Col. Ademoyega summarily relieved Ifeajuna (one of 5 Majors in the January, 15 1966 coup) of his command and replaced him with Lt. Col. Henry Igboba. As Ifeajuna returned to Enugu as the 10th division’s liaison officer, Ademoyega headed for Benin with the weapons he seized from Warri police station armoury.
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His 19th battalion consisted of 700 conscripted soldiers and moved to Benin to backup Banjo’s 12th brigade which had moved towards Ore.
The Biafran forces entered Ore and paused on August 21, 1967.
The conflict between Ojukwu and Banjo gave the military head of state, Yakubu Gowon, enough time to assemble a defensive force in the west as they were largely short of soldiers.
As a result, the Biafran advance forces were quickly decimated at Ore after a Murtala Muhammed led Nigerian 2nd Division at Ore forced the them into retreat. Another Nigerian force led by Benjamin Adekunle’s 3rd Marine Commando division attacked from Warri and eventually seized Ughelli and Sapele from the Biafran forces.
The Biafran retreat from Ore is considered the turning point of the war. The invasion of the Midwest happened so quickly but the retreat had Biafra in a defensive position for the remaining years of the War.
However, pursuit by the Nigerian forces was a little delayed as the retreating Biafran 12th brigade blew up Oluwa Bridge just after Ore, as they approached Benin. This gave the Biafran forces ample time to escape and the ones who could not flee blended with the civilians in the Midwest until they were able to chart a better escape route.
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Okonkwo, Governor of the Midwest, was only a day old as the president of the Republic of Benin which was announced to defy the Nigerian government and forces. Benin and the surrounding cities were taken over shortly after by the combined Nigerian forces.
The fleeing Biafrans were reported to have looted the Central Bank of Nigeria office in Benin of $5.6 million.
However, Murtala Muhammed also left a trail of civilian casualties, the Asaba Massacre, as he pursued the fleeing Biafran forces who rushed across the Niger bridge before blowing it up.
The Biafran occupation of the Midwest was largely unsuccessful due to the opposition mounted by many Midwesterners who had an axe to grind with the Igbo people after killing of one of their own, Festus Okotie-Eboh, in the politically acclaimed “Igbo coup” of January 1966. These Midwesterners carried out a lot of operations to sabotage the occupation of the Midwest.
The Midwest occupation by the Biafran forces which started on August 9, 1967, ended dramatically on September 20, 1967.
The events of how the Biafran force managed to shock the Nigerian forces with the temporary outmanoeuvres in the Midwest invasion which went as far as Ore (old Western region and present-day Ondo state) remains indelible.
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