The Nigeria-Biafra War - Revival of Biafra's Airforce
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The Nigeria-Biafra War – Revival of Biafra’s Airforce

The Biafran Babies were equally effective in giving close ground support for Biafran infantry. For instance, in an estimated brigade strength attack at Awlaw by Nigerian troops, the Biafran 53 Brigade under the command of Lt. Colonel Nsudoh was able to rout the Federal forces largely due to the role of the minicons.

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The Nigeria-Biafra War - Revival of Biafra's Airforce

As previously mentioned, the Biafran Airforce at the beginning of hostilities consisted of two old planes – one B.25 and one B.26 – as well as three new helicopters adapted for dropping bombs. One of the planes, the B.25, never really fought, being too old to fly. Later, a Biafran order for three fighter planes was successful but the planes had no wings, confirming that Biafra was depending on black market deals. No Government would donate a plane without a wing! Meanwhile, the Egyptian and North Korean pilots in their MiGs and Ilyushins were bombing civilian targets indiscriminately. The Commander of the 3rd Marine Commando Division (3MCDo), Col. Benjamin Adekunle, was reported to have said:

I do not want to see any Red Cross and Caritas, any World Council of Churches any Pope, any Mission, or any United Nation Delegation. I want to prevent even one Ibo (sic) having even one piece to eat before their capitulation…. We shoot at everything, even at things that don’t move. It was like these foreign pilots had this dictum as a motto. They even shot down a small aircraft, clearly marked ‘Red Cross’, as it was lifting relief materials from Sao Tome to Uli airport. There was no difference between military and civilian targets as far as the pilots were concerned. They just dropped their bombs whenever they detected or suspected human presence. In one such dastardly raid on 27 April, 1968 in Aba, a total of 148 civilians, mainly women and children died. Mr. Wallace Norris, in his report to Sunday Times, London of April 28, 1968, described the bombing scene as: ‘sights to scorch the mind and sicken the conscience’.

It was a similar air raid on civilian population on Christmas day 1968 in Umuahia that triggered the activities that revived Biafra’s Airforce. The attack itself on a Christmas day, the most celebrated Christian festival, exposed the religious bias of the pilots and their commanders. On that bloody Wednesday, 25 December, 1968 the Nigerian war planes flew over 50 sorties dropping bombs and firing rockets all over Umuahia. Incidentally a Swedish nobleman called Count Carl Gustaf von Rosen witnessed the carnage and, in fact, assisted in retrieving victims from the rubble. It turned out that the Count was himself a pilot with expertise in Mono-engine planes. So embittered, he offered his services to Biafra and successfully sold to Biafra the idea of fighting the Nigerian Airforce asymmetrically by the use of light mono-engine planes.

According to Count Von Rosen, some of the excellent advantages of these mono-engine planes included their cheap cost (only about £5,000 a piece), low maintenance costs and easy maneuverability. Thus, they could land and take off anywhere and, because they could fly at tree top level, it was difficult to detect and target them from the ground. Thus Biafra acquired five light mono-engine planes called Minicon. Biafran engineers with the assistance of the manufacturers modified the planes for military use. First the fuel tanks had to be enlarged to extend the flight distance. Next, the wings were fitted with rocket pods. For a mono-plane initially not designed for military use, these adaptations needed top class expertise to reduce likely aerodynamic drag, if the planes were to remain agile in combat. Count von Rosen nicknamed this minicom fleet – the Biafran Babies.

The ‘Biafran Babies’ were highly effective in destroying enemy planes on the ground, disrupting shipping and inflicting very heavy casualties on Nigerian ground troops. They did pick their ground targets accurately as they flew very low, sometimes seen just a few metres above palm trees canopies. Their first surprise raid was on Port Harcourt airport vwhere they destroyed one Russian MiG fighter and two Ilyushin bombers on the tarmac. Count von Rosen himself led the attack in one of the minicons while Biafran crewmen piloted the supporting minicons. The Biafran pilots now took over operations, conducting similar raids in Enugu and Benin Airports, the Port Harcourt refinery and the Ughelli Power Station. In four days of operation, the asymmetric and surprising confrontation by the Biafran Airforce destroyed eleven enemy planes as well as control towers in Port Harcourt, Enugu and Benin. Port Harcourt refinery was set on fire while Ughelli Power Station was knocked out. Nigeria and her allies were in shock. It was like the Biafran Babies had hit more military targets in four days than the Nigerian airforce could do in two years.

