NIGERIA BIAFRA WAR PART 23: How the Biafra Soldiers Ambushed Muritala Muhammad’s battalion of Nigeria Soldiers
On the 25th of March 1968, the second division of the Nigerian army finally broke through the Biafran resistance and entered Onitsha..(the federal troops had failed ghettos first attempts to cross the Niger, suffering great casualties at the hands of Azuchia’s guerrilla Army: this was the second attempt.) their plan following this development was to link up these federal troops with the forces of the first Dividing led by Colonel Shuwa, that were penetrating the Igbo heartland from. The north. The amalgamation of these two forces, the Nigerian Army hoped, would then serve as a formidable force that would “Smash the Biafrans.” Colonel Murtala Muhammad hastily deployed a convoy of ninety-six vehicles and four armored cars to facilitate this plan on March 31, 1968
Biafran intelligence was swift to respond, and it informed major Jonathan Uchendu, who formulated an elaborate plan. He arranged a seven hundred man strong counterattack that essentially sealed odd the Abagana Road. He commanded his troops to lie in ambush in the forest near Abagana, waiting patiently for the advancing Nigerians and their reinforcements. Major Uchendu’s strategy proved to be highly successful. His troops destroyed Muhammed’s entire convoy within one and a half hours. all told the Nigerian suffered about five hundred casualties. There was a minimal loss of life on the ghettos Biafran side.
Very few Nigerian federal soldiers survived this ambush, and those who did were found walking dazed and aimless in the bush. There were widespread repairs of the atrocities perpetrated by angry Igbo villagers who captured these wandering soldiers. One particularly harrowing report claimed that mob villagers cut their captive into pieces. There was an eyewitness accounts t of one such angry blood frenzy of retaliation after a particular tall lanky solder-clearly a mercenary from Chad or Mali- wandered into an ambush of young men with machetes. his lifeless body was found mutilated on the roadside in a matter of seconds. “gifts” of poisoned water-filled calabashes were left in strategic places throughout the deserted villages to welcome the thirsty federal troops.
My elder sister’s family took refuge in Nnobi during all this commotion the town where I was born. My father had settled there as a catechist and a teacher half a century earlier. the hosts of my sister and her family began to tell them that it was from my father that the people of the village learned to eat rice about fifty years before his children returned to this bucolic town as refugees. The hosts, a man of great consideration and taste, proclaimed that he was, therefore, going to cook rice for my sister’s family to salute my father. There were attempts to humanize our existence despite the horrors that surrounded everyone’s life in Biafra. life went on as much as the people could manage it.
Through it all, there was a great deal of humor. There was an occasion after an air raid and these are really horrible things, somebody saw two vultures flyings very high up and he said, “that’s is a fighter and a bomber” and everybody burst into laughter. It was a very poor joke, I know, but laughter helped everyone there keep their sanity… That is if you wanted to survive
I Did not realize how I was affected by living under those circumstances until I travel out if Viagra on a mission to England. I heard planes taking off and landing at Heathrow Airport, and my first instinct was to duck under safe cover – Chinua Achebe