May 09 2020 | Radio Biafra
The great man – Mazi Joseph “Hannibal” Achuzie (born 1929 – died 26 February 2018) Joe Achuzie as fondly called or the Hannibal by his Igbo-Biafran ethnic stock was a Major in the Biafran Army. Prior to joining the Biafran Army in May 1967, Joe Achuzie had been an engineer with the Shell Petroleum company based in Igweocha renamed Port-Harcourt. He was amongst the founders and organizers of the civil militia in Igweocha – [Port-Harcourt], and when that outfit was disbanded.
Elder Joe Achuzie joined the Biafran army as a Colonel. He had a British wife and a son as at January 1970 when the civil war ended, Joe Achuzie fled to the South-East in fear of anti-Igbo sentiment among his fellow soldiers in Rivers State that fought with him and on his side during the Biafra genocidal war of survival. Biafran soldiers were forced to retreat across the River Niger Bridge into Onitsha on September 20, 1967. Joe Achuzie was promoted to Major and given command of the Biafran eleventh [11th] Battalion, responsible for defending the area between Atani and Ndoni from an imminent Nigerian attack. After the Biafran eighteenth [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. Joe 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. Joe 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. Major Joe Achuzie was given total control of the Biafran 11th Division on January 19, 1968 by President Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu once the Nigerian 2nd Division under Murtala Mohammed reached Awka, giving the Nigerians a direct route to Onitsha.
The 11th Division under Major Joe 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, Joe Achuzie was transferred to Port 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. Major Joe Achuzie stubbornly continued to fight against the Nigerians before narrowly escaping death after almost being run over by an armoured tanker car; it was then that Major Joe Achuzie abandoned fighting and retreated to Igrita. On September 22, 1968 Major Joe 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 Major Timothy Onwuatuegwu made a frontal assault on the 16th Brigade but was forced to halt after suffering heavy casualties. Major Onwuatuegwu placed half of his men under the command of Major Joe 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 Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu stepped in and gave Major Joe 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 Major Timothy Onwuatuegwu as commander.
On January 9, 1970 President Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu officially placed all remaining Biafran soldiers under the command of Major Joe Achuzie and gave his Vice President General Philip Effiong his title of President. Three days later on January 12 General Philip Effiong, Major Joe Achuzie, and other Biafran officers made their way to Amichi and later Owerri to broadcast their final surrender to General Olusegun Obasanjo. Your commitment to the defence of Biafra land can never ever be over emphasized, the history of Biafra cannot be said or completed without mentioning your name.
Till your death you believed and supported the freedom of Biafra land reinvigorated by the Indigenous People of Biafra. You were a nightmare to the Nigerian forces wherever your name is mentioned. For your roles and commitment to the defence of Biafra Land, we shall remember you on 30th May 2020 when Biafra heroes shall be remembered. Fight on Great warrior!
Chibuike John Nebeokike
For: Radio Biafra Media