Meet Zannah Mustapha- The Man who saved the Chibok Girls

When 57-year-old Zannah Mustapha arrived for the handover of the 82 Chibok girls freed from Boko Haram after three years in captivity, a militant read out the girls’ names from a list.

One by one, the abducted schoolgirls, now women, lined up along the outskirts of a forest near Kumshe town, on the border between Nigeria and Cameroon. Each of them was covered from head to ankle in a dark-coloured hijab.

“I went ahead of the Red Cross. They [the militants] brought the girls to me,” said Mr Mustapha, the lawyer from Borno state in north-east Nigeria.

He has been mediating between the government and militants for the release of the Chibok girls and for an end to the Boko Haram insurgency.

In 2015, President Muhammadu Buhari told the media that his government was willing to negotiate with “credible” leaders of Boko Haram for the release of the girls.

More than 200 of them were abducted a year earlier from the north-eastern town of Chibok, sparking global outrage.

Previous attempts had failed, with different groups coming forward, each claiming to be the militants in possession of the missing schoolgirls.

It was Mr Mustapha who succeeded in convincing the Nigerian authorities that this particular group should be taken for what they say, presidential spokesman Garba Shehu told me.

“He had dealt with them in the past and they keep to their word,” he said.

Mr Mustapha’s role as a mediator dates back to his founding the Future Prowess Islamic Foundation School in 2007, to provide free Islamic-based education to orphans and the poor.

When the Boko Haram insurgency erupted in 2009, the school offered admission to the children of soldiers and government officials killed by the militants, as well as those of militants killed by the state.

Mr Mustapha then sought the assistance of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), which began providing free meals to the pupils.

He also encouraged parents to form an association which would reach out to other widows and convince them to send their children to his school.

The ICRC soon extended its humanitarian services to the mothers, providing them free food and other items every month.

“This was at a time when the wives of Boko Haram militants were being arrested and their houses demolished, so Boko Haram saw me and the ICRC as neutral parties,” Mr Mustapha said.

During the previous government of President Goodluck Jonathan, former President Olusegun Obasanjo visited Maiduguri, the epicentre of the insurgency, to intervene in the escalating crisis.

He then set up a group to discuss peace with Boko Haram. Mr Mustapha was included in it because of the relationship he had forged with the families of Boko Haram militants.

After the Swiss ambassador to Nigeria paid a visit to the Future Prowess school in 2012, he arranged for Mr Mustapha to go to Zurich and Geneva to receive formal training as a mediator.

“We were already trying to negotiate peace with Boko Haram before the Chibok girls were kidnapped,” Mr Mustapha said.

The initial negotiation was for a batch of 20 Chibok girls to be released.

But, as a sign of commitment to their relationship, Boko Haram added an extra woman, whom Mr Mustapha said was their gift to him, hence the number 21.

When they were released in October 2016, she was chosen by Boko Haram to read out the names of the other 20 women from a list.

Mr Mustapha said the 21 women were lined up and asked by Boko Haram militants if they had been raped. They all said they were not.

When a militant approached a woman who was carrying a baby, she said that she was pregnant at the time of her abduction, having got married a few weeks earlier.

The baby girl in her arms, she said, was her husband’s child.

For some reason, Boko Haram, a group that has cultivated a reputation for brutality, wanted it to be known that it was only after the women “agreed” to get married that the militants had sexual relations with them.


This process of lining up the women, pointing at each one and asking the same question, was repeated at the beginning of May when 82 more women were released.

One of about seven Boko Haram militants, who accompanied them, went from woman to woman asking: “Throughout the time you were with us, did anyone rape you or touch you?” Mr Mustapha said, adding that each of them replied in the negative.

None of the second batch of 82 captives came with a child.

But one had an amputated limb and was walking with crutches, an injury she sustained, according to what Mr Mustapha was told, during Nigerian military air strikes against Boko Haram.

“You are free today,” Mr Mustapha announced to the 82 women after all the names were called out.

“They all smiled,” he said.

He believes that their subdued reaction was as a result of the presence of the militants, all armed with guns, some wearing army camouflage uniforms and boots.

Mr Mustapha then took some photographs with the women. The militants also had their video camera on hand and recorded the event. ICRC vehicles eventually arrived.

“When I told them to go to the cars, they all ran,” Mr Mustapha said. “Immediately they entered the vehicles, they started singing for joy. Some shed tears.”

Mr Mustapha has received a number of accolades for his work with Future Prowess School. He was a finalist for the 2016 Robert Burns humanitarian award, given to those who have “saved, improved or enriched the lives of others or society as a whole, through self-sacrifice, selfless service, hands-on charitable or volunteer work, or other acts”. He was also given a 2017 Aurora Prize Modern Day Hero award, for those whose “life and actions guarantee the safe existence of others”.

However, he described handing over the 82 freed girls to the Nigerian government as “the highest point in my life”.

“I felt that I have done something that is worth saying to the world that I have done this,” he said.

This was first published on BBC.com

Fall of A Sokoto Caliph- The deposition of Sultan Dasuki

On April 20, 1996, the eight-year reign of the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Ibrahim Dasuki, one of the greatest Sultans of Sokoto since the dawn of the federation came to a sudden end. Summoned to an urgent invitation to see the state’s military administrator, Colonel Yakubu Mu’azu, in his office. The sultan responded and as tradition entailed, was chauffeur-driven to the Sokoto Government House in a long convoy and with a retinue of palace officials. But certain things happened at that moment that shocked him. On getting to the state house, the military administrator did not come out to receive him as was the practice. Then, he was also surprised at the unusually high number of armed military guards at the government house. Also, as he made to enter the administrator’s inner office, Dasuki’s palace officials were denied entry with him. Since that was not the practice, the Sultan protested but he was curtly told that the administrator wanted to meet with him alone. At that stage, the monarch began to sense trouble.

At the administrator’s office was also the Commissioner of Police, Abubakar Tsav, and the state director of the State Security Service, SSS, Alhaji Aboki. To the sultan’s amazement, the administrator told him that he (the Sultan) had committed unpardonable offences against the people, Islam and the state. He added that after due consultation with the kingmakers, the sultan had been deposed and banished from Sokoto. To the monarch, it was like a bad dream as he could not believe his ears. He began to shiver while a letter of sack given to him by the administrator fell off his clasped hands. But Tsav, the commissioner of police, picked it up and tucked it into his hands. Dasuki at first was short of words as he quivered in disbelief. But at a stage, he found his voice and looked up straight at the administrator, “Why would you disgrace the family of  Uthman Dan Fodio ?” But Mu’azu, the military administrator, having performed his brief, simply walked out of his office. This was during the rule of military Head of State, General Sani Abacha.

Journey to exile

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Immediately after the tension-soaked session at the administrator’s office, Tsav told Dasuki that he was under arrest. While the royal father’s palace officials and other aides were still waiting for him in an inner room in the governor’s office complex, the sultan had been briskly herded out through another route and driven straight to the Sokoto airport by Tsav and his team. Dasuki requested to be allowed to go to his palace to take his drugs but the police personnel turned down the request. He also asked for where they were taking him but the police officers replied, “We don’t know.” In the real sense of it, they did not know as they only got a clear instruction to drive him down to the airport.

While on their way to the airport, there was a signal that the place had been taken over by intending pilgrims, which could pose a challenge. This did not pose much problem to the police anyway, as they simply chased the intending pilgrims away from the tarmac, before the arrival of the deposed Sultan.

