What happened on January 11, 1970??

On this day, the Biafran leader, Odumegwu Ojukwu said that he was flying out of Biafra “to explore possibilities” for peace. He spoke on Radio Biafra that his mission out of Biafra was vital to seek “an early and honourable end to this struggle and the suffering it has brought our people.”

He added, “Our detractors may see this as a collapse, as me deserting my people and responsibilities. Our enemies would say that. God willing, I shall be back among you soon.”

He said army Chief of Staff, Colonel Phillip Effiong would take charge until his return. Earlier, a reliable military source said that Nigerian troops had captured the vital Biafran crossroads town of Owerri and were moving on Uli airstrip, the secessionists’ link to the outside. Diplomats in Lagos said on this day that the war appeared to be nearing an end. They expressed concern about the plight of some 500 to 1,000 Europeans and North Americans who could be trapped in Biafra if it fell. Most were working on relief operations. Relief officials said agencies had generally instructed their people to use their discretion and come out when it seemed necessary.

Before this day, the 3rd Marine Commando Division under Colonel Obasanjo, supported by the 1st Infantry Division to the north, and the 2nd Infantry Division to the south, launched their final offensive against the Biafrans. The Biafran S Division under Captain Azum Asoya, was operating along the Port Harcourt – Eleme road. The Division found itself cut off and disorganised due to a quick envelopment by the Nigerian 17th Brigade under Major Tomoye. The Nigerians then began making their advance on Owerri. On the outskirts of Owerri, Biafran Lt. Colonel Lambert Ihenacho’s 63rd Brigade came under withering attack by Major Tomoye’s 17th Brigade supported by 122mm Soviet artillery. In less than a day of fighting the 63rd Brigade become overwhelmed by the Nigerian bombardment and were forced to surrender.

While the Nigerians were preoccupied with attacking the 63rd Brigade, the Biafran leadership made their final meeting in which the Biafran leader, Odumegwu Ojukwu, announced his plans to go abroad “in search of peace.” He handed over the leadership of Biafra to his 2nd in command, Phillip Effiong, and placed all remaining Biafran troops under the command of Major Joseph Achuzie.

Major Timothy Onwuatuegwu escorted Ojukwu to the Uli airstrip where he boarded his private jet and fled to Ivory Coast.

Ojukwu, the Biafran leader, with Guards of honour for inspection

Leave a Comment

%d bloggers like this: