Not many of us remember the Yoruba soldiers who fought gallantly on the side of Biafra.This is a quick attempt to remember some of them now.
1. Lt. Col. Victor Banjo
He was one of the first graduates to join the army alongside Ojukwu and others. The two were best of friends according to public records and individual accounts.
When Ojukwu released the January 15 coup suspects in the Eastern region after the revenge coup, Banjo stayed in the government house with him while the rest were accommodated elsewhere in Independent Layout, Enugu.
Banjo led the 3,000 strong Biafran brigade known as the “Liberation Army of Nigeria” and also called the “Midwest Expeditionary Force” in the planned invasion of Lagos.His forces reached Benin within 12 hours on August 9,1967.
By this time, Nigerian forces had captured Biafran towns of Obudu, Garkem, Ogoja, Nsukka heading to Enugu and Bonny, heading to Port Harcourt.
Banjo’s arguments with Ojukwu resulted in fatal tactical delays in Benin and Ore enroute Lagos for several days.
He was recalled back to Enugu alongside his deputy and Quartermaster; Major Ifeajuna, court-martialed and executed with 3 others in September 1967.
Lt. Col. Banjo was the highest ranking Yoruba in the Biafran army.
2. Major Wale Ademoyega
One of the five majors that toppled the government of Balewa on January 15,1966.
He was released from Warri prison during the Midwest invasion in August 1967 by a battalion led by Major Chukwuka; another of the five Jan 15 majors.
He first commanded the Biafra newly reorganised 19th Battalion but replaced Ifeajuna as the “Liberation Army” Quartermaster General when he (Ifeajuna) was recalled back to Enugu with his commander; Col Banjo.
Ademoyega wrote a book on the Jan 15 coup titled Why We Struck.
He was arrested by federal soldiers after the war, faced the military commission and was detained until October 1974.
3. Capt. Ganiyu Adeleke
He was one of the January 15 officers released by Ojukwu.
He coordinated the Biafra 18 Battalion at Onitsha as Infantry Company commander with Major Chukwuka in readiness for the Midwest invasion.
He distinguished himself in the charge toward Ore and later become an instructor at the Biafra School of Infantry.
When other Biafran soldiers who took part in the Midwest invasion were released from prison in 1974 after Gowon granted them pardon, Capt Adeleke, Lt. Col. Ochei and “Col Hannibal” Achuzia were exempted from pardon and remained imprisoned.
4. Lt. Fola Oyewole
He also joined in setting up the Biafra 18th Battalion at Onitsha and commanded the D Company that liberated Ughelli, parts of Sapele and Warri during the Midwest expedition.
Lt. Oyewole is one of the first soldier to write a very instructive book on the civil war titled the Reluctant Rebel.
It is a credible account of the civil war from the eyes of an active Biafran army commander who is not from the East.
Oyewole is also one of the Biafran soldiers detained by the Federal Government after the war and released in 1974.
Other notable Yoruba who opposed the federal government on the Biafra war include but not limited to:
1. Wole Soyinka
2. Tai Solarin
3. Prof. Hezekiah Oluwasanmi;former Vice Chancellor of OAU Ife (1966-1975)
Credits: Mbe Nwaniga, foremost writer and Historian.