At the airport, a plane had been waiting to take the sultan away. He, at this stage, resisted the arrest, saying he would rather die than enter the aircraft that was to take him on the journey to exile. His words: “This is a coup against the sultanate and as a leader, I should die fighting; I won’t enter any aircraft unless you kill me.”

But the leader of the security team detailed to take him in the flight quietly replied, “We have no instruction to kill anybody.” Again, when the sultan reminded them of the need for him to have with him his anti-hypertension drugs, the security personnel promptly assured him that they would buy them for him when they reached their destination. But where? Nobody was willing to say.

While the Sultan still stuck to his gun that he would not enter the plane, he was firmly reminded of the indignity in a Sultan being dragged into the plane. Again, they told him that they were going on a long journey and that if he chose to go by road, he was free, provided he could endure the rigour.

At that stage, the Sultan agreed to enter the plane. Inside the plane, reports said he kept telling the security personnel that “you know today but you don’t know tomorrow.” He also blamed his plight on his political enemies who were bent on destroying the “Buhari royal family.”

The plane then landed at Yola, Adamawa State and the deposed Sultan was driven straight to one of the government guest houses. Sources said throughout the night, Dasuki was wide awake, and at about 4 a. m. the following day, he was taken out and driven to Jalingo in now Jigawa State, where he began a new life in exile.

Tightened security

In Sokoto, government promptly beefed up security following the Sultan’s removal, especially at the palace and at the ex-Sultan’s private residence along the University of Sokoto’s temporary site. Also, Dasuki’s family members, upon hearing of his dethronement, started moving out of the palace despite assurances from government officials that they could remain in the palace for as long as it would take them to get comfortable accommodation. It would seem that the state government had anticipated wild protests or riots with the level of tightened security following the removal. But the opposite was the case as most residents, though surprised, simply went about their normal business.

Government justifies removal

Colonel Mu’azu invited the Sokoto kingmakers to the government house where he officially informed them that the Sultan had been deposed and banished. He asked them to set in motion the process for the emergence of a new sultan. He also told them the series of offences committed by the dethroned monarch. Also in a broadcast to the state, the administrator pilloried Dasuki for how he conducted his affairs as sultan. His words:

“The leadership role for which the state is known in the arena of politics and religion is fast slipping out of our grip as a result of lack of honest and sincere leadership.”

He said since Dasuki became the sultan, many things went wrong,“which are of serious consequences.” He specifically listed Dasuki’s offences to include causing feud and enmity among the people and among the ruling houses, ignoring government directives and suggestions made to him, using government facilities and personnel without seeking permission, and inviting foreigners, especially diplomats, without notifying the government of Sokoto State. He further accused Dasuki of travelling outside his domain without the approval or notice of the government, and that he spent money on capital projects independent of government’s approval. Such acts, Mu’azu said, easily ridiculed both the palace and the government.

Furthermore, the military administrator reeled out other offences of the deposed Sultan to include acts that brought negative consequences to the religion of Islam. “He is self-centred…and unable to account for all the donations and fund given by individuals or organisations for the construction of mosques and religious activities.” According to him, the deposed sultan is likely to appear before the failed banks tribunal. “It is shameful to see a Sultan in a witness box to answer some charges. This ugly development is totally unbecoming of either the Sultan or the revered Sokoto caliphate,” he explained.

Appointment of Sultan Maccido

On Sunday April 21, a day after Dasuki was dethroned by the military government and after the kingmakers had been briefed on the urgent need for the selection of another sultan, 69-year-old Mohammadu Maccido was named as the new sultan. In a twist of fate, it was Maccido who keenly contested with Dasuki for the coveted turban of the sultanate, eight years earlier. Then his late father, Sultan Abubakar Saddiq 111 had died and Maccido was reportedly favoured by the kingmakers to succeed him at first but at the last minute, the indices changed in favour of Dasuki. However, the announcement of Maccido elicited widespread jubilations in the streets as the locals poured into the streets, shouting ‘Sai Maccido’. The new sultan was an American-trained agriculturist who studied public administration at Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Kaduna State and in the United Kingdom. Until his appointment, he was the Sarkin Kundun of Sokoto.

Possible reasons for Dasuki’s removal

Beyond the façade of the official reasons given for the sudden dethronement of Dasuki, observers believed that his sack by the military administration of General Abacha was to settle old scores. According to this school of thought, Dasuki’s insistence during the interim national government of Ernest Shonekan, in the wake of the annulment of the June 12 1993 presidential election won by Chief MKO Abiola, that there should be no more military take-over, might have been his Achilles’ heels. He reportedly advised then that Shonekan should be allowed to rule and handover to a democratically elected government, a proposition said to have hit Abacha below the belt, as he still wanted to rule as Head of State. For this, the Sultan was not forgiven.

Again, the gulf between Aso Rock and the Sultan’s palace was further widened when the Sultan’s son, Sambo Dasuki, a lieutenant colonel and the present National Security Adviser, was named in an alleged coup plot involving former head of state, General Olusegun Obasanjo, and 39 others. As a way of humiliating the Sultan, the Federal Government started assigning functions meant for the Sultan to other emirs who were junior to him. Besides, Aso Rock started playing host to perceived enemies of the Sultan within the sultanate, who then included Maccido. Also, when Abacha visited Sokoto, he snubbed Sultan Dasuki.

PANORAMA- The words of Buhari, before his second Coming

In Nov 2014 a Nigerian media organisation had chat with President Muhammadu Buhari, in it he opened his mind about a number of issues, two years later he his now Commander In Chief and knottedpost panorama revisits the words of the general, before his second ascendance.

let them ask now: what did I attempt to do for the time Babangida and his group allowed me to stay and what did they do in his eight years in office? I told you about the naira and the dollar, and the IMF programme. What did they do? They wanted to impress the world? The naira was devalued by about 122 percent. We have never recovered. Go and ask any economist. When you devalue a currency, it can never recover. Some of the politicians that were jailed for corruption, they were released and their loot was returned to them by Babangida. So it’s a big joke. That means I was there then before my time.
 

TheCable: People say that you were not really involved in the coup that overthrew Shehu Shagari but you only happened to have been made head of state. But we also heard that Alhaji Umaru Dikko, then minister of transport, felt you were a threat and asked that you be watched. How true are these reports?

Buhari: General David Jemibewon is still alive. He was the adjutant-general of the army at that time. When I came back from the War College in the United States, I was posted to Ikeja and I was made the GOC of the fourth division. I think I lasted for about four to six months there because some people in Shagari’s government said I was too dangerous to be kept around. So I was sent to Ibadan to command second division. I lasted about six months there.  Again, I was posted to Jos to command the third armoured division. Then Jemibewon said to me, Buhari, the way they are moving you, your next posting will be to Daura (Buhari’s home town in Katsina state). I had a good laugh. I will never forget. It was during the chief of army staff conference.

Muhammadu_Buhari_-_Chatham_House.jpg

TheCable: How much did you know about the 1983 coup?

Buhari: I am working on my memoirs… (But) I have something to say now about the way we treat our military officers who really served this country. Along the line we have gone through so much, those of us in my generation. We served under people like Generals Shuwa, Adekunle, Murtala, Danjuma. I think these people have sacrificed so much. I think Nigeria should really honour them. When I went to greet the family of (Benjamin) Adekunle after his death, and I saw that he was living in a glorified boys quarters, I was very sorry for this country. I felt sorry for this country. What type of people are we? For him to finish up like that, I was very sorry for this country. Unless people believe in God, I think they will forsake this country.

