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How Ojukwu escaped from Biafra in 1970


Yesterday, May 30, 2016 pro Biafra secessionists commemorated the 49th anniversary of the declaration of the defunct Republic of Biafra with marches and protests.

Though the protests were hardly peaceful as some lives were lost in the process, their message was heard nonetheless; that they had not forgotten the three-year civil war they fought and lost in their bid for secession.

The story has been told many times about how the leader of the struggle, Lieutenant-Colonel Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu had turned deaf ears to suggestions from eminent Igbos to throw in the towel a year after the war began as it became apparent that it was a war they could not win. It is also on record that he remained resolute for three years before giving up in 1970 after a million Igbos had died fighting.

Many still wonder how Ojukjwu managed to escape in the midst of all the chaos. recounts how the Ikemba fled Nigeria at the end of the civil war in 1970…

On January 7, 1970, the 3rd Marine Commando Division under Gen. Obasanjo, supported by the 1st Infantry Division to the north and the 2nd Infantry Division to the south, launched their final offensive against the Biafrans. The Biafran S Division under Captain Azum Asoya was operating along the Port Harcourt – Elele road. The Division found itself cut off and disorganized due to a quick envelopment by the Nigerian 17th Brigade under Maj. Tomoye, the Nigerians now began making their advance on Owerri. On the outskirts of Owerri, Biafran Lt. Col. Lambert Ihenacho’s 63rd Brigade came under withering attack by Maj. Tomoye’s 17th Brigade, supported by 122 mm Soviet artillery. In less than a day of fighting the 63rd Brigade became overwhelmed by the Nigerian bombardment and were forced to surrender.

While the Nigerians were preoccupied with attacking the 63rd Brigade, the Biafran leadership made their final meeting in which President Ojukwu announced his plans to go abroad “in search of peace”. Ojuwku handed over the Biafran presidency to his vice-president Philip Effiong and placed all remaining Biafran troops under the command of Maj. Joseph Achuzie.

On January 9 Maj. Timothy Onwuatuegwu escorted Ojuwku to the Uli airstrip where he boarded his private jet and fled to the Ivory Coast. Immediately after Ojukwu’s departure President Effiong called for a ceasefire to discuss the details of surrender. On January 12 Philip Effiong, Joseph Achuzie, Ogbugo Kalu, and other Biafran officers made their way to Amichi and later Owerri to broadcast their final surrender to Col. Obasanjo.

  • Daniel Fayemi for


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