defend themselves.  All the people they killed were civilians.  That was how I lost my husband.
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EB: What was your husbands name?
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PC: Eddie [Edwin] Chukura.  Edwin Chukura.
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EB: And his brother?
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PC: Christian.  Christian Chukura.
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EB: And they both had the same last name?
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PC: Yes.  And Papas name is David Chukura.  I had my uncles, who also died.  When this happened on the sixth, on the seventh, there waspeople in the house were wondering what was happening.  Then, nobody knew they had killedthere had been killings here and there.  And we heard some dancing.  We were debating: can people be joyous when something was happening?  We need to be told that they got our peoplethe people were telling Asaba people that if you come outjust as we came outif we had stayed in my fathers house, maybe nothing would have happened.  But I think thats how God wanted it.  We are telling people propaganda, that if you comethe federal troops are coming.  They have come into town; come and receive them, come and tell them; give them fresh sheep, and so on and so forth.  And my people, very joyous people, got out themselves to go and receive the federal troops.  That was the seventh.  And that was when they didthey killed them.
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As I was readingsomebody passed a letter to me on Saturdaythat was my first time of hearing of itwhere I heard about Ify Uraih, and the man and the womanwhich Im sure you are the onethat you are coming.  And I saidthey are talking about seventh, what happened on the seventhand I said, It cant be! (inaudible).  And then I decided to phone him that Id like to come and see those who were involved.
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EB: (inaudible) Its very, very good of you to do it.
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PC: Yes.
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Fraser Ottanelli: I have a question to ask you.  When you described the events of the sixth and the seventh, all the men, you said (inaudible) you dressed your son like a little girl.  So, all the men went in hiding?
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00:24:5.5
PC: A lot of people ran out of Asaba.  A lot of people crossed over to the Biafran side.  But even my sister-in-law, who lives inwho is married to that sidecame two days before to tell my husband that we could all come to the East.  My husband said he wasnt going to the East.  That was how we found ourselves there.  A lot of people ran.  Men ran.  A lot of men ran out of Asaba, ran into the villages.  Because of the nearness of Asaba to the boundary, to the bridgethats where the bridge crossing over to the Biafran side was.  Thats how we found ourselves victims.
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FO: What did women do, then, in the days after the events?  You were the ones left behind.
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PC: We were the ones left behind, yes.
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FO: And so how did youwhat did you do?  How did you cope?  How did you look after your family, your children?
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PC: Um, as I said, I was working for Nigerian Tobacco Company.  After this killing, after the people were coming back, I heardthere is a particular man who came from Asaba, who is from Asabahes still aroundworking with me at Nigerian Tobacco Company.  I was a secretary there, and he was one of the managers.  So there was a mandate from England, and Lagos, that they could take care of their staff who were there.  Im talking about myself.  The staff who were involved in thewho found themselves trapped.  So, we were going there to connectI was then given my salary, my pay.  So thats how I was able to take care of my children untiltwo days after.  These two just were all over the place.  They came to our house where we were and saw my sister-in-laws.  Because my father-in-law came from Benue Statehe returned from Benue State.  Everybody was running home.  He was living in Benue State, so he came back from Benue State with the younger children.  He had two wives, and that wife happened to bethe second wife happened to be from Benue State.  So he brought the children back.  While the children were playing out, this soldier man came to pluck oranges near us and saw the children.  Behold, this man was my stepmother-in-laws brother, (inaudible).
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EB: The soldier was?
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PC: The soldier, he was.  He was asking, Did you know what Iapparently, he didnt know that the children had any affiliation withWhat are you doing here? he said.  They came with Papa, too.  Where is Papa?  I said, Papa was killed yesterday.  (inaudible)  The man shouted, Is that his son?  When they took them there, a soldier was ordered to kill, to shoot.  The boythe soldier disobeyed.  Why?  You see, because the soldier told the younger thatthe senior man, the man that was ordering him that, These two peopleI knew these people.  The senior one is my fathers friend, because they grew up in the North, in Kaduna.  This uncle is my fathers friend.  I cant believe they shot the man.  They shot the soldier before they shotwe got to hear this through this man who came to pluck orange.  It was through him.  I said, Where are you going?  He said he was goingthey had posed them to Lagos.  He was going to Lagos.  I said, I have a brother-in-law in Lagos.  I scribbled [on] a pad and said, Take it to western house, here in Lagos, but my company headquartershead office is in western house.  If you give it to one of the managers, they will deliver it to my brother-in-law.  And I scribbled to tell him that his brothers had been killed and that were in Asaba with the children.
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Five days later, he sent a Red Cross van.  The Red Cross people came and carried me and my children back to Lagos.  That was howI didnt stay too long there.  Unless you are suffering, unless you are being giventhey had something they call Caritas, from all over Europe.  They were sending food stuffthey became refugees.  They send them to schools.  But I didnt go into that, because I had to leave withthey could have sent to me a Red Cross van from Ibadan.  They sent to me, to bring me and my children to Ibadan.  That was how I went to Ibadan.  At Ibadan, I reported to the headquarters.  I started going back to my job.  Thats how I survived with children.