The Biafran Babies were equally effective in giving close ground support for Biafran infantry. For instance, in an estimated brigade strength attack at Awlaw by Nigerian troops, the Biafran 53 Brigade under the command of Lt. Colonel Nsudoh was able to rout the Federal forces largely due to the role of the minicons. The only thing the minicons could not do was to challenge the Nigerian MiGs and Ilyushins in the sky or go beyond Benin, Port Harcourt and Enugu due to their limited fuel tank and flight distance. But they could sneak into an airport and knock out a ‘sleeping’ MiG or Ilyushin, akin to the infusion of malaria parasites by a mosquito on a sleeping man. Classical asymmetric confrontation! Countess von Rosen, the wife of Count von Rosen, would later recall: ‘He told me he was going to Biafra… but he didn’t say he would be bombing MiGs’.

The Invasion of Umuahia

In the early months of 1969 the usual debates in BBC resumed on another final push in Biafra to end the war. The BBC debates gave details on how the final push would proceed and even suggested that the Federal troops would capture Umuahia as a wedding gift to Gowon. Thus the visit of the Prime Minister of Great Britain himself, Mr. Harold Wilson, to Lagos was not taken lightly. Promptly the First Division of the Nigerian army started the Umuahia offensives on 27th March, 1969. The attack came from two points; this time in form of pincer movement that would culminate at Umuahia. One of the Federal armies came in from the Okigwe-Uturu axis while the other headed to take Uzuakoli. Uzuakoli was of strategic military importance, not just as a gateway to Umuahia, but as the site of the refinery constructed by Biafran engineers which had been providing diesel, petrol and kerosene for the war effort. There was a general feeling in Biafra that the battle of Umuahia would be the last: a victory at Umuahia would mark the turning point while a defeat would mark the end of the resistance. Thus every person wanted to be part of the epic battle. In the words of General Alexander Madiebo, Commander of the Biafran Army:

Hundreds of civilian leaders, both men and women, braved the dangers of the battlefield as they poured into my Tactical Headquarters to be given assignments. That was the Biafran spirit for the impending battle which, to many, was to be the last major battle of the war. Everyone wanted to be associated with that battle and this made control very difficult if not impossible.

By the end of March, the Federal forces were in full control of Uzuakoli. Expectedly, Biafra’s counter-attack was ferocious. The armoured car captured at Oguta, ‘Oguta Boy’ was around with the Biafran 8 Commando Brigade. Uzuakoli was recaptured and the Federal forces withdrew to Uzuakoli bridge. After a week they attacked Uzuakoli again.

‘Oguta Boy’ was destroyed but luckily the crew survived. This turned the scale in favour of the Federal forces. The movement of the Nigerian forces from Uzuakoli to Umuahia was again met by stiff resistance by the Biafran 8 Commando Brigade. In the ensuing battle the Commandos used ‘Ogbunigwe’ mine to demobilize an enemy ferret armoured car. The shock of the explosion killed the crew of the ferret car. Also a lone antitank gun with only two rounds was used to knock out an incoming armoured personnel carrier. These were later captured and commissioned into the Biafran Army. The armoured car was named ‘Uzuakoli Boy’ while the armoured personnel carrier was named ‘Ndidi’ (Igbo: Patience).

In desperation, the Nigerian Airforce stepped up massive and indiscriminate bombardment of Umuahia and environs with napalm, high explosive and demolition bombs.54 Napalm is an incendiary mixture of a gelling agent and a volatile petrochemical such as petrol or diesel fuel. The term Napalm is an acronym from naphthenic acid and palmitic acid, two of the constituents of the gelling agents. Seen as an excessively incendiary device, many countries feel strong moral compunction about use of napalm bombs. Those who witnessed these bombings in Biafra, especially on civilian populations, were therefore surprised that such bombs could be used in a war meant to re-unite fighting brothers. The Federal forces finally entered Umuahia on 22 April, albeit at a staggering human cost, estimated at over 10,000 dead and wounded. The Federal forces were never in full control of Umuahia till the end of the war, as the Biafran forces continued effective raids on their locations in the town. Predictions that the fall of Umuahia would mark end of Biafra again did not materialize. Ojukwu relocated the seat of government to Etiti, a few kilometers southwards, and the struggle continued.

