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Trip to Umuahia and Umudike: At the Country home of Major -General Aguiyi -Ironsi And National War Museum

By Livinus Nnebedum

From Ikot -Ekpene or Umudike junction in Umuahia while going to Umudike, you pass through Ibeku High School Umuahia.  Going little further from Ibeku High School, the road by the right leads to Ibeama Community Primary School Umuana Ndume Ibeku in Umuahia North L.G.A. Umuana Ndume Ibeku is the countryhome of the onetime Head of State of Nigeria Major-General Johnson Aguiyi Ironsi.

This writer Livinus Nnebedum saw two village square very close to the house of the former Head of State. Over 50 years after the death of Aguiyi Ironsi, the countryhome of the late Head of State remained a simple Bungalow. Umuahia is one of the towns that is rated high among the towns that make up the old Eastern Nigeria.

On Sept. 1967, Umuahia became the seat of the government of Biafran Republic after the initial capital Enugu was captured by the federal troops. It was from the town that the Commander -in-Chief of the Biafran forces dished out orders to his troops.

There is National War Museum in Umuahia which houses assorted relics of the civil war and the famous Ojukwu Bunker which was designed and constructed by Biafran Engineers within 90 days. Umuahia has produced a number of prominent citizens including former premier of Eastern Region Dr. Michael Okpara, Nigeria’s first Military Head of State, Major-General Aguiyi-Ironsi among others.

The National War Museum which was commissioned in Sept 1989 sits in Ebite Amafor Isingwu, off Uzuakoli Road in Umuahia. The Museum has different wings for the Nazy, Army and Air Force. There are old fighter jets of the Nigeria Air Force used on bombing missions during the war. There are also remains of some wrecked planes brought down during the war. The anti-aircraft gun identified as Bofor are also kept inside the war museum.

Also there are some armoured vehicles used on both sides of the battle. There is however difference between the imported and more refined ones used by the federal forces and the hastily devised vehicles locally made by the Biafran Army.

Ojukwu Bunker is located underneath the open lawn at the back yard of Michael Okpara House. Nobody will ever suspect that a house exists deep inside the earth in that Museum unless you are told. That place was named Ojukwu Bunker by the members of the public after the war.

The underground building which is 26.9 feet deep consists of a living room, a secretary’s room, a kitchen, a bathroom and a store. It was built in about 90 days in 1968 by a team of Biafran engineers. The bunker is supplied with escape routes with pipes that run from the bunker to the open lawn. It is through the pipes that the bunker gets its supply of air.

Umuahia is the capital of Abia State created in 1991 and Abia has 17 L.G.A’s. Umuahia unlike Aba and Onitsha is a quiet town. It is an Agricultural market centre since 1916. It is very neat. As early as 7am you see hired and paid government agents sweeping the roads and streets in Umuahia. The popular Okpara square is always clean.

Umuahia people are very hospitable, they welcome strangers and have good respect for elders, always greeting their senior by calling them “dede”.

The popular Abia state government Radio station is located in Umuahia called Broadcasting Corporation of Abia State (BCA), Umuahia. Also it is called “Ogene Abia state”. This writer was inside the BCA Umuahia. At the Reception room, you see relaxing comfortable chairs and coloured television.

The greatest attractions are the sculpture of people carrying and beating metal gong (Ogene) on the table inside the Reception room. These portray the name of that Radio Station hence it is known as “Ogene Abia State”.

From Ikot-ekpene junction in Umuahia towards Umudike you pass through Government College Umuahia, a prestigious secondary school. The school had produced prominent personalities like Chinua Achebe, Prof Chukwuemeka Ike, Elechi Amadi and Ken Saro-Wiwa among others.

After Government College on the road to Ikot-Ekpene by the right, you see two famous Agricultural Institutions namely National Root Crop Research Institute Umudike (NRCRI) and Michael Okpara University of Agriculture Umudike (MOUAU).

Inside the National Root Crop Research Institute you notice an edifice, round building housing the Research Library. The University Michael Okpara University of Agriculture Umudike shares common boundary with the Research Institute. Inside the University, there is the Administrative Building housing the Vice-chancellor’s offices and others.

Also the colonial buildings still very strong, constructed in the 1950’s are still there. On the wall of the Assembly hall building you notice the plaque on the wall which reads, “This plaque commemorates the opening of this school by the Honourable Mr. E. Emole, Minister of Agriculture, Eastern Region on the 29th of October, 1955.” It should be recalled that the present site of Michael Okpara University of Agriculture Umudike was formerly the seat of school of Agriculture Umudike. The University was initially called Federal University of Agriculture Umudike and later re-named Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike.

Umudike has vast area of fertile land. It is an Agricultural town, infact, a home of Agriculture. No wonder the white colonial people sited the two Agricultural Institutes in Umudike which are still in existence today.

Livinus Nnebedum, an Author & Expert in Agricultural Extension and Communication visited Umuahia, Umuana Ndume Ibeku and Umudike and Put up this write-up. He is also a former Director in Anambra State Agricultural Development Program (ADP) & Ministry of Agriculture.