TheCable: Alhaji Umaru Dikko is dead now. There was an attempt to smuggle him into the country from the UK to Nigeria. Your government was suspected as the brain behind it but you denied it then. Can the information be declassified now?

Buhari: No. (General laughter). I’m surprised that I am making you laugh. It is classified and it remains so.

TheCable: Were you really aware that Babangida was planning a coup against you in 1985?

Buhari: Yes, it is true that I learnt he was planning a coup against me. And I sat and discussed it with him in my office. He was the chief of army staff and I was the head of state. He brought the news that he went to Kano and people complained that I pulled a pistol during a council meeting. I had never heard that before, except a newspaper cartoon I saw many, many years ago about Mengistu Haile Mariam (former Ethiopian head of state). They were just making up stories. I said Ibro ─ I called him Ibro because I was just senior to him by a few months ─ I said whoever wants to sit on this chair let him come and sit here. And he decided to do it.

TheCable: But the punishment for coup making is death…

Buhari: Yes. Remember how many people he killed subsequently for trying to overthrow him? But when I came in, there was no bloodshed. I think a couple of policemen were killed and (Brigadier Ibrahim) Bako also died. That was when they went to pick Shagari from somewhere, I think in Abuja. But deliberately, nobody as killed. I was in the front, the real front in the Nigerian civil war. I have seen enough of death and I know what God means by human life. Any human person, God values their life. And anybody who  hopes to meet God, he should be careful about killing. When there is law and due process of law took place, the question is clear. Like the cocaine convicts that were executed (in 1984), the decision was taken by the supreme military council (SMC).

TheCable: But when he eventually overthrew you, didn’t you regret that you should have taken action when you heard that he was planning against you?

Buhari: Taking action pre-empting and jailing or killing people does not solve the problem. But let people honestly ask now, as you said, those who are bothered about Nigeria, let them ask now: what did I attempt to do for the time Babangida and his group allowed me to stay and what did they do in his eight years in office? I told you about the naira and the dollar, and the IMF programme. What did they do? They wanted to impress the world? The naira was devalued by about 122 percent. We have never recovered. Go and ask any economist. When you devalue a currency, it can never recover. Some of the politicians that were jailed for corruption, they were released and their loot was returned to them by Babangida. So it’s a big joke. That means I was there then before my time.

TheCable: Having been a military ruler who overthrew a democratic government, how did you now come around to subscribe to democracy?

Buhari: At the risk of sounding like a broken gramophone record, I will tell the story again. After I came out of detention and went home in December 1988… then in 1989, 1990, 1991, the Soviet Union collapsed and that had a terrific impact on me. People were coming to me for advice. Thank God, they did not come to me to ask for money because they knew I had no money. I declared my assets as many times as I occupied political office because that was the law. And when I left I declared my assets.  All those of us, our generation, from Obasanjo downward, if the country is serious about questioning them on how they acquired what have, it is easy because by law you have to declare your assets before office and after you leave office. But because it is so convenient to ignore the and accumulate wealth, that is what the big men and big women are doing.

Now, when the Soviet Union collapsed I realised that there was something right about multi-party democracy. I believe it was superior. But then how can we get it done in Nigeria? That was what eventually took me to partisan politics. And why did I leave the ANPP and form CPC? Why was I active in the merging of the opposition to become APC? It is all about strengthening our democracy and stabilising the system. I don’t like any person to see me as an impulsive person. I deliberately take decisions for my actions. That it is why when ANPP gave me the presidential ticket in 2003 and 2007, I went into the field, did my best but unfortunately we didn’t achieve success. But then while we were in court the party’s leadership took two marginal ministerial positions in the government of the late Umaru Yar’Adua. The party chairman said his son was taking up an appointment as special adviser while we were still in court.

Since 2005, we discovered that none of the opposition parties could face the PDP. The PDP has become so amorphous and it didn’t care about the opposition. If you see what happened to our members during elections… the killings, the burning. We realised we had to come together to face the PDP. This is the best way I think we can stabilise the system. When we stabilise the system impunity will not be acceptable. That is why we formed the APC. We need multi-party democracy to stabilise the system.

TheCable: What does a typical day in your life look like these days?

Buhari: Firstly, as you know, normally the practising Muslims have to wake up about five in the morning and pray. And I am an avid listener of the Voice of America and the BBC, Hausa service. This is because over the years I have discovered that they have been very, very helpful in educating the mostly illiterate Hausa-speaking populace. From Agadez or even from Tripoli down almost to South Africa, and from Senegal to Central Africa Republic, there is large body of Hausa-speaking communities, not necessarily Nigerian or Hausa, but those who speak the language because of trading over the centuries.

I found out VOA and BBC commentaries on politics and economics very good. They help to educate people. And they allow people to discuss, express different opinions and they interpret it, and I find that very helpful. And it is very current for Nigerian politics for that audience. I listen to that, and then I try to rest again. And then by 10am I have my breakfast, and go to the office or stay in the house if I choose to work without any interference. Otherwise, I go to the office and try to attend to official duties if I have appointments. About 4pm and 5pm I come back home, and mostly up to 10 in the night I will be with people discussing things.

These days, it is very difficult. This time scheduling is too tight. Sometimes I wish I had more than 24 hours to keep up with the demands of meeting people. Again, Nigerian politics, especially this time around, is the main issue. It is keeping me extremely busy. I go to bed nothing earlier than half past 11pm. I wish I could observe siestas. Sometimes I do. If I can escape from the office by 3:30 pm.

Gowon not Ironsi crushed Nzeagwu’s Coup- British Intelligence files reveal

The fallout since dailytrust began publishing secret diplomatic minutes from the British embassy in Nigeria has continued. In the latest batch, files have revealed that it was the then Lt Col Yakubu Gowon that crushed the first coup, contradicting an earlier account by mostly Biafran sympathizers that Aguyi Ironsi somehow salvaged the day by bringing the coup to a halt.

Below is an excerpt:

Then a comedy of errors took off that grounded the rebels and enhanced the failure of the Revolution. The general alarm in the Federal Guards barracks next door had been sounded. They had been disturbed by vehicle and troops movements up and down the barracks. Two batches of NCOs had been turned out for alleged IS operations and some gunshots were heard in the proximity of the barracks. All soldiers were ordered by the head of NCOs, RSM Samuel Tayo to gear up and proceed to their various platoons. But according to military standard operating procedure, being NCOs, they needed an officer to give them commands. So the RSM led a platoon to their Officer Commanding’s(OC) residence at No 5 George Street, Ikoyi. But Okafor was not in. He was five streets away at Thompson Avenue searching for the Maimalari. Then they headed to knock on Lt Ezedigbo – the second in command’s door at the block of flats at No 4 Lugard Avenue. He was not in too. He was part of the Revolution. So was the next in line Lt Igweze. Of all the five Federal Guard’s officers, only a very junior officer Lt Paul Tarfa was at home. Lt Joseph Osuma was not in too. He was not part of the assassins though; he had only gone out to sleep with a friend following Friday night’s festivities. If Tarfa later turned out to be somebody in his military career, it was because on that night of nights, he was present at home when the RSM arrived flustered looking for leadership. There had never been mutiny in the barracks before and so no one knew the standard procedural response.
According to his later account, Tarfa said he geared up in battle dress and was driven to the Federal Guards by the RSM’s convoy to take command. He was briefed on the situation and was told that most of the Igbo soldiers in the barracks could not be accounted for including the OC. Tarfa put the Federal Guards on a defensive alert like a cobra coiled to spring. He ordered sentries and machine guns emplaced on sandbag to be posted round the barracks walls. They made up and circulated a call out with its password “Black/Boy” so that dissent soldiers who were still coming in and out of the barracks could be identified and rounded up. Corporal Sarwuan, a Tiv rifleman became the victim of this coiled cobra. Seeing a soldier coming in from the dark, RSM Tayo challenged,

