Monday, February 1, 2016

January 15, 1966 Was Not An Igbo Coup (1)

By Chuks Iloegbunam
Reuben Abati earned a PhD in Dramat­ic Arts over two decades ago. He was chairman of the Edito­rial Board of The Guardian for nine solid years. And he was spokesman for Presi­dent Goodluck Jonathan for another four years. In terms of education and exposure, therefore, he ranks with the best, not just in Africa, but globally. Yet, in Armed Forces Day: January 15, 2016, Remember­ing Where We Came From, an article recently published extensively in both the or­thodox and social media, he made many false and unwar­ranted statements, only two of which must be debunked in the space available here.
 
*General Aguiyi-Ironsi
Abati claimed that in Jan­uary 1966, “An Igbo man, Nwafor Orizu, the acting President, handed over pow­er to another Igbo man, Gen­eral Thomas Aguiyi-Ironsi.” He also claimed that, Ironsi “had been instrumental to making the coup fail.”

Kaneng Daze, the daugh­ter of Lieutenant Colonel James Yakubu Pam, a victim of the January 15, 1966 coup, granted an interview, which The Punch published in its edition of January 17, 2016 and which is also circulat­ing in the social media. At the time of the coup, Mrs. Daze was only eight years old. 

The following is a part of what she recalled: “So, my father dressed up and got out of the room and started fol­lowing them (the coup mak­ers) down the stairs. Before then, he made some few calls while he was with our moth­er… The first was to (Briga­dier Zakariya) Maimalari… I think it was that call that alerted Maimalari that made him to escape. The second call was to General (Aguiyi) Ironsi. Ironsi appeared not to have shown any surprise as he kept saying, ‘I see! I see!! Okay!!!’ He dropped the phone and went down the first stairs.”
 
*Gen Gowon 
Dr. Abati and Mrs. Daze represent two broad types that straddle Nigeria’s con­temporary history. Abati is of the class of Nigerians fully knowledgeable about the minutest details of Ni­geria’s history but are crip­pled by a curious inability to live the truth. Mrs. Daze belongs to the class unwilling or unable to reach beyond fairy tales and determine for themselves the truths of their country’s stories.
Let’s quickly dispense with the Daze problem. Any eight-year old child roused from sleep in the dead of the night by her screaming mother who woke up to the sight of gun-totting soldiers abducting the father would be hysterical. It is implausible that she would have distinct­ly heard the telephone con­versation between her father and General Aguiyi-Ironsi, let alone form the judgment that “Ironsi appeared not to have shown any surprise” at the astonishing information he was receiving. At nearly 60 years today, this blessed lady should have separated fantasy from fact and she could have done that by dis­passionate research. For not doing so, her guilt is one of deliberate prejudice.
*Chuks Iloegbunam 
Abati’s problem is far more sinister. Lieutenant Colonel Hilary Njoku, Commander of the 2nd Battalion in Lagos, wrote in his book, A Tragedy Without Heroes: The Nigeria-Biafra War [Fourth Dimen­sion, Enugu; 1987, page 15], that a conference of senior military officers had urged General Aguiyi-Ironsi to seek a hand-over of power from the politicians following the bloody Nzeogwu coup. Ac­cording to Njoku, the officers at that crucial meeting were “Major-General J. T. U. Agu­iyi-Ironsi (GOC), Lt-Col. Francis Fajuyi, Lt. Col. Victor Banjo, Lt. Col. Jack (Yakubu) Gowon, Lt. Col. George Ku­rubo, Major Patrick Anwu­nah, Commodore Wey of the Navy and (Lt. Col. Njoku).”

General Gowon and Colo­nel Anwunah are still alive. Neither has ever denied Njoku’s assertion.

Equally, it is a historical certainty that the politicians agreed a handover of po­litical power to the military. The minutes of the confer­ence in which the rump of the federal cabinet handed over power to the military was recorded by Alhaji Ab­dul Rasaq (SAN). He was at the time the legal adviser of the Northern Peoples Con­gress (NPC). Alhaji Abdul Rasaq told me in his Ikeja home many years ago that he still had in his possession the hand-written, original min­utes of the meeting, which included the signatures of all those present.

