A colonel in the Nigerian Army, but a Brigadier-General of the People’s Army of Biafra, Nwawo was functionally the third in command in the Biafran Military High Command, although he was senior to both Ojukwu and General Philip Effiong, Ojukwu’s deputy. Nwawo was Commissioned in 1954, Effiong in 1956, and Ojukwu in 1957.
According to close family sources, Nwawo died in his sleep in the early hours of yesterday February 28. Nwawo, born in 1924, died at his home in Onicha-Olona, Aniocha North L.G.A. of Delta State, at the ripe age of 92, after a brief illness associated with old age.
Colonel Nwawo, whose number was the Number 10 in the Nigerian Army, was, therefore, the tenth officer to be commissioned of the Nigerian Army having joined the Army on the 1st December, 1950 and commissioned on the 28th of May, 1954 as a 2nd Lieutenant in the then Queen’s Own Regiment, as the colonial Nigerian Army was then called.
Officers who served in the defunct Biafran Army told The AUTHORITY that the war exploits of the late war commander, were sources of inspiration to most Biafran officers and soldiers. Nwawo was said to have been trusted for his loyalty and competence by Ojukwu who was said to have handed him many sensitive and herculean commands in the Biafran Army.
These, our correspondent learnt, included Administrative Officer, Biafran Army Head Quarters, Commander of the 11th and 13thDivisions of the Biafran Army both of which he commanded at different times, and lastly the Guerilla Commando Unit.
Our correspondent equally learnt that it was General Nwawo who was reputed for having the courage and clout to persuade Major Chukwuma Nzeogwu who was most popular with the troops in the course of the January 1966 coup to surrender, right amidst his victorious troops; a task which was at great risk to his life.
He will, however, be better remembered for his many war exploits both in Biafra (1967-1970) and earlier on in the Congo campaigns, alongside General Ironsi in 1961.
Notably also were his gallant military campaigns in the Onitsha, Abagana and Umuahia sectors. At a particular incident in Umuahia, he was said to have held the Federal troops with a handful of his men who were already cut off and isolated from their Biafran compatriots, for two long days and nights, eventually clearing the lines in favour of the Biafran Army.
In the Congo, then a Major, he had fought alongside a compatriot, the late Colonel Adekunle Fajuyi. The two young officers had been so outstanding that they earned the prestigious award of the Military Cross given to them personally by the Queen of England. Nwawo and Fajuyi were to be the first and only recipients of the Queen’s award in the Nigerian Army. With his death the only surviving awardee of the Military Cross is thus no more.
Nwawo started his career in 1946 after he graduated from the School of Agriculture in Ibadan in that same year. He worked as a civil servant first in the Moore Plantation in Ibadan, Nigeria and then the Cameroons until 1950 when he joined the Nigerian Army as a foot soldier. He received officer training at the prestigious Mons Officer Cadet School in Aldershot, the United Kingdom.