‘Halt. Who goes there?’
‘Friend.’ Sarwuan was said to have replied.
‘Advance to be recognised.’ Tayo ordered and called out “Black.”
But Sarwuan did not respond and continued to advance. Tayo called out again, “Black.” No response. The RSM’s finger twitched in the trigger guard and his heart beat faster and faster. Tayo for the third and last time called out “Black.” But Sarwuan kept advancing without replying. He had forgotten the password and Tayo concluded he was an enemy. He squeezed the trigger plunging Sarwuan’s wife and children into sadness of incomprehensive depths. Major Adegoke, who took over from Ifeajuna as the DA and QMG at 1st Brigade in Kaduna was similarly killed in 4th battalion in Ibadan having been mistaken for a mutineer/enemy. He was holidaying in his native home when he heard about the coup; he hastened to the barracks for more information only to be handed his death. Black/Boy. His Boy did not follow Black and Adegoke met his death.
That night, Tarfa who had assumed the command of the Federal Guards went to the OC’s office adjacent to his. In a file in the cabinet, he saw planning documents, operations orders and a recent signal note from Nzeogwu which read: “Ensure the Tiger is in the net. Even if recruiting more captains.” The tiger he later understood was Maimalari; the net was his death. The extra captain they managed to recruit was Adeleke who only knew of the plot hours earlier at the Apapa residence of Ifeajuna after being brought by Major Ademoyega before some departed for the cocktail. Adeleke at first refused and was told that if the Revolution to free Nigeria started and he was not with it, he would regret it maybe not that day, maybe not the following day, but soon, and for the rest of his life. He fell in enthusiastically. At around quarter past four, Adeleke was with Ademoyega at the Officers Mess when Okafor came to report that he had just lost his command; that the Federal Guards were no longer responding to his orders, that in fact they almost shot him when he went back to the barracks to mobilise more troops. The only infantry force on which much had hinged and much of the second stage would hinge was no longer with the Revolution. What had happened?
When Okafor’s lieutenants roused the NCOs for the assignment, they were told they were needed for an IS operation. They were expecting to be taken outside Lagos to crush one of the hotspot of the Western Region’s crisis or to Mushin to quell a riot as they had done three weeks before. Instead they were taken to Brigadier Maimalari’s residence and they saw his guard commander and another soldier shot dead. The guard commander was known to them. They lived in the same quarters at the barracks. They had started to doubt whether they were truly on IS operation. Again, they were ordered not give the Brigadier a chance to surrender; they were ordered to shoot him dead on sight by Okafor, a disgraced thief and a liar pardoned by the same Maimalari they were asked to kill. They concluded that this was not an IS operation; this was an assassination squad they were forced to join. The final straw came when Ademoyega arrived to tell them that Maimalari had been found and shot by Ifeajuna. His corpse laid at the Mess. It was a terrible blow to the NCOs. Okafor was relieved to hear the news and ordered his second in command Captain Oji with four NCOs to proceed to check the situation at Airport Junction in Ikeja. The remaining men were ordered to proceed to Mess for further instruction. Instead, they rebelled, passed the Mess to the barracks and threatened to shoot Okafor if he tried to give them orders anymore. It was righteous mutiny within an unholy mutiny.
According to the testimony Ifeajuna later gave after his arrest a month later, he saw the GOC’s official car and his guards driving past the entrance of the barracks. This made them conclude that it was the GOC that had roused the soldiers and placed the barracks on a defensive alert. As envisaged, the Revolution was not meant to be a one-night stand. They had anticipated that at one point, soldiers still loyal to the Nigerian Army would wake up and fight them. That was why in the first place they decided to kill off all the senior officers that will command the loyal troops. In addition, that was also why immediately Nzeogwu finished off Sarduana up North, he went to take over Brigadier Ademulegun’s office at the Brigade. Knowing that the Brigadier or his deputy would not come back, the revolutionaries had expected that the shock of seeing all the senior officers dead was enough to sag the morale of the loyal soldiers to fight back. Furthermore, Ifeajuna had planned for a further arms advantage: The firepower of the Southern brigade was in Abeokuta with the 2nd Recce Squadron and the field artillery battery. Their officer commanding, Major Obienu was a central plank of the Revolution. He was supposed to mobilise his armoured, mechanised and artillery support: all the ferrets, the scot cars, 105mm Howitzers and assemble at the airport junction in Ikeja. A unit from the Revolution high command set up at the Federal Guards Mess was supposed to go to Ikeja bring this armoured squadron into Lagos and position them menacingly in front of the barracks and other military installations to neutralise any threat to the Revolution.
But with the presence of the GOC and his perceived rousing of troops against them, Federal Guards Mess was no longer the place to set up the Revolution High command. They had to hasten up connect with Obienu’s unit and quickly establish their firepower supremacy. All the 9 corpses were quickly loaded into the 3 tonner including the Minister of Finance who was still alive and scared to death. They left in a convoy of 6 vehicles: two army Land Rovers, Okafor’s private Peugeot 403, Ifeajuna’s Red Mercedes Benz, Anuforo’s private car and the 3 Tonner.
Unfortunately for their Revolution, Obienu overdrank at Maimalari’s cocktail party. Instead of attending the briefing at Ifeajuna’s house or proceeding straight to Abeokuta as expected, Major John Obienu branched at Shomolu to taste his mistress and became glued to a cleavage of extraordinary amplitude. He lacked the strength to get up as his name was melodiously chanted with Gregorian devotion. The Revolution to save Nigeria and do better than the politicians began to fall apart piece by piece.