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EB: Were you able to bury your husband?
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PC: They were buried there.
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EB: They just
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PC: They just buried them there.  They were buried on the main road there; they were buried in front of the police station.  And nobody was allowed to exhume like they did at that place atwhere they said they wanted to build a cenotaph or whatever.  They dug the grave, they dug thethey killed a lot of people there, and then for fear of some people like youthe world was asking questions.  They quickly dug a big grave and pushed all of them in there.  Nobody knew who was (inaudible).  For my husband, he and others were there for days before they buried them.
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EB: And then they just buried them right there?
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PC: They just buried them right there, yes.
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EB: And there was nothing thatyou were not able to get to him?
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PC: To get to give them that burial rite, and so on, yes.  But my son keeps asking me.
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EB: Is that something you would like to do now, to be able to give him a proper burial, if it was possible?
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PC: If its possible, yes.  If its possiblebecause I heard at one time that they didnt want anybody to, you know?  In other words, they didnt want anybody (inaudible) because you are not affected.  They want to cover thecover whatever sits there.  Let life continue.  But those who are affectedmy children were so young they didnt even know their father.  The first girl was five.  She had a glimpse of him, but the othersand the one I hadI had that one on the ninth of May, 1968.  I had her that spring.  She never knew her father.  The two didnt know.  My first daughter had a glimpse.
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But my son kept asking.  He told me about these Americans that were coming and so on and so forth, and he heard that they were coming.  He kept asking.  Yesterday I informed him, I said, Im going to so and so place, because hes a man now.  [I said,] I hope you dont mind.  He said, Mommy, I dont mind, because he will ask questions.  Why you always (inaudible) on seventh, whereas my father died on the sixth.  Not only my father, my grandfather, but many of them died on the sixth, at the petrol stationsorry, at the police station.  Many notable Asaba chiefs and such were killed there.  Nobody knew whether they were killed, because there was no sign for that.
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EB: And nobody wrote anything about that.
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PC: And nobody wrote anything about that.
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EB: What do you think should be done to remember, todo you have any thoughts on what would be the appropriate thing to do now?  Were trying to hear everybodys story, but what then should we do?
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PC: I dont know what should be done, because I know that every year I remembered him.  We go to Mass for him, and put him in the papers.  You cant believe that at one time I put in the papers, In memory of Eddie Chukura, who was killed on the sixth of Somebody phoned me to say, Why must you say he was killed?  Why dont you let itit means that you are reporting the federal troop, reporting the soldiers.  And I said, Well, the man was killed.  He didnt die a natural death.  So it made it difficult for us.  And everybody would have loved to exhume himexhume themfrom there and go to the family compound and bury them properly, but it wasnt allowed.  So we just left it.  Im a lone voice.
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EB: You said that you saw General Mohammed, Murtala Mohammed.
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PC: He was in the car.
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EB: He was there?
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PC: He was in the car.  When I was coming back from the soldiers, he wasI didnt know that.  Maybe they lined up because he came, to receive orders.  He was in the car with a passenger.  And he waved, said, Dont worry.  I was terrified.  He said, Dont worry, nothing will happen to them.  And they passed.
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EB: Do you think he ordered this, or did someone
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PC: I cant say he did.  Notice, from my experience nowI was young then, I never saw any soldier.  The last time I saw soldiers was when I was five or six, and it was later inwe were told that they were coming from the Second World War.  Im seventy now.  At that time, they came back out in 1940, forty-five [1945] or so.  They camped on the field in Asaba.  Thats how I knew they were soldiers.  And after camping, they went to a new route.  They are Nigerians who came back from the World War.  From that time till 1967, I never knew there were soldiers anywhere.  I didnt bother to know, honestly.  I could see policemen, but I never knew about any soldiers.
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But when this problem started, I knew that there was a personI knew that Ironsi was killed, I knew that it was one problem after the other and the other and the other.  But I knew thatI saw Mohammed, I saw a passenger in the car.  And he said, Madam, dont worry, go home, nothing will happen.  I dont thinkthey do a lot of things, the soldiers.  It wasfrom experiencethe day after I knew that they can just do whatjust give themask them do one thing, they do the other.
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EB: Do you think the soldiers justwhy do you think it all happened?  What do you think motivated the soldiers to do what they did?
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PC: Im sure they were afraid.  They said every potential man there is from Biafra, and they were going to kill them.  So they were killing the men, in self-defense.  I think they were trying to defend themselves or to defend their fatherland, which is federal land.  Of course, I dont see why you should shoot a civilian.
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EB: No.
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PC: Innocent civilian.  And you see, you need to know who my husband was.  Harmless.  Couldnt harm anybody.  He was minding his business, and we were quiet, simple people who want to live life.
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EB: What kind of man was he?  Can you talk about him a little bit, who and what he was?
