Col Tim Onwuatuegwu and the Biafran S. Brigade


Col Tim Onwuatuegwu and the Biafran S. Brigade was about the most dreaded Biafran Army Unit. They liberated many Biafran cities from the Nigeria forces and fallsatll the immediate fall of Biafra
28 September 1967
Enugu the capital of 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 at Biafran Army Headquarters had been at work. 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 have led the collapse of Biafra and the end of the war, barely months after the beginning of the war.
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 Odimegwu Ojukwu. As Enugu was being deserted by civilians and soldiers alike, Ojukwu mounted a road block at Awkunanaw junction stopping fleeing Biafran soldiers from leaving the capital, without a fight. The sight of Odimegwu 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.  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 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. 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 Chukwuma Nzeogwu.
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 federal forces in an urban warfare that stopped further advance. 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 Onwuatuegwu formed the Biafran Ranger Regiment, under the command of Captain Matthias Nwadiegwu. Nwadiegwu and 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 resulted to penetrate via Oji River axis. The saboteurs at the 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 capture 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 Cols. Col Onwuatuegwu, the head of the division had his eyes of the recapture of Portharcourt after the recapture of Owerri. The saboteurs had however became 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 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 Portharcourt and have already captured Elele Rubber Plantation and environs. The saboteurs at the Army Headquarters saw this and became quite desperate. To frustrate further advance of the S. Division, Col Onwuatuegwu was removed as the commander of the S. Division and was replaced with Col Asoya. Onwuatuegwu was sent to Biafran Military School in Orlu. Lt Col Okoi the last remaining original commander of the brigades of the S. Division was equally removed and sent to Oguta were there was no strong enemy push. Col Asoya, a saboteur was brought in to disorganise and undermine the progress of the S. Division. The S. Division under the command of Col Asoya was deliberately starved of arms and ammunitions, despite the fact there arms at the division headquarters. He made various attempts to eliminate remaining brave commanders and soldiers of the S. Division. Needless to say that the advance of the S. Division towards Portharcourt was halted as soon as Asoya took over from Onwuatuegwu. It was only a matter of time, before Owerri was recaptured by Nigerian forces leading to the end of the war.
At the end of war, the Nnewi-born Onwuatuegwu who knew he has been marked by Nigerian forces because of how he frustrated their efforts to overrun Biafra and had earlier predicted that if Biafra loses the war, the Nigeria forces will torture him to death, made arrangements to escape via Cameroon. Unknown to him, some of his Nnewi friends, working for the saboteurs who were privy to his plans informed Nigerian forces. They arrested him at Ogoja and brought him back to Enugu, which was under the command of I.D Bissala. Hassan Katsina, who Nzeogwu spared his life during the January 1966 coup, because his wife was pregnant, flew down to Enugu and killed Onwuatuegwu in cold blood, while he was in detention. An act of genocide that was never investigated by the Nigerian government that had declared “No Victor No Vanquish”.


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