May 19 2020 | Radio Biafra
Heroic events and the recapturing of Owerri, Aba and Umuahia known as Operation OAU. Operation OAU took effect from September 2 – October 15, 1968, and it was a bloody battle between Nigerian third [3rd] Marine Commando Division also known as [3MCDO] and the Biafran twelve  Division in three big cities of Biafra land namely Owerri, Aba and Umuahia.
In April 1968, the Commander of the 3MCDO General Benjamin Adekunle (The Black Scorpion) began drawing up plans to invade the Biafran heartland and capture all remaining major cities. On April 14, the Nigerian 3rd Marine Division under Gen. Adekunle made their way North from their position in Calabar to Ikot Ekpene where they managed to capture the city after a stubborn Biafran defense. For 36 days the 3rd Division pushed their way West through the Niger Delta and reached the area surrounding Port Harcourt on May 19.
The Nigerian Army and Navy bombarded the city before carrying out an amphibious assault led by the 31st, 32nd and 33rd battalions. This led to the retreat of Biafran armed forces. On July 30, Gen. Adekunle began making plans to capture Biafra’s remaining major cities, even boldly stating that he would be able to capture Owerri, Aba, and Umuahia in two weeks.
In August 1968 the Nigerian Army set up positions along the Aba-Umuahia road and cut off all food shipments from entering the city. Gen. Adekunle’s strategy for gaining Aba was to surround the city, cut off food shipments, and starve the city into submission.
On August 24 two Nigerian battalions and their Soviet advisers crossed the Imo River Bridge and began making their way towards Owerri. The Biafran 4th Commando Brigade under the South African mercenary Maj. Taffy Williams threw themselves headfirst against the Nigerian attack. For three days light machine gun and repeater rifle fire did not stop, and neither side gave an inch until the Biafran soldiers ran out of ammunitions and were forced to retreat to Aba.
On September 2, Nigerian artillery began shelling Aba while ground forces began to enter the city under heavy Biafran fire. For twelve days bloody house-to-house fighting ensued and bodies filled Red Cross hospitals before the final Biafrans surrendered on the 14th September.
On the 13th September the Biafran 14th Division came under heavy artillery fire from the Nigerian 16th Brigade under the command of Colonel E.A. Etuk. On September 17, the Nigerian 3rd Marine Division began making their way towards Umuahia but were quickly intercepted outside the city by a division of Biafran soldiers and a bloody battle ensued.
On September 18, after a fierce five-day stand, the Biafran 14th Division abandoned fighting in Ohoba and Obinze and retreated from the city, leaving Owerri open to Col. Etuk’s 16th Division. After Owerri’s capture Colonel Ogbugo Kalu was made commander of the 14th Division and Col. Lambert Ihenacho was made commander of the 63rd Brigade.
In a letter sent from Genralissmao Ojukwu to Col. Kalu he states “Your role in the Port Harcourt disaster is still fresh in the minds of people. You must clear the enemy from Obinze in 24 hours or submit your resignation from the army.” Only a few hours later Colonel Kalu ordered a Biafran counter-attack and with the assistance of the Ogbunigwe mines (Mass Killer) the Nigerian Army advancement was halted and Obinze was captured.
The 5th, 21st, 22nd, and 44th battalions of the Nigerian 1st Division began making their way Northwards towards the Obiangwu airstrip from all axis after over-running Biafran soldiers positioned on the banks of the Imo River. Due to the swiftness of the Nigerian Army advancement, the Biafran 63rd Brigade retreated from the Obiangwu airstrip on September 22, leaving the bulk of its equipment to the Nigerian 22nd and 44th battalions.
The same day, the Biafran Maj. Joseph Achuzie attempted a counterattack at the Obiangwu airstrip, but was swiftly repelled by the Nigerian 22nd Battalion. On September 30, the Nigerian 21st battalion outflanked the defending Biafran 13th Division and captured Okigwe town. In mid-September, the French President Charles de Gaulle openly voiced his support for the Biafran cause and began shipping weapons to Biafra. The terrain around Umuahia consisted of areas of vast jungles and rivers that were littered with mines and Biafran soldiers.
For 14 days, the two sides exchanged gunfire and artillery, resulting in mass casualties on both sides. Gen. Adekunle radioed in to Jack Yakubu Gowon that he needed re-enforcements or his entire division would be at risk of annihilation by the Biafran Army, but they never arrived. Nearly fifteen thousand [15,000] Nigerian soldiers had either been killed or wounded in the Umuahia sector and on October 1, the 3rd Marine Division retreated to Port Harcourt while the 16th Division was left isolated in Owerri.
Instead of pursuing the retreating Nigerian soldiers to Port Harcourt the Biafran soldiers slowly made their way up to the Aba-Umuahia road and managed to capture Aba on October 15. Although Shuwa’s 1st Division successfully captured Okigwe and the Obiangwu airstrip the operation resulted in disaster for Gen. Adekunle’s 3rd Marine Division in which it lost over twenty thousand [20,000] of its thirty-five [35,000] soldiers, over two thirds of the entire Division fell, and his Division found itself in short supply of both men and food.
While Jack Yakubu Gowon was distracted by the anti-tax riots in Western Nigeria, a Biafran soldier Brigadier Alexander Madiebo encircled Owerri, trapping the three thousand [3,000] -man of Nigerian 16th Division inside the city. For the next several months attacks were launched by Biafran soldiers on Nigerian Army defensive positions around the city which allowed them to inch closer to Owerri with every battle.
On December 5 the Biafran soldiers launched a two-day offensive in Owerri in which fifty thousand [50,000] rounds of ammunitions, three hundred  mortars, two hundred  howitzer shells, and twenty  anti-tank weapons were fired by the Biafran soldiers but the Nigerian 16th Division under Col. Etuk managed to stay put in their original positions.
On January 15, 1969, the Biafran 60th Brigade entered Owerri and forced the Nigerians army advancement within the city to retreat across the Otamiri Bridge. Hungry and half-naked Biafran soldiers discovered the Nigerian Army’s food and clothing supplies and decided to stay and have their fill while the Nigerian Army regrouped and launched a counter-attack, causing the Biafran soldiers to retreat. By March 31, 1969, the Biafrans had control over 70% of Owerri while the remaining three hundred  Nigerian soldiers lost out of that war and fled the city on April 25 1969.
Chibuike John Nebeokike
For: Radio Biafra Media