Earlier today, Leader of The Indigenous Peoples of Biafra paid a courtesy call on One of the Greatest War Hero of Biafra during the War, Col Joe Achuzie who celebrated his 90 Birthday.
Styled Joseph ‘Hannibal’ Achuzie for his exploits against Enemy troops. Col Achuzie Commanded Biafran 11th Division, Biafran 11th Battalion, Biafran S Division and was fiercely engaged in Battles/wars Nigerian Civil War First Invasion of Onitsha, Second Invasion of Onitsha, Invasion of Port Harcourt, Operation OAU, Siege of Owerri, Operation Tail-Wind etc.
Prior to joining the Biafran Army in May 1967 Achuzie had been a soldier in the Nigerian Army but fled to the southeast in fear ofanti-Igbo sentiment among his fellow soldiers. After Biafran soldiers were forced to retreat across the River Niger Bridge into Onitsha on September 20, 1967Achuzie was promoted to Major and given command of the Biafran 11th Battalion, responsible for defending the area between. Atani andNdoni from an imminent Nigerian attack.
After the Biafran 18th Battalion under Colonel Assam Nsudoh was forced to retreat from Onitsha after 8 days of bloody house-to-house fighting, the 11th Battalion under Maj. Achuzie linked up with the 18th Battalion east of the city and made plans to counter-attack. The 18th Battalion swung south along the Old Market Road while the 11th Battalion under Maj. Achuzie swung north along the New Market Road in a coordinated Pincer movement. The majority of the 5,000 man Nigerian 2nd Division stationed in Onitsha were either massacred or taken prisoner by Achuzie’s men. Two separate counter-attacks were made by the Nigerian 2nd Division in the days following the Biafran assault but were both thwarted by the 11th and 18th Battalions stationed in Onitsha.
Achuzie was given total control of the Biafran 11th Division on January 19, 1968 by President Ojukwu once the Nigerian 2nd Division under Murtala Mohammed reached Awka, giving the Nigerians a direct route to Onitsha.
The 11th Division under Maj. Achuzie managed to hold off the Nigerians for 2 months until an offensive launched on March 20 resulted in the Nigerians breaking through the Biafran defensive lines surrounding the city, the final battle would last less than 24 hours. The Nigerians were forced to pay with heavy casualties but they managed to capture Onitsha and forced the Biafran 11th Division to retreat to Nnewi.
On May 19, 1968 Maj. Achuzie was transferred toPort Harcourt and made commander of all Biafran soldiers within the city. Port Harcourt was subjected to heavy Nigerian artillery bombardment while defending Biafran troops fiercely resisted. During five days of heavy fighting, Port Harcourt’s airport and army barracks changed hands on numerous occasions but by May 24 most Biafran troops had been pushed out of the city into the surrounding areas. Maj. Achuzie stubbornly continued to fight against the Nigerians before narrowly escaping death after almost being run over by an armored car; it was then that Maj. Achuzie abandoned fighting and retreated to Igrita.
On September 22, 1968 Maj. Achuzie took part in an attempt to re-capture the Obiangwu Airstrip from the Nigerian 22nd and 44th Battalions but was instead forced to retreat. On March 15, 1969 the Biafran S Division under MajorTimothy Onwuatuegwumade a frontal assault on the 16th Brigade but was forced to halt after suffering heavy casualties. Maj. Onwuatuegwu placed half of his men under the command of Maj. Achuzie and were able to get within 1 km of the city. Major Achuzie demanded total control of the S Division but was refused by Onwuatuegwu and the two men almost shot each other after drawing their guns. President Ojukwu stepped in and gave Major Achuzie control of the S Division for one week, continuing the frontal assault on Owerri.
Achuzie’s plan ultimately failed and he retreated after suffering heavy casualties, Ojukwu then immediately restored Onwuatuegwu as commander. On January 9, 1970 President Odumegwu Ojukwu officially placed all remaining Biafran soldiers under the command of Maj. Achuzie and gave his vice president Philip Effiong his title of President.
Three days later on January 12 Effiong, Achuzie, and other Biafran officers made their way to Amichi and later Owerri to broadcast their final surrender to General Olusegun Obasanjo.
After Achuzie was released from prison in 1970 he officially retired from military activities and moved to Anambra State. He lives there as of 2012 and is a prominent figure.
Roland Akachukwu Enyinna