May 11 2020 | Radio Biafra
Major Timothy Onwuatuegwu was one of the most dreaded Biafran Majors’ in Biafra genocidal war for survival and freedom from 1967-1970, Major Timothy Onwuatuegwu received his commission into the Nigerian army after graduating from the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, United Kingdom in 1961, Major Timothy Onwuatuegwu was coursemate to Murtala Muhammed, Muhammed Shuwa, and Illiya Bisalla, all were Nigerian Military officers. Biafra was declared an Independent State on 30th May 1967 by War Field Marshall Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu who made Onwuatuegwu a Major in his Biafran Army. Onwuatuegwu didn’t see much action until Operation OAU in 1968 when he and Biafran Colonel E.A. Eutuk were put in charge of defending Owerri, Umuahia, and Aba.
Major Timothy Onwuatuegwu fought against the forces of Nigerian General Benjamin Adekunle in May 1968 but lost the city to Murtala Muhammad’s men on August 28, 1968. On July 18, 1968 Onwuatuegwu was able to capture the city of Umuahia from Benjamin Adekunle after many days of heavy fighting. On April 21, 1969 Major Timothy Onwuatuegwu assisted E.A. Eutuk’s soldiers during the defense of Umuahia in which Major Timothy Onwuatuegwu was able to drive off all Nigerian forces within a day of fighting. Col. Timothy Onwuatuegwu and the Biafran S. Brigade was about the most dreaded Biafran Army Unit. They liberated many Biafran cities from the Nigeria forces and fought till the fall of Biafra.
On 28 September 1967 Enugu the State Capital of the Republic of Biafra was in disarray. Civilians were quickly fleeing the town. Even soldiers were scampering to safety. Some hastily preparing to leave town for their respective villages. In effect, Nigerian Army thought the end of the war has come. Enugu was penetrated by Nigerian forces after the infamous Opi Junction withdrawal of Biafran troops without a fight. The saboteurs in Biafran Army Headquarters stationed at Enugu were at work of loose guarding Opi – Enugu to the invading Nigerian Federal troops. They had ordered the withdrawal of the soldiers at the Opi Junction thereby enabling the easy run by Nigerian forces to Enugu.
The plot was, since Enugu was the capital of Biafra, its fall would lead to the total collapse of Biafra and an end to the war, barely some months to the beginning of the war, was Biafra sabotaged by Biafran soldiers stationed to keep surveillance in Enugu, but they were mistaken. The fall of Enugu crystallized a new set of Biafran soldiers determined to reverse the course of the war. Unknown to the Nigerian forces, a new crop of Biafran soldiers were being galvanized by General Odumegwu Ojukwu. As Enugu was being deserted by civilians and soldiers alike, President Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu mounted a road block at Awkunanaw junction stopping fleeing Biafran soldiers from leaving the capital, without a fight.
The sight of Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu at the checkpoint brought a sense of order and strength, which boosted the morale of the Biafran soldiers whose commanders some of whom were the saboteurs had disorganised. Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu was at the Awkunanaw Boys School 24/7 organising a formidable Biafran strike force to defend Enugu and stop the advance of the Nigerian troops to other parts of Biafra. Trusted Biafran soldiers were quickly drafted into the new unit to be headed by the fearless Major Timothy Onwuatuegwu. Thus, the Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu Special Brigade otherwise known as the S. Brigade was born.
The S. Brigade had three battalions headed by newly promoted Major Archibong, Major Atumaka and Major Okoi, under the leadership of the newly promoted Lieutenant Colonel Timothy Onwuatuegwu, who was later promoted to the Colonel, within a month of the formation of the S. Brigade, due to the achievements of the brigade. Timothy Onwuatuegwu’s 2nd Battalion had been disbanded before the fall of Opi Junction by the saboteurs at the Biafran Army Headquarters, as they could not eliminate him as they did to Chukwuma Nzeogwu. Timothy Onwuatuegwu, Archibong (3rd Battalion), Atumaka (2nd Battalion), and Okoi (1st Battalion) of the S. Brigade formed the super four of the S. Brigade.
The S. Brigade frustrated many efforts of the Nigerian forces to capture Enugu to the surprise of everyone. They held the Nigerian Federal forces in an urban warfare that stopped the further advancement into Biafra. For months the relatively well-equipped Nigerian army was pinned in Enugu by the S. Brigade. After months of formation of the S. Brigade, Col. Timothy Onwuatuegwu formed the Biafran Ranger Regiment, under the Command of Captain Matthias Nwadiegwu. Captain Matthias Nwadiegwu and Col. Timothy Onwuatuegwu had selected about two hundred recruits for training in guerrilla warfare. The emergence of the Ranger Regiment facilitated the activities of the S. Brigade.
The first Ranger Regiment, commanded by the then Lieutenant Ignatius Obi Ebbe, were infiltrating enemy grounds in Enugu and wrecking tremendous havoc on them. They Rangers supported the S. Brigade battalions, in flanking operations. A notable operation of the Ranger Regiment was the attack on Nigeria officers highly fortified rest house, at the former colonial Eastern Nigeria Government rest house at Akpasha, in March 1968. The commando-like operation of Rangers took the Nigerian forces by surprise and weakened their activities for a while. The operation killed many top officers of the Nigerian forces. When it became clear to the Nigerian forces that they could not advance to Agwu through the defences of the S. Brigade, they resorted to penetrate Biafra land via Oji River axis.
The saboteurs at the Biafra Army Headquarters ordered the withdrawal of Biafran forces from Oji River junction without a fight. This forced the S. Brigade battalions to pull out to Agwu as the Nigerian forces came via Oji River axis to cut them off. Perhaps, the greatest accomplishment of the S. Brigade was the recapture of Owerri. After the Nigerian Federal troops captured of Owerri, combined forces of the S. Division and 14th Division came to the rescue. By then the S. Brigade has been upgraded to a division, and the three battalion Commanders Okoi, Archibong, and Atumaka who had been elevated to Brigade Commanders and promoted to Lt Col. Onwuatuegwu.
The head of the division had his eyes of the recapture of Port-Harcourt after the recapture of Owerri. The saboteurs had however become very worried and agitated with the recapture of Owerri. Within weeks, two Commanders of the S. Division, Lt Col Atumaka and Lt Col Archibong were assassinated in the same style Nzeogwu was killed. They were both gunned down by Biafran saboteurs in a no-enemy-territory-zone. The plan was to disorganise and frustrate the S. Division.
Despite the loss of Biafra two brave brigade Commanders within a short period, Col. Onwuatuegwu quickly reorganised the S. Brigade by infusing some new commanders into the division. A strategic plan was to bring in the commander of the Rangers Regiment, Captain Ebbe to head one of the battalions (69th Battalion) of the 67th Brigade. With the changes, the S. Division was almost cruising to Port-Harcourt and have already captured Elele Rubber Plantation and environs.
In January 1970 the Biafrans were on the edge of defeat and Col. Timothy Onwuatuegwu escorted the Biafran President, Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, to Uli Airport. Soon after Ojukwu fled to the Ivory Coast Nigerian Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo invaded Uli and Col. Timothy Onwuatuegwu was shot dead by Obasanjo’s men as he planned to escape to Cameroun. Biafra had already surrendered to Nigeria before the death of Major Timothy Onwuatuegwu. For the sacrifices Major Timothy Onwuatuegwu made in the struggle for our freedom, we shall always remember. Come 30th May 2020, we will do the needful to acknowledge his bountiful sacrifices.
Chibuike John Nebeokike
For: Radio Biafra Media