In the spirit of the aim of establishing this war museum, it is my belief that although it is worthwhile to preserve the ingenious scientific achievements recorded during this period of the Nigerian Civil War, we must admit that war is never a solution to human conflicts. The idea of establishing a National War Museum in Nigeria was first mooted by Lt. General Theophilous Danjuma after an official visit to Yugoslavia in 1977. It was thoroughly debated and approved by the Supreme Military Council of the Lt. General Olusegun Obasanjo administration in the same year. Consequently, the National War Museum committee, headed by Colonial Ishaya Bamaiyi teamed up with the National Commission for Museums and Monuments to undertake exploratory studies for its establishment.
In 1985, under the leadership of General Muhammadu Buhari, the project was officially launched by Major-General Tunde Idiagbon, Chief of Staff Supreme Headquarters. This launch coincided with the 21st anniversary of the first military coup in Nigeria as well as the 15th anniversary of the end of the Nigerian Civil War (aka Biafra Conflict).
The project, originally planned to be executed in three phases chose as its main site, the Ugwunchara, a hilly part of the Ebite Amafor area of the Isingwu Autonomous Community of Umuahia North Local Government Area in Abia State. The three thousand seven hundred and seventy eight (3,778) hectare site prior to the Civil War, served as the premises of the former Eastern Nigerian Television Relaying Station. It is located a little off the Umuahia-Uzuakoli road, about three kilometers from the Umuahia City Center.
On completion, this first phase was commissioned by the then Minister of Defence, Lt. General Domkat Bali on September 14, 1989. The former residence of Dr. Michael Iheonukara Okpara, the former Premier of Eastern Nigeria region, also located at the Government Reserved Area at the heart of the Umuahia capital city, serves as an annex of the museum at Ugwunchara.
Umuahia, a strategic and popular railway town, known before the Civil War for its extensive commercial transactions in oil palm produce and reception of goods from the Northern part of Nigeria, was chosen as the site for the museum for two main reasons. It was the administrative capital of the Biafran nation after the fall of Enugu in 1967. Not only was it the last seat of Biafran government, many of the important battles for the survival of Biafra was fought around this area. Secondly, it has the two best preserved bunkers which housed the Voice of Biafra (V.O.B.), Biafra’s major news outlet to the outside world and the Ojukwu Bunker, the subterranean seat of the Biafran Government.
As one veers off into the narrow“Museum Road,” off Umuahia-Uzuakoli road, the noise of the city ceases abruptly and serenity greets the visitor. Approaching the museum complex, the view of the hull of a warship peeps from the surrounding vegetation and gradually comes into full view with various war planes in the background. From the museum one has a view of some part of Umuahia city, with the spectacular rusty roofs of buildings, dotted with bright The museum complex is surrounded by farmlands and fallow lands which further add to its serenity.
The National War Museum Umuahia was established for the glory of Nigeria and for the purposes of “preserving for posterity, Nigerian war efforts through the ages” and for “consolidating the gains of National Unity.” The Motto of the Museum is “That they did not die in vain.”
The National War Museum Umuahia is considered as a memorial to the soldiers, civilians and all other casualties of war and conflicts in Nigeria, particularly the Nigerian Civil War. The establishment of the War Museum is not an attempt to glorify the war effort but an attempt to demonstrate that wars are never solutions to conflicts. The exhibitions in the Museum are meant to promote a society devoid of conflict, tribulation, rancor and disharmony.
Drawing from comments from these influential members of the Nigerian military which set up the museum, one could deduce that the main reasons for its establishment was to preserve Nigeria’s war relics and to serve as a center for research and information on warfare in Nigeria.
Also, the Museum is a tourist attraction and a place for the exhibition of war-time technology.
The Museum consists of permanent exhibitions in three exhibition galleries in addition to the Open Air Museum and the Museum Annex. They are the Traditional Warfare Gallery that displays the evolution of weapons both in pictures and objects, from the earliest times to the present day; the Armed Forces Gallery showing the evolution of Nigerian Army from 1963 to date, the diverse roles of the Nigerian Army from 1963 to date and the important personnel of the Nigerian Navy, the Air Force and their soft ordinances; the Civil War Gallery which has on display photographs of the victims of the coup d’état of 15th January 1966 as well as photographs and objects related to the Nigerian Civil War of 1967 to 1970.
The Open Air Museum which is in three sections, exhibits heavy military hardware used during the Nigerian Civil War by the Army, the Navy and the Air force. A guided tour of the Museum usually begins at the Traditional Warfare Gallery.
This book catalogs the collection of the National War Museum, Umuahia with the intent to provide a guide to the documentation of the development of Nigerian Armed Forces, the important persons and events of the lead-up to and the actual civil war and the military hardware used during the civil war with emphasis on the ingenuity of the people of Eastern Nigeria who produced indigenous technology in severe war conditions to defend their sovereignty.
– Cap Press