Ibadan
The 4th battalion in Ibadan was the oldest and the second biggest batallion in Nigeria. It had 26 officers and 829 NCOs. During the centenary celebrations at Mapo Hall in Ibadan in June 1963, the Olubadan of Ibadan, Sir Isaac Akinyele conferred on the battalion Freedom of Ibadan City and handed it the Key of Ibadan City. More than anywhere in Nigeria, Ibadan was historically a war-crazy city. At midnight just before his pre-battle rousing plan, to the other four Majors, Ifeajuna telephoned Captain Nwobosi, the officer commanding the Field Artillery Battery in Abeokuta. He issued the all-clear message and ordered Nwobosi and his unit to proceed to Ibadan 90km away and achieve the Revolution’s objectives there. Had the Revolution succeeded, Captain Nwobosi would have been the most rewarded.
Solving the bloodbath of the Western Region was one of the reasons they had plotted the Revolution in the first place. But up till two days before the planned date, they had no officer to actualise the operations in Ibadan, the Western Region’s capital. Nwobosi was recruited on January 12 when he came to Apapa for the Ifeajuna-organised Brigade Training Conference. Ifeajuna tried to recruit Madiebo over lunch on the same day, but Madiebo started preaching about failure being an option and tribal loyalties being stronger than national ambition among the revolutionaries. Ifeajuna had to cut him out and relied on Nwobosi who did not even know places in Ibadan very well. The 4th battalion in Eleyele which they had initially planned to use was just 10 minutes’ drive away from the Premier’s Lodge. Their commander Lt Col Abogo Largema like other battalion commanders was already earmarked for the end at Ikoyi Hotel. That would give his second in command Major Mac Nzefili a safe space to take over the command. Like all the seconds in command of all battalions in the Nigerian Army, Nzefili was Igbo. Up to the last minute, Ifeajuna harboured no doubt that he would come on board for the Revolution. He spent all of December travelling to his residence in Ibadan to discuss operational and tactical requirements but he only met his wife at home; he was always away on assignment. Also Nzefili as the British records disclosed was awaiting court-martial for getting drunk, wondering into the female quarters of the police barracks, resisting arrest and biting the ear of the arresting police officer. Nzefili declined Ifeajuna co-option.
On the night of the assassinations, Nzefili was at the officers’ mess in Ibadan when Justice Kayode Eso, Akin Johnson, the administrator of Abeokuta Local Government Council and his wife Mosun met with him. The Johnsons came to seek asylum at Eso’s residence in Ibadan having escaped Action Group’s hoodlums who accused him of gravitating towards Akintola. Eso told them he did not consider his own home safe since 12th of December 1965 after inadvertently humiliating Akintola by freeing Wole Soyinka, the un-mysterious gunman. Eso and Akintola were neighbours. Since the Johnsons knew Largema, Justice Esho took them to the barracks for refuge. According to Esho, Nzefili told them Largema was in Lagos but once he finished drinking with his mates at 11pm, he took the Johnsons to their safe rooms without knowing them personally. Largema his boss was widely respected both outside and inside the Army and Nzefili too when not drunk was a kind man.
To Ifeajuna, Nzefili was a disappointment. It was a huge relief when Nwobosi accepted to head the Ibadan task. Ifeajuna then gave Nwobosi a forged order issued in the name of Brigadier Z Maimalari authorising him to take a detachment to Ibadan for an IS operations there. This signal (instruction) was necessary in case a senior officer challenged him or the quartermaster needed proof before issuing ammo.
When they reached Ibadan shortly after 2am, they headed straight to Agodi Telephone exchange and ordered all workers to go home. Unlike Lagos, where the telephone exchange was partly automatic, Ibadan’s exchange was fully automatic. Asking the workers to go home did not silence the phones. Nwobosi and his men then proceeded to ECN (Electricity Corporation of Nigeria) Eleyele, ordered the workers to halt all power generation and go home. Ibadan was plunged into darkness. Ibadan people were already used to transcending the dark. This was the time the British head of ECN was woken up and was told soldiers had shut down the generators. Nwobosi even offered some of the workers lift to town. He was a gentleman. As they set out for the operations in Abeokuta, he saw a lonely pregnant woman in labour who couldn’t make it to the hospital. He halted his convoy and took the woman to the hospital in the army Land Rover. But it was not only because he wanted to be kind that why he gave the workers lift; they did not know the house address of their first target, Chief Fani-Kayode, the deputy premier. The lifted ECN workers showed him the address.

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Of all the regions in the country and at the federal government, the Western Region was the only government with a deputy premier. When Nwobosi’s convoy arrived at the front of Fani-Kayode’s residence at Iyaganku GRA, they were shocked at the number of armed thugs that were present between the hundred metre road main gate and the main residential building. The thugs quickly ran way after being awoken by a slowly moving convoy of 16 gunners, 2 lance bombardiers, 2 sergeants, 1 battery quartermaster sergeant, 1 second lieutenant, 1 trooper and 1 captain in two 3 tonners and a Land Rover. If the violence, the rapes, house burning, lynchings, intimidation of opposition lecturers, election rigging and all other woes that had engulfed the Western Region had a face, it was that of the 44-year-old Remilekun Fani-Kayode, a Cambridge-educated lawyer who presided over the government thugs infrastructure. From 1959, he was a pro-Zik NCNC politician before Akintola poached him in 1962 and made him the Minister of Local Government and Deputy Premier of the most advanced Region in the country. According to Nwobosi, they were surprised that Fani-Kayode’s thugs quickly ran away because it contradicted the legendary stories of Fani Power they had heard. They were rather prepared for a confrontational showdown.
“Fani-Kayode! Come down you are under lawful arrest by the army” Nwobosi shouted. He said lawful because the forged signal issued in the name of Maimalari stated Fani Kayode’s arrest as one of their objectives. The compound like the city was in darkness. Visibility was provided by the headlamps of the convoy parked on the driveway.
“I am coming. I am coming; don’t shoot.” Fani-Kayode was reported to have responded from upstairs. He did not move. Nwobosi called out again. But Fani-Kayode did not move. Nwobosi then fired his gun into the ground as a warning. When their target did not bulge, they broke a glass panel in the door to gain entrance and started ransacking the house and intermittently shooting. The children were terrified and weeping. They found Fani-Kayode in his bedroom with his hands already upstretched like twin towers above his uncombed high hair.
“I surrender…I surrender…I surrender…” he chanted repeatedly already drenched in fear. Again Nwobosi and his gunners were surprised to see the feared embodiment of the legendary Fani Power shuddering.
Nwobosi, 23 addressed the 44-year-old deputy premier: “You have wasted a lot of time – we could have shot you.”
They tied him with rifle slings in front of his wife and 3 children and tossed him in the 3 tonner. His wife picked up the phone and called the Premier to report the arrest. Akintola tried to calm her down and assured her that he would get him released as soon as possible. It never occurred to him the soldiers could be coming for him too until he heard the convoy and saw the headlamps. He grabbed his gun and gathered ammunition. That night of nights, of all those fell by bullets all over the country, Akintola was the only one who died the death of a true warrior. He was not interested in the Akintola-you-are-under-arrest noises he was hearing from outside. No way! Oya, say hello to my little friend: he cocked his SMG and began to blaze furiously like Tony Montana as Nwobosi and his men tried to open his bedroom door.
Akintola was the 13th Aare Ona Kakanfo (Field Marshal General) of Yorubaland. After the previous Kakanfo, Aare Latosa who reigned from 1871 – 1885, no one had the courage to accept the title for 79 years because of the mysterious curse associated it. Since Alaafin Ajagbo inaugurated the first Aare Kokoro Gangan (Scorpion) of Iwoye in 1650, no Aare was expected to live long and enjoy a soft death. The title was like the warrior Achilles in Homer’s Iliad whose fate as explained to him by his mother, Thetis, was either to die young and gain glory, or to live a long boring life in obscurity. When Ojo Aburumaku (meaning: the wicked always live long) was installed as the 11th Aare Ona Kakanfo in 1860, Yorubaland was so peaceful that he had to foment a civil war in Ogbomosho which he then proceeded to supress with uncommon brutality just to justify his title. He was struck by lightning in 1871 and Aare Latosa, Akintola’s immediate predecessor took over. One of the reasons the Kafanfo Curse became self-fulfilling was that the overdose of courage which an Aare was supposed to possess actively insulated him from siding with peaceful resolutions, seeing reason and knowing when to stop. Several times from the 3 Tonner, Fani-Kayode called out to Akintola to cease firing; that the soldiers only came to take him to Lagos. Instead, Akintola continued to blaze his gun at Nwobosi’s men even though he never successfully hit anyone. They had fled the house and ducked behind the garden shrubs. Justice Kayode Eso who was a neighbour described the relentless shooting as sounding like the crackle of rapid bush bushing. Akintola then ran out of ammo but Nwobosi and his men did not know this, they thought he was reloading and waiting for them.
After a while, Aare Akintola held out a white handkerchief of surrender and proceeded to his balcony with his hands up. Nwobosi and his men proceeded to end him.
When Akintola’s wife saw his lifeless body surrounded by empty casings drenched in blood, she screamed. In less than three months, she had lost her husband and first child, Modele Odunjo to the Western crisis. That night, if one put one’s ear to the echo chamber of Nigeria to hear the deafening roar of woes on one side and joy on the other, one would surely break into pieces. Nwobosi and his men then made a mistake: they left for the Federal Guards Mess in Lagos without packing Akintola’s corpse with them. (He was buried the 23 January 1966 at his home in Ogbomoso)

