“GAMAL Abdul Nasser has never wavered in his belief that the true Egyptians possess all the qualities to govern themselves successfully. The idea that the descendants of the men who built the pyramids will once again astonish the world is fundamental to his thinking. If the Crusades were for Europe the dawn of a renaissance, they were for Egypt the beginning of the dark ages. At this time the people had to submit to the Mongols, the hired slaves who became the masters of Egypt.’’
(See P. Mansfield, Nasser: Makers of the Modern World, Methuen Sydney, 1969)
By 7am, July 23, 1952, Major Anwar al-Sadat brought the cheering and dancing crowds to fill the streets. Major Gamal Abdul Nasser had taken the large garrison of al-Arish in the Sinai. The G.H.H. and the volatile city of Cairo, the beautiful seaport of Alexandria had fallen to the Free Officers and in a matter of days the century-and-a-half-old Muhammad Ali dynasty had come to an end.
Like the “Wild Wild West” turmoil that preceded and prescribed the Nigerian January 15 revolution, British perfidy, colonialist humiliation and the regeneration of the Egyptian people’s pride and independence, in many ways, contributed to the Majors’ revolution in Egypt. Wherefore the Wafd in 1951 abrogated the Anglo-Egyptain treaty of 1936; on January 25, 1952, British troops surrounded the Egyptian Auxiliary Police headquarters in Ismaila and gave the occupants one hour to surrender. The police fought back until 43 were dead. The following day, Black Saturday, a large part of central Cairo was burnt and looted. In a rare outburst of xenophobia, Shepherds’ Hotel, perhaps the most revered five star hotel in Africa, was burnt to the ground. So too was the exclusive British Turf, Groppi café, restaurants, cinemas, large stores, et cetera, owned by foreigners and Jews put to the flames. Street rioting, killings organised by the Muslim Brotherhood the Green Shirts and other extreme groups reenacted the pre-January 15 bloody experience in the “Wild Wild West” and brought anarchy to the streets.
In his own description of “Operation Wetie,” the Armageddon that scourged the West, Moses Ihonde, former Nigerian ambassador to the UN, observed that the “the election had been brazenly rigged, women were discovered to be pregnant with ballot papers and funeral processions found to be conveying ballot papers in coffins. The Western Region election of October 1965 marked a turning point in Nigeria’s political development. People at that point had to depend on their own efforts to change an unwanted government since that government had effectively killed the constitutional process. The people resorted to direct action, including the setting up of roadblocks everywhere in the West and, in no time, the region became the most insecure part of the country.’’ Partisan foes caught in the episodic melee were in the most minute-by-minute repeated savage spectacle set ablaze!
“The fear, anxiety and insecurity generated by the situation in the Western Region had become palpable and everybody expected something to happen. One man who felt strongly that something should be done was Patrick Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu. Those of us who attended St. Joseph’s Primary School, Kaduna, and were Nzeogwu classmates remember a boy named Kaduna Nzeogwu who was fondly called KDJ (Kaduna Junction). Kaduna stood out among his mates because he was able to organise even children of his age for common purpose. The image of him I took with me was that he was a born organiser of men. My fears about his intentions were overcome and as he became my friend we shared our lunch with other pupils who did not have any. I was not surprised to learn of his involvement with the January 15, 1966, affair’’ (See Moses Ihonde, First Call: An Account of the Gowon Years, Diamond, Lagos 2004.)
Like his Nigerian revolutionary counterpart, Gamal Nasser would visit his wounded bodyguard and stay with him long hours in the hospital. Chukwuma’s Hausa driver owned his Volks wagon car every weekend as Nzeogwu had no need for the car at end of the working week. Like Nasser, his Hausa cook controlled his kithen and brought his family to live with the Major. Like Nasser, the two officers loathed our officers’ usual obsession with women, booze and exotic cars. Kaduna Nzeogwu did not smoke and his glass preferred Fanta orange drinks. While his mates went partying, he was a recluse, and, like Nasser, used his time to read the great books. Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, the biographies of Napoleon Bonaparte, Alexander the Great, Gandhi, Roseau, Voltaire, Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables and Charles Dickens’ Tale of Two Cities. The French philosophers excited them and they shared a hatred and revulsion against tyranny and unjust laws. Like Kaduna, Gamal devoured Bismarck, Kemal Ataturk, Churchill. For music, they listened to the classical of Rimsky Korsakov’s Scheherezade and enjoyed the serenades of the Austrian maestros. Significantly, Kaduna’s major motivation to leading the revolution was largely as a result of his experience following his posting to the Congo as an officer with the Nigerian peace contingent of the UN. Like Nasser, who was affronted by his experience on posting to the Sudan, Nzeogwu was traumatised and never forgave Nigerian helplessness following the criminal torture and the gory elimination of Patrice Lumunba by the American CIA and their African collaborators.
Next Week…60 years of the TIV genocide, Kaduna Nzeogwu and Major Chris Anuforu Recce Commander Benue Provinces 1964.