Gosport grandmother lifts lid on Nigerian civil war in new book

A GOSPORT author has lifted the lid on war-torn Nigeria in the 1960s to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the civil war.

Saturday, 25th January 2020, 6:06 pm
Updated Monday, 27th January 2020, 11:53 am
Leslie Mitchell with her ex husband Leonard Ofoegbu, on their wedding day in Scotland, 1963.

Leslie Mitchell, 75, signed copies of her new book Together in Biafra at Lee-on-the-Solent’s The Book Shop on Saturday.

The memoir recounts the brutal story of Nigeria during the Biafran uprising – including how Leslie survived in the country despite coups, massacres and genocide being the norm.

She was just one of a dozen foreign wives who were in the war-plagued country during the fierce fighting between 1967 and 1970.

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Leslie Mitchell moved with her Nigerian husband to Biafra in the 1960s.

‘I spent 21 years in Nigeria and was there for the whole 30 months of the war so saw first hand what was happening,’ Leslie said.

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Gosport grandmother recalls fleeing the horrors of war in Nigeria

‘A lot has been written but that was by people who weren’t there. It was very unsafe, there was genocide and massacres. I didn’t know if my parents were alive and they didn’t know if I was alive.

‘I wrote a book on what happened one year after the war but with it now 50 years on I felt it was the right time to do an expanded version.’

(from left to right) Adaora Ofoegbu, Leslie Mitchell, Sarah Veal, owner the Book Shop and Ben Reilly. Picture: Keith Woodland (25012020-4)

The book recounts unimaginable violence at the hands of mobs and details how her family were forced to flee for their lives.

Despite the precarious nature of the country Leslie, unlike many others, decided she wanted to stay in Nigeria. ‘I wanted to stay and became a refugee. I was one of less than a dozen foreign wives in Nigeria during the civil war,’ she said.

‘We were homeless with all our belongings in a Volkswagen Beetle.’

Speaking about the book launch, Leslie said: ‘It’s gone really well. There was lots of people buying copies.’

Leslie finally left Nigeria in 1987 for Gosport with nothing more than a suitcase where she trained to be a social worker, made countless friends and where her family finally found security.

Leslie’s children and grandchildren all live in the area. Her daughter Adaora Ofoegbu said: ‘The book is a great way for us to learn about the history of what happened – a lot of what’s in the book is even new to me.

‘We have a very close family and we are all very blessed to have that after what happened in Nigeria all those years ago.’