The 41-year-old Ironsi told Ejoor and Njoku that morning, he courageously challenged them and brushed past them to arrive at Ikeja. Oji was courageous enough to become the first of the mutineers to shoot someone in Ikoyi when he referred fatal bullets to Maimalari’s obstinate Guard commander. Two hours later, he could not repeat the same fate for the GOC particularly when the success of their Revolution depended on how fast they turned Ironsi into a corpse. To Ejoor, the mutineers may have done something unprofessional and irresponsible but they were not cowards. For the GOC to say he charged at them at a roadblock and just brushed past them may fit diverse storylines except the truth.
Ejoor excused himself when the tea and biscuits that had been ordered for breakfast came. In his later account, Njoku wrote that when Ironsi turned up at Ikeja battalion at half five, his hand vibrated with fright as he struggled to write down the places that he wanted guarded with troops in Lagos and the junior officers he wanted arrested immediately. That was why he, Njoku, had to order tea to calm him down. These newly arrived tea and biscuits were for breakfast and small talk while Gowon was still with his crack force in Lagos willing to slug it out with the rebels. Ejoor did not want to be part of the grotesque. He told Ironsi:

“Sir, it appears I shall be of no use to you here. Perhaps if I can get to Enugu I may be able to bring some help.” He then asked the GOC, ‘have you heard from Enugu?”
‘Well, no, I cannot order you to go to Enugu now,’ was Ironsi’s reply.
But Ejoor was desperate to go. Military doctrine required that in time of crisis, a commander must connect with his unit and take charge. More so, the signal signed by Ironsi and circulated by Maimalari at the Brigade Training Conference the previous day stated that Commanders should tighten security when they get back to their units and to warn all their subordinates against disloyal acts. Had Ejoor joined Njoku and Ironsi in having breakfast and postponed going to Enugu, the coup would not have ended up as one night stand but would have dragged on and on taking with it many lives.

Coup High Command in Transit
When the coup high command reached the airport junction, they could not wait there. Being a strategic junction, there was an unanticipated police check point there. They had to travel further outwards towards Abeokuta because they had corpses and the Finance Minister was on board so they did not want to risk police attention. Of the six vehicles that left Federal Guard’s Mess, Okafor’s private Peugeot 403, Ademoyega’s army Landrover, Anuforo’s private car and the 3 Tonner arrived. Ifeajuna’s car and Chukwuka Landrover did not turn up. Major Humphrey Chukwuka’s unit assisted by 2/Lt Godwin Onyefuru were detailed to go and do to Gowon what they had been doing to all other senior officers. Being the new commander, it was important he was dead so that the battalion made up of mostly Northern soldiers of Tiv origin will not be mobilised for the upcoming showdown during the second stage of the coup.
On reaching the cantonment gate, the sentries told Chukwuka they did not know where the new commander was. It was then that Ironsi and his escorts arrived and Chukwuka left for his block of flats at Ikeja. It was some minutes after five. When Major Nzegwu saw their building awash in the arriving Land Rover’s lights, he berated Chukwuka from his opened window:
“Humphrey, your wife has since being crying, where have you been?”
Nzegwu was Chukwuka’s next-door neighbour in the same block of flats. They were both staff officers at the Army HQ. While Chukwuka was the deputy Adjutant General under Pam, Nzegwu was a Staff Officer under Kur Mohammed. Nzegwu was the Army’s liaison officer with the Air force and with the airport commandant in case flights were needed to be booked or army’s visitors welcoming protocols needed to be prepared. He was the one Kur Mohammed had in mind to deploy hours earlier at Maimalari’s cocktail, when Ironsi asked Mohammed to bring the London Guardian’s correspondent Patrick Keatley to his office at 10am the next day for a discussion on the Smith rebellion in East Africa and to take him to the airport afterwards to catch his flight.
Nzegwu did not know that Chukwuka, his colleague and neighbour had just participated in an event that would lead to Nzegwu’s own death six months later. In other words, Nzegwu had just 6 months left to live without knowing it. Had he known, he would not have asked, “Humphrey, your wife has been crying, where have you been?” He would also have asked: “Humphrey, why have you done this to me?”
Shortly afterwards, the barrack alarm went off. Being a combat battalion, all soldiers had to report to their various company offices. According to Onyefuru’s account of that night, to obey the alarm, he had to leave the Chukwuka to join his company. Chukwuka later called his company office to ask for Lt Zacchaeus Idowu, the Quartermaster of the battalion. But on hearing Onyefuru’s voice in the background, he asked him to come on the intercom. Chukwuka then asked if anyone knew anything yet. Onyefuru replied that they were awaiting the GOC’s briefing. Chukwuka panicked, left his crying wife and fled to the East for refuge via Ijebu Ode road while Ademoyega, Anuforo and the rump of the coup plotters were still waiting for him on Abeokuta Road. The Revolution that looked so promising an hour earlier was no longer itself. Its drivers were staring into a deep well and seeing a trapped sky. It started to dawn on them that their stories may not become glories after all. But there was no going back.
At some minutes past 5 o’clock, Anuforo and Ademoyega decided to proceed to Abeokuta, mobilise Obienu and his firepower to keep the Revolution on track. There were nine corpses in the 3 tonner and it was not necessary to give them a lift to Abeokuta when they could easily dispose them right there in the bushes by the roadside. It was then that Anuforo noticed the drum-waisted Okotie-Eboh.