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PC: He was a gentle man who couldnt hurtwhen they say, People who cant hurt a fly, he couldnt hurt a fly.  He was number seven in family of nine children, and the third boy.  And the senior brothersyou could put his hand behind you and (inaudible) because he was very young.  So he neverin the whole family squabbles, he was really a friend to each and every one of them.  I knew him like that.  In the house, hed say, Patience, make sure when you are cookingthats when he came in, when we are cookingcook some more, because you dont know who is coming.  He wasthats him.  That was him.  He liked life, he liked himself, he was a lovely man.  And they just snuffed him out like that.
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And I dont cry anymore.  I cried at that time, when the children were younger.  I cried at night and cleaned my eyes before they wake up in the morning, because what are you going to explain to them?  When they see you crying they think you are not strong enough, that they dont have any defense, that they dont have anybody to defend them.  But they know as they were growing up that their father was killed by the soldiers, and my boy was terrified anytime he heard about soldier or no soldier.  It was up to me to give them that strength and make them feel secured.
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EB: So your family was never the same again, then, after that?
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PC: Never the same.  Ive never (inaudible).  But I thank God that theyre all standing well now.
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EB: Theyve all done well?
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PC: Theyve all done very well.  Theyve all graduated from the university, they are working, they are married.  They are married and they have children.  So, I give thanks to God for that.
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EB: No further questions.  Is there anything else that you would like to tell us, or that we need to know, that you would like
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PC: Um, this is my own side of it.  A lot of people have different experiences of what happened.  Its, umI dont know.  It was painful, very painful.  In the whole of Asaba, that town, every home was affected.  At one time, you thought there would be no otherthe children have grown, weve forgotten what happened.  But it was sad.  They came to kill.  Im not sayingyou asked me whether it was the passenger.  I dont think the soldiers were acting in isolation.  They must have backing.  They must know what theyre doing.  They couldnt cross over because there was artillery coming from the east.  So they are taking it back on the civilians they see, on the civilians they saw at that time.  They were just killing people at random when they came to that town to kill.  It was so quiet.  Ask Ify Uraih where he comes from.  Its a quiet, friendly town of Asaba.  But they killed almost everybody.  But all Im asking is to please make sure that you talk about the deceased.  Eddie [Edwin] and his brothers
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EB: Weve heard a little bit about the other people being killed at other times, but yours is the most detailed and profound story that weve heard about.
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PC: Other people heardthe stories they told was what they heard, what they were told.  But I am a witness to what happened.  They killed everybody.
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EB: Did you see your husband be shot, or you heard about it?
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PC: No.  I left him, went back, dropped things and came back; by the time I came, theres a crowd, there are people they were shooting.  By the time I came, I saw him lying on the brother in front of the police station.  Theyd been shot, the two of them, shot and killed.
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FO: You saw them there together?
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PC: I saw them together.  And I remember that day.  Anytime Ihe was a joker.  He was veryin their family, they are very humorous.  You can stay there, you wont be unhappyunless you are not part of there, unless you dont want to be, unless you dont have sense of humor.  I remember that anytime he want to change underwear, he said, Patience, I mustjust give me white.  Dont buy anything outside white.  I dont wantif theres any accident, people will see something not looking white.  The first thing that my eyes went to was his pants, his white pants.  Because he was lying on his brother, the white pants (inaudible).  Can this be a premonition or whatever, that he thought one day something like this would happen?  I remember that he was a very nice man.  They are from a very nice family.  Unfortunately, their brother died a few years ago, the only one that survived.
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And that night of sixth, that night as we were waitingthe night was long.  They were killed on the sixth.  We couldnt go out anymore, we were there from that sixth till seventh morning.  (inaudible)  As we were watching, you could hear cutlery, you could hear people eating.  (inaudible)  You could hear people eating on the table without seeing anybody on the table.  My mother-in-law started crying.  My children were hungry.  You could hear, we heard peoples cutlery.  Thats why sometimes I dont understand the mysteries of the world anymore.  That wasI went through agony.  For a twenty-eight-year-old woman to wake up and not have seen her husbandwe never quarreled, we neverin fact, sometimes I asked myself, Was it not better that we were quarrelling every day, suddenly quarrelling every day, so that we live long.  But it was like we were having our honeymoon every day for this fivewe were married for five years.  Five years, was it going to be so short?  It was an experience I dont want anybody to have, but it has happened.  But Im happy Im alive, and the children are okay.
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EB: Youve done a wonderful job as a mother, toothat youve raised them.
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PC: (inaudible) that raised them.  They are doing fine.
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EB: Well, thank you.  Thank you, we really appreciate that you shared this with us, and we
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PC: Thank you.  I hope that one day, when one of my grandchildren gets to Florida to read one of your books, theyll see.
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EB: They will.  (laughs)
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PC: You arehe is American?
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EB: Hes Italian.
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PC: Is he?
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EB: (laughs)