Indeed, Gowon confirmed this story when he told the London-based West Africa magazine of August 24, 1968 that, “Before I was ready to serve General Aguiyi-Ironsi’s regime, I made every effort to be sure that the civilians really asked him to step in. Then I served him loyally.”

In the light of the above, it is shameful, pathetic and preposterous for Abati to claim that “An Igbo man, Nwafor Orizu, the acting President, handed over pow­er to another Igbo man, Gen­eral Thomas Aguiyi-Ironsi.” He was guilty of purposeful deceit. Between his deceit and Mrs. Daze’s prejudice lies a chasm in which has lain buried every hope of a Nigeria marching to nation­hood. It explains the massa­cre of 50,000 Ndigbo in the pogrom of 1966. It was what led to the civil war. It is the reason Ndigbo are still be­ing shot and killed across the length and breadth of Nige­ria like game – even for in­dulging in celebrations.

*Kaduna Nzeogwu
The story that January 15, 1966 was an Igbo coup will forever remain a fallacy. On that morning, there were six Igbo Lieutenant Colo­nels. None participated in the coup. On that morn­ing, there were 45 Majors in the Nigerian Army. About 24 of them were Igbo. This means that, at the very least, 18 Igbo Majors had nothing to do with the coup. On that morning, the General Officer Commanding was Igbo. The Commander of the 2nd Bat­talion in Lagos was Igbo. His 2ic was Igbo. The Brigade Major was Igbo. The Federal Guards Commander was Igbo. The Staff Officer “A” Branch at Army Headquar­ters was Igbo. If all these had fixed the coup, could it have failed?

According to published and authenticated statements by Majors Adewale Ade­moyega, Emmanuel Ifeajuna and Patrick Nzeogwu, the inner trio of the coup plot, their intention was to install Chief Obafemi Awolowo as President. How incongruous that an Igbo coup’s primary objective would be the instal­lation of a Yoruba politician as Nigeria’s Head of State?

Abati wrote that , Ironsi was “instrumental” to making the coup fail! Instru­mental! How very conveni­ent! And how very generous of him! Abati knows, and evidence abounds, which clearly show that Aguiyi-Ironsi had crushed that coup. Not Yakubu Gowon who had no command on that morn­ing, and not anyone else. But Abati dared not acknowledge this fact, which would have knocked the bottom off the falsehood of the Igbo coup!
*Mr. Chuks Iloegbunam, an eminent essayist, journalist and author of several books, writes column on the back page of The Authority newspaper every Tuesday.


1 comment:

  1. The God that created and watches over us will right the wrong of man. To the Nigerians, Igbo freedom spells their death. Nigerians tell me if I demand my right or freedom they will kill me.
    Just because Nigerians have all the weapons known to man on earth does not make Nigeria rule the world. The Nigerians make decisions for us; they tell us why remaining their slaves is in our best interest. They tell us Nigeria is indivisible but they cannot justify this slogan. They have nothing to show, no evidence to prove why Nigeria is indivisible or indisolveable. They cannot show me where Biafra is riveted to Nigeria either. I do my research; I do not see any natural demarcations carving Nigeria out as a country. In the map of Africa, I do not see any natural, national or continental shelf or boundaries carving an area out as Nigeria but I notice there is a weak rope of force. The only rope that ties Nigeria together is the strong force of arms. Cut this rope of force and Nigeria will crumble in a minute. You can't hold 50 million people with an idea (Biafra) hostage forever. Now that we are crying out the Nigerians intimidate and threaten us. They tell us to choose between Nigeria and death. The Nigerians tell us to choose between Islam and death. The Nigerians ask us to continue to be their slaves or they would continue their onslaught of elimination of our people from the face of the earth. And you see giant watch dogs (Britain, the USA and the Islamic world) behind them prowling at us. But these evil powers forget there is a Higher Power that will make those guns not to fire. It happened in Soviet Union, Yugoslavia, India, Pakistan and in many other places; Nigeria, the zoo is the next.

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