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Full Story

Culled from “Nigeria Too Hard to Hold,”
By Prof. Peter Okorie
(07036465863, 08037061402)

Opinion

One Year After Lekki Massacre, Nigeria’s Devil Still Lives Within By Ibrahim B. Anoba

Whichever way the presidency, Sanwo-Olu, the army, and Malami choose to consider the Lekki Massacre or not, Nigerians must reckon with the fact that the country’s devil lives within. The real devil here is not merely the gang of leaders asserting their barbaric dictatorship on the rest of the country, but it is also in the failure of many across the country to join the fight for justice.

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It is laughable that the ruling elites hiding face in Abuja and across state capitals will tell their children that they love them while praying to the Heavens that those children live to fulfill their dreams. Yet, those same elites have gone about their political businesses as though October 20, 2020, EndSARS Lekki Massacre never happened. Only a foolish person would beg for the Heavens’ protection for their children while having a hand, in whatever way, in the massacre of others’ children. But we must leave the act of judgment and karma to the Heavens. 

We’ve listened to the federal and Lagos state governments and the military attempt to argue their ways out of the Lekki Massacre as responsible citizens. But even as these three state parties may convince themselves that they all had nothing to do with the killings, neither can convince the public of their innocence. The mere fact that they each have yet to give convincing reports or announce prosecutions directly related to the massacre can only further speculate they’re accessories to it.  

If the federal government is interested in protecting lives, it should have gone to greater lengths to create national committees or presidential investigative panels. But the absence of such interventions makes one wonder if committees and panels are only necessary when it concerns the petroleum industry bill or prosecuting political figures like Ibrahim Magu. Why would the President only be interested in calling the fire brigade on monetary and political issues rather than a national security-related event like the Lekki Massacre? 

Equally, if Jide Sanwo-Olu and those running Lagos State on his behalf are honestly consumed with the need to uncover what actually happened at the Lekki Tollgate, why haven’t they sued the presidency since the latter controls the military? More so, the massacre happened on Lagos soil and, as such, gives the state the right to sue any suspicious culprit to get definite answers. 

Of what significance has the kangaroo Lagos Judicial Panel on EndSARS been prosecuting those who fired the fatal shots at Lekki? Sanwo-Olu should summon the courage to ask the victims’ families if, to them, money equates justice. The justice that would bring those families any form of closure is in-court trials and sentencings. 

On another note, since the army has confirmed that some soldiers seen shooting at the scene of the murders are indeed registered army personnel, why has it yet to reveal their identities? Why hasn’t the defense ministry initiated emergency tribunals or ethics committee hearings to address this claim to the dot, i.e., ending in prosecution? It must be the case that those heading the military have lost it if they think that defending the country only involves fighting Boko Haram while not necessarily needing to give a dime about civilians.

Also, it is now clear that the attorney general’s office does not exist to serve the regular and the downtrodden. The deafening silence (absence of actions leading to prosecutions) from Abubakar Malami on the Lekki Massacre is disgraceful. Just in case Malami or his office needs some reminder, the attorney general’s primary job is to help secure justice for the country and its citizens and protect the constitution. Not only licking the boots of Buhari or spending time on national television threatening governors with the declaration of a state of emergency during elections. 

Whichever way the presidency, Sanwo-Olu, the army, and Malami choose to consider the Lekki Massacre or not, Nigerians must reckon with the fact that the country’s devil lives within. The real devil here is not merely the gang of leaders asserting their barbaric dictatorship on the rest of the country, but it is also in the failure of many across the country to join the fight for justice. 

To bring down a dictatorial democracy requires the subscription of a vast majority of the country. If older citizens (36 to 60 years) continue to not only remain idle in committing to advocacy but keep discouraging the younger citizens who have summoned the courage to fight for what is right, Nigeria will remain the same. 

Posterity will always tell. Fela Kuti’s posterity is golden because his actions were golden. We remember those who betrayed Biafra during the civil war today as eternal cowards, and rightly so. Memories and legacies are largely what individuals made of them while alive.

However, to those gone, we’ll forever remember your bravery. You’re the real Nigerians. We’ll keep asking for justice on your behalf. We’ll honor your memories in our hearts and tell of your gallantry to our children and those after them. You are the (s)heroes we’ll sing of in “The labor of our heroes past.” And may you all continue to rest in peace.

Ibrahim B. Anoba (‪Bàbátúndé Anọ́ba‬) is a Nigerian journalist and columnist for Sahara Reporters. He is also an Africa fellow at Atlas Network. He tweets via @Ibrahim_Anoba.

