Custodian of the history of Nigeria’s most momentous event. …housing the famous OJUKWU BUNKER from where the Biafra war command operated during the Nigeria Civil War.


By Okorie Uguru – The Nation Newspaper

At the end of the Nigerian Civil War on January 15, 1970, the Nigerian government of the day declared there was ‘no victor and no vanquished’. It was aimed at putting the ugly episode of the war behind and speeding up the process of national reconciliation and healing.

While the civil war lasted, various sophisticated weapons were used. Some of these deadly weapons were fabricated due the exigencies of the war. Outside the appurtenances of war, civilians were also involved in the process of not just fighting, but psyching up the minds of the people to forge ahead despite the deprivations that comes with war. Different media of mass communication were used.

The war was a watershed in the history of Nigeria as a country. The experience, many agree, is such that makes the resort to arms and war as a means of conflict resolution not an attractive option. It is in this spirit that the Nigerian War Museum, Umuahia was established.

The museum’s location was chosen because it is where the bunker housing the famous shortwave radio “the voice of Biafra “was transmitted from. Voice of Biafra was the mouth-piece for Biafra during the war.

The National War Museum, Umuahia, the Abia State capital has the highest collection of the Nigerian civil war weapons that are no longer in used. The weapons are from both the Nigerian military and the defunct Biafra.

The place has become a tourist site that attracts hundreds of people daily. They come from within and outside the country for see the war artifacts on display. To some it is to relieve the periods of the war through items on display while to others it is for study purposes. There are yet others who come simply for curiosity.

The museum is located at Ebite Amafor in Isingwu Autonomous Community in Umuahia North LGA. It is off Umuahia-Uzuakoli Road. The war museum is very popular so locating it would pose no problem as any cab or the commercial tricyclist could take one to the museum. There are no longer commercial motorcyclists in Umuahia.

The museum was commissioned in 1985 on a large expanse of land. It has three galleries that covers traditional warfare, the armed forces and the Nigerian Civil War weapon galleries. War relics of war being housed in the museum include weapons used during the pre-colonial civil disturbances, warfare materials used during communal and inter-tribal wars and those of the Nigerian civil war.

After paying the entrance fee, a tour of the museum kicks off from the prehistoric war section where some of the weapons that were used for war are on display. On display are spears, shield, bows and arrows, metal war vest that warriors used to protect themselves are also on display.

The end of the old war weapons section leads to the Nigerian Armed Forces gallery. There were the ceremonial uniforms of the army officers, pictures of some past military leaders are also on display. For those unfamiliar with the military insignia that differentiates the ranks in the military, this gallery offers tutorials.

From this section, one then walks to the gate of the bunker that housed the Radio Biafra of the defunct Biafran Republic. Just at the entrance is the flag the Biafran flag, red, black and green with the rising sun in the middle. There is also black and white pictures of the Nigerian leaders that were victims of the war starting with January 15, 1966 coup of Kaduna Nzeogwu.

The bunker is about 30 feet deep and on both sides of the step as one walks down are picture of protagonists of the war from both Nigeria and Biafran side of the divide.

Inside the bunker are the transmission studio and the huge transmitter of Radio Biafra. The bunker was a perfect decoy and very difficult for any enemy aircraft to locate without any prior information, especially with the undulating hills in the area.

The bunker has two stairways for entrance and exit. The tour of this section of the museum is arranged in a way that the tourist would water through the main entrance to the bunker and exit through the back.

Scattered in the expansive premises of the war museum are different obsolete military weapons. Looking at them in their obsolete state, one wondered how many lives some of these weapons must have terminated. Was the course worth the lost? Has the nation learnt from this sad chapter in the Nigeria’s nation building process?  Has the huge cost of this war made the nation value the need for peace and dialogue as the best method of conflict resolution?

The army weapons on display include anti-aircraft guns, Squid Mortar MK4 anti-submarine gun said to be carried by the Navy warship N.N.S. Nigeria, according to the explanation by the side of the weapon, it is an ‘ahead throwing weapon that was used to destroy enemy sub-marine. It was mostly deployed for demolition of suspected mine fields along the channel for the safe passage of Nigerian Navy ships during the civil war’; the Biafran Red devil armored personnel carrier; the famous Ogbunigwe (Ojukwu bucket) launcher; artillery gun 105mm Howitzer, the gun was said to have been used by the Italians during the Second world war in 1943 and that the particular weapon on display was used at the Aba/ Ikot Ekpene axis during the Civil War; NAF 102 Donier 27 aircraft. According to the history of the plane, it came, it came from Luftwaffe Training Mission; NAF 181 Donier 128. The Donier 128 for reconnaissance.

When The Nation visited the museum, some renovation activities to protect the artifacts were going. One could also see however that the place not well funded. The indoor gallery was not well lit as there was no light. It was just a small electricity power generation set that was supplying light, because of that the interior was poorly lit.

All said and done, for those who never experienced the Nigerian Civil War, they may not appreciate it to the full without visiting the national War Museum, Umuahia, for those who did, they could relive the period by visiting the place.