Abia State is home to the only war museum in Nigeria and West Africa at large. The National War Museum houses all the relics from the Nigerian Civil War which took place between 1967 and 1970 following the attempted secession of the southeastern region of Nigeria to become the Republic of Biafra.
After visiting the National Museum of Colonial History in Aba, and the Bayelsa State Heritage Museum, I concluded that museums were not really my kind of place. As much as the history is needed, I usually get bored less than halfway through the tour. But this museum was different. Something about visiting the National War Museum hit me in a different way.
Located in Umuahia, the state capital of Abia State, the National War Museum showcases the remains of all the materials that were used by Nigeria and Biafra during the Nigerian-Biafran Civil War. There, you will find an outdoor display of aircraft, ships, and armored cars; and an indoor display of photographs and army uniforms from the war.
Seeing these relics in pictures and videos sparked my initial interest. They were things I had not quite seen up close like that, therefore I was kind of excited and expectant to visit. I took a bus from Aba to Umuahia and the trip lasted for about an hour.
I have shared my experience to give you things to keep in mind prior to visiting the National War Museum.
Locating the National War Museum
I may have lived in Abia state all my life, but Umuahia is still a town that I can count my fingers for how many times I have visited. The best and surest way to locate the museum was to book a ride from where our bus had dropped us straight to the museum. It wasn’t long until we got there.
You should keep in mind, however, that the National War Museum Road is a long and lonely road with barely any vehicles in sight. We made the mistake of not getting the contact of the driver that brought us so we could call him to come pick us up by the time we were done. But we were lucky to get a free ride from a kind local, although I would not recommend this for your safety.
The War Museum is open every day of the week. Below are the opening hours and closing hours for each day of the week:
- MONDAY – FRIDAY: 8:00AM – 5:30PM
- SATURDAY: 10:00AM – 5:30PM
- SUNDAY: 10:30AM – 6:00PM
As we walked in, we spotted a few people under the tree whom we later identified as the officials in charge of the museum. They didn’t look like the people in charge as they were grossly interested in our money and even got into a mini argument over who should receive the fees. This was an unprofessional thing to do in our presence and I was appalled by it.
National War Museum Entry Fees
The entry fee to the museum at the time of this writing is N300. They didn’t tell us this. I knew already because my mom had visited before me and had given me all the information I needed. However, they told me and my friend to collectively pay N1500 so they could power the generator for us. Again, I didn’t like how that sounded. It felt like we were being ripped. How are tourists meant to pay for fuel in a whole National Museum?
We started negotiating with them and it came down to N700. We weren’t sure whom to pay to, since they were already getting into a fight. In the end, we had to pay to the woman who had a book and the tickets. She was also the one attending to us from the beginning. We wrote down our names, grabbed our tickets, and headed toward the building.
Just like every other museum, phones were not allowed into the galleries to prevent any form of recording. At the security post, we were told to drop our bags and were given tags in exchange. A tour guide was assigned to us shortly after.
Touring the Galleries
Galleries sound exciting, right? Well, except that those weren’t the kind of galleries I had wished for. There are three galleries in the building. A section of the gallery housed photographs from the war; another section, weapons used during the war such as spears, shields, bows, arrows, and metal vests that the warriors used to protect themselves. That section led up to the Nigerian Armed Forces Gallery. We saw the ceremonial uniforms of the army officers, and pictures of past military leaders.
If you are like me who didn’t know a thing about the military insignia that differentiates military ranks, this is the part where you thank the guide for his heartwarming tutorial. There is no way you are coming out of those rooms unenlightened. The guide did an amazing job right there. One could tip him for that.
By the time we were done exploring the galleries, the guide told us there was something exciting he would like us to see. It was a bunker that hid the ‘Voice of Biafra’ radio transmitter. The bunker is about 30 feet deep with pictures of Biafran heroes on both sides of the wall. We learned that while the war lasted, the radio station remained hidden underground, unnoticed by the Nigerian army.
The bunker was structured in such a way that one would enter through the main entrance and climb right out through the back. Thankfully, the exit was not as dreadful as the one I experienced at the Ojukwu’s Bunker located a distance away. This one here had actual stairs which were really comfortable.
The exit door was in the middle of nowhere. Nothing could have prepared me for the overgrown grasses that surrounded it. It made me wonder for a moment if they were still keeping the bunker hidden from the prying eyes of the enemy.
Outside, we were left to wander off on our own and explore the larger military weapons. I’m speaking of ships, planes, and armored cars. Those could eat 200 of me. They were that big. I and my friend climbed to the top of the ship and checked out different sections of it without entering the inside since we were out on our own.
After exploring to our satisfaction and taking really cute pictures (90% of which I lost) we decided it was time to hit the road because the sky was starting to get sad.
So far, the National War Museum is one of the few locations I could revisit multiple times without getting bored. The feeling of nostalgia that lurked there is the kind we chase when we are out to feed our wanderlust.
Visiting the National War Museum – FAQs
Which state is the National War Museum Located?
The National War Museum is located in Abia State.
When was the National War Museum Established?
It was established in 1985.
Why is the National War Museum located in Umuahia?
Umuahia was chosen as the museum’s location because the bunker that housed the Voice of Biafra radio station was located there. The Voice of Biafra was the mouthpiece for Biafra during the war.
Is the bunker at the National War Museum the same as the Ojukwu’s Bunker?
No. The two bunkers are very different. The bunker at the National War Museum used to be where the Voice of Biafra radio was transmitted from; whereas the Ojukwu’s Bunker was where Ojukwu held secret meetings with his men during the war.
Are you a fan of museums? Would you visit this one? Let me know in the comment section below. Please, share this post with anyone you think would benefit from it.