Third Marine Commando

Third Marine Commando in war front
Third Marine Commando attack Arochukwu July 1986. Source: Youtube (Adeyinka Makinde)

Third Marine Commando; Nigerian military unit and a major player in the Nigerian civil war, representing  an important portion in the Nigerian history, especially between 1967 and 1970. Benjamin Adekunle, who was trained at Sandhurst, an excellent global military training institution located in the United Kingdom, raised and moulded into a credible fighting force the fiery Third Marine Commando through his own personal charisma and unequal military experience. In particular, the Third Marine Commando, which was grown to 35,000 soldiers under then Colonel Adekunle’s command, was said to have been raised “from street thugs, outlaws and renegades,” and it was reckoned to have been responsible for about 70 per cent of the capture of secessionist Biafran territory during the war. The unit began their military campaigns in what was described as the ‘minority areas of Biafra, and latched on the successes recorded to launch attacks on the deep rebel territories; after such places like Uyo, Calabar, Port-Harcourt, Abagana, Oron, Eket, Burutu, Nsukka. Aba, among others, have fallen. Owerri also fell in September 1968 to the superior smothering fire power of Adekunle’s Third Marine Division.

Success of the combat  group was overturned with the onset of rains at a particular period during the military campaigns when the rebels, in a counter offensive retook Owerri, and threatened to advance to Port Harcourt. Adekunle, faced with a war-wearied and heavily fatigued force due to the long campaigns through the creeks, was consequently recalled to Lagos by the Military High Command. He was later asked to hand over on May 16, 1969, to Colonel Olusegun Obasanjo, a former colleague at the Officers Cadet School. Obasanjo later completed the war and to his glory, received the instrument of surrender from Philip Effiong, Odumegwu Ojukwu’s deputy, on January 13, 1970. However; for Adekunle, his fortunes have continued to slide. Mired in controversial circumstances, he was later retired from the Army, and thus, without a troop to command and without his former colleagues at his side, Adekunle lives a totally quiet private life in his Surulere mainland Lagos residence.
Westerner May 4, 2009

Tope Apoola
Profession: Writer