At the age of fifteen, politics held no interest for me. And since my parents acted as a calming force, stirring up no concern regarding Nigeria’s political strife, it never occurred to me that civil war loomed. Another coup? Maybe.
I do recall conversations on oil rights and knew Biafra controlled the land on which the oil installations sat. However, there were no visible signs of war until roadblocks manned by machine-gun-wielding militia were erected in strategic areas of the Western Region. The guards would order our school van driver, a Yoruba (from the west), to stop at these various checkpoints between home and school so they could search the vehicle for Igbos (from the east). It may have been tense at times, but I don’t remember ever fearing for my life.
February 1967: The American Consulate informs all American families living in Ibadan that there is no reason for alarm, but to be prepared to evacuate at a moment’s notice should Nigeria erupt into full-scale civil war. Since the airports would be prime targets for seizure, the plan was to leave by automobile for Nigeria’s neighbor, Dahomey. So on this advice, we packed a suitcase, along with important papers, and kept our luggage near our beds in case we had to depart in the dead of the night. And as instructed, my parents kept in close contact with the American Consulate.
July 6, 1967: Civil war breaks out in Nigeria.
October 1967: We are each issued an “Alien’s Registration Certificate” with our photo and must present this official document if we are stopped by the authorities. To me, the certificate sent a silent message: the war was escalating.