Biafran War Hero and Army Commander, Col. Joseph ‘Hannibal’ Achuzie, died on Monday morning at the age of 90.
He passed his final hours at the Federal Medical Centre (FMC), Asaba, Delta State, where he had been admitted when he took ill, according to one of his sons, Benedict Onyeka Achuzie.
The late Col. Joseph Achuzie (rtd.) was born in 1929.
He was a major in the Biafran army during the Nigeria Civil War of 1967 to 1970.
A 21-gun salute was fired to traditionally announce the demise of the Ikemba of Asaba to indigenes of the town on Monday.
At his residence at Idumujei Quarters of Asaba, it was an atmosphere of grief as people trooped in to sympathise with the bereaved family.
A condolence register was opened for him.
Onyeka said his father passed on at about 8 a.m.
“He died around 8 a.m. this morning. It was something we never expected but it happened. He was 90 years old. It’s just a sad incident.
“My father was the best dad ever. I was so sad when he gave up, and I can’t help it.
“I could still not believe that he is dead; even when he was entering the FMC where he died, he was smiling.
“We never knew he was going to die because he was still strong in spite of his age.
“He had a little bit of illness, coupled with his age. We really missed him for he was such a good father,” Onyeka said.
Revealing his last moment with his dad, Onyeka said: “He was smiling but we never knew he was going. May his soul rest in perfect peace.”
Prior to joining the Biafran army in May 1967, Achuzie had been a soldier in the Nigerian army.
He fled to the South-East in fear of anti-Igbo sentiments in the Nigerian army prior to the war.
Achuzie was a traditional stakeholder in the affairs of Asaba and held the title of Ikemba of Asaba until his death.
After he was released from prison in 1970 at the end of the civil war, he officially retired from military activities and became a prominent figure in Nigerian politics.
Reacting to the news of Achuzie’s exit, Chairman of the South-East Governors’ Forum and governor of Ebonyi State, Chief David Umahi, described his demise as a great loss to Ndigbo in particular and Nigeria in general.
Governor Umahi, in a statement signed by his Chief Press Secretary, Emmanuel Uzor, described the late Biafran hero as one of the last Igbo figures who lived and conquered their fears and stood for the liberation of his people.
Umahi said with the death of Col Achuzie, Ndigbo had lost another great unifying factor, a great man of high intellect and warlord who put in everything to ensure the safety of his people.
“Col Achuzie, during the unfortunate civil war, was to Ndigbo a stronghold and dependable hero who sacrificed personal interests for the people of Biafra.
“He has since the ugly civil war put everything behind him and has continued to play his advisory role in the politics of Nigeria.”
“By his death, we have lost another great man whose impact and love transcends beyond Igbo extraction and Nigeria.
“His death saddens us as a people because Ndigbo at this moment needs such persons who have seen it all to continue to give directions on how to avoid incipient and divisive politics that tends to divide us more along ethnic and religious lines.”
“I, therefore, commiserate with the government and people of Delta State and, indeed, the family of Achuzie over the death of this great icon and centre of Igbo unity.”