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Opinion

Buhari, South-East and claims of marginalization

By Obike Wilfred

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Many Igbos of the South Eastern Nigeria have been deeply brainwashed and poisoned to believe that any other part of the country is out to annihilate them. Far be it! What I know is their perceived problem is politics. They miscalculated politically and every political error is tackled and handled politically.

It has been well with them and the Northern Region since the first, second and third republics. They only had issues with the mainstream politics when they threw their best joker on President Goodluck Jonathan. Even though his administration had no physical impact in the region, Easterners gave him a cult fellowship. Everything then went wrong after he lost the election.

Succinctly put, Igbo youths got entrapped with the falsehood in the razzmatazz of “MARGINALISATION”. All are deception.

To buttress my points, I answer to the following:

President Muhammadu Buhari, Hausa/Fulani or 1999 Constitution is not the reason why 99% of educated Igbo youths live outside Igboland.

That 99% of Igbo entrepreneurs make their wealth outside Igboland cannot be traced to Yakubu Gowon or Obafemi Awolowo.

That no major city in Igboland has functional water supply cannot be because an Emir in Kano or Daura decreed.

That University of Nigeria, Nsukka, the foremost prominent Federal Institution in Igboland is the worst run, first generation University in Nigeria cannot be traced to any peculiar decision made by Aso Rock. The University Lands are now being sold to individuals for personal use.

That 50% of educated and skilled youths across Igboland are either unemployed or underemployed cannot be the making of Lord Lugard and his concubine.

Ndigbo must wake up. We have been deceived far way too long and the time to put to an end to these emotional manipulations must stop.

The structure or system in Nigeria is not the reason of the level of poverty in our land which is already competing with Jigawa and Sokoto levels. It is the making of our political Leaders.

We may not like this but the truth is that Igbos are also benefitting from the dysfunctional state of things in Nigeria. Pray, if not for federal allocation, how many Igbo States can pay salaries today?

Are State roads in Igboland better than the ones controlled by the Federal Government? Should Buhari or Federal Government start building inner city roads in ABA, ENUGU, ONITSHA, OWERRI, NNEWI etc?

Do you know that many Igbo politicians are unconscionable thieves in Nigeria, such that over 70% of government revenue in Igboland is stolen? Less than 50% is stolen in other regions.

How many Igbo Senators can you approach easily and get their attention for something? A young man from Kano or Sokoto can do that with a text message. Have you tried talking to any HOR Member from your place, say at the Airport or in a hotel lobby? Did he not make you look like a fool?

It is about time we begin to ask questions young men. Stop wasting your lives fighting for Biafra. If Nigeria disintegrates, it would go back to what it was like before the 20th century when every village was a country unto itself. Can we survive that?

Our rage has been misdirected at the wrong people. Nigeria will pass away but ALA IGBO would remain. We must begin to ask questions of those looting our resources. Has there been any month President Muhammadu Buhari held back Federal Allocation of any State?

Why are there no viable employment opportunities for young men in Igboland? Was there a report that any government within the region brought investors and the someone else outside the region asked them to go home?

How about the idle claim that Igbos are different from every other tribe in Nigeria? With the bad roads? Dirty streets, roads littered with refuse heaps? Can we for once tell ourselves the hard truth that we are not better than any other tribe in Nigeria, at least in terms of what is seen? Are we naturally wedded to self deception?

We must wake up. This whole nonsense must stop.

Obike Wilfred writes from Isialangwa Abia State.

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Opinion

Wale Odunsi: Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp outage affirms Mark Zuckerberg as Tech King

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At about 16:00 GMT on Monday, October 4, smartphone users around the world noticed a lull in Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp updates, the second time in 2021. In Nigeria, many initially thought it was the periodic outage of network services. There is high data usage in the country of 200 million people but telcos and internet providers are generally criticized for slow data connection.

Amid the confusion, phone owners restarted their device(s) in a bid to “find network”. Within an hour or two, information spread that Airtel, Etisalat, Glo and MTN were not guilty as charged in this instance. Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp were down! Family, friends, colleagues and neighbours were left with no option but to fall back on “normal call”. The phrase was coined and made popular after the launch and subsequent dominance of WhatsApp voice and video calls.

I jokingly told a pal that telecommunications companies in Nigeria would be happy “now that people must buy call credit”; I’m sure they made hundreds of millions that day. I further observed that despite confirmation of the social media platforms dormancy, users were jittery about the chats, documents, images and information in their accounts. “An ongoing hack”, some fumed.