‘Who is the man?’ he asked.
When Anuforo was told he was the man who controlled the public wealth and the nation’s finances, Anuforo was angry and he became very horny to end him. After all, pulling trigger and watching blood splutter gave Anuforo high voltage hickies and monkey bites. He was already the busiest killer of the night with three officers’ lives under his belt. As the French philosopher, Blaise Pascal said: “Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction.” Using his church mind, Anuforo helped the Finance Minister descend the steps of the 3 Tonner, and asked him to say his last prayers. He cocked his SMG and Okotie-Eboh’s corpse was dumped along all the corpses in the bush by the roadside. Then the convoy drove down to 2nd Recce Squadron in Abeokuta to activate the command there. They arrived at around half seven in the morning around the same time Ironsi’s tea and biscuits arrived at the battalion headquarters at Ikeja.
David Ejoor left Ironsi and Njoku and ordered Major Henry Igboba, Njoku’s 2ice to radio Joseph O’Neill who was the senior operations officer and the airport commandant to arrange a security flight for him to Enugu. Unknown to Ejoor, Ifeajuna and Donatus Okafor having missed Anuforo and Ademoyega were racing to Enugu to raise infantry troops to continue their Revolution.
According to the testimony Ifeajuna gave to his interlocutors after arriving from Ghana on 14 February 1966 in the company of Okigbo, when he and his fellow revolutionaries left the Federal Guard Mess en-route Ikeja, he had to shear from the convoy to deposit Lt Ezedigbo at Yaba Military Hospital. A bullet ricocheted and hit him during the assassination of Largema and he was losing so much blood. He then rushed to quickly re-join Ademoyega and others at the agreed rendezvous. But the problem was that there were so many roadblocks on the way manned by soldiers and police; they thought Ironsi ordered the roadblocks as part of his effort to subvert their Revolution. Ifeajuna was even criticising Okafor for not going to kill Ironsi first instead of Maimalari. Ironsi was an administrative general; he commanded no troops hence ranked low in their initial threat estimate. Unknown to them, the roadblocks were the initiative of the police high command to prevent the Western crisis from spreading to Lagos. Also the convoy comprised army Land Rovers and a 3 Tonner, and so they sailed unobstructed through all the roadblocks. But after leaving the hospital, Ifeajuna discovered that since they were no longer in a military convoy, they were susceptible to being stopped and searched at any roadblock. Moreover, he had guns, ammo, an easily recognisable Prime Minister in the car and Abogo Largema was in the boot pillowed by an extra tyre. According to his later testimony, they had to take side roads to reach Abeokuta Road. They arrived 10 miles away from their rendezvous. He said Abubakar had become a mess of panic and had grown hysterical since the shooting of Maimalari. He was blabbering to himself, his jaws and limbs vibrating uncontrollably. In other words, the Prime Minister had become totally ordinary. And Ifeajuna did not like that. He did not plot a coup to possess the ordinary; he was interested in capturing the Absolute just like in Vancouver in 1954 where he conquered gravity and vaulted higher than any man in the history of the world. He was not interested in the gold medal; he was interested in the record. (In an interview Ifeajuna’s wife Rose gave, she said he did not even know where the gold medal was even before they married in 1959. It was the record that mattered to him.) Ifeajuna said he did not intend to harm or hurt Abubakar. And so they took him out of the car to see if fresh air would do him some good, rescue him from being common and ordinary so that Ifeajuna could enrich his record.
As a teenager, Abubakar was never interested in politics. He wanted to be a teacher and a novelist. In 1933, at the age of 20, his novella Shaihu Umar written colloquially came third in a literary competition organised by the colonial education department in Zaria. The novella is a bildungsroman that parallels Shaihu Umar’s journey amongst an enslaver’s caravans across the Sahara Desert with a person’s journey through life from birth, wedding, child-nurturing to death. The sandstorm and other natural disasters experienced in the desert is contrasted with the inevitable hardships and mishaps one must suffer in life. It was useless looking for someone to blame including his wicked brother who contributed to some of his most brutal hardships. If Abubakar could be compared to his hero, Shaihu Umar, then his wicked brother was Emmanuel Ifeajuna and the enslaver’s caravan he travelled with in the desert was Okotie–Eboh, Mbadiwe and other government corruption fundamentalists who enslaved him to bad luck.
According to Ifeajuna, when they opened the door for him to get some fresh air, he surprised them: even though everywhere was pitch dark, Abubakar began to race into the bush. It was his white flowing jalabiya that gave him away. Quick, Ifeajuna grabbed his SMG from the car, cocked it and painfully set the darkness echoing before the dense forest could snatch his Abubakar away from him. He closed his eyes to unsee what he had done. But Abubakar was a rose that could grow out of mass concrete. It was love at last sight. The 54-year-old Prime Minister and a father of 18 children was not thinking straight; he, the 30-year-old Major and the father of 2 sons (Emmanuel and Bay), had to find a way to correct him. He could have been chased, captured and tied up. But Ifeajuna felt he was ripe for death anyway because he had become a liability to the Revolution and a pain to their free movement.
Ifeajuna reckoned that to outgun Ironsi and keep the dream of the Revolution alive, they needed more than the armoured, mechanised and artillery support that Obienu had to offer; they had to mobilise an additional company strong infantry at least. Going to 4th battalion in Ibadan was out of the question because they had no loyalist there. All their efforts to recruit Majors Nzefili and Ohanehi in December failed. Besides, the soldiers were extremely loyal to their commander Abogo Largema whose remains they had just tossed into the bush with Abubakar. The nearest military unit from which they could draw combat troops was 1st battalion in Apankwa Barracks in Enugu. Their commander, David Ejoor was supposed to be dragged out of the boot too and tossed into the bush like Largema, but he missed that fate by being unavailable in his allocated room in Ikoyi Hotel. They knew he was still in Lagos because he attended the Maimalari cocktail. Ifeajuna and Okafor decided to head back to Ikeja in order to proceed through Shagamu and race to Enugu to mobilise the battle ready troops. It was an impromptu journey that would have been inconceivable was Abubakar still with them.
In August 1962, the Federal Guards was formed and 150 of its initial 200 elite fighters were deployed from the Enugu battalion. It was the largest battalion in the country with 26 officers and 843 NCOs. Major Okonweze, Ejoor’s second-in-command in Enugu was part of the coup plot. He would not hesitate to grant Ifeajuna’s request for troops to Lagos. Using the privilege of their military uniforms, Ifeajuna and Okafor went through all the security roadblocks unobstructed. Combat fatigue and the post-traumatic stress disorder occasioned by his killing of two personalities with whom he had emotional connection – Maimalari and Abubakar – was already bossing him into making extremely individualistic decisions which prevented him from finding a way to inform Anuforo and Ademoyega of his new move.

Lagos – Ejoor
As the morning lights came and flushed away the stench of the night, Lagosians and Abeokutans woke up thinking the day was like any other day. It would take another 7 hours (at 2:30pm) for Radio Nigeria to announce the coup to the general public.   Vehicles coming from Abeokuta to Lagos overtook a column of slow-moving armoured vehicles which Ademoyega and Anuforo had mobilised. In Ikeja cantonment, rumours blazed around like wild fire that the mutineers had been seen coming en masse to attack Lagos. The cantonment was in a state of heightened security. Bullet-resistant fighting positions were constructed with sandbags at strategic positions. When Ejoor reached the cantonment gate, the sentry did not allow him out. He told Ejoor he was under strict instruction to refuse any soldier from going out or coming in without authorisation. Ejoor had to go back to fetch Igboba. Ejoor was a lieutenant colonel. Igboba was a Major. Circumstance had turned the chain of command unto its head like the grave condition that made crayfish to bend.
Something strange then happened. Major John Obienu, the cleavage extremist, turned up at the battalion’s gates wanting to enter. When Obienu woke up in the morning, he tried to find out if the Revolution proceeded without him and if he might still fit in the scheme of things. So he went to the Airport junction; there were no sign of his squadron. He then dashed to Ikeja cantonment. He saw none of his ferret or Saladin and was making enquiries. All of a sudden he was recognised by one of the sentries as the officer commanding the unit rumoured to be coming from Abeokuta to attack. Igboba who came to the gates to authorise Ejoor’s exit ordered guns trained on Obienu. He protested his innocence. He swore that he didn’t know about any mutiny nor that his Recce squadron was making their way from Abeokuta. He said that he went to Maimalari’s party, slept in a friend’s place in Shomolu and was here trying to go back to Abeokuta. Liar, Igboba screamed at him. How was it possible that your unit was bringing their firepower to come and fight in a pre-planned mutiny and you their commanding officer did not know? NCOs do not mobilise for actions if they were not instructed by their OC. Who authorised them? Obienu swore he did not know anything. Ejoor then intervened. He suggested Obienu went ahead on Abeokuta road to neutralise his renegade unit. Obienu replied without troops to back him up, it would be unwise to go out there to stop them. That sounded reasonable to Ejoor and confirmed that he actually wasn’t part of the mutiny. Had he been part of the rebels, he wouldn’t have hesitated to go out there to meet his unit, Ejoor said. Henceforth, Obienu switched loyalty and joined the loyal forces trying to neutralise the Revolution. Not wanting further delay to the airport, Ejoor left them. In his account of what happened that morning, Ejoor wrote:
“As we approached the junction of the road that led into the Ikeja GRA and the Airport Road, I saw three artillery trucks approaching us. I immediately sense that this was what Major Igboba had talked about. I felt cornered as I had no way of knowing how these troops would react to me; whether they would take me as a foe or a friend. I did some quick thinking and decided to put the troop at some psychological disadvantage. Accordingly, I stood in the middle of the road and help up my hand indicating to them to stop. As the lead vehicle got close and stopped, I snapped at the troops, asking why they took so long to arrive, thereby slowing down our operations. The trick worked. They straightaway went on the defensive, explaining that they had some problems with tyres and fuel. I accepted their explanations and warned them that they were to be no more delays. “Go straight to Ikeja Cantonment and get your next orders,” I said and proceeded to lead them to the barracks as the traffic cleared for the military trucks. When we got to the battalion headquarters, I gave orders that all the troops escorted there be immediately disarmed and arrested. While this was being done, I resumed my journey to the Airport. Thus, by sheer accident, I was involved with the first major arrest of those involved in the coup of 15th January 1966.”
In a widely read article Head With Creative Thinking, in the influential Army journal The Nigerian Magazine, Ejoor lamented the absence of active creativity in the Army. He wrote: “Creativity is necessarily the lifeblood of a successful business concern. This is because competition in civilian life is so severe that a heavy premium is placed on ideas of all kinds. In the military world in peace time, we have not the same spur of competition, and yet if we cannot instil a creative atmosphere within the Armed Services, we are in the danger of failing both in peace and war. I believe the classical example of an Army which failed because it was in a rut and lacking in ideas was the French at the beginning of World War II.” Creativity inspired Ejoor to distance himself from Ironsi and Njoku. It led him to single-handedly neutralise the rebel detachment from Abeokuta which Obeinu their commander could not even do. Creativity would also save him from another assassination plot by Ifeajuna awaiting him in the East.

