By Ambrose Ehirim
Image courtesy of Jungle Red Writers
I walked in, located a spot and pulled my backpack off my shoulders. The place looked worry free and I had assumed it was good timing for the brief moment I would stay. I walked up to the cashier and grabbed a mixed blend of smoothies, which had been my favorite refreshment nowadays, and I then walked back to the desk where I had placed my backpack. Inside my backpack, I took out my laptop and a note book for what may pop up in my thoughts and for what I may jot down going through the news and views on the web. I hooked up the networks and shuttled to a number of websites and kept browsing to check related news and happenings around my neck of the woods. Then, I shoveled and located African related news and clicked on Nigeria to see if Boko Haram has thrown a bomb somewhere in the multitude of people. As I opened up a news related article on Nigeria, he glanced from the next desk where he sat and carrying with him papers he had come to grade from where he teaches Western History at a college just miles away from where we were. Upon noticing my outfit, a black fedora hat, blue jeans, a pair of bally shoes, and a Brazilian number 10 yellow jersey and, my sunglasses sitting on the desk, he concluded I must be one of the beat makers who uses protool, the digital audio workstation for Microsoft windows to generate varieties of musical genres. But seeing a Nigeria headline on my screen it then occurred to him I must either be a Nigerian or perhaps a curious minded fellow who is reading to find out about the notorious Boko Haram, if they have captured more of their victims, or if there's an ongoing battle between the insurgents and the nation's security forces. Elevating my head up and starring at each other, I told him I was Igbo and upon hearing that he seized the moment and started telling me about his Igbo connection. First, he asked if I knew one Ifeanyi Aniebo, that they all were at UCLA in the early 1970s and that Aniebo wrote a book very powerful in lyrics, books powerful by its theme titled "Anonymity of Sacrifice" and "Talisman." He also told me that Aniebo in the 1970s while they attended classes at UCLA was one of the brightest African minds of the time and that he always argued and compared what had happened to his kins to the Jews. He said while he was almost done obtaining his teaching credentials, Aniebo left for Nigeria to teach at the University of Port Harcourt. Then he asked if I knew Comfort Akwaq whom he met at the UCLA campus. When I told him I knew Aniebo, he sent me on assignment to locate Aniebo for him. I did not know Comfort and never met her. He said Aniebo mentioned nothing else but Biafra and the consequences he had bore after its collapse. Aniebo had returned from the United States in 1966 from some military briefings and training courses. Upon return, what confronted him was the war which he fought on the Biafran side and after the war he returned back to the United States and enrolled for classes at UCLA on the counsel of the late Professor Boniface Obichere who was already teaching African American Studies at the campus. So while he took a breath, I seized the moment to ask my own questions to find out really what he was getting into. Telling me he was already retired from teaching history classes at UCLA and currently teaching Western History for transfer and honor students at the Santa Monica College to meet up with today's high demands in our society, and an extra change that wouldn't hurt. Then he said he would give it all up so he could have time to travel the world and see what differences it made from different locations and what areas of improvement are required to be attended. While I was trying to think and see what areas of discipline I'd asked my questions he jumped in and asked if I knew Chinua Achebe or have heard about him. I told him where I come from, if you don't know Achebe, then you have no story to tell. He said Achebe use to visit the UCLA campus every now and then when his daughter, Nwando, was attending classes, and that he was Nwando's history professor. He said each time Achebe was in town, that him and some of his like-minded colleagues would spend time together with the ode mkpishi, the novelist, and they would discuss relative issues into the night. That Achebe never stopped short of the tragedy that befell his people and that he always put the narratives into perspective. He asked me about my experience during the pogrom and I told him I was not there which still pains me because the tragic event denied me the privilege to have seen my relatives--cousins, uncles, aunts, grand parents, distant cousins and other kinsfolk--who had perished under the Yakubu Gowon's-led genocidal campaign against the Igbo nation. While I was telling him about my concerns, I took the advantage to draw him closer to the Ehirim Files and reached the gallery of the Igbo massacre where I pulled out hundreds of disturbing images never released on the Pogrom. He thought he had known a little bit from what the sectional press had shown to them at the time, and looking through these images, he lost his breath and began to shed a little bit of some tears. I told him I have spent an entire life trying to figure out why the tragic event took place and why him and his Western philosophers stood by, kept quiet and watched such atrocities unfold. He was speechless while we exchanged information for, hopefully, another future chit-chat at a neighborhood cafe.