Posted by Osamede Osunde
INVASION OF THE MIDWESTERN BY THE BIAFRA REBEL FORCE
On June 6, 1967, the federal government declared a ‘police action’ to contain the secession of the Eastern Nigeria, which had taken place on, May 30, 1967. On August 9 the secessionist troops invaded and occupied the Midwestern state , an event which resulted in two development, firstly, it primped the federal government to declare a full-scale war on the rebels, and to add the region to its theatre of war against the rebellion. Secondly, it undermined the neutrality and the peaceful role played initially by the Midwest in the crisis before the invasion, the Midwestern state political and traditional leaders had resisted the use of its state as a battleground against the secessionist and played host to efforts at the peaceful resolution of the conflict. A case in point was the peace meeting between delegation of the federal government and the eastern Nigeria at NFOR near Benin City in 1966. Nevertheless, this policy of neutrality changed with the rebel invasion.
The rebel occupation force instituted a government headed by Major Albert Okonkwo who was appointed administrator on August 17, 1967 by the secessionist leader colonel Odumegwe Ojukwu, Okonkwo administration lasted six weeks from August 9 to September 20, 1967 during which period the policies and activities of the rebel army deeply antagonized the non-Igbo speaking people of the state. The Midwest was renamed ‘‘Republic of Benin’’ in the early hours of September 20,1967 by Governor Okonkwo.But the Midwest as the’’ Republic of Benin’’ lasted a few hours before it was liberated by the federal troops led by late Gen. murtala Mohammed. The federal government immediately appointed Major Samuel Osaigbovo Ogbemudia as Administrator and later as the military governor of the state. He embarked on the process of reconciliation, reconstruction, and rehabilitation aimed at ameliorating the ill feeling and mistrust that had been sown amongst the non-Igbo of the state by the rebel invasion.