Ejoor – Enugu
The sun was already up in the East staining the skies with fire. Ejoor landed in at 11:30am after the eighty minutes of flight. At the airport, he saw a platoon of soldiers sleeping around in different degrees of disorderliness. He snapped them to attention and asked them what they were doing there. The platoon commander replied that they were ordered there since 3:00am by the acting battalion commander Major Gabriel Okonweze to whom Ejoor handed the battalion before he proceeded to Lagos for the Brigade Training Conference. When Ejoor asked for his service car and a platoon of guards to come and pick him from the airport, Okonweze himself followed them to confirm it was true Ejoor was truly back. Okonweze couldn’t contain his surprise. When Ejoor asked why he had deployed troops all over town, Okonweze said he received a signal from Brigadier Maimalari ordering the troop deployments.
As of early December, Major Chude-Okei the battalion’s second in command was the head of the Revolution in the East. But he went for a course in India and the coup command was handed to Okonweze. Ifeajuna used Lieutenant Jerome Ogbuchi who was in Lagos for a course to transmit a written instruction for troops mobilisation to Okonweze once he was certain that Ejoor was already in Lagos. Captain Joseph Iledigbo was to take his company across the Niger River and arrest the Premier of the Midwest, Chief Dennis Osadebey and his ministers. Captain Agbogu was to take his company to arrest the Eastern Premier, Dr Michael Okpara and his ministers. Captain Gibson Jalo was to seize the Eastern Nigeria Broadcasting Corporation (ENBC) studio buildings. Major Okonweze and Chude-Sokei were to command the Joint Operations Centre.   Unlike the operations in other parts of the country, none of the politicians were to be moved to any rallying point or shot, they were simply placed under house arrest pending further instructions from Lagos.
To the political establishment in Enugu, the capital of Eastern Region, the first omen of the coup was at the airport. In the afternoon of 14th January, the President of Cyprus, Archbishop Makarios arrived for a visit in the Prime Minister’s plane to great pomp and pageantry. He had come to Lagos to attend the Commonwealth Prime Ministers’ Conference and intended to use the opportunity to visit all the regions in Nigeria. Enugu became his first and last point of call. All the ministers, state officials and heads of the American, British diplomatic outposts were present at the welcoming ceremony at the airport. Conspicuously missing was the military guard of honour. When President Julius Nyerere came visiting in 1965, the guard of honour was one of the spectacles he enjoyed most. He said he did not know Africans too could stiffen breathlessly for so long as he inspected the guards and savoured their regimental drumming with Dr Michael Okpara. Okpara was very proud that no one else but him provided that unique spectacle to the eminent Africanist. But this time around while awaiting the plane of the Archbishop Makarios, there was no guard of honour in place even though Okonweze was there representing Ejoor. Okpara was so angry that he summoned Okonweze and berated him publicly. “You say Lagos put a ban on guard of honour. What are they afraid of? That Enugu will be mistaken for the capital of Nigeria?” This was according to Charles James Treadwell, the Deputy British High Commissioner who witnessed the incident at the airport. Okonweze did not tell Okpara that he was keeping the troops ready for the confirmation of the H-hour.

Confessions of B S Dimka- The man behind Nigeria’s most infamous abortive coup, 40 years later

Below is the confession speech of Col B S Dimka the man behind the abortive coup of February 1976.

 

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Smiling to the end- Dimka about to face the firing squad

An army Chaplin administering to Dimka

An army Chaplin administering to Dimka

bisalla

Bisalla at the stake

One of the worst coup speeches in Nigerian History- below is an excerpt from the announcement made by BS Dimka after seizing the radio station

Fellow Nigerians,
This is Lt. Col. BS Dimka.  I now explain why we the Young Revolutionaries of the Armed Forces have found it necessary to overthrow the six month old government of Murtala.  On the 29th July 1975 the Government of General Gowon was overthrown. Some of the reasons given for the change were:

a. Corruption
b. Indecision
c. Arrest and detention without trial
d. Weakness on the part of the Head of State
e. Maladministration in general and a host of other malpractice.

Every honest Nigerian will agree with me that since the change over of government there has not been any physical development in the whole country generally.
All we have is arbitrary dismissal of innocent Nigerians who have contributed in no less amount to the building of this great nation.  A Professor was arrested, detained, dismissed and later taken to court on an article which every honest Nigerian will agree that all the points contained in that article were 100% truth.  The sad point about it all is that those who initiated the retirement or dismissal exercise are the worst offenders.  You will be informed about the ill-gotten wealth in my next announcement.
The acting General Manager of the Nigerian Airways was invited to the Dodan Barracks and detained without trial.  The people of this country have been living in a state of fear.  The Armed Forces promotion exercise is still fresh in your minds.  Whatever reasons they have for the promotion one can only say that they are ambitious.  They in fact took over power to enrich themselves.
We are convinced that some of the programmes announced for a return to civilian rule are made to favor a particular group. To mention only one.  Maitama Sule is a politician.  But has been appointed Chief of Commissioners for Complaints.  This is to prepare him for the next political head at all cost.  How many of you know that Maitama Sule is on a salary of N17,000 p.a.?
In view of what I have just said and a lot more which time will not permit me to mention, we the Young Revolutionaries have once again taken over the Government to save Murtala from total disgrace and prevent him from committing further blunders and totally collapsing the country before he runs away in the name of retirement to enjoy the huge fortune he got through bribe which he has now stored outside this country.  I believe that charity should begin at home.
Please stay by your radio for further announcements.
We are all together.

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End of the plotters

 

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