One of the most dreaded Biafran Army commanders during the 1967-1970 Nigerian Civil War, Colonel Joe Achuzia, has passed on. Aged 89, the Biafran War hero died on February 26, 2018 at the Federal Medical Centre (FMC), Asaba, Delta State. Before the war broke out, Achuzia was managing his Engineering Company in Port Harcourt, Rivers State.
But, he had fought in the Korean War where he gained his military experience. He first started as a militia in Biafra before he was commissioned as a Major in the Biafran Army. Achuzia was highly committed to the Biafran cause and fought gallantly till the end of the war. His exploits as an army commander earned him the name, “Hannibal,” in memory of the esteemed Carthaginian war hero. He commanded Biafran 11th Division, Biafran 11th Battalion and Biafran S Division during the war.
The late war hero was also nicknamed “Air Raid” on account of his guerilla tactics and handling of war deserters. He fought in Onitsha, Port Harcourt and Owerri sectors.
Achuzia’s Biafran 11th Battalion was responsible for defending Atani and Ndoni from Nigerian attack at the onset of war in 1967. After his gallantry in Onitsha sector, Achuzia was given the control of the Biafran 11th Division by the Biafran leader, Emeka Ojukwu. In 1968, Achuzia was transferred to Port Harcourt.
Despite heavy bombardment by the Nigerian side, Achuzia fought and narrowly escaped from death after almost being run over by an armored car. He later retreated to Igrita. His other military offensives, alongside Col. Tim Onwuatuegwu, to capture Port Harcourt did not prove successful. Achuzia was among Biafran army commanders that negotiated the termination of the war on January 12, 1970.
Since his death, Achuzia had been lauded for his bravery during the war and his continued fighting for freedom till the end. In his tribute to the warlord, the President-General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief John Nnia Nwodo, described the late warrior as “an indefatigable fighter for the rights of our people, a general of the Peoples Army, a past Secretary-General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, a loving father and a patriot.” Nwodo also urged Ndigbo to sustain the legacies of the late Biafran warrior by being “as brave and courageous as he was.”
Similarly, former Chief of General Staff under Gen. Ibrahim Babangida’s regime, Commodore Ebitu Ukiwe, said that Achuzia “has done his beat and done it well.” Ukiwe praised Achuzia for his bravery and being focused during the war. On his part, the former President-General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Dr. Dozie Ikedife, described Achuzia as “a great man who fought for justice and would be greatly missed because he could have played advisory role to Nigeria if he had lived.”
Also, Governor David Umahi of Ebonyi State described the late Achuzia “ as a Biafran and one of the last Igbo figures, who conquered their fears and stood for the liberation of his people.” To the founder of the Igbo Youth Movement, Evangelist Elliot Ukoh, Achuzia was “a courageous man and a strong voice that spoke for self-determination.”
Other people also praised Achuzia in glowing terms and flowery language for his patriotism and doggedness during the war. For his roles in Biafra, Achuzia was imprisoned by the Nigerian military authorities but was later released after spending years in detention. After his release, he relocated to his native Asaba and stayed there till death. In his post-war life, Achuzia was dedicated to the cause of fighting for freedom.
He was very sympathetic to the cause of the Movement for the Actualization of Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) as well as the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB). Achuzia will be remembered as a gallant Biafran war hero and a strong supporter of the Igbo cause and a restructured Nigerian Federation. He believed in a Nigeria where no one will be oppressed or discriminated against on account of tribe or religion.
The best way to immortalise this brave soldier and legend is to be committed to the cause of human freedom, which he fought for. He lived and died a freedom fighter. We commiserate with his family, Delta State government, Ndigbo and Nigeria for the great loss. May God grant his brave soul eternal repose.