The socioeconomic-cum-political scenarios in Nigeria have been under enormous negative stress over the years. People repeat History; History does not repeat itself! Nigerians who personally-experienced the sordid events of Nigeria-Biafra war can see bad History today gradually being repeated. There are palpable fears of gruesome deaths, pogrom and the unknown woes and cries over human sufferings in Nigeria as were in those days of Nigeria-Biafra war.
There are widespread poverty, deprivation and hunger; unhealthy, selfish, divisive and wicked politicking is widespread; exposing the country to disunity and instability. There are many problems: massive and unending insurgency by boko-haram; Fulani herdsmen/militia on rampage destroying corps, property, burning houses and killing men, women and children in different communities/States; cattle rustlers having heyday, kidnappers operating with nonchalance and vigour, urge by sections to opt out of the Federation or for outright secession; vigorous calls for Restructuring and Devolution of Powers to Federating Units etc.
The polity has become militarized; men and women of the Armed Forces and Police have had their hands full and even suffer heavy casualties in lines of duty while controlling the volatile situations. The Federal, States and Local Governments seem to be unable to solve problems effectively, seem to be overwhelmed as these gory events tend to worsen on daily basis.
The country seems to be repeating once more sequence of events that led Nigeria into and out of the indelible experiences of/in Nigeria-Biafra war. Boko-haram has become intractable menace nationwide; massively killing people and destroying property.
As at now the Fulani herdsmen have the upper hand but if they eventually become resisted by the oppressed, the country may experience another most destructive war. In Biafra it was not only then Easterners (Igbo, Ibibio, Efik, Ijaw etc.) that died, the Yoruba, Hausa, Tiv, Gwodogwodos etc. also died or lost property. Even though then Easterners suffered irretrievably, other Nigerians suffered as well, killings and destructions of property ran riot across boundaries in Nigeria and Biafra.
As of today, Nigerians are gradually and knowingly drifting to similar destructive suicide-horizon of life because of greed and lust for power and wealth. It seems that fatality of Ideals of March has come to stay in Nigeria. That was how then military government viewed the pre-Biafra situation which they wanted to treat as a “Police Action” that ended up into three-years of full-scale Nigeria-Biafra war that consumed millions of lives and destroyed trillions of Naira earnings and property.
The war was gruesome and tragic, few lucid field combat encounters during the Nigeria-Biafra war may show if our leaders and their followers are ready to learn.
A successful defense of the commercial city of Onitsha by Biafrans reached a high point in the three-year survival of Biafra. The Nigerian Army did everything possible to advance across the River Niger and enter Onitsha to occupy it. From there they would advance to the industrial centre of Nnewi and into other heartland areas of Biafra of Idemili, Aguata etc. The Biafrans dislocated the Niger bridge, made it impassable and stoutly-defended it to the end; they accepted to live or die fighting. Onitsha town was aggressively-defended, it was suicidal for the Nigerian Army personnel to enter as they made futile incursions into Onitsha. On their successful entries into the town, they were literally-burnt out of Onitsha. Some of them died in the consuming burn-fire of goods/buildings at main market; others in their futile attempts to escape from advancing Biafran soldiers under the command of Gen. Achuzia desperately-jumped into the River Niger and drowned. When they finally had a slight foothold beyond the River, a long and strong defensive position was dug, ringed around Onitsha to stop enemy incursions across swampy Ogidi-Odekpe-Ogbaru area. Nigerian soldiers with malignant fear of suffering more casualties stopped further advances beyond this defensive line at Onitsha.
The Abagana Sector of the Nigeria-Biafra war proved a major successful milestone in Biafra’s resistance with a tenacity of purpose, agility in military strategy, intelligence in military sagacity, raw courage and bravery in gallantry of the people! The Nigerian soldiers made desperate efforts to fight their way across the River Niger to enter Onitsha from where they would spread out into Biafran hinterland. Their efforts proved futile as they were stopped at the Niger riverside. Nigerian Army then mobilized fully and set out for a long detour of military maneuvre over 75kms away from Enugu Sector to Onitsha. A large and well-equipped contingent of Nigerian Army moved from Enugu to downsouth of Biafra; taking towns of Udi, Nachi, Oji River, Ugwu-Oba, Amansea, Awka, Amawbia, Nawfia, Enugwu-Ukwu but they were STOPPED at Abagana where a major ambush lay-in-wait for them. The advancing Army was very poor on recce strategy being over-confident and over-trusty of themselves. They were accompanied with heavy logistics both in personnel and materials; many officers and soldiers, Engineers, Doctors, technicians, civilian support staff, lorries/trailers carrying armory, artillery, mortar guns, bombs, armored vehicles, landrovers, medical supplies, foods etc.
These men and materials moved in slow and steady pace, confident and conquering convoy, not knowing that a long line of well-planned and armed Biafran Army ambush was close-by the roadside at Abagana. As the leading Nigerian soldiers and measurable length of convoy-Army-column passed-by, the waiting Biafrans ambushed them! It took the lobbing of few mortar bombs, grenades and gun-shots into the field of personnel/weaponry-aggression column to set the entire Nigerian Army convoy on burn-fire! Some mopping-up operations by Biafrans finally-decimated the convoy leaving a trail of sorrows, carnage and destruction kilometers-long at Abagana. It was most unfortunate that the Nigerian Army took Biafrans for granted, poor recce, left all their military eggs in one basket to suffer such a horrible fate.
The battles of Abakaliki Sector at Effium, Ezamgbo, Abakaliki, Onueke, Isieke, Akpoha bridge, Afikpo, Amasiri, Owutu, Nguzu, Ekoli-Edda etc. areas were classical military shows of courage, strategy and tactics by Biafrans. Abakaliki and Edda areas presented peculiar and tricky environmental engineering problems for the military particularly during the rainy season when entire ground surfaces were water-logged and hazardous. One thinks that the then Nigerian Army Engineers did not have good Engineering Geologists in their rank-and-file to advise them properly on unsuitability for battles as posed by grounds/soils/rocks/Geology of the areas. Those areas were covered by streams and wetlands. The roads and pathways were narrow, slippery and unsuitable for military maneuvres and movements of light and heavy vehicles. Nigerian military did not appreciate unstable nature of the Geology/Hydrogeology and hence woefully-fell into Biafran traps as preys to the reactive/unstable soils and poor Hydrology prevalent during the rains. The land surface constitutes of clays and shales that are brittle when dry and very plastic when wet. The many battles in parts of Abakaliki areas of Amasiri, Owutu, Oso, Nguzu, Ekoli Edda etc. were major mirage of suicidal Waterloos to the Nigerian military machinery, hardware and personnel. During the rainy season-battles, their heavy vehicles and artillery guns could hardly move freely and got stuck in mud; withdrawal by their men and materials were almost impossible; they were shot-picked or captured like wet pidgins. This provided immense advantage to Biafrans who were familiar with the terrain to easily-rout the Nigerians. Their officers and men were cut off and captured as they suffered heavy casualties. Many vehicles, weapons and armaments were seized in combats. Nigerians cannot afford to go through the ill-fated war scenarios again by listening to/taking people serious, doing the right thing in governance and being fair, just and equitable to all.
By Boniface C E Egboka, UNIZIK, Awka, Anambra State; Email: email@example.com