As a kid he saw war in Biafra, as a school boy, Michael Nnadozie, adopted the name of a Roman general. Adult life was spent in the United States Army where duty took him to Iraq. Today, the colonel lives in retirement.
We all live with what we see. Michael Uzoma Nnadozie’s primary education coincided with the Nigerian Civil War. As a pupil of Central School, Dim na Nume, Isu in the Nwangele Area of Imo State, life was tough.
It was really rough for Biafran children who had to study in hide outs as Nigeria Air Force bombers took over the skies. The Egyptian pilots cared less about civilian casualties as they aimed at schools and markets.
Nigerian pilots still exhibited some humanity in them. Ibrahim Alfa, lived and died with the picture of a woman who shielded her baby with her entire body as he hovered in the air on a bombing mission. That act spared both mother and child.
Central School Dim na Nume was converted to a Feeding Centre where thousands of children gathered for meals flown in by the Red Cross, World Council Of Churches [WCC], Caritas and other aid groups.
It also became a Sick Bay and Memorial Park for hundreds of malnourished children. Kwashiorkor turned erstwhile bouncing kids to skeletal species. Equally biting was the ailment that was commonly called ‘boot’ simply because it was the best way to describe symptoms of swollen feet and bloated stomach.
While in his makeshift school one hot afternoon in 1969, Mike, barely nine years old, got the shocking news of hell let loose on Eke Ezeala market, in nearby Eziama.
As usual, Nigerian jets piloted by Egyptians, had wiped out an entire market. Body parts were strewn all over the area. More orphans were created in the process. It also signaled danger going to the market to buy or sell.
At the end of the war, Nnadozie returned to Central School. There were wonderful teachers who survived the war. Two of them stood out. In Primary Five, there was Oliver Okoro, fondly called ‘O Square’ by buddies. Joe Uwakwe’s Primary Six Class paid so much attention to History.
Young Mike was fascinated by stories of War. From Ancient Greece to the Roman Empire, Uwakwe crafted indelible stories of valour and tactics. The Punic Wars reminded pupils of what they saw in Biafra.
That was how Nnadozie picked a nickname for himself, Scipio Africanus. One of his friends, Leonard Awuzie, settled for Leonidas.
Publius Cornelius Scipio was a Roman General and military Strategist. During the Second Punic War, he defeated Hannibal, at the Battle of Zarma in 202 B.C. Leonidas, which means ‘Son of the Lion’, was a warrior and king of Sparta.
Scipio became Africanus after defeating Hannibal. Zarma is somewhere in present day Tunisia. The kids had come to know how Col. Joe Achuzia’s war name of Hannibal arose. Mike added another nickname. His friends called him ‘Sikinze’.
The school children also loved sports. One hero that was difficult to forget, was Pheidippides, the man who ran from Marathon to Athens to announce Greek victory over Persia in 490 B.C.
It was more than a long distance race. Pheidippides collapsed and died after breaking the news. The modern Olympics marathon is in his honour.
Secondary education took Nnadozie to Holy Ghost College [HOGOSCO] Owerri. it was also known as Arugo. In those years, the school played good soccer and emerged East Central State champions thrice.
In 1971, Holy Ghost College won their first schools soccer trophy. Prominent players included Patrick ‘Power House ‘ Ekeji, Obed Ariri and Uche ‘Togo’ Ejimofor.
Some of the players rose from the ashes of war they
had fought. Ekeji tried to join the Biafra Air Force but ended up in Biafra Army Signals [BAS].His first job was to guard the Madonna, Ekiti residence of General Emeka Ojukwu.
From 1974 to 1975, Arugo remained East Central State Champions. Coach Sunny Aguta had a way of raising formidable squads. Players like Godwin Gbenimacho [Mature] and Emma Merenini would later move on to win trophies with Enugu Rangers.
Okey Isima found his way to Holy Ghost College, from Abbot Boys Secondary School, Ihiala. He turned out to be the most successful of them all as a member of the Green Eagles team that won the Africa Nations Cup in 1980.
Ariri left for Clemson University in the United States from Vasco Da Gama, Enugu. Gbenimacho would later settle down in Illinois. Merenini also joined the US train. Isima continued with soccer in Portugal even as his younger brother, Ndubuisi, flew to America from Asaba Textile Mills.
Nnadozie caught the bug and took off to Omaha, Nebraska. He wanted to be a pilot having seen enough of fighter jets and bombers during the Civil War. Unfortunately, his degree in Aeronautical science from San Jacinto College could not fetch a job.
A fighter indeed! The Nigerian grabbed another degree in Aviation management from the American Technological University, Texas. He had moved to Houston. Without US citizenship, hunger stared him in the face.
Trust the fighting spirit. Nnadozie did all kinds of job, legitimate though, to stay afloat. Then in 1987, he joined the US Army, the shortest route to citizenship. They assigned him the duty of a medical supply specialist.
Back to School, Nnadozie went. A degree from Perdue University, another degree in Nursing and one more in Family Nursing brought his total to five. He was commissioned officer in 1996. One more to go, was the plan.
It was the height of his qualifications. A doctorate in Nursing Practice made him the First Active Duty Doctor of Nurse Practice in the United States Army. Promotions followed. He became a major in 2008 and Lt. Col in 2015.
Nnadozie eventually served in Persia. “Yes, I served in Operation Iraqi Freedom from February through August 2010,” he said. The Colonel was also in Vietnam in 2016.
Nnadozie is a home boy and has not forgotten his primary school pals: Nathaniel Anyanwu, Sam Ahams, Angus Onwugboro, Boniface Chukwukereze and Zebulon Obi.
Some of these friends read Agatha Christie’s 1951 thriller. ’They came to Baghdad’. It was like future foretold when Mike arrived Baghdad under US Forces commander, Gen. Raymond Odierno in 2010.
Col. Nnadozie, is married to Catherine Ijeoma and retired in 2018.He lives with his family in Kileen, Texas.
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