If you have never found a letter in your inbox from someone styling themselves as a Nigerian Barrister, Prince, Chief, or (my personal favorite)  Paul Volcker (yes, the ex Fed chairman) consider yourself among the chosen few. The intro usually goes….

I am Barrister Jamie Chan , an attorney at law. I discovered your
email and information through comprehensive web email search  so I decided to contact you….The owner of this account is Mr. Phillip Morris, a foreigner, and a sailor. he died since 1993 and uptill now no other person knows about this account or any thing concerning it… I know this sounds like a scam because of lot of activities going on the internet. But I assure you that this is real.

All of which brings us back to the gentleman facing the camera in the photograph. His name is Hank Warton and he was instrumental in organizing and running the Biafra airlift in the late sixties. Biafra was Darfur, before Somalia was Darfur, the original  home to disturbing images of infants starved in the service of conflict. Briefly a recognized republic, Biafra existed from mid 1967 to January 1970 in ever shrinking territory originally carved out of southeastern Nigeria’s Igbo region.

From the little I’ve read, which can tend to veer in the direction of far reaching conspiracy theories, Mr Warton’s major motivation in the airlift was financial. Competing at times with other shadowy figures like unrepentant nazi Otto Skorenzy, his armament cargoes often put him at odds with the Red Cross, Jesus Christ Airlines, and other international relief organizations. For anyone interested in the aviation history aspects of this forgotten conflict, I would highly reccomend Michael Draper’s Shadows as a definitive work. However well intentioned, the airlift of both guns and butter may have prolonged the agony of Biafra’s Igbo community.

Unfortunately, Igbo identity has also become associated with the “419 letter” exemplified above as suggested in this interesting thread from the Nairaland Forum. Which leads us to another photograph best forgotten.

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