How the Igbos Made the Ogbunigwe Local Bombs they used to defeat Nigeria Army in the Biafra War
The economic blockade enforced by Gowon led to great ingenuity and some unprecedented innovations. Biafran scientists from the research think tank RAP —the Biafran Research and Production unit—developed a great number of rockets, bombs, and telecommunications gadgets, and devised an ingenious indigenous strategy to refine petroleum.
Still, some of these innovations deserve particular attention, though in doing so I would like to make it crystal clear that I abhor violence, and a discussion of weapons of war does not imply that I am a war enthusiast or condone violence.
Perhaps no more important instrument of war lay at the disposal of the Biafrans than the bomb called “Ogbunigwe.” Gordian Ezekwe, Benjamin Chukwuka Nwosu, and the less well-known technician Willy Achukwe were among the group of originators of this notorious weapon. Ogbunigwe would later become widely adopted and manufactured by the RAP engineers.
The bomb was a complex three-chamber apparatus that often included delayed action devices containing a propellant, an explosive substance—often gunpowder in an igniting base—and scraps of metal for maximal effect. Ogbunigwe bombs struck great terror in the hearts of many a Nigerian soldier and were used to great effect by the Biafran army throughout the conflict.
The novelist Vincent Chukwuemeka Ike captures the hysteria and dread evoked by it in a passage in his important book Sunset at Dawn: A Novel about Biafra: When the history of this war comes to be written, the Ogbunigwe [sic] and the shore batteries will receive special mention as Biafra’s greatest saviors.
We’ve been able to wipe out more Nigerians with those devices than with any imported weapons. . . .
You must have heard that the Nigerians are now so mortally afraid of Ogbunigwe
[sic] that each advancing battalion is now preceded by a herd of cattle
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