Eventually, the downtime, which affected around 3.5 billion people, was fixed at about 22:00 GMT. Mark Zuckerberg has apologized for the internal technical issue. “Sorry for the disruption today. I know how much you rely on our services to stay connected with the people you care about”, he said in a post.

News about his loss of $6billion in Facebook shares-dive went viral. A Facebook user in Nigeria, King Prestige, contested the figure. “It’s a lie. If this man makes such, per some number of hours, what stops him from being the richest man? The richest is worth 200bn dollars if am not mistaken.” The comment generated more than 50 interesting replies in 5 hours.

The debate of whether Mark Zuckerberg lost $6billion in 6 hours or did not will continue. One thing we can at least agree on is that the American tycoon, internet entrepreneur and philanthropist is the Tech King of his generation. The fact that he founded, cofounded, purchased or invested in the three apps that shut out close to half of the world’s population – including his “rivals” – would make him an unopposed member of the “Planet Earth Board” if there was one.

Facebook currently has a market cap of over $1trillion and 2.8 billion active users monthly. Instagram, worth an estimated $100billion, has 1.3 billion active users monthly. Facebook acquired IG for $1billion in 2012. WhatsApp, the most popular messenger app in the world with 1.6 billion active users monthly, was worth $5billion in 2020. In 2014, Facebook bought the startup from Jan Koum and Brian Acton – two former Yahoo! executives – in a $19 billion deal.

The ingenuity, rise and influence of Mark Zuckerberg and the likes should serve as a reference for countries, especially in Africa. They must heavily invest in education to boost the capacity and knowledge of hundreds of tech gurus yet to be discovered. The laxity of governments on the continent is the major factor causing brain drain.

In November 2017, President Muhammadu Buhari presented the N8.6trillion 2018 ‘Budget of Consolidation’ 2020 to the National Assembly; Education got N605.8billion (7 per cent). As expected, Nigerians complained it was below the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) “recommendation”.

Defending the allocation, Education Minister, Adamu Adamu told reporters that UNESCO never fixed a benchmark. “I led the Nigerian delegation to UNESCO and the issue came up. UNESCO said they never, at any fora and under any circumstances, suggested 26 per cent as the optimal level of funding for education for any nation.”

However, a UNESCO report, titled ‘Education for All 2000-2015: achievements and challenges’, notes: “Direct aid to education plus 20% of general budget support (aid provided to governments without being earmarked for specific projects or sectors) to represent the estimated 15% to 25% of budget support that typically benefits the education sector.”

Also, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Eastern and Southern Africa Regional Office Social Policy and Education Working Paper December 2020 provides that for the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4 to be achieved, all countries have the responsibility to sustain a certain level and quality of public investment in education.

“While external support is critical in the short term, domestic revenue mobilization is the most sustainable way of investing in education. If anything, COVID-19 should strengthen the resolve of ESA governments to keep education on top of their spending priorities by meeting or exceeding the 20% minimum education spending as a percentage of total government expenditures or 4-6% of their GDP”, it reads.

The Nigerian government must increase budgetary allocation to education if it is truly interested in global competition. Those in positions of authority should stop gaslighting the young citizens with the “youths are the leaders of tomorrow” line. It will only make sense if adequate resources are earmarked to help them grow intellectually.

I urge the federal government, 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) to start/renew the establishment of Special Schools. These institutions, which can be tuition-free or highly subsidized, will take in kids exceptional in different fields such as architecture, building, engineering, environment, health, information technology, natural and physical sciences.

I maintain that the insistence of being the ‘Giant of Africa’ will remain lip service without conscious effort to aggressively upgrade all facets of the economy. It’s like football: games are not won based on club status, players’ names or statistics, they are won by tactics, cohesiveness and determination.

Nigeria has many more hidden Iyinoluwa Aboyeji (Flutterwave), Ezra Olubi and Shola Akinlade (Paystack) and other young techpreneurs, their potentials must be harnessed. Millions of youths were delighted when Stripe’s acquisition of Paysatck for $200million made headlines in mid-October 2020. Interestingly, it was during the End SARS protest against police brutality.

The story of how Mark Zuckerberg attended the prestigious Harvard University and later dropped out of the Ivy League school to focus on his dream is not new. He remained loyal to his dream and is a success story. Married to Priscilla Chan, the 37-year-old is now worth $123billion. Take a bow, Mark.

Wale Odunsi tweets from @WaleOdunsi; email: wodunsi@yahoo.com

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