In October 1967, the federal troops, having captured and secured Enugu, the capital of Biafra, were on their way to Awka and Onitsha, the commercial nerve centre of Biafra, through the old Enugu-Awka-Onitsha road. The well armed, heavily equipped federal troops, with their superior fire power, encountered a battalion of poorly equipped, out-gunned and virtually exhausted Biafran troops at the Ugwuoba Bridge, few kilometers into Awka.
However, the Biafran troops had on hand some of their air defence dust mines. Unable to withstand the superior firepower of the federal troops, they began to run for their dear lives carrying along with them their air defence ‘mines’. Their commander, bold and stalwart, ordered them back and commanded them to fire the mines on the approaching federal troops.
The command was promptly carried out. Indeed, the federal troops could not understand what hit them. The effect of the detonation was very devastating leading to loss of many federal troops, as well loss of large quantities of arms and ammunitions some of which got completely burnt.
The Nigerian troops were so mortally afraid of the Ogbunigwe that each advancing battalion was preceded by a herd of cattle. Many cows lost their lives.
March 25, 1968 probably remains one of the most memorable events of the war. It was the day the Nigerian side suffered the heaviest single loss in the war.
Known as the Abagana Ambush, the Second Division of the Nigerian Army led by Colonel Murtala Mohammed had finally crossed the Niger Bridge after failing in the first attempt (having been repelled by the Colonel Joe ‘Hannibal’ Achuzia’s guerrilla army and suffering heavy casualties). Having crossed into Biafra, the plan was to link up with the First Division led by Colonel Mohammed Shuwa penetrating the Igbo heartland through the north from Nsukka.
With a 700-man team, led by Major Jonathan Uchendu, a counter-attack plan was hatched that essentially sealed up the Abagana Road while the troops laid in ambush in a nearby bush waiting patiently for the advancing Nigerians and their reinforcements.
Major Uchendu’s strategy proved highly successful as his troops destroyed Muhammed’s entire convoy within one and half hours with about 500 casualties on the Nigerian side. There was minimal loss on the Biafran side. It was probably the most resounding battle ever won by the Biafrans in the entire war.
The Ogbunigwe was the most effective Biafran weapon during the war and the Nigerian forces were not able to find an efficient defense against it. Well placed mines or rocket salvos coordinated by few determined soldiers were often enough to stop an entire Nigerian advance. The Ogbunigwe in its various forms was able to influence the outcome of many battles. It was indeed a weapon of mass destruction.