Oral History Merseyside. The Sailor and the Herdsman
The Nigerian Sailor who refused to shave his beard.
For 47 years now, Denis Nnachi 80, has refused using a blade to shave his beard after he and thousands of Igbos, supporters of the Republic of Biafra, had to accept the shocking defeat of their military commandant Chukuemeka Ojukwu during the 1967-1970 Nigerian Civil war. With some English supporters in Liverpool, Mr Nnachi protested as they watched grainy pictures and some rare TV footage of the war from the frontline. On why he refused to shave, Mr Nnachi said “…we believed that definitely, Biafra was going to win…I took that as a punishment to my soul, not to look like anybody, a punishment to myself”.
Before the war, he worked as a sailor for a British shipping company transporting oil inshore to bigger ships. Shortly before the war broke out, he was the only Nigerian sailor retained to continue working for the company out of dozens. When they sail back to Nigeria to continue work shortly, he narrowly missed being arrested after his British ship captain intervened and appealed on his behalf. He returned to Britain and later gained refugee status. 50 years after the Biafran war broke out, some Igbo activists have again began clamoring for Independence which Mr Nnachi says is regrettable.
Liverpool in the UK is now home to Denis Nnachi.
Though still a staunch supporter of the Igbo cause, he says he still misses Nigeria.
“I miss a lot about Nigeria. Families ties which brings us together, I miss that a lot. The people I grew up with, We knew each other well. I miss them. I wish the clock could be set back, let me go home and enjoy them”.
Mr Denis Nnachi. Refuses to shave beard with a blade
The Somalian Herdsman
Farah Ahmed 49, was one of thousands of Somalis forced to flee his country in the early 90’s when a brutal civil war broke out as rebels attempted to overthrow dictator Siad Barre. In 1991, President Barre was finally overthrown but the country descended into chaos, a situation made more complicated now with the rise of radical Islamic group, Al Shabab. He grew up with his camel herding family in Somalia and eventually moved to Yemen and later United Arab Emirates for further studies. He returned to Somalia shortly before the civil war broke out and eventually fled to the UK to meet his father
In Cardiff (South Wales) Mr Farrah quickly learnt the streets were not paved with gold as some people from Africa always think. He was jobless for a year, surviving on state benefits and applied for more than 2500 jobs before he landed his first job! He now lives in Liverpool and works with a number of charities as trustee and part time worker.
A muslim and foreigner, Mr Ahmed says he has faced a lot of discrimination especially following the 1993 September 11th attacks in the USA.
“One of the things that happened to me is that I went to Germany and on my way back, …the immigration officer asked me ( if you know Somalia, because of Al Shabab…any young person who travels to Somalia, he is considered to have joined the Islamists group Al Shabab especially if you have a beard and look like a religious person. They just say this man is a terrorist). The officer called me back and greeted me and asked, where do you come from? I said Germany. Where are you originally from? I said Somalia. He said have you been to Somalia recently? I said no. When is the last time you were in Somalia? I said well, I actually left Somalia in 1993 and I have not been back there since. Then he said I could go. Being a muslim in the West, particularly after September 11 1991, has a lot of impact. Anything happened, any terror attack, even if it is done by some idiot, they just point out that it is a muslim without even investigating. The media plays a great role in this. Now you got terrorism equals muslims…which is not the case”.